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FDA Urged to Require Allergen Labeling for Sesame Seeds

As many as 500,000 Americans are estimated to be allergic to sesame seeds, but current rules on allergen labeling don’t include a requirement for them.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a Washington, D.C., consumer advocacy organization, is now asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to add sesame seeds to its list of allergens that require clear labeling on the ingredients list.

Specifically, the group has filed a citizens petition asking FDA to mandate labels for foods that contain sesame seeds or were made with machinery that also processes foods that include sesame seeds. Such labels already exist for allergens such as milk, eggs, peanuts and wheat.

For those with an allergy to sesame seeds, accidentally consuming them can trigger “life-threatening anaphylaxis,” CSPI says.

Ingredients that contain sesame seeds are sometimes listed as tahini or gingelly, and those names might not register with some consumers looking to avoid the seeds. Ingredients labeled “natural flavorings” or “spices” also have the potential to include sesame seeds.

In a news release, CSPI highlighted the case of a 10-year-old boy in Virginia who was rushed to the emergency room after eating a meal at a restaurant, despite his parents getting the assurance of the staff before ordering that the meal contained no sesame seeds.

That boy’s father, Brian Heller, launched a petition on Change.org in October asking FDA to treat sesame seeds as a major allergen.

Canada, Australia and the European Union all require the explicit labeling of sesame seeds.

Food Safety News

California May Soon Require Paid Sick Time for Restaurant Workers and Others

California is poised to become the second state in the country to require paid sick leave for workers, an issue that has serious food safety implications for the restaurant industry.

Under the just-passed legislation, which is awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature (and he has already expressed support), California workers as of July 1, 2015, would be guaranteed at least three paid sick days a year.

More precisely, the bill requires businesses to grant employees one paid hour off for sick time for every 30 hours worked.

“Tonight, the Legislature took historic action to help hardworking Californians,” Brown said in a statement after the bill was passed on Aug. 30. ”This bill guarantees that millions of workers — from Eureka to San Diego — won’t lose their jobs or pay just because they get sick.”

Campaigners for restaurant worker sick pay say that many employees in the restaurant industry are more likely to work while sick if they do not have the privilege of paid sick time. In turn, sick restaurant workers have a higher chance of causing foodborne illnesses due to their contact with food.

In 2010, 88 percent of restaurant workers in a survey reported not receiving paid sick leave, according to Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC). ROC’s report, “Serving While Sick,” also found that 63 percent of workers reported cooking or serving food while sick at some point.

Another ROC report, “Backed into the Corner,” found that 48 percent of restaurant workers in the Miami-Dade area of Florida reported working while sick at some point, with 11 percent saying they experienced diarrhea or vomiting during a work shift. That report also found that workers were twice as likely to work while sick if they did not have paid sick time.

Once the bill is signed, California would be joining the state of Connecticut and cities such as Washington D.C., Seattle, WA, and Portland, OR, in requiring paid time off for illness.

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) and other business groups have lobbied against paid-sick-time legislation at the state and local level, saying that the one-size-fits-all legislation hurts businesses and threatens jobs.

Groups, including the NRA, have successfully helped pass laws to prevent new local paid-sick-leave legislation in 12 states.

Food Safety News

USDA rule would require strict records for ground beef

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has proposed a rule that would improve the traceability of ground beef by requiring all producers of such products to keep extensive records.

Under the proposal retailers would have to record the source, supplier and names of all materials used when making ground beef. FSIS said ground beef sold at retail is often produced by combining cuts from multiple sources, which can be problematic when the agency works to identify the source of a foodborne illness outbreak.

“The improved traceback capabilities that would result from this proposal will prevent foodborne illness by allowing FSIS to conduct recalls of potentially contaminated raw ground products in a timelier manner,” USDA deputy under secretary for food safety Brian Ronholm said in a press release. “By requiring retail outlets to maintain improved records on sources for ground products, the proposal will enable FSIS to quickly identify likely sources of contaminated product linked to an outbreak.”

Full details of the proposed rule can be found on the FSIS website. Interested parties will have 60 days to comment on the proposal once it has been published in the Federal Register.

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Meeting climate targets may require reducing meat, dairy consumption

Greenhouse gas emissions from food production may threaten the UN climate target of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, according to research at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden.

On Monday 31 March the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) presents their report on the impacts of climate change.

Carbon dioxide emissions from the energy and transportation sectors currently account for the largest share of climate pollution. However, a study from Chalmers now shows that eliminating these emissions would not guarantee staying below the UN limit. Emissions from agriculture threaten to keep increasing as global meat and dairy consumption increases. If agricultural emissions are not addressed, nitrous oxide from fields and methane from livestock may double by 2070. This alone would make meeting the climate target essentially impossible.

“We have shown that reducing meat and dairy consumption is key to bringing agricultural climate pollution down to safe levels,” says Fredrik Hedenus, one of the study authors. “Broad dietary change can take a long time. We should already be thinking about how we can make our food more climate friendly.”

By 2070, there will be many more of us on this planet. Diets high in meat, milk, cheese, and other food associated with high emissions are expected to become more common. Because agricultural emissions are difficult and expensive to reduce via changes in production methods or technology, these growing numbers of people, eating more meat and dairy, entail increasing amounts of climate pollution from the food sector.

“These emissions can be reduced with efficiency gains in meat and dairy production, as well as with the aid of new technology,” says co-author Stefan Wirsenius. “But the potential reductions from these measures are fairly limited and will probably not suffice to keep us within the climate limit, if meat and dairy consumption continue to grow.”

Beef and lamb account for the largest agricultural emissions, relative to the energy they provide. By 2050, estimates indicate that beef and lamb will account for half of all agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, while only contributing 3 percent of human calorie intake. Cheese and other dairy products will account for about one quarter of total agricultural climate pollution.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Chalmers University of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Consumer Advocates Sue FDA to Require Better Information About Seafood Mercury Levels

The latest lawsuit brought against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration concerns the levels of mercury in the seafood we eat.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Mercury Policy Project petitioned FDA in July 2011 to require signs in supermarkets and labels on packaged seafood that give consumers information on the relative amounts of mercury in fish and other seafood.

Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations requires the agency to respond to petitions within 180 days of their receipt, which means a response was due by Jan. 14, 2012. But FDA never responded, so the groups have now filed a lawsuit in federal court to set a deadline for the agency to do so.

“FDA has repeatedly acknowledged the link between seafood consumption and exposure to methylmercury in the United States, and yet it has not improved the availability or clarity of information about mercury in seafood for people … so that they can make informed decisions regarding seafood consumption,” reads the complaint filed Monday by non-profit public interest law organization Earthjustice on behalf of the advocate groups.

“The public — and especially at-risk groups such as pregnant women and heavy fish eaters — urgently need updated information,” said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project. “It is unconscionable that FDA continues to drag its feet when the latest science indicates a far greater methylmercury exposure risk than when the agency developed its fish consumption advisory in 2004.”

The groups are concerned that FDA’s “What You Need to Know About Mercury in Fish and Shellfish” from 2004 is not reaching the general public. Labels and point-of-purchase signs, they argue, would better help consumers to reduce their risk of mercury exposure.

“Consumers deserve to have the information they need to enjoy heart-healthy seafood while avoiding dangerous mercury,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, CSPI’s director for food safety.

Food Safety News

Fresh Insights: Exceptional produce departments require basic operating standards

Did you ever wonder why people shop for produce at your competitor’s store? Is their produce any better than yours? Your competition most likely has comparable product and prices. However, if they have a “great” produce department and yours is just mediocre, where do you think people will shop for their fruits and vegetables?

An exceptional produce department is one of the most decisive reasons customers choose a grocery store to do their regular shopping. Prod-Mgr-helping-a-customerA produce manager assisting a customer. A produce team must have the desire to sell and be in direct contact with customers in order to boost sales in the department.The store with the freshest and most impressive produce department will draw the most shoppers every time. In order to be the main focal point for customers, produce calls for specific operating skills in order to stay above the competition.

Here are some basic operating reminders for an exceptional produce department:

Generate sales
The produce team must have the desire to sell and be in direct contact with customers when on the sales floor. Employees should answer questions and make friendly suggestions for incremental sales.

Sales planning and layouts
Establish plans for advertised items and determine the amounts needed. Decide locations for ad item displays. Follow a regular department plan-o-gram layout. Set up a massive visual entrance display for impulse sales.

Ordering and checking deliveries
Inventory all backroom amounts before writing an actual order. Check inbound deliveries for proper weight, count, quality, condition and temperature. Move sensitive items into the storage cooler immediately and date all cartons. Segregate vegetables and fruit. Remove lids from bananas and tomatoes and cross-stack for ventilation.

Product preparation
Handle all produce with respect. Follow a regular crisping program. Use safe trimming and washing practices. Use proper tools, equipment and packaging material. Follow your company packaging and labeling guidelines. Adhere to all food-handling safety regulations and company policies.

Prevent shrink
Ensure all retails are correct. Check systems for item, code and retail accuracy. Control back-room inventory assets. Don’t stockpile. Watch load levels by avoiding over-piling product on displays. Handle all products carefully to prevent damage. Display bananas one layer only — do not stack bunches.

Workmanship
Whether it’s the backroom or the sales floor, every area should be fresh, clean, neat, organized and appealing — especially displays for customers.

Culling and rotation
Cull the entire department first thing in the morning. Use two totes when culling — one for items to be discarded and one for items to be reworked (retrimmed, repackaged, etc.). Check expiration dates on packages. Rotate displays by removing older product, filling with new and restocking the removed product on top. Use backroom product with oldest dates first.

Scheduling
Produce departments need to be ready for business early. Always consider store hours, deliveries, holidays, days off, vacation periods, time of season, weather and special promotions.

Cleaning and maintenance
Keep fixtures, equipment, tools, and floors clean and sanitized. Check refrigeration cases and cooler temperatures daily. Report equipment failures immediately.

Closing hours
Get ready for the next day by stocking hard goods, such as potatoes, onions, apples and citrus the evening before. Remove sensitive items and place in cooler. Clean and tone up the department before leaving.

Of course, these are only a few of the overall operating standards that determine a well-managed produce department. There is more to just ordering produce and placing it on a display. It takes well thought-out planning, determination, and skilled workmanship to be the best produce operator in the marketplace.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Animal Ag’s 2014 Legislative Strategy: Require Quick Abuse Reporting

If early bill filings are any indication, animal agriculture is going to go for cruelty laws with short reporting deadlines.

Late last year, New Hampshire House Bill 110 was amended to give anyone who witnesses another person performing acts of cruelty to livestock exactly 48 hours to report it to local law enforcement.

As it’s now drafted for the 2014 session, HB 110 does not ban on-the-farm pictures or videos and does not make applying for farm work a crime for someone also working as an undercover animal cruelty investigator.

Those elements were included in a couple dozen “ag-gag” bills introduced in various states before 2013, but they now appear to be falling out of favor.

Kay Johnson Smith, chief executive officer of the national Animal Agriculture Alliance, has acknowledged to industry media that quick reporting is the group’s 2014 legislative strategy.

“If you see something, you should say something; it’s that simple,” she says.

Johnson claims that animal welfare groups that go undercover at animal agriculture facilities string out investigations to tie abuse that’s documented to brand names to drum up publicity. Short reporting deadlines mean that patterns of abuse cannot be documented, according to animal welfare groups that do such investigations.

While undercover investigators often work successfully with local law enforcement, timely reporting is a fairly consistent theme in criminal law. In Colorado, which does not have an “ag-gag” law, an undercover investigator working for Compassion Over Killing was herself charged with animal cruelty for waiting two months to report the incident.

Bills containing quick reporting provisions of animal cruelty could be considered in both New Hampshire and Indiana as early as next week.

Food Safety News

Efforts to curb climate change require greater emphasis on livestock

Dec. 20, 2013 — While climate change negotiators struggle to agree on ways to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, they have paid inadequate attention to other greenhouse gases associated with livestock, according to an analysis by an international research team.

A reduction in non-CO2 greenhouse gases will be required to abate climate change, the researchers said. Cutting releases of methane and nitrous oxide, two gases that pound-for-pound trap more heat than does CO2, should be considered alongside the challenge of reducing fossil fuel use.

The researchers’ analysis, “Ruminants, Climate Change, and Climate Policy,” is being published today as an opinion commentary in Nature Climate Change, a professional journal.

William Ripple, a professor in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University, and co-authors from Scotland, Austria, Australia and the United States, reached their conclusions on the basis of a synthesis of scientific knowledge on greenhouse gases, climate change and food and environmental issues. They drew from a variety of sources including the Food and Agricultural Organization, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and recent peer-reviewed publications.

“Because the Earth’s climate may be near a tipping point to major climate change, multiple approaches are needed for mitigation,” said Ripple. “We clearly need to reduce the burning of fossil fuels to cut CO2 emissions. But that addresses only part of the problem. We also need to reduce non-CO2 greenhouse gases to lessen the likelihood of us crossing this climatic threshold.”

Methane is the second most abundant greenhouse gas, and a recent report estimated that in the United States methane releases from all sources could be much higher than previously thought. Among the largest human-related sources of methane are ruminant animals (cattle, sheep, goats, and buffalo) and fossil fuel extraction and combustion.

One of the most effective ways to cut methane, the researchers wrote, is to reduce global populations of ruminant livestock, especially cattle. Ruminants are estimated to comprise the largest single human-related source of methane. By reflecting the latest estimates of greenhouse gas emissions on the basis of a life-cycle or a “farm to fork” analysis, the researchers observed that greenhouse gas emissions from cattle and sheep production are 19 to 48 times higher (on the basis of pounds of food produced) than they are from producing protein-rich plant foods such as beans, grains, or soy products.

Unlike non-ruminant animals such as pigs and poultry, ruminants produce copious amounts of methane in their digestive systems. Although CO2 is the most abundant greenhouse gas, the international community could achieve a more rapid reduction in the causes of global warming by lowering methane emissions through a reduction in the number of ruminants, the authors said, than by cutting CO2 alone.

The authors also observed that, on a global basis, ruminant livestock production is having a growing impact on the environment:

  • Globally, the number of ruminant livestock has increased by 50 percent in the last 50 years, and there are now about 3.6 billion ruminant livestock on the planet.
  • About a quarter of the Earth’s land area is dedicated to grazing, mostly for cattle, sheep and goats.
  • A third of all arable land is used to grow feed crops for livestock.

In addition to reducing direct methane emissions from ruminants, cutting ruminant numbers would deliver a significant reduction in the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of feed crops for livestock, they added.

“Reducing demand for ruminant products could help to achieve substantial greenhouse gas reductions in the near-term,” said co-author Helmut Haberl of the Institute of Social Ecology in Austria, “but implementation of demand changes represent a considerable political challenge.”

Among agricultural approaches to climate change, reducing demand for meat from ruminants offers greater greenhouse gas reduction potential than do other steps such as increasing livestock feeding efficiency or crop yields per acre. Nevertheless, they wrote, policies to achieve both types of reductions “have the best chance of providing rapid and lasting climate benefits.”

Such steps could have other benefits as well, said co-author Pete Smith of the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. “Cutting the number of ruminant livestock could have additional benefits for food security, human health and environmental conservation involving water quality, wildlife habitat and biodiversity,” he explained. 

Agricultural researchers are also studying methane reduction through improved animal genetics and methods to inhibit production of the gas during digestion.

International climate negotiations such as the UNFCCC have not given “adequate attention” to greenhouse gas reductions from ruminants, they added. The Kyoto Protocol, for example, does not target ruminant emissions from developing countries, which are among the fastest-growing ruminant producers.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Wegmans To Require Best Food Safety Practices From All Produce Growers

Wegmans has announced that as of Sept. 30, the grocery store chain will require all of its fresh produce growers to pass a Good Agricultural Practices inspection.

In 2008, the chain began phasing in the requirement for growers of high-risk crops like spinach and melons and has expanded the program in recent years. The inspection will now be required of all growers supplying the company.

Bill Pool, Wegmans’ food safety manager for produce, said that nearly all of the chain’s growers have already passed GAP audits.

Larger growers completed them soon after they became available, but the smaller ones didn’t have the same resources so the company worked with research universities to educate the smaller growers on the audits and food safety issues behind GAP recommendations.

Wegmans has also reimbursed them $ 400 to help offset costs associated with a completed and verified audit.

“The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act has an exemption for small farms, but we believe that rigorous food safety standards should apply to all farms we work with,” Pool said.

Food Safety News

Wegmans To Require Best Food Safety Practices From All Produce Growers

Wegmans has announced that as of Sept. 30, the grocery store chain will require all of its fresh produce growers to pass a Good Agricultural Practices inspection.

In 2008, the chain began phasing in the requirement for growers of high-risk crops like spinach and melons and has expanded the program in recent years. The inspection will now be required of all growers supplying the company.

Bill Pool, Wegmans’ food safety manager for produce, said that nearly all of the chain’s growers have already passed GAP audits.

Larger growers completed them soon after they became available, but the smaller ones didn’t have the same resources so the company worked with research universities to educate the smaller growers on the audits and food safety issues behind GAP recommendations.

Wegmans has also reimbursed them $ 400 to help offset costs associated with a completed and verified audit.

“The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act has an exemption for small farms, but we believe that rigorous food safety standards should apply to all farms we work with,” Pool said.

Food Safety News

Wegmans To Require Best Food Safety Practices From All Produce Growers

Wegmans has announced that as of Sept. 30, the grocery store chain will require all of its fresh produce growers to pass a Good Agricultural Practices inspection.

In 2008, the chain began phasing in the requirement for growers of high-risk crops like spinach and melons and has expanded the program in recent years. The inspection will now be required of all growers supplying the company.

Bill Pool, Wegmans’ food safety manager for produce, said that nearly all of the chain’s growers have already passed GAP audits.

Larger growers completed them soon after they became available, but the smaller ones didn’t have the same resources so the company worked with research universities to educate the smaller growers on the audits and food safety issues behind GAP recommendations.

Wegmans has also reimbursed them $ 400 to help offset costs associated with a completed and verified audit.

“The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act has an exemption for small farms, but we believe that rigorous food safety standards should apply to all farms we work with,” Pool said.

Food Safety News

Wegmans To Require Best Food Safety Practices From All Produce Growers

Wegmans has announced that as of Sept. 30, the grocery store chain will require all of its fresh produce growers to pass a Good Agricultural Practices inspection.

In 2008, the chain began phasing in the requirement for growers of high-risk crops like spinach and melons and has expanded the program in recent years. The inspection will now be required of all growers supplying the company.

Bill Pool, Wegmans’ food safety manager for produce, said that nearly all of the chain’s growers have already passed GAP audits.

Larger growers completed them soon after they became available, but the smaller ones didn’t have the same resources so the company worked with research universities to educate the smaller growers on the audits and food safety issues behind GAP recommendations.

Wegmans has also reimbursed them $ 400 to help offset costs associated with a completed and verified audit.

“The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act has an exemption for small farms, but we believe that rigorous food safety standards should apply to all farms we work with,” Pool said.

Food Safety News

Wegmans To Require Best Food Safety Practices From All Produce Growers

Wegmans has announced that as of Sept. 30, the grocery store chain will require all of its fresh produce growers to pass a Good Agricultural Practices inspection.

In 2008, the chain began phasing in the requirement for growers of high-risk crops like spinach and melons and has expanded the program in recent years. The inspection will now be required of all growers supplying the company.

Bill Pool, Wegmans’ food safety manager for produce, said that nearly all of the chain’s growers have already passed GAP audits.

Larger growers completed them soon after they became available, but the smaller ones didn’t have the same resources so the company worked with research universities to educate the smaller growers on the audits and food safety issues behind GAP recommendations.

Wegmans has also reimbursed them $ 400 to help offset costs associated with a completed and verified audit.

“The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act has an exemption for small farms, but we believe that rigorous food safety standards should apply to all farms we work with,” Pool said.

Food Safety News

Wegmans to Require GAP Audits for All Produce Suppliers

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Wegmans Food Markets will require all produce farms that supply its stores to pass a Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) inspection beginning Sept. 30.


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The retailer started mandating GAP inspections for high-risk crops like spinach and melons in 2008 and has phased in the requirement for other produce suppliers since. Most suppliers already have passed a GAP audit, Wegmans said in a statement.

“These audits are the best way we have to know that a grower is following practices to minimize the chance of pathogens getting into the food supply,” Bill Pool, food safety manager for produce, said in a press release. “We all want to keep earning our customers’ trust in the safety of the fresh foods we offer.”

Wegmans said several hundred growers have participated in the retailer’s food safety education training sessions since 2005.

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“Some of the smaller local growers we work with didn’t have the same resources, so it took them longer,” said Pool. “We’ve partnered with research universities and held training sessions to help educate smaller growers. Food safety concerns apply to farms of all sizes, and it doesn’t really matter if the farm is conventional or organic. The FDA [Food and Drug Administration] Food Safety Modernization Act has an exemption for small farms, but we believe that rigorous food safety standards should apply to all farms we work with.”

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Will the FDA’s new definition of “gluten-free” require you to alter the way you market products that presently make the voluntary claim?

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