US food industry groups say they’ll label GMOs on their terms

I told food-industry types back in the mid-1990s to figure out a way to label – which is short-form for provide information at retail — genetically engineered foods, or others would do it for you (all food is genetically modified so all food would be labeled using GMO language).

ben-cornThey told me I was crazy.

We went ahead and did it at a retail market in 2000, and most shoppers didn’t care; but big retailers wouldn’t touch it.

Now, the U.S. Grocery Manufacturers Association and other food industry groups are, according to NPR, announced Thursday that it supports labeling — sort of.

It’s a mish-mash proposal of nonsense that I won’t go into because it has nothing to do with food safety and, as usual, when private outfits – the ones that profit – can’t figure things out and show leadership, they ask for government help.

The Pinto defense – we meet government standards.

Truck crammed with 500 cats stopped en route to restaurants in China

Some 500 cats were discovered crammed into a truck during a routine check as it made its way to restaurants across China to sell the pets as meat.

The animals were rescued thanks to vehicle checks in Xuzhou, in the eastern province of Jiangsu.

Having pulled over the truck in what they assumed was a run of the mill stop, officers were shocked to find the horrific haul.

Officer Sun Hai, who helped rescue the terrified felines along with a colleague, said: ‘The driver said it was a full load of rabbit. 

‘But after we instructed him to uncover the load we were shocked to find a full load of living cats.’

Following the find the pair informed volunteers from a local animal protection centre who quickly arrived on the scene.

They cut open the bags with keys and knives to save the animals from suffocation and also bought water and food.

It is believed that the owner of the load refused to reveal where the cats had come from and it even took seven hours of negotiations to get him to hand them over to rescue teams.

The cats have now been transferred to an animal rescue centre at Tangzhang County, where they are being treated.

Syria approves law on GM food as deadly conflict rages

Another reason to ignore discussions of genetically-engineered food:

Bashar al-Assad of Syria, where more than 33,000 people have been killed in 19 months of conflict, issued a law on GM food Thursday to preserve human life, state-run SANA news agency reported.

Assad, whose forces are locked in a bloody confrontation with armed rebels opposed to his rule, “has approved a law on the health security of genetically modified organisms… to regulate their use and production,” SANA reported.

The law is meant “to preserve the health of human beings, animals, vegetables and the environment,” the agency added.

New York convict claims food is killing him, files lawsuit

I ate some bad food in prison: the worst was saltpeter and horse nuts, some sort of canned stone fruit in a syrupy moss.

And this was at the correctional facility that had its own canning plant to ship the horse nuts off to other patrons and guests of the Ontario government.

Guess it wasn’t as bad as a former Rikers inmate who is suing New York City for $80 million claiming that the prison food almost killed him. Michael Isolda, who weighed 460 pounds before he underwent gastric bypass surgery, says he was only given four minutes at a time to eat his measly prison meals—because of his surgery, that speed-eating caused him to vomit after every meal and eventually separated his stomach from his intestine. “For me, Rikers Island is a death sentence,” he said in his lawsuit. “It’s not a matter of surviving and worrying about inmates. I have to worry about the food killing me.”

A history of human fingers found in fast food

On March 22, 2005, Anna Ayala claimed she found a finger in a bowl of chili at a San Jose Wendy’s restaurant. The finger became the talk of the Internet and late-night talk shows, spawned numerous bizarre tips and theories about the source of the finger, and led to dozens of copycat claims. Wendy’s lost tens of millions of dollars.

Turns out the finger belonged to a co-worker of Ayala’s husband who severed it during a construction accident and was planted in the chili in a misguided attempt to extort money from Wendy’s.

In Jan. 2006, Ayala, 40, was sentenced to nine years; the hubby got more than 12 years.

NPR revisited the chili-finger story last week as part of its history of human fingers found in fast food.

Among those making the list:

A Michigan teen says he found a finger in his Arby’s sandwich last week. "The piece appeared to be the back of a finger, including the pad and extending beyond the first knuckle.”

An Ohio man bit into his Arby’s sandwich in 2004 and reportedly found "a piece of flesh about three-fourths of an inch long." When health investigators spoke with the manager, they saw a bandage on the manager’s thumb. Turns out, he had sliced his thumb skin while shredding lettuce but reportedly didn’t throw away the bin of lettuce.

In 2005, Clarence Stowers found a finger in his custard at Kohl’s Frozen Custard in Wilmington, N.C.. But not before eating all the ice cream off the finger, first. (He reportedly thought it was candy and didn’t realize it was a human appendage until later.) Turns out a worker had lost part of his finger in the custard machine and Stowers was unfortunate enough to find it. Later, Stowers kept the finger for evidence for so long that the it was too late for the employee to get his finger reattached.

A California inmate, Felipe Rocha, was eating dinner in March 2005 when he "chewed on a crunchy object" in his cornbread and discovered a fingertip, according to the lawsuit he later filed and obtained by the AP. The inmate’s attorney said Rocha is a vegetarian and lost 15 pounds in six days because he couldn’t eat after the incident.

In 2006, an Indiana diner found a finger on his TGI Friday’s burger after a restaurant employee accidentally cut it in the kitchen, according to an AP story at the time. "The manager didn’t even know it happened until he got to the hospital," the TGI Friday’s spokeswoman said.

How long does norovirus last on surfaces and foods, and is norovirus easily transferred?

Leading lights of Britain’s food safety junta have issued a call for research into norovirus, specifically how the virus continues to survive when it comes into contact with the surfaces that food is prepared upon or with food itself.

They should have just given the money to LeeAnn.

As in LeeAnn Jaykus of North Carolina State University, who was one of the authors of a paper in this month’s issue of my favorite bath time reading, Journal of Food Protection. The authors write:

“Foods become contaminated with HuNoV by direct contact with fecal matter on the hands of food workers who have not practiced adequate personal hygiene and by transfer of virus via contact with contaminated surfaces. Intuitively, this makes sense, as HuNoV are shed in high numbers in the feces and vomitus of infected individuals, and shedding can precede illness, occur in asymptomatic individuals, and/or be prolonged for days to weeks after symptom resolution.

Our results confirm that HuNoV can persist on commonly used food contact surfaces and on a model food for long periods, as evaluated by the only reliable method to detect these viruses, RT-qPCR. This our work confirms that moisture, pressure, and recipient surface were key factors influencing transferability (reviewed in (24) ). For example, transfer of HuNoV and MNV-1 from stainless steel surfaces to lettuce was more efficient when the virus inoculum was still wet (time 0), an observation consistent with previous studies using FCV (8) and rotavirus.

Persistence and transferability of Noroviruses on and between common surfaces and foods
02.may.12
Journal of Food Protection®, Volume 75, Number 5, May 2012 , pp. 927-935(9)
Escudero, B.I.; Rawsthorne, H.; Gensel, C.; Jaykus, L.A.
http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/iafp/jfp/2012/00000075/00000005/art00016
Abstract:
Human noroviruses (HuNoV) are the leading cause of foodborne disease, and poor personal hygiene practices of infected workers are the most common mode of contamination. The purpose of this study was to characterize the persistence and transferability of representative noroviruses Norwalk virus (NV), Snow Mountain virus (SMV), and murine norovirus 1 (MNV-1) on and between solid surfaces and foods. Changes in virus concentration on artificially inoculated solid surfaces (stainless steel, ceramic, and Formica) or lettuce were monitored over a period of 14 to 42 days. Virus transfer was evaluated from donor (solid surface) to recipient (food, e.g., lettuce and sliced turkey deli meat) for up to 2 h postinoculation. Viruses were recovered by elution and titered with reverse transcription quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) and/or infectivity assay, as appropriate. Based on RTqPCR, the concentration of NV and SMV on surfaces dropped gradually over time, with an average reduction of 1.5 to 2.0 and 1.8 to 2.3 log, respectively, after 42 days, with no statistically significant differences by surface. When inoculated onto lettuce stored for 2 weeks at 4°C and room temperature, the titers of NV and SMV dropped by approximately 1.0 and 1.2 to 1.8 log, respectively. Comparatively, the RT-qPCR signal associated with purified HuNoV RNA placed on the same surfaces was more rapidly lost to degradation. Transfer efficiency ranged from 0 to 26 % for lettuce and from 55 to 95 % for sliced turkey deli meat, with statistically significant differences (P ≤ 0.05) in transferability as a function of contact pressure (100 and 1,000 g/9 cm2) and inoculum drying time. When similar experiments were done with MNV-1, infectious virus failed to be detected on solid surfaces after storage day 21, although the virus did persist on lettuce. This study provides much needed quantitative data for use in risk assessment efforts intended to characterize the transmission of HuNoV during food preparation and handling.

Sabotage: Woman gets 3 years for tampering food at Calgary supermarket with pins, needles

A Calgary woman was sentenced to three years in prison for repeatedly sabotaging food at a Calgary Co-op supermarket by repeatedly placing needles, pins and other sharp objects into food products two years ago.

Judge Gerald Meagher told Tatyana Granada, 45 (right), during sentencing, "This was mean and malicious behavior. It goes beyond the victim. It could have caused danger to members of the public."

Granada, 45, was convicted on Feb. 17 of four counts of mischief and four counts of trespassing in connection with the incidents at Oakridge Co-op in southwest Calgary on Jan. 13, Jan. 18, Feb. 17 and March 10, 2010.

The judge said the woman’s actions were vindictive for having been charged with shoplifting at the store on Dec. 18, 2009 — just under a month before the spree of food-tampering incidents began.

Granada, who defended herself for the sentencing hearing, responded, "You got it wrong. I have children you must think about it. Shameful."

Calgary Co-op manager Al Madsen testified in Dec. 2011 that from the first discovery of food products with pins and nails in them, on Jan. 18, 2010, until Granada was arrested on March 16, 2010, about a dozen surveillance cameras were installed to go along with the two or three cameras in place in January.

He said some cameras were installed with the knowledge of staff after the January incidents and several more strategically located cameras were "installed surreptitiously after staff left," following further tampering incidents on Feb. 17.

Madsen said the cost of the new cameras was between $35,000 and $40,000.

He told Crown prosecutor Martha O’Connor at Granada’s trial that the store was closed at least twice to conduct entire grid searches for tampered products.

Madsen said the pattern of tampering was consistent through January, where pins and nails were placed in fresh foods in the cheese, deli, bakery and produce sections.

Madsen said undercover security officers were hired to be on the lookout at all times for possible tampering by customers or staff.

Following yet another rash of discoveries of food items with pins in them on March 11, 2010, the manager said it was decided not to close the store again, but to have cashiers inform all customers at checkouts to be vigilant about checking any food products for tampering.

That day, the bulk food bins were dumped out and because the store could not ensure safety of customers, $9,000 worth of food was thrown out.

It was around that time that assistant manager Chris Goode identified Granada as having been barred from the Co-op stores in December 2009 for shoplifting.

Madsen said he reviewed video surveillance of Granada’s entire shopping trip from March 10, 2010, and outlined her route and where she stopped.

US Marines will do better than ‘subsist’ on Australian food

They will stay for years, number up to 2500, possibly have their own aircraft and artillery, train with the Aboriginal-dominated Norforce unit and drop in to help in Asia-Pacific disaster zones alongside Australia’s Diggers.

But whatever you do, don’t call the Marine Rotational Force in Darwin, Australia, part of a U.S. base.

”No, no again,” said Lieutenant-Colonel AnDroy Senegar when pressed on how much his operation looked like the forerunner of an official base.

”We will build no infrastructure. We will subsist on Australian food. We will be part of the community. It will be a partnership. We will not be intrusive.”

No worries, here’s our dinner from a couple of days ago: Moreton Bay sand crabs with stuffed shells. Whatever the Marines eat, there will be choices aplenty.

When the Marines arrived in early April for the first of their six-month rotations, then federal Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, justified their presence by saying: ”The world is moving in our direction. It is moving to the Asia-Pacific.

”It is not just the rise of China, it is the rise of China, the rise of India, the rise of the ASEAN economies combined, the emergence of Indonesia, not just as a regional influence but as a global influence,” he said at a welcoming ceremony in Darwin.

Tracking device found in NZ chocolate; ‘sounds like a lunatic friend with personal issues’

A high-tech tracking device embedded in a slab of chocolate is among hundreds of bizarre complaints about foreign objects found in food.

Among the most unsavoury items was a condom found in a KFC meal, worms and maggots on supermarket pork and a sticking plaster on pizza.

Information obtained by the Herald on Sunday revealed 201 complaints of food safety breaches had been investigated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) since January last year.

Paragon Investigations director Ron McQuilter said the tracking device would have been highly technical and expensive because devices that tiny were difficult to find.
"Something that small isn’t normal," said McQuilter. "I’m imagining it would be very high-tech which means it will be expensive."

He suggested it could have been taken from animal researchers or made at home then placed in the chocolate to trace the woman’s movements.

"It sounds like a lunatic friend with personal issues going on as opposed to someone at Whittaker’s doing it," said McQuilter.

A KFC customer claimed to have found a condom in their quarter pack meal from Hamilton’s Frankton store in February last year, Restaurant Brands spokeswoman Jo Bell said.

As a result, KFC has installed cameras in all of its stores’ kitchens, serving and customer areas.

Food Safety New Zealand consultant Suresh Din encouraged customers to inform authorities about foreign objects in their food, poisoning or a lack of hygiene.