FoodHACCP Newsletter
10/21 2013 ISSUE:570


Farmers see red over draft rules on food safety
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By MARGARET KROME (Oct 21, 2013)
New food safety rules are on their way. Everyone cares about food safety, but the Food and Drug Administration's proposed rules have big problems and also would put severe cost burdens on small farmers. They are causing alarm for many local farmers and consumers.
Spurred by increasing incidents of food-related disease, Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2010, focusing heavily on microbial contamination of food (ignoring problems such as pesticide residues, excessive antibiotic use and food additives). The FDA began drafting rules to implement the act in 2011 and released the first draft rules earlier this year.
In its deliberations, Congress sensibly acknowledged that contamination risks vary significantly between different kinds and sizes of production and processing operations. Since most large food safety outbreaks have been related to the industrial-scale operations, Congress called for scale-appropriate remedies for smaller operations, such as training, rather than requiring expensive safety plans.
Unfortunately, certain provisions in two draft rules — the Produce Rule and the Preventive Controls Rule — excessively regulate small produce farmers and impair their ability to market fresh produce.
For example, the produce rule includes restrictions on applying manure and compost that directly conflict with rules organic farmers must follow and would render such fertilizers impractical for most farmers in northern climates. The rule would also require farmers to pay for weekly water testing if they use water from streams and lakes, regardless of risk or cost. Further, the rules give the administration broad authority to revoke small farmers’ protections without any proof of a public health threat. The rules would harm wildlife, degrade soil and water, and force farmers to halt safe practices that protect our natural resources and wildlife.
Although Congress specified that the administration’s implementation of the act should not undermine local food systems, the rules can be interpreted to consider farmers' markets, roadside stands, and community-supported agriculture programs as “manufacturing facilities” subject to additional regulation, as would be farms that sell produce from other farms.
As written, the rules are predicted to cost some farmers over half of their profits, putting many out of business and discouraging start-ups, at a time when the nation urgently needs new farmers. If unchanged, these rules would result in fewer local farmers and fewer sources of healthy food for consumers. Many local food distributors like food hubs would likely close and new food businesses would not even attempt a launch.
Fortunately, these are still draft rules, subject to public comments until Nov. 15. Wisconsin has many exemplary large-scale produce farms, but we also have many small farms. This is an important time for people who care about how and where their food is grown to defend their local farmers against poorly designed regulations. We all want food safety, but we don’t want to destroy vibrant local and sustainable farming communities we’ve worked hard to build because of ill-targeted regulations we could have improved.

Food safety norms to come into force in six cantt areas
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By Umesh IsalkarUmesh Isalkar, (Oct 21, 2013)
PUNE: Food safety norms will now be implemented in six cantonment areas in Maharashtra including three in Pune and one each in Nashik, Ahmednagar and Aurangabad that come under the Union government's jurisdiction. State government officials have been asked to oversee the work in these areas.
The issue of implementing authority in six cantonment areas in Maharashtra for enforcing food safety norms has finally been resolved.
State officials have been asked to oversee the work in three cantonment areas in Pune and one each in Nashik, Ahmednagar and Aurangabad that come under the union government's jurisdiction.
Though standards and guidelines set for food items under the 'Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 and Rules and Regulations 2011,' were implemented two years ago, they were not enforced in the state's cantonment areas due to the absence of an authority. The Act had replaced the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act 1954 from August 5, 2011.
Shashikant Kekare, joint commissioner (food), Food and Drug Administraiton, Pune said, "The state FDA had brought up the issue with the Central Advisory Committee of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in the past. However, no decision was made on notifying either central or state officials to regulate food businesses in cantonment areas as per the Act. The issue has been resolved now."
In the absence of an implementing authority, registration and licensing of food business operators in cantonment areas have not been done, so far.
"We have notified our officials to oversee the implementation of the Act in cantonment areas that fall in their division. The respective divisional heads were notified on October 8. The registrations and licencing of food business operators in cantonment areas, which could not take place in the last two years, has started in full swing now," said a top official from state FDA.
A Pune Cantonment Board official admitted that the provision of the new food act has not come into force in cantonment areas. "Even the ban on gutka has not been implemented despite its rampant sale here. As far as food business regulation is concerned, we have a well-designed system in place to ensure that food items and food handlers conform to standards of hygiene and safety," he said.
As per conservative estimates, there are around 15 lakh food business operators in Maharashtra. FDA has issued licences to 3.9 lakh food business operators in the state and incurred revenue of Rs 34 crore. Maharashtra is the first state in the country that has carried out licencing work of this proportion so far.
"We have intensified the drive of registering and licensing food business operators in the three cantonment areas in Pune," said Dilip Sangat, assistant commissioner (food), FDA, Pune.
Delay in enforcement
* Food safety norms were not enforced due to ambiguity over implementing authority. Since cantonment areas come under the Central government jurisdiction, state officials were not empowered to do so without clear instructions
* The designated officer for central licensing had not notified any of their officials to oversee the implementation of the Act in cantonment areas. State officials were also not given directives. Despite being a central Act, food safety norms under Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 could not be enforced in the state's cantonment areas

Coming food safety regulations worry farmers, packers
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By Ross Courtney (Oct 20, 2013)
GRANGER, Wash. — As they return from lunch, laborers dutifully wash their hands in a double sink before resuming harvest in an adjacent orchard full of Pacific Rose apples. A quality control supervisor perched on a tractor watches from about 30 yards away.
Another employee at Jones Farms said the hand-washing requirement surprised some at first.
“‘What, I have to wash my hands?’” manager Hector Dominguez said, quoting workers. “Sure. So, it takes time to make everybody do that. But now it’s pretty simple.”
Orchard workers everywhere better get used to more than hand-washing. Federal administrators are getting ready to implement a wide array of food safety standards that will set new farming guidelines for everything from irrigation water quality to pet control.
Growers, packers and officials in Washington’s $2.5 billion dollar tree-fruit industry have balked at some of the suggested federal regulations, calling them unnecessary, costly and burdensome.
“We’ve believed they’ve taken a wrong turn at the outset,” said Chris Schlect, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, which represents both growers and shippers on trade and regulatory issues.
Expectations for cleanliness in food production get higher every year as retail stores — and therefore warehouses that supply them — demand sanitation measures through a variety of market-driven standards across the globe.
About three years ago, Jones Farms, a diversified orchard and vegetable ranch between Granger and Zillah, signed on to one of the most popular, GlobalG.A.P., which stands for Good Agricultural Practices.
“It’s pretty intense,” said owner Dennis Jones.
To comply, Dominguez welded together five or six hand-washing stations the farm tows around from field to field on a trailer that also carries a porta-potty. Elsewhere, supervisors inspect workers’ hands for jewelry and scratches.
Jones suspects most farmers do the same, or something similar.
“I would bet you that 90 percent of apples growers, if not more, are already doing it,” he said.
Food has been getting safer and infection rates have dropped in the United States; incidents from six of the major pathogens have fallen 22 percent since 1998, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But Americans still get sick from what they eat. Each year, about one in six people fall ill from food-borne diseases, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die, the CDC estimates.
In September 2011, a bacterial outbreak traced to melons in Colorado killed 33 people. Last week, the two farmers responsible announced they will plead guilty to federal charges of allowing tainted food to reach the market, which could result in hefty fines and even prison time.
The controversial Food Safety Modernization Act was already in place at the time of the outbreak. Congress passed the measure in 2010 and President Barack Obama signed it in January 2011, aiming to shift the focus from reacting to outbreaks to preventing them.
The law calls for the most sweeping changes to food sanitation in the past 70 years, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the agency charged with implementation.
Passing the law was just the start. This year, the FDA drafted a lengthy list of proposed rules to put the specifics into action. The proposal for growing, harvesting, packing and storing of produce is 548 pages long.
The agency is accepting public comment on the proposed rules until Nov. 15.
Meanwhile, the Center for Food Safety, a Washington, D.C., lobbying group that opposes industrial farming, has called for more funding for the FDA’s implementation efforts, as well as a new cabinet-level position to oversee all food safety, consolidating the work of the FDA, U.S. Department of Agriculture and about 15 other agencies currently sharing the duty, according to a policy sheet on the group’s website.
But growers around the Yakima Valley and the state want the FDA to rewrite the proposed rules to be more crop-specific and start the public comment period over again. Directors of all 50 state agriculture departments concur.
The biggest complaint is that the rules treat all commodities the same, said Schlect.
For example, they forbid pets in fields and orchards for fear of contamination. But Yakima Valley’s apples, cherries and other tree fruit hang high off the ground, unlike lettuce or melons.
“Those crops, that are mainly grown on the ground ... they should have special attention given to them,” Schlect said.
Tree-fruit growers also object to the following:
• The rules as they are written now exempt small farms that only sell locally. If the law aims to improve public health, farms of all sizes should be treated the same, Schlect said.
• It’s impossible to eliminate every potential risk. The FDA should do more economic analysis to gauge how expensive the changes will be and if the expense is worth it, Schlect said. A total of 40,000 domestic farms would fall under the regulations, spending a collective $460 million each year complying, according to FDA estimates. That’s about $11,500 per farm.
• The draft rules call for testing the quality of any water that touches the food product, requiring standards similar to the Environmental Protection Agency’s qualifications for swimming water. For example, the bacteria E. coli cannot be higher than 235 colony forming units per 100 milliliters. Water in the canals of the Sunnyside Valley Irrigation District makes the cut, said Jim Trull, manager of the district.
But tree-fruit growers in the Valley, and throughout most of the West, worry a spill upstream they can’t control would cut off their supply under the proposed regulations. Even if farmers have drip irrigation, many use overhead sprinklers to cool apples in the heat of the summer to prevent sunburn.
• The rules as they are written now mandate sanitizing equipment. Many workers bring their own canvas picking bags and many packers use wooden bins. Do those count? Schlect wonders. He claims the proposed rules aren’t clear.
• As for hand-washing, the proposed rules demand it after every break, even — growers fear — when a worker leaves the orchard for a minute to grab a hat from his car. “Those are the kinds of things that are going to drive growers crazy,” Schlect said.
Many growers are already taking these measures because customers, and therefore retailers and warehouses, ask for them. Costco and Wal-Mart both have strict food safety standards of their own, one grower said. Most other chains do, too.
Those retailers carry a lot of weight, for sure, but the programs are still voluntary, giving discretion to the grower.
“The best part of those rules is they are not federal law,” Schlect said.
Throughout the world, five or six major voluntary food safety pacts govern sanitation. Private auditors, certified by the organizations that the support those standards, visit farms to inspect.
“Our guys are already moving in that direction,” said Debbie Carter, the technical issues manager for the Horticulture Council.
Kevin Riel of Harrah also subscribes to GlobalG.A.P., an international set of guidelines for pesticide use, fertilizer, water quality and worker training. In 1997, a group of British retailers came up with the standards in response to concerns about food safety. GlobalG.A.P. is now the world’s largest food assurance program.
Riel likes knowing he can quit when he wants.
“There may be some people won’t buy my product,” but at least the decision is his, he said.
Rob Valicoff, a Konnowoc Pass grower and packer, said the proposed rules don’t take into account how safe food already is.
“The other thing we need to ask is the consumer willing to pay more money for their food,” he said. “They’ve got the safest food in the world anyway.”
Valicoff figures setting up water filters for orchard irrigation water will push the price of fruit up by 20 or 25 percent, if you could install filters big enough. His pump 20,000 gallons per minute.
“Filtration systems would have to be huge,” he said.
In a 30-acre Buena orchard, George Carrillo watches across a draw while overhead sprinklers give his Golden Delicious apple trees one more dousing before the winter.
The sprinklers shoot high above the canopies, the streams reaching some 60 to 70 feet, letting water trickle though the leaves to the soil.
Carrillo has 7 acres with overhead sprinklers. He estimates it will cost about $12,000 to move those heads to the ground to shoot under the canopy, and he will have to think of some new way prevent sunburn in July and August.
“But we have to do it,” he said with a shrug.

If Your Chicken Likely Sickened 18,172 with Salmonella What Would You Do?
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By Bill Marler (Oct 20, 2013)
“We truly regret any illness associated with our products.”  Ron Foster.
Outbreak No. 1:  From May 2012 to April 2013 the CDC reported a total of 134 individuals infected with an outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg from 13 states.  The number of ill persons identified in each state with the outbreak strain was as follows: Alabama (1), Alaska (13), California (11), Hawaii (1), Idaho (2), Massachusetts (1), Montana (2), New York (1), Oregon (40), Utah (3), Virginia (1), Washington (57), and West Virginia (1).  31% of ill persons were hospitalized.
Collaborative investigative efforts of local, state, and federal public health and regulatory agencies indicated that Foster Farms brand chicken was the most likely source of this outbreak.  Testing conducted by the Washington State Public Health Laboratories identified the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg in four intact samples of chicken collected from three ill persons’ homes in Washington, which were traced back to two Foster Farms slaughter establishments.
Outbreak No. 2:  From February 2013 to October 2013 the CDC reported a total of 338 individuals infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg from 20 states and Puerto Rico.  The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Alaska (1), Arkansas (1), Arizona (14), California (252), Colorado (4), Connecticut (1), Florida (4), Idaho (2), Kentucky (1), Michigan (2), Missouri (5), North Carolina (1), Nevada (9), New Mexico (2), Oregon (9), Puerto Rico (1), Texas (9), Utah (2), Virginia (2), Washington (15), and Wisconsin (1).  40% of ill persons have been hospitalized.
Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback investigations conducted by local, state, and federal officials indicate that consumption of Foster Farms brand chicken is the likely source of this outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg infections.
Incidence of Salmonella:  According to the CDC, for every one person who is a stool-culture confirmed positive victim of Salmonella in the United States, there a multiple of 38.5 who are also sick, but remain uncounted. (See, AC Voetsch, “FoodNet estimate of the burden of illness caused by nontyphoidal Salmonella infections in the United States,” Clinical Infectious Diseases 2004; 38 (Suppl 3): S127-34).
And, still no recall Foster Farms?

If Costco Can’t Handle Salmonella Chicken, What Do You Expect of Regular People?
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By  Bill Marler (Oct 20, 2013)
“If people would just cook the chicken the way they should they’ll be fine,” Craig Wilson, Costco’s food safety manager, told the Oregonian in response to why Costco has not pulled any raw poultry despite Foster Farms chicken sickening 338 in 20 states and Puerto Rico.
Apparently, the same goes for cross-contamination?
Costco’s El Camino Real store in San Francisco, Calif., is recalling an additional 14,093 units of rotisserie chicken products that may be contaminated with a strain of Salmonella, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today. This is in addition to the 9,043 units that were recalled on Oct. 12.  The products subject to recall are:
13,455 “Kirkland Signature Foster Farms” rotisserie chickens
638 total units of “Kirkland Farm” rotisserie chicken soup, rotisserie chicken leg quarters, and rotisserie chicken salad.
The products were sold directly to consumers in a Costco located at 1600 El Camino Real, South San Francisco, Calif., between Sept. 24 and Oct. 15, 2013.
Costco and the California Department of Public Health discovered through a follow up investigation to the previous recall that additional product should be recalled.  The initial recall Products were:
8,730 “Kirkland Signature Foster Farms” rotisserie chickens
313 total units of “Kirkland Farm” rotisserie chicken soup, rotisserie chicken leg quarters, and rotisserie chicken salad
The initial recall was initiated on Oct. 12, 2013 due to concerns about a group of Salmonella Heidelberg illnesses that may be associated with the consumption of rotisserie chicken products prepared in and purchased at the Costco El Camino Real store. The PFGE pattern (0258) associated with this outbreak is reported rarely in the United States and has been linked to the broader Foster Farms Salmonella outbreak.

Cyclospora Outbreak Lost in the Shutdown Shuffle?
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By  Carla Gillespie (Oct 19 ,2013)
Remember the Cyclospora outbreak? A source for most of the illnesses had not been discovered when federal investigators last issued an update about a month ago. At that point, the outbreak had sickened  643 people in 25 states.
The source of the 153 illnesses in Iowa and 86 illnesses in Nebraska has been identified as contaminated salad mix from Taylor Farms of Mexico served at Red Lobster and Olive Garden restaurants. But investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who do think the same mix is responsible for illnesses in others states, have yet to find a source for the 400 illnesses in the 23 other states. CDC investigators have said they believe the illnesses may be separate concurrent or overlapping outbreaks.
By state the case count is as follows: Texas (278), Iowa (153), Nebraska (86), Florida (32), Wisconsin (17), Arkansas (13), Illinois (13), New York (9), Georgia (5), Missouri (5), Kansas (4), New Jersey (4), Louisiana (3), Massachusetts (3), Minnesota (3), Ohio (3), Virginia (3), Connecticut (2),  California (1), Michigan (1), New Hampshire (1), Pennsylvania (1), South Dakota (1), Tennessee (1), and Wyoming (1).
Those who contracted cyclosporiasis range in age from less than one year to 92 years old, with the median age being 52 years. At least 45 people were hospitalized.

Meat So Cheap You Could Die
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By Jill Richardson (Oct 18, 2013)
PLANET WATCH-Thanks to the shutdown, the government is doing less to protect Americans from foodborne pathogens and deal with the aftermath of outbreaks.
The timing couldn’t be worse.
Ten days after the shutdown began, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that 317 people in 20 states and Puerto Rico had confirmed cases of salmonella from Foster Farms chicken. Although 42 percent of them had to be hospitalized, thankfully none had died by that point.
The CDC had to bring 30 furloughed employees in its foodborne division back to work to cope with the Foster Farms situation. The Food and Drug Administration has furloughed the majority of its 1,602 investigators.
But even under normal conditions, as the latest tainted chicken scare illustrates, food safety gets short shrift.
The first known salmonella cases from this latest bout of bad chicken occurred in March. They continued through at least late September. That means consumers bought and ate contaminated meat for at least seven months before they learned that something might be amiss.
Since it takes a few weeks to report and confirm a new case, it’s likely more people will get sick than the early numbers indicated. The CDC didn’t announce the discovery of this outbreak until October 7.
How many people still have tainted chicken in their freezer and plan to eat it in the future? Do you?
This salmonella strain is resistant to several commonly prescribed antibiotics. What happens when your doctor can’t help you because the drugs no longer work?
This problem isn’t limited to Foster Farms. We regularly experience salmonella and E. coli outbreaks. Americans get sick and die from food they eat every single year. When many outbreaks sicken hundreds of people in numerous states, we have a flawed system.
Food safety lawyer Bill Marler recently posted a long list of antibiotic-resistant salmonella outbreaks on Food Safety News. Nearly every single year, cases come to light after making consumers sick. His list, which doesn’t take into account outbreaks from E. coli and other pathogens, is long and disturbing.
The vast majority of America’s chickens and hogs are raised in the crowded, filthy conditions of factory farms, officially termed Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. Beef cattle begin their lives on idyllic ranches, grazing alongside their mothers. They spend their last year or so jammed into outdoor feedlots.
But meat contamination doesn’t happen during the animal’s life. Producing meat in an unhealthy environment might breed pathogens in the animals’ intestinal tracts and their manure. If the animals are constantly given low doses of antibiotics, as is the norm in our country, this environment can produce antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
The pathogens don’t typically reach the meat until they’re slaughtered. During processing, meat may come in contact with bacteria from manure or the contents of an intestinal tract.
That happens often enough. Otherwise, we wouldn’t see nationwide salmonella outbreaks so frequently.
Here’s the thing: While regularly making some of us sick, our system yields dirt-cheap meat. These days, chicken costs as little as $1.50 per pound. By comparison, small farmers I know who humanely raise chickens outdoors, without antibiotics, charge $4 or $5 per pound.
Until we decide that safe food is worth paying more for our meat, we’ll experience foodborne illness outbreaks on a regular basis. Higher prices would probably make us eat a bit less of it, which would be great for our health and boost life expectancy. Americans eat more meat than the people of any country in the world except for tiny Luxembourg.
We can tinker with our system in minor ways, perhaps requiring slaughterhouses to use new sanitation techniques. We could ban some drugs given to livestock and poultry, or maybe develop a new one or two. We can station more inspectors in slaughterhouses.
But as long as we continue to raise agricultural animals with the sole goals of reducing consumer prices and maximizing corporate profits, our system will keep making Americans sick and even killing them in salmonella and E. Coli outbreaks.
Do you believe that cheap meat is good enough to die for?

More Ready-to-Eat Chicken and Ham Recalled for Listeria
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By  News Desk (Oct 17, 2013)
On Thursday, Milwaukee-based Garden Fresh Foods added another 6,694 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken and ham products to the original Sept. 25, 2013 recall, for a total of 25,748 pounds of those meat products recalled due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.
The suspect chicken and ham are contained in this long list of Garden Fresh salad products.
According to USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the ready-to-eat products being recalled bear the establishment number “EST. 17256” or “Est. P-17256” inside the USDA mark of inspection, and were distributed to retail and food service establishments nationwide.
After the original recall last month, FSIS conducted a food safety assessment at Garden Fresh, finding additional product contamination through microbial testing. Products included in the expanded recall were produced between Oct. 10 and Oct. 15, 2013. No Listeria illnesses have yet been connected to either the original or expanded recall.
Once a company opts to recall a meat or poultry product, FSIS conducts effectiveness checks to verify that recalling firms notify their customers and make certain the product is no longer available to consumers.
As a Class I recall with a high risk to public health, FSIS also posts lists of retail outlets that carried the product once it becomes available.
FSIS recommendations for people at risk for Listeriosis:
Wash hands with warm, soapy water before and after handling raw meat and poultry for at least 20 seconds. Wash cutting boards, dishes and utensils with hot, soapy water. Immediately clean spills.
Keep raw meat, fish and poultry away from other food that will not be cooked. Use separate cutting boards for raw meat, poultry and egg products and cooked foods.
Do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats, bologna or other deli meats unless reheated until steaming hot.
Do not eat refrigerated paté, meat spreads from a meat counter or smoked seafood found in the refrigerated section of the store. Foods that don’t need refrigeration, like canned tuna and canned salmon, are safe to eat. Refrigerate after opening.
Do not drink raw (unpasteurized) milk and do not eat foods that have unpasteurized milk in them.
Do not eat salads made in the store such as ham salad, chicken salad, egg salad, tuna salad or seafood salad.
Do not eat soft cheeses such as Feta, quesco blanco, quesco fresco, Brie, Camembert cheeses, blue-veined cheeses and Panela unless it is labeled as made with pasteurized milk.
Use precooked or ready-to-eat food as soon as you can. Listeria can grow in the refrigerator. The refrigerator should be 40 degrees F or lower and the freezer 0 degrees F or lower. Use an appliance thermometer to check the temperature of your refrigerator.

Why does food safety testing matter? Consider this pizza
Source :
By Melissa Breyer (Oct 16, 2013)
When an outbreak of food illness occurs, the procedure for limiting damage relies on food safety testing and finding the source of the pathogen. But what would happen if the offending product were tracked down, only to discover that it was made with ingredients from, say, 60 different countries?
Such was the case when UK food safety inspectors took a closer look at a packaged pizza. The mongrel pizza wasn’t part of a food illness investigation, but came to the attention of the National Audit Office (NAO) during testing prompted by the now-infamous horsemeat scandal.
The pizza in question was labeled, “Country of origin: Ireland.”
Simple enough, or so it would seem, but when they looked further, they discovered that the pizza was actually made with a stunning 35 ingredients from 60 countries.
What if that pizza had been involved in an illness outbreak? Tracking, verifying, and recalling the ingredients would have been nearly impossible.
The pizza and its international hodgepodge of 35 ingredients was recently used as an example in a report by the NAO to highlight how difficult it has become to determine what exactly is in our food, much in thanks to circuitous, global supply chains.
How long was the pizza’s supply chain? Seemingly long enough to wrap around the planet:
Dough: France, UK, Poland, USA
Yeast: UK, Ireland, Germany
Salt: UK, France, China
Sugar: Brazil, Indonesia, Jamaica, UK
Herbs: Greece, Italy, Spain, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Morocco
Tomato paste: Italy, France, Netherlands
Cheese: Switzerland, Ireland, France, Italy, Spain, UK, Netherlands
Chicken: Brazil, Ireland, UK, Netherlands, Germany
Anchovies: Peru, Argentina, Italy, Falkland Islands, Spain, Iceland, Denmark
Pepperoni: Poland, Italy, Ireland, UK, Denmark, USA
Vegetables: From a host of Mediterranean countries
Olive oil: Italy, Greece, Spain
Chili peppers: Africa, Asia, South America
In the report, the NAO warned that “food fraud was rife.” And what a startling example the simple pizza turned out to be, labeled as a product of Ireland while in reality a fraudulently labeled product from Ireland … and 59 other countries as well.
And it’s not just the UK where food fraud is frequent. In the United States, the Food Fraud Database maintained by the nonprofit U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention lists so many commonly consumed products that have undergone "deliberate substitution, addition, tampering or misrepresentation of food, food ingredients or food packaging, or false or misleading statements made about a product for economic gain," it’s a wonder any of us still want to eat packaged food.
With expanding trade agreements, notably the World Trade Organization, there is more cheap food surging into the United States than ever. This ever-growing global supply chain of minor ingredients — like a pizza cobbled together from ingredeints collected from 60 different countries — makes it exceedinly difficult to track foodborne illness and monitor production practices of suppliers, making food safety testing all the more important.

Salmonella outbreak ratchets up food safety concerns
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By  Marisa Taylor (Oct 17, 2013)
After antibiotic-resistant salmonella strikes hundreds of people, experts say stricter government controls are needed
After a particularly nasty strain of salmonella sickened more than 300 people across 20 states in the midst of the federal government shutdown, the regulatory agencies charged with monitoring the nation's food supply suddenly seemed a little more essential.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) warned the public in early October that hundreds of people were infected with antibiotic-resistant salmonella that it traced to three Foster Farms chicken plants in California.
Salmonella, a bacterium that's sometimes found in meat, causes unpleasant digestive conditions in people who ingest it. Many cases of salmonella take care of themselves within a few days, but if the bacterium infects the blood, there's a good chance a hospital visit is involved.
So when regulatory agencies had to face this outbreak armed with only a fraction of their staffs, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) scrambled to counter the media uproar about furloughed safety inspectors and reinstated most of Pulsenet, the group that investigates multi-state outbreaks of foodborne illnesses.
Still, more than a few issues were raised by the kerfuffle. While Foster Farms assured the public that it was working with the CDC and the USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) to implement new safety procedures, and therefore would not need to shutter the affected plants, the media outcry about salmonella has continued.
"We should all steer clear at least of Foster Farms chicken, or any of the other brands produced in that company's California plants, although they're not all labeled such," wrote New York Times opinion writer Mark Bittman in a much-cited op-ed on Wednesday.
Regardless of whether readers or regulators agree with Bittman, the fact remains that 12 percent of retail chicken in the U.S. contains salmonella, according to the FDA. And this particular strain of salmonella, called Heidelberg, is resistant to a few common types of antibiotics that are used to treat human illnesses, which food safety experts say is a huge problem.
"The simple way to explain it," says Sarah Klein, a senior staff attorney for the advocacy group  Center for the Science in Public Interest (CSPI), "is that when the food industry gives animals medications in low doses to promote their growth and to keep them alive in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, it's a breeding ground for bacteria that is not in fact killed off, but becomes stronger when being exposed to antibiotics at low levels."
That eventually makes the salmonella resistant to certain antibiotics that are also used to treat human illnesses, Klein said, so if humans then become infected with it, it can be extremely difficult to treat.
For this particular strain of salmonella, that is indeed the case. Of the 317 people sickened by the Heidelberg strain so far, 42 percent were hospitalized and 13 percent had blood infections. That's more than twice the customary 5 percent blood infection rate in any given salmonella outbreak, according to the CDC.
Thankfully, no one has died.
A 'voluntary request'
Food and agriculture safety experts say there's a sizeable hole in the regulatory mechanisms that keep antibiotic-resistant strains of salmonella like Heidelberg at bay.
That's because FSIS doesn't have the authority to shut down plants run by companies like Foster Farms where chicken has become contaminated with the strain.
Rather, FSIS can only ask the company to voluntarily recall the chicken, a limitation imposed back in 2001 when a federal court of appeals ruled that the USDA couldn't force Texas-based meat company Supreme Beef Processors to shut down its facilities after the agency said it had failed multiple salmonella tests.
The USDA requires meat processors to keep their products contaminant-free according to safety procedures that include regular salmonella testing, but the appeal ruling essentially set a precedent that salmonella's presence alone wasn't enough to allow the government to shut a facility down.
"The U.S. assumption has been that it is too difficult to get salmonella out of the food supply," says Steven Roach, a senior analyst at advocacy group Keep Antibiotics Working, a coalition of health and science organizations including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
The 2001 ruling has shifted more of the safety burden over to the companies that process the meat and, ultimately, to the livestock farmers.
Roach believes farmers should start by limiting the use of antibiotics to animals that are sick. "In terms of the salmonella, an important thing is that we really need to go back to the farm," he says. "Part of the problem is that the USDA has been reluctant to require the famers to do anything about it on the farm."
That could be difficult, given that 70 percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States go to healthy animals that are raised for human consumption, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.
In 2012, the FDA instated a voluntary policy asking farmers to limit antibiotics in animals raised as food to "judicious use," meaning only when necessarily to prevent illness. That new voluntary policy came about after a federal judge ruled in favor of a group of advocacy organizations, including the NRDC and CSPI, that had sued the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Memory as short as shelf life
Foster Farms did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Al Jazeera about the salmonella outbreak. While the company has so far identified the three California-based plants where the Heidelberg-infected chicken likely originated, it did not shut them down or recall the chicken. It said in a release that it was working with FSIS to update and adhere to safety procedures.
Foster Farms also said that if chicken is cooked to at least an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, the salmonella is killed and the chicken is safe to eat.
"Salmonella is naturally occurring in poultry and can be fully eradicated if raw product is properly handled and fully cooked," said Dr. Robert O'Connor, the food safety chief and head veterinarian of Foster Farms.
But a San Francisco branch of retail giant Costco recalled almost 9,000 rotisserie chickens from its store shelves — that's 40,000 pounds of chicken, all of it cooked — out of concern for the salmonella outbreak.
"I think that in general, companies who are suffering through outbreaks are hoping that the consumer's memory is as short as the shelf life of some of these foods," said CSRI's Klein. "Frankly, the sad thing about food safety is that there's another food outbreak around the corner. Companies may choose to just plow ahead and hope that they'll be forgotten with the next major disaster."

More Chicken Products Recalled Due to Possible Salmonella Contamination
Source :
By Sheila Sanchez (Oct 17, 2013)
Costco’s El Camino Real store in South San Francisco is recalling an additional 14,093 units of rotisserie chicken products that may be contaminated with a strain of Salmonella, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.
This is in addition to the 9,043 units that were recalled on Oct. 12.
The products subject to recall are:
13,455 “Kirkland Signature Foster Farms” rotisserie chickens
638 total units of “Kirkland Farm” rotisserie chicken soup, rotisserie chicken leg quarters, and rotisserie chicken salad.
The products were sold directly to consumers in the Costco located at 1600 El Camino Real, South San Francisco, between Sept. 24 and Oct. 15, the agency said in a press release.
Costco and the California Department of Public Health discovered through a follow-up investigation to the previous recall that additional product should be recalled. No illnesses have been reported in association with the product being recalled today.
The initial recall was initiated on Oct. 12, 2013 due to concerns about a group of Salmonella Heidelberg illnesses that may be associated with the consumption of rotisserie chicken products prepared in and purchased at the Costco El Camino Real store.
The PFGE pattern (0258) associated with this outbreak is reported rarely in the United States. FSIS, working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the California Department of Public Health and the County of San Mateo Public Health Department, determined through epidemiologic and traceback investigations that there is a link between the Costco El Camino Real rotisserie chicken products and this illness outbreak, according to the statement.
The problem may be the result of cross-contamination after the cooking process in the preparation area, the agency added in the release.
FSIS is continuing to work with CDC, public health partners in California and Costco on the investigation. It will continue to provide information as it becomes available, the statement said.
This group of illnesses is part of a larger cluster of Salmonella Heidelberg illnesses that are known to be multi-drug resistant.
For more information about the larger cluster, visit:
FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers.
Costco has already taken steps to contact every customer who purchased rotisserie chicken products, authorities added.
When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on the FSIS website at:
Consumers and media with questions regarding the recall should contact Costco at 800-774-2678.
FSIS reminds consumers to properly handle raw poultry in a manner to prevent contamination from spreading to other foods and food contact surfaces.
FSIS further reminds consumers of the critical importance of following package cooking instructions for frozen or fresh chicken products and general food safety guidelines when handling and preparing any raw meat or poultry.
In particular, while cooking instructions may give a specific number of minutes of cooking for each side of the product to attain 165 degrees, consumers should be aware that actual time may vary depending on the cooking method (broiling, frying, or grilling) and the temperature of the product (chilled versus frozen) so it is important that the final temperature of 165 degrees be reached for safety, agency officials explained.
They also asked consumers to not rely on the cooking time for each side of the product, but use a food thermometer.
"All poultry products should be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees as determined by a food thermometer. Using a food thermometer is the only way to know that food has reached a high enough temperature to destroy foodborne bacteria," the release stated.
Consumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses. Salmonella infections can be life-threatening, especially to those with weak immune systems, such as infants, the elderly, and persons with HIV or undergoing chemotherapy.
The most common symptoms of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within eight to 72 hours. Additional symptoms may be chills, headache, nausea and vomiting that can last up to seven days.
Consumers with food safety questions can “Ask Karen,” the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at or via smartphone at
“Ask Karen” live chat services are available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET. The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from l0 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day.
The online Electronic Consumer Complaint Monitoring System can be accessed 24 hours a day at:

Food safety plan builder offered by receiver group
Source :
By Tom Karst (Oct 16, 2013)
Members of the North American Perishable Agricultural Receivers Association have a new resource to help them build food safety plans that comply with upcoming federal food safety regulations.
Called the Food Safety Plan Builder and Template, it’s designed to help wholesalers and receivers build a food safety plan necessary to comply with the proposed Hazard Analysis and Preventive Controls rule mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act, according to a release from the Washington, D.C.-based NAPAR.
Produce wholesalers and receivers who do not belong to NAPAR can obtain information on using the Food Safety Plan Builder by contacting John Motley, president of the association, at (202) 360 4949, according to the release.
The ability of wholesalers and receivers to comply with the food safety law is “all over the lot,” Motley said Oct.16.
“This is something helping the members over the next two to three years figure out what they have to do, how they best can comply and how they can do it most inexpensively,” he said.
According to a summary in the Plan Builder document, the FDA proposal states that facilities that manufacture, process, pack and/or hold food are required to register with the FDA and will be required to develop a written food safety plan under the FDA’s proposed Hazard Analysis and Preventive Controls rule. The proposed rule states that the food safety plan must analyze what hazards exist and determine how the company manage those hazards, according to the summary.
“Most NAPAR’s members are small, family- owned, multi-generation produce receivers and wholesalers and for many of them, preparing and implementing a written food safety plan will be very challenging,” Motley said in the release. “The Food Safety Plan Builder is meant to be a step-by-step aide in preparing the rule’s required plan.”
The template consists of a series of work sheets for each of the steps, Motley said in the release.
“All receivers would find the Plan Builder valuable as they prepared to comply with the new food safety law.” Matthew D’Arrigo, vice president of D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of New York Inc., said in the release.

Today is Global Handwashing Day
Source :
By  Linda Larsen (Oct 15, 2013)
Today is Global Handwashing Day! One of the best ways to prevent foodborne illness and other diseases is to thoroughly wash your hands frequently. And correctly. Many people do not wash their hands correctly, which increases your odds for catching the flu, a cold, or a bacterial infection. In fact, 50% of flu cases and 60% of gastrointestinal illnesses in schools are spread by dirty hands. Hand washing with soap and water is more effective at removing bacteria and viruses than antibacterial liquid.
Human feces are the main source of pathogens that cause diarrhea. One gram of human feces can hold 10 million viruses and one million bacteria. Using the toilet, changing a child’s diaper, or cleaning the bathroom can deposit fecal materials onto your hands. Studies have shown that children who live in homes exposed to handwashing promotion have half the diarrhea illness rates of other children. The people at the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing (PPPHW), in fact, say that “promoted on a wide enough scale, hand washing with soap can be thought of as a ‘do-it-yourself’ vaccine, and could save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention.”
Fight Bac! has a hand washing poster that illustrates the exact steps to take to clean your hands properly. Thoroughly wet your hands under clean warm running water. Apply soap, and rub your hands together. Don’t forget to wash between the fingers, under the fingernails, and the backs of your hands; those areas are frequently neglected. Rub soap into your hands for 20 seconds. You can sing “Happy Birthday to You” twice as a good indicator of time. Rinse under clean warm running water. Then thoroughly dry your hands using a clean towel or paper towels.
For a downloadable poster, visit Fight Bac! And remember that handwashing with soap is the single most cost-effective intervention against diarrheal illnesses, and it “reduces disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) related to diarrheal illnesses by a significant margin”, according to PPPHW.

Best Call During Salmonella Outbreak, Meat Thermometer or Hazmat suit?
Source :
By Carla Gillespie (Oct 15, 2013)
The Foster Farms Salmonella outbreak has a recurring theme: Yes, Foster Farms chicken has Salmonella on it, but so does a lot of other chicken. There have been two Salmonella outbreaks linked to Foster Farms chicken this year and during both of them the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the California Department of Public Health, Foster Farms and others have all made that point accompanied with advice that consumers ought to handle raw chicken with care.
Handling raw foods with care is good advice: don’t cross contaminate, use a meat thermometer, wash your hands. But is there a level of contamination that tips the scales decidedly out of the consumer’s favor?
Consider that one of the only recalls issued in connection with this outbreak, which has sickened at least 317 people in 20 states, was for rotisserie chicken prepared and cooked at a Costco store in San Francisco. A single Costco store prepares a lot of rotisserie chicken each day, more than most consumers would in years. Yet, Salmonella recalls are not pouring out of this store. Why?
Dr. Katrina Hedberg, Oregon’s state epidemiologist, suggested in the Portland Oregonian,  ”We’re not seeing an outbreak because people suddenly decided they like to eat their chicken rare. If you’re suddenly seeing an uptick in cases, it’s probably because there’s more bacteria.”
She’s right on both counts. It’s not consumers’ fault and there is more bacteria. USDA inspectors found Salmonella on 27 percent of chicken parts samples they tested from Foster Farms plant in Fresno. That’s more than three and half times the federal standard for Salmonella on whole raw chicken. (There isn’t a standard for parts.)
The level was high enough to generate an enforcement letter telling Foster Farms to clean things up, but the USDA can’t force a shutdown or a recall based solely on Salmonella levels exceeding the standard on raw chicken. They tried that with Supreme Beef in 2001, were sued, and lost.
That leaves things up to the companies and the consumers. Foster Farms has not issued a recall because it has not been asked to do so by the state or federal authorities.  Kroger and Walmart have issued recalls. Consumers should keep an eye out. The raw chicken in question was produced under a variety of  brand names including: Eating Right, Kirkland Signature, O Organics, Open Nature, Ralphs, Safeway Farms, and Simple Truth Organic with the establishment code P-6137, P-6137A, and P-7632. Anyone who has purchased this chicken should not eat it,

Serious Penalties for Repeated Food Safety Violations
Source :
By Fadia Patterson (Oct 15, 2013)
PRINCETON, Ind. - After one tri-stater gets sick because of food poisoning at a Princeton area restaurant, health officials in Gibson County are now on high alert. Health inspectors are cracking down on restaurants that are repeatedly in violation of food health codes.
Health officials in Gibson County inspect restaurants but, in recent years they have not been issuing fines when violations are found. That is now about to change. Inspectors say they're taking extra measures to bring food retailers up to code.
It's 2 p.m. in Princeton where Bill Mayfield is about to close shop, but not without cleaning and putting his small restaurant back in order for the next day.
"Well if you think your house is clean. You know you clean your house the way you want to live in it. Basically you do the same thing here. Don't just say ah, that's good enough", Mayfield says.
Good enough is actually substandard according to the book of codes that the Gibson County Health Inspector showed Eyewitness News. Citations will be given to dozens of establishments that continue to have critical food safety violations.
Health Inspector William Tulley says, "to quit going back to establishments time after time after time".
Inspectors say Mayfield runs a clean shop and he has not been cited for critical violations.
Tulley hopes that all restaurants will follow the example of mom and pop restaurants like Crickett's here on the Princeton Square because they mostly recieve non critical SCORES from the health department.
County Health Nurse Kelly Kelley says "the situation that we're having to deal with are people not doing the right thing and continue to not do the right thing".
The department  finds that knowing what the right thing is to do is sometimes lost on employees preparing the food.
Kelley says the department is simply trying to keep restaurants from being forced to shut down. Especially, when customers make allegations food from a specific restaurant made them sick.
"So we educate the population too and perhaps let restaurants off the hook if they are accused unrightfully so," she added.
"If it looks dirty, it probably is dirty!",Mayfield added.
Mayfield plans to continue following his routine to keep his business clean --everyday.
"Everyday you have to sweep, everyday you have to mop, you have to disinfect things. You know we bleach this counter every day, we mop the floor everyday", He said.
And invest in sanitizers rather than pay hefty fines.
The Gibson county Health Inspector says that fines could range any where from $25 to $1000 per fine per day for violations.
Eyewitness news also obtained a list of the establishments with critical violations that can be found here.

All Routine Food Safety Inspections Halted During Shutdown, FDA Confirms
Source :
By Lauren Saria (Oct 15, 2013)
Since the first day of the government shutdown (October 1), the Food and Drug Administration has said that it would have to stop most of its routine food inspections. But now the agency has confirmed that all inspections will be stopped besides those "facilities that it has cause to believe present an immediate threat to public health."
See also: Hundreds Sick in 18 States From Salmonella Linked to Raw Foster Farms Chickens; Officials Say Outbreak Is Ongoing
According to Huffington Post, FDA spokesman Steven Immergut confirmed that all routine inspections will he suspended until the shutdown ends. Previously, reports stated that some inspections might still be carried out by state agencies. It's come out now that the FDA will not be funding such inspections during the shutdown. Some states may have funds leftover from the contracts from last fiscal year, but most don't.
What that means is about 167 delayed inspections by state agents for each week of the shutdown. Combined with the 200 inspections FDA employees would have been making, the total comes to 367 missed inspections a week.
Last week, the House of Representatives tried to pass a bill that would have restored funding for the FDA and its food safety program, but the Senate hasn't taken up the bill. Democrats and President Obama have repeatedly said they wouldn't support this type of piecemeal legislation to fund certain parts of the federal government without having to come to a comprise and end the shutdown as a whole.
So far, during the shutdown an ongoing salmonella outbreak had sickened a total of 317 people has of last Friday. Illness has now been reported in 20 states, up from the originally reported number of 18.

Foster Farms aims to step up food safety at Livingston, Fresno plants
Source :
By John Holland (Oct 15, 2013)
LIVINGSTON — A home cook who wants to prevent salmonella can wash cutting boards, countertops and utensils thoroughly.
Foster Farms, which is dealing with a salmonella outbreak at its chicken plants in Livingston and Fresno, has a bigger job ahead. It has to show that it can protect the public’s health as it processes hundreds of thousands of birds delivered from poultry ranches every day.The company had planned an online news conference Monday morning to update the media on its efforts to deal with an outbreak that has sickened an estimated 317 people since March, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It was postponed to an undetermined date because the company still is collecting the data it plans to discuss, a spokesman said.Foster Farms did provide photos of how it sanitizes the plants, a task that involves a lot of soapy water on the thousands of moving parts in each plant.“It is standard operating procedure at Foster Farms to sanitize each of its plants daily, 365 days a year,” the company said in a brief statement. “The process takes four to six hours. The plants cannot resume operation until USDA verifies them as sanitary on a daily basis.”The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service had threatened last week to pull its inspectors from the plants, effectively shutting them down. Thursday, the deadline for a response from Foster Farms, the agency noted progress on improved sanitation and let the plants keep operating.Bill Mattos, president of the California Poultry Federation in Modesto, said much of the effort will involve washing carcasses and equipment even more than Foster Farms was doing.Rinses containing “food-grade additives” are a key part of keeping microbes under control, the National Chicken Council said in an advisory about the Foster Farms situation. It also said frequent testing is done by industry and government employees.The council, based in Washington, D.C., said all raw crops and livestock products could have microbes that could sicken people if the foods are not handled and cooked properly.“Raw chicken is not sterile,” it said. “For consumers, the bottom line is that all chicken is safe when properly cooked (165 degrees F) and handled, and that chicken producers and processors are continually working to make them even safer.”A letter from the FSIS said one Foster Farms plant had salmonella in 25 percent of the tested products, much higher than the agency allows. The problem was found in raw whole chickens, chicken parts, tenderloins and strips, but not in cooked items the company sells.Many food processors in the San Joaquin Valley deal with food-safety measures, but for chicken, they are especially demanding. The newly slaughtered birds rest on cone-shaped supports as they move about on conveyors. The employees wear protective suits, boots and other attire as they slice the chickens into parts. They are followed daily by other workers who spray down the operation.All that had not been enough for the FSIS, which said chicken from the plants was infecting people with salmonella from March to at least September, mostly in California. Six cases were reported in Stanislaus County and two in San Joaquin County.The FSIS said the most common symptoms are diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within eight to 72 hours. Chills, headache, nausea and vomiting can last up to seven days.No deaths were reported, but officials said the rate of hospitalization was relatively high for a salmonella outbreak.Foster Farms did not recall the chicken, but Costco Wholesale did so for nearly 40,000 pounds of rotisserie chicken that it purchased from the company and prepared at its South San Francisco store.Some experts on the poultry industry told the Los Angeles Times that Foster Farms has been a leader in food-safety efforts.“The company’s reputation up until lately has been spotless,” Thomas E. Elam, president of the farming consulting company FarmEcon in Carmel, Ind., said in the Times. “They’ve had an incredibly good safety record. They have been a really innovative company, jumping on top of the natural, eco-friendly, California themes.”Salmonella can be present along any link in the supply chain. The bacteria thrive in animal intestinal tracts and are spread through contact with feces, whether in the air, water or ground. Feathers also can carry fecal dust particles.Chicken and turkey are more susceptible to contamination than beef or pork because the skin is often left on for consumption.Federal officials told the Times that conditions such as those listed in the FSIS letter to Foster Farms are not uncommon in the poultry industry.“The noncompliances identified in these three facilities were in no way indicative there was a process out of control,” said Dan Englejohn of the USDA’s inspection unit.Critics said that underscores a glaring weakness in the inspection system. They say virulent forms of antibiotic-resistant salmonella should be handled like E. coli O157:H7, which triggers an automatic recall.“Producers have been successful at deflecting blame back on to consumers for not cooking poultry properly. It’s nonsensical,” food safety lawyer Bill Marler told the Times.

New food safety law could burden family farmers
Source :,0,7482400.story
By Dan Sullivan (Oct 14, 2013)
A new federal law intended to keep the food supply safe could cost some Lehigh Valley farmers tens of thousands of dollars.
The Food Safety Modernization Act represents the first major overhaul of U.S. food-handling practices in more than 70 years. Passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2011, the legislation was created, some say hastily, after a spate of food-borne illness cases, which have been increasing in number and severity since the mid-1990s.
Now it's up to the federal Food and Drug Administration to implement the legislation that has many farmers, family-farm advocates and even officials of state departments of agriculture concerned. They are particularly worried about a provision that stipulates any farm with annual gross revenues exceeding $500,000 must comply with the law's most-stringent, and costly, protocols.
Tim Stark, a tomato farmer in Rockland Township, Berks County, would be subject to those protocols. Stark, who employs 16 at the height of the season and brings to market more than a ton of tomatoes and other produce on a good day, said it's unfair to hold him to the same standards as California's Grimmway Farms, said to be the world's largest producer of carrots.
Under the law, Stark, who sells directly to his customers, would have to follow the same sterilization and other precautionary protocols as the largest produce growers in the country. These protocols include discouraging wildlife from coming onto his farm.
"To expect me to spend the same kind of money as the Grimm brothers' farms in California sanitizing my packaging facility would be kind of outrageous," he said.
He also finds "ridiculous" a provision that would prohibit a farmer from harvesting a field if an animal had walked through it.
"Personally, I think it's crazy to expect small farms to jump through the same hoops as the bigger farms," Stark said.
He added that he doubts the intent of the law is to shut out smaller producers such as himself.
The FDA's draft rules include mandates on processed foods as well as requirements on how produce should be handled from planting until it reaches the consumer. It also seeks to assure food imported from other countries meets domestic safety standards, and sets up an accreditation process for third-party auditors to monitor such compliance.
The FDA is accepting public comments on implementation of the law until Nov. 15, and has been conducting public meetings across the country.
Farmers across the board will ultimately bear some costs, with the FDA estimating compliance will cost farms with less than $250,000 in annual revenues (based on average sales over the past three years) $4,697 a year on average, farms with revenues between $250,000 and $500,000 about $12,972 and farms making in excess of $500,000 about $30,566.
"Everyone, especially those who produce our food, wants to provide safe products and that's the underlying goal," said Jay Howes, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture deputy secretary for consumer protection, regulatory affairs and dairy industry relations.
But ambiguities in the law and their interpretation might have unintended consequences, he said. For instance, an amendment that was supposed to protect small and local farmers from burdensome regulations may not be interpreted that way.
"The disconnect is that the FDA is not interpreting the exact language of the amendment the way it was intended," Howes said, adding that the discrepancy has to do with which products are counted toward dollar sales. While the initial target was produce sales, Howes said the FDA is considering including milk, major commodities such as corn and soybeans and even animal feed such as hay.
Howes noted that while the law includes rigorous water quality protocols for produce grown in the United States, it's not clear how the provision on imported produce addresses those protocols.
Howes said his concerns are echoed across the membership of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. The association, he said, is asking that the FDA redraft the proposed rule in order to address the concerns of all stakeholders.
One of the most vocal groups speaking on behalf of those farmers has been the 6,000-plus member Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture. During a recent discussion at the 28th annual Farm Aid benefit concert in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., PASA's Brian Snyder echoed many of Howes' concerns. He also wondered aloud whether a farm stand that sells another farmer's corn or even a neighbor who helps haul that corn to market would be considered an "aggregator" under the new law and thus bumped into the higher category requiring greater regulatory scrutiny and cost.
"One size does not fit all," former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Jim Hightower said at Farm Aid, adding that large-scale farms — particularly those that ship to a processing plant rather than selling directly to customers — can more easily handle the cost of stringent protocols that include chemical water treatment, tight restrictions on manure, precise record-keeping protocols and abatement of on-farm wildlife.
Many fear the law will drive some farmers out of business, leading to fewer local and regional food options for consumers.

China expands use of QR codes for restaurant food safety info
Source :
By Doug Powell (Oct 14, 2013)

The Haidian district of Beijing has 7,533 restaurants that have recently publicized their food safety information by providing quick response (QR) codes that can be scanned using cell phones. Customers who text “a” to 10658081 or log on can download the food safety app. By scanning the QR code on restaurants’ menus or business licenses, customers can check information about the restaurant, including whether food additives are used in dishes and whether the business has breached food safety regulations in the past.




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