Blog Archives

Hen housing trade offs: Food safety, workers and consumers

As it turns out, the food stores and restaurant chains promising to sell only cage-free eggs by some date in the future and egg producers have been doing their due diligence when it comes to the housing of laying hens.

Recently released findings of the Laying Hen Housing Research Project by the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply looks at the advantages and disadvantages of three types of hen housing in five areas:

  • chickensonrun_406x250

    Cage-free does not mean the same thing as free range.

    animal health and well-being;

  • food safety and quality;
  • environmental impact;
  • worker health and safety; and
  • food affordability.

The three housing types included in the study were conventional cages that are also called battery cages, enriched colony set ups, and cage-free aviary operations. The research was conducted over two years and involved two flocks living in type of each housing system.

Hens in all the housing systems shed Salmonella at similar rates and the prevalence of Salmonella associated with egg shells was low and did not differ between housing systems, according to the researchers.

The highest environmental microbial levels were found in the aviary system litter area and on the enriched system scratch pad. Aviary floor eggs also had significantly higher levels of microorganisms that other types of eggs sampled.

batterycage_406x250

This is an example of a battery cage egg operation.

Housing systems did not influence the rate of egg quality decline though 12 weeks of extended storage and U.S. egg quality standards and grades were found to be adequate for all three housing systems.

The coalition — led by McDonald’s, Cargill Kitchen Solutions, the American Humane Association, Michigan State University, the University of California-Davis and the Center for Food Integrity — also found housing types did not result in differences in the immune systems of hens or the effectiveness of their Salmonella vaccinations.

Aviary forage areas and scratch pads in enriched colonies had the highest levels of total aerobes and coliform. Aviary floor eggs had the highest total aerobes and coliform levels.

The researchers also found the dry belt manure removal system impeded the detention of Campylobacter spp.

“It’s important to note that management practices likely had the greatest influence on environmental and off shell microbiology,” said the researchers. They said egg quality was not effected by the housing type, but hen dietary nutritional changes did make a difference.

In findings outside the food safety concerns, the study found cage-free aviary eggs would cost consumers 36 percent more than conventional battery cages. Enriched systems would cost 14 percent more than conventional.

The higher costs are driven by higher feed, labor, pullet and capital costs.

Worker health and safety is another major downside for cage free systems. The study found workers were exposed to significantly higher concentrations of airborne particles and endotoxin — toxic components of bacteria — when working in aviary houses than in conventional or enriched houses.

Workers tasked with gathering eggs from floors also faced “ergonomic challenges” in addition to respiratory hazards.

The research focused on indoor only systems because those are the most commonly used in commercial egg production.

All housing types were studied at the same location, a farm in the Midwest. Funding came from the Center for Food Integrity, which provided about $ 3 million each for MSU and UC-Davis. The conventional housing accommodated about 200,000 hens while the aviary and enriched units each housed 50,000 hens.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

Food Safety News

Food Safety News Hands Santa Nice List Nominees for 2014

Merry Christmas!

Whether today finds you celebrating the birth of Christ, the Winter Solstice, or about to observe Kwanzaa, the one thing everyone can agree on is that we need more nice people in this world.

Food Safety News is pleased to present our sixth-annual nominations for Santa’s nice list. As we did during the past five years, we’ve compiled a list of people who we think would be missed from the world of food safety if they were not doing what they’re doing.

Without further delay, here’s our list of nominees and why we picked them. Santa, the rest is up to you!

Jeff Almer

Six years ago this Christmas morning, Jeff Almer of Savage, MN, found himself opening presents from his mom, who had died four days earlier on Dec. 21. Shirley Mae Almer, 72, who beat cancer twice, was killed by eating peanut butter.

Shirley Almer was one of nine people who died after being infected with a deadly Salmonella strain that had contaminated peanut butter products made in Blakely, GA, by the Peanut Corporation of America.

When the jury trial of peanut-industry executives began in Albany, GA, last July, it was a surprise that he was there representing the victims and serving as a point of contact for them. Government attorneys prosecuting the case also fulfilled their duty to communicate with victims by relying on Jeff.

The trial took almost two months, but it finally delivered the justice for which Jeff had waited so long. Guilty, guilty, and guilty went the verdicts on a total of 98 federal felony counts. Jeff then got the word out to his network of other victims and friends back in Minnesota.

We expect Jeff will be back in Albany for the sentencing of the peanut-industry executives, and, in the meantime, he’ll be keeping other victims updated on what’s going on.

Tom Vilsack

We’ve decided it was nice of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to stick around. We think his longevity is turning out to be a positive thing for food safety. Six years ago, there was enough to make people suspicious of the former Iowa governor. His total food-safety experience was exempting a popular Iowa restaurant from the food code section on cross-contamination.

As Secretary of Agriculture, however, his food-safety accomplishments are piling up, and he’s no longer judged merely by his statehouse record. His service continuing into President Obama’s second term is significant. No Secretary of Agriculture has “gone the distance” since former Minnesota Gov. Orville L. Freeman held the office for eight straight of the Kennedy-Johnson years.

In his year-end message, the only thing Vilsack says about food safety is that USDA answered 1.3-million questions on the subject from consumers. He should have talked about his poultry inspection reforms. But since he is staying around, maybe he’ll use the next opportunity to get that done.

Dana Dziadul

When the Wake Forest, NC, girl was just 3 years old, she ate cantaloupe that was contaminated with Salmonella Poona and became infected with the pathogen.

Today, 16-year-old Dana Dziadul has written a children’s book about food-safety practices and distributes it without charge. The young victim-turned-advocate wrote “Food Safety Superstar” to teach kids four safety practices: hand-washing, table and counter cleaning, keeping cold and fresh foods cold, and making sure food is thoroughly cooked before eating it.

Her work has gotten the attention of FDA, and the book got a release at the U.S. Capitol. Nice, Dana!

Mike Taylor

If he played major-league baseball, sportswriters would be saying he is already a first-ballot Hall-of-Fame candidate and he is still on the field.

When Bill Clinton was president 20 years ago, Michael R. Taylor was the young attorney who served both as administrator of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and Acting Under Secretary for Food Safety at USDA. His meat-industry reforms were the most significant in 100 years and included banning E. coli O157:H7 from beef products.

When Barack Obama became president in 2009, Taylor returned to government, first as senior advisor to the FDA commissioner. About a year later, he was named Deputy Commissioner for Foods, heading up the agency’s new Office of Foods.

This time, Taylor is reforming FDA’s regulation over food by implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). It puts him at the helm of the FDA team working on regulations to implement the new law. We have no doubt Taylor is going to get the job done by his open and flexible approach.

And that’s nice. (And, yes, he’s the same Mike Taylor who once worked for Monsanto.)

Sandra Eskin

The food-safety shop at The Pew Charitable Trusts, run by Sandra Eskin, continues to be an irreplaceable resource we rely upon, benefiting readers in ways that are not alway obvious. We don’t want to disclose any secrets, but sometimes, like when Congressional action is occurring in a dark tunnel somewhere, we’ve often turned to Sandra and her staff to shed some light on what’s happening.

Likewise, the work of her unit is also top-drawer. Whenever you hear that victims of foodborne illness are on Capitol Hill or at some statehouse telling their real-life stories, chances are it’s because Pew organized it.

Pew’s food-safety shop also benefits from the nonpartisan Pew Research Center’s expertise in surveys on social and demographic issues that are known for being thorough and spot-on. If you’re looking for a read that will get your brain going, check out the Pew Research Center’s “14 striking findings from 2014.”

Michele Simon

She is often on fire, especially if her target is a big corporation, but we’ve never heard anyone say that Michele Simon, JD, MPH, is not nice. A frequent contributing writer for Food Safety News, she had a breakout year of her own in 2014.

Simon is a public-health lawyer with a focus on food-industry marketing and lobbying tactics. She’s the author of “Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health,” and, “How to Fight Back,” and now she is also president of Eat Drink Politics, a watchdog consulting business.

The Oakland, CA, resident has been a food-industry writer/researcher since 1996. As an attorney, she also provides legal services to food and beverage companies (we presume the more enlightened ones) from Foscolo and Handel PLLC, The Food Law Firm, based in Sag Harbor, NY.

Amy Nordyke

A mother looking for a way of improving her children’s immune systems, she hit upon the idea of giving them raw (unpasteurized) milk to drink.

“I read that as long as I knew my farmers and knew that they took all the appropriate safety measures, my family would be safe from scary bacteria. So I jumped in and added it to our diet,” wrote Nordyke in a guest commentary published by Food Safety News last Oct. 14.

It started out well enough, even with the need to travel some to keep supplied. “We really liked raw milk,” she said. Then Seamus, her 18-month-old son, was sickened with bloody diarrhea that would quickly evolve into hemolytic uremic syndrome or HUS, a potentially life-threatening attack on his kidneys.

Seamus would recover, and Amy had the courage to tell her family’s story, which opened her up to comments from all sides challenging her decisions as a mother. But she hung in there and answered most of them one by one.

Nice, Amy. By sharing your thinking with other parents, you made a difference in a way that we don’t often see. Thank you!

Food Safety News

The Food Safety News Nominees for Santa’s 2014 Naughty List

How did the media, our professional associates in corporate and government information, Maine Governor Paul R. LePage, Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture Ben Brancel, Sheldon Lavin, POTUS (the president of the United States), and FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg end up on the Food Safety News 2014 naughty list?

It’s complicated. Make yourself an eggnog and sit back. (You may need something to stiffen that eggnog.) But here’s the view as we look down on food-safety news land and as we all get ready to enjoy Christmas, or just use this much-needed break to rest up.

We, the media

We, the media, produced the Ebola scare for the U.S. because it generated ratings and readers. We made up stories and sold them to magazine editors who were both gullible and lazy. We helped instigate riots when we presented information we knew was incomplete.

The Ebola scare in the U.S. was so intensely hot for awhile that it was the most searched-for word of 2014, according to Google. Would a foreign army landing on the beaches of the Gulf Coast have gotten more panicked coverage than one man sickened with Ebola got when he landed in Dallas?

The panic ended when no cases originated in the U.S., the White House named an Ebola czar and stopped talking about it, and someone made the merciful decision to stop CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden from doing anymore TV interviews.

When the scare ended, so did almost all coverage of the real Ebola crisis in Western Africa.

How far back this sent infectious disease reporting remains to be seen. Few American who got that hot shot of Ebola scare reporting were left with any useful understanding of the far greater risks we face on a routine basis, including the foodborne variety. The damage from all that sloppy reporting is outside our wheelhouse, but other than to put paper sacks over our heads, there is not much we can do about it. But we know naughty when we see it, and 2014 was a very bad year for the media. Sorry about that.

Our professional associates in corporate and government public information

We are talking here about the corporate public-relations people and the so-called public information officers (PIOs) we work with daily.

There are some exceptions, we might call them old-school types, who still know how to develop working relationships with reporters based on trust and professionalism. No Christmas presents are exchanged, but these are the folks who still have a human face.

Unfortunately, old-schoolers, including some who are in their 20s, are rare today. We’ve come to find that corporate public relations exists to create an illusion of openness for the company without any intention of ever delivering.

An even more disturbing trend is underway among the government PIOs, whose salaries are paid by the taxpayers. It used to be that PIOs would be driven by the information they could quickly get out from their agencies. The really good ones could be quoted by their bosses.

Today, PIOs are on a mission, which, again with rare exceptions, is to minimize or extinguish the information coming from their agency or department. Anyone doing real journalism is viewed as a threat, and your tax money is now going for those communications tools where the government has total control of the message and is able to meter the real information down to a trickle.

These are not new trends, but the feeling that they’ve reached a tipping point was very much part of the journalistic atmosphere in 2014.

Gov. Paul R. LePage

Moving on to a single individual, Maine Gov. Paul R. LePage falls on the naughty list for a very specific reason.

It’s not that, during 2014, the narrowly re-elected Republican governor let the Maine Center for Disease Control go without the leadership of a director or state epidemiologist, or even the agency’s weird decision to keep secret the name of a restaurant where someone worked while infected with Hepatitis A.

No, LePage falls on the naughty list because he really messed up what might have been a teachable moment regarding when a state’s top public health authority may, or may not, order someone held in quarantine. Everyone remembers the healthcare worker traveling home from West Africa, first to New Jersey and then home to Maine.

LePage took time out from his close campaign to put state police outside the woman’s Fort Kent house, and, for three days, he made one strong statement after another.

“Maine has established protocols for the monitoring of any individual who returns to Maine after traveling from West African regions that have been impacted by Ebola,” he said. “These protocols include monitoring the individual for 21 days after the last possible exposure to Ebola. Twenty-one days is the longest time it can take from the time a person is infected with Ebola until that person has symptoms of Ebola,” he continued, adding, “But we must be vigilant in our duty to protect the health and safety of all Mainers, as well as anyone who may come in contact with someone who has been exposed to Ebola.”

“We commend all healthcare workers for their humanitarian work in West Africa and other regions of the world, and we are proud that they are always ready to help others,” LePage went on. “Upon the healthcare workers’ return home, we will follow the guidelines set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control for medical workers who have been in contact with Ebola patients. Additionally, we will work with the healthcare worker to establish an in-home quarantine protocol to ensure there is no direct contact with other Mainers until the period for potential infection has passed. We will help make sure the healthcare worker has everything to make this time as comfortable as possible.”

The quarantined nurse went bicycle riding and hired an attorney, who went to a lower state court and got her sprung short of her 21-day quarantine period. LePage then just said he did everything he could, but the judge had lifted the restrictions and he’d abide by state law.

Maybe his campaign polling showed he was on the wrong side of the issue. Governors usually don’t accept lower-court decisions, and they can get their appeals heard all the way up to the state supreme court pretty fast.

State quarantine laws have not been used much in recent years, but, a generation or two ago, people commonly accepted orders to stay put until some infectious disease was brought under control. One thing is for certain: Such laws were never intended for use just to make a politician look tough during a campaign — or not.

Ben Brancel

Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture Ben Brancel, himself a dairy farmer for 22 years and who still runs Angus and Hereford cattle, took over the helm of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection in January 2011, six months before an outbreak from contaminated raw milk at a Racine elementary school. He makes his way on to our naughty list because he managed to keep the name of the dairy farm associated with that outbreak secret for 3.5 years.

Brancel, who now serves at the pleasure of WI Republican Gov. Scott Brown, is representative of those state departments of agriculture which sometimes put their mission to protect and promote their farm and ranch sectors ahead of food safety.

When state health departments or state agriculture departments attempt to hide such basic information — such as who, what, and why — from the public, they are only harming themselves by generating ever more reason to distrust government. Brancel certainly should know that. He also headed Wisconsin’s agriculture department under former WI Gov. Tommy Thompson.

After another school-related outbreak occurred in Wisconsin last September, causing numerous illnesses, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel decided it had had enough. The newspaper enlisted open-records advocates and used state law to force the release of the names of the involved raw-milk farms.

“It’s outrageous. The public has the right to this information. Who is the state of Wisconsin trying to protect, the public or bad operators?” said Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council.

Naughty, Mr. Secretary.

Sheldon Lavin

With $ 6 billion in worldwide revenue, OSI Group Chairman and CEO Sheldon Lavin could not have gone into 2014 on a higher note. He’d just been inducted into the Meat Industry Hall of Fame. He was introduced in November 2013 to the elite gathering at the Drake Hotel in Chicago by McDonald’s President Jeff Stratton, who spoke of Lavin’s connection to the “McFamily,”a reference to OSI’s meat-supplying relationship with McDonald’s going back to the legendary Ray Kroc.

Then 2014 dawned and brought an international food-safety crisis that landed Lavin on this year’s naughty list. That’s a bit of a step down from the Forbes 100 list of largest privately owned companies.

OSI Group in 2014 spanned the world, with the company supplying meat in China and Japan to McDonald’s, Yum! Brands’ KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants, and many others.

Then last summer, Dragon TV struck with a report that OSI’s Shanghai Husi Food Co. Ltd. was selling meat to these fast-food outlets that was past its expiration dates and that production facilities were far from sanitary.  The Chinese public reacts strongly to food-safety threats, especially where American companies are involved.

Almost immediately, contracts were cancelled and the Shanghai unit closed down except for staff to deal with the investigation. Levin was forced into crisis mode. OSI continues to have expansive operations in China, but the cleanup from that Dragon TV airing will continue well into 2015.

POTUS

More than a year ago, Dr. Elisabeth Hagen left government service, leaving open the position of Under Secretary for Food Safety at USDA. According to the law, the position shall be filled by presidential appointment and confirmed by the United States Senate.

Leaving this position open is not an option. And it’s enough to put President Barack Obama on the naughty list, no matter how meritorious his overall record on food safety.

When USDA was reorganized by Congress in 1993, the added currency of the agency’s top food-safety officer being a presidential appointment with Senate confirmation was recognized as being in the public interest.

Both the White House and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack have shown their flexibility and creativity in keep the food-safety shop in good hands. They’ve done it with an “Odd Couple” pairing. Brian Ronholm, who was Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety under Hagen, then named Acting Under Secretary after she departed, recently assumed the Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety title again.

Then, in late September, FSIS Administrator Al Almanza was also named USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety. In other words, there are now two deputies at the agency, but the president did not make an appointment to the top job.

Only POTUS (the president of the U.S.) can move this one off the dime. It would be unfortunate if his food-safety legacy is scuffed by leaving the appointment of the next Under Secretary for Food Safety to whoever follows him into the Oval Office. Mr. President, the clock is ticking, and you shall not pass this way again.

Margaret A. Hamburg

Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg. Perhaps you’ve heard of her. But, if you are involved in food safety, even if you attend a lot of the various conferences and seminars held throughout the year, chances are you’ve never laid eyes on the commissioner.

It’s not unusual for the FDA Commissioner to spend most of his or her time on the drug side of the house. Approval of drugs and medical devices is where the glamor and big bucks can be found once you leave public office. Besides, when you’ve got talent like Mike Taylor holding down the food side, why not just let it be?

Still, we’ve been watching from afar for a long time and could not help but notice the only published remarks Hamburg made before a food group in 2014 were to the World Spice Congress in Cochin, India, last February. To be fair, she did also speak in Washington, D.C., last February on the nutrition facts label.

We understand favoring one kid over the other. We’d just like to see her around campus sometime.

Food Safety News

Chinese Lawmakers Mull Tougher Penalties for Breaking Food Safety Laws

The bi-monthly legislative session of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, being held Monday through Saturday in Beijing, is considering a draft revision to China’s food safety laws that would include detention for offenders.

Anyone who adds inedible substances to foods could go to jail for up to 15 days, states the submitted bill language. Current law mandates fines and certificate revocation for such violations, so “administrative detention” (imposed by police without court proceedings) is considered a tough penalty in China.

Those suspected of committing more serious offenses would be subject to China’s criminal law. Lawmakers had argued in August that the current food safety law is not clear about what action should be considered a criminal offense.

The draft bill also adds punishments for adding expired material or additives to products. A high-profile event occurred back in July when Shanghai Husi Food Co., which supplied McDonald’s and KFC, was found to be using reprocessed expired meat in its products. Six of the company’s senior executives were subsequently arrested.

The fine for producers would be 10 to 20 times the total product value if worth more than 10,000 yuan ($ 1,600). For products worth less than that, the fine would be 50,000 to 100,000 yuan (approximately $ 8,000 to $ 16,000). Production certificates would be revoked for serious offenses.

The latest version of the bill also allows for the prosecution of anyone who leases out production sites and allows illegal activities on their property, but it exempts distributors from punishment if they can show they followed procedure and were unaware of suppliers’ practices.

The bill would also require producers to label products that contain any genetically modified ingredients. A member of the committee noted that the public needs more specific labeling information since general awareness of the issue is not as high as it could be.

“Labeling does not mean that genetically modified foods are unsafe, but the public might not see it that way,” said Xu Weigang.

Food Safety News

Chinese Lawmakers Mull Tougher Penalties for Breaking Food Safety Laws

The bi-monthly legislative session of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, being held Monday through Saturday in Beijing, is considering a draft revision to China’s food safety laws that would include detention for offenders.

Anyone who adds inedible substances to foods could go to jail for up to 15 days, states the submitted bill language. Current law mandates fines and certificate revocation for such violations, so “administrative detention” (imposed by police without court proceedings) is considered a tough penalty in China.

Those suspected of committing more serious offenses would be subject to China’s criminal law. Lawmakers had argued in August that the current food safety law is not clear about what action should be considered a criminal offense.

The draft bill also adds punishments for adding expired material or additives to products. A high-profile event occurred back in July when Shanghai Husi Food Co., which supplied McDonald’s and KFC, was found to be using reprocessed expired meat in its products. Six of the company’s senior executives were subsequently arrested.

The fine for producers would be 10 to 20 times the total product value if worth more than 10,000 yuan ($ 1,600). For products worth less than that, the fine would be 50,000 to 100,000 yuan (approximately $ 8,000 to $ 16,000). Production certificates would be revoked for serious offenses.

The latest version of the bill also allows for the prosecution of anyone who leases out production sites and allows illegal activities on their property, but it exempts distributors from punishment if they can show they followed procedure and were unaware of suppliers’ practices.

The bill would also require producers to label products that contain any genetically modified ingredients. A member of the committee noted that the public needs more specific labeling information since general awareness of the issue is not as high as it could be.

“Labeling does not mean that genetically modified foods are unsafe, but the public might not see it that way,” said Xu Weigang.

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

Recipe for Better Seafood Safety Opened to Public Comments

Seafood safety, legal fishing, and proper labeling of fish might all benefit from presidential task force recommendations now open to public comments. Scheduled for publication on Dec. 18 in the Federal Register, the “Recommendations of the Presidential Task Force on Combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing and Seafood Fraud” cover four general themes:

  • International: Combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud at the international level;
  • Enforcement: Strengthen enforcement and enhance enforcement tools to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud;
  • Partnerships: Create and expand partnerships with state and local governments, industry, and non-governmental organizations to identify and eliminate seafood fraud and the sale of IUU seafood in U.S. commerce, and,
  • Traceability: Create a risk-based traceability program to track seafood from harvest to entry into U.S. commerce to prevent entry of illegal product into the supply chain and better inform retailers and consumers.

“One of the biggest global threats to the sustainable management of the world’s fisheries is illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing,” states the task force report. “IUU fishing occurs both within nations’ waters and on the high seas and undermines the biological and economic sustainability of fisheries both domestically and abroad. IUU fishing in other parts of the world can cause problems in places where there are strong rules managing fisheries, such as the United States.”

The task force report was filed Tuesday by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), a unit of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which, in turn, is a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

President Obama established the task force in June at the global Our Ocean conference hosted by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Federal agencies were directed to work together for six months to develop recommendations to combat seafood fraud and illegal fishing.

“While not necessarily related to IUU fishing, seafood fraud (whereby fish is mislabeled with respect to its species or country of origin, quantity, or quality) has the potential to undermine the economic viability of U.S. and global fisheries as well as the ability of consumers to make informed purchasing choices, “ the task force report continued.

“Seafood fraud can occur at any point along the seafood supply chain from harvest to market. It can be driven by diverse motives, from covering up IUU fishing to avoiding duties, to increasing a profit margin through species substitution or falsification of the country of origin. While it is difficult to know the extent of seafood fraud, the frequency of seafood fraud incidents has received increasing attention in peer-reviewed journals, government reports and private sector reports. Seafood fraud threatens consumer confidence, serving to further undermine the reputation and market competitiveness of law-abiding fishers and businesses in the seafood industry,” it states.

Seafood fraud is all too common. In February 2013, Oceana, a U.S.-based group working to improve oceans worldwide, reported that 33 percent of more than 1,200 fish samples purchased at retail and tested were mislabeled, according to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines.

Fish fraud is typically practiced to fool consumers into paying more, not to necessarily put them at risk from a food safety perspective, although unsafe food can result from fraudulent practices. To help improve the situation, Oceana advocates for “full chain traceability” from “boat to plate.”

In a statement released Tuesday, Oceana said the presidential task force recommendations are “a real step forward in fighting illegal fishing and seafood fraud in the U.S. and around the world.” The group says the recommendations will help carry out the president’s “commitment to stop those crimes that provide profits to pirate fishermen, rip off consumers, and hinder ocean conservation.”

Beth Lowell, senior campaign director for Oceana, called the task force recommendations a “historic opportunity to ensure that the seafood sold in the U.S. is safe, legally caught and honestly labeled.”

The organization is calling on Obama to implement the recommendations “swiftly and to their fullest extent.”

Comments on the task force recommendations must be received within 30 days of their publication in the Federal Register. Instructions on how to comment electronically or by mail are on the second page of this document.

Food Safety News

Academia Has Most Food Safety Educators, Government Reaches Most Consumers

According to an analysis by the Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE), academia, public health agencies and schools are the most active sources of food safety education in the U.S.

PFSE commissioned North Carolina State University to conduct the survey to identify the organizations most involved with food safety education, the audiences they serve, and the channels they use most frequently to communicate safe food handling messages.

The organization released the results of its “environmental scan” at the 2014 Consumer Food Safety Education Conference on Thursday, Dec. 4.

“We were looking to identify as many of the robust sources of consumer education and outreach programming as we could in the United States because it’s very important to how the Partnership does its job and how we plan for the future,” said Shelley Feist, PFSE executive director.

The survey found that academia (including cooperative extension) is the biggest source for consumer educators, followed by public health services, Family and Consumer Sciences teachers and people involved with school food service, the federal government, and non-profit organizations.

One highlight of the research was that most food safety education is done in person. According to the survey, 90 percent of the people who consider themselves food safety educators use face-to-face meetings and presentations.

The next most popular channel was the web, which is used by 36 percent of educators — mostly in the federal government.

Other channels include television, print media, phones and poster displays.

While cooperative extension represents the majority of educators who come in contact with consumers, the survey found that the government reaches the most people on an annual basis (through programs such as Food Safe Families, Cook it Safe and Fight BAC!).

Across the three most active groups, children and families with children are the primary targets for education — important since half of all foodborne illness hospitalizations are children.

One disappointing finding was that half of educators reported that they were not monitoring their organizations’ impact or don’t know whether they are.

“This is an area we all intend to work together on improving,” Feist said.

PFSE plans to host a webinar in February to dig deeper into the data and discuss how to allocate resources in the future.

Food Safety News

From Wariness to Welcome: Engaging New England on Food Safety

(This blog post by Michael R. Taylor, FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, was published Dec. 4, 2014, on FDA Voice. It is the first of two posts about state listening sessions on updates to four FDA rules proposed to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act.)

What a difference a year makes.

In August last year, my team and I visited New England to talk about the rules proposed in 2013 to implement FSMA. We were met with skepticism and some genuine fear that our produce safety proposals did not take full account of local growing practices and would both disrupt traditional practices and deter innovation. These weren’t easy conversations, but they proved instrumental in FDA’s decision to propose — on Sept. 29, 2014 — updates, or supplements, to four of the proposed FSMA rules overseeing human and animal foods, both domestic and imported. These proposals include significant changes in the produce safety proposal and related elements of the preventive controls rules for food facilities.

Michael R. Taylor

We weren’t quite sure what to expect when we flew to Vermont on Sunday, Nov. 16, for a listening session the next day on the proposed supplemental rules. But the tenor of this visit was dramatically different, and very positive, beginning with the detour we took from our FSMA mission on Sunday to visit leading players in Vermont’s local food movement and artisanal cheese-making community.

Accompanied by Vermont Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross, we first toured the Vermont Food Venture Center (VFVC) in Hardwick, a regional food hub that leases space to small food businesses, providing kitchen equipment, food storage and business consultations. The goal of this modern, well-equipped facility, as Executive Director Sarah Waring explained, is to strengthen Vermont’s local food network and agricultural economy.

We then toured Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro, a renowned maker of artisanal cheeses. We were welcomed by brothers Mateo and Andy Kehler, who have taken an innovative approach to making cheese using both traditional methods and the latest technology. Their goal is to establish a network of local farms that supply the milk, with Jasper Hill aging and distributing the cheeses in an effort to support small dairy operations.

Our goal was to continue the dialogue we started this year with the cheese-making community to better understand, as food safety regulators, what goes into making artisanal cheeses. We learned a lot, tasted some great cheese, and left impressed by the community-oriented commitment at both VFVC and Jasper Hill Farm and by their use of top-tier tools to strengthen Vermont’s local food system.

When we arrived back in Montpelier on Sunday night, the setting was like something out of a postcard. This picturesque town, the nation’s smallest state capital, was dusted in the season’s first snow, which only accentuated its natural beauty and charm. We were happy to be there.

On Monday morning, we drove to the Vermont Law School in South Royalton for the FSMA listening session. This school, set in the rolling landscape of rural Vermont, is renowned for its commitment to sustainable environmental practices.

We saw familiar faces. Some had come to the meeting directly from their farm — through the snow. There were people from all over the Northeast — people who had participated in our series of listening sessions throughout New England in 2013. But this time, the response and dialogue were different. We heard acknowledgement and appreciation that we had addressed many of their concerns in our revised proposals by making the proposed rules more feasible while still meeting our public health goals.

Much of the discussion focused on implementation of the rules, and, interestingly, some of the concerns echoed those we had heard in a Nov. 6 listening session in Sacramento, CA, a place not only on the opposite side of the country but so different in its production systems. Many are finding the complexity of the proposed rules daunting, such as the technical underpinnings of the E. coli benchmark for water quality and the various boundary lines and exemptions that determine who is covered. We’ve always said that we wouldn’t take a “one size fits all” approach, which has contributed to making the rules more complicated. This only underscores our responsibility to explain the rules clearly and to provide education, technical assistance and guidance.

Secretary Ross said early and often that we need to educate before and as we regulate. And he’s right. I am struck anew by the importance of our partnerships with state leaders. Vermont’s Ross and California Secretary of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross have been invaluable in helping us develop these rules, as they will continue to be as we move toward implementation.

We were grateful for the participation in the listening session by food safety advocates Lauren Bush and Gabrielle Meunier, who each spoke of the devastating effects of foodborne illnesses. Lauren almost died after eating a salad contaminated by E. coli in 2006, and Gabrielle’s young son fought, and recovered from, a Salmonella infection in 2008 after eating tainted peanut butter crackers. Their stories underscore the underlying reason for the effort that so many are making to implement FSMA — to keep people safe.

Some participants expressed the view that even though we decided to defer, pending further study, our decision on an appropriate interval between the application of raw manure and harvest, some kind of interval is needed to protect crops from pathogens. Some suggested that the 90- to 120-day intervals set forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program be adopted as an interim measure.

Others inquired how the FSMA rules would affect them based on very individual scenarios. We asked them, and we’re asking everyone, to comment on the supplemental rules and include those scenarios for us to consider in drafting the final rules. We don’t want to create unintended harmful consequences.

The deadline for commenting on the four supplemental rules for Produce Safety, Preventive Controls for Human Food, Preventive Controls for Animal Food and Foreign Supplier Verification Programs is Dec. 15. Visit our FSMA page on fda.gov for more information.

Our Vermont trip was followed by state listening sessions in Georgia, North Carolina and Florida. I will be filing another FDA Voice blog on what we learned in those Southern states.

Food Safety News

Study: Most Would Accept Nanotechnology, Genetic Modification in Food for Nutrition, Safety

New research suggests that most consumers will accept nanotechnology or genetic modification technology in their food if it will enhance nutrition or improve safety.

Researchers at North Carolina State University and the University of Minnesota conducted a nationally representative survey of 1,117 U.S. consumers. It asked about their willingness to purchase genetically modified (GM) food and foods containing nanotech and qualifiers such as price, enhanced nutrition, improved taste and improved safety, and whether the food’s production had environmental benefits.

The results, published in the Journal of Agricultural Economics, showed that consumers are generally willing to pay more to avoid these technologies in their food, but that they are more accepting of it if there are health and safety benefits.

The researchers divided participants into four groups. The first were the “price-oriented,” who tend to base their decisions in grocery store aisles on the food’s cost regardless of the presence of the technologies. This group made up 23 percent of those surveyed.

The “technology averse” would buy GM or nanotech foods only if those products conveyed food safety benefits. They made up 19 percent of the participants.

“New technology rejecters” wouldn’t buy GM or nanotech foods under any circumstances and encompassed 18 percent of survey participants.

Forty percent of participants fit into the “benefit-oriented” group, which would buy GM or nanotech foods if they had enhanced nutrition or were safer.

“This tells us that GM or nanotech food products have greater potential to be viable in the marketplace if companies focus on developing products that have safety and nutrition benefits,” said Dr. Jennifer Kuzma, senior author of the paper on the research and co-director of the Genetic Engineering in Society Center at NC State. “From a policy standpoint, it also argues that GM and nanotech foods should be labeled, so that the technology rejecters can avoid them.”

Food Safety News

Nutrition, safety key to consumer acceptance of nanotech, genetic modification in foods

New research from North Carolina State University and the University of Minnesota shows that the majority of consumers will accept the presence of nanotechnology or genetic modification (GM) technology in foods — but only if the technology enhances the nutrition or improves the safety of the food.

“In general, people are willing to pay more to avoid GM or nanotech in foods, and people were more averse to GM tech than to nanotech,” says Dr. Jennifer Kuzma, senior author of a paper on the research and co-director of the Genetic Engineering in Society Center at NC State. “However, it’s not really that simple. There were some qualifiers, indicating that many people would be willing to buy GM or nanotech in foods if there were health or safety benefits.”

The researchers conducted a nationally representative survey of 1,117 U.S. consumers. Participants were asked to answer an array of questions that explored their willingness to purchase foods that contained GM tech and foods that contained nanotech. The questions also explored the price of the various foods and whether participants would buy foods that contained nanotech or GM tech if the foods had enhanced nutrition, improved taste, improved food safety, or if the production of the food had environmental benefits.

The researchers found that survey participants could be broken into four groups.

Eighteen percent of participants belonged to a group labeled the “new technology rejecters,” which would not by GM or nanotech foods under any circumstances. Nineteen percent of participants belonged to a group labeled the “technology averse,” which would buy GM or nanotech foods only if those products conveyed food safety benefits. Twenty-three percent of participants were “price oriented,” basing their shopping decisions primarily on the cost of the food — regardless of the presence of GM or nanotech. And 40 percent of participants were “benefit oriented,” meaning they would buy GM or nanotech foods if the foods had enhanced nutrition or food safety.

“This tells us that GM or nanotech food products have greater potential to be viable in the marketplace if companies focus on developing products that have safety and nutrition benefits — because a majority of consumers would be willing to buy those products,” Kuzma says.

“From a policy standpoint, it also argues that GM and nanotech foods should be labeled, so that the technology rejecters can avoid them,” Kuzma adds.

The paper, “Heterogeneous Consumer Preferences for Nanotechnology and Genetic-modification Technology in Food Products,” is published online in the Journal of Agricultural Economics. Lead author of the paper is Dr. Chengyuan Yue of the University of Minnesota. The paper was co-authored by Shuoli Zhao, a graduate student at UM. The research was supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by North Carolina State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Consumer Food Safety Education Conference to be Broadcast Live

The 2014 Consumer Food Safety Education Conference organized by the Partnership for Food Safety Education takes place in Arlington, VA, this week, but anyone unable to make the sessions in person can tune in to watch some of them live online.

On Thursday, Dec. 4, you can visit www.communitek.tv/CFSEC-1 for the following conference sessions:

Opening Plenary, Thursday, Dec. 4, from 9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. EST:

CDC’s Winnable Battles
Speaker: Patricia M. Griffin, Chief of Enteric Diseases Epidemiology, CDC
CDC’s Winnable Battles are public health priorities with large-scale impact on health and with known, effective strategies to address them. One of these battles is food safety. With clear priorities and targets and by working with partners, CDC can make significant progress in reducing the burden of foodborne diseases.

Supporting Consumers – Facilitating Behavior That Reduces Risky Behaviors
Speaker: Lynn Frewer, Professor of Food and Society, Newcastle University, UK
This presentation will focus on understanding and measuring societal and individual responses to risks and benefits associated with food.

Thursday, Dec. 4, from 3:15 – 4:30 p.m. EST:

Champions for Consumers: Educators in Action
In this salute to leaders who connect with consumers on food safety and health, we explore this decentralized and diverse education effort and share ideas for a future of greater levels of evaluation and effectiveness in consumer food safety education.

Presenters: Mary Pat Raimondi, VP of Strategic Policy & Partnerships, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; Hilary Shallo Thesmar, VP of Food Safety Programs, Food Marketing Institute; Steve Larsen, Director of Pork Safety, National Pork Board; Shelley Feist, Executive Director, Partnership for Food Safety Education, and Dana Dziadul, author, “Food Safety Superstar”

Panelists: Stan Hazan, Senior Director of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs, NSF International (moderator); Shelley Feist, Executive Director, Partnership for Food Safety Education; Maria Olmeda Malagon, Director of Food Safety Education, FSIS, USDA; Marjorie Davidson, Consumer Educator, CFSAN, FDA, and Christine Prue, Associate Director for Behavioral Science, CDC

On Friday, Dec. 5, you can visit www.communitek.tv/CFSEC-2 for the following sessions:

Friday, Dec. 5, from 8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. EST:

Meaningful Messengers
Speakers: Dana Pitts, Associate Director of Communications, Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, CDC, and Charlie Arnot, Chief Executive Officer, The Center for Food Integrity
When food and food safety are in the news, whom do consumers want to hear from? What scientific and technical information gets through the clutter? This session will provide data and advice on how health and food safety educators can be most effective in engaging consumers with preventive health information.

Friday, Dec. 5, from 1:15 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. EST:

Call to Action: Working Together to Prevent Foodborne Illness
Speakers: Michael Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for foods, FDA, and Brian Ronholm, Acting Under Secretary for Food Safety, USDA
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) share primary responsibility for overseeing the safety of the U.S. food supply. The agencies routinely collaborate to ensure the safety of foods along the farm-to-table continuum. In this session, attendees will hear from USDA FSIS and FDA leadership about how they are working together — and with others — to meet the food safety goals of Healthy People 2020.

Food Safety News

Don’t Rinse Your Turkey and Other Thanksgiving Safety Tips

Despite what Julia Child might have told us during the height of her authority on all things related to home cooking, we should not be washing our raw poultry — especially not in the kitchen sink.

To ensure your family enjoys Thanksgiving without any gastrointestinal interruptions, Food Safety News has compiled a guide to Thanksgiving food safety, starting with one of the most important tips of all:

Don’t rinse your turkey

Rinsing raw poultry isn’t a very effective way to clean bacteria from your meal, but it is a great way to spread bacteria around your kitchen. Washing poultry aerosolizes bacteria and splashes it around onto anything within several feet of your sink.

Let the cooking process taking care of the bacteria. Plus, from a cooking perspective, you’ll want the turkey skin dry to be crispy when cooked.

Stay smart about preparing the turkey

Never thaw a turkey at room temperature. If you’ve purchased a frozen turkey, thaw it in the refrigerator or in a pan of cold water, changing out the water as often as every half-hour. Start the thawing process at least 24 hours before you plan to start cooking.

If you bought a fresh turkey, keep it in the fridge until it’s time to cook.

If you decide to cook the turkey while it’s still frozen, you’ll need to cook it for 50 percent longer than the advised time.

Avoid cross-contamination by using a separate cutting board and knife for trimming the turkey. And be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling the turkey and before touching anything else in the kitchen.

Turkey cooking times

The bigger the bird, the longer it’ll need to cook. Here are approximate cook times for turkey in an oven at 325 degrees F:

Unstuffed

4 to 6 lb. breast …… 1.5 to 2.5 hours
6 to 8 lb. breast …… 2.5 to 3.5 hours
8 to 12 lbs. ………….. 2.75 to 3 hours
12 to 14 lbs. …………  3 to 3.75 hours
14 to 18 lbs. …………. 3.75 to 4.5 hours
18 to 20 lbs. ………… 4.25 to 4.5 hours
20 to 24 lbs. ………… 4.5 to 5 hours

Stuffed

8 to 12 lbs. …… 3 to 3.5 hours
12 to 14 lbs. …… 3.5 to 4 hours
14 to 18 lbs. …… 4 to 4.5 hours
18 to 20 lbs. …… 4.25 to 4.75 hours
20 to 24 lbs. …… 4.75 to 5.25 hours

You’ll have to check for yourself to ensure that the bird is fully cooked in this amount of time.

Turkey is safe to eat once it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature at the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.

Trust a good thermometer over your eyes. Meat can appear cooked even when it hasn’t reached 165 degrees F, and it can sometimes appear pink well past that temperature.

Cook stuffing just as thoroughly

If you’re stuffing your turkey, combine the ingredients and perform the stuffing just before you plan to stick the bird in the oven. Aim for about 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound of turkey.

Because it comes into contact with raw poultry, stuffing also needs to be cooked to a minimum 165 degrees F. If the turkey is done but the stuffing isn’t, remove the stuffing and bake it separately in a greased casserole dish.

Store leftovers promptly

Don’t leave dishes sitting at room temperature for more than two hours after taking them out of the oven or refrigerator. Refrigerate any foods made with perishable ingredients such as meat, milk or eggs. This includes pumpkin pie.

When storing leftovers, portion them out into shallow dishes so that they cool rapidly in the refrigerator or freezer. Cut breast meat into smaller pieces. Wings and legs can be left whole.

When thawing frozen leftovers, use the refrigerator, cold water, or the microwave, rather than leaving frozen food out on the counter.

Food safety resources

For more information about how to safely handle, serve and store your holiday food, call 1-888-SAFEFOOD (FDA), 1-888-MPHOTLINE (USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline), email [email protected], or visit AskKaren.gov.

For some statistics, history, and FAQs about our native bird, visit the National Turkey Federation website.

Food Safety News

Don’t Rinse Your Turkey and Other Thanksgiving Safety Tips

Despite what Julia Child might have told us during the height of her authority on all things related to home cooking, we should not be washing our raw poultry — especially not in the kitchen sink.

To ensure your family enjoys Thanksgiving without any gastrointestinal interruptions, Food Safety News has compiled a guide to Thanksgiving food safety, starting with one of the most important tips of all:

Don’t rinse your turkey

Rinsing raw poultry isn’t a very effective way to clean bacteria from your meal, but it is a great way to spread bacteria around your kitchen. Washing poultry aerosolizes bacteria and splashes it around onto anything within several feet of your sink.

Let the cooking process taking care of the bacteria. Plus, from a cooking perspective, you’ll want the turkey skin dry to be crispy when cooked.

Stay smart about preparing the turkey

Never thaw a turkey at room temperature. If you’ve purchased a frozen turkey, thaw it in the refrigerator or in a pan of cold water, changing out the water as often as every half-hour. Start the thawing process at least 24 hours before you plan to start cooking.

If you bought a fresh turkey, keep it in the fridge until it’s time to cook.

If you decide to cook the turkey while it’s still frozen, you’ll need to cook it for 50 percent longer than the advised time.

Avoid cross-contamination by using a separate cutting board and knife for trimming the turkey. And be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling the turkey and before touching anything else in the kitchen.

Turkey cooking times

The bigger the bird, the longer it’ll need to cook. Here are approximate cook times for turkey in an oven at 325 degrees F:

Unstuffed

4 to 6 lb. breast …… 1.5 to 2.5 hours
6 to 8 lb. breast …… 2.5 to 3.5 hours
8 to 12 lbs. ………….. 2.75 to 3 hours
12 to 14 lbs. …………  3 to 3.75 hours
14 to 18 lbs. …………. 3.75 to 4.5 hours
18 to 20 lbs. ………… 4.25 to 4.5 hours
20 to 24 lbs. ………… 4.5 to 5 hours

Stuffed

8 to 12 lbs. …… 3 to 3.5 hours
12 to 14 lbs. …… 3.5 to 4 hours
14 to 18 lbs. …… 4 to 4.5 hours
18 to 20 lbs. …… 4.25 to 4.75 hours
20 to 24 lbs. …… 4.75 to 5.25 hours

You’ll have to check for yourself to ensure that the bird is fully cooked in this amount of time.

Turkey is safe to eat once it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature at the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.

Trust a good thermometer over your eyes. Meat can appear cooked even when it hasn’t reached 165 degrees F, and it can sometimes appear pink well past that temperature.

Cook stuffing just as thoroughly

If you’re stuffing your turkey, combine the ingredients and perform the stuffing just before you plan to stick the bird in the oven. Aim for about 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound of turkey.

Because it comes into contact with raw poultry, stuffing also needs to be cooked to a minimum 165 degrees F. If the turkey is done but the stuffing isn’t, remove the stuffing and bake it separately in a greased casserole dish.

Store leftovers promptly

Don’t leave dishes sitting at room temperature for more than two hours after taking them out of the oven or refrigerator. Refrigerate any foods made with perishable ingredients such as meat, milk or eggs. This includes pumpkin pie.

When storing leftovers, portion them out into shallow dishes so that they cool rapidly in the refrigerator or freezer. Cut breast meat into smaller pieces. Wings and legs can be left whole.

When thawing frozen leftovers, use the refrigerator, cold water, or the microwave, rather than leaving frozen food out on the counter.

Food safety resources

For more information about how to safely handle, serve and store your holiday food, call 1-888-SAFEFOOD (FDA), 1-888-MPHOTLINE (USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline), email [email protected], or visit AskKaren.gov.

For some statistics, history, and FAQs about our native bird, visit the National Turkey Federation website.

Food Safety News

Food Safety Issues Making Their Way to 2015 Legislative Agendas

Legislators and the rest of the policy crowd that hang out in the state capitols are again coming in for the unsolicited advice from the national editorial writers who want to influence processes on a variety of topics, including food safety.

The Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel is warning policy makers against turning the clock back “to the 1020s” when it comes to making raw milk more widely available.

In an editorial published Nov. 18, the newspaper points to the potluck dinner this September for a western Wisconsin football team that left 38 attendees sickened from the consumption of raw milk.

“Wisconsin has been at the heart of a heated debate over raw milk,” the editorial says. “The state allows limited incidental sales, but generally prohibits the sale of unpasteurized milk, which may carry bacteria that causes food-borne illnesses. But some advocates want broader access to unprocessed milk, arguing that raw milk contains beneficial bacteria that they claim are killed by pasteurization—when milk is heated to kill pathogens.”

In the four years since former Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed a bill allowing commercial sales of raw milk in the state, there has rarely been a time when someone in the Legislature has not been ready with another bill. However, a broad coalition from Wisconsin’s $ 30 billion pasteurized dairy industry and the state’s public health advocates have held off the raw milk advocates in Madison.

It’s just one of the sort of food safety policy debates that could erupt once most state legislative bodies assemble early in 2015. Nebraska’s Lincoln Star newspaper delivered a Nov. 19 message clearly intended for the state’s Unicameral. It says Nebraska’s “modern agriculture needs to do a better job of presenting itself to the world.”

“Too often, the reaction in farm country has been to try to shut out consumers, using tactics like ‘ag-gag’ laws with new criminal penalties for crusaders to trespass on our farmland,” the Star’s editorial writers say.

Last week’s state house elections saw the Republicans “run the table,” according to the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures. When the nation’s legislative bodies are called into session in 2015, there will be at least 952 more Republicans holding power in those state houses than Democrats.

According to NCSL, Republicans took away the majorities in 11 legislative chambers previously held by the Democrats. These include the: Colorado Senate, Maine Senate, Minnesota House, Nevada Assembly, Nevada Senate, New Hampshire House, New York Senate, New Mexico House, Washington State Senate, West Virginia House and West Virginia House.

When, after the 2010 elections, the GOP’s lead in legislative seats topped 600, it was considered historic. With some counting still occurring, Republicans are certain of a pickup in the 350-seat range. They have not had that kind of dominance since the 1920s.

The GOP holds both the House and Senate in 30 states, and holds a single legislative chamber in eight other states. Democrats hold both bodies in 11 states, and split with the GOP the opposite chambers in those other eight states.

Republicans picked up the Governor’s mansions in Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts, but lost Pennsylvania and Alaska for a net pickup of two, taking the number of GOP chief executives to 31, the most by any party in 16 years.

The count leaves 18 Democratic governors and one independent. And one other measure—Republicans control it all, both legislative chambers and the governor’s office in 23 states, compared to just seven for the Democrats.

Since 2010, a couple dozen bills have been introduced attempting to impose penalties for taking pictures or making videos of agricultural facilities without permission. About handful of states have adopted them, and they’ve come to be known as ‘ag-gag’ laws for their effect.

At a University of Nebraska –Lincoln policy conference held ahead of 2015 session of the state’s unicameral, the only one of its kind in the country, the Star said the food and agriculture sectors were told they’d do best for their brands if they listened to people and remained transparent.

And in Wisconsin, the Journal-Sentinel said the state’s problem is not that raw milk is not sold commercially, it is that when the on-the-farm products make 26 people sick and sends ten to area hospitals, the Department of Agriculture sill is not required to tell the public the name of the supplier.

The Star reported the Nebraska policy conference addressed “truths about science, emotion, the media, and food that should be taken to heart at farm country.”

Food Safety News

Food Safety Issues Making Their Way to 2015 Legislative Agendas

Legislators and the rest of the policy crowd that hang out in the state capitols are again coming in for the unsolicited advice from the national editorial writers who want to influence processes on a variety of topics, including food safety.

The Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel is warning policy makers against turning the clock back “to the 1020s” when it comes to making raw milk more widely available.

In an editorial published Nov. 18, the newspaper points to the potluck dinner this September for a western Wisconsin football team that left 38 attendees sickened from the consumption of raw milk.

“Wisconsin has been at the heart of a heated debate over raw milk,” the editorial says. “The state allows limited incidental sales, but generally prohibits the sale of unpasteurized milk, which may carry bacteria that causes food-borne illnesses. But some advocates want broader access to unprocessed milk, arguing that raw milk contains beneficial bacteria that they claim are killed by pasteurization—when milk is heated to kill pathogens.”

In the four years since former Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed a bill allowing commercial sales of raw milk in the state, there has rarely been a time when someone in the Legislature has not been ready with another bill. However, a broad coalition from Wisconsin’s $ 30 billion pasteurized dairy industry and the state’s public health advocates have held off the raw milk advocates in Madison.

It’s just one of the sort of food safety policy debates that could erupt once most state legislative bodies assemble early in 2015. Nebraska’s Lincoln Star newspaper delivered a Nov. 19 message clearly intended for the state’s Unicameral. It says Nebraska’s “modern agriculture needs to do a better job of presenting itself to the world.”

“Too often, the reaction in farm country has been to try to shut out consumers, using tactics like ‘ag-gag’ laws with new criminal penalties for crusaders to trespass on our farmland,” the Star’s editorial writers say.

Last week’s state house elections saw the Republicans “run the table,” according to the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures. When the nation’s legislative bodies are called into session in 2015, there will be at least 952 more Republicans holding power in those state houses than Democrats.

According to NCSL, Republicans took away the majorities in 11 legislative chambers previously held by the Democrats. These include the: Colorado Senate, Maine Senate, Minnesota House, Nevada Assembly, Nevada Senate, New Hampshire House, New York Senate, New Mexico House, Washington State Senate, West Virginia House and West Virginia House.

When, after the 2010 elections, the GOP’s lead in legislative seats topped 600, it was considered historic. With some counting still occurring, Republicans are certain of a pickup in the 350-seat range. They have not had that kind of dominance since the 1920s.

The GOP holds both the House and Senate in 30 states, and holds a single legislative chamber in eight other states. Democrats hold both bodies in 11 states, and split with the GOP the opposite chambers in those other eight states.

Republicans picked up the Governor’s mansions in Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts, but lost Pennsylvania and Alaska for a net pickup of two, taking the number of GOP chief executives to 31, the most by any party in 16 years.

The count leaves 18 Democratic governors and one independent. And one other measure—Republicans control it all, both legislative chambers and the governor’s office in 23 states, compared to just seven for the Democrats.

Since 2010, a couple dozen bills have been introduced attempting to impose penalties for taking pictures or making videos of agricultural facilities without permission. About handful of states have adopted them, and they’ve come to be known as ‘ag-gag’ laws for their effect.

At a University of Nebraska –Lincoln policy conference held ahead of 2015 session of the state’s unicameral, the only one of its kind in the country, the Star said the food and agriculture sectors were told they’d do best for their brands if they listened to people and remained transparent.

And in Wisconsin, the Journal-Sentinel said the state’s problem is not that raw milk is not sold commercially, it is that when the on-the-farm products make 26 people sick and sends ten to area hospitals, the Department of Agriculture sill is not required to tell the public the name of the supplier.

The Star reported the Nebraska policy conference addressed “truths about science, emotion, the media, and food that should be taken to heart at farm country.”

Food Safety News

Food Safety Issues Making Their Way to 2015 Legislative Agendas

Legislators and the rest of the policy crowd that hang out in the state capitols are again coming in for the unsolicited advice from the national editorial writers who want to influence processes on a variety of topics, including food safety.

The Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel is warning policy makers against turning the clock back “to the 1020s” when it comes to making raw milk more widely available.

In an editorial published Nov. 18, the newspaper points to the potluck dinner this September for a western Wisconsin football team that left 38 attendees sickened from the consumption of raw milk.

“Wisconsin has been at the heart of a heated debate over raw milk,” the editorial says. “The state allows limited incidental sales, but generally prohibits the sale of unpasteurized milk, which may carry bacteria that causes food-borne illnesses. But some advocates want broader access to unprocessed milk, arguing that raw milk contains beneficial bacteria that they claim are killed by pasteurization—when milk is heated to kill pathogens.”

In the four years since former Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed a bill allowing commercial sales of raw milk in the state, there has rarely been a time when someone in the Legislature has not been ready with another bill. However, a broad coalition from Wisconsin’s $ 30 billion pasteurized dairy industry and the state’s public health advocates have held off the raw milk advocates in Madison.

It’s just one of the sort of food safety policy debates that could erupt once most state legislative bodies assemble early in 2015. Nebraska’s Lincoln Star newspaper delivered a Nov. 19 message clearly intended for the state’s Unicameral. It says Nebraska’s “modern agriculture needs to do a better job of presenting itself to the world.”

“Too often, the reaction in farm country has been to try to shut out consumers, using tactics like ‘ag-gag’ laws with new criminal penalties for crusaders to trespass on our farmland,” the Star’s editorial writers say.

Last week’s state house elections saw the Republicans “run the table,” according to the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures. When the nation’s legislative bodies are called into session in 2015, there will be at least 952 more Republicans holding power in those state houses than Democrats.

According to NCSL, Republicans took away the majorities in 11 legislative chambers previously held by the Democrats. These include the: Colorado Senate, Maine Senate, Minnesota House, Nevada Assembly, Nevada Senate, New Hampshire House, New York Senate, New Mexico House, Washington State Senate, West Virginia House and West Virginia House.

When, after the 2010 elections, the GOP’s lead in legislative seats topped 600, it was considered historic. With some counting still occurring, Republicans are certain of a pickup in the 350-seat range. They have not had that kind of dominance since the 1920s.

The GOP holds both the House and Senate in 30 states, and holds a single legislative chamber in eight other states. Democrats hold both bodies in 11 states, and split with the GOP the opposite chambers in those other eight states.

Republicans picked up the Governor’s mansions in Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts, but lost Pennsylvania and Alaska for a net pickup of two, taking the number of GOP chief executives to 31, the most by any party in 16 years.

The count leaves 18 Democratic governors and one independent. And one other measure—Republicans control it all, both legislative chambers and the governor’s office in 23 states, compared to just seven for the Democrats.

Since 2010, a couple dozen bills have been introduced attempting to impose penalties for taking pictures or making videos of agricultural facilities without permission. About handful of states have adopted them, and they’ve come to be known as ‘ag-gag’ laws for their effect.

At a University of Nebraska –Lincoln policy conference held ahead of 2015 session of the state’s unicameral, the only one of its kind in the country, the Star said the food and agriculture sectors were told they’d do best for their brands if they listened to people and remained transparent.

And in Wisconsin, the Journal-Sentinel said the state’s problem is not that raw milk is not sold commercially, it is that when the on-the-farm products make 26 people sick and sends ten to area hospitals, the Department of Agriculture sill is not required to tell the public the name of the supplier.

The Star reported the Nebraska policy conference addressed “truths about science, emotion, the media, and food that should be taken to heart at farm country.”

Food Safety News

Food Safety Issues Making Their Way to 2015 Legislative Agendas

Legislators and the rest of the policy crowd that hang out in the state capitols are again coming in for the unsolicited advice from the national editorial writers who want to influence processes on a variety of topics, including food safety.

The Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel is warning policy makers against turning the clock back “to the 1020s” when it comes to making raw milk more widely available.

In an editorial published Nov. 18, the newspaper points to the potluck dinner this September for a western Wisconsin football team that left 38 attendees sickened from the consumption of raw milk.

“Wisconsin has been at the heart of a heated debate over raw milk,” the editorial says. “The state allows limited incidental sales, but generally prohibits the sale of unpasteurized milk, which may carry bacteria that causes food-borne illnesses. But some advocates want broader access to unprocessed milk, arguing that raw milk contains beneficial bacteria that they claim are killed by pasteurization—when milk is heated to kill pathogens.”

In the four years since former Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed a bill allowing commercial sales of raw milk in the state, there has rarely been a time when someone in the Legislature has not been ready with another bill. However, a broad coalition from Wisconsin’s $ 30 billion pasteurized dairy industry and the state’s public health advocates have held off the raw milk advocates in Madison.

It’s just one of the sort of food safety policy debates that could erupt once most state legislative bodies assemble early in 2015. Nebraska’s Lincoln Star newspaper delivered a Nov. 19 message clearly intended for the state’s Unicameral. It says Nebraska’s “modern agriculture needs to do a better job of presenting itself to the world.”

“Too often, the reaction in farm country has been to try to shut out consumers, using tactics like ‘ag-gag’ laws with new criminal penalties for crusaders to trespass on our farmland,” the Star’s editorial writers say.

Last week’s state house elections saw the Republicans “run the table,” according to the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures. When the nation’s legislative bodies are called into session in 2015, there will be at least 952 more Republicans holding power in those state houses than Democrats.

According to NCSL, Republicans took away the majorities in 11 legislative chambers previously held by the Democrats. These include the: Colorado Senate, Maine Senate, Minnesota House, Nevada Assembly, Nevada Senate, New Hampshire House, New York Senate, New Mexico House, Washington State Senate, West Virginia House and West Virginia House.

When, after the 2010 elections, the GOP’s lead in legislative seats topped 600, it was considered historic. With some counting still occurring, Republicans are certain of a pickup in the 350-seat range. They have not had that kind of dominance since the 1920s.

The GOP holds both the House and Senate in 30 states, and holds a single legislative chamber in eight other states. Democrats hold both bodies in 11 states, and split with the GOP the opposite chambers in those other eight states.

Republicans picked up the Governor’s mansions in Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts, but lost Pennsylvania and Alaska for a net pickup of two, taking the number of GOP chief executives to 31, the most by any party in 16 years.

The count leaves 18 Democratic governors and one independent. And one other measure—Republicans control it all, both legislative chambers and the governor’s office in 23 states, compared to just seven for the Democrats.

Since 2010, a couple dozen bills have been introduced attempting to impose penalties for taking pictures or making videos of agricultural facilities without permission. About handful of states have adopted them, and they’ve come to be known as ‘ag-gag’ laws for their effect.

At a University of Nebraska –Lincoln policy conference held ahead of 2015 session of the state’s unicameral, the only one of its kind in the country, the Star said the food and agriculture sectors were told they’d do best for their brands if they listened to people and remained transparent.

And in Wisconsin, the Journal-Sentinel said the state’s problem is not that raw milk is not sold commercially, it is that when the on-the-farm products make 26 people sick and sends ten to area hospitals, the Department of Agriculture sill is not required to tell the public the name of the supplier.

The Star reported the Nebraska policy conference addressed “truths about science, emotion, the media, and food that should be taken to heart at farm country.”

Food Safety News

Letter From The Editor: KC’s Food Safety Mess in Pro Sports

It wasn’t just the bats of the Kansas City Royals that expired by Game 7 of the World Series at Kauffman Stadium in KC. So too had much of the food, some of which was served at unsafe temperatures and in the presence of cockroaches and mouse feces.

Who says so? Jon Costa, the food safety manger for both the side-by-side Kauffman and Arrowhead Stadiums. The two are among 30 professional sports stadiums where Aramark, Costa’s employer, provides food services. Costa was put on administrative leave by Aramark after turning evidence of the significant food safety risks over to the local health department and the media — most importantly ESPN’s Outside the Lines (OTL) unit.

The day after KC’s Chiefs defeated the New York Jets on Nov. 2, the city’s health department arrived at the stadiums for a surprise inspection, finding 37 critical violations in 20 out of 26 concession areas.

Aramark called Costa, who they had hired away from the city health department two and a half years ago, a “disgruntled” employee. Problems at the two stadiums surfaced well before Costa was hired to manage food safety for Aramark at Kaufman and Arrowhead.

In 2010, OTL reported that 62 percent of Kauffman’s concessions, and 56 percent of Arrowhead’s had recent critical food safety violations. They were included in a review of food safety violations at all 107 North American venues for professional football, hockey, baseball and basketball.

With that history, however, Costa was unable to persuade Aramark and the Royals to make corrections prior to the World Series in practices that put food safety in jeopardy and that he called “habitual.”

And, after the Royals lost in Game 7 to the San Francisco Giants, they apparently just shut off the lights and locked the doors. Leftover food and a lack of cleaning turned Kauffman into a winter home for rodents and insects.

While nothing more was scheduled for Kauffman until spring, the Seattle Seahawks play the KC Chiefs today at Arrowhead. Aramark brought in the usual third-party auditing service and claims all issues from the Nov. 3rd inspection have been resolved — a finding confirmed by the city health department’s re-inspection work.

Naser Jouhari, division manager for the city health department, says what his inspectors found at the two stadiums was “shocking.” He also says Costa knows what he is talking about.

When Costa decided to report the conditions at the two stadiums to the health department and the media, he did so with extensive photographic and other evidence. Costa probably expected he’d be fired.

For its part, Aramark appears to be as tone-deaf about food safety as are the KC sports teams. Tod MacKenzie, the company’s communications and public affairs vice president, put the problems back on Costa, saying he was “personally responsible and entrusted with managing food safety at the locations in question.”

The evidence points in a different direction — line managers not required to respond to Costa’s requests.

Or the way Costa put it on camera to OTL: “When we lose control over hygienic practices and we also combine that with poor temperature control — that could be a catastrophe. That is a recipe for foodborne illness… It’s very likely temperatures are abused at every game. Every game.”

When you add that to mouse dung in the pizza trays and cockroaches in vending areas, and piled high junk obstructing workers from hand-washing sinks, you’ve got the sort of mess that is a recipe for a food safety disaster.

This is clearly a problem in KC that is not being taken seriously. Marc Bruno, chief operating officer for Aramark Sports and Entertainment, does not inspire confidence when he refers to critical violations as “just allegations at this point.

No, Mr. Bruno, critical violations are imminent health threats that must be corrected immediately. They are not “just allegations.”

And unless professional sports, at the Commissioner level, begins to take food safety at these stadiums seriously, there is going to be the kind of killer outbreak that likely was keeping Costa awake at night.

The action Costa has taken in KC is the kind that merits whistleblower protection. Let’s hope the new Food Safety Modernization Act or an appropriate state law provides him adequate protection against a company whose motivation has now been seriously called into question.

The owners of the Royals and Chiefs, as well as the MLB and NFL commissioners, can take comfort in fans’ mocking comments concerning the food safety at Kaufmann and Arrowhead.

Like this one: “Who got sick?” But make 20 or 200 or 2,000 of these same fans ill with something your food service sold them, and they will turn on you faster than Madison Bumgarner mowing down all those hapless Royals hitters in Game 7.

In the meantime, I’d make sure your contracts with Aramark makes them liable for any illnesses or deaths caused by their food. Just saying.   Some contracts are written that way.

Food Safety News