Scotland’s new food standards regulator must be a strong independent consumer champion

I vote for Lynn (right, exactly as shown) who’s either really happy to see me or holding a fish.

lynn.fish.mar.15The UK consumerist outfit, Which? has called on the new food standards organisation for Scotland to “operate transparently as a strong, independent consumer champion”.

The organisation has set out a priority list for the new Food Standards Scotland agency’s first year, including ensuring it adequately tackles food fraud and misleading practices.

The FSS is launched today, taking over full operational control from the Food Standards Agency, providing Scotland with regulation and independent advice on food safety and standards, food information and nutrition.

Which? said it should act on recommendations of reports conducted in the wake of the 2013 horsemeat contamination scandals by Chris Elliott, professor of food safety and director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University, Belfast and Professor Jim Scudamore for the Scottish Government. That would mean improving intelligence gathering, stepping up surveillance and investigating and prosecuting potential breaches.

World food safety increases risks and prevention opportunities

There was this time, about five years ago, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture decided to consult with everyone they could find to chat about food safety messaging.

who.factors(1)I participated in good faith, but soon dropped out, because it was apparent the folks in charge had their minds made up, and my – and dozens of others – time on the phone was a consultative circle jerk.

The result was those embarrassing Ad Council ads with a pig in a sauna.

I was vocal, saying that cook, clean, chill, separate places too much blame on the consumer and doesn’t account for choosing safety: source food from verifiable safe sources.

Nope, weren’t having any of that, even though the World Health Organization has been promoting that message for 15 years (one of my former students worked on this, years ago).

On World Health Day 2015, WHO/Europe estimates that levels of foodborne disease are much higher than currently reported and underlines the need for improved collaboration among sectors to lower the health risks associated with unsafe food. 

Our food chain is longer and more complex than ever before, and demographic, cultural, economic and environmental developments – globalized trade, travel and migration, an ageing population, changing consumer trends and habits, new technologies, emergencies, climate change and extreme weather events – are increasing foodborne health risks. 

“The fact that we significantly underestimate how many people become ill from chemicals in the food chain and from common microorganisms such as Salmonella and Campylobacter should start alarm bells ringing across the many areas with a stake in our food chain. A failure in food safety at any link in this chain, from the environment, through primary production, processing, transport, trade, catering or in the home, can have significant health and economic consequences,” says Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe.

the-who-whos-next-cover*Contamination from a single source may become widespread and have enormous health and economic consequences. In 2011, for example, an enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) outbreak in Germany and France, linked to imported contaminated fenugreek seeds, led to almost 4000 cases of EHEC infection in 16 countries, including more than 900 haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) cases and 55 deaths. The estimated loss for farmers and industries was US$ 1.3 billion.

*Changes in animal food production are leading to an increase in the emergence and spread of zoonotic diseases. Of 335 emerging infectious disease events in humans between 1940 and 2004, it is estimated that 60% were transmitted from animals and many of these were foodborne. 

WHO calls on policy-makers:

*To build and maintain adequate food safety systems and infrastructures, including laboratory capacities and surveillance and reporting systems; 

*To respond to and manage food safety risks along the entire food chain, including during emergencies;

*To foster multisectoral collaboration among public health, animal health, agriculture and other sectors for better communication, information sharing and joint action;

*To integrate food safety into broader food policies and programmes (e.g. nutrition and food security);

*To think globally and act locally to ensure that food produced domestically is as safe as possible internationally.

who.throws.a.shoeWorld Health Day 2015, celebrated on 7 April, is an opportunity to recognize the important food safety role of all those involved in food production, and to strengthen collaboration and coordination among these various areas, in order to prevent, detect and respond to foodborne diseases efficiently and cost-effectively. A kaleidoscope of events is planned across the globe. 

People are also invited to engage through social media and to promote “From farm to plate: make food safe” using the hashtag #safefood.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) says to be able to meet the demand for milk, eggs and meat and guarantee their safety, it is first of all essential to control pathogens in animals on the farm.

Eliminating or controlling food hazards at source has proved more effective than an approach relying solely on checking the finished product.

 

Food safety should apply everywhere: Community food, fundraisers and markets in NZ

I’ve listened to about all I can stand from the parents at the kid’s tuck shop and their food porn views of safety.

hank.hill.bbqI’ve said, I will help with any food safety issues, but otherwise I’m out.

It’s like coaching hockey: data is never going to convince any parent of their evangelical role, so I choose to avoid it and focus on the kids.

New Zealand has a new food act, that is apparently ruffling feathers among well-meaning parents.

So the ministry decided it had to say something.

What they didn’t say is that food safety is our first and foremost priority.

Pandering.

The Act provides a clear exemption to allow Kiwi traditions like sausage sizzles, home baking at school fairs, raffles and charity fundraisers to take place. 

People selling food once a year, for example, at an annual cultural festival, are also exempt from operating under a Food Control Plan or a National Programme.

There is another exemption that applies to clubs, organisations and societies that would mean for example, members of a cricket club selling food for a match tea, would not have to operate under a Food Control Plan or a National Programme.

The Act allows a person who trades in food solely for fundraisers or to support a charity or cultural or community events to do so up to 20 times in a calendar year without the need to be registered or undergo checks, but people will need to ensure  that the food is safe and suitable to eat.

Worm found in food, 7 suffer food poisoning in India

Seven people from Kuniamuthur, in Coimbatire, were admitted in the government hospital, Coimbatore, with complaints of food poisoning on Sunday. All seven of them say they had gone together to a chaat outlet where a worm was found in a plate of mushroom fry. The food safety department raided the chaat outlet on Monday afternoon.

chaat.mushroomThe seven of them, claimed that they had been suffering from severe diarrhea and bouts of vomiting since Sunday evening

The food safety department, suspect the food poisoning to have been triggered due to the use of spoilt mushroom or cauliflower, raided the canteen and the store. The stall in the canteen was reportedly shut down on Monday.

No inquest for Bali food poisoning deaths

Many in Australia want to vacation in Bali.

bali.deathsMe, not so much.

Here’s another reason:

An inquest won’t be held into the death of a mother and daughter duo who died from food poisoning while on holiday in Indonesia.

Queensland Coroner Terry Ryan on Tuesday published his findings into the deaths of Noelene Bischoff, 54, and her 14-year-old daughter Yvana, who died within a few hours of each other in Bali on January 4 last year.

Mr Ryan said there was nothing to be gained from holding an inquest and determined the cause of their death to be a “severe reaction to food, likely to have been fish, consumed while on holiday in Indonesia”.

That severe reaction was probably scombroid syndrome, which occurs after eating certain types of fish that produce high levels of histamine, he said.

Safety don’t have much to do with it: Food safety audits are just what retailers wanted

I’m not Dr. Doug.

doug.coach.happy.feb.15Kids call me coach, others call me asshole, all fine by me.

Dr. Bob and Dr. Dan exist, and probably many others in the misguided belief they are enhancing the public understanding of science, when it’s just demeaning and arrogant.

Dr. Bob says during grower food safety events, “we often talk about why having a food safety program is important and how it is critical to have a program to protect your own business, protect your customers and, ultimately, public health. We talk about emerging science, the importance of foundational food safety programs such as sanitation practices and worker hygiene and how to identify and manage potential cross-contamination hazards on the farm and in the packinghouse.

“After going through this information and basically laying out the why, how, and what of food safety, often some brave soul in the audience will raise their hand and ask, So what score do I need to get in order to pass the audit? And that’s when the frustration sets in. How did passing an audit become a substitute for actually building a risk-based food safety program?”

Oh, Oh, Dr. Bob, I can answer that.

Because back in the late 1990s, as fresh fruit and vegetable outbreaks took on national prominence, retailers decided, we want third-party audits, rather than food safety programs promoted by grower groups.

I chaired a national committee in Canada about 2002 to look at the issue, came up with a solution that would be advantageous to growers and consumers, and was then overruled behind the scenes so the grower groups could keep their Canadian Food Inspection Agency funding (and the bureaucracy).

I walked away.

Thirteen years later and Dr. Bob is wondering how this happened?

Want to keep supermarket customers? Don’t sell moldy food

As traditional grocery stores continue to lose market share and wonks advise adding bars and a fishmonger, the New South Wales Food Authority (that’s in Australia) has a better tip: don’t sell out-of-date and moldy food.

ColesNewLogo9pinSeveral Coles, Woolworths and IGA stores make up the 1293 listings on the government’s online penalty register, which publishes the names of businesses that have breached food safety laws.

In the past year inspectors fined IGA supermarkets almost $10,000 for breaches spanning from Western Sydney to the Murray region.

The chain’s Nabiac store, in the Great Lakes area, was caught out selling potato salad, herb bread, yoghurt and pickled fish up to two weeks past their use by date, while an IGA store in Blacktown had “expired food exhibiting mould.’’

Inspectors found old smoked salmon at an IGA Liquor store in Wangi, in Lake Macquarie, while two outlets in Minchinbury were found to be selling expired products, including dips.

A company spokesman said responsibility for breaches was on the individual store owner. “However repeated breaches of food safety regulations will see the owner’s business de-bannered as an IGA store,’’ he said.

Woolworths was fined for trying to sell expired milk at its Caltex service stations in Blacktown and Kellyville Ridge, while its Bowral supermarket in Bowral was found to be selling food that was well past its use-by-date.

Coles.perth.raw.goats milkInspectors fined Woolworths’ Camden store for failing to maintain a “required standard of cleanliness.’’

Coles stores in Winmalee and Katoomba — in the Blue Mountains — copped penalties for failing to display “potentially hazardous food’’ under the correct temperature, control while the chain’s Gladesville store was listed for failing to take all necessary steps to prevent the likelihood of food being contaminated.

Despite the breaches, a Coles spokesman said staff: “work actively with regulators to ensure correct food handling and hygiene procedures are held to strict standards.”

Especially that raw goat’s milk.

Campylobacter testing in NZ

The New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries said since performance targets for Campylobacter were introduced in 2008, setting contamination limits for poultry processors, the number of notified cases of people infected with campylobacter had halved.

chicken.campy.vaccineThere had also been a significant reduction in birds testing positive for the bacteria.

Two years ago, the Ministry introduced a campylobacter detection limit and it was now reviewing the effectiveness of that and seeking feed-back on options, which included tightening up limits.

Poultry Industry Association executive director Michael Brooks said it had worked with the Ministry for years on this and the review was part of ongoing efforts to lower the infection rate.

At least 542 sickened in Cambodia, mainly schoolchildren

Ingredients thought to have caused a mass outbreak of food poisoning on Saturday at a Siem Reap province event organised by the NGO World Vision were seized yesterday and sent to Phnom Penh to undergo tests.

baguette filled with meat and picklesA crowd of more than 700 people, mainly comprising schoolchildren, attended the event in Chi Kraeng district, which focused on raising awareness about child labour. But free snacks organised by the NGO – a baguette filled with meat and pickles – left the majority unwell.

Siem Reap Provincial Governor Khem Bunsung said 542 people, including 364 children, had fallen ill. He added that most had been quickly discharged from hospital, with just 30 people remaining at health centres yesterday afternoon.

However, Um Sareth, the head of a health centre in Pongro Loeu commune, said the real number was much higher, with more than 800 people reporting symptoms of food poisoning.

Soeun Sen, chief of Siem Reap’s anti-economic crimes police unit, said officials yesterday ordered the temporary closure of the bakery that supplied the bread.

Listeria and botulism potential in fish forces closure of California seafood company

At the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a judge has ordered L.A. Star Seafood Company Inc., located in Los Angeles, and its owners, Sima and Sam Goldring, to halt operations until they demonstrate to the FDA that they can process food in compliance with food safety laws and regulations.

L.A. Star Seafood CompanyIn 2012, at the FDA’s request, the company recalled some of its products due to potential contamination. In 2013, the FDA inspected the L.A. Star facility, and sent the company a warning letter detailing steps the company must take to comply with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and Current Good Manufacturing Practice requirements. In 2014, another inspection of the L.A. Star facility documented the company and its owners’ continued failure to comply with the law.

“The FDA takes legal action to protect the public’s health when it is necessary,” said Melinda K. Plaisier, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “This consent decree represents an agreement between the FDA and L.A. Star to ensure that if and when they reopen for business, they will be producing food that meets food safety requirements.”

The consent decree of permanent injunction requires L.A. Star to control for the presence of Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono) and Clostridium botulinum (C. bot), two disease-causing bacteria. The consent decree also requires the company to devise and implement Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point plans and Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures, and train staff in both.