Tackling Food Fraud on a Global Level
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/magazine-archive1/junejuly-2017/tackling-food-fraud-on-a-global-level/
By Food Safety Magazine
“Food fraud” is a collective term encompassing the deliberate and intentional substitution, addition, tampering or misrepresentation of food, food ingredients or food packaging, labeling or product information, or false/misleading statements made about a product for economic gain. Recent global food fraud scandals have highlighted the need to strengthen companies’ ability to detect and mitigate the risks of food fraud within their organizations and across their supply chain. Authorities, consumers and other stakeholders expect food companies to proactively mitigate food fraud risks. However, current food safety management systems are not designed for food fraud mitigation, which requires a different perspective and skill set than either food safety or food defense. For instance, socioeconomic issues and past food fraud incidents are not included in traditional food safety or food defense risk assessments and are not generally part of any current food safety audit. Vulnerabilities to food fraud can also occur outside the traditional activities of a company.
The risks to food safety have never been higher. While food fraud is not new, the motivation to adulterate or counterfeit food for financial gain is growing, and thus new solutions are needed. While current food safety management systems are not always designed for fraud detection or mitigation, new food safety guidelines require it. That is why SSAFE (see “SSAFE: An Important Food Safety Partner”) created a free fraud vulnerability assessment tool that companies can use to help identify vulnerabilities to food fraud threats. This is an industry-led solution that can help meet the new requirements for food fraud mitigation set out in the Consumer Goods Forum’s Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). SSAFE worked with Wageningen University, VU University Amsterdam, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and food industry leaders worldwide to help put the global food supply industry in a stronger position to fight fraud and provide a basis to develop company-specific intervention strategies.
This science-based tool is based on the study of criminal behavior and decision making. It’s structured into two parts. The first examines the elements affecting criminal behavior, while the second relates to a company and its external relationships and environment (such as suppliers). The assessment is easy to use and can be applied anywhere in the food supply chain, from animal feed and primary production to manufacturing and catering. It applies fraud theory to support the identification of vulnerabilities in the food supply chain. There are three main elements—opportunities, motivations and absence of fraud control measures—that are believed to determine a company’s vulnerability to food fraud and make up the focus of the assessment. “Opportunities” and “motivations” are determined by the company’s internal and external environment and are defined as potential fraud risk factors. The potential risk resulting from these two elements can be mitigated by the third element, the “fraud control measures” that companies implement to detect or prevent fraud.
Specifically, the following types of food fraud (Figure 1) considered in this tool are:
• Mislabeling, the process of placing false claims on packaging for economic gain
• Dilution, the process of mixing a liquid ingredient with high value with a liquid of lower value
• Concealment, the process of hiding the low quality of food ingredients or a product
• Counterfeiting, the process of copying the brand name, packaging concept, recipe, processing method, etc. of food products for economic gain
• Substitution, the process of replacing a high-value ingredient or part of the product with a lower-value one
• Unapproved enhancement, the process of adding unknown and undeclared materials to food products to enhance their quality attributes
• Gray-market production/theft/diversion, which is the sale of excess, unreported product, resulting in loss of royalties or payments to the brand
Ready to Get Started?
If so, then there are a few things you should know:
• The tool is free to use for any company. Go online (www.pwc.com/foodfraud), download the app or use the spreadsheet to complete our 50 assessment questions.
• You can use the tool to assess your vulnerability to fraud at an ingredient, product, brand, facility, country or company-wide level (Figure 2). If you want help deciding where to apply the tool in your organization, complete the decision tree.
• The online tool is easy to use and you have the option to delegate responsibility for completing specific questions to different colleagues and departments to ensure its smooth completion by the right people, no matter how big or small your organization.
• Once completed, and depending on how you decided to apply the tool, the assessment will produce a profile of your company’s potential food fraud vulnerability, which can form the basis for developing interventions to mitigate identified vulnerabilities, as well as assessing potential risk to the enterprise.
• The assessment doesn’t give specific recommendations for mitigation techniques, but it does provide links to useful guidance on how and where to find solutions. It is not designed to detect fraud or predict future food fraud incidents. Yet, addressing vulnerabilities may identify fraud and give you the opportunity to stop criminal activity.
• You can use this tool as part of your food safety management system—remember, fraud vulnerabilities change over time, so use it regularly.
• At the end of the assessment, you’ll get a report that can be added to your food safety documentation that includes spiderweb graphics illustrating and identifying potentially high-risk areas of vulnerability. The outputs will enable you to prepare mitigation strategies and techniques, including the introduction of additional controls for reducing your food fraud risks.
• Responses to the assessment remain confidential to the company carrying out the assessment. It is important to note that respondents and their organizations are not identifiable from the online information recorded. All identifiable data are deleted at the end of your assessment, and all remaining data are aggregated to support general benchmarking and research to continue improving the tool and provide additional feedback to the industry.
Putting the Tool to Use
Because of fraud, companies are losing money and customers are losing faith. Food fraud is estimated to cost the global food industry $30 to $40 billion every year. But beyond the economic cost, food fraud can harm public health and damage brands. Globalization and increasingly complex supply chains are creating huge opportunities and rewards for fraudsters. The collision of megatrends—particularly climate change, resource scarcity, urbanization and demographic change—is increasing vulnerabilities and making it easier to profit from fraud. Today, even the most basic foods can involve huge numbers of suppliers around the world.
Small wonder, then, that food fraud is increasing. In response, GFSI is adding two new requirements to its guidance document to support companies in reducing the risks from food fraud to their own organization and consumers. By requiring companies to assess their vulnerability to food fraud and develop control plans to reduce their vulnerabilities, fraud mitigation will become an integral part of food safety management systems and a company’s enterprise risk management framework. This new food fraud vulnerability assessment is purpose-built to help companies identify areas of vulnerability and meet the requirements of all GFSI-recognized certification schemes as well as several regulatory authorities around the world. It’s a great place to start in identifying your vulnerabilities and planning your mitigation efforts.
SSAFE hopes that the development and launch of this science-based tool will help food companies spot and minimize their vulnerabilities. By using the tool, food companies will not only strengthen and protect themselves better but also help meet the new requirements set out by GFSI, drive use and application of the tool (one reason why the tool was translated into nine additional languages), drive its use deeper into the supply chain into small and medium-size businesses and, over the medium to long term, continue to build on the tool with our partners and other organizations that have or are developing tools to ensure solutions are consistent, aligned and benefit users across the entire food industry.
SSAFE works on many initiatives to protect the global food supply, not just food fraud mitigation. Some examples of other projects SSAFE is currently working on include the development of a global dairy farming food safety training framework, capacity building for food manufacturers in China and the development of an ISO technical specification for animal welfare (ISO/TS 34700:2016).
SSAFE Global Dairy Farming Food Safety Training Framework
The SSAFE Global Dairy Farming Food Safety Training Framework is intended to support food safety training and other capacity-building activities already occurring in the dairy farming sector, particularly in low- and medium-
income countries. The program provides requirements and guidance for good dairy farming practices and outlines the required knowledge and skills to create more consistency in the approach to training small to medium-size dairy farmers. It also provides recommendations and tools for determining training needs and the sourcing and selection of learning service providers.
The framework covers all regular dairy-farming activities that may influence the safety of animal products. This includes all relevant steps, from the on-farm production of feed intended for dairy cows to the delivery of farm products to immediate customers, including milk and live animals for meat.
The framework has recently been piloted in the Philippines, and SSAFE is using the outcomes from the pilot to update and publicize the framework. Over time, SSAFE expects this work to deliver a range of benefits such as:
• Improved quality and safety of dairy products
• Access to new markets for dairy farmers
• Consistency in the content and quality of training of dairy farmers
• A replicable model that can be used by anyone irrespective of type of organization, geographical location or size
• A tiered approach, enabling farmers to learn at a reasonable pace and improve continuously over time
SSAFE-SJTU Food Safety Training Program in China
SSAFE has been collaborating since 2013 with Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) in China to deliver basic and intermediate-level GFSI Global Markets Program training to food manufacturers in China. The objective has been to provide professional, systematic approaches and knowledge to accelerate food safety capabilities in China. Through this program, SSAFE and its members have demonstrated their commitment to helping Chinese food companies. SSAFE and SJTU recently extended their partnership for an additional 3 years to deliver training to 200–450 Chinese food manufacturers in Shanghai and Beijing.
ISO Technical Specification for Animal Welfare
Since 2012, SSAFE has worked in collaboration with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) to develop an ISO technical specification for animal welfare. The aim is to ensure appropriate care and well-being of food-producing animals, which is a basic expectation of consumers across cultures and geographies. The goal of this work is to facilitate the implementation of the animal welfare principles of the existing OIE code in the private sector and specify requirements for managing animal welfare in the food chain. That is why we worked together to develop a nonprescriptive, scientific, outcomes-based ISO technical specification that can help farmers around the world meet and implement the OIE principles of animal welfare. The standard was published at the end of 2016.
Food Safety Magazine thanks Quincy Lissaur, executive director at SSAFE, for contributing his expertise for this article.
SSAFE: An Important Food Safety Partner
In 2004, the avian influenza crisis revealed the impact that animal and health issues can have on the global food chain. To effectively address this threat, industry partners and intergovernmental organizations came together to promote the integrity of the global food system and rapidly respond. SSAFE was born! Formally incorporated as a nonprofit membership organization in August 2006, SSAFE now extends beyond the original scope of work. Today, SSAFE continues to foster the improvement of internationally recognized food protection systems and standards through public-private partnerships. By integrating food safety, animal health and plant health across the global food system, SSAFE is working to improve public health and well-being. What makes SSAFE unique is its focus on driving collaboration between the public and private sectors to enhance the integrity of the food supply worldwide.
Its goals are:
• To understand and value diverse perspectives on the challenges of the food supply globally
• To support the development and implementation of World Trade Organization–recognized standards that facilitate safe trading of foods
• To facilitate education and training in food safety in developing regions around the world
• To collaborate with intergovernmental organizations, academia and industry leaders to address new challenges in food production
To learn more, visit www.ssafe-food.org.
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Salmonella Outbreak in 2016 Linked to Hot Peppers
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2017/salmonella-outbreak-in-2016-linked-to-hot-peppers/
By Linda Larsen (June 30, 2017)
A multistate outbreak of Salmonella Anatum infections that were linked to imported hot peppers appears in the The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for June 30, 2017. This is the first government report on this outbreak. Thirty two people in nine states were sickened in this outbreak that happened during the summer of 2016.
The CDC and FDA did not publish anything about this outbreak at the time because government officials couldn’t find a source for the outbreak, specifically a common source for the peppers, so consumers couldn’t take steps to protect themselves. Epidemiologic, lab, and traceback evidence found that fresh hot peppers were the likely source, but “a single pepper type or source farm could not be identified.”
Fresh hot peppers and other produce have been the sources for many outbreaks in the past few years. In fact, the FDA started increasing testing of cucumbers and hot peppers in 2015 after outbreaks. In 2008, fresh hot perps were associated with an outbreak that sickened 1,500 people, hospitalized more than 300, and killed two. Peppers contaminated with Salmonella have been recalled many times since 2010. The most recent recall was for Habanero peppers from Montero Farms in Texas.
Back to the outbreak. In 2016, PulseNet found a cluster of 16 Salmonella Anatum infections with the same PFGE pattern. The same pattern was uploaded to PulseNet from an isolate found on an Anaheim pepper. This PFGE pattern had only been seen 24 times before in the PulseNet database.
Thirty-two patients in nine states were identified as being part of the outbreak. Illness onset dates ranged from May 6 through July 9, 2016. Officials interviewed patients who were part of this outbreak. The foods eaten the week before they got sick were: tomatoes (71% of respondents); pork (64%); avocado/guacamole (57%); jalapeños, a hot pepper that can vary from mild to hot heat (36%); and cantaloupe (36%). Seven of the 14 patients interviewed said they had eaten at a Mexican-style restaurant before they got sick.
The median patient age was 36 years (range = 4–79 years); 19 (59%) were female. Eight patients were hospitalized because their illnesses were so severe. No deaths were reported.
Open ended questions were then asked, which can identify uncommon exposures with more detailed information. Patients from Texas, Colorado, Illinois, and Minnesota were interviewed. Among 18 patients interviewed, 14 said they ate, or possibly ate, fresh hot peppers the week before they got sick.
Restaurants where patients said they consumed peppers were visited next. Recipes were collected. Traceback was conducted on the food from point of service to its origin or manufacture source. The supply chain was very complicated, and peppers from different suppliers were red together, repacked, and resold. The peppers could have been contaminated in the field, during harvest, during processing, or during transport. So the FDA could not identify a single source farm or point of contamination.
Complicating the matter was the fact that the patients interviewed said they did not eat Anaheim peppers before they became ill, most likely because they couldn’t identify it or because they ate that type of pepper in salsa or a prepared dish. And the companies that sold produce to one of the restaurants in question kept incomplete records.
The Salmonella Anatum isolate from the Anaheim pepper that matched the outbreak strain was the defining factor in this outbreak. The FDA placed one consolidator/grower on import alert for Anaheim peppers during this time period. That importer was not identified in the report. Te report states, “The strong genetic relationship between the clinical and food isolates, in combination with the epidemiologic and traceback evidence, indicated that fresh hot peppers were the likely source of the outbreak. Nevertheless, it was not possible to implicate one pepper type or source farm.”
This outbreak stresses the importance of preventing contamination on produce to reduce the risk of food poisoning. A 2009 study of Salmonella in fresh salsa found that chopped jalapeños were more supportive of Salmonella growth than other raw vegetables when stored at 53°F to 69°F. Temperature control is crucial for fresh produce as well as meats and poultry.
2016 Salmonella outbreak revealed this week by CDC, FDA
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2017/06/2016-salmonella-outbreak-revealed-this-week-by-cdc-fda/#.WVn7SojyiUl
BY CORAL BEACH (JUNE 30, 2017)
Federal officials this week released the first reports on a Salmonella outbreak in 2016 that sickened more than 30 people across nine states and was traced to fresh hot peppers.
The outbreak hit people from Texas to Minnesota, causing the hospitalization of at least eight out of 32 confirmed victims, according to a report in the “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report” from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This is the first report of this outbreak,” a CDC spokeswoman told Food Safety News on Thursday.
“Investigators could not determine what specific type of hot pepper was causing illness, or which farm was producing the peppers. Due to the short shelf-life of fresh peppers, the contaminated peppers were most likely no longer being sold or served when investigators suspected peppers as the outbreak source.”
The Food and Drug Administration had similar reasons for not alerting the public during the 2016 outbreak, which stretched from May 6 through July 9.
“The FDA worked with CDC on this outbreak, however the traceback investigation was unable to uncover a common source for the peppers at the time and therefore we did not have any actionable information to share with consumers,” a spokesman from the Food and Drug Administration told Food Safety News Thursday afternoon.
Coincidentally, the FDA issued an Import Alert on June 21, 2016, for fresh Anaheim peppers from produce consolidator Elias Gerardo Gonzalez Valdez in Nuevo León, Mexico. The alert allowed for Anaheim peppers from Valdez to be held at the U.S. border without inspection. But the alert was not related to the outbreak.
“The import alert was issued because of a positive sample collected during our micro-surveillance sampling of hot peppers,” the FDA spokesman said Thursday.
“We had begun this sampling assignment to fill some data gaps in our knowledge about hot peppers and to learn more about potential rates of contamination in these products. We received the results for this pepper right about the same time that we were becoming aware of the outbreak.”
Peppers among the usual suspects
Potential pathogen problems associated with fresh peppers spurred the FDA to initiate a special 18-month testing assignment program for the commodity in late 2015. The agency cited outbreaks, deaths and recalls related to fresh hot peppers when it announced it would be conducting the “micro-surveillance.”
Another contributing factor to the FDA decision to conduct the special testing of hot peppers is the fact that there are numerous opportunities for the commodity to be contaminated because peppers frequently come into contact with contaminated water, soil or equipment during growing, harvesting, and/or post-harvest activities.
“In 2008, fresh hot peppers were associated with an outbreak that caused 1,500 illnesses, 308 hospitalizations and two deaths. Additionally, since 2010, Salmonella spp. has been responsible for eight product recalls involving fresh hot peppers, which can be a ‘stealth component’ in multi-ingredient dishes,” according to FDA’s information page on the pepper testing program.
“As a result of these incidents, the FDA is seeking information on the prevalence of Salmonella spp., E. coli, and Shiga toxin–producing E. coli in fresh hot peppers.”
FDA’s plans called for the collection and testing of 1,600 hot pepper samples — 320 domestic, and 1,280 of international origin. As of April 1, the agency had collected 310 domestic samples and 1,255 import samples. Of those, FDA tested 309 of the domestic samples for Salmonella, with only one returning positive results. That’s about 0.3 percent with positive results.
Of the import samples collected, FDA tested 1,211 for Salmonella and found 44 of them — 3.6 percent — positive for the pathogen.
“As the testing is still underway, no conclusions can be drawn at this time,” according to the most recent update, which FDA posted on April 1.
Connecting the dots
Neither the FDA nor CDC could definitively connect the 2016 outbreak victims to a specific type of hot pepper or a specific grower or packer. However, a sample of Anaheim pepper from the Nuevo León produce consolidator that FDA tested in April 2016 turned out to be a genetic match for Salmonella Anatum isolated from victims.
The big picture didn’t come into focus, though, until months later.
In June 2016, the CDC’s PulseNet database identified a cluster of 16 people from four states who had Salmonella Anatum infections with an indistinguishable pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) pattern, indicating a common source.
“This rare PFGE pattern had been seen only 24 times previously in the PulseNet database, compared with common PFGE patterns for this serotype which have been seen in the database hundreds of times,” according to the CDC report published this week.
Standard outbreak interview and investigation techniques did not yield many clues, so the CDC and state investigators in Minnesota started having open-ended interviews with outbreak victims. Among 18 patients interviewed, 14 reported eating or possibly eating fresh hot peppers, or reported eating an item containing fresh hot peppers before becoming sick.
“Nine patients reported eating peppers at restaurants, two reported eating peppers both at restaurants and at home, and three did not specify a location,” the CDC reported.
Investigators started looking at restaurants where victims reported consuming peppers. They collected recipes for reported menu items, including salsa, and reviewed invoices to identify common ingredients.
The FDA conducted traceback on peppers served at three restaurants in Minnesota and Texas. Two of those restaurants received peppers from the Nuevo León produce consolidator named in the FDA import alert. The third restaurant received peppers from multiple firms in Mexico, including Valdez in Nuevo León.
“FDA collected seven additional samples of hot peppers, including serrano, habanero, jalapeño, and bell peppers, from (the consolidator) as part of the outbreak investigation; none yielded Salmonella,” according to the CDC report.
“On June 21, 2016, before the epidemiologic investigation began, FDA placed (the consolidator) on import alert for Anaheim peppers because they could be contaminated with Salmonella. …There were only two outbreak-associated illnesses reported after the import alert was issued.”
An estimated 1 million people in the U.S. are sickened with Salmonella infections every year, according to the CDC. Of those, about 400 people die.
There were four fresh pepper recalls because of Salmonella during the outbreak period in the U.S. and Canada:
Habanero peppers from Montero Farms in McAllen, TX;
Chili peppers from Canada Herb;
Veg-Pak Produce Ltd. Hot Peppers – Red Thai in Canada; and
Serrano peppers from Warren Produce in Edinburg, TX.
Rhode Island lawmakers delay decision on raw milk until 2018
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2017/06/rhode-island-lawmakers-delay-decision-on-raw-milk-until-2018/#.WVn9VIjyiUl
BY NEWS DESK (JUNE 30, 2017)
It’s now looking like Rhode Island’s legislature is going to put off any votes on legalizing sales of raw milk until next year.
A nine-member special legislative study commission —to be known as the Commission to Study Raw Milk Regulations— has been recommended by the Senate Committee on Environment & Agriculture. It would make a report to the Senate President no later than Jan. 2, 2018.
The study commission would include representatives of the state’s Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Management along with representatives of the Farm Bureau, two dairy farmers, a licensed medical doctor with expertise in foodborne infectious diseases, and a representative of organic food consumers.
The purpose of the commission would be to “update and strengthen the governance of the availability and consumption of raw milk in Rhode Island.” All Rhode Island departments and agencies would be directed to provide the commission with advice and information.
Earlier this week, it appeared Senate Bill 247, legalizing the sale of raw milk in Rhode Island, would get an up or down vote before the General Assembly adjourned for the year. However, when the committee met on the issue on June 26, it recommended the study commission be set up instead with instructions to turn in a report for the Assembly’s next session.
The Senate Resolution establishing the commission says milk “is one of the most perfect foods afforded by nature,” and recognizes “a growing demand from organic food consumers for raw or unpasteurized milk as a result of claims that it is more nutritious and healthful than pasteurized milk.”
It also says Rhode Island dairy farmers and consumers could benefit if demand for raw milk could be met, while preserving public health. The study resolution was added to the Senate consent calendar Thursday as an “indefinite postponement of the original bill.
Rhode Island lawmakers hope to finish their legislative work and adjourn by Saturday.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration and most state health departments warn against drinking unpasteurized milk because of the dangers of bacteria that the pasteurization process kills.
Federal law prohibits the sale of raw, unpasteurized milk across state lines. Some states allow sales of raw milk within their borders and under specific circumstances. Rhode Island currently allows consumers to pay for a share in a dairy herd to receive raw milk directly from farmers.
Diverse solutions to tackle food safety concerns
Source : http://exclusive.multibriefs.com/content/diverse-solutions-to-tackle-food-safety-concerns/food-beverage
By Bambi Majumdar (JUNE 29, 2017)
Food safety concerns are not new, but there has recently been an increased focus on solutions that can improve safety.
The risk of a foodborne illness is higher with uncooked food since there is no way to kill any harmful bacteria, like E. coli or salmonella, that may be present. At times, even washing produce will not rid it of all bacteria or viruses. That is why food safety concerns have heightened, and understanding food safety has become so important for consumers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 48 million people get food-borne illnesses each year from 31 known foodborne pathogens. This in turn leads to more than 3,000 deaths and 128,000 hospitalizations annually — staggering numbers that need to contained.
Preventing food-borne illnesses has become imperative, and we all have to do our bit to contain the number of food poisoning incidents. That includes making fresh produce safer and healthier by sanitizing them at the individual level as well as the research that goes into coming up with new ways to help.
Among the many studies being conducted on food safety, one by an Oklahoma State University graduate student has recently made news. Pushpinder Litt, a food science doctoral student, is focusing on controlling foodborne pathogens in food using phages. Phages are basically viruses that penetrate and kill bacteria in fresh produce and other food products.
Penn State Extension educators have developed food-safety training programs for Amish and Mennonite farmers, who are responsible for about half of the state's produce but are considerably behind the times when it comes to farm food safety methods. The training includes new agricultural technology as well as new food safety regulations awareness.
The Food and Drug Administration's Food Safety Modernization Act is focused on intensive food safety practices across the country to prevent cases of foodborne illnesses, rather than simply responding to contamination.
In this perspective, United Fresh Produce Association's generous donation of $500,000 to the Center for Produce Safety has come at an opportune time. Implementing food safety regulations is a challenging prospect and needs ample funds to ensure comprehensive food safety. Establishing all the conditions and practices in order to preserve the quality of food and avoid contamination and foodborne illnesses is the need of the hour, per the FDA and the USDA.
Studies show that consumer confidence in the safety of food has risen as more retailers and stores prove their compliance with the rules. According to the Food Marketing Institute's U.S. Grocery Shopping Trends 2017, 87 percent of consumers have stated that they feel that food in stores is safer now than before.
So what lies in the future of food safety? Advancing technology that will change our food safety practices even further.
Management will be more committed to food safety, so company recalls like Hampton Creek products from Target will be lower. Regulatory requirements are ever-increasing and will soon go beyond the listeria outbreaks, FSMA deadlines, whole genome sequencing and allergen recalls that are prevalent today.
Emerging technologies like DNA sequencing will help detect and trace foodborne illnesses easier. This will not just impact food safety, but also add to consumer confidence and affect the food brands. While the industry is doing its part, the FDA has also urged consumers to start practicing better food hygiene habits.
A recent Chow Line report stresses the importance of rinsing and washing fruits and veggies before eating. Fresh produce is the new millennium choice for a healthy palate, but they can harbor harmful bacteria at times. Rinsing them thoroughly under running water can ensure food safety, even the ones with skin.
Fresh produce, whether purchased from a farmer's market or grocery stores or even homegrown ones, needs proper food safety handling. Practicing better food hygiene habits would go a long way to contain the shocking numbers mentioned above.
BPI settles with ABC over $1.9 billion defamation claim
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2017/06/bpi-settles-with-abc-over-1-9-billion-defamation-claim/#.WVn-HIjyiUl
By DAN FLYNN (JUNE 28, 2017)
“The case is settled,” Judge Cheryle Gering told the jury Wednesday morning, thereby making the first public announcement that BPI and ABC Television had settled the $1.9 billion defamation lawsuit in a confidential agreement.
“As permitted under the law of South Dakota, neither the court, the jury nor the public will be told the details of the settlement today,” Gering continued.
“It is up to the parties to share in future public statements what they wish to disclose if anything about the settlement. What I can tell you is that this case is completely over and will be dismissed.”
Dakota Dunes, SD-based Beef Products Inc. (BPI) filed suit against Disney-owned ABC Television and reporter Jim Avila for calling its beef product “pink slime” on more than 350 occasions during a 27-day period in 2012.
The settlement began to come together late Monday, but was not concluded by the time court resumed on Tuesday morning. That’s apparently why Gering released the jury from hearing any additional testimony on Tuesday. By the time she called the court into session Wednesday, the lawyers had all the settlement details ready to go.
Outside the Union County Court House in Elk Point, SD, on Wednesday, ABC reporter Jim Avila, who had been named as a defendant, said he wished the jury could have heard his side of the story from the witness stand.
“I think it’s important to note that we are not retracting anything and we are not apologizing for anything. I want people to understand that I understand that it was a business decision and I do support my company’s decision,” Avila told media at the scene.
BPI owners Eldon and Regina Roth and other family members were present in the courtroom for the announcement. Their lead attorney, Dan Webb, said: “We are extraordinarily pleased with this settlement.”
The network was more specific.
“ABC has reached an amicable resolution of its dispute with the makers of ‘lean finely textured beef.’ Throughout this case, we have maintained that our reports accurately presented the facts and views of knowledgeable people about this product,” a network spokesman said.
“Although we have concluded that continued litigation of this case is not in the company’s interests, we remain committed to the vigorous pursuit of truth and the consumer’s right to know about the products they purchase.”
A short time later, the Roth family issued their own statement:
“We are extraordinarily pleased to have reached a settlement of our lawsuit against ABC and Jim Avila. While this has not been an easy road to travel, it was necessary to begin rectifying the harm we suffered as a result of what we believed to be biased and baseless reporting in 2012.
“Through this process, we have again established what we all know to be true about Lean Finely Textured Beef: it is beef, and is safe, wholesome, and nutritious. This agreement provides us with a strong foundation on which to grow the business, while allowing us to remain focused on achieving the vision of the Roth and BPI family.”
The settlement, for an undisclosed amount, means others are going to be left to speculate about how much South Dakota’s Agricultural Food Products Disparagement Act, with its potential for triple damages, played in the agreement. When it could not get the case dismissed, ABC sought to get it transferred to federal court. The Dakota Dunes, SD-based BPI, however, was successful in keeping the case in state court for trial in their county courthouse.
South Dakota is one of thirteen U.S. states that make it easier for food producers to sue on libel or defamation grounds. South Dakota is one of two where triple damages may be awarded.
As for Elk Point, both town and county officials moved quickly after the judge adjourned the proceedings to remove all parking and other restrictions that had been placed in and around the court house. Judge Gering said the basement court room built for the BPI v ABC trial, that ended midway through its fourth week, is a valuable addition to the First Judicial District’s venues.
ABC Settles ‘Pink Slime’ Lawsuit with BPI
Source : https://foodsafetytech.com/news_article/abc-settles-pink-slime-lawsuit-bpi/
By Food Safety Tech Staff (June 28, 2107)
Today ABC News and Beef Products, Inc. (BPI) settled the $1 billion+ defamation lawsuit over the television network’s coverage of BPI’s lean finely textured beef, which has been infamously referred to “pink slime”. Terms of the deal are not being disclosed.
“We are extraordinarily pleased with this settlement,” stated BPI attorney Dan Webb in a statement outside the Union County Courthouse in Elk Point, South Dakota, as reported by the Sioux City Journal. “I believe we have totally vindicated the product.”
The ABC reports aired in 2012 (reported by Jim Avila) and stated that ground beef sold in supermarkets contained a cheap filler (beef trimmings sprayed with ammonia) that was not labeled as such on the products. The network reported that 70% of ground beef at the supermarket contained pink slime, a term coined by whistleblower and former USDA scientist Gerald Zirnstein.
BPI claimed that following the ABC reports, its revenues reportedly dropped 80% and resulted in layoffs of hundreds of employees. In a written statement, the company called ABC’s reporting “biased and baseless”. The trial began on June 5.
Consumer food safety confidence rises for grocery stores
Source : http://www.thepacker.com/news/consumer-food-safety-confidence-rises-grocery-stores
By Tom Karst (JUNE 27, 2017)
Consumer confidence in the safety of food at grocery stores continues to rise, though many consumers want retailers to impose tough food safety standards on their suppliers, according to the Food Marketing Institute’s U.S. Grocery Shopping Trends 2017.
The survey found that 87% of consumers said they were confident that food in the grocery store is safe in 2017, up from 86% in 2016 and 84% in 2015.
The report said shoppers look for cues to determine the level of trust they may instill in a particular store.
“If a store is seen to neglect proper inventory management of perishable goods, shoppers often say they just won’t buy products from those departments,” the report said. “Once lost, consumer confidence can be difficult for a retailer to regain.”
When asked what store behaviors make shoppers more likely to shop at a particular store, 77% of consumers said that they would shop at stores who “impose strict food safety standards on suppliers.”
Also rated higher — at 76% who approve — are stores who are “proactive/prompt communicating recalls.”
That’s higher than 69% who said they would favor stores who have a “reputation for selling high-quality goods” and 69% who said they would favor stores who make it “easy to find out sourcing of fresh produce.”
The survey said 95% of U.S. shoppers “trust their grocery store to ensure that the food they purchase is safe,” up from 94% in 2016.
“Shoppers may trust the food from the grocery store, but this is due (in part) to the large amount of trust they put in government organizations, such as the (Food and Drug Administration) and (U.S.
Department of Agriculture), which monitor and regulate to ensure food safety across the food chain,” the FMI report said.
The survey indicated that 49% of consumers believe food safety problems most likely are to occur at food processing or manufacturing plants, compared with 5% who believe food safety problems are most likely to occur on farms and 4% who believe food safety problems are likely to occur at grocery stores. Other percentages were warehouses (9%), transport (5%), restaurant (10%) and home (7%).
For one in six shoppers, recalls prompt them to stop purchasing the product altogether, according to the survey. Food conditions shoppers believe pose at least some health risk:
Contamination by bacteria or germs, 74%;
Residues, such as pesticides and herbicides, 68%;
Product tampering, 62%;
Terrorists tampering with the food supply, 57%;
Antibiotics and hormones used on poultry or livestock, 56%;
Food from China, 51%;
Foods produced by biotechnology or GMOs, 45%;
Irradiated foods, 44%;
Food handling in supermarkets, 41%;
Eating food past the ‘USE BY’ date, 39%;
Eating food past the ‘BEST BY’ date, 34%; and
Eating food past the ‘SELL BY’ date, 32%.
Source: Food Marketing Institute’s U.S. Grocery Shopping Trends 2017
Citing food safety concerns, Target pulls Hampton Creek products off its shelves
Source : http://www.fooddive.com/news/grocery--citing-food-safety-concerns-target-pulls-hampton-creek-products-off-its-she/445882/
By Megan Poinski (JUNE 27, 2017)
Last week, Target started pulling products made by Hampton Creek off of its shelves, according to Bloomberg. A spokesperson for the retailer said the move comes after it received allegations of food safety concerns and accusations of manipulation and adulteration of Hampton Creek’s products. No consumers have reported illness as a result of consuming the products, the article said.
The article says Target received reports of pathogens found in a Hampton Creek manufacturing facility and allegations that items in the Just line of vegan condiments, salad dressings, cookies, baking mixes and cookie dough had tested positive for salmonella and listeria. The retailer also claims some products are mislabeled as non-GMO and its Sweet Mustard product contains honey that is not listed on the ingredient label. According to Bloomberg, Target did not confirm these allegations before pulling products, but notified the Food and Drug Association of its concerns.
Target, which is the largest retailer that sells Hampton Creek products, is the only store to have pulled any items from its shelves. Hampton Creek denies any allegations of impropriety in a company statement. "The allegations that our products are mislabeled and unsafe are false," the statement reads. "The Sweet Mustard product complies with all FDA labeling requirements. Our Non-GMO product claims are supported by ingredient supplier documentation. We are confident that our Non-GMO products are properly labeled. We have robust food safety standards, and as such, we remain confident about the safety of all products we sell and distribute. We look forward to working with Target and the FDA to bring this to a quick resolution."
Considering the 1,800 Target stores nationwide carry as many as 20 Hampton Creek products each, this is no small or easy recall. Sources told Bloomberg that Hampton Creek's business with Target is worth about $5.5 million annually, so it also isn't a cheap decision for the retailer to have made.
Target is conducting the recall properly, but the root cause remains a big question. Products usually test positive for harmful bacteria before being pulled off shelves. Most of the time, mislabeling-related recalls happen when products contain ingredients that aren't usually used — like milk, nuts or flour coming into contact with a free-from item. Not to mention most recalls aren't isolated to a single store, or involve all diverse products from a single manufacturer. And manufacturers of recalled products don't usually issue such firm denials.
Hampton Creek has attracted widespread scrutiny for its business and manufacturing in the past, but food safety issues have not previously plagued the company. Last year, Hampton Creek issued a voluntary recall of cake mixes containing Native Forest coconut milk powder because the ingredient was found to contain salmonella in internal tests.
Considering that Target has been working hard to revamp its foundering grocery business, Hampton Creek may simply be a casualty of the retailer trying to change its image. The nationwide retailer has been trying to become a bigger player in the segment, and unveiled plans earlier this year for a "reimagined" 124,000-square foot store. It has more of a focus on what grocery customers want: an enhanced produce department, more grab-and-go and prepared meals, self-checkouts, a wine and beer shop and circular aisles in the center of the store. The first stores under this model are scheduled to open in Houston this summer, with 500 more planned by the end of 2019.
By placing a premium on food safety, Target also may be working this angle to differentiate itself from other retailers. However, the Hampton Creek part of this plan may backfire. Considering the vegan spreads and snacks company has a loyal customer base that has already turned to social media to protest the recall, consumers may find another place to shop.
Hampton Creek has faced — and beat — a lot of adversity in its five years of doing business. Considering its track record thus far, it is likely to survive this scandal — potentially to Target's detriment.
Data driven: Information helped reduce Salmonella on chicken
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2017/06/data-driven-information-helped-reduce-salmonella-on-chicken/#.WVoWE4jyiUl
By COOKSON BEECHER (JUNE 27, 2017)
You won’t see claims like this in any ads: “Our chicken is safer than our competitors’ chicken.”
There’s an unwritten understanding in the industry that food safety won’t be used as an advertising tactic.
Yet, in an important way, commercial chicken buyers can actually find out how chicken slaughter plants are doing when it comes to Salmonella levels, thanks, in part, to an innovative USDA strategy that makes it easy to use the Internet to monitor such statistics.
The good news is that according to a May 2017 U.S. Department of Agriculture research report, “Public Disclosure of Tests for Salmonella in Chicken Slaughter Facilities,” it’s working (See chart at right.)
Not that having specific information about individual slaughter plants is a slam dunk. After all, as Tom Super, spokesman for the National Chicken Council is quick to point out, “poultry companies treat the safety of their products as a top priority — for their customers, consumers and the company’s reputation. No matter what is posted online.”
Even so, transparency — having the information readily available to buyers — has had a lot to do with it, according to the research report authored by USDA Agricultural Economist Michael Ollinger and several other researchers.
How did it happen?
It all started back in 1890, when the pork industry asked for the inspection of hog bellies destined for foreign markets to certify that they were free of trichinella. Then, in 1906, Congress decided to require the pre-slaughter and post-slaughter inspection of cattle, sheep, swine and goats used for human food. The food safety needle was moving, but it took almost 60 years for chickens to get the attention of lawmakers.
Congress finally gave USDA some regulatory muscle in the Wholesome Poultry Products Act of 1968. The Act prohibited the shipment of adulterated or misbranded poultry products across state lines.
From there, things got better, at least from the perspective of the consumer. Upon the recommendations of various advisory groups, which were fueled by increasing concerns about food safety, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service decided more regulations were in order to make sure meat and poultry products are processed under sanitary conditions and that foodborne microbial pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella are controlled as best as possible.
That ushered in the rule, “Pathogen Reduction: Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point Systems” in July 1996. A complicated-sounding name to be sure, but one that had some commonsense to it. For example, plants need to identify at which points in the production process contamination can occur and fix those areas so it won’t occur.
FSIS inspectors make sure the establishments are meeting the rule’s standards by collecting randomly selected product samples and submitting them to an FSIS laboratory for Salmonella analysis.
The agency monitors the processing of more than 9.26 billion poultry carcasses each year to verify that federal food safety requirements are being met.
Chicken is a popular food choice in the United States. According to USDA stats, in 2016, Americans were expected to eat 92 pounds of chicken per person — a record amount.
A lot of that comes down to cost. Chicken is cheaper in the U.S. than it is in 63 other countries. Chicken costs 3.6 times as much in Switzerland than in the U.S., twice as much in France than in the U.S. and 1.5 times as much in Britain than in the U.S.
Blind buyers no incentive for high standards
Under the 1996 rule, chicken slaughter plants could have no more than 12 samples in a set of 51 samples of carcasses test positive for Salmonella. Those original allowable sample levels did come down eventually, but not until almost 20 years later, although many plants were already abiding by stricter standards to meet retailer and other customer demands.
At first, the Food Safety and Inspection Service used a complicated pass-or-fail alphabetized system to rate the slaughter plants. But because it used this sampling data for its own monitoring program, it published only industry-level Salmonella test results.
Those results showed the industry was generally meeting the FSIS Salmonella standard, but they didn’t give commercial buyers information about how individual plants were doing, which meant they couldn’t distinguish the high-performing plants from those that just barely met the FSIS standard, or didn’t meet the standard at all. Consequently, slaughter plants didn’t have much of an incentive to exceed the standards.
Car buyers in the U.S. could easily get a wide range of information about the good and bad features of specific vehicles, including government safety and performance ratings, but commercial chicken buyers couldn’t get information about the performance of individual poultry plants.
In 2003, FSIS announced it was planning to update the regulations for chicken. However, there was a hurdle. Salmonella levels didn’t drop from 2000 to 2003, so the agency could not justify a reduction in the Salmonella standard beyond that which existed in the 1996 rule. That’s because federal law requires that costs be factored into the equation.
Information to the rescue
With that legal reality before them, the agency embarked on a “hybrid approach.” It kept the existing Salmonella performance standard but also decided to use an easy-to-understand way for commercial buyers to identify plants with mediocre or poor performance on Salmonella tests.
The adoption of this public rating system was followed by a sharp drop in Salmonella levels on young chicken carcasses. In fact, USDA’s Economic Research Service reported the percentage of samples testing positive for Salmonella dropped by about 30 percent from 2006 to 2008.
The trend continued. The decline of young chicken samples testing positive for Salmonella dropped by about 60 percent from 2006 to 2010. These impressive results paved the way for FSIS to be able to reduce the level of the number of samples that could test positive for Salmonella by about 50 percent.
In 2010, chicken plants were required to have no more than five out of 51 chicken carcasses test positive for Salmonella. The rule, which also dropped listing the plants with mediocre results, was implemented in 2011.
USDA’s agricultural economist Ollinger said an important difference between the 1996 and 2011 FSIS standards is that FSIS disclosed the identities of plants failing to meet the standard whereas there was no such disclosure under the 1996 regulation.
Going from no more than 12 out of 51 chicken carcasses testing positive for Salmonella to no more than 5 out of 51 is quite a difference, but the chicken processors had already proven it could be done.
Market forces and public information about Salmonella levels at individual plants — along with improved technologies — spurred the plants on to higher performance levels with the ultimate goal of winning more customers by producing safer chicken.
In a case of unintended consequences gone right, this ushered in stricter performance standards. Ollinger refers to this as a “virtuous cycle.”
“It would only stop when the cost of further Salmonella reductions was too high relative to the benefits of lower Salmonella levels,” he said.
For commercial buyers, especially those working for organizations that serve food to hospital patients, the elderly, and other groups more vulnerable to foodborne illnesses, this was an important step forward because now they could see how the plants were doing. By choosing plants meeting higher standards the buyers could have more confidence in the poultry.
Better performance meeting Salmonella control standards also suggests a producer is less likely to have pathogen-related recalls. Bankruptcies, damaged reputations, loss of sales, lower stock prices and closure of businesses are some of the examples of how devastating recalls can be.
As the USDA report puts it, recalls create some incentives for producers to invest in food safety.
There’s also some important background music here. Many commercial buyers actually go above and beyond FSIS mandates and require suppliers to meet even more strict food safety standards.
Not possible without the Information Superhighway
Ollinger said the Internet was critical in all of this.
“It gave anyone the capacity to learn of plants that fail to meet chicken standards,” he said.
He said the 2011 regs also played a large part. New food-safety technologies, along with contracts between suppliers and buyers, also had impact on producers’ policies and procedures.
According to a USDA report, “Regulation, Market Signals, and the Provision of Food Safety in Meat and Poultry” an Economic Research Service analysis found that 75 percent of the decline in the share of samples that tested positive for Salmonella correlated with the timing of FSIS’s disclosure policy on Salmonella performance and the new Salmonella performance standard.
Ollinger said the ordinary consumer wouldn’t be able to make much sense of the information on the Internet about how the plants are doing because the agency’s website identifies the plants by number s only.
“With some work, a consumer would be able to find out what company is producing the product,” said Ollinger, “but that won’t help when they buy chicken in the store because they do not know where it is being shipped. The information is very relevant to retailers and restaurants buying chicken from the plant. They know who produced it and something about their safety record.”
How to Buy and Serve Produce Safely
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2017/how-to-buy-and-serve-produce-safely/
By Linda Larsen (JUNE 26, 2017)
Many food poisoning outbreaks in the past few years have been caused by contaminated produce. They range from the deadly Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to Jensen Farms cantaloupe to the Salmonella outbreak in Minnesota linked to tomatoes served at Chipotle restaurants. In fact, a study conducted by Center for Science in the Public Interest in 2005 found that produce is the most common food source for food poisoning.
So the FDA has produced a video and tips on how to select and serve produce safely. Bacteria in the soil or water can contaminated fruits and vegetables, or it can become contaminated during harvest, during transport, or storage.
To protect yourself and your family, be careful when selecting produce at the grocery store or farmer’s market. Choose produce that isn’t bruised or damaged. When you are buying pre-cut, bagged, or packaged items, such as salad greens or precut fruit, only buy those that are refrigerated or surrounded by ice. Always bag fresh fruits and veggies separately from raw meat, eggs, seafood, and poultry, and keep them separated in the shopping cart.
When you get home, store perishable fruits and vegetables in a clean refrigerator. Make sure the temperature of the fridge is set at 40°F or below. Your refrigerator should have a thermometer so you can make sure it is at the proper temperature. Always refrigerated pre-cut or packaged produce.
Keep fruits and vegetables that will be eaten uncooked far away from raw meat, seafood, and poultry. Make sure that raw meats are not stored on a shelf above raw produce. Juices from the meat can drip onto produce.
Always wash cutting boards, utensils, dishes, and countertops with soap and hot water after you use them to prepare meats, poultry, and seafood. Try to use one cutting board for fresh produce and another for meats. Plastic and other non-porous cutting boards should be washed in the dishwasher.
To prepare produce safely, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before you start to work. Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fruits and vegetables. Discard any produce that looks rotten. Wash produce under running water, including items grown at home. Don’t use soap, detergent, or commercial produce washes. Wash even if you are going to peel the item, since bacteria from the skin will be transferred to the flesh when peeling or cutting. Scrub firm produce with a produce brush. After washing, dry the produce with a clean cloth or paper towel.
Many prebagged or pre-cut items are washed before they are packaged. That will be stated on the packaging. If you choose to wash produce marked as “pre-washed” or “ready-to-eat” be sure to avoid cross-contamination with the kitchen sink, or any unclean surfaces or utensils.
Avoid raw sprouts, which have been linked to many food poisoning outbreaks. Sprouts should be cooked before eating. You can wash them under running water before serving them, but that step will not eliminate any pathogenic bacteria on the product.
Finally, be sure to refrigerate perishable foods within 2 hours of preparation. That time shrinks to 1 hour if the ambient air temperature is above 90°F.
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