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Connecticut Public Health Agencies Won’t Name Restaurant in Salmonella Outbreak

When John Snow traced the London cholera epidemic of 1854 to a local well, he removed the pump handle so all would know the source of the fatal disease when it ceased to plague the city. Removing that pump handle is still remembered today because it represented public health’s first major victory.

But it seems this act would be illegal today in Connecticut. Here’s the story:

Both the Orange, CT Health Department and the Connecticut Department of Public Health have declined to tell NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters, a local affiliate, if a closed restaurant was responsible for sickening a local resident with Salmonella.

Karan Niazi blames three slices of chicken pizza he consumed at Oregano Joe’s on Boston Post Road in Orange for his illness, which included a 104-degree fever, extreme diarrhea and vomiting. He spent almost a week in the Intensive Care Unit at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and was told by one of his doctors he was suffering from a severe case of Salmonella.

Another patient at the hospital with the same Salmonella symptoms reportedly also ate at Oregano Joe’s.

NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters reports that the restaurant was closed twice by the Orange Health Department, once on May 30 for one day and then again on June 20 for five weeks. However, the local health department won’t say why it closed the establishment and won’t say if there is a link between the illnesses and the restaurant closures.

Both the local and state health departments say state law prevents them from sharing the information they have with the public. The Troubleshooters investigation did find one local police report made when the restaurant owner needed access to the business while it was closed. The local police report quoted the owner as saying his eatery was shut down ‘due to multiple confirmed cases of salmonella poisoning.’”

Niazi also filed a lawsuit, and the TV report says court documents show Oregano’s was closed down for “falsified employee stool samples” during the investigation.

Law Professor John Thomas, who teaches healthcare law at Quinnipiac University, says officials are “completely wrong” in the way they are interrupting state statutes on privacy and confidentiality of records.

“I believe that both the Orange town health department, its lawyers, and the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission (FOIC) have erred in their interpretation of the governing statute,” Professor Thomas told Food Safety News.  ”As the Connecticut Supreme Court observed in the 1999 in the definitive case of Babcock v. Bridgeport hospital, the exemption from public disclosure only applies to ‘the designated materials…that are generated primarily for the purpose of the study of morbidity and mortality, undertaken specifically for the purpose of reducing the incidence of patient deaths.’

“The City of Orange data at issue in this case were not voiced in the context of a study for ‘the purpose of the study of morbidity and mortality.’ As a result, any claims that the records at issue are confidential are mistaken,” Thomas says.  He says it “remains a mystery” as to why the state’s elected officials have sided with health officials in the current narrow interpretation.

“Every state legislature and the relevant administrative agencies weigh the public’s interest in knowing about health risks against the disruption in the health treatment and evaluative process that revelation of health risks will cause,” he added.

Food Safety News also invited William Gerrish, director of communications and government relations for Connecticut’s Department of Public Health, to comment on the restrictive policy, but he did not respond to the invitation.

Food Safety News

Connecticut Public Health Agencies Won’t Name Restaurant in Salmonella Outbreak

When John Snow traced the London cholera epidemic of 1854 to a local well, he removed the pump handle so all would know the source of the fatal disease when it ceased to plague the city. Removing that pump handle is still remembered today because it represented public health’s first major victory.

But it seems this act would be illegal today in Connecticut. Here’s the story:

Both the Orange, CT Health Department and the Connecticut Department of Public Health have declined to tell NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters, a local affiliate, if a closed restaurant was responsible for sickening a local resident with Salmonella.

Karan Niazi blames three slices of chicken pizza he consumed at Oregano Joe’s on Boston Post Road in Orange for his illness, which included a 104-degree fever, extreme diarrhea and vomiting. He spent almost a week in the Intensive Care Unit at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and was told by one of his doctors he was suffering from a severe case of Salmonella.

Another patient at the hospital with the same Salmonella symptoms reportedly also ate at Oregano Joe’s.

NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters reports that the restaurant was closed twice by the Orange Health Department, once on May 30 for one day and then again on June 20 for five weeks. However, the local health department won’t say why it closed the establishment and won’t say if there is a link between the illnesses and the restaurant closures.

Both the local and state health departments say state law prevents them from sharing the information they have with the public. The Troubleshooters investigation did find one local police report made when the restaurant owner needed access to the business while it was closed. The local police report quoted the owner as saying his eatery was shut down ‘due to multiple confirmed cases of salmonella poisoning.’”

Niazi also filed a lawsuit, and the TV report says court documents show Oregano’s was closed down for “falsified employee stool samples” during the investigation.

Law Professor John Thomas, who teaches healthcare law at Quinnipiac University, says officials are “completely wrong” in the way they are interrupting state statutes on privacy and confidentiality of records.

“I believe that both the Orange town health department, its lawyers, and the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission (FOIC) have erred in their interpretation of the governing statute,” Professor Thomas told Food Safety News.  ”As the Connecticut Supreme Court observed in the 1999 in the definitive case of Babcock v. Bridgeport hospital, the exemption from public disclosure only applies to ‘the designated materials…that are generated primarily for the purpose of the study of morbidity and mortality, undertaken specifically for the purpose of reducing the incidence of patient deaths.’

“The City of Orange data at issue in this case were not voiced in the context of a study for ‘the purpose of the study of morbidity and mortality.’ As a result, any claims that the records at issue are confidential are mistaken,” Thomas says.  He says it “remains a mystery” as to why the state’s elected officials have sided with health officials in the current narrow interpretation.

“Every state legislature and the relevant administrative agencies weigh the public’s interest in knowing about health risks against the disruption in the health treatment and evaluative process that revelation of health risks will cause,” he added.

Food Safety News also invited William Gerrish, director of communications and government relations for Connecticut’s Department of Public Health, to comment on the restrictive policy, but he did not respond to the invitation.

Food Safety News

Connecticut Public Health Agencies Won’t Name Restaurant in Salmonella Outbreak

When John Snow traced the London cholera epidemic of 1854 to a local well, he removed the pump handle so all would know the source of the fatal disease when it ceased to plague the city. Removing that pump handle is still remembered today because it represented public health’s first major victory.

But it seems this act would be illegal today in Connecticut. Here’s the story:

Both the Orange, CT Health Department and the Connecticut Department of Public Health have declined to tell NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters, a local affiliate, if a closed restaurant was responsible for sickening a local resident with Salmonella.

Karan Niazi blames three slices of chicken pizza he consumed at Oregano Joe’s on Boston Post Road in Orange for his illness, which included a 104-degree fever, extreme diarrhea and vomiting. He spent almost a week in the Intensive Care Unit at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and was told by one of his doctors he was suffering from a severe case of Salmonella.

Another patient at the hospital with the same Salmonella symptoms reportedly also ate at Oregano Joe’s.

NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters reports that the restaurant was closed twice by the Orange Health Department, once on May 30 for one day and then again on June 20 for five weeks. However, the local health department won’t say why it closed the establishment and won’t say if there is a link between the illnesses and the restaurant closures.

Both the local and state health departments say state law prevents them from sharing the information they have with the public. The Troubleshooters investigation did find one local police report made when the restaurant owner needed access to the business while it was closed. The local police report quoted the owner as saying his eatery was shut down ‘due to multiple confirmed cases of salmonella poisoning.’”

Niazi also filed a lawsuit, and the TV report says court documents show Oregano’s was closed down for “falsified employee stool samples” during the investigation.

Law Professor John Thomas, who teaches healthcare law at Quinnipiac University, says officials are “completely wrong” in the way they are interrupting state statutes on privacy and confidentiality of records.

“I believe that both the Orange town health department, its lawyers, and the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission (FOIC) have erred in their interpretation of the governing statute,” Professor Thomas told Food Safety News.  ”As the Connecticut Supreme Court observed in the 1999 in the definitive case of Babcock v. Bridgeport hospital, the exemption from public disclosure only applies to ‘the designated materials…that are generated primarily for the purpose of the study of morbidity and mortality, undertaken specifically for the purpose of reducing the incidence of patient deaths.’

“The City of Orange data at issue in this case were not voiced in the context of a study for ‘the purpose of the study of morbidity and mortality.’ As a result, any claims that the records at issue are confidential are mistaken,” Thomas says.  He says it “remains a mystery” as to why the state’s elected officials have sided with health officials in the current narrow interpretation.

“Every state legislature and the relevant administrative agencies weigh the public’s interest in knowing about health risks against the disruption in the health treatment and evaluative process that revelation of health risks will cause,” he added.

Food Safety News also invited William Gerrish, director of communications and government relations for Connecticut’s Department of Public Health, to comment on the restrictive policy, but he did not respond to the invitation.

Food Safety News

Connecticut Public Health Agencies Won’t Name Restaurant in Salmonella Outbreak

When John Snow traced the London cholera epidemic of 1854 to a local well, he removed the pump handle so all would know the source of the fatal disease when it ceased to plague the city. Removing that pump handle is still remembered today because it represented public health’s first major victory.

But it seems this act would be illegal today in Connecticut. Here’s the story:

Both the Orange, CT Health Department and the Connecticut Department of Public Health have declined to tell NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters, a local affiliate, if a closed restaurant was responsible for sickening a local resident with Salmonella.

Karan Niazi blames three slices of chicken pizza he consumed at Oregano Joe’s on Boston Post Road in Orange for his illness, which included a 104-degree fever, extreme diarrhea and vomiting. He spent almost a week in the Intensive Care Unit at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and was told by one of his doctors he was suffering from a severe case of Salmonella.

Another patient at the hospital with the same Salmonella symptoms reportedly also ate at Oregano Joe’s.

NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters reports that the restaurant was closed twice by the Orange Health Department, once on May 30 for one day and then again on June 20 for five weeks. However, the local health department won’t say why it closed the establishment and won’t say if there is a link between the illnesses and the restaurant closures.

Both the local and state health departments say state law prevents them from sharing the information they have with the public. The Troubleshooters investigation did find one local police report made when the restaurant owner needed access to the business while it was closed. The local police report quoted the owner as saying his eatery was shut down ‘due to multiple confirmed cases of salmonella poisoning.’”

Niazi also filed a lawsuit, and the TV report says court documents show Oregano’s was closed down for “falsified employee stool samples” during the investigation.

Law Professor John Thomas, who teaches healthcare law at Quinnipiac University, says officials are “completely wrong” in the way they are interrupting state statutes on privacy and confidentiality of records.

“I believe that both the Orange town health department, its lawyers, and the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission (FOIC) have erred in their interpretation of the governing statute,” Professor Thomas told Food Safety News.  ”As the Connecticut Supreme Court observed in the 1999 in the definitive case of Babcock v. Bridgeport hospital, the exemption from public disclosure only applies to ‘the designated materials…that are generated primarily for the purpose of the study of morbidity and mortality, undertaken specifically for the purpose of reducing the incidence of patient deaths.’

“The City of Orange data at issue in this case were not voiced in the context of a study for ‘the purpose of the study of morbidity and mortality.’ As a result, any claims that the records at issue are confidential are mistaken,” Thomas says.  He says it “remains a mystery” as to why the state’s elected officials have sided with health officials in the current narrow interpretation.

“Every state legislature and the relevant administrative agencies weigh the public’s interest in knowing about health risks against the disruption in the health treatment and evaluative process that revelation of health risks will cause,” he added.

Food Safety News also invited William Gerrish, director of communications and government relations for Connecticut’s Department of Public Health, to comment on the restrictive policy, but he did not respond to the invitation.

Food Safety News

Domestic Judges Won’t Tamper With COOL: But Keeping It Could be Costly

Another day, another ruling on so-called Country-of-origin labeling (COOL) of muscle cuts of meat.

The latest is a decision by the U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit not to rehear the dispute. That means, unless the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the issue, that domestic courts are fine with U.S. Department of Agriculture rules that require producers to keep track and report on the label on the birthplace, residence, and location at passing for each hunk of meat sold at retail in the U.S. regardless of the burden or cost.

However, the World Trade Organization sees those very provisions as illegal non-tariff barriers to trade. Canada and Mexico recently won another round of WTO rulings that many manufacturers and agricultural interests fear will allow those countries to impose crippling retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports.

It means instead of just being a regulatory cost falling on the meat industry and its consumers, COOL could result in Canada and Mexico being able to collect billions of dollars of extra tariffs or taxes from a wide variety of U.S. industries.

WTO may impose such tariffs to punish countries that violate their trade agreements.

That’s caused a broad coalition of the U.S. manufacturing and agricultural industry to begin lobbying Congress for changes that to make COOL WTO compliant before early next year when those tariffs might become a reality.

Original supporters of COOL, including the Farm Bureau and United Stockgrowers of America, are buoyed by its support from domestic judges and oppose changes to accommodate WTO.

Food Safety News

US: Cherry prices won’t stop loyal consumers

US: Cherry prices won’t stop loyal consumers

Growers and packing sheds are getting themselves ready as the Pacific Northwest cherry harvest commences in many parts of the region. A sizeable harvest is anticipated to be picked over the next 2 months.

As of last week the industry had shipped just shy of 2 million boxes, two thirds of which have been 10.5 row or larger. Yellow fleshed Rainier and Early Robin have constituted 9% of volume to date.

However, widespread bad weather has been experienced over the region during the last week, the effects of which are as yet unknown. Despite this, some areas remain unaffected, including Oregon, where growers have large volumes this season.

Prices are expected to be high this season, which will affect some consumers purchasing habits. Despite this though, there are thought to be plenty of opportunities for the industry as the fruit has a loyal, affluent consumer base which will always make repeat purchases year on year.

Publication date: 6/24/2013
Author: Ben Littler
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


FreshPlaza.com

Demoulas board won’t reinstate CEO

The board of directors of Demoulas Super Markets on Friday confirmed it was in receipt of an offer to buy the company from deposed president Arthur T. Demoulas but failed to act to reinstate him in an executive position, calling for “normal business operations to resume immediately.”

The board met Friday in Boston while a rally took place near the company’s Tewksbury, Mass., headquarters. Workers demanding the reinstatement of Arthur T. Demoulas, who was fired as president in June, have staged demonstrations and calls for a boycott for more than week, crippling store operations for the company, operator of 71 Market Basket stores in New England.

“The Board acknowledges that it has heard from many stakeholders. The negative behavior of certain current and former associates is at variance with the company’s culture of putting the needs of the Market Basket customers first. It is now clear that it is in the interests of all members of the Market Basket community for normal business operations to resume immediately,” it said in a prepared statement.

Following the meeting the board issued a statement, saying the past month had been “trying,” noting the directors “appreciate the strain th[e] change of leadership has placed on our associates.” The board said it would welcome back associates committed to Market Basket customers, “[with] no penalty or discipline for any associate who joins in … a significant effort to return to the unparalleled level of performance and customer service that have been hallmarks of the Market Basket brand.” The board also said there would no change of the company’s compensation and benefits package.


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“Furthermore, the Board reaffirmed its election of Co-CEOs Felicia Thornton and James Gooch to manage the company in accordance with the company’s bylaws.”

The board said the offer to buy the company from Arthur T. Demoulas and the “Class B” shareholders met its deadline for a proposal. “Consistent with its fiduciary obligations, the board will evaluate and seriously consider this proposal, along with any other offers previously received and to be received. Following its evaluation of all of the offers, it will convey its recommendations to the company’s shareholders,” the statement said.

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Supermarket News

Demoulas board won’t reinstate CEO

The board of directors of Demoulas Super Markets on Friday confirmed it was in receipt of an offer to buy the company from deposed president Arthur T. Demoulas but failed to act to reinstate him in an executive position, calling for “normal business operations to resume immediately.”

The board met Friday in Boston while a rally took place near the company’s Tewksbury, Mass., headquarters. Workers demanding the reinstatement of Arthur T. Demoulas, who was fired as president in June, have staged demonstrations and calls for a boycott for more than week, crippling store operations for the company, operator of 71 Market Basket stores in New England.

“The Board acknowledges that it has heard from many stakeholders. The negative behavior of certain current and former associates is at variance with the company’s culture of putting the needs of the Market Basket customers first. It is now clear that it is in the interests of all members of the Market Basket community for normal business operations to resume immediately,” it said in a prepared statement.

Following the meeting the board issued a statement, saying the past month had been “trying,” noting the directors “appreciate the strain th[e] change of leadership has placed on our associates.” The board said it would welcome back associates committed to Market Basket customers, “[with] no penalty or discipline for any associate who joins in … a significant effort to return to the unparalleled level of performance and customer service that have been hallmarks of the Market Basket brand.” The board also said there would no change of the company’s compensation and benefits package.


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“Furthermore, the Board reaffirmed its election of Co-CEOs Felicia Thornton and James Gooch to manage the company in accordance with the company’s bylaws.”

The board said the offer to buy the company from Arthur T. Demoulas and the “Class B” shareholders met its deadline for a proposal. “Consistent with its fiduciary obligations, the board will evaluate and seriously consider this proposal, along with any other offers previously received and to be received. Following its evaluation of all of the offers, it will convey its recommendations to the company’s shareholders,” the statement said.

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Supermarket News

Famine fear won’t sway minds on GM crops

A sack-hauling time traveler from the 21st century lands in an Irish potato field in 1849, just before a terrible famine, and asks: If you thought genetically modified potatoes could avert late blight disease, spare a million countrymen from starvation and keep another million from emigrating off the Emerald Isle, would you plant these newfangled spuds?

Fast forward to the Internet Age, when communication researchers ran 859 U.S. grocery shoppers through a similar thought experiment: Half the subjects in an online survey read the story of the 1850s Irish Potato Famine, learning the potential impact of fungal Phytophthora infestans on potato and tomato crops today. The other 400-plus pondered generic plant disease, with no mention of specific crops or historic famines.

“Stories of the Irish Potato Famine were no more likely to boost support for disease-resistant genetically modified crops than were our generic crop-disease descriptions,” said Katherine A. McComas, professor and chair of Cornell’s Department of Communication in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“Preconceived views about risks and benefits of agricultural genetic engineering — and perceptions about the fairness and legitimacy of the decision-making process — these things matter most,” McComas said.

With co-authors John C. Besley (Michigan State University) and Joseph Steinhardt (Cornell), McComas will publish study results as “Factors influencing U.S. consumer support for genetic modification to prevent crop disease” in the July 2014 journal Appetite — right about the time airborne P. infestansspores are drifting through home-garden tomato crops.

“If you think genetically modified crops are dangerous ‘frankenfoods’ and/or that crop disease is best controlled with chemicals — if you suspect federal regulators care more about Big Ag’s interests than your family’s, thus the whole game is rigged — plaintive tales of historical famines won’t change your mind about genetic modification for disease resistance,” McComas said.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University. The original article was written by Melissa Osgood. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Famine fear won’t sway minds on GM crops

A sack-hauling time traveler from the 21st century lands in an Irish potato field in 1849, just before a terrible famine, and asks: If you thought genetically modified potatoes could avert late blight disease, spare a million countrymen from starvation and keep another million from emigrating off the Emerald Isle, would you plant these newfangled spuds?

Fast forward to the Internet Age, when communication researchers ran 859 U.S. grocery shoppers through a similar thought experiment: Half the subjects in an online survey read the story of the 1850s Irish Potato Famine, learning the potential impact of fungal Phytophthora infestans on potato and tomato crops today. The other 400-plus pondered generic plant disease, with no mention of specific crops or historic famines.

“Stories of the Irish Potato Famine were no more likely to boost support for disease-resistant genetically modified crops than were our generic crop-disease descriptions,” said Katherine A. McComas, professor and chair of Cornell’s Department of Communication in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“Preconceived views about risks and benefits of agricultural genetic engineering — and perceptions about the fairness and legitimacy of the decision-making process — these things matter most,” McComas said.

With co-authors John C. Besley (Michigan State University) and Joseph Steinhardt (Cornell), McComas will publish study results as “Factors influencing U.S. consumer support for genetic modification to prevent crop disease” in the July 2014 journal Appetite — right about the time airborne P. infestansspores are drifting through home-garden tomato crops.

“If you think genetically modified crops are dangerous ‘frankenfoods’ and/or that crop disease is best controlled with chemicals — if you suspect federal regulators care more about Big Ag’s interests than your family’s, thus the whole game is rigged — plaintive tales of historical famines won’t change your mind about genetic modification for disease resistance,” McComas said.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University. The original article was written by Melissa Osgood. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

FDA Wont Set Specific FSMA Deadlines Despite Court Order

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Center for Food Safety have not been able to come to an agreement on a proposed schedule of Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) deadlines despite a court order to do so by May 20.

The order came after CFS sued FDA in August 2012 for missing several statutory deadlines in its implementation of FSMA, the most sweeping update to food safety law in seven decades. The two parties, unable to agree on deadlines as the court ordered, were granted a 20-day extension to June 10 by a U.S. District Court, but ultimately did not submit a joint proposal like they were supposed to. They each submitted their own timelines for the remaining regulations.

FDA’s timeline for each key part of FSMA – including the foreign supplier verification program, preventive controls, produce safety, and other provisions  – is longer than CFS’ and it lacks specific dates.

For example, FDA proposed issuing a final rule for produce safety standards by roughly June 2015, but CFS proposed a final deadline of May 1, 2014, which could be extended by up to one year if further analysis is required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

For the foreign supplier verification program, FDA set a deadline for a proposed rule by this summer, without setting a date, while CFS set a deadline of August 31, 2013. For the final rule, FDA set a deadline of summer 2015, while CFS set a deadline of December 31, 2013.

FDA set its own timeline for issuing a proposal for accrediting third party auditors. The agency plans to have a proposed rule out by this summer and a final rule by “roughly” summer 2015. CFS set an August 31, 2013 deadline for a proposed rule and a December 31, 2013 deadline for a final rule.

Consumer advocates said they are dismayed by FDA’s refusal to agree to a shorter timeline for many key food safety rules, many of which are already well passed the statutory deadlines set by Congress.

“The Center for Food Safety’s proposed deadlines are entirely reasonable,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “FDA needs to get the job done. We’re tired of waiting for regulations and proposals that are long overdue.”

Smith DeWaal said it was “ridiculous,” for example, that FDA was setting a goal of summer 2015 for the foreign supplier verification proposal, especially considering the agency submitted a draft proposal to the White House Office of Management and Budget in November 2011 for review. In FSMA, FDA was directed to write this program no later than one year after the law was enacted in January 2011, so FDA met this requirement and has now been waiting on OMB for nearly a year and a half.

Chris Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America, said that Congress included specific deadlines in the law “for a reason – to ensure timely implementation of the important food safety provisions contained in FSMA.”

“I think CFS’ argument that the implementation period should not be ‘open-ended’ is a valid one,” he said. “Not everything in the process is under FDA’s control, but it is in the best interest of consumers for implementation of FSMA to occur expeditiously.  And court-imposed deadlines could help make that happen.”

Food Safety News

New competition won’t impact pricing: Natural Grocers

Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage does not anticipate the need for any price investments in the face of increased competition, the company said during an investor conference call.

Despite an increase in regional competition — from 15% last year to approximately 51% during the first half of this year — “our pricing surveys show we are the best-priced natural food chain in each of our markets by 10% to 25%,” Kemper Isely, co-president, said, “so we don’t believe we need to invest in price.”


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According to Isely, Natural Grocers is trying to improve its competitive position by boosting its standards, including new programs featuring only pasture-raised, non-confinement dairy products and non-GMO organic chickens.

Natural Grocers began rolling out the dairy program last month, with full implementation expected by next April, and it began transitioning the chicken program last month as well.

Net income for the second quarter, which ended March 31, rose 24.3% to $ 4 million, while sales jumped 22.4% to $ 130.3 million and comparable store sales rose 6.9%. For the half net income rose 24% to $ 6.9 million, with sales increasing 27.3% to $ 250.9 million and comps up 8.7%.

Isely said new competition impacted same-store sales by about 3%, “but we have had similar situations in other years and we have always bounced back quite well,” he noted.

“For stores that did not have new competition comps are actually up 13.7% for the quarter, so it’s a matter of getting through this period of extra competition “

He said he is confident the company can continue to generate sufficient cash at the lower comp rates “for an extended period of time, if necessary,” to fund its goal of expanding its store base by 20% a year.

Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage operates 83 stores in 13 states.

Isley said the company is on track to open 15 new stores this year, with five opened in the second quarter and two of the three stores planned for the third quarter already opened. The company has signed leases for the three stores it plans to open in the fourth quarter, he said, and four leases for stores planned to open next year, he added.

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Current global food production trajectory won’t meet 2050 needs

June 19, 2013 — Crop yields worldwide are not increasing quickly enough to support estimated global needs in 2050, according to a study published June 19 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by research associate Deepak Ray and colleagues from the Institute on the Environment (IonE) at the University of Minnesota.

Previous studies estimate that global agricultural production may need to increase 60-110 percent to meet increasing demands and provide food security. In the current study, researchers assessed agricultural statistics from across the world and found that yields of four key crops — maize, rice, wheat and soybean — are increasing 0.9-1.6 percent every year. At these rates, production of these crops would likely increase 38-67 percent by 2050, rather than the estimated requirement of 60-110 percent. The top three countries that produce rice and wheat were found to have very low rates of increase in crop yields.

“Particularly troubling are places where population and food production trajectories are at substantial odds,” Ray says, “for example, in Guatemala, where the corn-dependent population is growing at the same time corn productivity is declining.”

The analysis maps global regions where yield improvements are on track to double production by 2050 and areas where investments must be targeted to increase yields. The authors explain that boosting crop yields is considered a preferred solution to meet demands, rather than clearing more land for agriculture. They note that additional strategies, such as reducing food waste and changing to plant-based diets, can also help reduce the large estimates for increased global demand for food.

“Clearly, the world faces a looming agricultural crisis, with yield increases insufficient to keep up with projected demands,” says IonE director Jon Foley, a co-author on the study. “The good news is, opportunities exist to increase production through more efficient use of current arable lands and increased yield growth rates by spreading best management practices. If we are to boost production in these key crops to meet projected needs, we have no time to waste.”

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Letter From The Editor: The Bogus Honey Story Won’t Die

Foodborne disease outbreaks and recalls usually dictate the foods we cover. We usually follow the pathogens without any other discriminating factor. So, it we are focused on beef, or spinach, or sprouts, or cantaloupe or whatever, we just followed the story.

Of course there are always exceptions to rules. Food Safety News has been fortunate in the past five years to be associated with some extraordinary journalists. We were able, mostly in 2011, to bring on two-time Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter Andrew Schneider to work on some special projects for us. His job was to poke into some food dangers not related to bacteria and viruses.

In his time with us, Andrew turned his spotlight on arsenic finding its way into juices and rice, nanoparticles in food, and, oh yes, honey. His series of investigative reports on honey remains very much alive on Food Safety News. They’ve attracted thousands upon thousands of readers and generated hundreds of comments. It continues to this day.

The most popular of these reports was his story on testing of honey purchased from retail stores all over the country: Tests Show Most Store Honey Isn’t Honey: Ultra-filtering Removes Pollen, Hides Honey Origins. We call it the bogus honey story and I caught up with Andrew about it because this past week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) came out with new “draft guidance” for the honey industry on “Proper Labeling of Honey and Honey Products.”

His Pulitzers for investigative reports on organ transplants and the medical airworthiness of airline pilots are now in the journalism history books, but Schneider acknowledges that his bogus honey story for Food Safety News is “the story that won’t die.”

He still gets from six to 15 calls every month from consumers, packagers, and state and federal investigators about the quality of the honey they are dealing with. The crux of the issue is that when the pollen, those microscopic particles from deep inside the flower, are totally removed, there’s no way to tell if the “honey” came from a legitimate and safe source.

Pollen is removed from honey by a process known as Ultra filtering, where honey is heated, sometimes watered down, and then forced through micro filters with high pressure. Once the pollen is removed, it opens the door to illegal dumping of honey measured by the tonnage. The Chinese have, for years, illegally dumped millions of dollars worth of their “honey,” which is often exposed to illegal antibiotics, into the U.S. market. They have a harder time getting their “laundered “ honey into places like Europe because many world food safety authorities say Ultra-filtered honey missing its pollen is no longer honey.

Those countries insist on being able to determine the origin of the honey being sold within their national boundaries.

This is probably where you expect me to say that with the new draft guidance, we are shortly going to know where our honey comes from. But sadly, FDA has no intention of closing the bogus honey loophole. Schneider tells me that his sources who investigate these shipments say “adulterated Chinese honey is still flowing into U.S. ports.” Nothing is going to change.

Indeed, the main problem is that FDA simply will not define honey as containing pollen and therefore make it traceable to its country of origin. Instead, it goes off about how it accepts the “common usage” of the term “honey,” which is “a thick, sweet, syrupy substance that bees make as food from the nectar of flowers and store in honeycombs.”

FDA’s “guidance” says honey is a “single ingredient food” and the floral source need not be declared. In a nutshell, FDA is drawing its line at labeling issues and is not going to get involved in whether pollen is missing. In the unlikely event that some test results pop up showing positives for antibiotic residues of chloramphenicol or fluoroquinolones, FDA promises it will do its enforcement thing.

The same people Schneider talks to down in the trenches say that those who trade in adulterated Chinese honey have powerful, well-financed lobbyists to keep FDA away from doing anything effective about laundered honey. They’ve been successful in their mission for a long time, too.Back on March 8, 2006, the American Beekeeping Federation tried to get FDA to adopt the world standard for establishing the identity of honey by filing a petition. It was formally rejected by the current administration on Oct. 5, 2011, which suggested — we kid you not — that the same goal could be achieved with “honesty and fair dealing.”

In the month after that petition was denied, Food Safety News went on a shopping spree buying honey at retail all over the country to acquire all the honey samples Schneider required for his independent testing story and he found that three out of four jars or bottles of honey were missing their pollen. All those involved in Chinese honey laundering are probably still laughing over the line about “honesty and fair dealing.” Ultra-filtered Chinese honey that may be adulterated with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals is blindly accepted by the U.S., but blocked by less trusting countries around the world.

Safe, pure honey is important to those countries. But apparently, we are not among them.

P.S. Andrew Schneider first came to my attention about a decade ago when he was working for the late great Seattle Post-Intelligencer writing about the asbestos poisoning of the little mining town of Libby, MT. Along with P-I editor David McCumber, he captured that amazing story in the book “An Air That Kills.”

Food Safety News

Industry Associations Hope FSMA Rules Won’t Duplicate Marketing Agreements, Orders

National and regional marketing agreements and orders may give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) some options as it continues to issue and revise rules to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

In comments to the FSMA proposed rule for produce safety, a number of industry associations asked FDA to take into account food-safety programs that already exist under federal and state marketing agreements and orders.

For instance, the California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement (LGMA) wants to ensure that FSMA does not add extra layers of inspections, audits, and documentation, which LGMA already requires of its members.

“[W]e are already verifying that members are in compliance with our standards. If our standards don’t already encompass or exceed what is in FSMA, then we will make sure they do,” said Scott Horsfall, chief executive officer of LGMA.

Horsfall further explained that his organization supports FSMA and is not asking for an exemption. Rather, LGMA is seeking more of a “partnership” with FDA.

The Almond Board of California seems to have taken a slightly different approach and has asked FDA to consider an exemption or variance for almonds.

In the Almond Board’s comments on the proposed rule for produce safety, the group notes that the California almond industry is subject to a federal marketing order issued and enforced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The marketing order requires a minimum 4-log reduction of Salmonella bacteria in almonds before they enter commerce.

As such, the Almond Board’s comments suggest that a rule for produce safety would be duplicative and unnecessary for almonds, which are essentially a low-risk food by virtue of the mandatory kill step requirement created and enforced by USDA.

The Scope of Marketing Agreements and Orders

Notably, marketing agreements and orders have some key differences. Membership to marketing agreements, whether at the state or federal level, is voluntary. But marketing orders set mandatory standards for all affected parties.

So, while membership with the LGMA is voluntary, once a member joins LGMA, compliance with their standards is mandatory. Notably, LGMA, in combination with Arizona Leafy Green Products Shipper Marketing Agreement, encompasses 90 percent of the leafy greens entering commercial markets.

In contrast, all almonds grown in California, which make up 99 percent of all commercial almonds in the U.S., are subject to the California almond marketing order.

What will be the Relationship between Marketing Agreements and FSMA?

At this point, FDA is not poised to create industry-specific variances and exemptions, at least not based on marketing orders and agreements.

“FDA does not intend to grant a blanket exemption to growers or signatories of marketing orders,” a spokesperson for the agency told Food Safety News. “Alternatives to certain requirements would be permitted when adequate and documented scientific data or information support such alternatives.”

Moreover, FDA officials are both aware of, and willing to work with, existing or new compliance programs. As the FDA spokesperson stated, “[I]t is worth noting that rigorous food safety programs under national or regional marketing agreements can be an important tool for fostering compliance with the produce safety rule.”

Food Safety News

Letter From The Editor: South Georgia Needs A Trial That It Won’t Forget

During the past week, it was my good fortune to return to South Georgia where farmers are still waiting for their fields to warm enough to plant the 2014 peanut crop.

The Blakely, GA plant — once was a major purchaser of Georgia peanuts — stands empty. It’s one of the few inactive sites in the Early County Industrial Park along Highway 62. All signage from the now defunct Peanut Corporation of America is gone.  The South erects a lot of historical markers, but as yet, there is no sign in Blakely telling the story of how poison peanut butter from PCA ended up killing nine people and sickening 700 others to become one of the most deadly Salmonella outbreaks in U.S. history.

All that exists is the blank spot where PCA’s once familiar sign stood when the outbreak it caused frightened every parent in America, including the two who reside in the White House, because almost all kids love peanut butter.  I first visited Blakely when the outbreak was underway, and the local folks seemed to either be in denial or fearful about the outbreak’s impact on the Georgia peanut industry. And there were about 180,000 fewer acres planted with peanuts in the first planting season after the outbreak.

Yet one would be hard-pressed to find a long-term impact on the industry. Georgia plants half of all U.S. acreage dedicated to peanuts and accounts for 50 percent of the nation’s peanut production at 1.7 million tons. Almost all the counties in the bottom half of the state plant peanuts, providing 50,000 jobs in the 70 counties. About 3,500 farmers plant peanuts on 14,000 individual farms.

It’s common for acreage to be planted in peanuts one year and cotton the next. Dr. George Washington Carver developed that crop rotation strategy to give the South’s worn soil time to recover. Carver brought the peanut to Georgia.  Peanuts, but not cotton, are eligible for federal payments under the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) under the new Farm Bill. As a covered commodity — along with corn, wheat, oats, barley, etc — growing peanuts might even become more popular in South Georgia.

All of which makes it easy to understand why the peanut growers and the 200 or so Georgia companies that shell, roast, and otherwise add value to peanuts are feeling pretty good about their futures. March is National Peanut Month and tomorrow is Georgia PB&J Day at the State Capitol in Atlanta.  Sponsors will be handing out PB&Js, grilled PB&Js, country-friend peanuts, boiled peanuts and other goodies. They’ll also donate 18,720 jars of peanut butter valued at $ 56,160 to the Atlanta Community Food Bank.

Georgia’s $ 2 billion peanut industry will have no trouble finding takers for its products. There is no reason to think of them as anything but safe and nutritious. Yet, I do feel some discomfort with the fact that outside of the federal court room in Albany, South Georgia seems to have erased the PCA outbreak from its collective memory.

It’s also a reason why it’s important for a jury trial of the four former PCA executives to go forward this summer. The fact that the four are charged with a total of 76 federal felony count might make it more likely the PCA story will end up on a plea bargain.

But it has not happened yet, and the pre-trial hearing held this past week showed both prosecutors and defense attorneys taking every word or punctuation mark very seriously if it might have an impact on the trial.  The next big pre-trial hearing is scheduled for mid-April when farmers should be planting peanut kernels.  Forty days after that is when South Georgia should some alive with yellow flowers as the peanuts grow below ground.

It’s when those flowers bloom that we will probably know whether South Georgia is going to get a trial that it won’t forget.

Food Safety News

FDA: Arsenic in Rice Won’t Cause Harm

WASHINGTON — The level of arsenic found in rice and rice products is too low to cause immediate health damage, according to FDA researchers.

The agency tested more than 1,300 samples for total arsenic and inorganic arsenic, the more toxic form. Both contaminants are naturally occurring.

“Because it’s in soil and water, it’s going to get in food,” explained Suzanne C. Fitzpatrick, the senior advisor for toxicology in FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, in a statement. “It’s not something that we can just pull off the market.”


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In the rice grains, the average levels of inorganic arsenic ranged from 2.6 to 7.2 micrograms per serving, with instant rice at the low end and brown rice at the high end. In rice products, average levels ranged from 0.1 to 6.6 micrograms per serving, with infant formula at the low end and rice pasta at the high end.

The agency plans to assess the long-term effects of rice consumption and determine how to minimize any risk to consumers, including groups like children and pregnant women, according to Fitzpatrick.

In the meantime, FDA advises consumers, including pregnant women, to eat a well-balanced diet and avoid consuming an excess of any one food. It recommends that parents feed their infants and toddlers a variety of grains.

The FDA’s analysis was prompted by a request from Consumer Reports to adopt standards for rice and rice products that take into account rice consumption levels, especially those of at-risk populations.

Last year, Consumer Reports conducted its own analysis that found varying levels of arsenic in more than 60 rice and rice products. 

Read more: Consumer Reports to FDA: Set Arsenic Limits

“We’re particularly pleased that while the FDA conducts a risk assessment and takes appropriate next steps, it is giving advice to consumers, especially the most vulnerable populations, including pregnant women and children, that will help limit their arsenic exposure,” said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Director of Consumer Safety and Sustainability at Consumer Reports.

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Nutrition Standards Won’t Fix Big Food’s Worst Child Marketing Tactics

Last month, I participated in an important panel at a childhood obesity conference to discuss the current strategy backed by some advocacy groups: asking industry to market “healthier” foods to children. But as Susan Linn and I recently argued, any marketing to children is harmful, regardless of the product’s nutritional content.

Instead of begging corporations to tweak the grams of sugar, fat and salt that these highly processed junk foods contain, we should demand that industry stop exploiting children altogether. Some advocates argue this approach is too radical. But it’s actually far more practical and ultimately more effective because of certain key tactics that industry uses to target children.

You can’t put nutrition standards on a clown

A nutrition standards approach to marketing to children fails to address the powerful and ubiquitous marketing strategy of branding. When Ronald McDonald goes into elementary schools or anywhere else he may roam, he (in the words of McDonald’s own CEO) “does not hawk food.” Problem solved, right? Except that the very purpose of using Ronald as a brand ambassador is to get children to associate fun and happy times with McDonald’s. This technique is so effective that young children prefer the taste of food wrapped with the McDonald’s logo. This is true even for food McDonald’s doesn’t sell. Here is how researchers described it: “Our findings add to past research by demonstrating that specific branding can alter young children’s taste preferences.” That’s powerful stuff.

Another study of 3-to-5-year-old children found that McDonald’s was the most recognized brand, followed by other fast food and soda brands. (The children were shown 50 different brands across 16 product categories.) These researchers seemed surprised that even very young children could recognize brands, “at a much earlier age than previously theorized.”

Branding is a key strategy for every corporation trying to build lifelong brand loyalty among impressionable children. They know the key to getting more consumers hooked on their products is to target children as young as possible. There is simply no way to apply nutrition standards to branding.

Stealth ads on the internet don’t have nutrient content

Another critical way that food corporations such as McDonald’s target children is through “advergaming” websites. For example, you hardly see any food images on HappyMeal.com, just a lot of fun and games. So improving nutrition standards won’t work there either. Moreover, the name of the game for such sites is to gather information about users, which in this case are unsuspecting children. That’s why the Center for Digital Democracy filed a complaint last year with the Federal Trade Commission charging that McDonald’s and several other food and media corporations violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act by asking children to share their friends’ email addresses. But as Adweek explained, McDonald’s engages in even more aggressive tactics:

McDonald’s website for Happy Meals goes a step further, inviting children to make a music video by uploading their pictures and encouraging them to share the video with up to four friends, who then receive an email from McDonald’s: “You’ve been tagged for fun by a friend! Check it out! It’s a Star in Video at the McDonald’s Happy Meal Website.”

That Happy Meals contain apple slices and milk seems rather irrelevant when you consider how low this corporation will stoop to exploit children. According to McDonald’s internet privacy policy (almost a year after this complaint was filed) the company still encourages children to share friends’ names and email addresses but assures us that such information is deleted after McDonald’s contacts the friend. That’s a relief.

Most importantly, research suggests that this sort of stealth advertising can be more effective than traditional television commercials because children are less aware of online ads, probably because they are too busy having fun. According to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation:

From a marketer’s perspective, one of the potential advantages of an “advergame” is the ability to draw attention to your brand in a playful way, and for an extended period of time (at least relative to a 30-second television ad) … On the Internet, the boundaries between advertising and other content may be harder for a child to distinguish. This medium does not have the natural breaks between commercial and non-commercial content which typify television.

That could help explain why the most recent federal government report on food marketing to children suggested that corporations were shifting their advertising spending from television to “new media” such as online, mobile and viral marketing, which are also relatively inexpensive.

An incremental approach to ending food marketing to children

Some advocates contend that tweaking the nutritional content of foods marketed to children is a good approach because it’s incremental, while stopping marketing altogether is asking for too much. But why must this be the only way to engage in incrementalism? I can think of many incremental alternative solutions to the nutrition approach to food marketing to children. The possibilities are truly endless, starting with the above examples of branding and internet targeting.

Let’s take branding. Even if McDonald’s won’t agree to Corporate Accountability International’s demand to Retire Ronald, there are plenty of smaller steps the fast food giant could take right now. For example, Ronald could stop visiting grade schools. I would consider that a pretty huge victory; far better than the addition of apple slices and milk to Happy Meals. Or Ronald’s image could stop appearing on children’s toys. Speaking of toys, McDonald’s could stop including them in Happy Meals. As could other fast food chains like Burger King, which is now promoting its “BK Crown Activity Box“ with various toy tie-ins. Imagine, parents buying food for the food, not the toys.

These and many other incremental steps the food industry could take to stop targeting children have the advantage of not being dependent on nutrition standards that industry gets to define and manipulate. It’s also far easier to monitor and enforce a policy such as “no advergaming” than one based on grams of salt, sugar and fat. But most importantly, marketing to children is inherently deceptive and harmful and we should demand corporations stop engaging in this unethical behavior. Because that’s the right thing to do.

This article was originally published by Corporate Politics International July 8, 2013. 

Food Safety News