Australian farmers’ markets branded meat risk

Kath Sullivan of The Weekly Times reports that farmers’ markets put the reputation of Victoria’s meat exporters at risk, according to the former MeanGirls_162Pyxurzchairman of the ­industry’s Victorian regulator, PrimeSafe.

Tempy farmer Leonard Vallance criticised the Victorian Government’s handling of meat safety, and its relationship with the regulator, as he completed his term as PrimeSafe chairman.

“Farmers’ markets are the achilles heel of the Victorian food industry,” he said. “The reputational risk to our export markets is massive … they (farmers’ markets) are nowhere near adequately regulated.”

In Victoria, PrimeSafe regulates meat processors, including all butchers, abattoirs and supermarkets, but compliance of farmers’ markets is a local government responsibility.

“Local government would be fine if they were doing their job properly,” Mr Vallance said. “The issue is that people are selling meat in less than ideal conditions.”

Mr Vallance said the Government had created “double standards” where butcher shops were required to operate under strict conditions, including in a temperature-­controlled environment, but people selling meat in farmers’ markets were not.

“There should be a level playing field for all meat retailers,” he said.

Victorian Farmers Market Association president Wayne Shields said accredited markets complied with the food safety regulation.

“All meat has to be packaged and sealed at a PrimeSafe premises before it can be sold at a market,” Mr Shields said.

He said PrimeSafe “would prefer to snipe from the sidelines,” rather than help small producers.

You wanna win consumers, make test results public: Blue Bell, Foster Farms say government inspects us, like the Pinto

With Panera removing ingredients it can’t pronounce, and Chipotle further descending into food porn, it’s not surprising the Texas Department of State Health Services and Blue Bell Creameries have agreed to several requirements for Blue Bell to resume selling ice cream from its flagship Brenham plant.

pinto,explodingThey all assume people are stupid.

Blue Bell agreed to the requirements Thursday, which include notifying the health department at least two weeks before producing ice cream so officials can assess the company’s progress.

Foster Farms says it’s leading the poultry industry in controlling Salmonella (after sickening hundreds).

Market microbial food safety at retail so people can choose.

Faith-based food safety: China’s middle class turns to organics

It’s a familiar pattern: Consumers, in the face of food safety outbreaks, turn to whatever hucksterism is out there.

china.food.safetyChina is no different.

Market microbial food safety at retail to reduce the nonsense.

Emily Xu, a young mother who runs a children’s reading and writing studio in Shanghai, says food safety is a big concern for her and many of her friends, particularly since their children were born. “The more you learn about [food safety scandals] the more upset you will be. Sometimes you just feel helpless because you can’t change the air or you can’t change the soil, you can’t change the way farmers do the farming. And it seems the government can’t do anything to help. More and more, I have friends who choose to emigrate.”

Many urban residents seek out alternative food sources. Organic food and imported products have risen in popularity and are considered a safer option than the traditional “wet” markets where fresh vegetables, meat and fish are sold. In cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, the number of specialist and boutique food shops selling organic food is growing, especially among the Chinese middle class and expatriate community who have disposable income and are willing to pay a premium for good-quality, safe food.

Many city residents are buying directly from farmers they trust who grow vegetables without pesticides. Community-supported farms have become increasingly popular, says Wang, along with farmers’ markets. A small group of consumers has also begun to grow food themselves, sometimes renting land on the outskirts of the cities.

However, all of these options are relatively expensive and not open to most average-income families. Those who can’t afford the premium price of organic or imported food “basically have not much choice”, says Wang. She believes access to safe food should not be dependent on income. “Everyone has the right to safe food, it’s a joint responsibility of companies, the government and consumers ourselves to make this happen by altering chemical-intensive agriculture to a more ecological and sustainable way of growing food.”

 

Market food safety at retail: kids will pay for it

Bruce Horovitz of USA Today writes that younger consumers are much more interested in — and willing to pay premium prices for — food products they perceive as for healthier than are older consumers, according to a global consumer survey shared exclusively with USA TODAY on Monday.

market.food.safetyThe most health-centric are Generation Z — consumers under age 20 — with 41% saying they would willingly pay a premium for “healthier” products. That compares with 32% of Millennials (ages 21 to 34) and about 21% of Baby Boomers (about 50 to mid-60s).

But, at the same time, marketers need to be very transparent. That’s because 63% of consumers globally are skeptical about about food health claims, the study says.

‘I don’t walk around with baby puke on me’: Breastfeeding mom forced to quit selling at Halifax market

Tanessa Holt opened her first business in the fall, selling dry foods at local farmers’ markets. She said she has been forced to stop selling containers of soup mix, homemade protein bars and energy balls, and prepackaged oatmeal and granola.

tanessa-holtHolt was bringing her 7½-month-old son to the markets, since he has never liked taking bottles and is still dependent on breast milk.

But that was a problem, a food safety inspector told Holt on Monday.

“I have no problem with you breastfeeding at the booth, as long as there is another person that is at the booth with you, who can serve food to the customers,” wrote the inspector in an email provided to CBC News.

Holt said she has no other option but to shut down her stall. As a fledgling business owner, she can’t afford to hire someone.

Holt will soon open a store in Dartmouth, but right now farmers’ markets — in Halifax, Dartmouth and Beaver Bank — make up half her business.

In a followup conversation with the inspector, Holt learned breastfeeding even once at the booth disqualifies her from handling food, no matter how clean she stays or what precautions she takes.

“If I set up there in the morning and I nurse him, at say, 10 o’clock in the morning, then for the remainder of the day, someone else has to handle the food,” she said.

Vomit, feces from baby are concerns, says inspector

tanessa-holtIn the email, the inspector wrote: “The food safety concern is contamination of food through possible throw up and/or feces coming from the baby. This would include you burping the baby after nursing or you having to change the infant’s diaper between serving customers.”

Holt has been food safety certified and said this kind of contamination isn’t happening.

There’s a bathroom nearby to change the baby and wash up. Her clothes are covered with a receiving blanket when she nurses, and, like most mothers, she has extra layers to wear in case the blanket doesn’t do the job.

At the market or at home, “I don’t want to walk around with baby puke on me,” she said.

Why I’m wary about herbs: Study on farmers’ markets shows presence of Salmonella and E. coli

Researchers in Chapman University’s (not that Chapman) Food Science Program and their collaborators at University of Washington have just published a study on the presence of Salmonella and E. coli on certain herbs sold at farmers’ markets. The study focused on farmers’ markets in Los Angeles and Orange counties in California, as well as in the Seattle, Washington, area. Specifically tested were samples of the herbs cilantro, basil and parsley. Of the 133 samples tested from 13 farmers’ markets, 24.1 percent tested positive for E. coli and one sample tested positive for Salmonella.

basil.salmonella“While farmers’ markets can become certified to ensure that each farmer is actually growing the commodities being sold, food safety is not addressed as part of the certification process,” said Rosalee Hellberg, Ph.D., and co-author on the study. “Certain herbs such as parsley, basil and cilantro have been implicated in many food outbreaks over the past two decades so our study focused specifically on the safety and quality of these three herbs.”

Hellberg and her research team visited 49 different vendors at 13 farmers’ markets in Los Angeles and Orange Counties in California, and in the greater Seattle area collecting 133 samples of the three herbs between the period of July and October 2013. Each sample was equivalent to one pound and was tested that same day for both Salmonella and E. coli using methods from the United States Food and Drug Administration Bacteriological Analytical Manual.

A total of 16 samples had average E. coli counts considered to be unsatisfactory according to guidelines established by the Public Health Laboratory Service. When tested for Salmonella, 15 samples had suspicious growth but only one tested positive—a parsley sample from a Los Angeles County farmers’ market.

herb.tarlekOrange County farmers’ markets had the highest percentage of samples with E. coli growth followed by farmers’ markets in the greater Seattle area and Los Angeles County.

Salmonella symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever around 12 to 72 hours after consumption that can last four to seven days. Symptoms for pathogenic forms of E. coli include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea that often becomes bloody, and vomiting.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service, farmers’ markets have been increasing since 2009 near urban areas, particularly along the East and West Coasts. In August 2013, there were more than 8,000 farmers‘ markets listed in the USDA’s National Farmers’ Market directory.

The study was published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.

It’s only been 18 years since Odwalla: Cider recall has producer on the defensive

When Amy provides some medical advice, I remind her she’s not a medical doctor or scientist, she’s a doctor of French professoring.

apple.cider.pressSo when a farmer says, one bad batch of unpasteurized apple cider shouldn’t scare the public away from the health benefits of the natural juice, maybe he needs to be reminded he’s a farmer.

E. coli O157 is natural; so is smallpox; I don’t want them.

I’m all for looking for expertise in weird places because we all have our own weird experiences: but that’s not a basis for public policy; scientific experimentation and peer review is about the best we’ve got at this point, although I’m open to any idea.

As the Canadian Food Inspection Agency expands the recall of unpasteurized apple cider products sold at the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market located in Waterloo, Ontario (that’s in Canada), Dale Wilson, the owner of Osoleo Wildcrafters, one of the companies whose locally-made apple cider has been recalled after suspected cases of E. coli poisoning struck three people in Ontario told the K-W Record that it’s an overreaction to suggest people ought to steer clear of raw, or unpasteurized, apple cider. He sells much of his cider directly to consumers at markets who believe the raw, preservative-free version of the juice is better for their health.

“Here’s an accidental situation that happens maybe once a year, and suddenly becomes the hue and cry for shutting down the entire system,” he said. “There’s two sides to this story.”

To its advocates, unpasteurized apple cider is a healthy, natural food product that can help ward off colds and the flu and cleanse the digestive system. Pasteurization kills off the taste and the good bacteria that can help your body, Wilson said.

“The risks are not outweighed by any perceived health benefits,” said Chris Komorowski, food safety manager at Waterloo Region public health.

odwalla.cider.e.coliUnlike unpasteurized milk, it’s legal to sell raw cider in Ontario as long as it’s labelled properly.

Here’s the abstract from a paper Amber Luedtke and I published back in 2002:

A review of North American apple cider outbreaks caused by E. coli O157:H7 demonstrated that in the U.S., government officials, cider producers, interest groups and the public were actively involved in reforming and reducing the risk associated with unpasteurized apple cider. In Canada, media coverage was limited and government agencies inadequately managed and communicated relevant updates or new documents to the industry and the public.

Therefore, a survey was conducted with fifteen apple cider producers in Ontario, Canada, to gain a better understanding of production practices and information sources. Small, seasonal operations in Ontario produce approximately 20,000 litres of cider per year. Improper processing procedures were employed by some operators, including the use of unwashed apples and not using sanitizers or labeling products accurately.

Most did not pasteurize or have additional safety measures. Larger cider producers ran year-long, with some producing in excess of 500,000 litres of cider. Most sold to large retail stores and have implemented safety measures such as HACCP plans, cider testing and pasteurization. All producers surveyed received government information on an irregular basis, and the motivation to ensure safe, high-quality apple cider was influenced by financial stability along with consumer and market demand, rather than by government enforcement.

Market food safety at retail so consumers can choose: Not training or technology

Maple Leaf Foods hosted its Sixth Annual Food Safety Symposium last week in Mississauga (that’s in Canada).

hucksterAccording to The Poultry Site, this year’s event was themed ‘People or Technology’, asking participants to debate which was the best investment to make a step change in food safety globally.

Dr. Randy Huffman, SVP Operations and Chief Food Safety Officer at Maple Leaf said, as many do, that food safety as a non-competitive issue and the company actively shares food safety learnings and promotes sharing of information among industry and government groups.

These are the wrong questions and wrong assumptions.

Yes, people need training – ever seen a peer-reviewed paper evaluating the effectiveness of such training?

Yes, new technology does wonderful things and also creates wonderful new opportunites for new bugs because food is a biological system that will always change.

Yes, food safety should not be a competitive issue and information should be shared.

But that’s not marketing at retail.

Any time I say, food safety should be marketed at retail – E. coli counts in spinach, Salmonella in eggs, Listeria in (Maple Leaf) cold cuts, I get told food safety is a non-competitive issue.

But I’m talking about marketing. People say the reason they buy local, organic, natural, sustainable, dolphin-free and hundreds of other categories is primarily because of safety.

market.naturalAs a consumer, I want to know which eggs have a history of low Salmonella counts. The technology exists and is being used to access complete restaurant  inspection reports with smart phones on those A-B-C rating in New York City.

Food safety may be non-competitive, but implementation is altogether different: some companies are better than others. As a parent doing all the grocery shopping, I want to know what companies are better at microbial food safety. As a PhD in food safety, I want to figure out how best to convey meaningful information.

But have your conferences, feel important, and read barfblog.com daily and bear witness to the outrageous levels of microbial food safety failures.

The kind that make people sick.

Foster Farms won’t come clean

I’m not a fan of antibiotic resistance stories, I’m not a fan of NRDC, but I am a fan of food that doesn’t make people barf, and companies who are accountable, rather than the just-cook-it approach.

Family guy barfIf Foster Farms wants to regain consumer confidence, market microbial food safety at retail.

After the NPR puff-piece on Foster Farms and its Salmonella-laden chicken which has sickened at least more than 600 people, the Los Angeles Times reports that after reopening its main plant in Central California after a cockroach infestation, federal inspectors were already writing-up new violations at the sprawling poultry-processing facility.

U.S. Department of Agricultural inspectors would cite the Livingston, Calif., plant more than 40 times over the next two months for violations such as mold, rust on equipment and several instances of fecal contamination.

The new details were released by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a New York environmental advocacy group that is campaigning to reduce antibiotic use in livestock over concerns that it is contributing to drug-resistant superbugs.

The issue has become so prominent in the industry that Perdue Farms announced last week that it was the first major poultry brand to eliminate antibiotic use in its hatcheries.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, the NRDC received months’ worth of documented violations at Foster Farms from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

food.that.doesn't.make.you.barf.09The goal? To lift the veil at a company linked to an outbreak of salmonella that sickened at least 634 people from March 2013 to July. The outbreak was notable for its higher rates of hospitalizations and the presence of antibiotic-resistant strains of salmonella.

“Throughout the salmonella crisis, Foster Farms repeatedly told us it was committed to leadership in food safety. But the reports show that when you look behind the curtain, it’s a company that can’t comply with its own food safety plan,” said Jonathan Kaplan, the council’s food and agriculture program director.

Thomas E. Elam, president of farming consulting company FarmEcon in Carmel, Ind., said the number of violations was unusually high, though he did not have comparative data for poultry firms of a similar size.

“Some of the issues are very minor, but there is a pattern of lack of employee training and sanitation issues with the plant infrastructure that are not so minor,” said Elam, who reviewed a copy of the violations. “I’m frankly surprised by the number of bird handling and contamination issues from improperly operating equipment…. These data are not going to put Foster in a positive light.”

The Food Safety and Inspection Service did not respond to a request to explain whether Foster Farms was receiving violations at higher rates than similarly sized competitors.

Promote microbiologically safe food? Report makes case for digital connection with consumers

People said I was crazy at Masters and Johnson … wait, that’s a Woody Allen movie.

But 10 years ago, whenever I asked for verification of something, my students would tell me in a sardonically hipster manner, Dr. professor, there’s this thing …(pregnant pause for effect or sneer) it’s called Google.

Today, people can use smartphones in New York City and Beijing to get animal.house.cucumberdetailed restaurant inspection reports for those that care.

Americans can get lots of information about their food already – sustainable, local, natural, organic, animal friendly, dolphin-free – but nothing about microbial safety.

And some companies are better.

They should brag.

The technology is already available for those who want to push their investment in food safety.

Unfortunately, most of what consumers see is rewards programs, and recall notices.

Tom Karst of The Packer writes that a new report, “Six Degrees of Digital Connection: Growing Grocery Sales in an Omnichannel World” concludes supermarkets may yield higher sales if they invest in digital connections with consumers.

Published by Barrington, Ill.-based Brick Meets Click, looks at the business case for investment in digital connections with shoppers.

Not a stirring endorsement, but in a study of more than 22,000 shoppers from six U.S. retail banners, there was a strong relationship between the number of digital connections and whether a customer is likely to be a primary shopper (who does a majority of grocery spending with that retailer). Digital connections include e-mail, websites, texting, social networks, mobile and online shopping.

I have no idea if the study is valid.

But if supermarkets can electronically connect with so many shoppers, that sounds like an opportunity to market food safety.

A lot of shoppers care about food safety.