Food safety used as union trump card, to no effect, and public discussion of food safety hits new low in Canada

It’s a recurring story, one that Jim Romahn has reported on for decades: the good meat gets exported, the inferior stuff stays at home.

audit.checklist-241x300It’s the same with Australian seafood, unless you know where to buy.

According to Canadian union thingy Bob Kingston, cuts to Canada’s food inspection programs have created a double standard, where meat sold to Canadians is not as well inspected than that destined for export.

“Lives are at risk, [there’s] the real likelihood that people will die. And I hope they wake up to this.”

At a news conference in Edmonton today, Kingston said since January, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has quietly rolled back inspections at meat plants in northern Alberta. Increased inspections were put in place following a 2008 listeriosis outbreak tied to Maple Leaf Foods products, which resulted in 22 deaths.

“There’s no public debate. There isn’t even an industry debate about what’s going on. It’s the rollback of those commitments to protect Canadians,” he said.

He said the CFIA has cut the presence of inspectors in facilities from five days a week to three – but only in plants that produce meat for the domestic market. The presence of inspectors in plants inspecting for export have stayed the same.

Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, a University of Guelph professor who studies food safety, said the changes do not mean Canadian meat is less safe to eat.

“I don’t think the health of Canadians has been compromised,” he said.

“Canadian-destined meat doesn’t get less attention. It just gets different attention.”

He said given the CFIA’s resources, the agency’s changes are the “right way” to approach inspections. Reducing inspections of plants making domestically bound meat was done because the government has confidence in those facilities. Putting resources towards protecting exports is a vital task, he argued.

Charlebois don’t know much about food safety.

Keith Warriner, director of the food safety and quality assurance program at the University of Guelph, who knows more, said the implication that the meat sold in Canada is unsafe is “a little bit of scare-mongering.”

He said the union’s argument, that fewer inspectors inherently means people are at risk, isn’t true. 

“If you had a policeman on every corner, yes, crime might go down,” he said. 

“But the better thing is, isn’t it, to instill into people not to commit the crime in the first place.”

Warriner pointed to events like the 2012 E. coli outbreak centred around beef from the XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alta., which sickened over a dozen people. He said in that case, the plant had enough inspectors, but that they were not doing the work properly. 

He said a much better solution is to get the meat industry to “take ownership” of food safety.

“You can’t test your way to food safety. You can’t inspect your way to food safety,” he said.

Instead, Warriner would like to see most of the inspection duties being handled by the plants themselves, with federal inspectors looking over a company’s internal inspection records.

Yes, we wrote a paper about that:

Audits and inspections are never enough: A critique to enhance food safety

30.aug.12

Food Control

D.A. Powell, S. Erdozain, C. Dodd, R. Costa, K. Morley, B.J. Chapman

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713512004409?v=s5

Abstract

Internal and external food safety audits are conducted to assess the safety and quality of food including on-farm production, manufacturing practices, sanitation, and hygiene. Some auditors are direct stakeholders that are employed by food establishments to conduct internal audits, while other auditors may represent the interests of a second-party purchaser or a third-party auditing agency. Some buyers conduct their own audits or additional testing, while some buyers trust the results of third-party audits or inspections. Third-party auditors, however, use various food safety audit standards and most do not have a vested interest in the products being sold. Audits are conducted under a proprietary standard, while food safety inspections are generally conducted within a legal framework. There have been many foodborne illness outbreaks linked to food processors that have passed third-party audits and inspections, raising questions about the utility of both. Supporters argue third-party audits are a way to ensure food safety in an era of dwindling economic resources. Critics contend that while external audits and inspections can be a valuable tool to help ensure safe food, such activities represent only a snapshot in time. This paper identifies limitations of food safety inspections and audits and provides recommendations for strengthening the system, based on developing a strong food safety culture, including risk-based verification steps, throughout the food safety system.

Oh Canada: Finding source of BSE ‘a needle in a haystack’

Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry-what-Listeria-Ritz says figuring out how an Alberta cow was infected with BSE is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

ITALY-G8-G5-AGRICULTURE-FARMThe beef breeding cow was discovered last month on a farm near Edmonton and was born on a nearby farm.

Another cow born on the same farm in 2004 tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy in 2010.

He says the feed system is also being checked to see if there’s any kind of “smoking gun.”

Ritz says a number of countries that have temporarily suspended imports of Canadian beef are being kept in the loop, but he points out they only account for about five per cent of Canada’s worldwide market.

Because trade is more important than safety.

So Ger, how effective is that ban on mammalian protein in ruminant feed? Got any proof?

Don’t worry, exports won’t be harmed: Another mad cow case in Canada

Gotta wonder just how effective Canada’s ban on mammalian protein in ruminant feed is, given the number of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) cases there have been over the past decade.

ITALY-G8-G5-AGRICULTURE-FARMWhen there’s a BSE case, or a foodborne illness outbreak like Listeria in the $5.5 billion a year Maple Leaf Foods, government agencies fall over themselves to assure the public – and trading partners – that everything is fine.

Would the Canadian economy sink were it not for the agricultural behemoths? Probably.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says little more than a week passed from the time the most recent case of mad cow disease was first suspected to when it was confirmed and national trading partners were notified.

A timeline of the case at an Alberta farm has been released on the agency’s website.

The website says a private veterinarian took samples on February 4 at the undisclosed farm and submitted them to a provincial lab.

It says they were tested on February 6 and the lab recorded a “non-negative” test result.

The lab repeated the test the following day with the same finding and reported the case to the CFIA, where the agency conducted its own test in Lethbridge, Alta, to confirm the result.

The CFIA says it started gathering information on the animal’s herd on Tuesday, officially confirmed the case on Wednesday and posted the case to its website and notified Canada’s trading partners on Thursday.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said Friday that the infected animal was not born on the farm where it was discovered.

Ritz also said the discovery won’t affect Canada’s international beef trade because it won’t change the county’s controlled BSE risk status from the World Organization for Animal Health. He said Canada has stayed below international protocols that allow for up to a dozen BSE cases a year.

Throwing darts: Supposed determinants of future microbial food safety in Canada for risk communication

I don’t know how such shit gets published, but it’s out there.

And has nothing to do with risk communication.

dartThis paper investigates the factors that are affecting food safety in Canada today, and those that will become increasingly important in the future. The tools used to complete this analysis are primarily the review of scientific and “gray” literature, and the analysis of multiple sources of data. We develop a methodology for ranking the factors and rank the factors according to their predicted effect on foodborne disease in Canada. The analysis reveals the top three factors that will be detrimental to food safety as pathogen evolution, increase in temperatures and increase in extreme weather events. Future studies may benefit from an analysis of factors by commodity.

Food regulatory bodies, such as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, have a finite number of resources to address emerging food safety risks. A framework for ranking factors effecting food safety discussed in this paper will help determine the optimal distribution of resources designated for preventative and mitigative food safety programs and can better assist food regulators in anticipating emerging systemic risks. Although the focus of this paper is on the Canadian context, many of the results may be applied to other Western countries.

 Determinants of future microbial food safety in Canada for risk communication

Journal of Food Safety [ahead of print]

Sylvain Charlebois and Amit Summan

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jfs.12172/abstract;jsessionid=E2E30C24CA9EBAEF43F47AB4DEEA332D.f04t01

More needles found in potatoes at Canada’s Cavendish Farms

Cavendish Farms has confirmed that more potatoes with needles in them have been found at their New Annan, P.E.I. production facility.

potato-needles-720The discovery was made between Dec. 27 and 28.

A representative for Cavendish Farms said Monday that the affected potatoes were harvested in 2014 and that an investigation has narrowed down their farm of origin. These needles (they did not say how many) did not come from Linkletter Farms Ltd. like those found previously.  

They did not, however, say where these new potatoes were from or what led them to believe they are not from Linkletter Farms Ltd.

This would mark the first time tampered potatoes have been traced back to a second farm.

Since October there have been 10 potatoes with needles shoved in them reported to P.E.I. RCMP, though the original discoveries were made in several provinces. All the needles, until now, came from bags of table potatoes from Linkletter Farms Ltd.

“Our established food safety processes and technology worked as they were designed. Food safety is the number one priority for Cavendish Farms,” said Bill Meisner, vice-president of operations.

“The needles were detected through our hazard analysis critical control point processes and technology. Our employees responded as trained. We have full confidence in our safety processes and the safety of our product.”

US finds fault in Canadian inspection

BMG Trading, Inc. an Oakville, Ontario establishment, is recalling approximately 26,108 pounds of pork products that were produced without the benefit of federal inspection, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

pork_leg_familyThe Pork Leg Flank products were produced on December 16, 2014. The following product is subject to recall: [View Label]  

1800 lb. (approximate) combo bins containing 65 – 75 legs of “PORK LEG FLANK ON COMBO.”

The products subject to recall bear the establishment number “394” inside the Canadian mark of inspection as well as a health certificate number listed as “CERT. No. CERT. 097400.” These products were shipped to retail locations for further processing in Arizona.

The problem was discovered using the Public Health Information System (PHIS) during a weekly review of import shipment data. It was found that the product failed to present at the Canadian border for FSIS reinspection and was distributed into U.S. commerce.

FSIS and the company have received no reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products. Anyone concerned about a reaction should contact a healthcare provider. 

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers. When available, the retail distribution lists will be posted on the FSIS website at www.fsis.usda.gov/recalls.

It was the C. perfringens in the turkey; and why I avoid holiday potlucks

Turkey bacteria has been confirmed as the cause of illness at a recent fatal community supper in Nackawic, says the Department of Health.

c.perfrins.oregon.oct.13Lab tests of turkey samples revealed the presence of Clostridium perfringens and Bacillus cereus, acting chief medical officer Dr. Jennifer Russell said in a statement late Tuesday afternoon.

“Food safety is extremely important,” said Russell.

“It is important to remind New Brunswickers about food safety and prevention especially coming into the Christmas season when these types of suppers take place regularly,” she said.

An 87-year-old woman died and another 30 people reported gastrointestinal illness, diarrhea and abdominal pain soon after the attending the Dec. 5 community supper in Nackawic, located about  60 kilometres west of Fredericton.

In 2011, the New Brunswick government considered imposing food licensing and inspection requirements on not-for-profit events, such as church suppers.

But Madeleine Dubé, the health minister at the time, said the provincial government had received public feedback that “licensing and inspection requirements are too demanding for not-for-profit events.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada says contaminated food typically needs to have large numbers of bacteria present to cause human illness.

That’s bullshit, especially with shiga-toxin producing E. coli.

But the best and brightest move through government.

But the best and brightest move through government.

(One of my PhD advisors was convicted of child porn.)

Do you really want that holiday potluck?

16.dec.14

http://cfs.tamu.edu/2014/12/16/holliday-potluck/

I’ve got a new gig.

I’m the head of food safety for the school tuck shop that is run by volunteers at daughter Sorenne’s school.

The pay is lousy (non-existent) but the discussions are gold, and gets me back into what my friend Tanya deemed reality research – and that’s what my group has always been good at, going out and talking with people.

More practice than preaching.

The tuck shop serves meals for about 200 students, one day a week. It’s run by volunteers, and all profits go to the school.

It used to be run by a school employee, and the meals were purchased and then resold, at a loss. When that person moved on, some parents decided, we can do better that that.

Sorenne said she wanted relief from the drudgery of everyday school lunches, and I said, not until I check it out.

I put my hand up, and now am in charge of food safety.

Things happen that way.

But there were no state resources for volunteers running a tuck shop.

We’ve been making it up as we go.

The questions at my kid’s school can be expanded to the larger community, especially with holiday potlucks.

I avoid the food at potlucks, church dinners and other community meals. I relish the social interaction, but I have no idea of the hand sanitation, the cooking methods, and other food safety factors that can make people barf and sometimes kill them.

Typically, health types will insist on some level of competency for people providing food, and they will get overruled by politicians who say things like, it’s common sense, and, we’ve always done things this way and never made anyone sick.

No one inspects the tuck shop I volunteer at.

But volunteers aren’t magically immune from making people sick.

The outbreaks are happening weekly at this point, tragically resulting in the death of an elderly woman in New Brunswick, Canada.

Over 15 years ago Rob Tauxe described the traditional foodborne illness outbreak as a scenario that ‘often follows a church supper, family picnic, wedding reception, or other social event.’

This scenario involves an acute and highly local outbreak, with a high inoculum dose and a high attack rate. The outbreak is typically immediately apparent to those in the local group, who promptly involve medical and public health authorities. The investigation identifies a food-handling error in a small kitchen that occurs shortly before consumption. The solution is also local.

Community gatherings around food awaken nostalgic feelings of the rural past —  times when an entire town would get together on a regular basis, eat, enjoy company, and work together.

Public health regulations for community-based meals are inconsistent at best, and these events may or may not fall under inspection regulations. Additionally, in areas where community-based meals are inspected by public health there is pressure from the community to deregulate these events due to their volunteer nature.

Food handlers at CMEs are usually volunteers preparing food outside of their own home, often in a communal kitchen. They may not be accustomed to preparing food for a large group, the time constraints associated with food service, or even the tools, foods and processes used for the meal. These informal event infrastructures, as well as volunteer food handlers with no formal food safety training and a lack of commercial food preparation skills, provide a climate for potential food safety problems.

Foods prepared at home and then brought to CMEs also pose a hazard, as research has shown that poor food handling practices in the home often contribute to foodborne illness.

The tuck shop at Sorenne’s school has been running for six months, and we’re now on summer break, did a deep clean, and planning how best to go forward, in a way we can recruit future volunteers.

We also just ended the (ice) hockey season this past weekend and Sorenne told her teacher she wants to be a professional hockey player when she gets older.

There’s no money in that, or food safety, but it’s great to be part of a community.

I needed 40 hours of training to coach a rep girls hockey team in Canada, and 16 hours to coach in Australia.

I don’t need nothing to make people sick.e

Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety who shops, cooks, ferments and coaches hockey from his home in Brisbane, Australia.

Cargill ground beef recalled after E. coli O157 positive in Western Canada

Cargill Meat Solutions (Est. 700) is recalling Your Fresh Market brand ground beef products from the marketplace due to possible E. coli O157 contamination.  Consumers should not consume the recalled products described below.

e.coli.O157.cargill.dec.14The following products have been sold at Walmart stores in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Recalled products

Brand Name: Your Fresh Market

Common Name: Extra Lean Ground Beef Sirloin

Size: 475g                        

Code(s) on Product:            Best Before 2014.NO.28

UPC: 6 05388 18363 7

Brand Name: Your Fresh Market

Common Name: Extra Lean Ground Beef         

Size: 475g                            

Code(s) on Product:            Best Before 2014.NO.28

UPC: 6 05388 18369 9

Brand Name: Your Fresh Market

Common Name: Medium Ground Beef 

Size: 475g                            

Code(s) on Product:            Best Before 2014.NO.28

UPC: 6 05388 18365 1

Brand Name: Your Fresh Market

Common Name: Lean Ground Beef       

Size: 475g                            

Code(s) on Product:            Best Before 2014.NO.28 and 2014.NO.29

UPC: 6 05388 18376 7

Brand Name: Your Fresh Market

Common Name: Extra Lean Ground Beef         

Size: 900 g               

Code(s) on Product:            Best Before 2014.NO.28

UPC: 6 05388 18372 9

Brand Name: Your Fresh Market

Common Name: Lean Ground Beef       

Size: 900 g               

Code(s) on Product:            Best Before 2014.NO.28

UPC: 6 05388 18378 1

Brand Name: Your Fresh Market

Common Name: Lean Ground Beef       

Size: 1.6 kg             

Code(s) on Product:            Best Before 2014.NO.28 and 2014.NO.29

UPC: 6 05388 18379 8

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.

Food contaminated with E. coli O157 may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick.

This recall was triggered by test results. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (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.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with these products.

Canadian researchers rank Canada’s food safety system as world’s best; Chapman ranks himself as top-5 hockey player in NC

And I’m the best goalie in Australia (not).

ITALY-G8-G5-AGRICULTURE-FARMPress release before publishing – and peer review – reached new depths as academics at the University of Guelph proclaimed Canada’s food safety system the best in the world, in a report released today by the Conference Board of Canada.

“Canada has one of the safest and healthiest food systems in the world as confirmed by this study,” said Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health. “Our Government remains committed to our continuing efforts to further strengthen Canada’s food system to ensure that Canadian families can continue to have confidence in the food they buy and eat.”

According to the executive summary (you have to sign up to get the report) “food safety data segmentation and limitations hamper the world’s ability to select, build up, monitor, and evaluate food safety performance. Currently, there is no metric that captures the entire food safety system, and performance data are not collected strategically on a global scale. Therefore, benchmarking is essential not only to help monitor ongoing food safety performance but also to inform continued food safety system design, adoption, and implementation toward more efficient and effective food safety preparedness, responsiveness, and accountability.”

south.park.canadaAnd what academic report would be complete without a call for “funding future food safety data collection is recommended, as is hosting a food safety summit for nations to find consensus on common robust food safety performance measurements, drawing on metrics from this study, among others.”

Canada, striving for mediocracy.

‘Get out of Ukraine’ G20 leaders enjoy lavish seafood BBQ

The G20 is over, Brisbane is slowly returning to normal, but it was Canadian PM Stephen Harper who stole the show when he met blame_canadaRussia’s Putin and said, “I guess I’ll shake your hand, but get out of Ukraine.”

The leaders were treated to a seafood BBQ featuring Moreton Bay bugs, Mooloolaba king prawns, shucked oysters (hopefully they were cooked), and Tasmanian ocean trout.

We had our own Tassie trout on Saturday.

trout.nov.14