Who came first? US says Canada has comparable food safety

Not only the title of a great Pete Townsend solo record, or pissing matches of varying degrees, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) signed an arrangement with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Department of Health Canada (Health Canada) recognizing each other’s food safety systems as comparable to each other. The arrangement was signed at a meeting of the FDA-CFIA Health Canada Joint Committee on Food Safety. This is the second time that the FDA has recognized a foreign food safety system as comparable, the first being New Zealand in 2012. A similar system recognition process is underway between FDA and Australia and the European Commission.

Fancy food ain’t safe food: Brits pushing for full restaurant grade disclosure, including Michelin starred

Australia take note: Even though Toronto, Los Angeles and New York City have all figured out mandatory disclosure of restaurant inspection grades on the door – you know, when people might actually make a decision – the Brits and Aussies opted for a voluntary system, so if a restaurant gets a 2-out-of-5 it’s just not posted.

wtf_mate_ornament_roundWales already has a mandatory system and Northern Ireland will have one in October.

But not England or Scotland.

The Telegraph reports that the UK government came under pressure last night from council leaders who called for a change in the law to force high-class establishments – even Michelin starred ones — to publicise their hygiene rankings in a bid to reduce the risk of diners eating unsafe food and becoming ill.

The change would affect all restaurants but those with Michelin stars are set to be hit particularly hard, as research by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) shows their rankings are generally lower than many familiar chain restaurants.

I repeat, Michelin-starred restaurants generally rank lower than chain restaurants.

Fancy food ain’t safe food.

In December, FSA found 83pc of high street chains were given the best rating of five out of five, compared to just 55pc of Michelin star restaurants.

Michelin stars, a mark of exceptional quality food, are awarded to businesses by mystery shoppers and are judged independently of the official hygiene ratings.

Safety and quality are altogether different measures.

(Safety and quality are different measures, see below.} 

The FSA said all businesses should be able to reach this top rating of five.

But Bruce Poole, owner of Chez Bruce, a Michelin star restaurant in Wandsworth with a hygiene rating of lower than five, defended top restaurants which did not score top marks.

fancy.food.shitHe said: “It is very difficult for restaurants like ours as unlike high street chains which have restricted menus, we have fresh food coming through the day – sometimes up to 70 different items. We have to be able to show that all these pieces of produce have been handled correctly. For example we were downgraded from five stars because we couldn’t prove that we had frozen some fish at the correct temperature.” 

Simon Blackburn, Blackpool councilor and chairman of the Local Government Association safer and stronger communities board, said: “It’s not always easy for people to judge hygiene standards simply by walking through the front door of a premise and know whether they are about to be served a ‘dodgy’ meal that could pose a serious risk to their health.”

An FSA spokesperson said: “We very much favour making this system compulsory in England too, as we believe this will be better for consumers. It will also be better for businesses that achieve good standards as they will get more recognition and it will increase the spotlight on those not meeting the grade.”

“Anyone in England who sees a business without a hygiene rating sticker currently has to decide if they want to eat or buy food there without knowing what’s going on in the kitchen” said councillor Simon Blackburn, the chair of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board.

“It’s not always easy for people to judge hygiene standards simply by walking through the front door of a premise and know whether they are about to be served a ‘dodgy’ burger or kebab that could pose a serious risk to their health.

“Councils always take action to tackle poor or dangerous hygiene and improve conditions and see first-hand what shockingly can go on behind closed doors at rogue food premises.

smiley.faces.denmark.rest.inspection“Businesses have recently been prosecuted for being riddled with mice or cockroach infestations, rodent droppings on food and caught with a chef smoking when preparing food.”

Mandatory display of food hygiene ratings is supported by the consumer organization Which?, the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health and many environmental health officers.

Last year Gordon Ramsay’s Maze restaurant in Mayfair, London, scored just two out of five after inspectors found cockroaches on the premises. Immediate steps were taken and Maze now scores top marks.

The LGA released details of recent food safety breaches, including in Croydon where more than 100 food outlets failed to meet expected hygiene standards last year, including 22 on a single street.

Over to you, Australia.

Diamond Pet Food, Costco pay settlement in Canadian Salmonella cases in pets

Diamond Pet Food and Costco have begun paying settlements to Canadian pet owners who say their pets required screening and/or treatment, or the pets died, after they were exposed to Salmonella in 2011 and 2012.

diamond.pet.foodA class action lawsuit was filed against Diamond Pet Foods and its distributor, Costco, after pet illnesses and some deaths occurred. While admitting no liability, the companies agreed to settle the lawsuit to avoid lengthy litigation. The settlement was announced in March 2016.

Attorney Jeff Ornstein, who heads the class action firm, Consumer Law Group, said Costco is notifying 115,000 customers who purchased the pet food by an automated phone call, announcing that the settlement is available.

To be eligible, consumers must have purchased Diamond Pet Food, recalled on April 6, 26 or 30, 2012,  or on May 4-5, 2012, and did not return the recalled produced or exchange, and did not already sign a release with Diamond or Costco.

The amount of payment depends on the damages sustained and varies from the cost of replacing the pet food to larger amounts to cover the costs of veterinary care, or costs related to the death of the animal.

The class action filing says one consumer’s dog became extremely ill after eating Kirkland Signature Super Premium Adult Dog Lamb, Rice & Vegetable Formula – a Diamond Pet Food Brand made for Costco – and required treatment and lab tests by a veterinarian.

The companies told the consumer about the Salmonella contamination but would not compensate the consumer for the veterinary bills because the consumer did not have an empty bag or proof of purchase for the dog food.

Collaboration two-step: 12 sick with hep A from frozen cherries grown who knows where

The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with federal and provincial public health partners to investigate an outbreak of Hepatitis A infections in three provinces linked to the frozen fruit product: Nature’s Touch Organic Berry Cherry Blend.

clear.present.dangerThe Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has issued a food recall warning advising Canadians of the recall of the frozen fruit product that has been distributed in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Public Health Agency of Canada advises Canadians not to consume the frozen fruit product Nature’s Touch Organic Berry Cherry Blend sold exclusively at Costco warehouse locations in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.  If you suspect you have been exposed to the recalled product, or have symptoms consistent for Hepatitis A, see your health care provider immediately. Vaccination can prevent the onset of symptoms if given within two weeks of exposure.

Currently, there are 12 cases of Hepatitis A in three provinces related to this outbreak: Ontario (9), Quebec (2), and Newfoundland and Labrador (1). Individuals became sick in February and March of this year. Some of the individuals who became ill have reported eating the recalled product. The majority of cases (58%) are male, with an average age of 37 years. Three cases have been hospitalized.

Costco, where you getting those cherries from?

 

Beaver fever: Petting zoos, untreated water primary sources of Giardia at home and abroad

The purpose of this study is to determine how demographic and exposure factors related to giardiasis vary between travel and endemic cases.

beaver.feverExposure and demographic data were gathered by public health inspectors from giardiasis cases reported from the Region of Waterloo from 2006 to 2012. Logistic regression models were fit to assess differences in exposure to risk factors for giardiasis between international travel-related cases and Canadian acquired cases while controlling for age and sex. Multinomial regression models were also fit to assess the differences in risk profiles between international and domestic travel-related cases and endemic cases.

Travel-related cases (both international and domestic) were more likely to go camping or kayaking, and consume untreated water compared to endemic cases. Domestic travel-related cases were more likely to visit a petting zoo or farm compared to endemic cases, and were more likely to swim in freshwater compared to endemic cases and international travel-related cases. International travellers were more likely to swim in an ocean compared to both domestic travel-related and endemic cases.

These findings demonstrate that travel-related and endemic cases have different risk exposure profiles which should be considered for appropriately targeting health promotion campaigns.

Beaver_FeverA comparison of exposure to risk factors for giardiasis in non-travellers, domestic travellers and international travellers in a Canadian community, 2006–2012

Epidemiology and Infection, Volume 144, Issue 5, April 2016, pages 980-999, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0950268815002186

L. Swirski, D. L. Pearl, A. S. Peregrine, and K. Pintar

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=10216090&utm_source=Issue_Alert&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=HYG

Going public: During a foodborne illness outbreak, fewer people barfing at bottom of CFIA’s priorities

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has a Protocol for CFIA’s sharing of information during food safety investigations and recalls.

bureaucrat.pink.flyodThe document contains lots of boilerplates about how “CFIA and the food industry share a common goal of safeguarding food in Canada,” and “high profile food recall situations can create intense media scrutiny, increased expectations from stakeholders as well as heightened public interest for the desire for more information and transparency around food safety investigations and outcomes.”

Recent independent reviews and government action plans, such as the Independent Review of XL Foods Inc. Beef Recall 2012 and the 2013 Fall Report of the Auditor General of Canada have recommended improvements in communication and increased information sharing with both stakeholders and the public during food safety investigations and recalls (they seem to have forgotten the Weatherill report on the 2008 Listeria outbreak that killed 22 Canadians and highlighted abysmal communications).

There’s lots of bureau-speak and legalese, and a noseestretcher that describes the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), Health Canada, Provincial and Municipal Health Authorities as “other governments.”

There’s also lots of predictions about a rosy disclosure future under the Safe Food for Canadians Act, but two key issues are vaguely disregarded.

“When a food product has been assessed as representing a risk, information relating to the nature of the problem and level of risk posed may be shared with the CFIA’s Canadian government partners.”

How is that risk assessed? Does epidemiology count? Or only a direct positive in an unopened package, which is virtually impossible in produce-related outbreaks.

bureaucratThe other is “CFIA’s obligation to protect confidential business information and personal information significantly limits releasing information to third parties and the public during active food safety investigations. In addition, the integrity of the food safety investigation, namely the ability to collect and analyze information, including product samples, needs to be maintained.

“For food safety investigations that are complex, have potentially broad implications or are otherwise likely to result in high profile situations, the CFIA engages with potentially affected national industry associations by sharing information that is not confidential business information or personal information for the purpose of providing advanced notice. This may occur, for example, after a public alert is issued in a foreign country, or a foodborne illness outbreak is declared in Canada and is pointing to a specific commodity.”

Government finds everything complex and high profile, so how this test is applied remains a mystery.

Remain calm: CFIA says no Canadian meat plants at risk of being delisted in US, but questions remain

Kelsey Johnson of iPolitics reports the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says no Canadian meat plants are at risk of losing their trade status with the United States and that issues raised in a 2014 U.S. Department of Agriculture audit of meat, poultry and egg plants have been resolved.

remain.calm.animal.house“There are no outstanding issues and there was never any impact on trade,” CFIA Associate Director of Operations Barbara Jordan said in teleconference Tuesday afternoon.

“The final audit report confirms that Canada’s meat, poultry and egg inspection systems are equivalent to the U.S. inspection systems and that all Canadian federally registered establishments permitted to export to the U.S. can continue to export goods.”

The CFIA’s response came after The Globe and Mail reported Monday the agency had until March to respond to the Americans final findings. Failure to do so, the Globe report indicated, could see audited Canadians plants lose their ability to export products to the United States.

That’s simply not the case, the CFIA said Tuesday. “No, there is no risk of delisting,” Jordan stressed.

Canada’s food safety system, Jordan said, undergoes “routine” international equivalency audits and conducts similar audits on other countries. These audits, she said, are expected to “identify opportunities for improvement” in Canadian plants.

“This is very routine to have findings in all audits. It would be an unusual to have an audit that results in no findings.”

Still, the 2014 USDA audit of five meat inspection plants came two years after another USDA audit of seven meat plants raised similar sanitary concerns.

At the time, then Health Minister Rona Ambrose defended the CFIA, insisting Canada had one of the “healthiest and safest food safety systems in the world.”

Asked Tuesday about the USDA findings on plant sanitation, Jordan said the agency takes immediate action to rectify issues at the plant level. “Certainly, the sanitation issues are dealt with immediately, on the spot and inspectors have a range of tools they can use.”

So who does the Listeria and other microbial testing, the plants or CFIA or both? And why aren’t those results public?

They ain’t growing cantaloupes in Vancouver in Feb.

Freshpoint Vancouver, Ltd. is recalling Del Monte and Sysco Imperial Fresh brand cantaloupes from the marketplace due to possible Salmonella contamination. Consumers should not consume and retailers, hotels, restaurants and institutions should not sell, serve or use the recalled products described below.

cantaloupe.salmonellaConsumers who are unsure if they have the affected cantaloupes are advised to check with their retailer.

Recalled products

Brand Name Common Name Size Code(s) on Product UPC
Del Monte Cantaloupe 1 count Sold up to and including February 18, 2016 PLU 4050
Del Monte Cantaloupe (case) 12 count Lot 360012 None
Sysco Imperial Fresh Cantaloupe 3 count Lot 127 12 035 5 None

Check to see if you have recalled products in your home. Recalled products should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased.

This recall was triggered by Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) test results. The CFIA is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.

The CFIA is verifying that industry is removing recalled product from the marketplace.

Illnesses

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products.

Canadian Christmas dinner volunteer had hepatitis A

It’s mid January, and Canadian health types are now declaring that an Alberta Health Services volunteer at a Christmas dinner was infectious with hepatitis A.

hep.aThe government says guests who attended the Wetaskiwin Mission Church dinner on Dec. 20 may have been exposed to the virus.

Officials say the risk to the public is low, but advise anyone who attended the dinner to monitor themselves and family for symptoms until Feb. 7.

50% of chicken breast Campy positive, irrigation water source of dangerous E. coli: FoodNet Canada 2014 short report

FoodNet Canada tracks illnesses of the gut, commonly known as food poisoning, in Canadians, and traces them back to their sources, such as food, water and animals. These data are analyzed to help determine which sources are causing the most illness among Canadians and help us track illnesses and their causes over time.

smallIn the 2014 surveillance year, FoodNet Canada was active in three sites (partially or throughout the entire year) in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. In each location, or “sentinel site,” enhanced human disease surveillance is performed in parallel with active surveillance for specific bacteria, viruses and parasites in the possible sources to which the ill may have been exposed.

The purpose of this report is to present the preliminary findings from the 2014 surveillance year in the sentinel sites. This report will be followed by a comprehensive annual report which will include more extensive analyses of temporal trends and subtyping information for an integrated perspective on enteric disease from exposure to illness.

With the expansion to three sites in 2014, FoodNet Canada is able to provide more valuable information on enteric disease in Canada. This information on enteric disease continues to be essential to the development of robust food and water safety policies in Canada.

  • In 2014, Campylobacterand Salmonella remained the most common causes of human enteric illness in the sentinel sites.
  • Campylobacterwas the most prevalent pathogen found on skinless chicken breast in all sites with close to one-half of all samples testing positive. Across all three sites,Salmonella is the most commonly found pathogen in chicken nuggets, with more than one-quarter of all samples testing positive. Salmonella prevalence on skinless chicken breast ranged across the sites from 15% – 26%. In ground beef, VTEC remains at a low prevalence. Pork chops appear to contain the pathogens of interest (Campylobacter,Salmonella, and Listeria monocytogenes) at relatively low levels.
  • Fresh-cut fruit sampling showed that these products are rarely positive for the parasites, viruses and bacteria tested.
  • On farm, Salmonellawas commonly found in broiler chickens in all sites. Salmonella was also found in turkey in the BC site, but at a lower prevalence than in the broiler chickens. In turkey in the BC site, Campylobacter was again the most common pathogen found in 2014, as in 2013. Campylobacter was also commonly found in beef and dairy manure samples in the ON site, as in previous years. Campylobacter prevalence in broiler chickens was variable across the sites, ranging from 8.7% – 22%.
  • VTEC was found in about one quarter of irrigation water samples in the BC and AB sites.
  • Results from the 2014 FoodNet Canada sampling year have demonstrated that retail meat products, particularly chicken products, remain an important source of human enteric pathogens. Some of this contamination is likely due to high levels on farm and other points along the farm to store continuum. Fresh-cut fruit does not appear to be an important source of enteric disease for Canadians, while irrigation water has the potential to be a source of VTEC in particular. Continued monitoring of human cases and potential sources in the sentinel sites is important to help further understand enteric disease in Canada and detect emerging trends. This information will help protect Canadians and help to develop future public health policy.

To obtain a copy of the full report, please contact: phac-FoodNet.Canada-aspc@phac-aspc.gc.ca

Why can’t it be posted on the Internet?