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


Food Control

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


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.

New Zealand closes online fish market

Bored suburbanites like to dabble in risk, and I never understood the term black market, other than it was offensive.

UnknownMinistry for Primary Industries (MPI) compliance officers today terminated an operation against four groups in Auckland who were selling seafood.

MPI compliance officers supported, by the NZ Police, executed search warrants on five South Auckland properties that were identified, from a Facebook page, selling seafood to the public.

MPI compliance officers are talking to ten people in relation to the operation. Investigations are continuing with a view to laying charges under the Fisheries Act.

MPI Compliance Director Dean Baigent says compliance officers learned that a Facebook page was being used for one-off sales of seafood in Auckland and that the page had more than 400 followers.

MPI has been monitoring these groups and has received numerous reports from the public of this illegal activity.

Portland TV investigative report details food safety issues at Foster Farms in 2014

Kyle Iboshi, Senior Investigative Reporter at KGW TV reports that USDA inspection reports that were acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request (below, exactly as shown) detail multiple violations at a Kelso, WA Foster Farms processing plant in 2014. Foster Farms’ chicken was linked to over 630 cases of salmonellosis between 2011 and 2014.

The reports, dated from March to September 2014, show 40 separate violations of food safety rules at the Kelso plant during the six month period.foster-farms

“There were multiple times when food safety problems were identified and then not addressed,” said Christopher Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America in Washington D.C.

Reports show on July 9, 2014 an inspector found fecal material on a raw chicken.

“The fecal material was found on the inside left hip/thigh area consisting of dark green creamy material,” wrote the government inspector.

“You shouldn’t have fecal matter on chickens,” said Waldrop. “That presents a risk to consumers because they could get sick if they consume that chicken or other chickens that were processed at the same time.”

“Foster Farms is committed to the highest levels of food safety and regrets any illness that may have previously been associated with any of its products,” wrote the company in a statement to KGW. The company declined requests for an on-camera interview.

“We really need to know what is happening in these plants,” said Waldrop.

Foster Farms Inspection Reports

Walk the talk: Role of animal husbandry, food safety, MC officials criticized in India

The role of officials of the Animal Husbandry Department, Food Safety Standard (FSS) and Municipal Corporation (MC) is under the scanner for giving a free run to a Shoghi-based private slaughterhouse. Two recent joint inspections during the bird flu scare has exposed that the slaughterhouse is not being run as per FSS norms as reports have pointed out blatant shortcomings there.

2015_2$largeimg08_Feb_2015_224402323The six-member team’s report of the slaughterhouse, run by the Goels Food World, Shoghi, which is with The Tribune, revealed that the slaughterhouse was compromising on health and hygiene as 20-30 dead birds were lying on the dirty floor. Also, the slaughterhouse had no rendering facility.

Besides, the staff used no protecting gears and the effluent treatment facility was non-functional. It had no veterinarian to conduct the ante-mortem and post-mortem of the birds and cull the dead or unfit birds, the inspection revealed. Though the slaughterhouse was being run since 2006, the unit was registered as a food technology unit.

The inspection was carried out on August 6, 2014, and followed by another inspection on December 27, which found similar shortcomings.

The report also exposed the paperwork being done by the government agencies. The six-member team included officials from the Animal Husbandry Department, MC, veterinary officers, Pollution Control Board, but no official from the Directorate of Health and the FSS was involved.

Neither the MC-run slaughterhouse here nor the private slaughterhouse was quarantined for bird flu, as mandated under the FSS rules and WHO norms for bird and swine flus, revealed health experts.

The Municipal Commissioner, Shimla, said they had issued a notice to the private operator to stop the unethical practice of selling uncertified meat in the municipal limits after the joint inspection report pointed out the shortcomings at the slaughterhouse. “We have set up a modern slaughterhouse and monitor it daily but we cannot check the private one directly as it falls outside the limits of the corporation,” he added.

Mancini: Food safety at home

Rob Mancini writes:

There’s a lot of talk about food safety in the home. the majority of meals consumed are at home.

In 2005 I hosted Kitchen Crimes, a television-based series that promoted food safety at home, from dirty sponges to mice poop on countertops, we’ve seen it all. I always inform the public to use a diluted concentration of bleach to water in efforts to wash produce, countertops, and so on without validating the procedure.

From my experience, 100ppm of a diluted bleach solution means absolutely nothing to the home chef and more often than none, an excessive amount of bleach is used.

There are three important factors to consider when looking at food safety at home: hand washing; the use of a digital tip-sensitive thermometer and understanding proper internal temperatures; and, avoid cross-contamination. 

Public health ispectors are there for a reason: Law frowns on California students’ front-yard, food-sharing fridge

An experiment by University of California, Davis students to share food with the community proved to be a successful, yet illegal, venture.

davis.front.lawn.fridge.jan.15Yolo County health officials say Ernst Bertone and his roommates broke the law by putting a refrigerator on their lawn with a sign reading, “Take what you need. Leave what you don’t.”

The students say their experiment worked because people began sharing food.

Bertone and his roommates charted it all, posting photos of the food people put in the communal refrigerator and what they took out. They kept a database too, showing that 122 items were collected in more than 30 days.

Their neighbors, the Swinehearts, liked it and used it. But someone complained, prompting county environmental health to shut down the sharing fridge.

The director said the open refrigerator doesn’t assure safe and pure food and that it can lead to people getting sick.

China regulator to strengthen ‘grim’ food, drug safety control

Food and drug safety in China is “grim” and will get stronger oversight, the food and drug regulator said on Wednesday, after a series of scares last year hit the reputations of global firms such as McDonald’s Corp and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Grim_ReaperThe China Food and Drug Administration has struggled to control a string of high-profile scandals over the years, from donkey meat products tainted with fox, heavy metals in baby food and allegations of expired meat sold to fast-food chains.

“We must soberly recognise the current foundations of China’s food and drug safety are still weak, with new and old risks together creating a grim situation,” the regulator said in a statement on its website after a meeting in Beijing this week.

China will increase “active” regulation to prevent food and drug safety scares, with more on-site inspections, random tests and unannounced visits, the regulator said. The quality of personnel, legal structures, management methods and technological aspects were all currently insufficient, it said.

Winnipeg restaurant closures due to dishwasher problems

Winnipeg or, The ‘peg, as it’s known in some hoser circles has been cracking down on food safety in restaurants with fifteen health inspection-related closures since June. According to the Winnipeg Free Press poor cleaning and sanitizing have been a common theme in the closures.winnipeg

Mike LeBlanc, Manitoba Health’s chief public health inspector, said it’s one reason why when inspectors fan out across Winnipeg and the province to check out the more than 9,000 eating establishments, one of the items on their checklist is whether the dishwasher is heating and sanitizing properly.

“They need to get at least to 71 C — 65 or 68 might not be killing cold or flu viruses on the edge of a glass, so they have to be 71 C,” LeBlanc said (I’d be much more worried about noro -ben).

“And as for sanitizing, they can get chlorine test strips, but many times restaurants don’t use them. But for cases we find, it may just be bad luck on their part that it stopped working a day or two before we got there.”

Two restaurants were closed temporarily in the second half of 2014 by health inspectors because their dishwashers weren’t functioning properly.

They’re just two of the 15 restaurants that were closed for health violations since the last health-protection report was issued in June. In total, 24 restaurants were temporarily closed during the year for health violations.

“We’re there to keep an eye open for the public because they are not allowed into the back kitchen,” LeBlanc said.

“We are out there looking for things and protecting the public’s health, between what we do and the diligence of the restaurant community.”

Kansas prisons yield repeat food safety violations

Dirty kitchen conditions and violations repeated for several months are among some of the more consistent findings in food safety inspections for Kansas prisons. the corrections department adheres to Kansas Department of Agriculture food safety guidelines, like restaurants, it doesn’t rely on KDA staff to do the inspections.

Instead, both monthly and sporadic audits are conducted by Kansas Department of Corrections employees, some of whom work in the facilities they inspect.

“I hear what you’re saying in terms of looking like it’s all under one DOC umbrella,” said Jeremy Barclay, spokesman for the KDOC. “But we interact with so many different state agencies and branches of government and different divisions within the agency, that it’s pretty secure.”

The inspections cover the 19 months between January 2013 and July 2014. They include seven of the state’s 10 prisons and total 19 facilities, such as satellite units. The KDOC filled the request free of charge, because another entity already had requested the inspections. Inspections weren’t provided for the Topeka, Lansing and Larned juvenile correctional facilities because they weren’t in the original request.

blues.brothers.jailhouse-rockThe nearly 340 inspections show noncompliance and deficiencies month after month at several facilities.

The Kansas Juvenile Correctional Facility in Topeka, for example, repeated several mistakes for at least 10 months, including not taking proper temperature logs; not enforcing handwashing and glove use; not having employees and staff restrain hair properly; not keeping accurate chemical logs; and not having inmate staff up to date on food safety training.

Aramark holds the food service contracts in all the prisons, save the KJCF, which switched last October to Trinity Services Group after the service went out for bid. It was awarded a nearly $400,000 contract to work from October 2013 through June 2014.

In each prison, Aramark pays for a manager, an assistant manager and food service supervisors. Under them, are the inmates, Barclay said.

Inmate workers are supposed to be trained and supervised, but 20 inspections show those areas lacking for several months — half of which came from the KJCF.

Crack down on food safety in Adelaide

Adelaide (that’s in Australia) City Council inspectors warned dozens of city restaurants, cafes, karaoke bars, a takeaway shop and convenience store about their health breaches in 2013-14.

UnknownWhile no city businesses have been prosecuted in the past four years, triple the number of businesses were fined for a breaching a range of food laws, according to figures obtained by The Advertiser.

At least nine businesses were fined between $500 and $2500 — depending on whether the operator was a sole trader or a bigger company — for poor food storage and handling, lack of cleanliness, having animals or pets on the premises or having inadequate equipment.

Authorities warned that while they had a zero tolerance for those breaking the law, they said working with the 1000-plus city food businesses often achieved better results for public safety.

Figures show that over the past financial year, 44 businesses were warned, fined or told they had to improve their operations, compared to 28 the previous year and 19 in 2011/12.

The number of businesses ordered to improve almost tripled in three years.

Industry experts say such notices can be issued for improved maintenance such as a cracked tile on the floor under the oven or cobwebs on a toilet ceiling.

Restaurant and Catering Industry Association deputy chief executive Sally Neville, said it was reassuring the council was “cracking down on those few offenders.”