Thursday, August 21, 2014

Woman's Home Soup Operation Shut Down

Virginia Department of Ag and Consumer Services (VDACS) shut down a woman who was making canned soup in own kitchen and selling them at a Farmers' Market.   While she had been making her soups for 30 years, she is not allowed to sell these types of products.

In the video report by the local news channel, you can see Denise's operation.  While she said she boils it, it is clear that she is using a pressure canner...thank goodness for that.  Regardless, there are reasons why we have strict regulations around the canning of low acid foods that will be sold.   My guess is that if we started looking at the various products making their way to farmers' markets, there will be plenty more issues.

VDACS News Release


Contact: Elaine J. Lidholm, 804.786.7686

Food safety staff from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) warn consumers not to eat any canned soups or sauces made by Corfinio Foods of Richmond. These products were improperly processed, making them susceptible to contamination with Clostridium botulinum. Ingestion of botulism toxin from improperly processed jarred and canned foods may lead to serious illness and death.

Traceability Guidance Document from IFT

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) just issued a best practices guidance document for food traceability. It looks at 6 food industry sectors - bakery, dairy, meat and poultry, processed foods, produce, and seafood - and summarizes the summarizes and similarities and differences with regards to traceability.

The take-home - we have a complex food supply chain, and having traceability capabilities beyond the immediate source and the immediate delivery (one step forward, one step back), can be difficult.

IFT Weekly Newsletter

IFT issues food traceability best practices guidance doc

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Global Food Traceability Center (GFTC) has issued a guidance document on the best practices in food traceability. This document provides a comprehensive framework for six food industry sectors—bakery, dairy, meat and poultry, processed foods, produce, and seafood—and summarizes the similarities and differences among them in regards to traceability. Given the complexity of the global food system, guidance on improving traceability practices across the entire food industry is a challenge.

Natural Almond Butter and Peanut Butter Recalled Due to Salmonella

 nSPIRED Natural Foods is recalling various brands of nut butter due to the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.  The contamination was discovered through FDA testing.  FDA reports that there may be 4 illnesses related to this product.

This comes one year after another nut butter - Salmonella contamination issue.  In 2013, Sunland Foods recalled, nut butter products due to Salmonella contamination.  It is interesting that some of the same brands recalled in that case were also recalled in this latest outbreak - Trader Joe's and Arrowhead Mills.  Is it bad luck or the lack of supplier control?

Salmonella has been a historical issue in nut products.  For one, Salmonella is much more heat resistant in dry products compared to moist products.  Cooking chicken to 165F will eliminate Salmonella, but in nut products, such as Almonds, 260F for 1.6 minutes is needed to achieve a 4 log reduction (GMA Industry Guideline for Safe Processing of Nuts).  Second, Salmonella can survive in the dry processing environment for years.  So the keys - process them correctly and put in measures to prevent cross contamination.

FDA Recall Notice
nSPIRED Natural Foods, Inc. Voluntarily Recalls Certain Retail Lots Of Arrowhead Mills® Peanut Butters, Maranatha® Almond Butters And Peanut Butters And Specific Private Label Nut Butters Because Of Possible Health Risk

Contact:   Consumer:  1-800-937-7008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - August 19, 2014 - nSpired Natural Foods, Inc. is voluntarily recalling certain retail lots of Arrowhead Mills® Peanut Butters, MaraNatha® Almond Butters and Peanut Butters and specific private label nut butters (listed below) packaged in glass and plastic jars because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ground Oregano Recalled Due to Potential Salmonella Contamination

McCormick is recalling ground oregano due to the potential to be contaminated by Salmonella.  It was found by FDA routine testing.  The product, packed in small jars (0.75 oz,) was shipped nationally and internationally.  No illnesses have been reported.

FDA Recall Notice
Voluntary Recall Notice of McCormick Ground Oregano Due to Possible Salmonella Risk
Contact  Consumer:  1-800-632-5847

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - August 13, 2014 - SPARKS, Md., August 13, 2014- McCormick & Company, Incorporated is initiating a voluntary recall of McCormick® Ground Oregano, 0.75 oz bottle, UPC 0-523561-6 with code dates BEST BY AUG 21 16 H and AUG 22 16 H due to possible contamination with Salmonella. This recall does not impact any other McCormick Ground, Whole or Oregano Leaves products.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Honor System....More Than Just That

Leave it to the media to create the next tagline to describe the food safety system....'the honor system'.  And they will use the PCA criminal investigation as the hammer to pound 'honor system' into the public's mind.  Forget the fact that there are regulations on top of regulations for the food industry or that these are businesses that need to make safe food to stay in business..... the media will claim the only thing protecting the public is the 'honor system.'...and of course, what do people think of when they hear that term, honor system....well, it harkens them back to grade school when they knew some kid, maybe themselves, who cheated on that self-graded quiz.  Oh my gosh....cheaters are making our food.  Outside of the Parnell's....probably not.

Star Tribune
Salmonella trial shows how US food safety relies on honor system that can kill when it fails
Article by: RUSS BYNUM , Associated Press
Updated: August 9, 2014 - 7:52 PM

ALBANY, Ga. — Jurors at the nation's first federal criminal trial stemming from a deadly outbreak of food-borne illness are learning a disconcerting fact: America's food safety largely depends on the honor system.

Increased Scrutiny of US Food Companies in China, OSI -Takes the High Road

Establishing operations in China has been a challenge for many US food companies.  This week, a Walmart store was investigated for using old oil in their store frying operation.  (Not sure how this story garnered international media attention?.)  In July, OSI, a supplier for McDonalds and KFC took a hit in the media as Chinese papers reported a scandal involving OSI's Chinese operation, Husi.  In this report, Husi was cited for mixing expired meat into their process.

The thing that seems odd with the OSI related story is that, as detailed in the NY Times piece (below), OSI has had a sterling reputation, both domestically and abroad.  So it seems weird that that they could let one of their operations fall off the rails?

No doubt, there is a lot of scrutiny on US food companies operating in China by the Chinese media and the local regulatory authorities.  Why?  One could speculate that with the increasing push of US companies into China along with mergers of Chinese and US companies for the stated purpose of improving quality (Smithfield acquisition), there may be some backlash against foreign companies pushing into the Chinese marketplace.   Add to that the negative media exposure that the Chinese food system has received by the US media and it is easy to see why so much attention on US companies (when they could also be reporting on Chinese owned companies).  So perhaps showing that US companies have their own issues is a way to make a stand.  Perhaps even more importantly, this negative media barrage provides a leg up to Chinese firms that wish to compete against the likes of  Walmart, McDonalds and KFCs in the Chinese marketplace. 

Now it is hard to say for certain to what extent the food safety allegations are true.  Certainly we have not heard any rational for the incidents from the US companies..  And while there could be some legitimate justifications for the actions used by OSI in China - perhaps the meat that was being mixed back had been frozen instead of refrigerated thus nullifying the date used on the packaging - the chairman of OSI provided no excuses but rather said they would make improvements.

Interesting though, the talking heads are still willing to take these Chinese reports at face value and spin them in order to spread fear on the safety of our own food supply.

Chinese regulators investigating Wal-Mart store for food safety violations - Xinhua
Sat Aug 9, 2014 8:49am EDT 

* Anonymous employee's video alleges violations at deli

* Shows images of black fryer oil, worms crawling in rice

* Shenzhen authorities investigating - Xinhua

* Wal-Mart: Internal, gov't probes uncovered no evidence

SHANGHAI, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Chinese regulators are investigating a Wal-Mart store in the southern city of Shenzhen for food safety violations, the official Xinhua news service reported, based on videos it said were taken by a Wal-Mart employee at one branch.

Tick Bite Triggers Allergic Reaction to Red Meat

Each year, a few hundred people become allergic to meat after being bitten by a specific type of tick.  The tick harbors a sugar that humans don’t have, called alpha-gal. The sugar is also is found in red meat — beef, pork, venison, rabbit — and even some dairy products.  When the tick bites a person, the person develops an immune response to this sugar.  The next time the person eats meat with this sugar, the person has a reaction to that sugar.

It is interesting in that 1) It takes as long as 8 hours for the body to react, whereas regular food allergies occur within minutes, and 2) this reaction is to sugar whereas most allergic reactions are to proteins.

According to the article, this does not appear to be a lifelong issue.

Ticks do really suck.

Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Tick bite can cause allergy to red meat

August 8, 2014 12:00 AM
Read more:

By Marilynn Marchione / Associated Press

A bug can turn you into a vegetarian, or at least make you swear off red meat. Doctors across the nation are seeing a surge of sudden meat allergies in people bitten by a certain kind of tick.

This bizarre problem was discovered only a few years ago but is growing, as the ticks spread from the Southwest and the East to more parts of the United States. In some cases, eating a burger or a steak has landed people in the hospital with severe allergic reactions.

Few patients seem aware of the risk, and even doctors are slow to recognize it. As one allergist who has seen 200 cases on New York’s Long Island said, “Why would someone think they’re allergic to meat when they’ve been eating it their whole life?”

The culprit is the Lone Star tick, named for Texas, a state famous for meaty barbecues. The tick is now found throughout the South and the eastern half of the United States.