UPDATED: Canada investigating Listeria outbreak; possible link to Dole salads
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/01/122720/#.VqW1lE5umUl
By News Desk (Jan 22, 2016)
UPDATE: Canadian officials believe there is a link with a U.S. outbreak that has been traced to Dole Food Co. bagged salads and leafy greens, but they are waiting for final lab results, according to media reports.
The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with federal and provincial public health partners to investigate an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections in five provinces.
To date, the source of this outbreak has not been confirmed. However prepackaged leafy greens, salad blends, and salad kits are food items being investigated.
Epidemiological evidence has confirmed seven cases of Listeria monocytogenes across five provinces related to this outbreak: Ontario 3, Quebec 1, New Brunswick 1, Prince Edward Island 1 and Newfoundland and Labrador 1.
All cases have been hospitalized, and one person has died, however it has not been determined if Listeria contributed to the cause of death, according to the public alert from the health agency.
Onset of the illnesses began September 2015 and continued into early January. The majority of cases , 71 percent, are female, with an average age of 81 years. All cases have been hospitalized, and one person has died, however it has not been determined if Listeria contributed to the cause of death.
Listeria is a type of bacteria that can be found in food, soil, plants, sewage and other places in nature, according to health officials. Eating food with Listeria on it can cause a serious disease, called listeriosis, in high-risk groups. People can get listeriosis by eating meat, fish, dairy products, plants or vegetables contaminated with Listeria.
Some people face a higher risk of becoming sick with Listeria than others. Those who are at highest risk of serious illness include pregnant women and their unborn/newborn children, adults 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems.
Public health officials recommend high-risk individuals follow safe food handling practices and avoid high risk food items such as:
•uncooked meat and vegetables including pre-packaged leafy greens;
•unpasteurized raw milk and cheeses and other food made from unpasteurized milk;
•ready-to-eat meats such as hot dogs, pâté and deli meats; and
•refrigerated smoked seafood and fish.
Many people are exposed to Listeria, but only a few will actually develop listeriosis. Mild symptoms may include:
Severe symptoms may include:
In the milder form of the disease, symptoms can start the following day after consuming a product with Listeria. For the more serious form of the disease, the incubation period is generally much longer; on average about 21 days, but can be up to 70 days after exposure.
UPDATED: CDC investigating deadly Listeriosis outbreak linked to various Dole salads
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/01/cdc-investigating-deadly-listeriosis-outbreak-linked-to-dole-salads/#.VqW6NU5umUl
By Coral Beach (Jan 22, 2016)
Dole Field GreensOne person has died and 12 have been hospitalized in a Listeriosis outbreak linked to Dole packaged salads. Officials from CDC announced today they have been investigating the six-state outbreak since September 2015.
“Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence available to date indicate that packaged salads produced at the Dole processing facility in Springfield, Ohio, and sold under various brand names are the likely source of this outbreak,” according to the Jan. 22 investigation announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC announcement came a day after the Public Health Agency of Canada reported that seven people have been hospitalized in a Listeria outbreak affecting five provinces. The agency believes there is a link with the U.S. outbreak, but is awaiting final lab results, according to media reports.
The Canadian health agency said there were three cases in Ontario and one each in Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Most of them were women with an average age of 81.
They became sick between September 2015 and early January and one of them died. It has not been determined if Listeria contributed to the death.
Dole Food Co. issued a voluntary market withdrawal of packaged salads from 23 states and three Canadian provinces a few hours after the CDC announcement.
“Retailers and consumers who have any remaining product with an ‘A’ code should not consume it, and are urged to discard it,” according to the withdrawal notice on the Food and Drug Administration website.
“Retailer and consumer questions about the voluntary withdrawal should be directed to the Dole Food Co. Consumer Response Center at 800-356-3111.”
Dole Fresh Vegetables’ customer service representatives have been contacting retailers and are in the process of confirming that the withdrawn product has been removed from the supply chain, company officials said in the withdrawal notice.
Dole Food Co. officials reported to the CDC Jan. 21 that they had stopped production at the processing facility in Springfield, Ohio. The company also reported that it is withdrawing packaged salads currently on the market that were produced at this facility.
“CDC recommends that consumers do not eat, restaurants do not serve, and retailers do not sell packaged salads produced at the Dole processing facility in Springfield, Ohio,” the outbreak announcement states.
The packaged salads can be identified by the letter ‘A’ at the beginning of the manufacturing code found on the package. The packaged salads and leafy greens were sold under various brand names, including:
•The Little Salad Bar; and
The number of ill people reported from each state is as follows: Indiana 1, Massachusetts 1, Michigan 4, New Jersey 1, New York 4, and Pennsylvania 1. Lab tests performed on clinical isolates from all 12 ill people have shown that the isolates are highly related genetically.
Listeria specimens were collected from July 5, 2015, to Dec. 23, 2015. Ill people range in age from 3 years to 83, and the median age is 66.
Of five ill people who were asked about packaged salad, all five reported eating a packaged salad. Two of two ill people who specified the brand of packaged salad eaten reported various varieties of Dole Food Co. brand packaged salad.
Investigators linked the outbreak to the Dole salads after a routine product sampling by the Ohio Department of Agriculture returned positive results for Listeria in a Dole brand Field Greens packaged salad from a retail location.
Additional tests showed that the Listeria isolate from the packaged salad was highly related genetically to isolates from ill people.
Although one person has died and all 12 confirmed sick people required hospitalization, Dole issued a “market withdrawal” rather than a “recall” of its salads.
Federal law defines a “market withdrawal” as “a firm’s removal or correction of a distributed product which involves a minor violation that would not be subject to legal action by the FDA or which involves no violation.”
The federal definition for a Class 1 recall is “a situation in which there is a reasonable probability that the use of, or exposure to, a violative product will cause serious adverse health consequences or death.”
Dole distributed the salads to retailers in:
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is warning consumers who have eaten Dole bagged salads and become ill after eating them to seek medical attention.
“Listeria can cause a serious, life-threatening illness. Symptoms of listeriosis include high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, muscle aches, and nausea, sometimes diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms,” according to a news release from the Michigan department.
“The disease primarily affects pregnant women, newborn babies, older adults and adults with weakened immune systems. The incubation period is typically between two and three weeks, but can be as long as 70 days. People experiencing these symptoms and who may have consumed this packaged salad product should seek immediate medical attention.”
New food safety rules loom over industry
Source : http://hanfordsentinel.com/news/local/new-food-safety-rules-loom-over-industry/article_113ce991-b17b-5456-aa29-8769f43c4e9c.html
By hanfordsentinel.com (Jan 21, 2016)
As Food and Drug Administration officials issue rules to enforce the sweeping Food Safety Modernization Act, people involved in Kings County’s food production chain – from the farm to the burger joint – are thinking about what it means for their operations.
The law was passed in 2011, but the rules are only now being finalized.
New regulations for processors of animal and human food in the U.S. – including companies like Leprino Foods, Marquez Brothers International Inc. and Olam Tomato Processors Inc. – were established in September last year.
Officials at the California League of Food Processors, which represents the big food processing businesses in Kings, couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.
In November, new rules were released covering fresh produce growers in the U.S.
Importers of food ingredients that end up in human and animal food in the U.S. were also subjected to new requirements.
The FDA is expected to issue more rules in March covering third-party certification of foreign food facilities, increased sanitation requirements for food haulers and new, mandatory anti-terrorism plans to be submitted by domestic and foreign food facilities.
The legislation was inspired by several food-borne illness outbreaks like the ones Chipotle experienced in 2015.
The law gives the FDA some new authority it didn’t have before, including the ability to order recalls.
Before, the FDA could only request that companies recall their products.
“This is going back to where the source of that product comes from,” said Keith Winkler, Kings County public health director. “That whole part of the farm-to-fork continuum is receiving attention.”
Winkler said the new safety controls on importers are one of the most significant changes the law brings to the U.S. food system.
Some 15 percent of America’s food supply is imported, including 60 percent of fresh fruit and vegetables and 80 percent of seafood, according to the FDA.
Local restaurant owners welcomed beefed-up safety requirements for the food coming to them.
“Being pizza, we don’t handle a lot of raw product except for dough,” said Steve Gonzales, co-owner of Fatte Albert’s Pizza Co. “We basically buy product that’s already fully cooked. Most of these issues come from the manufacturing side.”
“Anytime something like this is implemented, obviously, it makes us feel better,” he said. “This will definitely help.”
Ray Moore, owner of Foster’s Freeze in Lemoore, said the restaurant food safety rules enforced by the health department are already pretty effective. Those rules wouldn’t be directly impacted by the new law.
Moore said he can see how the law might be useful in other parts of the food production chain.
“I can see on the transportation side, some trucks, they’re not necessarily the cleanest in the world,” he said.
Moore said that there’s more room “for things to go wrong on the production side.” He said some processors might have 500 or more employees working at the same time.
“Usually, in a small restaurant, you have a manager who can cover the whole store in two minutes,” he said. “These big plants, there might be more room for error. In a large area, you have more likelihood of having some problems.”
Producers and growers of food in Kings County – including dairies – are likely to see the biggest impacts.
Growers of lettuce, cantaloupe, watermelons, mixed melons, fresh-market tomatoes, garlic and onions could fall under the new produce rule, according to Steve Schweizer, deputy Kings County agricultural commissioner.
Schweizer said the cantaloupe and leafy greens industries already have voluntary safety standards that could bring them into compliance with the new law.
Kings County dairies may also be affected, according to Josh Rolph, the California Farm Bureau Federation’s federal policy manager.
He said that dairies that grow their own forage crops for their own cows probably wouldn’t be affected. Dairies that grow those crops for sale on the market probably would.
As for fresh produce growers, Rolph said he’s waiting to see guidelines FDA officials are expected to release in March.
Rolph said some of the larger growers and grower cooperatives may already be in compliance with the law. He said the greatest impact is likely to fall on smaller farms.
“They may have to take on new practices that are more cost-prohibitive based on their size,” he said.
Rolph said producers are focusing their attention on a new rule requiring that the water used in many agricultural applications be tested for E. coli. If any E. coli is detected, the water can’t be used.
Rolph said the requirement extends to irrigation water, including well water.
“Water testing is going to be a big one,” he said.
“[The new law] will have an impact on a lot of producers,” Winkler said.
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Yet it’s impossible to guarantee 100% risk-free food products
Source : http://www.chathamdailynews.ca/2016/01/21/yet-its-impossible-to-guarantee-100-risk-free-food-products
By Kim Cooper, Special to The Daily News (Jan 21, 2016)
As we are into a new year, let’s talk about food safety expectations from the Canadian public.
We are all aware of the various food scares from other areas of the world who send many of their food products into our country. The recent Chipotle food issue in the United States is a good example. But Canadians have had a number of food issues to deal with, including the listeriosis contamination a few years ago with a tragic loss of life.
Many people ask how this type of contamination or other areas which compromise our food could have happened, especially in today’s world where food safety is a high priority. Let’s start by stating that food quality and food safety is of the highest concern for Canadian food companies. Each company has a strict quality assurance program for their food products whether they are shipped to consumers here in Canada or around the world.
All food and food products produced in Canada are regulated by a number of government agencies, including the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada. Foods produced here for consumption or export are subjected to a number of tests to ensure safety and health for consumers and customers. In fact, Canada’s food safety regulatory system is one of the most stringent in the world.
The Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit also works with various inspection and educational programs at local restaurants, grocery stores, variety stores, as well as other retail, private and public institutions.
But for those who believe we should be guaranteed 100 per cent risk-free food from Canadian food companies, it just will not happen. The bottom line is that nothing is 100 per cent safe. There never was or never will be a lack of risks in anything in life. The food we eat. The water we drink. The air we breathe. Walking down the road. Driving our cars. Nothing is 100 per cent risk-free.
Perhaps, in our ultra-modern and highly technological society, we have an unrealistic and unreasonable attitude towards food safety.
I’m not saying we should accept sub-standard food products. In no way should we. But we cannot expect our food companies or even our governments to guarantee anything totally risk-free. That would be like asking an auto manufacturer for a 100 per cent guarantee that the car I purchase from them will not be involved in an accident. It is just not a reasonable expectation.
Is our food industry perfect here in Canada? Can they deliver 100 per cent risk-free products? No on both points. But the Canadian agricultural industry, including all the food companies and our many farm producers, are dedicated to deliver the highest quality and safest food to Canadian consumers. I believe they do this better than anyone or anyplace else in the world.
Think about this – There is one guarantee in life - we all will die some day. Make sure you have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in order to prepare for eternity – do it today.
Just some food for thought.
Remember that here in Chatham-Kent ‘We Grow for the World’. Check out our community’s agriculture website at: www.wegrowfortheworld.com
Illinois switch: On-the-farm raw milk sales now legal
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/01/illinois-switch-on-the-farm-raw-milk-sales-now-legal/#.VqW2f05umUl
By Dan Flynn (Jan 21, 2016)
Two years of tweaking raw milk policies in Illinois has opened the state to legal raw milk sales for the first time in 30 years, but only on the farm where it is produced.
The change comes as a result of a regulatory process involving the Illinois Department of Public Health and the state’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. It marks a compromise that ends so-called milk clubs that were known for making deliveries in the Chicago area by prohibiting any off-the-farm sales.
Raw-milk2_406x250Raw milk is milk that hasn’t been pasteurized with heat to kill pathogens such as E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria and campylobacter.
In the Land of Lincoln raw milk fetches $8 to $18 per gallon.
The push for the right to pay that premium price for raw milk dates back two years. State regulators decided to work outside the legislative process to put procedures for permitting and inspecting raw milk dairies into place. The goal was to bring raw milk sales inside state’s regulatory system.
Officials relied on the state’s existing laws, including the Grade A Pasteurization Milk and Milk Products Act and the Illinois Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, to take the sale of raw milk from being totally illegal to legal when the milk is sold on the farm where it is produced.
Under the changes, raw milk dairies making sales to the public must warn consumers of the potential danger, similar to the state’s rules for sushi sales.
Health officials said by permitting only on-the-farm sales, it will be fairly easy to trace any outbreaks from the dangerous pathogens that raw milk often carries. Raw milk advocates, however, say there has not been a raw milk related outbreak in Illinois in 30 years. They also predict the deliveries to urban areas will continue under the table.
The changes also empower state’s health department to demand testing for pathogens if there is an outbreak or if a high risk of infection exists.
Only about a dozen states permit the retail sale of raw milk.
New testing to increase food safety
Source : http://www.shanghaidaily.com/feature/ideal/New-testing-to-increase-food-safety/shdaily.shtml
By Hu Min (Jan 21, 2016)
Shanghai’s food and drug watchdog is testing a system that it says can detect the presence of illegal food additives.
The so-called “instant testing system” is being used in a pilot program aimed at bolstering the efficiency of food-safety inspectors, according to authorities. Among other toxic substances, officials claim the system can identify Clenbutoral, also known as “lean meat powder,” a banned animal feed additive that can cause nausea and dizziness.
As part of the pilot program, local food safety officials are offering to test the food of local residents free of charge.
Data produced by these tests is directly transferred to a central monitoring system. The system has already been tested at dozens of local food producers, restaurants and markets, said Peng Shaojie, an official with the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration.
Authorities hopes that the monitoring system will help them set up a more efficient supervision as it allows for a larger amount of data to be processed in a more timely manner compared to previous testing methods, he said.
The testing results also include adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and humiture, a combined measurement of temperature and humidity, are also sent to the platform.
The administration is also conducting experiments on shortening the testing time of “fake meat” to 12 hours, down from several days. The new tests are still subject to trial, but are expected to be implemented next year, he said.
The testing time of banned substances, such as malachite green dye, a synthetic dye found in fish, will also be shortened thanks to new research conducted by the administration, according to Peng.
Food scandals have shocked consumers in the past, most notably when six babies died from tainted baby formula in 2008. In Shanghai and its surrounding area, 16,000 diseased pig carcasses were found floating down the Huangpu and its tributaries in 2013.
Smaller scandals are also common, for instance restaurants which have labeled a mix of duck meat and sheep fat as mutton.
Consumers call for more food safety monitoring
Source : http://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/news_home/Food_Safety_News/2016/01/Consumers_call_for_more_food_s.aspx?ID=%7B2D04C2EB-B486-4A17-95AA-3FB067EED7BC%7D&cck=1
By foodbusinessnews.net (Jan 20, 2016)
In the wake of Chipotle Mexican Grill’s E. coli outbreak, a national consumer survey conducted by market research publisher Packaged Facts has learned that nearly three out of four consumers (74%) think fast-food restaurants should monitor food safety more closely. The survey was conducted during the November-December 2015 timeframe when Chipotle's ongoing problems with E. coli outbreaks received heavy mass-media coverage.
One out of every six Americans (48 million people) gets sick by consuming contaminated foods or beverages annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.). Packaged Facts’ data found that while a slight majority (53%) of U.S. consumers say that their level of concern about food safety has stayed about the same in the past few years, 46% say their level of concern has increased and only 1% say it has decreased.
U.S. food and beverage companies recalled approximately 500 products for food safety and mislabeling issues, which has led to more Americans being concerned about food safety, according to Packaged Facts.
“The large number of consumer illnesses and product recalls demonstrates that all companies in the food and beverage industry need to be careful of food safety and proper labeling,” said David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts.
Challenges to food safety may be expected to arise due to changes in the food production, supply and distribution chain (including more imported foods and more products being shipped longer distances, leading to more multistate outbreaks); new and different contaminated foods, such as organic sprouted chia powder and packaged caramel apples; environmental changes leading to food contamination; and new and emerging strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
FSIS Launches Pilot Project on Listeria Monocytogenes and Delis
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2016/fsis-launches-pilot-project-on-listeria-monocytogenes-and-delis/
By Linda Larsen (Jan 20, 2016)
Listeria monocytogenes can be found in most environments, but is a particular problem in delicatessens. Food Poisoning Bulletin has told you about many recalls of deli foods for contamination by this pathogenic bacteria. Listeria is often associated with ready-to-eat deli meats and soft cheeses that may be recut and packaged by store delis.
And studies have shown that Listeria can easily survive the standard cleaning procedures used by most deli operators and employees. The bacteria can survive at refrigerator temperatures and can hide in nooks and tiny crevices. In fact, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems are told to avoid eating ready-to-eat foods purchased from delicatessens.
The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) held a webinar on January 13, 2016 to discuss how to control Listeria monocytogenes in the retail environment. A risk assessment showed that “more than 80% of Listeria illnesses associated with ready-to-eat meat or poultry products sold at delis (i.e., deli meat) were attributed to product sliced or otherwise handled at the retail store.” There is zero tolerance for Listeria bacteria in food products.
And the Agency is going to launch a year-long nationwide pilot project to assess whether retailers are using the best procedures and methods to control Listeria bacteria. The rules for managing this control are called “Best Practices Guidance for Controlling Listeria monocytogenes in Retail Delicatessens.” FSIS Compliance Investigators will fill out questionnaires on whether retailers are following specific cleaning and sanitizing recommendations from the guidance.
Best practices include maintaining deli products under sanitary conditions so Listeria cannot adulterate the food, and using a self-assessment tool to understand if the practices they are using are sufficient. New practices can be adopted to control Listeria growth.
The guidance documents state that food processing equipment should be dissembled during cleaning and sanitizing. Retailers must scrub surfaces during cleaning to prevent biofilm formation that can shelter the bacteria and make it impervious to sanitizing products. And retailers should rotate the types of cleaners and sanitizers they use to provide Listeria bacteria from becoming established in the area. Listeria is a “harborage organisms”, which means that it can form niches and grow to high numbers.
The CDC estimates that listeriosis, the infection caused by this bacterium, sickens 1,600 Americans every year. Of those people, 1,500 are hospitalized and 260 people die. The bacteria causes a high level of deaths compared to other foodborne pathogens.
The Interagency Retail Listeria monocytogenes risk assessment yielded key findings about controlling this bacterium. If all refrigerated ready-to-eat foods are stored at 41°F or below, about 9% of predicted Listeria cases could be prevented. In addition, if all deli products that support this bacteria contained growth inhibitors, 96% of predicted listeriosis illnesses could be prevented. Unfortunately, the concentrate of growth inhibitor used may not be high enough to work throughout the shelf life of the product, and these chemicals affect the food’s flavor.
Cross-contamination is a problem in delis. Slicers are key sources of cross-contamination, and product handling, cleaning, sanitizing, and glove use can help prevent it. In addition, eliminating environmental niches in the deli area will help reduce the risk of cross-contamination. And sanitation practices reduce the predicted risk of illness.
FSIS will analyze the information gathered on these questionnaires quarterly. Results will be published at the FSIS web site.
From Sanitation to the Environment and Beyond: Your Free Guides to Foodservice Packaging
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/enewsletter/from-sanitation-to-the-environment-and-beyond-your-free-guides-to-foodservice-packaging/
By Foodservice Packaging Institute (Jan 19, 2016)
From Sanitation to the Environment and Beyond: Your Free Guides to Foodservice Packaging
For more than a century, foodservice packaging has helped protect public health by safely delivering hot foods hot and cold foods cold. It is an industry that continues to evolve and reinvent itself alongside the ever-changing foodservice landscape. For example, 2015 marked the first time food and drink sales at restaurants surpassed those at traditional grocery stores. And in the land of foodservice operators, increasing production with “grab and go” items, reflects the escalation of consumer snacking trends.
Foodservice packaging refers to single-use cups, containers, bags, wraps, cutlery, etc., used by restaurants and other establishments that offer prepared foods and beverages. These items, made from a variety of materials like paper, plastic and aluminum, allow foodservice operators to serve their customers in a sanitary, convenient and economical manner.
From sustainable packaging, to raw materials and distribution, the foodservice packaging value chain runs deep. Collaborating and sharing best practices within the packaging community can help build the bottom line for the industry as a whole.
This need for information sharing is why the Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI) recently released a set of free resource guides designed to provide accessible, factual information about foodservice packaging. The guides address many of the questions FPI receives regularly from foodservice operators and conscientious consumers—and are especially pertinent at a time when foodservice packaging usage continues to increase.
“Foodservice packaging plays an important and ever-increasing role in our daily lives,” says Lynn Dyer, president of FPI. “Foodservice operators and consumers alike are searching for trusted information about packaging, and now they have resources that answer questions and provide valuable information.”
The four, new, easy-to-read guides can all be accessed by clicking on the links below, or by visiting www.fpi.org. The resource guides cover the following topics:
The Benefits Guide: Foodservice packaging is more than just a convenience. It plays an important and ever-increasing role in our daily lives. Americans spend roughly 50 percent of their food budget in restaurants—and they’re using foodservice packaging when they take home leftovers, order takeout or pick up ready-to-eat foods. This guide depicts why foodservice packaging is a sensible solution. Topics include importance of sanitation, how foodservice packaging can be cost effective, safe, convenient, resource efficient and promotional.
The Environment Guide: Promoting the foodservice packaging industry’s dedication to the environmentally responsible manufacture, distribution and use of its products, the environment guide highlights material innovations, resource recovery and litter reduction efforts. Topics include material innovations, resource recovery and litter reduction.
The Foodservice Operators Guide: This comprehensive guide contains all the foodservice packaging resources that FPI offers to foodservice operators. It includes a link to download FPI’s Strategic Sourcing Guide that takes foodservice operators through the details to help organize their foodservice packaging purchase decisions. The guide also includes technical topics, handling and storage and environmental considerations.
The Sanitation Guide: Americans like to eat out, which equates to plenty of food-to-go and carryout. This guide is designed for foodservice operators and offers useful dos and don’ts, along other information and tips about the storing and handling of foodservice packaging in a sanitary way.
“While the very reason for using single-use foodservice packaging has not—and will not—change, the packaging has evolved to meet the shifting needs of restaurateurs and customers alike,” says Dyer. “Our goal is for these resource guides to encourage responsible use of all foodservice packaging.”
Founded in 1933, FPI is an authority for the North American foodservice packaging industry. FPI encourages the responsible use of all foodservice packaging through promotion of its benefits and members’ products. Serving as the voice of the industry to educate and influence stakeholders, FPI provides a legal forum to address the challenges and opportunities facing the foodservice packaging industry.
FSM Scoop: Pet Food Safety
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/enewsletter/fsm-scoop-pet-food-safety/
By Tiffany Maberry (Jan 19, 2016)
FSM Scoop: Pet Food Safety
People love their pets, and it’s obvious by taking a look at what types of food pet owners are spending their hard-earned money on. The most in-demand pet foods are those that look and sound a lot like cuisine meant for humans—delicacies that are sugar-free, grain- and gluten-free, and contain reduced calories. Pet foods also offer an array of varieties to please even the pickiest of pet palates—frozen, raw, organic, all-natural, wet, dry, baked, freeze-dried, etc. Data released by GfK—Germany’s largest market research firm—revealed last summer that more Americans are spending more money on raw food for their pets. Over the course of a year, retail sales of raw, freeze-dried dog and cat food spiked a whopping 64 percent. The sale of raw, frozen pet food jumped 32 percent during the same period.
Part of the reason consumers might be willing to fork over more money for their pets is because they equate more spending to better, higher-quality products. But are pet owners pampering their pets in lieu of their own well-being?
Man’s Best Friend at Risk
Part of the reason that pet food safety is such a hot topic right now is that it’s not only animals that are at risk. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Pet Food Study, the trendy, raw food that pet owners are obsessing over might actually be a human hazard. That’s because raw pet food is more likely to be contaminated with Listeria or Salmonella versus traditional, non-raw pet foods. Not only are pets consuming raw foods at higher risk, but their owners are as well. The FDA believes that exposure to and handling of raw pet food makes people more susceptible to contracting foodborne illnesses—especially because not all sick pets display any noticeable signs or symptoms. This is particularly the case with dogs that contract Salmonella poisoning.[1, 2, 3]
The Great Pet Food Recall
In early 2007, the FDA was suddenly flooded with consumer complaints involving cats and dogs becoming sick after consuming certain pet foods. In just a month, the FDA logged 14,000 complaints—more than double what they were seeing in a typical year back then. At first, at least 14 animal deaths were reported in the U.S.—4 cats and 1 dog, in addition to 9 cats that died during routine taste testing conducted by the now-defunct Menu Foods—a company that sold pet foods under dozens of well-known brand names. The pets suffered from kidney failure after eating certain “cuts and gravy”-style dog and cat foods produced at Menu Foods’ facilities in Emporia, KS, between late 2006 and early 2007. Subsequent pet illnesses and deaths—1,950 cats and 2,200 dogs—are believed to have been linked to the same pet food manufacturer.[4, 5] According to Aon--a global provider of risk management solutions--Menu Foods’ recall of 60 million containers of pet food resulted in $42 million in losses attributed to the recall alone, not including lost sales.
As a result of these pet illnesses, more than 150 brands of dog and cat foods were voluntarily recalled nationwide by various companies. This included all varieties—moist foods in cans and pouches, and dry foods in bags. A joint investigation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that contaminants in vegetable proteins imported into the U.S. from China had been used as ingredients in those pet foods. In February 2008, the FDA announced that two Chinese nationals and the businesses they operated, along with a U.S. company—ChemNutra—and its CEO would be indicted by a federal grand jury. They were accused of scheming to import products believed to be wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate into the U.S. that were contaminated with melamine—an industrial chemical approved for use in plastic and paper products—including food packaging. Later testing by the FDA and Cornell University confirmed that melamine was present in the urine and kidneys of the cats that took part in the routine taste testing conducted by Menu Foods. Melamine is not FDA-approved for direct addition to human food or animal feeds marketed in the U.S. The owners of ChemNutra eventually pleaded guilty to distributing adulterated food and selling misbranded food—both misdemeanors. They were sentenced to 3 years of probation. In 2011, a class action lawsuit awarded more than $12.4 million to pet owners affected by the contaminated pet food.
According to the FDA, since melamine alone is a “relatively nontoxic substance,” it is not believed to be the only culprit in the reported cat and dog illnesses and deaths. Another explanation is that cyanuric acid—also found in pet food—combined with melamine would have been more toxic than either compound alone, making it a more plausible explanation for what occurred.
Altogether, it is believed that an estimated 8,000 pets died as a result of what’s since been dubbed the “Great Pet Food Recall.” But that number is not official since U.S. government agencies don’t officially track animal deaths as they do for humans.
Nine Years Later
Still, 2015 was ripe with pet food recalls—particularly over the summer. In total, at least 28 pet food recalls were issued last year, according to Food Safety Magazine’s own tally. Thirty-five percent of them were due to Salmonella contamination. Others—treats for both dogs and cats—included risks of Listeria, along with low levels of thiamine (vitamin B1), high levels of vitamin D and the presence of mold or propylene glycol.
Just 2 weeks into 2015, retail giant Petco became the first national pet specialty retailer to completely remove all dog and cat treats made in China from its store shelves and website. At the time, the exact cause of the contaminated pet treats had not been determined. However, complaints of pets becoming sick from products manufactured in China had been on record with the FDA since 2007’s Great Pet Food Recall. Just as 2015 began, 5,000 reports of pet illnesses were suspected to be the result of pets consuming jerky treats—chicken, duck and sweet potato varieties—all made in China. To make up for the loss, Petco made plans to acquire safer pet snacks from countries such as Australia, New Zealand and South America.[11, 12]
In February 2015, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Purina—a Nestlé company—after claims that its popular Beneful dog food killed pets. Customers complained that after eating the dog food, their pets suffered from a variety of health problems—bladder stones, internal bleeding and liver failure. The lawsuit specifically blames the presence of mycotoxins, along with what they determined to be “antifreeze.” While dog foods are known to contain propylene glycol, antifreeze is actually ethylene glycol, which has raised some eyebrows about the validity of the lawsuit.
Money Over Pet Food Safety?
One argument in relation to the persistence of pet food recalls is that it all boils down to economics. With consumers willing to spend high prices on luxury pet food products, new companies are popping up to meet pet owners’ insatiable needs. What these companies tend to do is co-pack their pet foods with ingredients from a variety of manufacturers. Their labels display whom the product is “distributed by,” which means that one company has packaged it all together and is shipping it out. This is different from a “manufactured by” label, which means the product was packed all in one place, or at least by a single company. When co-packing is the method of choice, it can be a nightmare in terms of traceability because many companies have contributed ingredients to produce a single can or bag of pet food. To make matters worse, these inexperienced pet food companies do not always have the proper staff onboard to make sure things are running smoothly—veterinarians, pet food nutritionists, quality control specialists, etc.
In the end, these companies do not have sufficient knowledge regarding pet food safety, which results in them producing products that do not meet any federal or state standards.
Mystery Meat in Pet Food?
In March 2015, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Nottingham revealed that many pet food brands are manufactured with unspecified animal parts—parts that are not listed on food labels. Investigation into the Animal Species Contents of Popular Wet Foods analyzed 17 wet dog and cat foods sold in UK supermarkets and found that 14 of them contained chicken, cow and pig DNA. Out of seven products that were labeled “with beef,” only two of them contained more cow DNA than a combination of chicken and pig DNA. Although the absence of these ingredients might anger consumers, the omission is not against any UK laws. It does, however, introduce the possibility of consumers unknowingly feeding food allergens to their beloved pets—this according to Kin-Chow Chang, author of the study and professor of veterinary molecular medicine at University of Nottingham.[13, 14]
Then there’s the Pet Food Test—the first consumer funded, in-depth examination of pet food and its contents. Here, 12 pet food products—6 cat foods and 6 dog foods—were examined. All 12 foods were tested for bacterial content [9 contained one or more bacteria or “qualifying pathogens;” 10 contained one or more “pathogenic microorganisms;” 9 contained one or more bacteria linked to spoilage of meat; 9 contained one or more potential pathogenic bacteria), cyanuric acid (no measurable levels found), melamine (no measurable levels found), euthanizing drugs (no measurable levels found), and nutrient and mineral content (4 contained excess nutrient levels; and at least 5 instances of excess nutrient levels compared to standards set by the National Research Council and the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)]. Due to budgetary constraints, only 8 of the 12 pet foods were tested for 37 different mycotoxins (2 were high risk, 2 were medium risk and 4 were low risk).
U.S. Pet Food Regulations
Not only does the FDA have its own set of pet food regulations, but individual states have the right to enforce labeling guidelines as well, generally adopting AAFCO’s regulations and suggestions. Under AAFCO’s standards, meat deriving from cows, goats, pigs, sheep—or any combination of these animals—can simply be labeled as “meat” on pet food packaging. Meat from mammals such as horses must identify the animal source. “Poultry” is meant to signify chicken and/or duck meat.
After the Great Pet Food Recall of 2007, Congress was largely forced by policy makers and animal-focused organizations to take action. Ultimately, new legislation required the FDA to enforce stricter safeguards for pet food. In September 2007, the Human and Pet Food Safety Act was unveiled, requiring the FDA to set standards for pet food, strengthen labeling rules, and establish an early warning system and post searchable online recall lists. The act also requires companies to report contaminated food and to make sure that key records are made available during investigations so that contaminants can be traced quickly.
There’s also PETNet, a website developed by the FDA to help federal, state and local agencies monitor pet food safety. The system allows agencies to share pet food related incidents with each other to better determine when a recall is necessary.
The FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine’s (CVM) is in charge of the Animal Feed Safety Program. The CVM has been tasked with “ensuring the safety of animal food, which includes feed ingredients, mixed feed, medicated feed, and pet food, treats and chews.” The system is the method by which CVM carries out all of its animal food responsibilities. In return, pet food manufacturers are responsible for producing safe products while following all applicable FDA regulations.
Pet Food Safety Around the World
As far as meat and animal derivatives that go into pet food, the UK’s methods are far more advanced that what is commonly practiced in the U.S. According to the UK’s Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA), “PFMA members use by-products of the human food industry that come from animals slaughtered under veterinary supervision. These materials meet the very high safety and quality criteria laid down by regulations. Members only use materials from species that are generally accepted in the human food chain—beef, lamb, poultry, pork, fish, rabbit and game.” The agency also enforces strict rules when it comes to the labeling of pet food products. For example, if a label displays “with chicken,” the percentage of that ingredient component must also be listed—a requirement not practiced in the U.S.
Strict labeling standards are also the norm in Australia. In 2011, the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia, Inc. established the Australia Standard (AS 5812) that covers the country’s entire process of pet food production and labeling requirements. Under the standards, pet food manufacturers in Australia are required to maintain “controlled and well-documented processing,” “provide consistent and informative packaging” and they must undergo independent auditing for compliance. These standards apply not only to Australian-produced pet foods but also those imported into Australia.
Even our neighbors to the north are leery of some U.S. pet food products. Just a year ago, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a federal ban on raw poultry products and live birds from six American states because of growing concern over the spread of avian flu. The ban originally included raw pet foods containing poultry products that were sourced, processed or packaged in California, Idaho, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon or Washington. As of January 2016, the ban only applies to poultry products from Missouri and North Dakota. Also, Canadians returning from the U.S. have been prohibited from bringing these items into Canada. Canada’s overall goal was to prevent an outbreak of avian flu from crossing the U.S. border.
Room for Improvement
Despite the number of pet food recalls announced in recents months and years, the FDA’s Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine maintains that pet food safety has been steadily improving for over a decade. When commercial pet food samples were tested between 2002 and 2006, 13 percent of them contained Salmonella. But only 1.7 percent of samples collected between 2010 and 2012 contained the bacteria.
Despite the number of pet food recalls in 2015, many argue that the industry has made great strides. Not only have pet food manufacturers done a better job at cleaning up their acts by upgrading their facilities and ordering more testing, but consumer expectations are keeping these companies honest. Still, pet food recalls continue to occur, likely due to time-strapped regulators and an ever-growing, global food supply chain.
Additional legislation that controls pet food safety is a continuous challenge. For example, advocacy groups want Congress to pass legislation that prohibits pet food manufacturers from using ingredients taken from 4D bins. This refers to parts of dead, dying and diseased animals that have perished not due to traditional slaughtering--chickens, cows, turkeys and others--that are then used to manufacture pet food. These are also the animal parts that have been rejected for use food produced for human consumption. In fact, according to the Decoding Pet Food report released by the Cornucopia Institute in November, flesh from dying and diseased animals loses its nutritional value. Not only that, when muscle meat is cooked at high temperatures, it forms carcinogenic heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons—both clearly unsafe for both pet and human consumption.[23, 24]
Making the pet food industry safer than ever is already in the works. Pet food products fall under the umbrella of the recently released Food Safety Modernization Act’s Preventive Controls rule for both human and animal food. Once fully implemented, these new requirements will establish Hazard Analyses and risk-based preventive controls for the pet food industry. Now—with varying compliance dates depending on facility size—it is up to companies to ensure that sick employees are not handling animal feed or pet food while maintaining production facilities that are clean and enforce strict handwashing rules. These same handwashing habits are also recommended for consumers who want to remain healthy pet owners.[25, 26, 27]
The age factor in sentencing for food safety crimes
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/01/lifetime-achievements-and-age/#.VqW45E5umUl
By Dan Flynn (Jan 19, 2016)
For all the notoriety around criminal prosecutions over food safety, age is a factor that has not received much notice until now.
Take 74-year old William B. Aossey, for example. He is the Halal food exporter convicted of switching out USDA establishment numbers to fulfill orders from facilities not approved for exports. His attorney Jail2_406x250says jail time could be tantamount to a life sentence. He also says sentencing should reflect Aossey’s lifetime of community service as a Peace Corp volunteer in Vietnam and Senegal, as Fulbright Scholar who worked after graduate school on egg production in Africa, and finally as a business leader in Cedar Rapids who supported charities and helped the city recover after the catastrophic 2008 flood.
In the several criminal cases involving food safety, most of the defendants have been well over 50. The elderly do not want to do time. Another example is 81-year old Austin “Jack” DeCoster. A judge sentenced DeCoster to just three months in a minimum security federal prison after he pleaded guilty to putting contaminated eggs on the market. Instead of serving the time, DeCoster filed a high profile appeal challenging the underpinnings of the law. He remains free on bail pending that appeal.
Age is far from a get-out-of-jail card, however. A California judge has told 77-year old Jesse J. Amaral Jr. to be prepared to surrender at his sentencing on Feb. 10 for selling cattle with diseased eyes after they’d been condemned by U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Federal prisons, it seems, are busting at the seams with elderly inmates. The segment of the prison population that is age 50 and older is the fastest growing. A sentencing reform advocate says federal prisons are beginning to look like nursing homes surrounded by razor wire and the $1 billion or more spent on health care by the Bureau of Prisons is more than is spent on the U.S. Marshals Service or the Drug Enforcement Administration.
His Chicago defense attorney Haytham Faraj says Aossey should receive a “non-custodial sentence” for his jury conviction for switching out USDA establishment numbers on beef sold overseas. Farad says Aossey’s past good deeds and integrity should be taken into account. Richard L. Murphy, the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the case, opposes leniency for Aossey in the yet to be scheduled sentencing. Aossey has been in custody since he was convicted by a Northern Iowa jury in July 2015.
Aossey is the founder and former president of Iowa’s Midamar Corp. and its associated Islamic Services of America, both based in Cedar Rapids. He built the Northern Iowa community into a Halal food exporting center.
Faraj also argues that there were “no victims and no one was hurt.”
“Mr. Aossey engaged in a regulatory violation by directing employees to falsify establishment numbers,” Faraj said in a sentencing memorandum for variances and departures.
“The purchasers of the meat received exactly what they ordered. Meat purchases do not demand meat from a certain establishment. They place orders for a certain cut, quality, volume or amount of meat that is halal. They received the same cut, quality, volume or amount of halal meat but it was from PM Beef rather O’Neil Beef. No one became ill, no one was shorted product; no representation was ever made to a buyer. The misrepresentations were to USDA and the importing countries’ regulatory agencies.”
Farad says sentencing should take into consideration the several months Aossey has already spent in jail.
“The effect of this confinement on his mental health and general welfare has been significant. If he is released, Aossey will have more time to pay fines and any restitution and continue his charitable community work that he enjoys so much.” Farad says Aossey’s “incarceration will help no one.”
Murphy, the assistant U.S. attorney, in “resistance” to Faraj’s motion, says age is a factor that might be used to justify home confinement as a substitute for prison time, but there is no indication that Aossey is infirm. Murphy also noted Aossey’s “religious orientation did not prevent him from making innumerable false and misleading statements and stealing millions from them (customers) so that he could live a privileged lifestyle and be undeservedly regarded in the community as an upstanding person and of God.”
In short, he says, there is no “senior citizen” benefit at sentencing.
FoodSafety.gov Offers Hand Washing Advice
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2016/foodsafety-gov-offers-hand-washing-advice/
By Linda Larsen (Jan 19, 2016)
FoodSafety.gov is offering advice about hand washing, now that the holidays are over and cold and flu season is here. Proper hand washing is the most effective way to reduce infection and illness, especially foodborne illness.
People often touch their ears, eyes, and noses without even realizing they are doing it. Your hands should be washed before eating food, before, during, and after preparing food, before and after treating a cut or wound, and before and after caring for someone who is sick. Always wash your hands with soap and water after handling uncooked eggs or raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
The correct way to wash your hands is to use warm water, lots of soap, and lather for 20 seconds. Be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between the fingers, and under the fingernails. Studies show that hand washing can reduce respiratory illnesses in the general population by about 20%.
It’s also important that you practice cleanliness in the kitchen. All surfaces and utensils should be washed after each use, using soap and water or washing them in the dishwasher. Use paper towels or clean cloths to wipe up spills on kitchen surfaces, and wash those cloths often in the dishwasher using hot water. Cutting boards and countertops should be washed with hot soapy water before and after food preparation.
Finally, remember to wash fruits and vegetables before eating them or preparing them. Bacteria can linger in the crevices of fruit and vegetable surfaces. Scrub firm product with a clean brush, and always rinse produce under running water. Then dry produce with a paper towel or clean kitchen towel.
But, don’t rinse meat, poultry, or eggs. The only way to kill bacteria found on those foods is to heat them to at least 160°F. Rinsing these foods, especially poultry, can cause bacteria to aerosolize and spread around the kitchen. Studies have shown that rinsing chicken spreads bacteria, including Campylobacter and Salmonella, up to three feet away from the kitchen faucet.
Cockroaches and dirt: Sushi shops owner fined $41,000 for food safety breaches
Source : http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/cockroaches-and-dirt-sushi-shops-owner-fined-41000-for-food-safety-breaches-20160118-gm833k.html
By Michael Inman (Jan 19, 2016)
The owner of two Woden sushi shops has been fined $41,000 for serious health safety breaches.
Raids on the Sizzle Bento and Roll-A-Sushi, owned by parent company World Fashion Food Pty Ltd, uncovered a cockroach infestation, a dishwasher that recycled dirty water, and food being defrosted and stored on the floor.
World Fashion Food Pty Ltd was sentenced by Special Magistrate Margaret Hunter in the ACT Magistrates Court on Monday on 11 criminal charges for the breaches of food standards.
Court documents said health authorities discovered a cockroach infestation, a dishwasher that repeatedly recycled dirty water, and an overheated display cabinet during raids at the now closed Sizzle Bento store in Woden Plaza in May 2011.
Cleanliness and food storage breaches were again detected during a second inspection in September 2011.
Pictures tendered in court showed food safety inspectors encountered cockroaches in the food preparation area.
Gaps in the walls, ceilings and floors were said to be allowing the insects to enter the room.
Court documents said the sushi display cabinet had been set at about 10 degrees, instead of the recommended 5 degrees or less.
The kitchen and food preparation area was dirty and grease was building up on the ceiling, sprinklers, the fridge, and on floors.
Rice and other food was not being stored properly and the shop was warned not to store items in shopping bags, ice cream containers or plastic bins.
The business was shut down briefly after the second raid because drainage issues with the dishwasher meant dirty water was being recycled through the machine, leaving dishes dirty and unsafe.
It was allowed to resume trading five days later, but has since closed.
Roll-A-Sushi was also raided in September 2011, with inspectors finding food had been inappropriately stored and left uncovered in the food preparation area.
Inspectors also recorded visible dirt and grease, and food had been stored and defrosted on the floor.
A sentence hearing, last November, heard World Fashion Food Pty Ltd had gone to great lengths to resolve the issues identified by the inspection, including pest control measures and employee training on correct washing, food handling, storage, and temperature standards.
Defence barrister James Lawton said Sizzle Bento had ceased trading, but Roll-A-Sushi had not failed an inspection since 2011.
On Monday, Ms Hunter imposed a fine of $41,000, saying it was incumbent on businesses to ensure cleanliness.
She said restaurants must understand obligations to maintain safety standards.
"[The restaurants] were in a disgusting state," she said.
"It's quite clear [in both restaurants] the failure to maintain equipment and utensils was quit disgusting. The photographs speak for themselves."
Indiana Farms Test Positive for Avian Influenza
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2016/indiana-farms-test-positive-for-avian-influenza/
By Linda Larsen (Jan 18, 2016)
Several farms in Indiana have tested positive for the presence of highly pathogenic H7N8 avian influenza (HPAI), which has resulted in a ban on U.S. poultry from several countries. South Korea and Japan announced this weekend that fresh poultry meat from the United States will not be allowed into those countries.
Nine poultry farms in Indiana have tested positive for some form of the bird flu. The farms are all within the control, or quarantine, area that was established after the first farm was affected. Experts think the total number of birds sickened could be more than 100,000. This outbreak could delay the reopening of some export markets to U.S. poultry products.
USDA labs are testing to see the strain of H7N8 confirmed at the nine Indiana farms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is stressing that the risk of H7N8 to humans is very low; in fact, it is not ever infected people. The Asian influenza viruses can make people sick. Workers are slaughtering all birds at the nine farms and destroying their carcasses.
This is the first avian influenza outbreak since last year’s multi-state outbreak that saw the culling of millions of birds. That outbreak drove up the price of eggs and caused a shortage of turkeys for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Dr. T.J. Myers, associate deputy administrator of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said, “this is a different strain of virus than the strain we saw during the 2015 outbreak. This particular case is an H7N8 virus. It is a significant virus that does need an immediate response in order to contain it and prevent spread to other facilities.”
This particular strain is more common in wild birds. HPAI is rare in the U.S. Scientists do not know how this strain mutated into a pathogenic form. While last year’s virus originated in Asia, this new strain most likely originated in North America.
North Carolina Sued Over Ag-Gag Law
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2016/north-carolina-sued-over-ag-gag-law/
By Linda Larsen (Jan 18, 2016)
A coalition of consumer, animal rights, and food safety organizations filed a federal lawsuit last week challenging the constitutionality of a North Carolina ag gag law. The law is designed to deter whistleblowers and undercover investigators from gathering and publicizing information about misconduct.
Governor Pat McCrory vetoed the bill in June 2015, but the state legislature overrode the veto. This law allows lawsuits and damages against people who “expose improper or criminal conduct by North Carolina employers,” according to a statement by Food & Water Watch.
The complaint states that the law is intended to punish those who “set out to investigate employers and property owners’ conduct because they believe there is value in exposing employers and property owners’ unethical or illegal behavior to the disinfecting sunlight of public scrutiny.” The plaints include the Center for Food Safety, PETA, Food & Water Watch, Farm Sanctuary, Animal Legal Defense Fund, and the Government Accountability Project.
The plaintiffs state that North Carolina’s law “blatantly violates our rights to free speech, to a free press, and to petition our government, and violates the Equal Protection Clause. It places the safety of our families, our food supply, and animals at risk.” A U.S. District judge struck down an ag-gag law in Idaho after the Animal Legal Defense Fund brought a lawsuit against that law. The judge ruled that the ag gag law violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Idaho has appealed that decision.
But this lawsuit is a bit different. It is the first to make claims under both the U.S. constitution and a state constitution.
Undercover videos have revealed violent abuse of animals at large factory farms over the years. The Humane Society released a video in 2008 that documented abuse at Hallmark Meat Packing in California. That video resulted in a huge meat recall, and a lawsuit by HSUS against Hallmark for “defrauding the federal government by violating and misrepresenting their compliance with the terms of the federal school lunch program contracts requiring the humane treatment of animals.”
Custom-exempt slaughter should not be expanded
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/01/custom-exempt-slaughter-should-not-be-expanded/#.VqW5805umUl
By Dena Jones (Jan 15, 2016)
Custom-exempt slaughter is a little known practice that could expand in size and impact throughout the United States if pending legislation is approved by Congress — and that is almost certainly not a good thing.
The “exempt” in custom-exempt means a slaughter operation is excused from continuous inspection, unlike federal- and state-inspected slaughter, where government officials must be on the premises of the establishment whenever slaughter is being conducted.
With custom-exempt slaughter, inspectors need not be present, and, in fact, inspection typically occurs only once or twice per year.
Custom slaughter operations are commonly thought of as the places hunters take game animal carcasses to be processed into meat. But, these operations also slaughter cattle, pigs, sheep and goats for anyone who wants the meat for themselves, their household, or non-paying guests. Because the meat is intended for personal use only, packages of custom processed beef, pork, lamb or goat must be labeled “NOT FOR SALE,” and the meat cannot be sold, traded, or given away.
The rationale behind giving minimal oversight to the custom slaughter industry is that consumers of the meat are generally aware of its origins, and the food safety risk to the general public is low.
But what of the animals being slaughtered at these establishments—where is the assurance that they are being handled and killed humanely? While custom-exempt operations are expected to comply with the federal humane slaughter law, no inspectors are present to ensure that they do so. The public may assume that very small slaughter operations, including those conducting custom slaughter, take better care of animals than large, highly mechanized slaughter facilities, but this is not the picture portrayed by state and federal slaughter inspection records.
A case in point is Brooksville Meat Fabrication, a custom-exempt operation in Brooksville, Ken., that was formerly under federal inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
During a six-month period in 2013, the USDA cited Brooksville at least 10 times for serious violations of humane handling and slaughter regulations. Almost all concerned the plant’s failure to accurately stun animals in order to render them insensible to pain before slaughter.
Aware of Brooksville’s record, the Animal Welfare Institute, which monitors federal and state humane slaughter enforcement, urged the USDA to withdraw federal inspection from the plant.
In November 2013, the USDA’s Enforcement and Litigation Division prepared a complaint to indefinitely suspend and permanently withdraw the grant of federal inspection from Brooksville Meat Fabrication, finding that the establishment was “unfit to engage in a business requiring Federal inspection under the FMIA (Federal Meat Inspection Act).”
In March 2014, after the owner of Brooksville failed to file an answer to the complaint, a USDA administrative law judge signed the withdrawal order. Withdrawal of federal inspection that is based solely on humane slaughter infractions is extremely rare; in fact, the Brooksville withdrawal order is the first time the USDA is known to have taken this step.
Brooksville Meat Fabrication continues to kill animals, however, as a licensed custom-exempt slaughter house.
It seems illogical that an establishment deemed incompetent to slaughter animals under direct and continuous inspection would be allowed to slaughter animals under almost no supervision at all, but that is the law at present.
Instead of taking action to close this obvious loophole, members of Congress are pushing legislation to expand the exemption to all meat sold within a state.
In July 2015, U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ken., who is a producer of grass-fed beef himself, introduced the Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption (PRIME) Act, which would expand the custom slaughter exemption to cover the sale of the meat, as well.
Specifically, the bill would allow meat that is prepared at a custom-exempt establishment to be sold to unsuspecting consumers at “restaurants, hotels, boarding houses, grocery stores or other establishments in the state that are involved in the preparation of meals served directly to consumers or offer meat and meat food products for sale directly to consumers in the state.”
The fact that Massie represents the Kentucky congressional district that is home to Brooksville Meat Fabrication is probably no coincidence.
In October 2013, after the Brooksville slaughter plant had been suspended for a fourth time for inhumane slaughter of animals, its owner complained to Massie about his treatment by the USDA. In response, Massie requested that the USDA extend every consideration to his constituent. Although Brooksville eventually lost its grant of federal inspection, Massie’s legislation would allow Brooksville to operate more or less as before, providing the meat produced is sold in-state.
The PRIME Act was conceived as a solution to the loss of thousands of slaughter facilities throughout the United States during the past 20 years — the result of consolidation within the meat industry that has left many small farmers with few options for having their animals slaughtered locally. The lack of local slaughter capacity can create a financial hardship for small farmers and subjects the animals they raise to the stress of long-distance journeys.
While there is a demonstrated need for additional slaughtering and processing alternatives for small farmers, there is also a need — aptly illustrated by the case of Brooksville Meat Fabrication — for continuous inspection of both the food safety and humane animal handling functions of meat production.
About half of the states offer the option of state-inspected slaughter, which could provide a solution for some individual farmers or cooperatives. Another option that is receiving increased attention is USDA-inspected mobile slaughter, which can service dozens of small farmers in a particular geographic region.
The public’s desire for alternative food choices presents the challenge of how to promote sustainable and higher-welfare farming while ensuring food safety and the humane treatment of animals at slaughter. Unfortunately the problem is unlikely to be resolved soon. In the meantime, Massie has said that if the PRIME Act does not pass during this congressional session, he plans to introduce the measure as an amendment to the next farm bill.
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