Raw milk in UK? FSA Board wants more evidence

The UK Food Standards Agency board has asked for the FSA to maintain the current regulations controlling the sale of raw milk, while further evidence is gathered to allow board members to make a final decision on whether to revise the rules.

colbert.raw.milkFollowing a review of the current raw milk regulations, the FSA had proposed exploring the scope for wider access to raw milk, including limited sales from vending machines in shops.

The proposals were discussed today by the Board. They concluded that additional evidence was required on risks from specific pathogens. More detail was also requested on the proposed testing regime that would be necessary to allow extended sales while maintaining consumer protection. The Board said a final decision should not be made until the European Food Safety Authority has delivered the findings of its own review of the risks from raw milk which is expected in December 2014.

The FSA will now consider the conclusions in more detail and agree a timeframe for delivering the additional work the Board has requested.

Quackery confirmed: raw beef making a comeback

It took a pregnant mother-of-one to point out to the six-figure bureaucrats at Queensland Health that a leaflet promoting the Australian Vaccination-Sceptics Network was included in  pregnancy packs and listed as the only information source for vaccinations.

bullshitNot much different than Toronto Sick Kids hospital saying pregnant women can eat deli meats as long as they come from “reputable sources.”

And now the Washington Post, with this piece of food porn: “Every once in a while, Kapnos chef-owner George Pagonis will prepare a dish of lamb tartare, carefully plating the beautiful oval of ground meat atop a swish of charred eggplant puree and dollops of harissa, send it to the dining room — and it will promptly come back to the kitchen, untouched.

“A couple of people, when they order it, I guess they don’t know what tartare is. And they’re like, ‘Oh, is this raw?’ And they send it back,” said Pagonis. “You take all this time to make it look nice, and you’re like, what are you doing? I get all upset.”

But occasions for Pagonis to get upset are becoming almost as rare as that rosy-red lamb he’s serving. Diners are rediscovering the pleasures of a plate of velvety raw meat, as steak tartare makes a comeback (along with its Italian cousin, carpaccio).

Raw-meat dishes in ethnic cuisine — the Vietnamese bo tai chanh, Ethiopian kitfo and gored gored, and Lebanese kibbeh nayeh — are, of course, impervious to trends. But tartare, once a mark of sophistication at the “continental” restaurants of old, fell out of favor after the mad cow and E. coli scares of the 1990s. Now that the best restaurants are more cognizant of the conditions in which their animals are raised, diners who were once wary of eating raw meat might be more willing to let their guard down.

“Especially now, with these chef-driven restaurants, chefs are sourcing great products. And these products are more okay [for] eating raw,” said Pagonis. “People are trusting us.”

Absolute bullshit.

bullshit 2dIn December, an outbreak of E.  coli traced to steak tartare at a restaurant in Montreal sickened seven people. But Cliff Coles, president of California Microbiological Consulting, a company that tests food for produce and meat purveyors, said the risk of illness is minimal if chefs prepare well-sourced meat in a clean kitchen using proper technique.

“The beef industry has done a lot to improve not only the quality of the beef but the microbiological quality,” Coles said.

Bullshit.

Bullshit ferments and grows and stinks. No bullshit. Literally.

Can chlorine dioxide improve the microbiological safety of frozen blueberries?

Blueberries are prone to microbial contamination, with growth of bacteria, yeasts and molds during bulk freezing negatively impacting quality and marketability. As a follow-up to our previous work, the combined impact of ClO2 gassing and freezing rate on the microbiological quality of frozen blueberries was examined.

blueberry.lugSixteen lugs of blueberries (∼9.1 kg/lug) were stacked inside a large plastic container at a commercial blueberry processing facility. In each of four trials, one container was exposed to ClO2 gas (4 ppm) using three 3-kg sachets while one ungassed container remained untarped. Before and after commercial processing, 50-g samples of gassed and ungassed blueberries were quantitatively examined for mesophilic aerobic bacteria (MAB), yeasts, and molds. After processing, additional 50-g samples were placed in a −20 °C freezer under different conditions where the berries reached a temperature of −3 °C after 3 h (quick-frozen), 2 days (intermediate-frozen) and 5 days (slow-frozen). Fruit was sampled periodically during 6 months of frozen storage at −20 °C. MAB yeast and mold populations decreased ∼2 and 1 log CFU/g, respectively, in ClO2-gassed and ungassed fruit, with MAB, yeast and mold populations increasing ∼1 log CFU/g during quick freezing to −3 °C and ∼2 log CFU/g during intermediate and slow freezing to −3 °C. Based on these findings, ClO2 gassing followed by quick freezing provides an effective means for meeting the current microbiological standards being imposed by buyers of frozen blueberries.

 Efficacy of chlorine dioxide gas and freezing rate on the microbiological quality of frozen blueberries

ScienceDirect

Lei Zhang, Zhinong Yan, Eric J. Hanson, Elliot T. Ryser

Food Control, Volume 47, January 2015, Pages 114–119, DOI: 10.1016/j.foodcont.2014.06.008

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713514003375

Regulators mount up: raw milk producers aim to regulate themselves

I don’t care who does the regulating as long as the data is public, verifiable and producers are liable. There are benefits and faults with the many systems out there that could be largely remedied with public access to data and marketing of microbial food safety at retail.

colbert.raw.milkAnd I’m sure the raw milk producers promoting self-regulation would have no problem with genetically engineered foods, meat and restaurants being self-regulated.

At least I’m consistent.

Deena Prichep of NPR’s The Salt reports that Mark McAfee, the CEO of Organic Pastures, California’s largest raw milk dairy has founded the Raw Milk Institute.

“People are searching for local raw milk,” McAfee explains. “But when they go to the farm, or they go to the store, they really don’t know what they’re getting.”

To create both accountability and transparency, McAfee worked with epidemiologists, biologists and other health professionals to create RAWMI’s standards. Instead of just focusing on the end results, like bacteria levels, they also worked up detailed protocols for the entire process — from taking the temperature of the dishwasher used to clean the milk bottles to the distance between the water well and manure pile.

The group is also looking at the risk specific to each farm, whether it’s a muddy slope with three cows in Oregon or a sunny California farm with a midsize herd.

When a farm completes its hazards analysis, planning and testing — and passes a site visit from RAWMI — it is listed on the institute’s website. Right now there are half a dozen farms listed, with 10 more in the midst of the process.

The first farm to be listed was Champoeg Creamery, a small dairy about 30 miles south of Portland, Ore. Owner Charlotte Smith is a fifth-generation farmer. But when she first started producing raw milk a few years ago, she discovered it was an entirely different animal.

“I could call the extension office, and get some help on what was going on with my vegetables, or what is this beetle eating my tomatoes,” says Smith. “But there’s no one that will help you with raw milk production.”

And with about 100 families buying her milk — and monitoring an E. coli outbreak at a neighboring farm that landed kids in the hospital — Smith was committed to getting it right. Because while Smith says raw milk may offer health benefits, she also acknowledges the very real dangers.

“You can bring home a chicken and sell the eggs, and feel pretty safe about it. But raw milk, coming out of a cow, and manure flying during milking time — it is a huge challenge, far different than any other farm animal we have.”

As someone looking for guidance, Smith was a bit surprised that national regulatory agencies wouldn’t lend their expertise to establishing safety criteria. To them, she says:

“Raw milk is here to stay, whether you want to admit it or not. So why not work together, come up with some very basic things, where if you’re going to produce and sell raw milk, you’re going to agree that you have met these standards. In my mind, it seems so easy.”

Robert Tauxe at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that while the safety plans and regular testing advocated by RAWMI can certainly reduce the risk of bacterial contamination, they can’t offer any certainty that the particular gallon you grab from the shelf is truly safe.

“A cow can test negative today, and then get infected tomorrow,” notes Tauxe.

Tauxe is not unsympathetic to the reasons people seek out raw milk. “I understand the interest in having colonies of living bacteria in the food we eat,” he says. “The problem is when those living bacteria that are beneficial get mixed up with the living bacteria that cause disease.”

Food safety, Salmonella, sprouts and no, that dingo didn’t eat my baby

We used to be known as, “The no sprouts people.”

If Amy or I ordered anything, we’d say, no sprouts please.

sprouts.sorenne.jul.14We fell out of that habit because so much of foodservice in the U.S. has removed raw sprouts from the menu.

But it’s still 1978 in Australia.

With two weeks of school holidays, we decided on a mild road trip north to explore more of the country than the 15km radius we could reach by bicycle (yes, I know it’s not far, but is when hauling a kid in a trailer).

We spent three days at Rainbow Beach, including a day trip to Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island. Our guide had been a chef for over 20 years and said, no more, gotta get back to what he loves, and that was hanging out on the Island.

We saw whales and four different dingoes going for bait from fishers; they didn’t eat any babies but we know a lot more about dingo safety.

Next stop: Hervey Bay, a renowned area for sea scallops and purportedly the best whale watching in Australia.

indulge.cafe.bundaburgWe arrived tired and went to a restaurant at lunch that had fabulous seafood, but raw sprouts on every dish.

We had forgotten we were the no-sprouts family, although I did have a word with the server on the way out.

Next, Bundaberg, sugar cane and rum capital of Australia, with a slavery past that has now somewhat transformed to a mixture of hippies and bogans.

Amy had looked on-line, and decided where we were going to lunch.

I placed the order, and the server explained all the food was local and naturally sourced. I internally groaned and rolled my eyes.

Then I remembered I needed some tomato sauce –  what North Americans would call ketchup – for the kid.

dingo.beach“Oh, you don’t want the aioli?”

“No, wait, can you tell me how the aioli is made? Does it contain raw eggs?”

Oh yeah, everything here is made from scratch, but I’ll check.”

Thirty seconds later, the chef appeared.

“We only use commercial mayonnaise for mayo and aioli. Everything else we make from scratch but not this one.”

Why?

Because my brother was one of the 220 that got sick from Salmonella from raw-egg mayo on Melbourne Cup day in Brisbane in 2013. And I’m not putting my business at risk over one decision that is easy to make.

Good on ya.

A table of raw egg related outbreaks in Australia is available at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-3-3-14.xlsx.

Know the risks of feeding raw foods to your pets

Despite fawning media coverage, foods like raw milk comprise a small fraction of the U.S. market.

sadie.dog.powellNot so with raw pet foods.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Aministration, raw pet food consists primarily of meat, bones, and organs that haven’t been cooked, and therefore are more likely than cooked food to contain organisms that can make your dog or cat sick, says William J. Burkholder, DVM, PhD, Veterinary Medical Officer in the FDA’s Division of Animal Feeds. Moreover, raw food can make you sick as well if you don’t handle it properly. FDA does not believe feeding raw pet foods to animals is consistent with the goal of protecting the public from significant health risks.

The agency therefore recommends cooking of raw meat and poultry to kill harmful bacteria like Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes before you give the food to your pets. And as always, when working with food, you should follow FDA’s instructions on how to handle it safely.

Feeding raw food to a pet also increases the risk of contaminating food contact surfaces and other places.

“Even if the dog or cat doesn’t get sick, they can become carriers of Salmonella and transfer the bacteria to their surroundings, and then people can get the disease from contact with the infected environment,” Burkholder says.

Once Salmonella gets established in the pet’s gastrointestinal tract, the animal can shed the bacteria when it has a bowel movement, and the contamination will continue to spread. …

 “Feeding raw foods to pets increases the risk that both the pet and the people around the pet will encounter bacteria that cause foodborne illness, particularly if the products are not carefully handled and fed,” Burkholder says. “This is certainly one factor that should be considered when selecting diets for your pet.”

162 sickened: Salmonella kiss of death for Canberra restaurant

When we go out to eat, which is increasingly rare, I always ask, does your chef use raw eggs in the aioli or mayo or something else that is not cooked.

godfather.death.kissIn Australia the answer is usually a convincing yes.

I try not to be an arse about these things, but what I do say is, look at all the raw-egg related outbreaks in Australia (see http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-3-3-14.xlsx).

) and then say something like, we’re fans of your food, that’s why we come here. Do you really want to lose this business you worked so had for because of a dip?

In May, 2013, at least 162 people who went out for a Mother’s Day meal at the Copa Brazilian in Canberra were sickened with Salmonella.

The Copa has, according to media reports, has quietly closed and sold.

After a final dinner service on a Saturday night in mid-June, the site of Canberra’s largest salmonella outbreak now has its lights turned off and had its furniture boxed up.

One story says the victims were sickened after being “served mayonnaise in a potato salad made with bad eggs.”

egg.farm_1This is a line often heard in Australia and elsewhere: the eggs were bad.

Maybe there’s some Salmonella-night-vision goggles I don’t know about. But do restaurant owners really want to make people sick, and do they really want to lose their business?

Farm to table oversight, new technologies improving spice safety

New and improved manufacturing technologies, as well as a greater focus on the individual steps of the production process, are helping to enhance spice safety in the U.S. and throughout the world, according to a June 22 panel discussion at the 2014 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting & Food Expo® in New Orleans.

spice.rawSpice consumption has grown substantially in the U.S. over the past 25 years, with 86 percent of households regularly using fresh/dried herbs, spices and seasonings, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Approximately 60 percent of spices are imported, with 12 percent containing “filth”– various contaminants, including microorganisms and pathogens, such as salmonella. Consumption of spices contaminated with pathogens resulted in 14 reported illness outbreaks from 1973 to 2010 around the world.

“We used to think that if the produce was dry we didn’t need to worry,” said Purnendu Vasavada, PhD, professor emeritus, University of Wisconsin-River Falls. “However, even a dry spice can maintain microbial properties, including bacteria.”

The challenge is ensuring safety throughout every step of the process, which often begins on a small family farm on the other side of the world, said George C. Ziobro, PhD, a research chemist at the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, the U.S. alternate delegate to the Codex Alimentarius Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs, and one of the authors of the recent FDA draft profile, “Pathogens and Risk in Spices.”

“Novel and improved food production technologies are helping to limit spice contamination,” said Kathiravan Krishnamurthy, PhD, assistant professor of food science and nutrition at Illinois Institute of Technology.

These include pulsed light, cold plasma, and controlled condensation steam processes to eradicate pathogens during the production process. These technologies, however, can be impacted by various external factors, including many that are difficult to monitor or assess.

For example, a spice farm in India “may be as small as a backyard,” or have “15 crops on one farm,” said Ziobro.

It’s important that manufacturers know how the spices are grown, dried, stored and transported, and how the vehicles that transport the spices are cleaned. “All of these (steps in the process) can contribute to problems with sanitation in spices,” said Ziobro.

In the traditional spice sourcing supply chain, “companies are far removed from the source,” said Roger Lawrence, vice president of global quality, regulatory affairs and environmental affairs at McCormick & Company, Inc. To improve product safety, McCormick has worked to lower the number of “partners” involved in the spice production process. 

“Fewer touch points reduce the risk of contamination allowing us to work directly to impact product quality and innovation,” said Lawrence.

The implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act will provide more specific guidelines for food manufacturers, including spice manufacturers, to prevent food-borne illness.

While “one outbreak is one too many, one recall is one too many,” Lawrence noted that the FDA has recorded just three contamination/illness outbreaks for spices in 37 years. Spices represent “an extremely small percentage of outbreaks.”

Florida reports six Vibrio vulnificus cases to date in 2014, encourages awareness of public

As summer arrives and the waters get warmer, The Florida Department of Health is urging Floridians with certain health conditions to avoid eating raw oysters and exposing open wounds to seawater and estuarine water, which may harbor bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus.

oystersHealth officials have already reported six cases this year; four due to the infection of an open wound and two from consuming raw shellfish.

Persons who have wounds, cuts or scratches and wade in estuarine areas or seawater where the bacteria might be present can become ill. Symptoms of Vibrio vulnificus in wound infections typically include swelling, pain and redness at the wound site.

Asparagus farmer: he’s not heavy, he’s my cuz

Between the anguished cries in the fetal position after his beloved Boston Bruins were bumped out of the Stanley Cup playoffs (that’s ice hockey to Australians), my cousin, Tim Barrie, manages to carry on the family tradition and farm asparagus.

It’s a late spring in southern Ontario (Cambridge area, to be specific), but Tim says the flavor is great and Tim is always finding the bright side.

tim.barrie.asparagusAnd he knows enough to practice good food safety.

According to the K-W Record, green and sweet asparagus is what spring is all about his 25-acre farm off Kings Road.

Blame a hard snowy winter and a wet spring for a tardy crop at Barrie’s Asparagus Farm, but the good news is it’s lip-smacking luscious and sweet-pea scrumptious.

Two years ago, drought made for a bitterly disappointing harvest, said 52-year-old Tim Barrie. Last year was a great crop for quantity. This year, quality binds every $3-a-pound bunch.

“Taste-wise, it’s as good as I can remember,” Barrie said from beneath his favorite spoked-number-four Bobby Orr ball cap.

This asparagus operation goes back four decades on this former cattle farm. The future is asparagus, Barrie’s father David was told by his father-in-law Homer — an Alliston asparagus grower.

David, who still trims the grass at the farm (and still plays pickup hockey at 80- years-old), listened and became a spear plucker.

His son Tim and his wife Libby run the fields of green and the farmhouse shop now.

Their grown daughters — Mallory, Emily and Hannah — and son Will, 13, help out too.

asparagu.barrieThere are only about 100 asparagus operations in Ontario because it’s labor-intensive. Barrie has 10 locally hired pickers harvesting his 24 acres every day until Canada Day. The spears are spun right into the farmhouse shop and put on sale within an hour of picking off the side of Kings Road.

On Saturday mornings, the parked cars fill up the country roundabout in front of the house, Barrie said. They come for the fresh asparagus. They may leave with pickled asparagus and asparagus barbecue sauce, too. Or asparagus ravioli and asparagus soap. Or asparagus salsa. A fresh batch of that salsa, bottled with a day of picking, is firehouse hot.

They plant strawberries too, along with rhubarb, sweet corn and pumpkins.

They sell some kettle chips, named Spud’s Finest in honour of Barrie’s mother Miriam (she’s my mom’s sister – dp). She grew up on a potato farm before her father turned to, of course, asparagus.