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2 Listeria Illnesses Prompt Warning in Canada About Caramel Apples

Two people in Canada have tested positive for the same strain of Listeria monocytogenes that has killed five people and sickened 29 in the U.S. and been linked to caramel apples.

The situation prompted a warning on Tuesday from the Public Health Agency of Canada that potentially contaminated caramel apples may have been imported to Canada.

The cases have occurred in Ontario and Manitoba. Investigators in Canada are still working to determine if the illnesses resulted from consumption of store-bought, prepackaged caramel apples, as they apparently did in the U.S. cases.

“As a precaution, the Public Health Agency of Canada is advising that Canadians do not eat commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples imported from the US until further notice,” the warning reads.

The warning is for plain caramel apples, as well as those containing nuts, sprinkles, chocolate, or other toppings.

Canadian officials say they’re working closely with U.S. counterparts to determine if any potentially contaminated products were distributed in Canada.

Based on current information, the risk of infection to Canadians is low, they said.

Food Safety News

Letter From the Editor: CA Law Likely to Increase Egg Prices, But What About Food Safety?

On Jan. 2, a new California law will require that shell eggs sold at retail in the state will come only from hens housed in larger cages, be they resident or non-resident hens. This change comes at a time when egg consumption and prices are both up to historic highs, an increase of 30-35 percent over this time last year.

The California experiment will likely create turmoil in egg markets and push prices higher in 2015. Californians might for a while even find egg counters empty.

The dirty little secret is that the California mandate will mean higher egg prices without buying much in the way of food safety. If we are going to up-end the egg industry with massively costly change, we might have done something more useful — such as invest in more pasteurized egg capacity. But food safety was not really part of the agenda for more elbow room for chickens.

California voters put the state’s egg producers on notice six years ago that, come Jan. 2, 2015, only eggs from hens in larger cages could be sold at retail in the state. Then, after hearing complaints about the disadvantage in-state producers would be under, the California Assembly amended the law to make it apply to out-of-state producers as well.

That was a first. Other states — Michigan, Oregon, and Washington — have adopted their own cage requirements, but only California is restricting trade from other states and foreign countries based on its rules for space requirements for chickens.

Before it took effect, opposing Midwestern egg-producing states were not getting much traction in federal court in California, but that may change once the market dislocation and higher egg prices kick in. Before the new mandate, California egg producers supplied only 1 in 3 eggs consumed in the state.

California consumers demand more eggs from somewhere, and there’s a lot of fog out there about whether enough caging capacity outside of California has been expanded to fulfill that demand within the new constraints of the law. Although they’ve been counting down the years to Jan. 2 since the initiative passed, the new California law does not seems to have had the required impact on how U.S. egg producers shelter their laying hens. And, as many as 95 percent of them might still use so-called battery-cage systems.

That figure might now be reversed within California. The mostly family-owned egg producers inside California have, in the past six years, made the capital investments to comply with Proposition 2 standards, which even they call “vague mandates on housing,” according to the Association of California Egg Farmers.

Changing out battery-cage infrastructure entirely in the U.S. would cost egg producers (or somebody) as much as $ 10 billion. The European Union move to so-called “enriched cages” became effective in 2012, although it is involved in litigation with about a dozen member states that have not gone along. EU producers reportedly spent more than $ 600 million on the changes.

Battery-cage infrastructure not only provides housing for the hens, but also are complex systems for feeding and watering, waste disposal, and collecting the eggs. Egg producers say battery cages help prevent disease and turn out cleaner eggs. Attempts to set a national standard for larger laying-hen cages failed both as standalone bills and as an inclusion to the 2014 Farm Bill.

My take is that, from a food-safety perspective, how cages are managed and operated is more important than design standards for cage sizes.

After the 2010 recalls over the big Salmonella outbreak involving Jack DeCoster’s Iowa egg farms, I was able to tag along with the teams of plaintiff lawyers and experts that the court allowed to go inside that part of the DeCoster kingdom. It was a bio-security area, meaning all these lawyers and experts had to dress up in those “sperm suits” with booties and mesh helmets.

Once inside, however, we all saw birds (including some chickens) freely flying about, rodents, and impressive amounts of manure. Some ares were more crowded than others. While the egg-laying and the feeding and watering continued in a house with about a half-million laying hens, one henhouse wall was literally being busted out from the pressure of all the manure that had been dumped behind it.

The wall was busting out because employees had fallen way behind in removing manure. One told me that heavy spring rains had made it impossible to get the chicken poop removed after it was stored up over the winter. He also said they were short-staffed. It became clear to me that the management and operation of egg-production systems should be the key concern.

It’s easy to think of the size of a cage in isolation, but that’s not realistic for large-scale egg production. These are huge systems that fill barns from floor to ceiling and wall to wall and represent a massive capital investment. Going into this change in California, we have consumers paying $ 4.49 per dozen for grocery store eggs. We can only guess how much more they are going to have to pay for bigger chicken cages.

But it is what it is. California won’t care how many eggs it breaks beginning Jan. 2. There will be all sorts of reactions over the law and treaties. But all that takes time, and everyday people eat eggs. Americans were on track to eat 266 each this year, or 23 dozen for each of us, according to the Egg Industry Center in Ames, IA. We ate five more eggs this year per capita than in 2013, and pricey beef and pork prices are also pushing up our egg consumption.

Every egg comes with some risk of Salmonella. Your risks go up if you often order sunny-side-up eggs, or if you have a taste for lightly soft-boiled eggs, or maybe you opt for Caesar salads. This applies to cage-free farms and even those backyard henhouses, which have been subject to a recent nationwide Salmonella outbreak.

Pasteurized eggs are available in the market. Lansing, IL-based Safest Choice, with an all-natural egg pasteurization process that eliminates Salmonella in eggs, appears to be doing nicely. The process does not change the nutrition or flavor. You can search the Safest Choice website for both nearby retailers and restaurants with pasteurized eggs.

But most eggs are sold raw. And the Salmonella risk is the same whether they are white or brown, conventional or organic. If this truly is the tipping point for somebody spending $ 10 billion to change out the housing for chickens, shouldn’t we get some improved food safety along the way?

Food Safety News

FDA: Idaho Knew About Chobani Mold Problem Before 2013 Recall

A federal report obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) indicates that the Idaho Department of Agriculture knew about that moldy Chobani yogurt two months before it was recalled.

The state denies the claim found in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration report by the Twin Falls Times-News, the daily newspaper located near the Idaho Chobani plant.

Moldy Greek yogurt by Chobani made about 300 people sick in an event associated with a September 2013 recalls of the products.

Documents released to the newspaper show that the Idaho Department of Agriculture became aware of the problem during a routine inspection two months before the company’s voluntary recall of 35 yogurt varieties.

The company said that its products were contaminated with a mold commonly found in yogurt production known as Mucor circinelloides.

“In July the routine Grade A sampling and testing samples taken by the Idaho Department of Agriculture (ISDA) from the Chobani Idaho Inc. production were visually noted, by the laboratory technician, that surface defects were present and additional testing was conducted noting a yeast like growth developing in the yogurt samples,” FDA reported.

The Idaho Department of Agriculture claims it never found any mold and does not know the source of FDA’s information. What it knew in July 2013 did not prompt FDA to take any action on its own.

“All of the raw and finished product-testing results met the requirements of the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance,” a state spokesman told the Times-News. “All of the tests we’ve done met the requirements.”

Food Safety News

FDA: Idaho Knew About Chobani Mold Problem Before 2013 Recall

A federal report obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) indicates that the Idaho Department of Agriculture knew about that moldy Chobani yogurt two months before it was recalled.

The state denies the claim found in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration report by the Twin Falls Times-News, the daily newspaper located near the Idaho Chobani plant.

Moldy Greek yogurt by Chobani made about 300 people sick in an event associated with a September 2013 recalls of the products.

Documents released to the newspaper show that the Idaho Department of Agriculture became aware of the problem during a routine inspection two months before the company’s voluntary recall of 35 yogurt varieties.

The company said that its products were contaminated with a mold commonly found in yogurt production known as Mucor circinelloides.

“In July the routine Grade A sampling and testing samples taken by the Idaho Department of Agriculture (ISDA) from the Chobani Idaho Inc. production were visually noted, by the laboratory technician, that surface defects were present and additional testing was conducted noting a yeast like growth developing in the yogurt samples,” FDA reported.

The Idaho Department of Agriculture claims it never found any mold and does not know the source of FDA’s information. What it knew in July 2013 did not prompt FDA to take any action on its own.

“All of the raw and finished product-testing results met the requirements of the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance,” a state spokesman told the Times-News. “All of the tests we’ve done met the requirements.”

Food Safety News

FDA: Idaho Knew About Chobani Mold Problem Before 2013 Recall

A federal report obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) indicates that the Idaho Department of Agriculture knew about that moldy Chobani yogurt two months before it was recalled.

The state denies the claim found in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration report by the Twin Falls Times-News, the daily newspaper located near the Idaho Chobani plant.

Moldy Greek yogurt by Chobani made about 300 people sick in an event associated with a September 2013 recalls of the products.

Documents released to the newspaper show that the Idaho Department of Agriculture became aware of the problem during a routine inspection two months before the company’s voluntary recall of 35 yogurt varieties.

The company said that its products were contaminated with a mold commonly found in yogurt production known as Mucor circinelloides.

“In July the routine Grade A sampling and testing samples taken by the Idaho Department of Agriculture (ISDA) from the Chobani Idaho Inc. production were visually noted, by the laboratory technician, that surface defects were present and additional testing was conducted noting a yeast like growth developing in the yogurt samples,” FDA reported.

The Idaho Department of Agriculture claims it never found any mold and does not know the source of FDA’s information. What it knew in July 2013 did not prompt FDA to take any action on its own.

“All of the raw and finished product-testing results met the requirements of the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance,” a state spokesman told the Times-News. “All of the tests we’ve done met the requirements.”

Food Safety News

FDA: Idaho Knew About Chobani Mold Problem Before 2013 Recall

A federal report obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) indicates that the Idaho Department of Agriculture knew about that moldy Chobani yogurt two months before it was recalled.

The state denies the claim found in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration report by the Twin Falls Times-News, the daily newspaper located near the Idaho Chobani plant.

Moldy Greek yogurt by Chobani made about 300 people sick in an event associated with a September 2013 recalls of the products.

Documents released to the newspaper show that the Idaho Department of Agriculture became aware of the problem during a routine inspection two months before the company’s voluntary recall of 35 yogurt varieties.

The company said that its products were contaminated with a mold commonly found in yogurt production known as Mucor circinelloides.

“In July the routine Grade A sampling and testing samples taken by the Idaho Department of Agriculture (ISDA) from the Chobani Idaho Inc. production were visually noted, by the laboratory technician, that surface defects were present and additional testing was conducted noting a yeast like growth developing in the yogurt samples,” FDA reported.

The Idaho Department of Agriculture claims it never found any mold and does not know the source of FDA’s information. What it knew in July 2013 did not prompt FDA to take any action on its own.

“All of the raw and finished product-testing results met the requirements of the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance,” a state spokesman told the Times-News. “All of the tests we’ve done met the requirements.”

Food Safety News

FDA: Idaho Knew About Chobani Mold Problem Before 2013 Recall

A federal report obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) indicates that the Idaho Department of Agriculture knew about that moldy Chobani yogurt two months before it was recalled.

The state denies the claim found in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration report by the Twin Falls Times-News, the daily newspaper located near the Idaho Chobani plant.

Moldy Greek yogurt by Chobani made about 300 people sick in an event associated with a September 2013 recalls of the products.

Documents released to the newspaper show that the Idaho Department of Agriculture became aware of the problem during a routine inspection two months before the company’s voluntary recall of 35 yogurt varieties.

The company said that its products were contaminated with a mold commonly found in yogurt production known as Mucor circinelloides.

“In July the routine Grade A sampling and testing samples taken by the Idaho Department of Agriculture (ISDA) from the Chobani Idaho Inc. production were visually noted, by the laboratory technician, that surface defects were present and additional testing was conducted noting a yeast like growth developing in the yogurt samples,” FDA reported.

The Idaho Department of Agriculture claims it never found any mold and does not know the source of FDA’s information. What it knew in July 2013 did not prompt FDA to take any action on its own.

“All of the raw and finished product-testing results met the requirements of the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance,” a state spokesman told the Times-News. “All of the tests we’ve done met the requirements.”

Food Safety News

FDA: Idaho Knew About Chobani Mold Problem Before 2013 Recall

A federal report obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) indicates that the Idaho Department of Agriculture knew about that moldy Chobani yogurt two months before it was recalled.

The state denies the claim found in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration report by the Twin Falls Times-News, the daily newspaper located near the Idaho Chobani plant.

Moldy Greek yogurt by Chobani made about 300 people sick in an event associated with a September 2013 recalls of the products.

Documents released to the newspaper show that the Idaho Department of Agriculture became aware of the problem during a routine inspection two months before the company’s voluntary recall of 35 yogurt varieties.

The company said that its products were contaminated with a mold commonly found in yogurt production known as Mucor circinelloides.

“In July the routine Grade A sampling and testing samples taken by the Idaho Department of Agriculture (ISDA) from the Chobani Idaho Inc. production were visually noted, by the laboratory technician, that surface defects were present and additional testing was conducted noting a yeast like growth developing in the yogurt samples,” FDA reported.

The Idaho Department of Agriculture claims it never found any mold and does not know the source of FDA’s information. What it knew in July 2013 did not prompt FDA to take any action on its own.

“All of the raw and finished product-testing results met the requirements of the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance,” a state spokesman told the Times-News. “All of the tests we’ve done met the requirements.”

Food Safety News

FDA: Idaho Knew About Chobani Mold Problem Before 2013 Recall

A federal report obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) indicates that the Idaho Department of Agriculture knew about that moldy Chobani yogurt two months before it was recalled.

The state denies the claim found in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration report by the Twin Falls Times-News, the daily newspaper located near the Idaho Chobani plant.

Moldy Greek yogurt by Chobani made about 300 people sick in an event associated with a September 2013 recalls of the products.

Documents released to the newspaper show that the Idaho Department of Agriculture became aware of the problem during a routine inspection two months before the company’s voluntary recall of 35 yogurt varieties.

The company said that its products were contaminated with a mold commonly found in yogurt production known as Mucor circinelloides.

“In July the routine Grade A sampling and testing samples taken by the Idaho Department of Agriculture (ISDA) from the Chobani Idaho Inc. production were visually noted, by the laboratory technician, that surface defects were present and additional testing was conducted noting a yeast like growth developing in the yogurt samples,” FDA reported.

The Idaho Department of Agriculture claims it never found any mold and does not know the source of FDA’s information. What it knew in July 2013 did not prompt FDA to take any action on its own.

“All of the raw and finished product-testing results met the requirements of the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance,” a state spokesman told the Times-News. “All of the tests we’ve done met the requirements.”

Food Safety News

FDA: Idaho Knew About Chobani Mold Problem Before 2013 Recall

A federal report obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) indicates that the Idaho Department of Agriculture knew about that moldy Chobani yogurt two months before it was recalled.

The state denies the claim found in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration report by the Twin Falls Times-News, the daily newspaper located near the Idaho Chobani plant.

Moldy Greek yogurt by Chobani made about 300 people sick in an event associated with a September 2013 recalls of the products.

Documents released to the newspaper show that the Idaho Department of Agriculture became aware of the problem during a routine inspection two months before the company’s voluntary recall of 35 yogurt varieties.

The company said that its products were contaminated with a mold commonly found in yogurt production known as Mucor circinelloides.

“In July the routine Grade A sampling and testing samples taken by the Idaho Department of Agriculture (ISDA) from the Chobani Idaho Inc. production were visually noted, by the laboratory technician, that surface defects were present and additional testing was conducted noting a yeast like growth developing in the yogurt samples,” FDA reported.

The Idaho Department of Agriculture claims it never found any mold and does not know the source of FDA’s information. What it knew in July 2013 did not prompt FDA to take any action on its own.

“All of the raw and finished product-testing results met the requirements of the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance,” a state spokesman told the Times-News. “All of the tests we’ve done met the requirements.”

Food Safety News

FDA: Idaho Knew About Chobani Mold Problem Before 2013 Recall

A federal report obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) indicates that the Idaho Department of Agriculture knew about that moldy Chobani yogurt two months before it was recalled.

The state denies the claim found in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration report by the Twin Falls Times-News, the daily newspaper located near the Idaho Chobani plant.

Moldy Greek yogurt by Chobani made about 300 people sick in an event associated with a September 2013 recalls of the products.

Documents released to the newspaper show that the Idaho Department of Agriculture became aware of the problem during a routine inspection two months before the company’s voluntary recall of 35 yogurt varieties.

The company said that its products were contaminated with a mold commonly found in yogurt production known as Mucor circinelloides.

“In July the routine Grade A sampling and testing samples taken by the Idaho Department of Agriculture (ISDA) from the Chobani Idaho Inc. production were visually noted, by the laboratory technician, that surface defects were present and additional testing was conducted noting a yeast like growth developing in the yogurt samples,” FDA reported.

The Idaho Department of Agriculture claims it never found any mold and does not know the source of FDA’s information. What it knew in July 2013 did not prompt FDA to take any action on its own.

“All of the raw and finished product-testing results met the requirements of the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance,” a state spokesman told the Times-News. “All of the tests we’ve done met the requirements.”

Food Safety News

FDA: Idaho Knew About Chobani Mold Problem Before 2013 Recall

A federal report obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) indicates that the Idaho Department of Agriculture knew about that moldy Chobani yogurt two months before it was recalled.

The state denies the claim found in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration report by the Twin Falls Times-News, the daily newspaper located near the Idaho Chobani plant.

Moldy Greek yogurt by Chobani made about 300 people sick in an event associated with a September 2013 recalls of the products.

Documents released to the newspaper show that the Idaho Department of Agriculture became aware of the problem during a routine inspection two months before the company’s voluntary recall of 35 yogurt varieties.

The company said that its products were contaminated with a mold commonly found in yogurt production known as Mucor circinelloides.

“In July the routine Grade A sampling and testing samples taken by the Idaho Department of Agriculture (ISDA) from the Chobani Idaho Inc. production were visually noted, by the laboratory technician, that surface defects were present and additional testing was conducted noting a yeast like growth developing in the yogurt samples,” FDA reported.

The Idaho Department of Agriculture claims it never found any mold and does not know the source of FDA’s information. What it knew in July 2013 did not prompt FDA to take any action on its own.

“All of the raw and finished product-testing results met the requirements of the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance,” a state spokesman told the Times-News. “All of the tests we’ve done met the requirements.”

Food Safety News

FDA: Idaho Knew About Chobani Mold Problem Before 2013 Recall

A federal report obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) indicates that the Idaho Department of Agriculture knew about that moldy Chobani yogurt two months before it was recalled.

The state denies the claim found in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration report by the Twin Falls Times-News, the daily newspaper located near the Idaho Chobani plant.

Moldy Greek yogurt by Chobani made about 300 people sick in an event associated with a September 2013 recalls of the products.

Documents released to the newspaper show that the Idaho Department of Agriculture became aware of the problem during a routine inspection two months before the company’s voluntary recall of 35 yogurt varieties.

The company said that its products were contaminated with a mold commonly found in yogurt production known as Mucor circinelloides.

“In July the routine Grade A sampling and testing samples taken by the Idaho Department of Agriculture (ISDA) from the Chobani Idaho Inc. production were visually noted, by the laboratory technician, that surface defects were present and additional testing was conducted noting a yeast like growth developing in the yogurt samples,” FDA reported.

The Idaho Department of Agriculture claims it never found any mold and does not know the source of FDA’s information. What it knew in July 2013 did not prompt FDA to take any action on its own.

“All of the raw and finished product-testing results met the requirements of the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance,” a state spokesman told the Times-News. “All of the tests we’ve done met the requirements.”

Food Safety News

Overseas branch about more than just money

Overseas branch about more than just money

For several years now, the Dutch export business has witnessed a growing share of emerging economies. In 2012, a survey showed that the most important new markets for Dutch exporters were outside the EU. Especially the BRICS countries scored well. Several Dutch and Belgian produce companies now have an office in one of the emerging economies. But what is the added value of a subsidiary in these countries? Corné van de Klundert of Origin Fruit Direct and Kerim Taner of Univeg Group talk about their ventures in China and Brazil respectively.


Officebuilding in the Chinese city Shanghai.

The Origin Group was founded in 2006 to market the products of a large South African grower in Europe. In addition to an office in Europe, Origin Fruit has offices in Chile and China. “We are part of a South African parent company,” says Corné. “South Africa already exported to Asia, but in 2007 the parent company decided to open an office in China.” A year later, the office was duly opened. From the office in Shanghai, mainly citrus and grapes are imported, but also lower volumes of top fruit and avocados for the Asian market. “We focus mainly on imports from South Africa, but in recent years we have more import from North and South America.”

Brazilian adventure
Univeg, head quartered in Belgium, has a large network of offices worldwide. Since 2002, the company has operated a subsidiary in Brazil that focuses on the export of limes and cloves: Univeg Katope Brazil. Last year, the Belgian company opened a second office in Brazil. Univeg Trade Brazil focuses on the import of fruit and vegetables through the worldwide network of Univeg offices. Univeg Trade Brazil is located in São Paulo, Brazil UNIVEG Katopé operates from the more northern city of Salvador. Additionally, Univeg has a grape plantation in the South American country. The harvest of this plantation is sold on both domestic and foreign markets.

The Salvador office has only five employees. The branch produces about $ 20 million annually, mainly from export to Europe. Univeg Trade Brazil in São Paulo is run by one person, sporting annual sales of roughly $ 8.5 million, chiefly extracted from the domestic market. Univeg Trade Brazil focuses on Brazilian retailers, particularly in the north east and north of the country.

Chinese resemble Europeans

Often-heard complaints about overseas markets, such as different work ethics and the time it takes to build relationships with Chinese traders, didn’t cause any major problems for Origin Fruit. “Of course, Chinese people have different habits,” says Corné, “but we had already done business in China for several years already, so we were familiar with local customs. In general, I am positively surprised by the way of working in China. They work much smoother, and are more professional than we often give them credit for in the West.” Corné points out that building a good relationship with customers in Europe also takes a lot of time. In that respect there is little difference between Europeans and Chinese.

Brazil: a lot of potential in retail
“We firmly believe in the potential of the Brazilian market, and the increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables,” says Kerim Taner. “In addition, the country has a unique climate and there is plenty of land available to grow quality products. We want to strengthen our position in Brazil as a grower, packer, exporter and importer by building lasting relationships with Brazilian retailers.”

The (originally Belgian) company mainly sees opportunities in the growing retail sector in the South American country. “Univeg’s range of products from South America and Europe and the global network result in a well-integrated product flow to Brazil.”

So in addition to financial results, having a subsidiary indirectly yields many immaterial benefits. “I think we have better access to customers in the Chinese market, we can better respond to developments in the market and we have a better understanding of price movements, allowing us to respond quickly,” says Corné. That is not to say that China always produces successfully. The Asian market, like any other market, is prone to fluctuations. The South African citrus season, to name just one of many recent issues, proved difficult in China. Other problems, like Black Spot on the European market and turmoil in Russia, put the citrus market under pressure. “As a result, China was seen as a good alternative, which in turn put pressure on prices.”

More information:
Origin Fruit Direct

Corné van de Klundert
E: [email protected]
W: www.originfruitdirect.nl

Univeg
Kerim Taner
E: [email protected]
W: www.univeg.com

Publication date: 12/2/2014


FreshPlaza.com

What U.S. Can Learn From Other Countries About Meat, Poultry Inspection

As the new Modernization of Poultry Inspection rule went into effect Monday, the Pew Charitable Trusts and Center for Science in the Public Interest released their review of global meat and poultry inspection systems. They recommended that U.S. policymakers begin a broader, data-driven effort to update the Department of Agriculture’s inspection system.

Traditional slaughter inspection methods for beef, pork and poultry are based on the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906 and the Poultry Products Inspection Act of 1957.

“These techniques focus largely on ensuring that food comes only from healthy animals,” states the report entitled, “Meat and Poultry Inspection 2.0.” “They are much less effective in protecting consumers from the modern-day hazards that commonly contaminate meat and poultry products.”

Sandra Eskin, director of food safety at Pew, compares the U.S. inspection system to a house built in 1906 and frequently redecorated since then. Maybe what we should do instead is knock the house down and build a new one, she suggested.

The report surveyed ante- and post-mortem inspection requirements in Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Sweden, plus efforts by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to modernize meat inspection. The review was intended to identify innovations in information management and integrated surveillance that could offer improved protections for U.S. consumers.

One of the key findings in the report is that robust data collection, analysis and sharing are fundamental components of international efforts to transform existing inspection practices into a modern, risk- and science-based inspection system.

The EFSA expert panel convened in 2010 to study approaches to inspections concluded that microbial hazards should be addressed from farm to fork with good manufacturing practices, good hygiene practices, and HACCP systems.

With food chain information, for example, inspectors can identify high-risk animals, herds and flocks before they enter facilities so that slaughter practices, control measures and monitoring can be targeted appropriately.

“Meat and poultry inspection at slaughter is essential for ensuring human health and the health and welfare of food animals, but it needs to be modernized to take into account changes in the most relevant public health hazards,” reads the report by Pew and CSPI.

Their review also revealed that none of the countries sends meat inspectors to every meat and poultry slaughter and processing plant every day, as is done in the U.S. Some countries use private or quasi-governmental inspectors in their meat and poultry inspection systems, while others have completely turned over certain aspects to industry.

Based on their findings, Pew and CSPI recommend that the U.S. commission comprehensive scientific assessments to evaluate its existing meat inspection approaches and alternatives for modernization, that a more significant effort to improve data collection related to meat and poultry production and testing be undertaken, and that the U.S. think about incorporating food chain information into its meat and poultry inspection system.

“While CSPI supports modernizing meat and poultry inspection, USDA has adopted an incomplete solution without the scientific backing necessary to assure consumers that poultry will carry fewer hazards, like Salmonella and Campylobacter,” said CSPI Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal.

One criticism of the new Modernization of Poultry Inspection rule, which establishes the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS), is that while it does require enhanced sampling for all poultry plants, it doesn’t specify which pathogens the plants should be testing for.

Eskin told Food Safety News that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is dedicated to improving public health, but that the agency’s proposals, including the poultry inspection rule and Salmonella Action Plan, are “baby steps and they need bigger leaps.”

“We welcome and appreciate the report from Pew and CSPI, which supports many of our efforts to modernize and strengthen America’s food safety system,” a FSIS spokesperson told Food Safety News. “As the Government Accountability Office acknowledged today, FSIS ‘has moved to an increasingly science-based, data-driven, risk-based approach’ to protecting public health. This will help us prevent thousands of illnesses every year.”

GAO published a 67-page report entitled, “USDA Needs to Strengthen Its Approach to Protecting Human Health from Pathogens in Poultry Products,” on Monday. It recommends that FSIS take action to reduce pathogen contamination on chicken and turkey products, make sure that agency food-safety standards are being met, and better assess whether on-farm practices are effective in reducing pathogens in live poultry.

Food Safety News

How Much Do Voters Care About Food Safety Issues?

Food issues have the potential to be a deciding factor in how Americans vote in the midterm elections this November.

According to polling by Food Policy Action (FPA), messages about voting against politicians who want to cut food stamps for veterans, slash funding for food safety, support subsidies for corporate farms over family farms, or support eliminating food stamps for seniors and families resonated with a majority of voters.

“Members of Congress are a major influence in how our food system works, for better or worse,” said Ken Cook, FPA chairman and president and co-founder of the Environmental Working Group. “To date, there has been little to no transparency or accountability for these decisions.”

One of the most surprising aspects of the data was that people not only cared about food policy issues, but that they were willing to vote to the issues, said Celinda Lake, president of the polling company that conducted the survey.

At the end of September, 1,009 adults representative of the population demographics expected to turn out for the 2014 general election were polled about how persuasive they found four messages.

When asked about voting “against politicians who want to slash funding for food inspectors and programs that identify unsafe food and protect our families,” 68 percent of participants found the message “convincing” and 41 percent found it “very convincing.”

While the veteran message ranked as the top message for most demographic groups, the food safety message was the top message for women, voters younger than 30, younger women, and college-educated women.

More than one in eight Democrats and one in six Independents and Republicans considered it “convincing.” Forty-nine percent of Democrats, 35 percent of Republicans and 31 percent of Independents thought it “very convincing.”

Because foodborne illnesses harm and kill thousands of Americans each year, “it’s important to people that our food inspectors have the funding and the tools they need to do their jobs,” Cook said.

Here’s how the question played compared to the others tested:

“These messages tested off the charts at a time when voters are getting very cynical about political messages,” Lake said. “These messages explicitly connected the food policy issues for the first time to politics and voting. And voters responded with intensity and broad support.”

They have the possibility to sway votes, she said, adding that, at this stage in a campaign, pollsters consider 60 percent “convincing” and 39 percent “very convincing” successful and very tempting for candidates.

Food-related issues are very persuasive to voters if they can be reminded about them, Cook said, especially among swing voters and seniors who sometimes determine the outcome of an election. This survey will allow FPA and other groups working for reform to target issues that most resonate with the public.

Food Safety News

Why earning loyalty isn’t just about earning points

Customer loyalty has become closely identified with the programs of points, coupons and discounts that fill our wallets with plastic cards. So much so, the debate over the future of these loyalty programs gets quite confused.

However, if you focus on earning loyalty, the debate becomes clearer.

Safeway’s Just For U approach combines customer data with technology to personalize the shopping experience.For a start, loyalty programs do not in themselves make customers loyal. After all, Trader Joe’s inspires tremendous loyalty and doesn’t even have a program. Rather, loyalty depends on the customer experience, and if that’s not creating value for customers then no amount of loyalty marketing will change it — at best, customers will be bribed to stay.

Loyalty programs are expensive to run, so it is certainly an option to abandon them and reinvest the money in improving the customer experience in some other way, in order to earn customer loyalty.

However, loyalty programs can also be more than just points and coupons, and be used to improve the customer experience. Starbucks for example has integrated payments and mobile technology with its program to make the coffee shop experience more enjoyable, while Sephora has taken a similar approach with its Beauty Insider program.

And of course Safeway’s Just For U program has demonstrated how customer data together with technology can start really personalizing the shopping experience.

But whichever route you choose, there is a simple reality: In today’s connected world, where opinions and experiences are so easily shared, earning customer loyalty needs to be left, right and center-stage for every business.

Loyalty programs can either be integrated to create a better customer experience, or abandoned in favor of improving the customer experience in some other way. Both are viable strategies.

Just don’t confuse traditional points programs with earning customer loyalty.

What route are you taking? Tell us your strategy in the comments!

Simon Uwins is a former CMO of fresh&easy and Tesco UK, and author of Creating Loyal Brands (2014). Find him online at www.simonuwins.com.

Supermarket News

Lawmakers warn about battle for next farm bill

WASHINGTON — The next farm bill may not look like the hard-fought 2014 version as critics continue to advocate for splitting farm policy from food stamps in the next bill, lawmakers told attendees of the United Fresh Produce Association’s Washington Conference, here.

Tom Stenzel, president and chief executive officer of United Fresh, kicked off the meeting with a promise of no government shutdown during the three-day meeting, a reference to last year’s budget impasse that forced Congress and federal agencies to shut their offices during the Washington Conference.

Even though Congress plans to cut its legislating session short to campaign for the midterm elections in November, the two-day lobbying blitz sends a message on key issues lawmakers should take up later this year and next, Stenzel said.

“You’ve got to keep up the pressure,” he said. Changes on key issues, such as immigration reform, might not come in the next few weeks, but “we expect it next year.” United Fresh has organized the largest produce fly-in to visit House offices Sept. 9 and Senate offices Sept. 10.

Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), a long-time champion on agriculture issues who received the Congressional Leadership Award Sept. 9 from United Fresh at the conference, said the last farm bill was “very difficult to get done.”

Some believe the bill’s overwhelming emphasis on costly feeding programs is overshadowing the farm legislation, and that’s “unsustainable,” Hastings said. It will be a political challenge to get the next bill through Congress, he warned.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), who followed Hastings at the breakfast session, said splitting the farm and food stamps would prove dangerous to the agriculture industry. Roberts acknowledged, though, he’s heard predictions the massive, five-year 2014 farm bill “may be the last one.”

Roberts criticized President Obama for announcing immigration reform would wait until after the elections. On the legislative front, however, Roberts said he doesn’t expect to see progress on labor issues until after the election.

Hastings focused his talk on the need for Congress to reform the Endangered Species Act, which he blamed on water shortages that have damaged the agriculture industry.

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Concerns about low wages behind Moroccan tomatoes sold in European supermarkets

Female Moroccan tomato pickers living in poverty:
Concerns about low wages behind Moroccan tomatoes sold in European supermarkets

Fairfood International’s newest report exposes the poverty wages paid to workers in the Moroccan tomato sector. These tomatoes are picked and packed by tens of thousands of workers who do not receive a living wage for their arduous work. The fruit is then sold by European supermarkets who receive the lion’s share of the profits.

Fairfood’s report The fruits of their labour – The low wages behind Moroccan tomatoes sold in European supermarkets was published on 9th September 2014 and is an initiative of Fairfood’s Morocco ‘hotspot’ project. This project has conducted research in the Souss Massa Drâa region: one of the main sources of tomatoes for many European supermarkets during the winter months.

This report ties in with Fairfood’s upcoming Living Wage campaign, which sees a living wage – a wage sufficient for the basic needs of workers and their families, such as food, clothing, healthcare and education – as a human right.

The key issues in the report are:

  •     In winter, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Albert Heijn and other European supermarkets sell tomatoes which are sourced from Morocco.
  •     They are picked and packed by tens of thousands Moroccan workers, mainly female, who earn painfully low wages.
  •     Moroccan tomato pickers and packers earn between 5 and 8 Euro a day, while their costs of living are around 15 Euro a day. Therefore they are unable to make ends meet and must live in poverty
  •     Supermarkets have the power and influence to determine what consumers buy, as well as how and under what conditions the food is produced
  •     Fairfood calls upon supermarkets to take up their responsibility and to ensure a living wage for all their workers in their supply chains


Click here to read the complete report (PDF)

Publication date: 9/9/2014


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