Food safety in Lebanon: experts emphasize need for measures after scandals

Lebanon is in need of effective food safety measures in light of the series of food scandals that the country has witnessed, ministries and experts say.

The Lebanese food industry is rife with serious issues, said AUB Professor Zeina Kassaify. “Mislabeling is the key issue and the fact that we don’t have proper law or enforcement mechanism.”

lebanon.food.safety“Part of the law says we should be monitoring. … In the U.S. they have the FDA. If they find something that is not up to standard, they penalize people. Here it’s not like that, someone says something on TV and everyone gets outraged without there being any credibility.”

Pierre Abu Nakhoul, an engineer with the Industry Ministry who also carries out inspections, said a lack of resources had hampered monitoring efforts. The ministry must follow up on certain food safety aspects with 2,000 food companies. With the available staff, it could check up on 5-10 each day.

Furthermore, about 30 percent of those food companies are operating without permits, an issue that has also affected food safety monitoring.

The real problem is the overlapping authorities of different ministries with respect to monitoring food processing activities, according to Mounir Bissat, president of the Syndicate of Food Industries.

Texas family bouncing back after two boys sickened by E. coli last year

In May 2013, public health buffoon Dr. Eric Wilke of the Brazos County Health Department in College Station, Texas, declared to a press conference that an E. coli O157 outbreak that landed two brothers in hospital was “a fluke” as he chowed down on a beef taco from the implicated Coco Loco Mexican restaurant.

A year later, KBTX.com reports Jack and Noah Melton were hospitalized for weeks at Texas Children’s Hospital and they haven’t fully recovered from what happened last April 16th when the family went for a meal at Coco Loco Mexican Restaurant on George Bush Drive in College Station.

“We had several touch and go moments,” said Alissa Melton, the boys’ mother.

“Potential life and death situations,” said their dad Greg Melton.

“There were times we weren’t sure they were going to make it the next hour you know. And when you have your 18-month-old staring at you lifeless, pale and white and doctors are rushing in there’s nothing more terrifying. And they were sick you know just from eating a taco,” said Alissa Melton.

The Meltons are grateful for all the prayers, encouragement and help from the community as they reflect on this Good Friday.

“I think if we learned anything it’s that we’re not in control and that we can’t control every aspect of our lives and that you know that we can trust God with our lives and with our kids’s lives,” said Alissa Melton.

The U.S. can do better than faith-based food safety.

Imported berry mix cake suspected to be the source of Hepatitis A in Norway

I’m still pissed I can’t figure out where my frozen berries are coming from.

Sure, I live in a sub-tropical climate with an abundance of berries, but retailers with the frozen berries will go for the cheapest source.

And frozen berries have been a mainstay of my diet for decades (because in Canada, fresh berries are available for about six weeks a year).

Guzman-Herrador et al. report in Eurosurveillance that on 7 March 2014, an increase in hepatitis A virus (HAV) infections was identified in Norway. As of 12 April, 19 cases of HAV infection with a virus strain identical to an ongoing European outbreak have been frozen.berry.cakeidentified. Six probable cases are currently under investigation. On 11 April, a frozen berry mix cake imported from another European country was found as the likely source of the outbreak; the importer has withdrawn the product in Norway.

An international traceback investigation is ongoing to find the origin of the berries used in the cake.

Internationally, there’s been over 11,000 cases of Hepatitis A linked to berries from the Mediterranean region over the past two years.

Vegas Firefly still doesn’t get food safety

In June 2013, Las Vegas’ Firefly Tapas Kitchen and Bar was linked to over 250 cases of salmonellosis. Investigators fingered cross-contaminated chorizo as the likely source. At the time of the outbreak owner Tabitha Simmons was quoted as saying, “It’s just sad because we’ve been vilified and we did not want anyone to get hurt. We certainly weren’t managing our restaurants poorly.”

firefly-300x300-300x300Now, Firefly has closed its Anthem-area location, citing inconsistent business at the Henderson store and a desire to focus on operations at its other restaurants.

Uh-huh.

The closure comes weeks after a routine inspection by the Southern Nevada Health District resulted in 38 demerits and a C grade for the Eastern Avenue restaurant on March 31. Firefly fired three employees as a result of the inspection, and a re-inspection on April 4 yielded 8 demerits and brought the grade back up to an A.

While Simmons said the closure wasn’t a direct result of the inspection, he acknowledged the restaurant probably wouldn’t have survived another significant loss in business.

Food terrorism poses eminent danger to US

Food terrorism poses an eminent danger to the United States, according to antiterrorism specialists. While the need for higher quantities of food is only increasing, the standards for food safety have been at a standstill or worse—nonexistent.

The Voice of Russia got to interview three antiterrorism food experts on the rising threats in American society. Not only did they mention the dairy sector of being in danger, but the US’ produce is also in a compromising position.

south.park.terrorist“Many foods can be potential contaminants, especially fresh produce,” Dr. Douglas Powell, a former professor of food safety and publisher of barfblog.com confessed to the Voice of Russia.

A terrorist attack geared toward the food industry is a very real threat to the US and devastating effects would be felt if the dairy section were tainted with an illicit chemical, as babies, children, teens, adults, and seniors all consume milk products on a day-to-day basis. “The entire food industry is vulnerable to the terrorist threat in equal measure to the dairy sector, ” Antiterrorism Consulting, an engineer company specializing in consultancy and assessment of terrorists threats for specific industries, told the Voice of Russia in its opinion.

“It is incumbent on the manufacturers to have validated processes in place; government is just there as an occasional check,” Dr. Powell stressed. Making the world an even more connected entity has more likely than not worsened the situation when it comes to food safety. Regulatory agencies exist however they are not omnipresent organizations, leaving crucial gaps within the system. Pitfalls of this magnitude just make it far easier for terrorists to taint the food supply.

Canada’s chicken farmers ban injections that trigger resistance

Canadian chicken farmers are putting an end to controversial egg injections, which provided the world with a “textbook” example of the perils of mass medication.

By injecting eggs at hatcheries with ceftiofur, a medically important antibiotic, the farmers triggered the rise of resistant microbes that showed up in both chickens and in Canadians creating a “major” public health concern.

double-facepalm1The case  – documented by federal and provincial sleuths who track microbes at farms, slaughterhouses and retail meat counters – is held up as powerful evidence of resistant superbugs moving from farm to fork.

“It is going to be in medical textbooks for as long as there are textbooks around,” says John Prescott, a professor with the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph.

On May 15 injecting eggs with ceftiofur will be banned as part of a new antibiotics policy adopted by Chicken Farmers of Canada, representing the 2,700 poultry farmers across the country.

“The industry has gone ahead and done this voluntarily, but it is not a voluntary program,” says Steve Leech, the association’s national programs manager.  He says the ban is mandatory with penalties and fines for violators.

While the ban is better late than never, Prescott says government should have stopped the injections years ago.

Microbe trackers working with the Public Health Agency of Canada first reported in 2003 that they were picking up higher rates of ceftiofur resistance in Quebec.  In 2004, they reported resistance was just as high in Ontario “in both humans and chicken.”

A strain of bacteria called Salmonella Heidelberg, that can cause food poisoning, had armed itself with the biochemical machinery needed to resist ceftiofur. Ceftiofur belongs to a class of antibiotics known as cephalosporins, which are often used on hard-to-cure infections in people.

FunkyChickenHiThe scientists soon linked the rise of the resistant Salmonella to chicken hatcheries that were injecting  ceftiofur into eggs prophylactically to try prevent infections in chicks.

The way Canadian hatcheries were allowed to keep using ceftiofur highlights the “inability” of  Canadian health officials to stop inappropriate use of  antibiotics, says Prescott.

“There was clear evidence of an adverse effect on public health,” he says, but dealing with the issue fell between the “gaps” in federal and provincial regulations.

Ceftiofur was never approved by Health Canada for use in chickens or eggs but hatcheries used it “extra-label,” which falls under the provincial jurisdiction.

Encouraging thermometer use, one person at a time

doug.sorenne.hockey.apr.14Australia shuts down for Easter.

It’s the end of two weeks of school holidays, the weather in Brisbane is ideal, so everyone is at the beach.

We went to the arena.

We did go to the beach Friday, but Saturday was two different outings and sausage sizzles.

First it was leisure in a park down by the Brisbane River. Brisbane has numerous, fabulous parks outfitted with lots of electric grills, and open spaces for kids and adults alike. I had forgotten my thermometer but my brofriend remembered to bring the one I had given him.

thermometer.chicken.apr.14The grills aren’t the most efficient, so people were waiting for us to hurry up and get on with things. A couple saw us temping sausages with the tip-sensitive digital thermometer and proclaimed, what a great idea. They were preparing ginger-soy chicken, so I said, use the thermometer. We’ll get it back later. They were hooked.

Then it was a hockey tournament at a neighboring arena where Sorenne made her game debut, and I returned to coaching for the first time in nine years.

They also had a sausage sizzle as a fundraiser. I was too busy with the kids to ask about thermometers, but it was a great way to spend a Saturday evening.

Beach, hockey, thermometers – what’s not to like?

dp.coaching.apr.14

Not a good week for North Carolina Papa John’s

First a manager at a Charlotte Papa John’s was diagnosed with hepatitis A resulting in hundreds of IgG shots and now a Raleigh-area outlet has been questioned about storing and transporting raw dough unsafely. One situation is a real public health risk, the other elicits some yuck-factor response.29334616_1381404884

According to WRAL’s Monica Laliberte, a local viewer called the TV station to report some less-than-ideal dough handling after not being happy with the restaurant’s response.
When Jim Barnhill saw stacks of pizza dough sitting uncovered outside a Brier Creek Papa John’s, he wondered about the health issues that might raise.

When he saw the same thing again and again, he notified the restaurant. The first time, a manager said, “have it thrown away immediately.” The second time, they told him they’d address the issue.

When it happened a third time, Barnhill brought his photos and video to 5 On Your Side.

He saw dough sitting outside in the rain. “It was sprinkling so the dough was getting hit by the raindrops,” Barnhill said.

Then the exposed dough balls were placed in the back of an employee’s car.

“That’s a problem,” said [health inspector] Thomas Jumalon, upon viewing Barnhill’s video.

“Had this happened during an inspection, if that product had had any rainwater, anything like that, we would advise them to toss it,” he said.

Jumalon had some points of assurance for diners.

He pointed out that pizza dough cooks at 500 degrees for 20 minutes – enough to kill just about anything that could be on it – and that food is exposed to the outdoors whenever you dine outside. He also said transporting food in a personal car is no different than using a company vehicle.

Maybe some physical hazard risks, but not the kind of stuff that leads to foodborne illness.

Portland to flush 38M gallon reservoir after teen uses it as a toilet

Portland will dispose of 38 million gallons of treated reservoir water after learning that a 19-year-old man urinated into it, even though urine-tainted drinking water is apparently not much of a health risk. 

ReservoirdogWater Bureau Administrator David Shaff said that animals urinate into the reservoir often and that there’s no real problem with that, but this is different because it (naturally) makes everyone feel super weird — or, as he put it, ”I could be wrong on that, but the reality is our customers don’t anticipate drinking water that’s been contaminated by some yahoo who decided to pee into a reservoir.”

The perp was seen peeing through an iron fence into Mount Tabor Reservoir No. 5 around 1 a.m. by security cameras and has been cited for public urination. He was accompanied by two others, ages 18 and 19, who tried (only one succeeded) to scale the fence surrounding the reservoir. All three have been given citations for trespassing. 

In describing the footage, Shaff said that there’s “really no doubt” what he’s doing. “When you see the video, he’s leaning right up because he has to get his little wee wee right up to the iron bars.”

Is it safe to keep a pig’s head with baked goods? Judge reserves decision on New Zealand bakery

The Bulls Bakery could be closed down because of problems with food safety, including a pig’s head kept with baked goods.

In Wanganui District Court on April 11, Judge David Cameron heard the Rangitikei District Council’s case for closing the High St business run by Santhya Sun.

pig.headJudge Cameron reserved his judgment until this week.

However, Mr Sun said he had tried hard to remedy problems and the council was unfairly targeting him.

Over the past year an inspector found mould growing on meat, rice and a tin of syrup, uncovered food, cooked and uncooked found placed together and a pig’s head from a home kill in the freezer with loose cakes like doughnuts and eclairs. Other problems included a pastry flan base uncovered with a plate of mince left on top, a mincer with old encrusted meat on it, fly spotting, and a sick baby playing with kitchen implements.

The council ordered the shop closed in December 2013 because of the unsafe food practices, but the owner defied the order and reopened it.

In January council did not renew Mr Sun’s registration and gave chief executive Ross McNeill the go-ahead to prosecute him.