But will it make fewer people barf? US FDA issues final food defense regulation

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today finalized a new food safety rule under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that will help to prevent wide-scale public health harm by requiring companies in the United States and abroad to take steps to prevent intentional adulteration of the food supply. While such acts are unlikely to occur, the new rule advances mitigation strategies to further protect the food supply.

imagesUnder the new rule, both domestic and foreign food facilities, for the first time, are required to complete and maintain a written food defense plan that assesses their potential vulnerabilities to deliberate contamination where the intent is to cause wide-scale public health harm. Facilities now have to identify and implement mitigation strategies to address these vulnerabilities, establish food defense monitoring procedures and corrective actions, verify that the system is working, ensure that personnel assigned to these areas receive appropriate training and maintain certain records.

“Today’s final rule on intentional adulteration will further strengthen the safety of an increasingly global and complex food supply,” said Stephen Ostroff, M.D., incoming deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, FDA. “The rule will work in concert with other components of FSMA by preventing food safety problems before they occur.”

The rule was proposed in December 2013 and takes into consideration more than 200 comments submitted by the food industry, government regulatory partners, consumer advocates and others.

BBQs work: Cooking squirrel with blowtorch to cost Michigan tenant $2M after complex gutted

A woman whose boyfriend sparked a 2012 apartment fire using a blowtorch on a squirrel is on the hook for $2 million in damages to the Holland Township complex, the Court of Appeals ruled.

grey.squirrel.eatWednesday’s ruling reverses a lower court decision that held Barbara Pellow responsible for only $15,400 in damages caused by the Oct. 10 blaze that consumed 32 units at ClearView Apartments.

The woman’s boyfriend, Khek Chanthalavong, had been using a blowtorch to remove fur from the squirrel on a wooden deck. Owners of the complex claimed cooking a squirrel on the deck violated her rental agreement.

Even though her boyfriend caused the fire, Pellow is still liable under a lease agreement for what justices described as a “fur-burning escapade.”

“Because defendant signed the lease agreement, she is presumed to have read and understood its contents,” the three-judge panel wrote.

Dozens of people at ClearView Apartments in Holland Township lost everything in the fire. Insurance carrier Travelers Indemnity Co. paid out more than $2 million to repair the damage.

The boyfriend left the torch on the deck and went into the apartment. When he returned 15 minutes later, he discovered the fire.

EU provides millions to enhance food safety in Georgia

I can’t figure why the EU has such an interest in Georgia’s food safety. Why not Montana? Or Rhode Island? Or Oklahoma.

I know some good folks at the Georgia Dept of Ag. And UGA is there.

Oh, it’s a different Georgia. The one that’s a country in Europe at the intersection of Eastern Europe and West Asia.

Georgia will receive €50 million from the European Union to improve national food safety standards.

A special agreement will be signed today in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi that outlines the start of the second phase of cooperation to establish food safety standards in Georgia.

The cooperation launched under the EU-funded European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development (ENPARD), which promotes agriculture and rural development policies and reforms to stimulate employment and improve the living conditions of Georgia’s rural population.

The main goal of the cooperation was to improve food safety and quality standards in Georgia, and improve the ways these standards and monitored and controlled.

The first phase included reforming and strengthening Governmental structures and building the capacity and capabilities of small farmers in Georgia to reduce poverty in Georgia’s rural areas.

From the joint cooperation between ENPARD and the Government, about 1,000 cooperatives were established and registered in Georgia and 52 consultation centres were created around the country to improve farmers’ access to agricultural information.

19-year-old dies in Oslo from suspected food poisoning

Nyheter reports police have initiated an investigation after a 19-year-old boy died in Oslo on Tuesday.

oslo-university-hospital-ambul_10876310Oslo police are assisting health authorities to find out why 19-year-old died suddenly.

The preliminary autopsy report does not give a clear answer on the cause of death, but it is less likely that it concerns a source of infection. It has probably happened a type of food poisoning, says section leader Rune Shields by Finance and Environmental Crime Section of the Oslo police.

Police have sealed off the family’s home and seized food, but there is no suspicion that there has been no crime.

We have taken a great deal of products at their home, which will now be analyzed, says Shields.

The 17-year-old sister of 19-year-old is too ill. Her condition has been critical, but during the past day has stabilized, police said.

The 19-year-old was a guest at a restaurant in Oslo before he became ill, but not her sister. As things stand now, it is most likely that food poisoning happened at their home.

Infection Control Superior in Oslo, Tore W. Steen, confirmed that he is involved in the case.

Food fraud: Police and Interpol crackdown on toxic food

The New York Times highlights some of the toxic and counterfeit food products that police agencies have recently seized recently in 57 countries:

  • food.fraud.jpg154 pounds of chicken intestines soaked in formalin, a prohibited food additive, seized in Indonesia;
  • Italian olives painted with copper sulfate solutions to make them look greener;
  • sugar that was cut with fertilizer in Sudan;
  • customs agents and police officers in Hungary, Italy, Lithuania and Romania have discovered counterfeit chocolates, sweets and non-alcoholic sparkling wine that were headed to West Africa;
  • South Korean police arrested a man who was smuggling dietary supplements that contained harmful ingredients but were advertised online as natural products;
  • in Australia, a shipment of peanuts was repackaged and relabeled as pine nuts, posing a potentially deadly threat to people with serious groundnut allergies;
  • police in Bolivia raided a warehouse and seized thousands of cans of sardines and the fake labels of a famous Peruvian brand that would have been affixed to them;
  • police in eastern China raided two workshops that were producing fake jellyfish, which contained high levels of aluminum and chemicals (jellyfish is popular in parts of China, where it is sliced and served as part of a salad); and,
  • illicit alcohol concocted in Greece, Britain or Burundi.

Criminals make millions of dollars a year peddling such products, and worse, to unwitting or reckless buyers, according to the international police agencies Interpol and Europol. Recent joint operations have netted about 11,000 tons of counterfeit and hazardous food and 264,000 gallons of bogus beverages, the agencies’ largest hauls to date.

“Fake and dangerous food and drink threaten the health and safety of people around the world, who are often unsuspectingly buying these potentially dangerous goods,” said Michael Ellis, who runs Interpol’s unit on trafficking in illicit goods and anti-counterfeiting measures.

Hepatitis A outbreak strikes in Welsh schools

Parents are being advised not to send their child to school for seven days if Hepatitis A is suspected following a number of cases in Caerphilly, South Wales

hep.aParents are being warned over an outbreak of hepatitis across schools in the UK.

Public Health Wales have confirmed that two more cases – including one at a secondary school – have been diagnosed in Caerphilly.

The total number of cases of hepatitis A in the area is now 11.

Heather Lewis, a consultant in health protection, warned there may be more cases to come, reports Wales Online.

Hepatitis A vaccination is not routinely offered on the NHS, as the infection is rare in the UK, with 13 reported cases in Wales in 2012.

It is strongly advised that anyone travelling to a country where the infection is more common should receive the vaccination.

Latest food quacks peddling dangerous advice

The UK’s newest foodie stars, sisters Melissa and Jasmine Hemsley, purport themselves as healthy food gurus. In fact, one’s a former model, the other has a background in marketing. Following the release of their latest cookbook, experts claim their clean-eating, tongue-scraping advice could actually do more harm than good.

Hemsleys-embedJasmine, 36, has left her racy modelling past far behind. These days, she and sister Melissa, 30, are the self-styled queens of “clean eating”, a regime that forbids followers from eating sugar, gluten and processed foods, which are said to contain body-harming toxins.

The sisters, who have written two recipe books and set up their own cafe, can be found promoting such food fads as “spiralising”, a healthy eating gadget that turns vegetables into guilt-free “pasta”; bone broth, a collagen-rich soup made from boiling bones; and, just last week on their new UK Channel 4 TV show, astrologically farmed vegetables grown according to the cycles of the moon.

Critics say that by peddling the “clean eating” fad, the Hemsleys and their ilk – including “Deliciously” Ella Woodward – are causing vulnerable schoolgirls to become not only paranoid about food, but frightened of it.

In a society in which more young women than ever have troubled relationships with their bodies – 1.6 million people in Britain suffer from an eating disorder – this is cause for serious concern. Experts say just words such as “clean” and “cleanse” may trigger harmful behaviour.

“Clean eating uses the language of anorexics to describe food,” says Dr Richard Sly, a lecturer in mental health at the University of East Anglia. “When you place a label on such things, you are creating a judgment, one that vulnerable people will buy into.”.

The girls started tapping into Jasmine’s contacts in the TV and film world to find clients for whom they could cook healthy meals. In spring 2010, a well-known actor (whom the sisters refuse to name) asked them to help with his diet.

Before they knew it, they had a waiting list and their business was born. It was so exclusive they took on just six, super-elite clients at a time and were flown round the world as private chefs.

They set up a blog to document their work and, in 2012, it caught the attention of an editor at Vogue, who took them on as food columnists.

The Hemsley & Hemsley brand was co-founded by Jasmine’s boyfriend Nick Hopper, 40, a model and photographer, who took the pictures for their first book, The Art Of Eating Well, which has sold 150,000 copies.

Today, Jasmine and Nick live in a £585,000 flat in South-East London, while Melissa lives nearby with her boyfriend, Henry Relph, 32, a DJ and art collector.

Central to their success is their glamorous appearance and the glitzy social circles in which they move.

However, some of their dishes contain a lot of sugar – their “guilt-free” brownies have 150ml maple syrup, as well as 230g butter.

Even their “healthy” alternatives (honey, maple syrup and agave nectar) contain high levels of fructose, a natural sugar linked to diabetes, obesity and liver disease.

But most concerning of all are health ‘experts’ from whom the Hemsleys get their approach to food.

Last week, it was revealed that they support controversial diet guru Natasha Campbell-McBride, a Russian nutritionist criticised for her “Gut And Psychology Syndrome” (GAPS) doctrine, which claims that a restrictive, gluten-free diet can cure conditions including schizophrenia, autism and epilepsy. Despite not being legally registered to practise medicine in Britain, she bills herself on her UK website as “Doctor Natasha”.

Experts have branded her work “unethical” and “dangerous”, yet the Hemsleys cite her book at the top of a list of five that have “shaped their food philosophy”.

The Weston A Price Foundation, an American non-profit group founded by a dentist, is another inspiration.

Among the unorthodox practices it advocates are eating poached animal brains, feeding newborns raw cows’ milk and ingesting clay, believed to remove toxins from the body.

The sisters insist they “are not advocates of anyone else’s regime.

But leading doctor and Daily Mail columnist Max Pemberton says the doctrines they quote from are “absolute quackery”.

Their star may be on the rise, but maybe it’s time we started seeing the Hemsley sisters for what they really are: glossy beauties with an eye for making money – and not a shred of genuine expertise between them.

So is there any science behind the clean eating cult? We look at some of the most outlandish schools of thought that the Hemsleys support . . .

Biodynamic food

What is it? Based on the teachings of 19th-century Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, it claims the best time to plant crops is two days before a full moon, when there is an increase in the moisture content of the soil, meaning plants “growth forces” are enhanced.

They say: In the latest episode of their cookery series, the sisters buy eggs produced by chickens fed on grain that has been “planted according to the astrological calendar”.

Liz Cotton of Orchard Eggs, the Hemsleys’ favourite biodynamic brand, explains: “The yolks are bright yellow and they taste better than organic.”

Experts say: There’s no difference – and certainly no nutritional benefit – in planting crops according to the solar system.

Dietitian Renee McGregor says some eggs are better for you than others, but this has to do with soil quality and farming conditions. “In terms of the moon, that’s a load of mumbo-jumbo,” she adds.

Tongue scraping

What is it? One of the sisters’ weirder obsessions, tongue scraping comes from Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient Indian practice.

It involves running a metal scraper – with padded handles and a sharp, curved middle – up and down your tongue to remove bacteria, fungi and food debris.

They say: “I’d rather go without brushing my teeth in the morning than not doing it,” Jasmine claims. “All your toxins come out on your tongue, so you want to remove them.”

Mindful eating

What is it? This Buddhist-inspired technique is all about taking your time over food, rather than wolfing meals down in minutes.

It encourages “reconnecting” with ingredients by paying attention to their colour, smell and texture.

They say: “If you develop a proper relationship with the food you are about to eat, it will taste better and you will feel fuller more quickly,” Jasmine claims.

They also say chewing food more slowly can “get rid of common digestive complaints”.

Experts say: It’s not complete quackery: taking time over eating can avoid indigestion and heartburn. But Jane Odgen, professor of health psychology at the University of Surrey, says this obsession with chewing “may make people over-focused on food”.

The gaps diet

What is it? Dreamed up by Russian nutritional “guru” Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, this regime teaches that illnesses including autism, dyslexia, heart disease and epilepsy are caused by an “imbalance of intestinal flora”, which allows particles of food to escape into the blood.

GAPS – which stands for Gut And Psychology Syndrome – encourages followers to combat this by giving up sugar, dairy, starch and gluten.

They say: The Hemsleys, who cite Doctor Natasha as an influence, promote a gluten and refined sugar-free diet and warn against “leaky gut syndrome”.

Food combining

What is it? A naturopathic – in other words, not scientifically proven – theory that claims the order and combination in which you put food into your mouth can affect digestion. Also known as the Hay Diet, invented by American doctor William Howard Hay in the Thirties, it forbids eating protein and carbohydrates on the same plate.

They say: The sisters claim food combining “aids digestion and optimises nutritional absorption from our foods”.

Experts say: “There is absolutely no evidence for this,” says Renee McGregor. “Our body is capable of coping with food all on its own. It doesn’t need us interfering to help it work properly.”

Bone broth

What is it? Otherwise known as plain old stock, “bone broth” is one of the Hemsleys’ go-to recipes, made by boiling animal bones in water with vegetables, peppercorns and bay leaves for 24 hours.

Scientists find ancient Welsh beer recipe that could treat food poisoning

While breweries in China may date back 5,000 years, a 16th century Welsh drink has been found to contain antibacterial properties that could help fight food poisoning.

stream_imgScientists at Cardiff University hope to create a “super mead” using a mixture of herbs that can tackle salmonella.

“We’re actually running out of antibiotics now, so it’s imperative that we identify new products that are active against these bacteria, especially the likes of salmonella and e-coli which are causing problems all over the country and indeed the world…”

– Dr James Blaxland, Cardiff University

The scientists have been trying to work out how to make a so-called ‘super honey’.

They’ve found with a mix of herbs that together can fight bacteria like salmonella.

“Back in the sixteenth century, there was a Welsh drink called metheglin. Metheglin translates into ‘healing liquor’.

Basically, it’s mead… alcoholic mead that we drink… combined with medicinal herbs.

What we are trying to do is identify those medicinal herbs that we could add to the mead to make a drink that was antibacterial.”

– Prof Les Baillie, Cardiff University

They hope combining Welsh history with science being done in Wales could lead to new and effective drugs.

EU data on veterinary drug residues in animals and food

European Food Safety Authority’s data report summarises the monitoring data from 2014, including compliance rates with EU residue limits, for a range of veterinary medicines, unauthorised substances and contaminants found in animals and animal-derived food.

abattoirs-anc-494x190Overall, 730,000 samples were reported in 2014 – a drop from the 1 million plus samples in last year’s report on 2013 data – from the 28 EU Member States.

In 2014, the level of non-compliance in targeted samples (i.e. samples taken to detect illegal use or check non-compliance with the maximum levels) rose slightly – to 0.37%, compared to 0.25%-0.34% over the previous seven years.

There was slightly higher non-compliance for resorcylic acid lactones (hormonally active compounds produced by fungi or man-made) and contaminants such as metals and mycotoxins (toxins produced by fungi).

The summary data reported suggest high rates of compliance overall and demonstrate the strengths of the EU monitoring system and its contribution to consumer protection.

I’m not your guy, pal: Raw oysters risky for wine drinkers

When Canada’s food safety agency announced a recall of B.C. oysters last August, it meant producers like Steve Pocock had to ensure every last oyster they had shipped after a certain date was accounted for.

Oyster-Vancouver, B.C.- 07/05/07- Joe Fortes Oyster Specialist Oyster Bob Skinner samples a Fanny Bay oyster at the restuarant. Vancouver Coastal Health now requires restaurants to inform their patrons of the dangers of eating raw shellfish.  (Richard Lam/Vancouver Sun)   [PNG Merlin Archive]

Along with a recall – issued by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) after dozens of people got sick as a result of eating raw oysters contaminated with Vibrio parahaemolyticus – there was a ban on restaurants serving raw oysters from British Columbia.

The inconvenience and forgone sales added up to a big hit for Mr. Pocock and other producers in British Columbia’s oyster sector.

Over the past few months, they have been working to prevent a repeat scenario.

“The recall had a very serious impact on our industry – and it should be taken very seriously,” Mr. Pocock said in a recent interview. He owns and operates Sawmill Bay Shellfish and is also president of the BC Shellfish Grower’s Association.

“And I’m not just talking about the farmers; I’m talking about everyone right through to the server in the restaurant,” he added.

A workshop last November spawned a national working group focused on Vibrio with representatives from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Health Canada, the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) and provincial health authorities.

That group developed a prevention program for Vibrio, focusing on education, enhanced testing and improved communication between producers and government agencies.

On the education front, workshops for producers emphasized measures to control Vibrio, such as proper refrigeration during transport.

Oysters represent a relatively small chunk of British Columbia’s aquaculture sales – $13-million, compared with $380.4-million for salmon, according to a 2015 report by British Columbia’s Ministry of Agriculture – but are prized for their taste and local appeal.

“Shellfish are an important part of our business, and especially in the summertime, when patios are open, [oysters] go great with wine and it was disappointing we were unable to offer B.C. product for raw consumption,” said Guy Dean, vice-president of seafood distributor Albion Fisheries.

Yeah, especially since Vibrio produces a toxin that attacks the weak livers of persistent wine drinkers.

Raw is risky.

And this Guy ain’t your buddy. Or friend.