05/27 2013 ISSUE:549
Why Retailer CEOs are the Biggest Part of Food Safety
Source : http://www.marlerblog.com/lawyer-oped/29606/
By Bill Marler (May 26, 2013)
Food Safety and the CEO – Keys to Bottom Line Success
Foodborne illness has, of course, been around as long as there has been food. But the identification and diagnosis of these diseases is an emerging science that is changing all sectors of the food business, and those chief executive officers (CEOs) and senior level directors and managers who do not keep up are bound to be at a significant disadvantage when making critical decisions about their businesses.
It is one thing to read or view media reports on the latest foodborne illness outbreaks and brand-damaging product recalls; it is quite another to really understand the widespread, adverse impact these incidents have on your consumer base, on your employees, on the efficiencies of your operations, and ultimately, on your bottom line. In other words, today’s food company CEO needs to know a lot more than producers in the fresh-cut produce industry initiated massive recalls last week, or that a regional restaurant chain closed down, or that a spate of pet fatalities due to the inclusion of a banned substance on an international scale means his or her company should look more closely at imported ingredients for awhile.
What you, the CEO, should know about food safety comes down to a few key concepts. First, all companies along the food supply chain need to go beyond managing the business: To be successful, food companies are now in the business of managing risk. This means garnering a good understanding of why food safety is important to your business, what risks there are to the business, how you can mitigate or eliminate those risks, and how in doing so the food safety program will provide a return on your investment.
Why Food Safety Needs Your Immediate Attention
E. coli O157:H7, which occupies much of my professional time as an attorney, was only first recognized as a human pathogen in 1982 during an outbreak of illness caused by hamburgers from a fast food restaurant in Oregon.(1) But, the problem drew little public attention for another decade when, finally, 600 people across the West, most of them children or senior citizens, became ill after eating undercooked Jack in the Box hamburgers.(2) Four children died, and many others suffered terrible kidney damage, which may eventually lead to the need for transplants.
I became involved when a friend of woman for whom I’d done some pro bono work years earlier contacted me. The friend’s daughter, Brianne Kiner, had eaten one of those burgers, and was in the hospital with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Brianne proved to be only the first of many young children I’ve seen sprawled in hospital beds, horribly bloated and discolored, hooked up to kidney dialysis and life support machines, surrounded by doctors frustrated by a disease for which there is no known cure. Many of these kids died. Brianne barely survived, and she will suffer after-effects from her E. coli poisoning for the rest of her life. I hope that suffering is eased somewhat by the $15.6 million settlement eventually paid by the company. Jack in the Box, co-defendants and insurers paid out over $125 million in compensation to victims. The costs to the businesses involved were at least twice that.
At the time, E. coli O157:H7 was viewed as a pathogen carried only in ground beef—and especially beef crammed into industrial feedlots. There were outbreaks involving hamburger from virtually every fast food chain in America, ground beef from supermarkets, big box stores and public school lunches. People were getting sick around the country, and it was all blamed on meat. Since then, I’ve made a career of representing people poisoned by E. coli, Salmonella and a half-dozen other pathogens potentially carried in virtually every food, processed or unprocessed, fresh or packaged, industrial or homegrown. Here are just a few examples:
Shortly after the Jack in the Box case, we represented most of the seriously affected victims of an outbreak of E. coli traced to Odwalla apple juice.(3) Odwalla is a San Francisco-based processor that marketed “fresh” juice with no preservatives. At least 70 people fell ill, and a 16-month- old Colorado girl died, from drinking unpasteurized juice that is believed to have become contaminated by apples that fell off trees and into cow manure before being harvested. The case had a nationwide impact, demonstrating that food- borne illness can be contracted from fresh produce as well as meats. After an ugly legal fight, the company eventually paid a multi-million-dollar settlement to the victims and their families—and Odwalla began pasteurizing its juices using a flash pasteurization treatment.
Vegetables came next. In 2002, more than 50 high school cheerleaders and dancers contracted E. coli from prepackaged lettuce served at a dance camp in Washington.4 We represented several victims, including a Spokane teenager who had to endure dialysis treatments because her kidneys were severely damaged by the E. coli. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was sufficiently alarmed to issue a rare warning that consumers should throw out prepackaged bags of Romaine lettuce. The following year, at least 660 people were sickened, and four died, from hepatitis A contracted from Mexican green onions served at a Chi-Chi’s chain Mexican restaurant near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The FDA attributed the outbreak to poor sanitation, leading to the largest single- source epidemic of hepatitis A in U.S. history.(5 ) We represented many of the approximately 300 victims who sought compensation from Chi-Chi’s and four companies that supplied the green onions. One gentleman who required a liver transplant collected nearly $6.5 million. Total compensation to victims was nearly $50 million and Chi-Chi’s never exited bankruptcy.
In 2006, a nationwide E. coli epidemic was attributed to prepackaged, fresh-cut spinach packed for Dole Foods by Natural Selection Foods LLC, a California company that specializes in processing specialty lettuces, primarily spinach and spring mix. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and FDA confirmed 204 illnesses in 26 states—including a frightening 31 with HUS—104 hospitalizations, and three deaths associated with this outbreak. Victims of the E. coli outbreak were identified in 26 states. E. coli was isolated on cattle ranches adjacent to the spinach fields.(6) We represented 93 of the victims.
It goes on and on. We have handled cases of foodborne illness traced to packaged almonds, homemade apple cider, alfalfa sprouts, fruit salad, packaged breakfast cereal, sushi, orange juice, tomatoes, cantaloupe, gelatin desserts, and most recently, peanut butter. The microorganisms involved in these outbreaks range from Listeria monocytogenes, to E. coli O157:H7, to numerous strains of Salmonella, and include microbial toxins and viruses such as Clostridium botulinum, Cryptosporidium, Vibrio, hepatitis A, and Norwalk virus, to name a few. We have represented thousands of clients, sued most of the nation’s large restaurant chains and won a total of $600 million in judgments and settlements.
Managing Risk is Part of Managing the Business
So what’s happening out there? Is there an epidemic of E. coli and Salmonella and other foodborne illness? Or is it just a bunch of guys like me, chasing ambulances and making life miserable for hardworking CEOs? We know, after all, that people have been getting sick from eating tainted meat, fruits, vegetables and dairy products since the beginning of human history; and it may well be true that, thanks to advances such as pasteurization and flash freezing, that food is actually safer than it was 50 years ago. So why is this happening now?
First, it may be true that industrial food production fosters an environment friendlier to these bugs. Enormous feedlots, centralized processing plants, long-distance shipping, and even air conditioning systems may create new opportunities for pathogens to spread. And in any case, big business makes the system less tolerant of error. If a small town processing plant has an outbreak, a few people might be infected—perhaps too few to detect. But today, with extended and increasingly efficient supply chains, a mistake in a peanut butter plant in Georgia or meat packing plant in Colorado can quickly sicken thousands of people around the country or even on a global scale.
Second, recent technological advances, especially DNA analysis, provide new tools for detecting, tracking and identifying pathogens such as E. coli O157:H7. It’s only very recently that we can establish a direct and virtually certain link between one or more sick people and a specific food source. My job would be far more difficult without DNA analysis. The bottom line is that with technology comes the great likelihood that a company that produces tainted food will get caught.
And, perhaps contemporary society is less tolerant of risk, as well. People these days expect to be healthy. When they get sick, they want to know why. And if they know why, they want to hold somebody accountable. You can argue with that phenomenon, but it is a fact of life.
So, what can you do about it? How can you manage your own business and produce a healthy and profitable product without making people sick? Given these new realities, how can we manage risk in a free society? There are three broad options.
First, we can do what most Western societies have do for most of their history, and what much of the world still does today,which is to rely on the open market. In part, it is up to the individual consumer. We can choose to trust our farmers and food processors, and the marketplace will take care of everything else. If they make an error and some of our kids get sick, that is too bad. The marketplace imposes sanctions; if people are afraid of getting sick, they’ll stop buying the product. Case closed.
We know the problem with that. Consider the case of those nice people in California who produced unpasteurized apple juice, poisoning hundreds of kids. Most farmers and processors will be conscientious. But a few bad apples will get lazy, or cocky, and make a fatal mistake. Consumers will become wary not of just one bad apple, but of the entire apple industry. Everybody in the affected food category pays the consequences of one outfit’s error.
The second option is Big Brother: regulate. We enact laws, impose penalties and hire the inspectors necessary to enforce them. But my guess is that this solution doesn’t appeal to anybody in any business. To make it work, we would need trained inspectors on every farm, in every processing plant, in every restaurant, at every hot dog stand. It’s expensive, and potentially too intrusive. And there’s another problem: Regulatory systems may work for a while but success tends to be followed by breakdowns. Inspectors get lazy, or corrupt, and stop doing their jobs. Or the political system intervenes; government budgets come under strain and politicians look at the system and conclude that nobody is getting sick, so clearly we don’t need so many inspectors. They cut budgets, the regulatory system gets stretched too thin, some E. coli bacteria slip through the cracks, and suddenly we have another tragic outbreak.
The third option is the legal system. If people get sick, we allow them, even encourage them, to go to court and sue for compensation. Food producers go about their business, and if they do everything right, they’re fine. But if somebody gets sick then somebody like me will probably be waiting at his or her doorstep. And I will do my best to make it a very costly mistake. But civil law, of course, has its own costs. Even if you run a flawless business and never poison anybody, you need to carry enough insurance to spread the risks and costs across your industry.
In the U.S., we’ve seen the evolution of a political system that is a mix of each of these elements. We have a market system that theoretically rewards farmers and producers who don’t take risks—or, at least, whose mistakes are not detected and traced back to the source. We have a regulatory system of food safety laws and enforcement, though that system is, by almost any account, woefully inadequate in funding, staffing and efficiency to enforce the laws presently in force, let alone any new and tougher body of law. And we have civil laws that allow people to seek compensation for their injuries.
Whatever strategies we employ to prevent foodborne illness, the analysis should not be purely political or legal. We could criminalize food poisoning (see what China does), employ thousands of inspectors and impose stiffer penalties for people who produce tainted food. But ultimately, this is also a fundamental question of morality. As individuals and as businesses, do we subscribe to the Law of the Jungle? Or to the Golden Rule? If food producers, and their CEOs, put themselves in the position of food consumers, perhaps it would be easier for them to understand why consumers need to be able to trust their food supply. If CEOs could see what I’ve seen—two- and three-year-old children hooked up to kidney dialysis machines and life support, or in their tiny coffins—it might change some attitudes about the importance of food safety.
If that were to happen, the food industry would profit, consumers would be safer, and lawyers like me would have to look for another way to make a living.
The CEO’s Checklist
I often speak to food manufacturers, foodservice and retailers about why CEOs and senior management (even outside of the traditional food safety or quality assurance department functions) must be dedicated to food safety, as I’ve related above. But I also have a few recommendations for translating the “why” into a practical “how.” The fact is, paying attention to headlines isn’t nearly as important as paying attention to your food safety management professionals on staff and those with whom you contract for their food safety systems expertise. CEOs are in the business of managing the business to make a profit—whether you are a multinational food manufacturer or a one-shop restaurant owner—and are not necessarily versed in the lingua franca of science-based solutions that microbiologists, chemists or food engineers propose. But investments in food safety systems, technologies, testing and tools are just that—economic investments of either money, staff or time that must be justified at the bottom line or to the company’s shareholders. This is why my first recommendation to CEOs is to ensure that the company is placing qualified people in charge of food safety—and the second is to listen to them.
1. Put qualified people in charge of food safety. Invest in hiring scientists and experienced quality assurance professionals to manage the food safety programs. These individuals can often be trained in management techniques that will help them articulate to CEOs and senior level management the basis for requests to implement or improve food safety programs that involve technical concepts.
Providing and supporting general and overall training programs to food safety leaders in your organization is also important. You want to keep your qualified staff qualified. Continuous training and education of food safety department heads, managers and staff practical way that CEOs can ensure they are getting the most up-to-date information and recommendations from which to make critical—and proactive—food safety decisions.
This may mean investing in fee-based training or professional certification or accreditation seminars in planning and implementing Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) programs, specialized testing laboratory workshops for technicians and supervisors, or even train-the-trainer type courses in auditing methods or safe food handling. For smaller companies, off-the-shelf and customized software programs and video and audio training can be a cost-effective way to achieve professional development of your food safety staff.
Also, encourage food safety professionals in your organization to get involved with recognized industry and scientific organizations, and to attend these organizations’ trade conferences, participate in committees and network with other food safety colleagues and leaders in the field—and fund it. Food safety is not a competitive issue and supporting your staff in these types of collegial, educational endeavors will help them deepen their knowledge of emerging trends, issues and solutions, which in turn improves corporate knowledge and decision-making effectiveness.
2. Listen to the qualified food safety professionals you’ve hired. Understanding what your in-house experts or outside contract professionals are recommending is key to investing in the right food safety systems and technologies—and to helping you justify associated costs to relevant stakeholders on the business side. Pay attention to what the experts advise are the existing or potential risks to your operation. Not all microbes, viruses or chemical contaminants are equal when it comes to the likelihood of adulterating particular foods or beverages. But, if you are manufacturing ready-to-eat luncheon meat or deli salads, it is important to know that these have been ranked as products with a very high risk for Listeria monocytogenes contamination if appropriate preventive strategies and systems are not in place. The operation may have other bugs to worry about but identifying the “baddest” bug helps senior managers understand why recommended technologies, equipment or systems investments should be implemented faster than others. Similarly, restaurant and other foodservice establishments where food is handled know that risks associated with poor personnel hygiene practices, among others, can result in the spread of hepatitis A, noroviruses and other illnesses. Knowing this makes it easier to make the investment decision to improve employee training or provide more handwashing stations. Your food safety professionals should be able to identify and rank the risk factors associated with your particular processing or food handling/distribution operations and provide information on the management strategies or technological solutions that will mitigate or eliminate those risks.
It is great to have good advice that you, as a critical decision maker, can trust but you must be able to translate that into action. When the head of food safety recommends a capital investment in new equipment that is of sanitary design, be prepared to see past the new line item it represents. Rather, focus on listening to the why’s, what’s and how’s of the presented material to better understand how your company can get a return on investment for the proposed expenditure.
3. Use contracts with your vendors to protect your customers and indemnify your company of liability if something goes wrong. Putting pressure on your suppliers to make sure they take into account food safety is a good thing. Your product is only as safe as its component parts. Requiring suppliers to be bound by your specifications makes the risks lower that and error will occur. And, if a supplier’s product is contaminated, shouldn’t it pay for its error and not you?
4. Understand why information management (IT) is important to your company, especially as it relates to the food safety mission. In today’s high-tech climate and global economy, it is more important than ever to develop and implement IT systems that increase the food company’s effectiveness in making collected food safety data meaningful. Without this “usability” factor, critical data on traceability, sanitation and food safety audit findings, testing results, and HACCP, allergen control or other food safety management and control systems are essentially impotent. Streamlined, inter-departmental management and reporting of food safety data helps senior management see the big picture and navigate a course that takes into account all areas that involve the food safety imperative.
5. Stay current with regulatory and code compliance for every jurisdiction in which your company operates. Certainly, food company CEOs and senior level managers who are educated about the applicable food safety laws and regulations that govern the production, distribution or handling of foods and beverages are better prepared to respond to a crisis or recall event. But perhaps more importantly, those who are more knowledgeable about these laws and rules are able to make food safety improvement decisions that foster proactive compliance.
From the Top
Ultimately, dedication to food safety must go beyond the company’s HACCP program—in terms of compliance, implementation, testing and auditing. This commitment starts at the top of the organization with the CEO, president and senior management team. Managing the business in a way that pays more than lip service to food safety will produce high-quality, profitable products that don’t make people sick, and is essential to the continued health of your bottom line and the health of your consumers.
Food Safety: You Know The Grill
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2013/food-safety-you-know-the-grill/
By Carla Gillespie (May 26, 2013)
If you’re firing up the grill this weekend, remember to put food safety first. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration both have good information for outdoor cooks. Here’s a summary of what they recommend.
Are you going to marinate your meat? If so, do it in the fridge, not on the counter. Don’t re-use the marinade as sauce for the cooked meat. If you do want some for sauce, divide the marinade when you make it. Set aside some for sauce, use the rest for marinade.
Do you plan to partially cook something to reduce grilling time? If you are, do this right before you are ready to put it on a hot grill. Otherwise, you are setting the stage for bacterial growth.
Use a food thermometer. This is the only way to tell when meat is cooked properly. Make sure it is in working order before the moment you need it. For battery-operated instant-read models, keep a spare battery on hand.
Cook meat to the following temperatures: fish and whole cuts of pork and beef including steaks, roasts and chops that are not mechanically tenderized and have not been scored should be cooked to 145¢ª F. Mechanically tenderized or scored beef and pork, ground meat, and egg dishes should be cooked to 160¢ªF. All poultry, including whole birds; pieces, such as breasts and tenderloins; and ground turkey or chicken should be cooked to 165¢ªF.
Remember that raw meat and cooked meat get their own dishes and utensils to protect your cooked meat from cross contamination. Keep a clean platter and serving utensils grillside so they are ready when you are. If you only have one set, wash them in hot, soapy water before putting the cooked meat on the platter.
As School Winds Down, Teach Kids About Food
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2013/as-school-winds-down-teach-kids-about-food-safety/
By Linda Larsen (May 26, 2013)
The school year is almost over. Many children are at home by themselves
over the summer, since many parents work full time. That means they
are preparing their own food. Now is the perfect time to teach them
about food safety.
Fight Bac! has prepared an educational program for educators “to
raise awareness of the dangers of microbiological pathogens that can
cause food poisoning.” The program is designed for students
in grades 3-5 and their families, but it’s a good tool for older
children as well. You can download PDFs of classroom activities, an
educator’s script, a PowerPoint quiz in English and Spanish,
and a “Ten Least Wanted Pathogens” poster. A new iPhone
game designed for kids called “Perfect Picnic” about eating
outdoors and food safety is going to be released any day.
During a webinar sponsored by the Partnership for Food Safety Education,
Shelley Feist, the director of that organization, said that half of
all foodborne illness infections occur in children under the age of
15. A Canadian study found that 33% of 5th graders prepare their own
snacks or help with meal preparation. Furthermore, research shows
that most adults think a foodborne illness will not happen to their
family, despite the numbers: 1 in 6 Americans will contract a foodborne
illness every year.
Ms. Feist said a study conducted at UC Davis found that most food
safety practices are not followed in the home. The study, conducted
by Dr. Christine Bruhn, found that 32% of consumers didn’t wash
their hands after handling raw meat (something I see on The Food Network
all the time). Moreover, cross contamination occurred in 74% of observed
households, with an average of 35 occurrences per household. Thirty
percent of fridges in the study were set above 41 degrees F. And 76%
of consumers do not use a food thermometer to check the final temperature
of hamburgers; only 13% knew the recommended final internal temperature
for ground beef.
So education of children in this area is crucial. Fight Bac! has developed
Fight Bac! at Picnic Park for educators to use. And keep kids safe
this summer and for the rest of their lives.
Assurance Supervisor - Schaumburg, IL
05/23. Lead Process Analyst - Minneapolis, MN
05/23. R & D Soup Specialist - Easton, MD
05/21. Food Safety Specialist – Kinston, NC
05/21. Quality Assurance Manager – San Antonio, TX
05/21. Quality Assurance Manager – Great Falls, MT
05/20. Quality Assurance Manager – New Hampton, IA
05/20. Food Safety/Factory Hygienist – Fort Wayne, IN
05/20. QA Supervisor - Dairy – City of Industry, CA
05/14. Food Safety Auditor - SCS Global Emeryville, CA
Food Safety should be a concern during a
Source : http://normantranscript.com/features/x1307049011/Food-Safety-should-be-a-concern-during-a-power-outage
By Brenda Hill (May 26, 2013)
NORMAN — Oklahomans are very aware that tornado season is here.
Tornados or strong winds can hit any time of the day or night. Even
if your neighborhood is not in the path of the storm, it is possible
you will be without electricity for several hours or even a few days.
Without electricity or a cold source, foods stored in refrigerators
or freezers can become unsafe. When perishable foods reach temperatures
between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, it provides
the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. People who eat food
after it is left in the danger zone two hours or longer can become
A good way to know the temperature of foods is to keep an appliance
thermometer in both the refrigerator and the freezer. In the event
of a power outage, consumers will know if the temperature in the refrigerator
or freezer drops below a safe level after a few hours. A full freezer
will usually keep food frozen for 48 hours. If it is only half full
it will keep the food for 24 hours. Refrigerator freezing compartments
generally do not keep food frozen for an extended period of time.
If your freezer is not full when the power fails, quickly group packages
of food together so they can keep each other cold. When you do that,
be sure to separate meat and poultry so they are below other foods.
That way, if they begin to thaw, their juices won’t drip onto
It is best to keep your freezer full to maximize storage. If you have
empty space in the freezer, fill clean juice or milk containers with
water and store them in the freezer. These blocks of ice can buy a
person several extra hours of cold storage in the event of a power
outage. Freezer or gel packs also are good to keep on hand and used
in coolers as well. In an effort to retain as much cold air in the
refrigerator and freezer as possible, keep the doors closed. Foods
can keep safely for about four hours if the refrigerator door is kept
Discard refrigerated perishables such as meat, poultry, fish, soft
cheese, milk, eggs, leftovers and deli items after four hours without
power. Frozen items that still contain ice crystals or are at 40 degrees
Fahrenheit can safely be refrozen.
It is much better to be safe than sorry when it comes to salvaging
food items following a weather emergency. In most, cases, the power
is usually restored within a few hours. However, if the outage last
several days, be prepared to toss everything. The best rule of thumb
is ‘when in doubt, throw it out.”
On the front line of food safety
Source : http://health.heraldtribune.com/2013/05/25/on-the-front-line-of-food-safety/
By The New York Times, Herald-Tribune (May 25, 2013)
MOSS LANDING, Calif. — With piles of fresh strawberries beckoning consumers at markets and stores this season, an alliance of a major retailer, fruit growers and farm workers has begun a program to promote healthy produce and improve working conditions.
The initiative, unfolding along neatly planted rows of berries at the Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce’s Sierra Farm here, is an effort to prevent the types of bacterial outbreaks of salmonella, listeria or E.coli that have sickened consumers who ate contaminated cantaloupes, spinach or other produce.
One of the workers, Valentin Esteban, is on the front lines of the new effort, having gone through a training program that helps him avoid practices that lead to possible bacterial contamination that could undermine the safety and quality of the strawberries he picks.
In exchange, Andrew & Williamson is providing Esteban better pay and working conditions than many migrant farmworkers receive, $9.05 an hour versus $8, plus $1.70 for every eight pints of bright, red berries that he picks.
“Sure, the money is important, but I also feel good because I am helping to improve quality and safety,” Esteban said. “Those things are important to my family, too.”
Last summer, more than 250 people in 24 states were sickened and three died after eating cantaloupes contaminated with salmonella. A year earlier, cantaloupe tainted with listeria killed 33 people.
The Food and Drug Administration laid the blame on conditions like stagnant pools of water and dirty surfaces in packing areas, problems that farm workers could help prevent.
“In those cases, the workers weren’t trained to address it or even recognize that those conditions might be problematic,” said Peter O’Driscoll, project director of Oxfam America’s Equitable Food Initiative. “Farm workers can be the eyes and ears of the farm, helping to improve food safety and pest contamination.”
Under the new program, with Andrew & Williamson the first grower to participate, berries sold under the label “Limited Edition,” would carry certification to inform consumers that food safety protocols had been followed and that the workers who harvested the crop were treated fairly.
With Andrew & Williamson paying higher wages than almost all its competitors, the participants in the program hope that the promise of better-quality, safer fruit and better conditions for workers will entice distributors, retailers and consumers to pay a little more, too.
Costco has agreed to play a major part and will sell only these berries in particular stores.
“Who is it that’s delivering the result — safer, higher-quality berries? Those workers,” said Jeff Lyons, the company’s senior vice president for fresh produce. “So yes, I’m willing to pay more, so long as the certification really means something.”
Costco’s participation was critical, said Dan Glickman, an Oxfam America board member who was agriculture secretary during the Clinton administration. “This can’t be a field of dreams, where if we grow it this way, they will buy it no matter the cost,” Glickman said. “Having a retailer like Costco buy into it was key.”
Ernie Farley, a partner of Andrew & Williamson, pointed to the important role that farm workers play. “This program means that, instead of one auditor coming around once in a while to check on things, we have 400 auditors on the job all the time.”
The company, which grows berries, tomatoes and cucumbers, pays a higher base wage than most growers, according to the United Farm Workers union. Andrew & Williamson also provides clean bathrooms, gloves to protect pickers’ hands, folding chairs to sit on at lunchtime and other seemingly small but much appreciated perks, such as cups for water from coolers, a rare luxury for the workers.
In the program, the workers are trained in practices that enhance food safety — from not wearing jewelry that might fall into boxes of berries to spotting signs of contaminants and insects or other pests that might spoil crops. These practices can reduce the use of pesticides, something that the environmental groups participating in the project are pushing for.
Like many growers, Andrew & Williamson says it gets just 9 cents of each dollar that its strawberries sell for at retail. With most of the revenue going to retailers, the farmworkers and the company were eager to increase their meager share. So when Erik Nicholson, vice president of the United Farm Workers, met with Lyons at Costco, he learned that food safety was a top issue for consumers and the two embarked on a plan to improve conditions. They brainstormed and came up with a win-win proposal that would increase workers’ pay and growers’ profits and improve safety.
“We thought, what if we started educating workers to make them a little more aware of things like listeria and salmonella, potential pest issues like birds and wild pigs, the danger to their own health and the environment of overusing pesticides?” Lyons said. “Such training would make an impact that’s positive for the consumer and increase productivity for growers.”
Lyons floated the plan with some of Costco’s biggest produce suppliers at a conference, explaining that because the workers would be responsible for delivering better, safer fruits and vegetables, they deserved better pay. “Jeff introduced the project and started listing all these wacko socialists who were involved,” Farley of Andrew & Williamson said, pointing an elbow at Nicholson. “Hearing those names was scary to most of the people in that room, but Jeff made it clear Costco believed this was the right thing to do — and Costco is a big customer.”
In the past, workers had little incentive to report safety problems. They were paid at a piece rate, seeking to fill their boxes as quickly as they could, and taking even 10 minutes to report a safety problem would in effect reduce their pay. One manager said that, if workers spotted animal feces in an area where ripe strawberries were ready to be plucked, they might have still simply picked those berries.
Pedro Sanchez, a farmworker, said he liked that the program encouraged pickers to tell supervisors about any safety issues in the fields. Now they also know their above-average pay is also tied to the success of this food safety initiative.
Before the initiative, “we didn’t have any system for dealing with things like when we found deer droppings in the field,” said Jorge Piseno, one of the farm workers’ representatives who is part of the project’s worker-management leadership. “Now I know if we find a dead animal or animal waste, we should put up a 6-foot perimeter to quarantine the area.”
Rosa Cortez, a quality control worker, added, “The best thing about this program is that it has increased the understanding of the importance of the quality of the fruit.” And Sanchez said the practices extended beyond the fields. “Now the hygiene I’ve learned here I take home to my family so they will be healthier, too.”
Bruce Goldstein, president of Farmworker Justice, an advocacy group, said: “It’s a courageous move on the part of the farm labor unions that are involved in the project. They’re saying they are willing to engage with employers on something other than a collective bargaining basis” to improve wages and working conditions.
An unexpected benefit of the program is worker retention — a constant headache when pickers can swap information via cellphones about better pay elsewhere. Andrew & Williamson offers a bonus to workers who stay the whole season — and the food initiative has persuaded many workers to stay on.
One big question remains, though: How many retailers and restaurants will be willing to cover the initiative’s increased costs by paying more for fruit? “One of the trends we’re seeing in food and agriculture is more and more consumers wanting to know things about their food and where and how it’s grown and what’s in it,” Glickman said. “This plays into that, but it’s not an easy thing to do. It can be successful, and it can be replicated — but will it?”
So far, only the Bon Appétit Management Co., which operates 550 cafes in 32 states, has joined Costco in agreeing to buy Andrew & Williamson’s Limited Edition strawberries, though O’Driscoll of Oxfam said other buyers were interested.
The strawberries that Bon Appétit now uses in its roughly 100 cafes in Northern California are exclusively Limited Edition. If the pilot goes well, the company will extend the program to all its stores.
Maisie Greenawalt, Bon Appétit’s vice president for strategy, said the additional cost the company would pay for Limited Edition berries was “negligible” and would be offset by those customers convinced by the quality of the fruit and better working conditions.
“It’s no longer about who has the lowest price,” Greenawalt said. “It’s about, who do we feel good buying from regardless of price?”
Temperature is Key to Food Safety at Picnics
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2013/temperature-is-key-to-food-safety-at-picnics/
By Carla Gillespie (May 25, 2013)
Cooking, storing and serving food at the proper temperature is key to food safety. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration both have good information about serving food at picnics, potlucks and buffets. Here’s a summary of what they recommend.
At these events, it’s especially important to remember that food can spend up to two hours in the “danger zone” of 40¢ª to 140¢ª F, or one hour if the outdoor temperatures are above 90° F. Left out longer than this, foods will become contaminated with bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.
After using a food thermometer to cook meat to its proper temperature, keep it warm until serving by moving to the side of the grill, just away from the coals. At home, keep the cooked meat hot in a 200 °F oven, chafing dish, slow cooker, or warming tray.
Clean produce before transporting it to the picnic area. Rinse it under running tap water before packing it in the cooler.
Keep produce and other perishable foods chilled in a cooler with ice or gel packs at 40¢ª F or lower. Keep perishable food in one cooler and beverages in another. That way, you can keep the food cooler closed until you are ready to cook or serve. Store the coolers out of the sun.
Serve foods like chicken salad in bowls placed directly on ice. As the ice melts, drain off the water and replace ice frequently.
Food Safety Problems Continue In China: Over 500 Students Ill After School Meal
Source : http://www.ibtimes.com/food-safety-problems-continue-china-over-500-students-ill-after-school-meal-1278835
By Michelle FlorCruz (May 24, 2013)
China’s food safety problems are continuing to dominate headlines. Amid new claims of cadmium-tainted rice in Guangzhou, reports from northwestern Qinghai province are saying that over 500 students have fallen ill after consuming biscuits and milk provided by their school.
Coming off the heels of the newest rice scandal, the reports of rat and fox meat being sold as lamb prior to that, and the other items on China’s long list of food safety scandals, young students have become sick over government-funded school “nutritious” meals.
According to a report by state-owned China Daily, a total of 548 primary and middle school students across seven different townships fell ill on Wednesday from food poisoning after eating contaminated food. The report cited Datong County’s publicity bureau saying that about a dozen of them were in serious condition as a result of the food poisoning.
The meal, which is served between breakfast and lunch, served as a supplementary snack to hold students over. Soon after consumption, students began exhibiting symptoms like vomiting, dizziness and headaches. A student only identified by their last name, Ma, said that the milk that students were given had “a strange smell.” She drank it anyway and quickly felt nauseous and then fainted in the classroom.
After investigations, it was determined that either the milk or the biscuits were the cause. A local official said that the tainted food could have affected as many as 56 or the county’s 72 primary and middle schools. The local food-safety bureau has confiscated all other foods that also could be contaminated, while some samples have been collected for testing by health authorities.
The free meals began last spring as a government effort to provide the rural students improved nutrition at school.
Food safety improving across Dubai
Source : http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/food-safety-improving-across-dubai
By Nadeem Hanif (May 24, 2013)
DUBAI // Educating food handlers and enforcing rules is improving the health standards in the emirate's rapidly rising number of outlets, a conference heard yesterday.
Sultan Ali Al Taher, head of inspection at the municipality's food control department, said businesses were taking the message seriously.
"We've seen a huge increase in the number of places that serve or sell food and drinks in Dubai over the last few years," Mr Al Taher told the final day of the Food Chain summit.
"Due to improving education of workers and using enforcement when necessary we are seeing fewer complaints."
The municipality received 3,015 complaints from the public in 2011, compared with 2,372 last year.
But it also closed more businesses last year because of food-safety breaches - 191, from 97 in 2011.
"The closures were due to the increase in campaigns we ran in that period," said Mr Al Taher. "These aren't permanent closures. The owner is always given the opportunity to reopen if they make changes and it is approved by an inspector."
He said most complaints the department received were frivolous.
"On one occasion a man had visited a seafood buffet and decided to eat 20 shrimp," Mr Al Taher said.
"He had already eaten 19, but on the last one he complained it didn't taste the same as the ones before. "Despite this we investigate every complaint we get."
Each year between 500 and 700 food outlets open in Dubai. To keep pace the food control department is considering increasing the number of inspectors and boosting education for owners and staff.
Inspectors focus on areas where food is eaten, such as restaurants and coffee shops. About 55 per cent of the 9,981 outlets operating in Dubai last year were in this category.
"Inspection isn't the only answer , though," said Mr Al Taher.
Figures presented at the conference showed 31.8 per cent of people working in food outlets barely had an elementary level of education.
"It's not just a case of sending out inspectors everywhere to fine and close down businesses," said Bobby Krishna, senior food studies officer at the department.
"We take part in a lot of conferences and meet the owners of these companies to tell them about the food-safety code and how to implement it. We also run workshops with the workers to explain it in a simple way so that they can understand the importance of food safety."
Another tactic is to train members of staff who can pass on skills to other workers.
"Changing the culture of food safety is the main aim for us because once you make food hygiene and safety the accepted norm, then people will stick to it," said Mr Krishna.
The municipality plans to translate its food-safety information into 15 languages.
9 summer food safety tips
Source : http://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/blogs/9-summer-food-safety-tips
By mnn.com.(May 23, 2013)
NSF International shares food safety tips from time to time, and when it’s right before a holiday when I know there will be a lot of parties where food will be left out on tables for several hours, in or out of the sun, I like to pass the tips along.
If you’re hosting a Memorial Day gathering this weekend, make sure to heed the following summer food safety tips.
Tip #1: Start with a clean kitchen
In testing products for NSF International’s Home Product Certification Program, NSF microbiologists found that appliances and utensils with lots of crevices provide ideal environments for moisture to gather and germs to grow. Some of the germiest places in a kitchen are the refrigerator meat and vegetable compartment, blender gasket, can opener, rubber spatula and the rubber seals on food storage containers.
Tip #2: Store and defrost foods safely
Always bring perishable foods straight home from the store and place them in the refrigerator or freezer. If frozen, foods can be thawed either in the microwave (if cooking immediately) or overnight in the refrigerator. Never leave food out at room temperature to thaw.
Make sure to regularly clean and dry your refrigerator’s meat and vegetable compartments thoroughly with warm soapy water and a clean towel, as they can often house bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli, yeast and mold, which can cross-contaminate other foods. What many people may not realize is that the types of germs found in these areas were harmful (such as E. coli and salmonella) and come into direct contact with food, especially raw produce. What we learned is that 1) it isn’t enough to wash your produce. You must also wash the areas where the produce is stored, and 2) storing clean and unwashed produce together can be problematic.
Note: Most frozen meats can be cooked from the frozen state, but will usually take up to 50 percent longer to cook.
Tip #3: Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold
Since bacteria grow the quickest when temperatures are between 40º F and 140º F, keep perishable foods refrigerated or iced down until just before placing on a preheated grill or serving, and keep hot foods above 140º F once fully cooked.
Tip #4: Avoid cross contamination
Bacteria can easily spread from one food to the next via dripping juices, hands, or utensils. Prior to cooking, be sure all utensils are cleaned according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Don’t use the same utensils and plates for raw or uncooked foods as you do for cooked foods.
Tip #5: Cook with a thermometer, not your eyes
Always use a certified food thermometer to make sure foods are cooked to the proper minimum internal temperature, inserting into the thickest part of the meat:
• Whole or ground poultry — 165º F
• Ground meats (other than poultry) — 160º F
• Fresh fin fish — 145º F
• Fresh whole (not ground) pork, beef, veal — 145º F with a 3-minute rest time
Rest time refers to the amount of time the meat needs to stand without carving once it’s reached a minimum safe cooking temperature.
Tip #6: Pack perishable foods properly
Put perishable foods such as hot dogs, cut fruits and salads in individual containers and place on the bottom of the cooler with ice packs on top. This provides the best insulation for foods that need to remain cool and helps prevent cross contamination.
To clean dishwasher-safe containers with rubber seals, place both the container and the lid in the dishwasher and wash after each use. If hand washing, wash both the container and lid in hot soapy water, paying special attention to the area around the seal as well as any grooves where the cover attaches to the container. Rinse thoroughly and allow to air dry.
Tip #7: Transport foods safely
To avoid contamination while traveling with food, transport uncooked meats in a separate cooler from ready-to-eat foods. During hot summer months, put the coolers in the air conditioned back seat of the car instead of the hot trunk. When you arrive at your destination, you’ll also want to put drinks in a separate cooler to avoid frequent opening of a container with perishable foods — this lowers the temperature and makes the food inside more susceptible to bacterial growth.
Tip #8: Don’t prepare food more than a day in advance unless it is to be frozen
Cooking foods in advance allows for more opportunities for bacteria to grow. It’s best to cook foods thoroughly just before eating them. If you have to cook foods more than a day in advance, be sure to reheat pre-cooked foods to at least 165º F before serving.
Tip #9: Remember the 1-hour rule
Don’t consume perishable foods that have been sitting out beyond an hour on days where the temperature is over 90º F. On cooler days, perishable foods should be returned to the cooler or discarded if not eaten within two hours. For this reason, you’ll want to throw out most leftovers, especially if you’ve been outdoors for an extended period of time.
More food safety tips, information on the 2013 germ study findings, and the importance of following kitchen tool and appliance cleaning instructions are located at: www.nsf.org/consumer.
Bar-B-Q Shack E. Coli O157:H7 Outbreak: What Caused It?
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2013/bar-b-q-shack-e-coli-o157h7-outbreak-what-caused-it/
By Linda Larsen (May 23,2013)
The E. coli O157:H7 outbreak at the Bar-B-Q Shack in Toccoa, Georgia that has sickened at least 11 people remains a mystery. Public health officials are investigating the outbreak, but they have not determined what caused the illnesses. Seven of the ill persons have been hospitalized, and five unfortunately have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious complication of a STEC infection that can cause kidney failure. That means this bacteria is especially virulent or that there were high numbers of the pathogenic bacteria in the contaminated food.
Fred Pritzker, national food safety attorney, said about this outbreak, “In some restaurant outbreak cases, it’s not possible to identify the precise food product responsible for a person’s illness. For example, if you order a hamburger with lettuce and tomatoes, the adulterated product that caused illness may be any one of the three items. Even if health officials can’t say for sure which product was responsible, you still have a good case against the restaurant.”
According to FoodSafety.gov, E. coli O157:H7 is the worst serotype of this bacteria. It makes people very sick with severe cramps and bloody diarrhea. The bacteria produce Shiga toxins, which circulate in the blood and destroy red blood cells. The toxins are transported to the kidneys and central nervous system in the body, where they destroy cells, cause blood clots, and block the synthesis of protein. These actions damage the kidneys and can cause strokes.
The most common sources for E. coli O157:H7 are undercooked ground beef, unpasteurized milk and juice, soft cheeses made from raw milk, and contaminated raw fruits and vegetables such as raw sprouts. People who are sick with an E. coli infection and prepare and serve food for others can also spread the bacteria.
Public health officials are testing all of the food served to patrons of the restaurant as well as interviewing employees to see if they can find the bacteria responsible for the outbreak. But many foods served at restaurants are simply not available for testing; they are either served to customers or thrown away at the end of the day. We may never know exactly what caused these illnesses, but it’s a good reminder for everyone to follow food safety rules and regulations.
Oklahoma Issues Food Safety Advice After Tornadoes
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/05/oklahoma-issues-food-safety-advice-after-tornadoes/
By foodsafetynews.com (May 23, 2013)
In the wake of the tornadoes that devastated many Oklahoma communities this week, state health officials are reminding residents and rescue workers that food is more likely to be contaminated after a natural disaster, and should be handled safely.
The Oklahoma State Health Department praised the recent outpouring of support for victims in the storms’ aftermaths, but cautioned that while many people are generously donating food, that food must also be served in a sanitary manner to avoid spreading foodborne illness.
“Processes must be in place to ensure that products and services do not inadvertently harm or put at risk the very people who are impacted by the tornado or those assisting the families or those involved in clean-up efforts,” said OSHD on its website Wednesday. “One such area of concern is the availability of free food or food for sale for residents, responders and relief workers in the storm-damaged areas.”
The health department advised food vendors to serve non-perishable items that do not need to be heated before consumption.
It also recommended the following precautions for those preparing food in areas affected by the tornadoes:
•Protect food from flying debris and insects by using screens in any open food areas.
•Thaw frozen food properly prior to cooking, and cool food rapidly prior to storage.
•Cook all food thoroughly, serve at correct temperature, and avoid cross-contamination.
•Use clean utensils to handle cooked foods.
•Wash your hands, dishes and utensils used for preparing and serving food, with water from a safe source.
OPDH also said environmental specialists are on hand at disaster sites to ensure the safety of food being served to the public.
Concerns About Animal Welfare, Food Safety Spur Industry Changes
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/05/concerns-about-animal-welfare-food-safety-spur-industry-changes/
By Cookson Beecher (May 23, 2013)
The 42 Good Husbandry Grants recently awarded by Animal Welfare Approved to farms and slaughter plants across the country are yet another sign of changes occurring in the livestock industry.
“It’s really a testament to how agriculture is transitioning from industrialized to pasture-based,” said AWA program director Andrew Gunther, referring to the many applications the organization received for the grants.
The grants this time around were in excess of $120,000 and went to an array of projects involving beef cattle, goats, sheep, dairy sheep, chickens, and pigs. Funding priorities included genetic improvement of animals in pasture-based systems, outdoor access and mobile housing, and non-lethal predator control. This is the fifth year of the grant program.
Open to current Animal Welfare Approved farmers as well as those who have applied to join the program, the grants are especially useful to farmers seeking a low-risk transition to sustainable, outdoor farming practices, according to the an AWA press release.
Animal Welfare Approved is based on the philosophy that animals should be provided with what they need so they can follow their natural behaviors. This, in turn, promotes their physiological and psychological health and well-being, according to the program’s website. One of the requirements is that animals be raised on the pasture or range.
“For those who can’t visit the farm themselves, Animal Welfare Approved serves as the eyes and ears of the conscientious consumer,” says the organization’s website.
What do consumers want?
Out in the marketplace, consumer preferences have been changing. Whereas in the past, consumers bought meat, dairy products and eggs according to price and perceived quality, some consumers now want to know how the animals those products come from were raised. They make their choices based on a range of labels that indicate farming practices such as “Certified Organic” and “Animal Welfare Approved.”
In a recent stakeholders’ conference hosted by the Animal Agriculture Alliance in Arlington, Virginia, Kathy Keiffer, a broadcaster who produces a food issues program on the Heritage Radio Network, told participants that consumer awareness is the biggest change occurring in the food business.
“We’re in the midst of a food revolution,” she said, pointing out that influential celebrity chefs are embracing new changes in raising livestock and progressive food companies are shifting toward more “natural” production systems.
Not only celebrity chefs, but also large fast food chains and retailers are reacting to consumer concerns about humane animal practices. Burger King, for example, decided last year that it would switch to using eggs from cage-free hens and use pork products only from pigs that aren’t kept and bred in small cages. McDonald’s, Wendy’s and other food-service companies have also adopted policies or reached agreements with the Humane Society of the United States on the humane treatment of pigs.
Food policy director for the Humane Society Matt Prescott told a CNN reporter that Burger King’s decision in favor of cage-free eggs sends the message that customers and the public don’t want animals confined for their whole lives in cages and that the food industry will have to make changes.
Out in the retail marketplace, North American pork producers Smithfield, Hormel, Olymel and Maple Leaf Foods have decided to stop the use of gestation crates for pigs at their company-owned facilities.
And grocery retailer Supervalu has expressed its commitment to animal welfare in a two-page public policy statement, in which it said, “Animal welfare and food-safety inspection audits are integral to our customer and vendor relationships.”
The retailer has also established a Consumer Interest Council “to provide guidance and counsel to Supervalu…on issues pertaining to animal welfare, food safety, consumer advocacy and corporate citizenship.”
Speaking of food safety…
A large part of consumers’ growing interest in humane animal practices was actually fueled by food safety concerns, which opened the door to a new awareness of how meat animals were being raised and slaughtered.
It wasn’t that long ago that most consumers thought that farming was still very much like the pictures of red barns and cows grazing knee-deep in lush grass or chickens wandering about in front of a farmhouse that they saw on calendars and county fair promos. Very few people even knew what an “animal feeding operation” or feedlot was. Photos of these certainly were not used to promote agriculture.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, animal feeding operations (AFOs) are those “where animals are kept and raised in confined situations. AFOs congregate animals, feed, manure and urine, dead animals, and production operations on a small land area. Feed is brought to the animals rather than the animals grazing or otherwise seeking feed in pastures, fields, or on rangeland.”
These AFOs are an essential part of the drive to produce protein as cheaply as possible for consumers. In the case of cattle, once they’re fattened up to their finished weight with grain, usually in about 3 months, they are transported to a slaughterhouse. Before going to the feedlot, they’re almost always raised on pasture or out on the range.
For a long time this system was pretty much the status quo, with no questions asked. But in 1993, E. coli O157:H7, a potentially fatal foodborne pathogen, grabbed headlines when more than 600 people fell ill and four people died of E. coli infections attributed to undercooked hamburgers served at Jack-in-the-Box restaurants. (Some of the people became infected with the pathogen after being exposed to infected people who had eaten the undercooked burgers.) From there, consumers began hearing about recalls of hundreds of thousands of pounds of meat contaminated with the pathogen.
“That burst the illusion that everything was just fine with the way meat was being produced,” Patricia Whisnant, a veterinarian, rancher and grass-fed beef producer, told Food Safety News. “People were getting sick, and we began to look more carefully at how our animals were being raised.”
Whisnant is co-owner of Rain Crow Ranch in southern Missouri, a family farm that raises grass-fed beef, heritage pork, pasture poultry and operates a processing plant, all of which are Animal Welfare Approved. The organic farm follows humane animal practices from birth through slaughter.
When asked if there’s a connection between animal welfare and food safety, Whisnant said there definitely is.
“Animals that are allowed to live within their biologic and behavioral instincts are healthier,” she said. “Many pathogens and parasite issues are taken care of in the production system making them safer.”
An example of that, she said, is rotating cows from pasture to pasture. Once the cows are gone from one pasture, the sun will kill all or most of the pathogens or parasites that might be left behind. When they return to that pasture, they’re coming back to a clean environment, in contrast to animals that are confined in filthy and overcrowded conditions.
When talking about her family’s success in being able to stay in farming while also providing jobs for her six children and four staff members, in addition to the 50 people employed at the processing plant, Whisnant said she credits people’s concerns about food safety and humane animal treatment for “being where we are today.”
She said that the ranch and its processing facility put food safety at the top of the list of priorities, going above and beyond what the USDA requires.
“If we don’t make it a priority, a recall would close our doors,” Whisnant said.
As part of their food safety strategy, the Whisnants don’t release any meat for sale until pathogen test results have come back.
Animal Welfare Approved’s Andrew Gunther said that after World War II, the drive was to feed a growing nation with cheap protein. The common goal behind animal feeding operations was to bring a lot of animals together in one place, as is the case in confinement dairies, feedlots, and caged poultry. But that, he said, meant that low levels of E. coli, Salmonella, and other harmful foodborne pathogens could multiply.
“The unintended consequence was that we created the breeding grounds for dangerous pathogens,” Gunther said. “The system is designed to make animals carry pathogens.”
Gunther said that the livestock industry reacted to the reality that people were getting sick, and in some cases dying, from foodborne pathogens. It adopted interventions such as washing carcasses with acid to remove bacteria that could sicken people and designed plans that would pinpoint critical places in the slaughtering and butchering processes where pathogens would likely be lurking. As a result, beef-related foodborne illnesses have dramatically declined over the past several decades, said Chase Adams, spokesman for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
The industry also put the consumer into the food safety equation, emphasizing, for example, that raw meat needs to be cooked to certain temperatures to kill the dangerous pathogens and handled in ways to ensure that it doesn’t cross-contaminate other foods.
“So now, you, the consumer have to take the responsibility off the backs of industry,” Gunther said, who compares the interventions and calls for consumer responsibility to applying a bandage to the problem instead of dealing with what he sees as the root of the problem — raising and confining animals in ways that run contrary to their natural behaviors.
Not everyone agrees with this view. A recently released discussion paper, “The Direct Relationship between Animal Health and Food Safety Outcomes,” by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (a research group that includes the Farm Bureau and the American Veterinary Medical Association) cited research on the difference between keeping animals indoors vs. outdoors: “Housing livestock indoors can also provide advantages in managing many foodborne organisms,” says the paper. “Because outdoor environments cannot be cleaned or disinfected easily, pathogens can persist in the soil, standing water, outdoor structures, and other micro-environments, infecting successive generations of livestock.
Also, according to the research cited in the paper: “Other studies have shown that Campylobacter and Salmonella (foodborne pathogens) are more common in chickens with outdoor exposure than in birds raised in conventional indoor housing (cages). Dairy cows were shown to be at greater risk of subclinical mastitis when kept in outdoor environments compared with cows kept in barns.”
In an e-mail to Food Safety News, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association spokesman Adams said that the association supports providing choices to meet consumer preferences for beef, whether grain-fed, grass-fed, natural or organic.
“Our expectation is the that everyone who handles cattle, regardless of the production method, follows established Beef Quality Assurance best practices to ensure animals are handled properly,” he said. “Raising healthy animals is the first step in producing wholesome beef.”
He also said that no studies have shown a significant difference between grass-fed or grain-fed cattle when it comes to safety or nutritional content.
“The bottom line,” he said, “is that consumers can be assured that regardless of whether they choose to purchase grass-fed or grain-feed beef, the cattle were raised humanely and that the product is safe for their families.”
What about antibiotics?
The subtherapeutic use of antibiotics to boost growth and to help animals raised in stressful, overcrowded and unsanitary conditions resist disease has also grabbed headlines. (Subtherapeutic use differs from using antibiotics to treat animals that are sick.)
Many scientists are pointing to the likelihood that the subtherapeutic use of antibiotics in agriculture is contributing to the dramatic rise in life-threatening antibiotic-resistant bacteria, often referred to as “super bugs.” They also say that it provides the perfect conditions for some very dangerous bacteria to mutate and become resistant to the antibiotics. That’s especially important if the same antibiotics used on animals are also used to treat human illnesses.
An example of this in the food safety arena is the 2011 outbreak of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella linked to ground turkey, which killed one person and sickened at least 136 people across 31 states.
United Kingdom Government’s Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies recently warned that the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria poses a global health catastrophe that ranks alongside the threat of climate change or terrorism.
Veterinarian and rancher Whisnant would agree. She told Food Safety News that when she started her practice she could use penicillin on animals suffering from an array of health problems.
“It made veterinary a profession,” she said. “It truly was a miracle drug. But today, penicillin is useless. By administering antibiotics at subtherapeutic levels, the industry has been breeding superbugs.”
She considers this to be the biggest food safety issue today — and one of the most serious health crises the world is facing.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, meanwhile, has said that “injudicious” antibiotic uses in agriculture are a public health risk. In a guidance paper on this topic, it proposed two “non-binding” recommendations:
1. The use of medically important antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals should be limited to those uses that are considered necessary for assuring animal health.
2. The use of medically important antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals should be limited to those uses that include veterinary oversight or consultation.
At the same time, there are those who think differently about this issue. Again, according to CAST’s discussion paper, antibiotics have a major, positive effect on improving animal and human health.
And while the discussion paper concedes that the use of antibiotics in food-animal production raises concerns about antibiotic resistance in bacteria and how that could affect the effectiveness of antibiotics in treating human infections, the paper points out that “concern about antibiotic resistance is not equivalent to actual risk.”
The paper also says that resistant bacteria were present long before antibiotics were discovered and found in many places without livestock exposure.
The elephant in the room
For the most part, meat, milk and eggs produced in ways that follow an animal’s natural behavior (outdoors, cage-free and on grass, for example) is more expensive than meat, milk and eggs produced in conditions where many animals are raised together in confinement situations. For that reason, supporters of confinement operations say that this industrial type of agriculture allows for efficiency of scale, which, in turn, benefits consumers by providing affordable food.
Most farmers and ranchers who raise their animals based on their natural behaviors will quickly agree that they get higher prices for their products, thanks to strong demand from health-minded consumers. But they also point out that those higher prices allow them to stay in farming.
“It provides a way to survive in the world of integrated behemoth farming enterprises,” says Rain Crow Ranch’s website.
Rob Noel, spokesman for the Washington State Beef Commission, told Food Safety News that according to a retailer he had just spoken with, wholesale prices of three different cuts of beef showed that grass-finished beef cuts were, on the average, just shy of $2 more per pound than grain-finished cuts. But because prices vary according to season and sales, no hard-and-fast figures can be supplied.
Which is healthier?
Farmers who follow Animal Welfare Approved, or similar principals, say that meat, milk and eggs produced in ways that follow an animal’s natural behavior are healthier because they contain certain substances such as beneficial fatty acids and are, therefore, less expensive in the long run because they promote human health.
However, some health experts discount this view, saying that there’s no significant difference in the nutritional value of the meat, milk and eggs from animals raised industrially or according to their natural behaviors.
Washington State Beef Commission’s Noel said that while grass-fed beef does have more Omega 3s, which are said to promote heart health, than grain-fed beef, beef is not a significant contributor to Omega 3s in a person’s diet, as is salmon, for example.
But in speaking about consumer preferences, Noel said consumers are often guided by what they hear and read from a variety of sources.
“Out in the marketplace, consumers’ perceptions are reality,” he said.
Although it’s estimated that only about 3 percent of the beef in the U.S. is grass-fed, veterinarian and grass-fed beef producer Whisnant told reporters in 2010 that there’s been a dramatic rise in demand for cattle reared on a pasture diet instead of an industrial feedlot. And she went so far as to predict that grass-fed beef should account for 10 percent of America’s beef consumption overall by 2016.
In a recent interview with Food Safety News, she said it’s been amazing to her how many traditional beef producers are looking for alternatives, in large part because of the high price of corn. She said that feedlots are also getting squeezed economically and looking for alternatives.
“I think we’ll see grass-fed beef make up more than 10 percent of America’s beef consumption by 2016,” she said.
Breaking vested interests crucial for food safety
Source : http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/783664.shtml
By Global Times (May 23,2013)
Since last Thursday, when the Guangzhou Food and Drug Administration revealed that eight out of 18 samples of rice from restaurants were found to be tainted with cadmium, public concerns about food safety have been ignited once again.
Yesterday, the local food safety authorities set up a new policy which forces all rice producers to provide cadmium test reports before their products enter the market, in an effort to contain public outrage.
The public has become extraordinarily concerned about food, beverages and drugs tainted with heavy metal, illegal addictives and industrial waste.
The news that the staple food of hundreds of millions Chinese citizens may also be toxic has understandably caused concern.
It is understandable that public outrage targets anyone related to this controversy. And it seems that the positive reactions of the local government will make this public outrage subside within a couple of days, but food concerns will continue hanging over Chinese citizens as long as key issues remain unaddressed.
Despite repeated warnings from the central government that it is cracking down on those guilty of food safety violations, the public remains concerned about what they are putting in their mouths.
Local governments, supervisory authorities and food producers have already established a solid, albeit complex, series of vested interests.
Generally speaking, the need to maintain economic development and social stability makes the government hesitate about announcing lists of substandard producers - a move which could incur economic losses and cause panic.
This makes supervisory authorities at the local level much less strident. And the desire to maximize profits emboldens food producers to take risks.
This vicious cycle means that those involved have to cover for the others. But it is clear that increasing awareness of civic rights is slowing it down.
It is high time that this chain of vested interests is broken down and reconstructed.
On the one hand, the agricultural process needs a transformation, leading to more intensive management and standardized production.
On the other hand, the government and supervisory authorities should take the responsibility of pushing food producers to ensure higher food quality standards via the imposition of strict regulations.
Don't let food poisoning dampen your BBQ
this bank holiday weekend
Source : http://www.healthcanal.com/public-health-safety/38881-don%E2%80%99t-let-food-poisoning-dampen-your-bbq-this-bank-holiday-weekend.html
By healthcanal.com (May 21, 2013)
With the bank holiday weekend looming, its’ time to dust down those barbecues. So whether the sun is shining or you brave the rain, the Public Health Agency (PHA) is reminding fans of cooking al fresco about barbecue food safety.
When relaxing with friends and family around the barbecue it is easy to forget about food safety, but just because it is outside the kitchen does not mean that good hand hygiene and food safety advice do not apply.
Dr Louise Herron, Consultant in Health Protection, PHA, said: “Bacteria on or in food are usually the underlying cause of food poisoning, which is an illness that occurs after eating or handling contaminated food or liquid. That is why there is a need for thorough cooking and good hand hygiene.
“Although it is probably furthest from people’s minds when they are enjoying food outdoors, symptoms of food poisoning may include diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and fever, and can sometimes lead to severe illness, so it is vital to exercise good food and hand hygiene when having a barbecue.”
During barbecue season here are some top tips to reduce your risk of food poisoning:
•Ensure that you barbecue meat until it is piping hot – particularly poultry – as this will kill off any bacteria.
•Avoid cross contamination: Keep cooked food away from raw food, keep all cooking preparation surfaces and equipment including barbecues, utensils and chopping boards clean, and don’t use the same chopping board for vegetables and meat.
•Wash your hands thoroughly before preparing food and after handling raw meat.
Dr Herron added: “Bacteria can survive in all kinds of environments and can grow and spread rapidly given the opportunity. But you can combat this by cooking meat correctly to kill any bacteria that may be present and using hot water and soap when washing hands and wiping surfaces to eliminate harmful bacteria and reduce the risk of infection.
“We want everyone to take advantage of the good weather when we have it and by following some simple tips while barbecuing, everyone will get to enjoy the summer without food poisoning.”
•For further information, contact PHA Corporate and Public Affairs on 028 9055 3663.
•Bacteria which cause food poisoning are called campylobacter, Clostridium perfringens and salmonella.
•Preventing food poisoning in home and healthcare settings -
New Al-Azhar food poisoning incident 'premeditated': official
Source : http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/72005/Egypt/Politics-/New-AlAzhar-food-poisoning-incident-premeditated-o.aspx
By ahram.org.eg (May 21, 2013)
Ahmed Hosni, deputy of Al-Azhar University in Tanta, says third recent case of food poisoning at university dorm was premeditated act aimed at 'tarnishing' Al-Azhar's reputation
Deputy of Al-Azhar University in Tanta Ahmed Hosni has alleged that dinner served at one of the university's dormitories in Cairo had been intentionally 'poisoned,' but maintains that the dormitory's kitchen staff was not responsible.
"University kitchens use natural gas, not kerosene," Hosni told Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website on Tuesday. "The kerosene found in the beans served to students in the Nasr City dormitories means that the kerosene was put in the food by someone not from our staff."
Dormitory residents reportedly claimed they could smell kerosene in the fuul (beans) served at dinner on Monday evening. Dozens of students protested the incident outside their dormitories in Cairo's Nasr City district.
"Whoever put kerosene in the food is trying to tarnish the university's reputation," Hosni alleged.
An official Al-Azhar dormitories source had earlier said that initial tests had shown no contamination had taken place, asserting that the smell of kerosene may have come from a gas stove on which the beans had been cooked.
The latest incident represents the third food poisoning scandal to take place at Al-Azhar University within recent months.
On 1 April, over 500 students were hospitalised with food poisoning after eating on campus. Less than one month later, 161 students became ill following a second food poisoning incident.
The twin scandal prompted mass demonstrations by students, some of whom called for the sacking of Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayyeb, who oversees the Al-Azhar religious-educational system in Egypt.
On Wednesday, the trial began for ten individuals accused of responsibility for the 1 April mass food poisoning incident.
After E. coli Outbreak, Canada Ramps Up Food Safety
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2013/after-e-coli-outbreak-canada-ramps-up-food-safety/
By Carla Gillespie (May 21, 2013)
Last fall in Canada, the XL Foods E. coli outbreak sickened 18 people and triggered the largest meat recall in Canadian history. Now, Canada is ramping up it food safety efforts through its Safe Food for Canadians Action Plan.
The goal of the plan is to strengthen food safety rules, create a more effective inspection system, provide more information to consumers and develop regulation that will enact the Safe Food for Canadians Act, passed in November 2012.
As part of the plan, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is strengthening some of its beef safety rules and has created new requirements to control E. coli in federally-registered beef plants including required labeling of all mechanically tenderized beef cuts by July 2, 2013. Health Canada will then propose broader mandatory labeling of mechanically tenderized beef which would include grocery stores which have been following a voluntary labeling program since last year.
Canada has also prepared a list of U.S. products it will target in retaliation for U.S. country-of-origin labels (COOL) if modifications aren’t made, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said. When the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) expanded COOL regulations in 2008, Canada and Mexico objected saying the COOL laws created a barrier to trade. The World Trade Organization (WTO) said the U.S. had the right to require COOL, but said, for imported meat, COOL created costs that likely exceeded benefits to consumers because of the limited and confusing information COOL provided. The organization set a deadline of May 23, 2013 for the U.S. to come into compliance with its decision.
To meet the deadline, the USDA proposed changing the labels to make then less confusing. The proposed COOL labels would specify the country or countries where an animal was born, raised and slaughtered.
The Canadian government does not feel this proposal brings the U.S. into compliance with the WTO’s order and has threatened sanctions and other retaliatory measures if the proposal is not modified.
Poop in Pools
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2013/poop-in-pools/
By Linda Larsen (May 20, 2013)
A CDC study released last week found that feces are often introduced
into public pool waters by swimmers. Scientists found E. coli bacteria
in samples of pool filter water collected from public pools around
the country. The study is presented in recognition of recreational
Water Illness and Injury Prevention Week, May 20-26, 2013. The goal
of this week is to raise awareness about healthy swimming.
The study found that “58% of the pool water samples tested were
positive for E. coli, bacteria normally found in the human gut and
feces. The E. coli is a marker for fecal contamination.” This
happens because swimmers have a “fecal incident” in the
water or they don’t shower before getting into the pool.
On the plus side, none of the samples tested positive for E. coli
O157:H7, the most dangerous strain of the bacteria that can cause
serious illness, including hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). The study
didn’t look at water parks or residential pools. But the CDC
stated that “it is unlikely that swimmer-introduced contamination,
or swimmer hygiene practices, differ between pools in the study and
those in the rest of the country.”
The CDC recommends that all swimmers should shower with soap before
getting into the water and take bathroom breaks every 60 minutes.
Don’t swim when you have diarrhea and wash your hands with soap
and water after using the toilet or changing diapers. Do not swallow
water you swim in.
In 2011, there was an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak at Cowan’s Gap
Park in Pennsylvania. Eighteen people were sickened in that outbreak.
Ten people were hospitalized; some did develop HUS. THe report of
that outbreak focused on diapered children in swimming waters.
Also last year, there were two outbreaks of Cryptosporidium at Minnesota
water parks. That disease is caused by a parasite, also transmitted
through fecal contamination.
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Canadian Family Brings E. coli Suit Against U.S. Lettuce Supplier
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/05/canadian-family-brings-e-coli-suit-against-u-s-lettuce-supplier/
By foodsafetynews.com (May 20, 2013)
The family of a Canadian woman who died from an E. coli infection filed suit against producer grower Tanimura & Antle last week in U.S. District Court in California, alleging her death was caused in part by the consumption of contaminated lettuce sold by the company.
According to court documents, prior to falling ill with fatigue, nausea and bloody diarrhea during the last week of August, 2012, Gail Bernacki of Calgary had consumed a Tanimura & Antle lettuce product that was contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.
Bernacki was allegedly taken by ambulance to Rockyview General Hospital for treatment on August 25. While there, she submitted a stool sample that returned positive for E. coli O157:H7.
The complaint states that subsequent analysis of the E. coli O157:H7 bacteria isolated from her stool showed that it was a genetic match to E. coli O157:H7 bacteria isolated from a sample of Tanimura & Antle romaine lettuce that triggered the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to issue a “Health Hazard Alert” on August 17 and an expanded alert on August 20.
While she was able to return home by the end of Spetember, the court documents state that Bernacki was re-admitted to the hospital for medical care for congestive heart failure and failure to thrive in January, 2013. The lawsuit alleges that her original E. coli O157:H7 infection contributed to her decline and, ultimately, her death on January 16, 2013.
“Although growers of leafy greens have made huge strides in food safety since the E. coli outbreak of 2006,” said Bill Marler, attorney for the Bernacki family and publisher of Food Safety News, “this case shows that there is more to do.”
Canada Unveils Food-Safety Action Plan
Source : http://www.foodproductdesign.com/news/2013/05/canada-unveils-food-safety-action-plan.aspx
By foodproductdesign.com (May 20, 2013)
OTTAWA—On May 17, the Harper Government unveiled its Safe Food for Canadians Action Plan that aims to further improve Canada’s food-safety system by strengthening food safety rules, more effective inspection, a renewed commitment to service and more information for consumers.
Through the plan, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) will launch a number of significant food- safety enhancements over the next two years. Most notably, CFIA will work with consumer groups and industry to develop new regulations that will bring into force the Safe Food for Canadians Act passed in November 2012.
As a first step, CFIA is strengthening some of its beef safety rules and has implemented new mandatory requirements that will strengthen the control of E. coli in federally-registered beef plants. By July 2, 2013, federally-registered plants that produce mechanically tenderized beef cuts, such as steaks or roasts, will be required to label those products as tenderized and with cooking instructions.
Health Canada also intends to propose broader mandatory labels to identify beef that has been mechanically tenderized at retail outlets like supermarkets. This voluntary practice has been in place since 2012.
CFIA also will launch a review of the food regulations in Canada that will need to be revised in order to bring the Safe Food for Canadians Act into force. It is expected this work will take up to two years. Active consumer and stakeholder engagement in the process will be important to the success of efforts to bring the new legislation into force.
AgriLife Extension experts offer tips on Memorial Day grilling, food safety
Source : http://today.agrilife.org/2013/05/20/tips-on-memorial-day-grilling-food-safety/
By agrilife.org (May 20,2013)
COLLEGE STATION – With Memorial Day weekend approaching, many Texans are preparing their grills and menus for a cookout. To help ensure a trouble-free time, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts have offered some advice on grilling and food safety.
“It’s extremely important that people take extra care if planning to grill outdoors, especially in open areas,” said Dr. Joyce Cavanagh, AgriLife Extension specialist in family development and resource management, College Station. “Three out of four households have an outdoor grill, and cookouts are a Memorial Day weekend tradition.”
The National Fire Protection Association estimates gas and charcoal grills cause 4,200 outdoor fires and 1,500 structure fires annually in or on residential properties, resulting in yearly property losses of about $30 million.
Cavanagh said before making plans for a cookout in a public area, check to see if there’s a burn ban in effect in that area.
“It’s not only dangerous to ignore or defy a burn ban, but there can also be some pretty stiff fines for doing so,” she noted.
Some additional outdoor grilling fire safety tips offered by AgriLife Extension experts, the National Fire Protection Association and others are:
– Set up the grill on a concrete surface or on ground where grass and vegetation in the area are trimmed and where there are no dry leaves, brush, mulch piles or other combustibles nearby.
– Place the grill in an open area away from deck railings, eaves and overhanging branches or other potentially combustible surfaces.
– If using a gas grill, check for leaks and make sure hose connections are tight.
– Set the grill at least 10 feet away from your house or building, and do not grill in a garage or under a carport or other surface that might catch fire.
– Keep young children and pets at least 3 feet from the grill.
– Remove any grease or fat buildup from the grill and/or in the trays below the grill.
– Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.
– Never leave the grill unattended once the fire has been lit.
– Do not attempt to move a hot grill.
– Keep a multi-purpose fire extinguisher within reach.
– Use flame-retardant mitts and grilling tools with long handles instead of household forks or short-handled tongs.
– When finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing, and use a metal container for disposal.
– If using a liquid propane grill, use extreme caution and always follow manufacturer recommendations for connecting or disconnecting the tank.
Along with fire safety, food safety is another important factor to consider when grilling, said Dr. Jenna Anding, AgriLife Extension program leader, food and nutrition, College Station.
“You don’t want to remember Memorial Day as the day you or someone in your family got sick from a foodborne illness,” Anding said. “To keep cookouts safe, it’s important to ensure a clean grilling workspace and safe food preparation.”
She said maintaining food quality and freshness by ensuring proper temperatures during its storage and when cooking are vital to food safety.
“You need to begin by choosing meat, poultry or seafood that’s fresh and of high quality,” she said. “At the grocery store, select your meat last and get it home as soon as possible. If the trip from the grocery store to home is more than 30 minutes, take a cooler for refrigerated items.”
Anding said poultry, fish, seafood or ground beef should be cooked or frozen within a day or two, and that steaks or pork chops should be cooked or frozen within four to five days.
“Also, the safest way to thaw meat or poultry is by placing it in the refrigerator a day or two before you plan to cook it,” she added. “You can also thaw in the microwave, but if you do, cook the food right away; don’t let it sit. However, some foods may not thaw out evenly and other parts of the food may be partially cooked, so it’s still better to let them thaw out it in the fridge.”
Regardless, she added, never thaw meats at room temperature as this may increase the number of germs related to foodborne illness.
Anding said if refrigerated food is being transported to another location for cooking, it should be kept at 40 degrees or colder, using a cooler and ice or ice packs.
“And you should only take as much as you plan to cook and eat that day,” she said.
Anding said raw meat, poultry or seafood should be tightly wrapped or stored in a sealed bag or container and kept in a different cooler to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
“Make sure your hands, the cooking area and all cooking utensils are clean to reduce the spread of germs to the food,” she said. “If you’re cooking away from home and not sure about a water source where you’re going, take your own water and paper towels or use antibacterial towelettes or hand sanitizer.”
Anding noted that unwashed utensils and platters can still contaminate food, even if you’ve maintained proper food storage, preparation and cooking standards.
“If you’ve placed raw meat or fish on a platter before grilling, do not use that same plate to serve the food unless it first can be cleaned with hot, soapy water.”
She said foods on a grill can brown quickly and look as though they are sufficiently cooked when they are not, so a food thermometer is the only way to ensure cooking to a safe internal temperature.
“Cook all poultry to 165 degrees, fully cooked meats like hot dogs to 165 degrees and hamburgers to 160 degrees. Beef, pork, lamb, veal steaks, chops and roasts should be cooked to at least 145 degrees. For safety, however, allow these foods to ‘rest’ for 3 minutes after removing them from the grill before serving.”
After cooking, Anding said, be sure to keep the food hot until it is served – at least 140 degrees — otherwise refrigerate it right away.
“Keep food covered and never let it sit out for more than two hours, and if the weather is 90 degrees or hotter, eat or store it within one hour,” she said. “We usually say ‘more than two is bad for you,’ but if it’s outside, that should be just one hour.”
More information on outdoor cooking safety may be obtained by contacting the local county AgriLife Extension agent for family and consumer sciences or reading the U.S. Department of Agriculture fact sheet at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Barbecue_Food_Safety/.
Danone Invests in Mengniu as Chinese Demand Food Safety
Source : http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-05-19/danone-unit-to-take-8-3-stake-in-mengniu-to-expand-in-china.html
By Bloomberg News (May 20, 2013)
owner of Activia yogurt and Evian water, will spend about 325 million euros ($417 million) to form a joint venture and invest in China’s biggest dairy producer to expand its brands in the most populous nation.
Danone will have an initial indirect interest of about 4 percent in China Mengniu Dairy Co. (2319), with the aim of increasing that in the future, the Paris-based company said in a statement today. It will also set up a venture with Mengniu for yogurt products in China. Mengniu shares surged the most in four years.
.The tie-up will help Danone boost sales in China’s yogurt market, which Euromonitor International estimates will grow 57 percent to 71.6 billion yuan ($11.7 billion) by 2015. Mengniu gains the investment as food scandals including contaminated baby formula, rat meat sold as mutton, and excessive antibiotics in chicken have fueled demand for better quality control in the world’s second-largest economy.
“The deal will help strengthen the research and development and capability of Mengniu’s yogurt business, and potentially help them increase market share in China,” said Charlie Chen, a Hong Kong-based analyst at BNP Paribas Securities Asia. “Through its ventures with Arla and Danone, Mengniu is also building a better brand image among consumers.”
Mengniu closed 10.4 percent higher at HK$27.05 in Hong Kong trading today, the biggest gain since April 14, 2009. It formed a strategic partnership with Danish dairy firm Arla Foods in 2012 to improve quality inspection techniques and explore further co-operation. Danone shares were little changed at 58.03 euros as of 12:16 p.m. local time.
Today’s agreement is the first partnership for the French company in China since the end of the one with Chinese drinks maker Hangzhou Wahaha Group Co. in 2009, Agnes Berthet-d’Anthonay, a spokeswoman for Danone, said today. The companies were embroiled in more than 30 lawsuits as Danone accused Wahaha Chairman Zong Qinghou, now China’s richest man, of unlawfully selling Wahaha-branded juice and tea outside their partnership.
Mengniu and Danone first disclosed plans to form a venture to sell yogurt products in China in 2006, the Danone spokeswoman said. The companies terminated the tie-up a year later due to “administrative reasons” and left the door open for future collaboration, she said.
The local partnership will increase the reach of Danone brands in China, the Paris-based company’s Chief Executive Officer Franck Riboud said in a statement today. It will own 20 percent of the yogurt venture with the rest owned by Mengniu, according to the statement.
Mengniu had a 16.8 percent market share in China’s yogurt market in 2012, with Danone holding a 1.6 percent share, according to Euromonitor.
Danone will benefit from Mengniu’s extensive distribution channels in China, and also possibly gain access to the Chinese dairy company’s production bases there, said Olive Xia, an analyst at Core Pacific-Yamaichi International Ltd. in Shanghai.
Danone, which sells Activia yogurt under the brand Bio and Dumex infant formula in China, operates 22 factories and employs about 10,000 employees in the country, according to its official website. The Asian nation formed about 6 percent of the group’s consolidated sales in 2012, its fourth-largest market after Russia, France and the U.S., according to the company’s 2012 annual report.
Danone Chief Financial Officer Pierre-Andre Terisse said last month that its first-quarter baby-nutrition revenue jumped 17 percent led by a need for “safety” in China and that exporting more from Europe to China isn’t sustainable.
Food quality and safety incidents affected consumer confidence and sales, Mengniu said in a March 27 statement. In 2008, Mengniu was among the 22 dairy companies found to have sold products containing melamine, a toxic chemical used to make plastics. The tainted milk killed at least six babies.
In 2011, the company said moldy cattle feed led to excessive toxin levels in its milk. Since then, the Hohhot, Inner Mongolia-based company has run marketing campaigns emphasizing product quality to draw consumers back.
Under the agreement announced today, Prominent Achiever Ltd., a venture 49 percent owned by Danone, will acquire an 8.3 percent stake from Mengniu’s biggest shareholder COFCO, according to a filing to Hong Kong’s stock exchange today. COFCO, the Chinese state-backed agricultural and food industry supplier, owns 51 percent of Prominent Achiever.
Mengniu sells liquid milk products including UHT milk and yogurt under its namesake brand in China. It also produces ice cream and other dairy products such as cheese and milk powder. The company has the biggest share in China’s drinking milk market, controlling more than 34 percent share in 2012, according to Euromonitor International.
Mengniu this month agreed to buy 26.9 percent of China Modern Dairy Holdings Ltd. (1117) for HK$3.18 billion ($409 million) to gain greater control of milk supplies amid food safety concerns in the country.
To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Liza Lin in Shanghai at email@example.com; Jasmine Wang in Hong Kong at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Wong at email@example.com
How Large will the Salmonella I:4,5,12:i:- Firefly Outbreak be?
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/how-large-will-the-salmonella-i4512i-firefly-outbreak-be/
By Bill Marler (May 20, 2013)
By the way, I think they should rename Salmonella I:4,5,12:i:- to Salmonella Firefly.
According to a report released by the Health Department, as of May 5, 2013 at least 196 patrons and 4 employees of Firefly who consumed food and/or drinks at the Firefly restaurant during April 21-26, 2013 have been determined to be confirmed or probable cases of Salmonella infection.
Thus far, surveillance for additional cases revealed 200 people who became ill after eating at Firefly during April 21-26, 2013. From various surveillance data sources, we have received reports of illness from restaurant patrons who normally reside in twenty states:
Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington and two foreign countries (Canada, United Kingdom).
Illness onset dates occurred within the April 22 to May 1, 2013 time frame. The onset date with the peak number of ill restaurant patrons was April 24, 2013. Because the incubation period for Salmonella is usually 12-36 hours, this might suggest that patrons who ate at Firefly on April 22-23, 2013 had the highest risk of exposure to the pathogen.
Serotyping of the isolates indicated that the outbreak strain was Salmonella (assigned with the antigenic code I:4,5,12:i:-).
An inspection report on Firefly released last week shows Firefly was cited for employees handling food without gloves and preparing food next to cleaning chemicals. Firefly was cited with 44 demerits and closed. First Full Report Here.
Another updated report is expected this week. I would expect that the number of ill will reach at or above 300 and that the number of states and countries impacted to grow as well.