Councils 'appalled' over proposed food safety reforms
Source : http://www.localgov.co.uk/Councils-appalled-over-proposed-food-safety-reforms/41935
By Laura Sharman (Oct 31, 2016)
Welsh councils have warned that handing over the regulation of food safety to producers would put the public at risk.
The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) said it was ‘appalled’ by the proposed reforms to how food safety is regulated and inspected.
WLGA Spokesperson for Regulatory Services, cllr Neil Moore, argued consumers were still reeling from the horsemeat scandal, which had highlighted how some unscrupulous businesses had put profit before food quality.
He said: ‘In Wales we remain in the shadow of an E-coli outbreak which tragically resulted in a death. Local government is committed to seeking to avoid any reoccurrence of this. Can self-regulation of something so important as the food we put into our bodies be trusted?
‘These proposals are at best a gamble. In a global supply chain the food industry lobbies vigorously for a "light touch" regulatory system. We recognise that testing, tracking and tracing ingredients comes at a cost. But not testing them will cost society more.’
The WLGA is calling on the Food Standards Agency to abandon the plans and keep the independent enforcement regime in place.
‘We strongly contend that the public do not deserve a weakened and diminished investigatory regime, but instead would expect an improved system of assurance in food, based upon the independence and professionalism of Environmental Health and Trading Standards Officers,’ added cllr Moore.
Egyptian firm recalls some frozen strawberries for Hepatitis A
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/10/egyptian-firm-recalls-some-frozen-strawberries-following-hep-a-outbreak/#.WBgdQ_mLSUl
BY CATHY SIEGNER (Oct 31, 2016)
Four recalled lots imported for foodservice use only
The International Company for Agricultural Production & Processing (ICAPP), based in Ramadan City, Egypt, is voluntarily recalling certain lots of its frozen strawberries in response to the ongoing investigation into a multistate outbreak of Hepatitis A in the United States.
The Food and Drug Administration’s recall announcement, dated Sunday, stated that the company’s action was taken in consultation with FDA because the Hepatitis A virus was detected in four lots of frozen strawberries ICAPP exported to the U.S.
The federal agency added that ICAPP is working closely with all of its distributors in this country to make sure that the recall is effective.
FDA issued an Import Alert for the company’s strawberries on Oct. 19, indicating that the frozen berries would not be admitted into the U.S. However, at the time the agency did not specifically connect the product to the Hepatitis A outbreak that has been linked to smoothies served at Tropical Smoothie Café outlets.
However, FDA’s latest update on the investigation, posted Oct. 20, notes the following: “Nearly all ill people interviewed report eating smoothies containing strawberries at Tropical Smoothie locations in a limited geographic area. Preliminary traceback information indicates that the frozen strawberries served in these Tropical Smoothie Café locations were imported from Egypt. Tropical Smoothie Café has stopped using these strawberries nationwide.”
As of Oct. 17, the Hepatitis A outbreak had sickened 134 people from nine states — Arkansas, California, Maryland, North Carolina, New York, Oregon, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia — according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No deaths have been reported in connection with the outbreak, although 52 people have been hospitalized.
FDA noted in the Oct. 30 recall announcement that the lots of frozen Egyptian strawberries were all distributed for sale to, and use in, foodservice establishments nationwide and not for use in food products offered for retail sale to consumers.
Even so, the agency added that ICAPP was “issuing this news release publicly to help mitigate any possible risk to the public health and to fully ensure that all recalled products are recovered.”
“Although none of ICAPP’s own testing through an established surveillance program or through third party testing of retained samples has identified the presence of Hepatitis A in any of its products, ICAPP has decided to recall all frozen strawberries that it has imported into the United States since January 1, 2016 out of an abundance of caution,” according to the recall announcement.
No other ICAPP products, frozen or fresh, are covered by this voluntary recall, FDA added.
The recall announcement stated that the Egyptian company is conducting a comprehensive review of all of its operations and suppliers to make sure that the food it produces is safe.
For questions or more information about the recall, consumers may contact ICAPP by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Cairo local time, which is six hours ahead of EDT, at +201-541-1624.
Under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), FDA has mandatory recall authority, but the agency must first provide the responsible party with a chance to stop distribution and conduct a voluntary recall of the food item in question.
If the responsible party refuses to, or does not voluntarily, cease distribution or recall the food item within the time and in the manner prescribed by FDA, the agency may proceed with a mandatory recall.
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from exposure to the Hepatitis A virus. It is usually transmitted by the fecal-oral route, either through person-to-person contact or through consumption of contaminated food or water.
It can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious illness lasting several months. Illness generally occurs within 15 to 50 days of exposure and includes fatigue, abdominal pain, jaundice, abnormal liver tests, dark urine and pale stool.
Hepatitis A vaccination can prevent illness if given within two weeks of exposure to a contaminated food. In rare cases, particularly for those who have a pre-existing severe illness or are immune-compromised, Hepatitis A infection can progress to liver failure.
Persons who may have consumed the recalled product should consult with their health care professional or local health department to determine if a vaccination is appropriate, and anyone with symptoms of Hepatitis A should contact their health care provider or a local health department immediately.
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Norovirus isn’t rocket science: Wash your freakin’ hands
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/10/norovirus-isnt-rocket-science-wash-your-freakin-hands/#.WBgE-fmLSUl
BY FRANCINE L. SHAW (Oct 30, 2016)
It’s estimated that the average person will get norovirus five times during their lifetime. Globally, there are 685 million cases of norovirus each year, with approximately 20 million of those cases occurring in the United States. Norovirus is the number one foodborne illness – and the leading cause of foodborne illness outbreaks – in the United States.
Norovirus is a huge threat within the hospitality industry. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the majority of norovirus outbreaks occur in foodservice settings, and 70 percent of infected workers cause 70 percent of those outbreaks. Several recent studies indicate that people work in foodservice industry jobs even when they’re sick.
Infected food workers often cause – and spread – norovirus outbreaks, typically because they’ve touched ready-to-eat foods, such as raw fruits and vegetables, with their germ-infested bare hands before serving them. Or they touch other items that have been contaminated, such as cell phones, utensils, doorknobs, etc., and spread the disease to others through this contact. Often, stool or vomit particles have caused the contamination. An individual only needs to ingest few of those particles, as few as 18 is enough, to get sick.
Additionally, norovirus outbreaks can occur from foods, such as oysters, fruits, and vegetables, which were contaminated at their source. It’s important to note that any raw or cooked food can get contaminated with norovirus.
In the past year, there were multiple norovirus outbreaks at restaurants, on cruise ships, at schools, and even at the Republican National Convention. Last December, dozens of students at Boston College contracted norovirus, according to the city’s health commission. Officials believe the Boston outbreak was linked to a Chipotle restaurant near campus. Charlotte-Mecklenburg school was closed in February due to a norovirus outbreak. In July, norovirus struck the Republican National Convention when an infected individual made the trip from California to Ohio and spread the disease throughout the close quarters of the convention. Even the Disney Cruise Line‘s Wonder ship suffered a norovirus outbreak this year after a nearly perfect CDC inspection score. It can happen anywhere, so foodservice professionals must remain vigilant about constantly and consistently implementing food safety protocols.
Food safety is a critical issue for the entire foodservice industry, including restaurants, schools, colleges, contract services, convenience stores, hotels, manufacturing and production facilities, medical facilities, retirement homes, retail locations, etc. Bottom line – if you grow, sell, serve, or make food in any capacity, you must be vigilant about food safety. Training employees and following proper protocols are essential to keep consumers safe.
Ongoing employee training and food safety education are important. Be sure that all employees understand food safety basics such as don’t cross-contaminate, clean and sanitize, wash hands properly and regularly, etc. The Food Code is updated every four years with supplemental updates in between. This means employees must stay up to date on potential changes to food service policies and procedures.
While a certified food safety training program is essential, it’s only one piece of a strong food safety environment. A food safety culture must be created from the top down. Corporate executives should be seen washing their hands when they visit their facilities, not just in the restrooms but in the kitchens as well. Everyone – including the leadership team – should be following proper food safety protocols, and modeling the importance of this behavior. The bottom line is don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk.
As I conduct food safety inspections nationwide, I’m amazed at the number of cell phones I find lying about kitchens and food prep areas. Statistically speaking, 1 in 6 cell phones have traces of poop on them – which is more bacteria than the flush handle of a toilet! So as an employee is prepping salads while simultaneously texting their BFF, the salad ingredients are becoming contaminated with whatever is on their cell phone. YUCK!
While there are policies that state that everyone must wash their hands after using the restroom – and that cell phones are not to be used in food prep areas – people break these rules all the time. The average person doesn’t realize how easy it is to spread norovirus and may get complacent about the rules. When employees take their cell phones into the bathroom and either hold them while using the facilities or put them down on the dirty bathroom floor while they “go,” the phone can easily get contaminated with traces of feces or vomit, which can be spread to foods and other surfaces.
The example I frequently use in food safety classes to demonstrate how norovirus spreads through the workplace: everyone at work is healthy and then someone comes down with “the stomach flu” aka vomiting and diarrhea. Before you know it, everyone in the workplace is vomiting and has diarrhea because that person either didn’t wash their hands after using the restroom or didn’t wash them properly.
All of the team members touch the same door handles, telephones, calculators, cash drawers, etc., spreading the germs throughout the facility. This virus spreads widely and rapidly, so one person’s poor hygiene can make everyone else sick. I can tell you firsthand that contracting norovirus is one of the most miserable experiences ever! No one wants to spend time in the bathroom with explosive diarrhea and projectile vomiting, I can assure you.
The best way to prevent norovirus is through proper hygiene. Wash your hands with soap and warm water, then use single use towels to dry them — especially after using the restroom, and always before eating, preparing, or handling food. Noroviruses can be found in your stool even before you start feeling sick, and the virus can stay in your stool for two weeks, or more, after you feel better.
There’s no substitute for good old-fashioned handwashing. Case in point: the CDC and FDA have opposed the antiviral claims on hand sanitizer products due to concern around the physical presence of soil during some norovirus outbreaks. For this reason, hand sanitizer should only be used as an additional precaution, just like wearing single use gloves. Employees should be instructed to properly wash their hands with soap and water at regular intervals, before touching food, after using the restroom, between glove changes, etc.
Typically, we think of norovirus as being an illness that involves vomiting and diarrhea, and in most cases this is true. However, in some situations, the ramifications are much more severe. A norovirus infection can become quite serious in children, the elderly and immune-compromised individuals. Sometimes severe dehydration, malnutrition, and even death can result from a norovirus infection.
If someone in the foodservice industry is diagnosed with norovirus in the U.S., it must be reported to the local regulatory authority and the required protocols must be taken. The 2013 FDA Food Code states that food employees that are “symptomatic with vomiting or diarrhea or symptomatic with vomiting or diarrhea and diagnosed with an infection from norovirus” shall be excluded from working in a food establishment – period. The exception to this is when the symptoms are from a noninfectious condition. And, food employees that are diagnosed with an infection from norovirus and asymptomatic must be “excluded from food establishments that serve a highly susceptible population.”
Establishments that do not serve a highly susceptible population may restrict the food employee’s activities so that there is no risk of transmitting the disease through food, and the employee does not work with exposed food, clean equipment, utensils, linens, or unwrapped single-service or single-use articles.
If a team member has been excluded or restricted from work, according to the 2013 FDA Food Code, they may not return to their regular food service duties until they receive approval from the regulatory authority and provide written medical documentation from a health practitioner to the person in charge, stating that the food service employee is free of a norovirus infection.
Chipotle’s food safety crisis is fading from memories, but their troubles are far from over. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has launched an investigation into Chipotle’s 2015 norovirus outbreak, and the restaurant chain is facing more negative repercussions from that incident.
Everyone in the food service industry should be taking all precautions to avoid foodborne illnesses. Whether you grow, manufacture, sell, prepare or otherwise handle food that’s consumed by the public, you have an obligation to make certain that food is safe. Period.
Foodborne illness outbreaks can sicken (or kill) your customers, and can cause irrevocable damage to your company’s reputation. As if those repercussions weren’t bad enough, the stakes for your business are even higher: foodborne illnesses are resulting in criminal investigations, tremendous fines, and even prison time for corporate executives. Food safety is a very serious issue, and you should treat it as such.
About the author: Francine L. Shaw is president of Food Safety Training Solutions Inc., which offers a roster of services, including food safety training, food safety inspections, norovirus policies for employees, norovirus clean-up procedures, responsible alcohol service training, and more. Francine has been featured as a food safety expert in numerous media outlets, including the Dr. Oz Show, the Huffington Post and Food Management Magazine.
Multi-country Salmonella outbreak
Source : http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/161027a
By efsa.europa.eu (Oct 27, 2016)
Seven countries have reported human cases of Salmonella Enteritidis between 1 May and 12 October 2016 (112 confirmed and 148 probable).
Cases have been reported by Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK. In addition, Croatia reported a cluster of cases, including one death, possibly associated with this outbreak.
Whole genome sequencing, food and environmental investigations, and trace-back investigations established a link between the outbreak and an egg packing centre in Poland. Evidence suggests eggs as the most likely source of infection.
Polish competent authorities and Member States to which suspect eggs were distributed have now halted distribution.
To contain the outbreak and identify possible new cases promptly, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and EFSA recommend that EU Member States step up their monitoring.
Affected countries should continue sharing information on the epidemiological, microbiological and environmental investigations, including issuing relevant notifications using the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) and the Early Warning and Response System (EWRS), the latter representing the official channel to notify serious cross border threats to health.
To monitor the magnitude and severity of this event, new cases should also be reported to the Epidemic Intelligence Information System for food- and waterborne diseases (EPIS-FWD).
EU Food Lobbyists Support Continued Presence of Cancer-Causing Chemical in Food
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/news/uk-food-lobbyists-support-continued-use-of-cancer-causing-chemical-in-food/
By Staff (Oct 27, 2016)
According to leaked documents, food safety officials in the EU have dropped legislation that was supposed to limit the use of acrylamide, an “extremely hazardous substance”, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and a chemical that has been previously linked to cancer.
Acrylamide is a chemical that naturally forms in starchy food products during every-day high-temperature cooking. It is mostly commonly associated with potato chips, coffee, crispy and soft breads and other foods via cooking methods like frying, baking, roasting or otherwise browning.
After increased pressure from the EU food industry, European food safety authorities appear to have done away with plans to limit the use of acrylamide in food, according to documents leaked this week. The leaked documents reportedly prove that food lobbyists influenced the EU's regulatory decision making process. Another part of the legislation was supposed to require food companies to conduct regular testing to ensure that levels of acrylamide in food products were as low as possible.
In June 2015, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published its scientific opinion on acrylamide, stating that its presence in food is in fact linked to cancer in consumers of all ages. Despite the EFSA’s tests proving that exposure to acrylamide was both genotoxic and carcinogenic, ultimately causing damage to DNA and triggering cancerous cells, EU food officials are still balking at enforcing acrylamide restrictions.
The European Commission has reportedly said they are still pursuing the law to limit the use of acrylamide.
EU members say Salmonella outbreak linked to Polish eggs
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/10/eu-members-say-salmonella-outbreak-linked-to-polish-eggs/#.WBgWhfmLSUl
BY CORAL BEACH (Oct 26, 2016)
It’s unclear how many members of the European Union received eggs from Poland that have been implicated in an ongoing Salmonella outbreak that began in July 2015 and has sickened almost 150 people.
Belgium, France and Germany received some of the eggs, according to information filed with the European Commission’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF). As many as 10 countries may have received the eggs, according to reports from Radio Poland.
Croatia and the Netherlands filed official notifications last week with RASFF. Chicken eggs from Poland were sampled Oct. 12 for Salmonella enteritidis and the eggs have been withdrawn from the market in Croatia, according to its notification.
After testing a large number of eggs, Croatian health authorities have not isolated salmonella in any samples taken, according to the country’s agriculture officials who issued a statement Thursday.
“Following the official information provided by the Health Ministry about a case of food poisoning caused by Salmonella believed to have come from eggs and a notification received through the EU RASFF food and safety alerts system about a possible salmonella outbreak in several member states, Minister Tomislav Tolusic, acting in agreement with the Health Minister, is notifying the public that eggs originating from Poland are being recalled from the market,” the Croatian Agriculture Ministry said in a news release.
The European Commission set up a meeting Friday with representatives from several EU countries to discuss the situation. The Polish Agricultural Ministry reported the eggs had been sent to Belgium, the Netherlands and Croatia, according to Radio Poland.
Although distribution details remain unclear, Belgium officials reported the eggs did not go to retailers.
However, the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain in Belgium “several shipments of Polish eggs contaminated with Salmonella” were distributed to seven EU countries, including hundreds of restaurants in Belgium, from “various Dutch suppliers.”
Resurgence of outbreak
Health, agriculture and food safety officials in six EU countries have been watching the Salmonella outbreak since July 2015. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) thought the outbreak was over early this year, but a surge of new cases that began in April refocused attention, with the case count estimated at 150 in recent weeks.
Amidst the ongoing outbreak, the ECDC reported in August that infections from Salmonella bacteria declined from 2006 through 2010.
“There was an 8.8 percent reduction in the number of confirmed cases between 2009 (with) 108,618 confirmed cases and 2010 (with) 99,020 confirmed cases. This decline has been attributed to the successful implementation of Salmonella control programs in poultry populations,” according to the August report.
Research in the European journal on infectious diseases, Eurosurveillance, says while control measures have been somewhat successful they have not addressed all laying hens whose eggs are produced for sale.
“Despite the overall decrease in outbreaks of Salmonella infection in the EU, surveillance data since 1991 in Poland have shown that egg products play a pivotal role in the occurrence of salmonellosis outbreaks in humans, with 63 percent of the outbreaks between 2005 and 2010 being linked to this source,” according to the research abstract.
“The most striking increase has been in the proportion of outbreaks due to S. Enteritidis infection linked with the consumption of home-produced eggs: surveillance data show an increase from 76 percent of all S. Enteritidis outbreaks in 2004 to 82 percent in 2010.”
Rome Has Some Really Serious Problems with Food Safety
Source : https://munchies.vice.com/en/articles/rome-has-some-really-serious-problems-with-food-safety
BY WYATT MARSHALL (Oct 26, 2016)
Ah, Rome, the eternal city: a living, breathing, sprawling metropolis where history pervades every cobbled alley and works its way into every magical moment, whether as young couples sit upon the Spanish Steps at dusk or old friends reunite over a late dinner at a trattoria in Trastevere.
Speaking of the latter, it turns out that running a restaurant in a millennia-old city presents some challenges. According to Il Corriere, a quarter of Rome’s restaurants are potentially facing closure due to hygiene issues.
Since November 2015, Italian health police—the Carabinieri of carbonara—have paid visits to 727 Roman restaurants, most of them in the city center, and have doled out 521 fines totaling €658,000 ($715,000). They encountered problems at half of the restaurants they visited.
Among their findings, according to The Local, was a cockroach infestation at an osteria that was so extensive that there were even roaches found in the cash register. That’s bad, but maybe not as bad as the rodent feces that were found in plated food at a Japanese restaurant. Other offenses included perishable food stored incorrectly, served past its use-by date, and stored too close to cleaning products. Officials seized about 5,000 pounds of meat, 5,000 pounds of fish, and nearly $22,000 in oil, and criminal charges have been brought against 33 people.
This past year could have been a particularly challenging one for maintaining health standards. In the aftermath of ridding the Roman trash collection system of organized crime, the city was left with garbage piling up throughout the cramped city. Last year was also a Catholic Jubilee, during which 18 million pilgrims visited the Vatican, adding to the city’s already immense tourist influx.
Of course, none of this is really an excuse for failure to follow the health code and basics of food hygiene.
If the next time you find yourself in Rome, you discover that that great little dinner spot from your last vacation has closed, it may turn out that you dodged a bullet—a cockroachy, past-expiration bullet.
Federal magistrate takes Beef Checkoff under advisement
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/10/federal-magistrate-takes-beef-checkoff-under-advisement/#.WBgW9fmLSUl
BY DAN FLYNN (Oct 26, 2016)
Federal Magistrate Judge John T. Johnston heard arguments for 55 minutes Tuesday from attorneys representing the activist legal fund R-CALF USA and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack about the Beef Checkoff program.
Judge Johnston of the U.S. District Court in Montana then took his range of options under advisement. R-CALF wants him to grant a temporary restraining order while Secretary Vilsack believes the challenge to the Beef Checkoff should be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction or for failure to state a claim. R-CALF would also settle for a preliminary injunction.
The Beef Checkoff refers to money for marketing and research, including food safety research, to promote the cattle industry. The Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985 gives the Secretary of Agriculture the power to impose a $1 per head charge when cattle are sold.
At Tuesday’s hearing, the R-CALF plaintiffs were represented by attorneys David S. Muraskin and William A. Rossback. Vilsack was represented by Department of Justice attorney Michelle Bennett.
R-CALF, with the long formal name of the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, is a Billings, MT-based organization for independent cattle and sheep producers. It sued the secretary May 2, “alleging that the United States Department of Agriculture turns over proceeds from a federal tax on each sale of cattle to the private Montana Beef Council, to fund the council’s private speech, harming R-CALF USA’s members.”
It said “the government-compelled subsidy of the speech of a private entity, which is not effectively controlled by the government, is unconstitutional under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and should be enjoined.”
The R-CALF lawsuit, however, revisits some of the the same ground as a 2005 challenge to the Beef Checkoff program that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which found the $1 per head charge for industry marketing and research funds “government speech,” not the commercial speech of individuals..
Should the case go forward, it will continue to be heard by federal Judge Brian Morris in Great Falls, MT.
Tips for a Safe Halloween From the FDA
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2016/tips-for-a-safe-halloween-from-the-fda/
By Linda Larsen (Oct 26, 2016)
The FDA is offering tips for a safe Halloween for you and your family. They have tips for safe costumes: look for fire-retardant materials, and wear bright, reflective costumes for safety after dark. Have your kids carry glow sticks or wearing those glowing necklaces. It’s important to stay visible on your rounds, especially as it gets dark or if it’s raining.
For safe treats, which after all is the main point of this holiday, always tell your kids not to eat any treats until they get home and you have inspected it. Sadly, there are true stories of people inserting sharp objects into Halloween candy, although those cases are very rare. And although most parents are concerned about candy that has been altered with dangerous substances, those stories are mostly anecdotal or urban legends.
Still, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Give your kids dinner or at least a snack before they head out on their rounds, so they won’t be tempted to eat treats while they are trick-or-treating. And when you inspect the treats, look for tears in the wrappers, tiny pinholes, a strange appearance, or discoloration. Throw away anything that looks suspicious or if you aren’t sure that the candy looks safe or wholesome.
Food allergies are another area of concern. If your child is allergic to some foods, check the label before they eat it. All packaged foods must indicate the presence of one of the eight major allergens (tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, milk, fish, soy, shellfish, and wheat) on the label. The Teal Pumpkin Project was set up to help with this problem. Anyone who is displaying a pumpkin painted teal at their front door will offer non-food treats, such as small toys, coupons for treats they can eat, or glow sticks in addition to candy.
Choking hazards are another problem with Halloween. If you have very small children, take candies that pose a choking hazard away from them. That includes gum, peanuts, hard candies, and small toys.
If you are throwing a Halloween party, keep food safety in mind. No perishable foods should be left out of refrigeration longer than 2 hours. Avoid cross-contamination when preparing raw meats, seafood, and eggs. Cook meats to a safe final internal temperature – at least 160°F for ground meats and 165°F for chicken and turkey. And always wash your hands well with soap and water before preparing food and before eating. Make sure your guests have the opportunity to wash their hands too, before eating.
If you plan to serve juice at your party, make sure that it has been pasteurized. Unpasteurized juices have been linked to food poisoning outbreaks in the past few years. Juice products that are made on a farm are often unpasteurized. Ask if you aren’t sure.
And bobbing for apples isn’t as innocuous as it may seem. Apples can harbor bacteria, as can all produce. Wash the apples you use for this activity under cool running water and use a clean produce brush to remove any dirt.
Have a happy and safe Halloween!
Have your say on food safety rules
Source : http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/BU1610/S00781/have-your-say-on-food-safety-rules.htm
By scoop.co.nz (Oct 25, 2016)
Have your say on food safety rules
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is calling on food businesses and others to have their say on changes to food safety rules.
The rules are part of the new Food Act, which came into effect in March this year. The Food Act introduces a risk based approach to managing food safety, setting different rules for higher and lower risk businesses and putting more emphasis on what people do to keep food safe.
Fiona Duncan, Director Food and Regulatory Policy at MPI says, “As the new law is rolled out, we monitor and evaluate how things are going and listen to feedback from businesses and others. These proposals make improvements where needed, to make sure the new law works as intended.”
“We propose reducing requirements for some lower risk businesses, giving them fewer records to keep and fewer procedures to follow.
Another proposal makes it easier for businesses to organise their first food safety check, known as a verification”
“We have also reviewed some old food safety laws that are still in effect, and are revoking those that are no longer necessary and keeping the parts we still need”, says Duncan.
The consultation includes a number of other minor changes to help the new law work more smoothly. Businesses can find full details on the MPI website, along with several ways they can have their say, from filling in a quick survey to making a formal submission.
MPI is also working with councils around the country to run free workshops on the Food Act. Workshops give businesses a chance to ask questions about the new law, as well as to give feedback on anything they think could be improved.
More information about the consultation and workshops can be found at www.mpi.govt.nz/foodact
Food safety plays part in urban agriculture bill
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/10/food-safety-plays-part-in-urban-agriculture-bill/#.WBgXaPmLSUl
BY COOKSON BEECHER (Oct 24, 2016)
Imagine walking down the street in your city neighborhood and stopping by a garden, planted in what used to be a vacant lot, to buy some vegetables or fruit for supper. For many people, this is not pie-in-the sky dreaming. It’s a welcome reality — and a pleasant change in scenery.
As urban agriculture continues to put down roots in cities across the United States, more and more people are beginning to see its many benefits. The hope for the future is that it can flourish and sustain a new crop of farmers and farm businesses and help supply city dwellers with healthy food that’s been grown close by.
Helping to fuel that hope, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow on Sept. 28, announced the most comprehensive urban agriculture bill to be introduced in Congress. A Democrat from Michigan, Stabenow is ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.
The Urban Agriculture Act of 2016 would offer urban farmers new resources through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to Stabenow’s Senate office website. It would create a new urban agriculture office at USDA to coordinate policies across the department and provide urban farmers with technical assistance.
Pointing out that urban agriculture is steadily growing in the United States, the senator said the act will build on this momentum by helping urban farmers get started or expand their business “so they can sell more products and supply more healthy food for their neighbors.”
The bill would boost farming cooperatives, encourage rooftop and vertical farms, invest $10 million in research exploring market opportunities, and develop technologies for lowering energy and water needs.
It would also offer loans to finance food production and marketing; risk-management tools to protect crops, food prices, and contracts; and a mentorship support program.
Stabenow announced her legislation during a press conference at D-Town Farm in Detroit with Mayor Mike Duggan and Michigan urban ag leaders.
Currently at seven acres, D-Town Farm is the largest farm in Detroit. Located in a large city park, it is lined by a see-through deer fence and includes large hoop houses and open beds of tomatoes, garlic, beans and other vegetables. Its produce is sold at farm stands and farmers markets.
Launched in 2006 on just one-quarter of an acre, D-Town Farm is an “urban agriculture initiative” of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, which is dedicated to building food security and advocating for food justice for Detroit’s majority African-American community. Blacks or African Americans make up 82.7 percent of the city’s population.
Mayor Mike Duggan said here’s an abundance of available land in Detroit and groups like D-Town farms are putting it to productive use in a way that promotes good health and economic opportunity.
As for the abundance of available land in Detroit, there are an estimated 150,000 abandoned lots within in the city’s 360 acres.
“I hope that Sen. Stabenow’s bill will help efforts like this expand and allow others to follow in their footsteps,” Duggan said.
Long-time urban-ag leader Malik Yakini, executive director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, also gives a thumbs-up to Stabenow’s legislation.
“As we rethink how we provide food in an environmentally sustainable way for an increasingly urban population, urban agriculture is an important component,” he said.
When it comes to the economic benefits of this approach, Yakini said “urban agriculture, and the associated businesses needed to support it, helps local economies to thrive.”
He also praised urban agriculture for its ability to grow food closer to population centers, which not only provides people with fresher, more nutrient-rich foods but also reduces the carbon footprint caused by transporting food long distances.
Joan Nelson, executive director of Allen Neighborhood Center, which operates the Allen Market Place in Lansing, MI, had some good news to share about urban ag.
“A steady increase in the number of urban farms in the Capital City is beginning to impact health and nutrition awareness, good food access, and food security, even as it is transforming fragile neighborhoods,” she said.
In praise of Stabenow’s urban ag act, Nelson said it will offer new resources, support, financial tools, educational and economic opportunities that will “most certainly accelerate and strengthen these promising changes in urban communities throughout Michigan.”
A member of the financial community, Dave Armstrong, president and CEO of GreenStone Farm Credit Services, also had good things to say about the legislation, pointing out that it’s an important step in “supporting the evolving agriculture industry.
He pointed to parts of the bill that focus on risk management, education and expanded loan guarantees.
In a conference call with reporters, Stabenow has conceded that the bill likely won’t pass in its current form. But she said it will start the conversation and build broader support for including urban farming as part of the next farm bill.
Starting the conversation
“It’s really exciting to see this — working toward getting the federal government to making a commitment to urban agriculture,” Jennifer Sowerwine, University of California cooperative extension food systems specialist, said.
“There are so many benefits across the spectrum — health, education, economics, food safety, and community health, among them.”
She also said it presents “tremendous opportunities” for low-income people in cities because urban farms help them learn about nutrition and how to cook fresh produce.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) is also pleased with the bill, saying it would expand USDA programs to support urban farmers, encouraging food production, job creation, urban revitalization and diversity in agriculture production
“Urban agriculture provides a feasible and sustainable business option for those wanting to get into farming, attracting new faces to the industry that may not have otherwise considered this profession,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “This bill will help support the programs that are making these opportunities possible.”
City and suburban agriculture can be found in the form of backyard gardens, roof-top and balcony gardening, community gardening in vacant lots and parks, roadside urban fringe agriculture and livestock grazing in open space, according to the USDA.
The USDA does not keep track of the number of urban farms in the United States. But according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 800 million people worldwide grow vegetables or fruits or raise animals in cities.
“Agriculture — including horticulture, livestock, fisheries, forestry, and fodder and milk production — is increasingly spreading to towns and cities,” according to the FAO website. “Urban agriculture provides fresh food, generates employment, recycles urban wastes, creates greenbelts, and strengthens cities’ resilience to climate change.”
What about food safety
The good news is that food safety is included in Stabenow’s bill in a variety of ways.
Stabenow’s spokeswoman Miranda Margowsky cited several sections in the bill that pertain to food safety:
Sec. 101 Increases funding for Extension activities, which can provide food safety technical assistance and good handling practice information.
Sec. 201 Under the business program review, the bill requires that USDA review/evaluate its technical assistance/training for good agriculture practices (GAPs) and food safety record keeping and must develop best practices to reach urban farmers.
Sec. 301 Addresses soil remediation.
Sec. 401 Includes funding for research on food safety issues related to urban agriculture production.
Nothing in the bill would restrict the community garden grant program from funding cooling equipment as part of overall projects.
First, the soil
When it comes to food safety and urban farming, it’s not as simple as pulling out a shovel and planting some seeds in an abandoned lot.
Land use in urban areas often leaves an unfortunate legacy of contaminated soil. Sites of former commercial or industrial buildings are frequently contaminated with asbestos, petroleum products, lead-based paint chips, dust and debris.
In the case of old houses, lead is often concentrated near their foundations. Even an old apple tree can raise suspicions because it could have been sprayed with an arsenic-based pesticide.
Along roadways, vehicle exhausts leave behind lead and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). Consequently urban farmers are advised to erect some sort of barrier between busy roadways and their growing areas, if possible.
Soil in former parks and along railroad rights-of-way can harbor pesticide residues.
Regardless of the former use, soil must be tested and remediated, if necessary, to get rid of as many contaminants as possible. But because testing for an array of toxins can be expensive, and because remediating the soil can be a huge challenge and further expense, some urban farmers remove the old soil. They place an impermeable barrier on the ground and add new top soil.
Boston University toxicologist Wendy Heiger-Bernays suggests skipping the testing and proceed as though the soil is contaminated. Again, taking this approach would mean bringing in good soil and compost to the site.
It’s the soil, not the food growing in it
A number of studies concur that the main problem isn’t the food grown in contaminated soil, but rather the danger that comes to people working in the soil.
A study by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for a Livable Future warns that gardeners can be exposed to soil contaminants in a variety of ways, among them, accidental ingestion, inhalation and skin contact. The study also points out that soil ingestion is even riskier for children, who think nothing of putting their hands in their mouth and who are generally more sensitive to the effects of contaminants.
Elevated blood lead levels in children are linked with cognitive, motor, behavioral and physical problems, including an increased risk of poor performance at school and criminal behavior.
That’s why people working in urban soils should never track the soil into their dwellings on shoes, clothing and tools. As with any activities involving soil, urban agriculture must include frequent and effective hand washing.
A study from the University of Washington found that higher levels of lead in urban garden soils don’t necessary translate into lead-filled fruits and vegetables. While plants do absorb lead from the soil, it usually doesn’t go past the roots. In other words, it doesn’t move through the stems and into leaves or fruits.
But that may mean that root crops such as potatoes, turnips, carrots and beets might have a slightly higher lead content when grown in an urban garden. However, that’s not the case in crops, such as tomatoes and other above-ground produce.
“In fact, the real danger is in the soil, not in items grown in the soil,” says the report.
The study also found that using compost can actually knock out the dangerous effects of lead, even in the roots of plants. In some instances the compost will make the lead insoluble, which means it’s unlikely to be absorbed into the blood stream.
Other studies, among them “When Vacant Lots Become Urban Gardens,” which focuses on food safety concerns of urban agriculture in Ohio, suggest that there are “lower levels of soil contaminants at well-established gardens.” The reason? Tilling the soil and long-term gardening could have diluted the soil metal contaminants by mixing the contaminants with the soil.
Results from the study suggest that “long-term gardening has the potential to reduce soil contaminants and their potential threat to food quality and human health and to improve access to fresh produce in low-income urban communities.”
Lead levels were part of the discussion when First Lady Michelle Obama decided to plant an organic garden on the South Lawn of the White House. The reason for the initial concern was that the ground previously had be spread with biosolids, also known as sewage sludge.
Testing showed the soil needed no remediation because lead levels were low, far lower than the 200 and 400 ppm that every state agriculture extension agency in the U.S. says is safe for planting crops.
The verdict was that planting crops right in the ground was perfectly appropriate for the White House garden.
For urban gardeners and their customers
Phil Tocco, Michigan State University Extension, has a list of tips for urban gardeners.
Besides being aware of soil contaminants, he advises urban farmers to make sure their equipment — whether it be picking buckets or harvest-preparation tables — be kept sanitary with frequent washing and sanitizing.
Visitors of the human and non-human kind should be monitored at urban growing and packing sites because stray animals, neighbors, and even homeless people can pose food safety risks.
Mariel Borgman, a community food systems educator for Michigan State University Extension, offers these tips for what consumers can ask urban farmers about the safety of their food:
Was the food grown directly in the soil or in raised beds? If it was grown directly in the soil, was the soil tested for lead and other heavy metals? Was it found to be safe?
How do you protect the food from critters — rodents, birds, cats, etc. — and other unwanted visitors? Do you have a fence or some other deterrent?
Has this produce been washed and do you use a sanitizer in the wash water? Note: If produce was not washed, it does not mean it is unsafe. This is just one particular practice that a farm may choose to use.
How often to you sanitize your harvest equipment and bins?
Do you have a food safety plan for your growing operation? Have your employees received training on safe food handling practices?
Borgman also said that it’s always a good idea to wash fruits and vegetables in cool running water before eating them.
The University of California Extension Service’s Jennifer Sowerwine ascribes to WASSH:
W is for water — Is it safe and clean?
A is for animal intrusions — Are they being prevented?
S S is for soil/surface contamination — Are tools and equipment and tables sanitized?
H is for hygiene — Are there restrooms and hand washing stations?
She also suggests that consumer look at the surrounding property, if they are buying urban ag commodities at farm stands. Look for things such as landfills uphill from growing areas that would receive runoff.
Sowerwine, who has been conducting food safety training in the East Bay and other areas of California, is optimistic about how things are going.
“I think there will be a broad-based awareness of food safety and the need to follow best practices,” she said. “The farmers want to make sure what they’re growing is safe and they’re really curious about how to reduce food safety risks.”
Even so, she said they are shocked about the extent of the record keeping that’s required.
“Wow, that’s a lot of paperwork,” she said they frequently tell her.
She understands because she knows the documentation is an added layer of work, which can be hard to get done on top of other work at small farms where there are few employees.
Sower wine said one thing lacking in Stabenow’s bill is a way to deal with the challenges of staying in business when land values are high. For example, a successful urban farm in the Bay Area recently had to close down because the land was slated for development.
“I would really like to see opportunities for some sort of land security and tenure — and additional support to acquire land,” she said.
Additional details on Stabenow’s bill
Agriculture Cooperatives: Expands USDA authority to support farm cooperatives in urban areas, helping urban farmers who want to form and operate an agriculture cooperative get products to market. Reduces individual financial risk and burdensome paperwork by allowing USDA loans to be managed by agriculture cooperatives.
Rooftops, Vertical Farms & Indoor Production: Makes it easier for urban farms to apply for USDA farm programs and assists producers with information on operating rooftop and vertical farms. Supports access to land and production sites in urban communities through innovative conservation grants.
Cutting-Edge Research: Invests $10 million for cutting-edge research to explore market opportunities for urban agriculture and develop new technologies for lowering energy and water needs. Includes national data collection and a new urban agriculture section in the Local and Regional Foods market report.
Loans: Expands existing USDA farm loan programs so urban farmers can cover new farm related activities that improve their business. Now urban farmers can use farm loans to finance food production, marketing, and value-added processing.
Risk Management Tools: Provides a new affordable risk management tool for urban farmers to protect against crop losses, taking into account the risks, food prices and contracts unique to urban farms.
New Urban Ag Office: Creates a new urban agriculture office at USDA to coordinate urban agriculture policies across the Department and provide urban farmers with technical assistance.
Mentorship and Education: Connects urban farmers with rural farmers to provide education and mentorship support.
Community Gardens: Invests $5 million for tools and equipment to develop community gardens that provide community-based nutrition education and donate a portion of the food grown to help feed their neighbors.
Healthy Food: Creates a new pilot program that provides incentives to urban farmers who use sustainable growing practices and commit to supplying healthy food to their neighbors, connecting urban farms with families who need greater access to healthy, local foods.
Soil Remediation: Expands resources for technical and financial support to test and clean up contaminated soils, and invests in new research on the best practices for soil remediation.
Urban Composting: Creates a pilot program to provide urban farmers access to compost while reducing food waste that would otherwise go into landfills.
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