‘Accepting and turning blind-eye to violations must end’ Changing food safety culture in Lebanon

Ministers stressed on Saturday their support to the food safety campaign waged by Health Minister Wael Abou Faour, considering it a necessity to end the chaos in Lebanon.

hassan-bahsoun-(3)“Establishing a food safety association would end such a crisis on the long term,” Agriculture Minister Akram Shehayeb said during a meeting between several ministers and the Economic Committees at the Chamber of Commerce Industry and Agriculture in Beirut’s Hamra area.

“Minister Abou Faour created a positive shock through his campaign,” Environment Minister Mohammed al-Mashnouq told reporters.

He stressed that all violators should be held accountable.

“The stance adopted by Abou Faour isn’t personal,” Mashnouq said, pointing out that the culture of accepting and turning a blind-eye to violations must end.

For his party, Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon, who previously rejected the health minister’s tactics in announcing the names of institutions violating food safety measures via new conferences, said that “Abou Faour’s measures shed the light on a huge problem.”

Economy Minister Alain Hakim said that the “state has long neglected the food safety case,” warning that the scandal will have an impact on the country’s economy.

Industry Minister Hussein al-Hajj Hassan called on ministers not to point fingers regarding the food scandal but to assume responsibilities in order to reach integration.

Abou Faour vowed to continue the campaign, stressing that “protecting citizens doesn’t oppose the country’s economy.”

Authorities Friday shut down more slaughterhouses, restaurants, supermarkets and other retailers selling contaminated food as part of a crackdown launched last week on food establishments violating safety and sanitation standards.

Tripoli’s slaughterhouse was closed Friday by the Internal Security Forces in line with a decision taken by north Lebanon Governor Ramzi Nohra.

The decision came after he received a Health Ministry report listing changes that needed to be made for the slaughterhouse to conform to health standards.

The report said livestock must be hanged during slaughter and not laid on the ground and that the abattoir should also be equipped with refrigerators and storage units to separate meat.

Australian veterinarians cracking under pressure of overwork, poor pay and reduced numbers

Damien Solley knows first hand that mental health problems are intertwined with working in the veterinarian industry.

cattle_vetDr Solley has revealed two colleagues in the ACT and several veterinarians interstate, have attempted to take their own lives in recent years. 

He believes a chronic shortage of veterinarians in Canberra is a contributing factor, coupled with compassion fatigue, long hours and stress.

After months of being unable to employ sufficient veterinarians to cope with the workload at the Animal Emergency Centre Canberra, Dr Solley had little choice but to join forces with the Animal Referral Hospital brand to help alleviate the pressure on himself and his colleagues.

“Suicide rates in our industry are pretty high,” he said.

“They’re overworked, do long hours and standardized vet wages against inflation haven’t changed in 25 years.

“The average wage is dropping through the floor.”

Dr Solley said veterinarians were often picked up by the public service, due to better wages and conditions, and he feels it might be nearly time to move on to another profession after 15 years.

He said his wife, Amanda, also a vet, has asked him to leave the industry multiple times.

Drivers of uncertainty in estimates of foodborne gastroenteritis incidence

Background: Estimates of the incidence of foodborne illness are increasingly used at national and international levels to quantify the burden of disease and advocate for improvements in food safety. The calculation of such estimates involves multiple datasets and several disease multipliers, applied to dozens of pathogens. Unsurprisingly, this process often produces wide interval estimates.

infinity.dogmaMaterials and Methods: Using a model of foodborne gastroenteritis in Australia, we calculate the contribution of both data and multipliers to the width of the interval. We then compare pathogen-specific estimates of the proportion of gastroenteritis that is foodborne from national-level studies conducted in Canada, Greece, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Results: Overall, we estimate that 74% (range 63–92%) of the interval width for foodborne gastroenteritis in Australia is a result of uncertainty in the proportion of gastroenteritis that is due to contaminated food. Across national studies, we find considerable variability in point estimates and the width of interval estimates for the foodborne proportion for relatively common pathogens such as Salmonella spp., Campylobacter spp., and norovirus.

Conclusions: While some uncertainty in estimates of gastroenteritis incidence is inevitable, an understanding of the drivers of this uncertainty can help to focus further research. In particular, this work highlights the value of studies quantifying the routes of transmission for common pathogens.

Foodborne Pathogens and Disease. -Not available-, ahead of print. doi:10.1089/fpd.2014.1816.

Glass Kathryn, Ford Laura, and Kirk Martyn D.

http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/fpd.2014.1816

Dining on a private jet: is catering an issue?

As I cool my heels at the Brisbane airport, reading the latest issue of Corporate Jet Investor (I fly commercial) the question is asked, when you are paying upwards of $8,000 an hour to charter a large-cabin private jet, bad food is something that can no longer be excused.

surely.serious.airplaneDaniel Hulme, CEO of On Air Dining, based at Stansted Airport’s Diamond Hangar says he is concerned about the business aviation industry’s blasé attitude towards food safety; he tells stomach-churning stories about corporate flight attendants that pick up hot food from high-end restaurants only to transport it in the back of a taxi and store it the aircraft’s lavatory before re-heating. But when most private jet flights last less than two hours, it is easy to understand why catering is not being discussed at the dinner table.

Alex Wilcox, CEO of California-based operator JetSuite, says he will happily liaise with local restaurants whenever a passenger requests an inflight meal, but as an operator of short-range private jets, he says: “For those that want a meal on board we will handle that, but it is not a massive issue.”

Likewise, Wheels Up, which operates a large fleet of King Air 350i turboprops, will soon allow its members to book catering using a smartphone app, but David Baxt, president, says that for such short haul flights, passengers rarely request anything more than light snacks.

For VistaJet, which includes much larger private jet types such as the Bombardier Global 6000 in its fleet, the story is very different. “I never understand why business jet operators order catering from the airport; you get plastic trays with a cheese board. It is not what you would do if you were taking friends on a picnic,” says Thomas Flohr, founder and chairman. “Our clients all have favourite restaurants across the world and expect more when they are flying.”

airplane_jiveThe story goes on to say that for Hulme, it is absurd that a multinational corporation could fly its executives on a private jet to an important business meeting, only to risk them spending two days doubled-up in a hotel room with food poisoning.

“I’m surprised that more people don’t get food poisoning. I’m sure it is happening a lot, but people don’t really talk about it,” Hulme says.

“I don’t understand why there isn’t more emphasis on the training of flight attendants to make sure that they all have food certificates, which isn’t a requirement in business aviation, but it really, really should be.”

One veteran charter broker says that he agrees in principal, but feels it is not a big issue: “I have been booking charter flights for 20 years and we have never had a case of food poisoning. In my experience the ground handling companies take this very seriously and only use approved companies.”

An integral part of private jet catering is the relationship between the caterer and the corporate flight attendant, with the involvement of the flight attendant varying greatly from one flight to another. Sophie Fry, a UK-based corporate flight attendant, says: “You take responsibility of everything from sourcing catering and writing menus to buying supplies for the aircraft.”

Marks & Spencer to tackle challenge of reducing levels of Campylobacter in whole chickens

Marks & Spencer (M&S) has announced details of its five point action plan to tackle the industry-wide challenge of reducing levels of Campylobacter in whole chickens.

borat.chickenThe measures, which have been in place for the majority of M&S chickens sold since the end of September, include even clearer front-of-pack labelling and double bagging whole chickens so they can be placed straight into the oven without the need to unwrap and handle the chicken. Action is also underway on M&S farms with bonuses paid to farmers who produce Campylobacter free farms and innovative new safety technology in place on the production line.

The M&S five point action plan has been implemented with 2 Sisters Food Group (M&S’ biggest supplier of whole chickens) since the end of September and will be rolled out to the remainder of the M&S supply chain by the end of the year.

Thermometers?

All aboard the poop bus, now farting around UK

The GENeco Bio-Bus runs on biomethane gas produced by human waste (and food waste, but that’s way less fun to talk about).

poop.busThe Bio-Bus, which made its maiden voyage in England this month, seats up to 40 people. The bus can travel up to 186 miles on a single tank of gas that “takes the annual waste of around five people to produce,” GENeco said in a statement. The bus itself doesn’t actually smell like a bathroom, as impurities in the biofuel are removed to reduce — or almost entirely eliminate — any odors in the vehicle’s emissions.

Top 10 UK toilets through time

A Scottish food safety friend sent along this story from English Heritage which has some great pics.

1. Housesteads Roman Fort, Hadrian’s Wall: All together now…

Toilet-bannerThe best preserved Roman loos in Britain are at Housesteads Roman Fort on Hadrian’s Wall. At its height, the fort was garrisoned by 800 men, who would use the loo block you can still see today. There weren’t any cubicles, so men sat side by side, free to gossip on the events of the day. They didn’t have loo roll either, so many used a sponge on a stick, washed and shared by many people.

Visit Housesteads Roman Fort

2. Old Sarum, Wiltshire: Luxury facilities, until you have to clean them…

These deep cesspits sat beneath the Norman castle at Old Sarum, probably underneath rooms reached from the main range, like private bathrooms. In the medieval period luxury castles were built with indoor toilets known as ‘garderobes’, and the waste dropped into a pit below. It was the job of the ‘Gongfarmer’ to remove it

Visit Old Sarum

3. Dover Castle, Kent: The royal wee

Henry II made sure that Dover Castle was well provided with garderobes. He had his own en-suite facilities off the principal bed-chamber. As with many castles of the era, chutes beneath the garderobes were built so that the waste fell into a pit which could be emptied from outside the building.

Visit Dover Castle

4. Goodrich Castle, Herefordshire: The toilet tower

At Goodrich Castle there’s a whole tower dedicated to doing your business.

Visit Goodrich Castle

5. Orford Castle, Suffolk: A Norman urinal

Garderobes are quite common in medieval castles, but urinals are a little more unusual. Henry II’s Orford Castlewas built as a show of royal power, and to guard the busy port of Orford.

Visit Orford Castle

6. Muchelney Abbey, Somerset: Thatched loo for monks

Many medieval abbey ruins across the country include the remains of the latrines, or ‘reredorter’ (meaning literally ‘at the back of the dormitory’), including Muchelney AbbeyCastle Acre Priory and Battle Abbey. At Muchelney the building survives with a thatched roof, making it the only one of its kind in Britain. The monks would enter the loo block via their dormitory and take their place in a cubicle – you can still see the fixings for the bench and partitions between each seat.

Visit Muchelney Abbey

7. Jewel Tower, London: The Privy Palace

A precious survival from the medieval Palace of Westminster, Jewel Tower was part of the ‘Privy Palace’, the residence of the medieval kings and their families from 11th to 16th century. It was well supplied with garderobes, with one on each of the three floors.

Visit Jewel Tower

8. Old Wardour Castle, Wiltshire: ‘A new discourse of a stale subject’

The forerunner to our modern flushing toilet was invented at Old Wardour Castle. The inventor Sir John Harington met with five others at the castle to discuss his idea for the first time in 1592.

Visit Old Wardour Castle

Thunderbox9. Audley End House, Essex: Feeling flush

Along with many other technological advancements, Audley End was one of the first country houses in England to have flushing toilets. The first of Joseph Bramah’s new hinged-valve water closets was purchased in 1775, and a further 4 were bought in 1785 at a cost equivalent to the wages of two servants for a whole year.

Visit Audley End

10. Brodsworth Hall, South Yorkshire: Thunderboxes

Inside the elegant Victorian country house of Brodsworth Hall almost everything has been left exactly as it was when it was still a family home. So as well as the grand furniture, there’s also everything from the commodes of the 1840s to a modern pink bathroom from the 1960s/70s.

Visit Brodsworth Hall

Minnesota firm recalls ground beef products due to possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination

Ranchers Legacy Meat Co., of Vadnais Heights, Minn., is recalling 1,200 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

rancher's.legacy.ground.beef.14Products subject to the recall are packaged in plastic cryovac sealed packets, and contain various weights of ground beef.  All products produced on Nov. 19, 2014 are subject to recall.

All of the following have a Package Code (use by) 12/10/2014 and bear the establishment number “Est. 40264” inside the USDA mark of inspection. Individual products include:

  • Ranchers Legacy Ground Beef Patties 77/23
  • Ranchers Legacy Ground Chuck Patties 80/20
  • Ranchers Legacy USDA Choice Ground Beef 80/20
  • Ranchers Legacy USDA Choice WD Beef Patties 80/20
  • Ranchers Legacy RD Beef Patties 80/20
  • OTG Manufacturing Chuck/Brisket RD Patties
  • Ranchers Legacy Chuck Blend Oval Beef Patties
  • Ranchers Legacy WD Chuck Blend Patties
  • Ranchers Legacy USDA Choice NAT Beef Patties 80/20
  • Ranchers Legacy NAT Beef Patties 80/20
  • Ranchers Legacy USDA Choice NAT Beef Patties 80/20
  • Ranchers Legacy Ground Chuck Blend
  • Ranchers Legacy Chuck Blend Bulk Pack NAT Patties
  • Ranchers Legacy Chuck Blend NAT Beef Patties

The product was discovered by FSIS inspection personnel during a routine inspection. Products testing positive on November 21, 2014 were held at the establishment.  The products being recalled were produced on the same day and equipment as the positive product.  Products were shipped to distributors for sales nationwide.

Color is not a reliable indicator that meat has been cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria.

The only way to be sure the meat or poultry is cooked to a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria is to use a thermometer to measure the internal temperature.
- Fish: 145°F
- Beef, pork, lamb chops/steaks/roasts: 145°F with a three minute rest time
- ground meat: 160°F
- poultry: 165°F
- hot dogs: 160°F or steaming hot.

When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on the FSIS website at www.fsis.usda.gov/recalls.

63 sick with Salmonella; sprouts strike again

I spent a few hours yesterday cooking 100 burgers and prepping food for kids at Sorenne’s school. Afterwards, one of the other volunteers got me talking about food safety and asked me about raw sprouts. I said, never at this school as long as I’m here.

wonton.foods.bean.sproutsAccording to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, as of November 21, 2014, a total of 63 people infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Enteritidis have been reported from 10 states.

• 26 percent of ill persons have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

  • Collaborative investigation efforts of state, local, and federal public health and regulatory agencies indicate that bean sprouts produced by Wonton Foods, Inc. are the likely source of this outbreak.

• In interviews, 29 (78%) of 37 ill persons reported eating bean sprouts or menu items containing bean sprouts in the week before becoming ill.

  • The information available to date indicates that bean sprouts produced by Wonton Foods, Inc. may be contaminated with Salmonella and are not safe to eat. As of November 21, 2014, the firm has verbally agreed to voluntarily stop the production and sale of their bean sprouts.

• CDC recommends that restaurants and other retailers do not sell or serve bean sprouts produced by Wonton Foods, Inc. at this time.

• The firm is cooperating with public health and agriculture officials and has reported that their last shipment of bean sprouts was on November 18, 2014. 

  • This ongoing investigation is rapidly evolving, and CDC will update the public when more information becomes available.

We document at least 55 sprout-associated outbreaks occurring worldwide affecting a total of 15,233 people since 1988. A comprehensive table of sprout-related outbreaks can be found at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Sprout-associated-outbreaks-8-1-14.xlsx

I always go to the gas station for a sandwich: Detroit-based company distributing tainted sandwiches

The U.S. government wants to stop a Detroit company from distributing ready-to-eat sandwiches which, the government says, are tainted and could be a health hazard to those who eat them.

Scotty-s-Foods-sandwich-jpgA civil complaint has been filed on behalf of the FDA claiming Scotty’s Incorporated’s sandwiches are manufactured “under insanitary conditions.”

“Moreover, the company has failed to implement a written Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan for handling seafood and minimizing the potential for harmful contamination in the company’s ready-to-eat tuna sandwiches,” reads a statement from the Justice Department.

The sandwiches can be purchased in vending machines and at gas stations or convenience stores.

The FDA inspected Scotty’s facilities at 3426 Junction Street in Detroit, where the company prepares, packs, holds, and distributes ready-to-eat sandwiches, and also processes seafood, specifically tuna for tuna sandwiches. According to the complaint, the inspection between Jan. 14 and Feb. 6, 2014 found the sandwiches “have been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have become contaminated with filth or rendered injurious to health.”

View: PDF of civil complaint against Scotty’s