Monday, October 24, 2016

Free Range Chickens and Bald Eagles - High Cost of Organic Farming

An interesting read in Audubon Magazine about the impact of bald eagles on a free range chicken farm in Georgia.  Each year, this farm has an increasing number of bald eagles overwintering around the farm and feasting on high priced organic chicken.  There are now approximately 75 eagles, eating 3 or 4 chickens per day and costing the farm about $1000/day.  (Don't worry too much for the farm, the taxpayers pick up a good portion of that bill...and many of them don't even eat organic / free range chicken).

In addition to the loss by he eagles, free range farming has higher mortality rates...usually about 18% compared to 4% for conventional chicken farming.  "Even discounting the three or four chickens each eagle takes every day throughout the winter, Coady thinks the farm’s chicken-mortality rate is too high. It’s roughly 15 percent throughout the year, though some weeks it’s higher and some weeks it’s lower. He’d like it to be somewhere around 10 percent—far below the estimated 18 percent mortality rate the USDA expects for free-range chickens (for comparison, it’s 4 percent for confined chickens)." 

 The farmer's solution - "Harris has his own ideal solution, and it has nothing to do with noise-makers or reimbursement programs or tourism. If everyone farmed in the nature-first way he does, he says, eagles wouldn’t concentrate on his farm. Flocks of chickens scattered across the Georgia countryside would naturally cause eagles to disperse into smaller, healthier populations."  I guess I am missing something yes the eagle population would spread out..for now, but what would limit eagle population growth if farms all over became raptor dinner tables?  And with an unchecked eagle population explosion, what else will be on that dinner table....little Sparky and Mr. Tibbs?

Audubon Magazine
An Organic Chicken Farm in Georgia Has Become an Endless Buffet for Bald Eagles
By Susan MatthewsFall 2016

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Bacillus cereus in Refried Beans Responsible for Mighty Taco Outbreak

A NY taco chain has been connected to over 160 people becoming ill with Bacillus cereus toxin.  Cases have occurred in two counties  and it appears that a 'handful' of the Mighty Taco locations have been involved.  The symptoms are nausea and vomiting.

The source of the illness was refried beans.  Bacillus cereus is a sporeforming organism and these spores can survive the cooking process.  If that food is then temperature abused, the organism will sporulate and grow in the food if that food is at elevated temperatures.  As the organism grows to high numbers, it produces a toxin.  So we would expect that the beans would have been temperature abused somewhere along the supply chain, including distribution down through store level.  (This is where the FSMA Sanitary Transport rule becomes important).

Cooked rice is another product often associated with Bacillus cereus related illness.  In a similar fashion, the cooked rice is left at room temperature for an extended period, allowing growth of the organism which produces toxin.

WGRZ Channel 2 News
Toxic Bacteria Identified As Likely Source Of Mighty Taco Outbreak
Steve Brown, WGRZ 8:33 AM. EDT October 19, 2016

Monday, October 17, 2016

Pulsenet - Tracking of Foodborne Disease

The US surveillance system for tracking foodborne illnesses, or PulseNet, is 20 years old.  Through time, the technology has improved and its reach is now global. 

In the US, the system is comprised by a network of 83 laboratories linked to the CDC in Atlanta.  Using genetic identification technology, including Whole Genome Sequencing or WGS, it can identify outbreak clusters through matching bacterial isolates involved in cases.  This information is then used to help identify the source of the outbreak.

This article in EMBO is a nice summary of Pulsenet and how it has impacted food safety.

EMBO Reports
Future challenges for tracking foodborne diseases

PulseNet, a 20-year-old US surveillance system for foodborne diseases, is expanding both globally and technologically

Authors - Efrain M Ribot and Kelly B Hise
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA
First published: 19 September 2016Full publication history

Turkey Products Recalled for Unidentified Black Substance

A Michigan establishment is recalling 54000 pounds of turkey products after a customer complaint was received for a black substance.  This is a foodservice item so likely this was discovered by a retailer or foodservice operator.  The black substance has not yet been identified.

USDA / FSIS Recall Notice
Michigan Turkey Producers Recalls Turkey Products Due To Possible Foreign Matter Contamination
Class I Recall 097-2016
Health Risk: High Oct 15, 2016

Popcorn Chicken Recalled Because of Foreign Material

Tyson Foods New Holland, PA facility is recalling popcorn chicken nuggets packed due plastic pieces.  According to the report - "The problem was discovered when the establishment received a consumer complaint from a school regarding foreign material, specifically hard plastic, found inside a bag of Tyson brand whole grain popcorn chicken product."

USDA News Release
Tyson Foods Recalls Frozen Popcorn Chicken Products Due To Possible Foreign Matter Contamination
Class I Recall 096-2016
Health Risk: High Oct 15, 2016

Friday, October 14, 2016

Venture Capitalist Start-Up, Soylent, Recalls Meal Replacement Due to Illnesses

A venture capitalist start-up nutrition company, Soylent, is recalling their nutrition snack bar after complaints of vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea.

First, who is buying this stuff?  One look at the website and it looks like something a bunch of computer hipsters came up with.  With all these real food companies with flat or decling sales, I am not sure why people feel that a bunch of techno-geeks can make a better product.

Second, the name....didn't they see the movie?  Yeah, Soylent Green...that was a meal replacement too.  But we all know what that was.  And in case you don't, we'll let Charlton Heston tell you:

LA Times
Soylent stops selling nutrition bars after customers report diarrhea, other illnesses
by Paresh Dave
October 12, 2016

Meal replacement start-up Soylent halted sales of its new nutrition snack bar Wednesday and advised customers to discard any in their possession.

Michigan Cheese Company Recalls Cheese Due to Supplier Listeria Issues

 A Michigan company, Kuster's is recalling its institutional sized shredded, sliced and cubed cheese after the company was notified by their supplier, Farm Country Cheese, that there is the potential for Listeria contamination.
Farm County Cheese is no large industrial processor, quite the opposite.  From the Farm County Cheese website:
Tradition ~ Heritage ~ Community

For over 25 years, Farm Country Cheese House has worked in partnership with our local Amish community to create fresh, antibiotic-free, artisanal cheeses. Located in Lakeview, Michigan (northeast of Grand Rapids), we are proud of the “family” of Amish farmers and workers who make up the majority of our staff. Our culture is supportive and kind, and we work together to bring the highest-quality and freshest cheese to you, our consumer.

Our cheeses are pure, simple, and clean. We use milk made by cows on our local Amish dairy farms, and follow Amish traditions and practices. Because the health and comfort of the cows is a top priority, the small dairy farms that we work with raise herds of only 4 to 20 cows, where each cow is hand-milked twice daily. In the operation of our equipment and business, we use minimal amounts of electricity, which is supplied to us by an electric cooperative.
Sounds great, but if this is your supplier, are they controlling for Listeria?  How about a FSMA required Supplier Preventive Control.
FDA Recall Notice
Kuster's, Inc. Voluntarily Recalls Product Because Of Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
October 12, 2016