5 Things Everyone Should Know About Washing Food (via Quest)

My friend, Matt Shipman, a science writer and public information officer at North Carolina State University writes in the below Quest North Carolina post about washing food (reprinted with permission):

464.thumbnailEverybody eats, and no one wants to eat something that could make you sick.  But there’s a lot of misinformation out there about how and whether you should wash your food.

Food safety is an important issue.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year one in six people in the United States will get sick because of food-borne illness.  And risks can be increased or decreased at every point between the farm and your fork.  Yes, you want to make sure to cook your food to the appropriate temperature, but here are some other tips to help you make good decisions in the kitchen.IMG_8159-sink-16x9-640x360

1. Don’t Wash Meat

Some people think that you’re supposed to wash chicken, turkey, or other meats before cooking.  Those people are wrong.  “Research shows that washing meat can spread dangerous bacteria around your kitchen or food preparation area,” said Ben Chapman, a food safety researcher at North Carolina State University.  “And washing poultry under running water can spray surface contamination up to three feet away.  We cook meat to make it safer; washing meat can only make a meal riskier.”

2. Washing Fruits and Veggies Only Removes up to 99 Percent of Pathogens

“That seems good, but it’s not great,” Chapman said.  By comparison, cooking food can cut the number of bacteria or other microbial pathogens by 99.9999 percent.  And that 0.9999 percent difference can be important.  If a food is contaminated by thousands of microbes, washing off 99 percent means that dozens will be left behind — and that’s enough to make you sick.  That is why people who are immunocompromised, such as some chemotherapy patients, are often discouraged from eating raw fruits and vegetables.

3. Don’t Use Soap

“Although washing has its limitations, vigorously rinsing produce under running water is the most effective way to remove the microbes that cause foodborne illnesses,” Chapman said.  You don’t need to use soap or special cleaning solutions.  In fact, using soap can actually introduce additional risk, because soaps may contain chemicals that aren’t intended for human consumption.

4. You Can’t Get All the Pesticides Off Your Food (but Don’t Panic)

Some minute traces of pesticide will probably be on — or in — your fruits or vegetables when you eat them.  “But being able to detect a pesticide doesn’t mean that it’s a public health problem,” said Chris Gunter, a researcher at NC State who studies vegetable agriculture.  That’s because, after using a pesticide, farmers are required to wait for a specific period of time before harvesting (it’s called a “pre-harvest interval”).  During that time, the pesticide breaks down or washes off, meaning any residual pesticide meets EPA’s human health requirements.

5. Even Organic Food Can Use a Rinse

Just because produce is labeled “organic” doesn’t mean that it’s somehow immune to microbial contamination. Organic farmers usually grow their fruits and vegetables in open fields, just like conventional farmers, and are subject to some of the same risks, such as fecal contamination from wildlife (that is, poop can still get on the food).

“Any time you’re going to eat fresh produce you should rinse it off, if for no other reason than to rinse off dirt,” said Don Schaffner, a food safety researcher at Rutgers.  “And rinsing off produce may offer some risk reduction in terms of microbial pathogens.”

Bonus: Don’t Wash Pre-Washed Veggies

If you’ve bought salad mix that is labeled as “pre-washed,” you really don’t need to wash it again, Schaffner said. In fact, you probably shouldn’t wash it again.  “An expert panel reported in 2007 that consumers who wash these salads again won’t reduce the risk,” Schaffner said, “and may actually create a risk of cross-contamination” where pathogens from other foods get onto the salad.  In this case, being lazy is a virtue. 

Raw meat in reusable bags; use plastic

I bought a chicken at the megalomart on Sunday.

The cashier asked me if I wanted the bird in a plastic bag, to which I replied, “Yes.”

john.oliver-300x255I do that for all meat, and the cashiers are trained to ask (I’m nosey that way).

The poultry at this and many other megalomarts in Australia is prone to leaking, and while I use reusable bags, I don’t want chicken blood all over them. And I wash them like Chapman says.

The woman behind had brought her own cooler bag (commonly known here as an Esky, as in short for Eskimo, to which I usually say, they’re Inuit, and isn’t that a bit racist?), and when asked if she wanted her bird in a plastic bag, replied, “Oh no, I’ve got my Esky. It’s fine.”

A bloody cooler bag isn’t cool.

Vietnam gang stole 4000 cats for meat

For reasons unbeknownst to me, we arrived home from swimming and Amy decided to put collars on the cats.

With bells.

She and the kid disappeared upstairs, leaving me to prepare our lunch of pork loin chops with a mixed berry sweet-and-sour sauce, stir-fried shitsu.cat.jul.13veggies and long-grain brown rain.

Unbeknownst to her, the cats almost ended up elsewhere.

But we live in Australia, not Vietnam, where police have arrested six men on suspicion of stealing as many as 4,000 cats over two years to sell for their meat.

The gang stole between four and six cats each night for two years, police in Vinh City said on Friday. They sold a kilogram of cat for $US3, and used the money to play online games, police said.

Although dog thefts are common in Vietnam, this is the first time a group of people have been arrested for stealing such a large number of cats.

The head of the gang, 26-year-old Nguyen Duc Dung, told police they caught the animals by baiting traps with pieces of fish and leaving them outside homes where they knew people kept cats.

Angry locals alerted the police after their pets continued to go missing. jacque.cat.jul.13The men were caught red-handed as they tried to catch more cats.

Cat meat is a popular delicacy in some parts of Vietnam, usually eaten barbecued as a snack and served with rice wine.

Ikea’s moose lasagna pulled due to surprise pork meat

Paula Forbes of Eater writes that furniture/meatball and rice cake emporium Ikea has pulled 17,600 moose lasangas from stores in Europe after they were discovered to also contain surprise pork.

According to the BBC, the contamination was discovered by Belgian authorities, and the meat supplier told local Swedish press that the contamination “was due to its facilities not being cleaned ikea-elk-2properly between the handling of different animals and that it was taking steps to improve its practices.” Gross. One batch of lasagna tested contained 1.4% pork.

Ikea recently pulled both meatballs and sausages from stores due to possible horse meat contamination. After meatballs were returned to shelves, Ikea Foods Chief Executive Edward Mohr declared the company’s intent to “have a traceability standard in place, tracing meat from farm to fork.” From farm to contaminated meat processing plants to frozen moose lasagna to fork?

Handwashing sinks now required for NY mobile food vendors handling raw meat

According to Lauren Evans of the gothamist, it’s time for food trucks and carts to grow up and accept some responsibility. The Health Department today released a list of new regulations for the food.truck.NYCmobile eateries including:

• carts and trucks that prepare raw meat will be required to have a sink for hand-washing;

• facilities that store the trucks and carts overnight will have to keep a log of the dates and times that the units enter and exit; and,

• permit holders will be required to be present during inspections.

Racetrack drugs put Europe off U.S. horse meat

For decades, American horses, many of them retired or damaged racehorses, have been shipped to Canada and Mexico, where it is legal to slaughter horses, and then processed and sold for consumption in Europe and beyond.

But according to the N.Y. Times, European food safety officials have notified Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses of a growing concern: The meat of American racehorses may be too toxic to eat safely because the horses have been injected repeatedly with drugs.

Despite the fact that racehorses make up only a fraction of the trade in horse meat, the European officials have indicated that they may nonetheless require lifetime medication records for slaughter-bound horses from Canada and Mexico, and perhaps require them to be held on feedlots or some other holding area for six months before they are slaughtered.

In October, Stephan Giguere, the general manager of a major slaughterhouse in Quebec, said he turned away truckloads of horses coming from the United States because his clients were worried about potential drug issues. Mr. Giguere said he told his buyers to stay away from horses coming from American racetracks.

“We don’t want them,” he said. “It’s too risky.”

Some 138,000 horses were sent to Canada or Mexico in 2010 alone to be turned into meat for Europe and other parts of the world, according to a Government Accountability Office report. Organizations concerned about the welfare of retired racehorses have estimated that anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of the population sent for slaughter may have performed on racetracks in the United States.

“Racehorses are walking pharmacies,” said Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a veterinarian on the faculty of Tufts University and a co-author of a 2010 article that sought to raise concerns about the health risks posed by American racehorses. He said it was reckless to want any of the drugs routinely administered to horses “in your food chain.”

Horses being shipped to Mexico and Canada are by law required to have been free of certain drugs for six months before being slaughtered, and those involved in their shipping must have affidavits proving that. But European Commission officials say the affidavits are easily falsified. As a result, American racehorses often show up in Canada within weeks — sometimes days — of their leaving the racetrack and their steady diets of drugs.

In October, the European Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Consumers found serious problems while auditing the operations of equine slaughter facilities in Mexico, where 80 percent of the horses arrive from the United States. The commission’s report said Mexican officials were not allowed to question the “authenticity or reliability of the sworn statements” about the ostensibly drug-free horses, and thus had no way of verifying whether the horses were tainted by drugs.

“The systems in place for identification, the food-chain information and in particular the affidavits concerning the nontreatment for six months with certain medical substances, both for the horses imported from the U.S. as well as for the Mexican horses, are insufficient to guarantee that standards equivalent to those provided for by E.U. legislation are applied,” the report said.

Horse meat remains a delicacy in Paris and in other countries for an older generation of Europeans. Henri-Previen Chaussier, a butcher who sells exclusively horse meat in the 13th Arrondissement of Paris, said demand from individual customers was still strong, but he had only one restaurant on his client list, the Taxi Jaune in the First Arrondissement.

 

Loaded pistol found packed in frozen NM meat

A bizarre find in a package of meat at a grocery store has law enforcement agencies from New Mexico and Colorado wondering where the gun came from.

So far everyone involved with the case has said they’ve never seen this one before. A worker unwrapping frozen meat at Albertsons found a handgun and ammunition packed with it.

A worker at a Roswell Albertsons opened a case of frozen ribs in the meat section and made the discovery Wednesday.

“I have personally never heard of this in 13 years,” said Sgt. Jim Preston of the Roswell Police Department.

The worker told his supervisor and turned the semi-automatic Rock Island Armory .38 Super along with seven rounds of ammo found with it over to police.

Preston told KRQE News 13 this gun is rarely seen in this area.

There are a couple clues to the mystery. According to the police report, the meat package came from the Swift Packing Plant in Greeley, Colo., and the date on the package is June 8, 2011.  

News 13 spoke with Greeley police who said their gang unit is exploring what occurred during that time to determine whether the gun may have been involved in any crimes there. 
Police said the pistol has not been reported stolen. 

Skippy burgers: 30 years later, details emerge of shoddy Australian meat exports

A series of articles in today’s Australian newspapers – they still exist, because it’s 1978 here – contends that Australians were unwittingly fed donkey meat, goat and maggot-ridden offcuts by some of the country’s leading meat producers, according to newly revealed Royal Commission findings.

Papers presented to Justice Albert Edward Woodward in the 1980s and made public for the first time describe Hammond Wholesale and Retail Meats trimming off the dye legally required on pet food and selling it for human consumption as well as wide-spread substitution of halal meat.

“The flesh of donkeys, goats, kangaroos, buffaloes and horses, killed in the field and without regard to any consideration of hygiene…was used indiscriminately to produce food for human consumption,” the report said.

Some companies passed off kangaroo, horse and other pet-food only grade cuts as human-grade mince, while others sent low-quality scraps off to be used for dim sim fillings.

Meat rejected for export to the United States from Souery Pty Ltd, was described by a veterinary officer as “rubbish and floor sweeping” and “eligible for pet food only”, but was sold to unsuspecting buyers in Adelaide.

The cleanliness standards at one Katherine abattoir in the Northern Territory were also described as filthy with “maggots … very much in evidence.”

Justice Woodward said there was no doubt Melbourne meat supply company Steiger’s Meat Supply “purchased considerable quantities of pet food which was injected into the human food chain.”

He said the owners of the business then attempted to cover up the operations and committed perjury so the scale of the operation could not be accurately assessed, but he suggested the substituted meat was freely available in Victoria and much of the east coast of Australia.

The details of the scandal have only come to light as the result of the country’s longest-running freedom of information battle by Canberra Times Editor-at-large Jack Waterford. Waterford first requested the documents in December 1982 on the day the Freedom of Information Act came into existence. After the decades-long battle he was finally given access to “appendix h” of the 1980 Royal Commission into meat substitution last week.

In total Justice Albert Edward Woodward named 35 cases requiring further investigation and or criminal proceedings.

Some, but not all, of the companies were sanctioned and faced prosecution under the Trade Practices Act as the $100 penalty imposed under the Export Act did not offer any deterrent.

The documents also name another man who operated under an alias who purchased at least 85 tonnes of pet meat in one year and repackaged it as boneless beef.

“[The man] was buying kangaroo meat from Queensland and horse meat in Victoria, ostensibly for distributing to retail pet shops but was selling at least some of the pet meat to dim sim manufacturers.”

An owner of Hammond Wholesale & Retail Meats said he kept greyhounds and bought $160,000 of pet meat in 10 months, his purchases would have feed 3000 dogs and he admitted that about half of the meat he sold for human consumption was pet meat.

Justice Woodward also found that Jakes Meats Pty Ltd substituted buffalo-meat for export quality boneless beef or bull.

The documents also refer to previously unreported large scale substitution of halal meat.

The findings of the Royal Commission led to an overhaul of the Australian meat industry. This weeks release of “appendix h” comes more than 30 years after the main document was made available to the public. While many of the companies named faced sanctions and had export certification cancelled effectively closing down operations, some of the persons named in the appendix are still involved in the meat industry.

It started with an eagled-eyed food inspector in San Diego, California on July 27,1981 and almost destroyed the $1 billion a year beef export trade of Australia.

A vigilant food inspector became suspicious of three frozen blocks of imported Australian beef that looked “darker and stringier” than bona fide boneless beef should be.

Tests showed that this bogus “beef” from Australia was horse meat.

In the next few days more horse meat, and then some kangaroo meat, masquerading as Australian beef were found elsewhere in the United States.

By 15 August, the press in Australia and the United States had begun to probe and report on the “Meat Substitution Scandal” and the joke of ”skippy burgers” was born.

Jack Waterford himself writes he finally received the report he requested on December 2, 1982, 29 years, 11 months and about two weeks ago.

I’ve been harsh. It’s 1982.

We all squeezed the stick and we all pulled the trigger; at Summit Series in Moscow, Canadians asked, where’s the beef?

We got to go to the gymnasium to watch the final game of the Canada-Soviet hockey summit, but even though I got out of grade 5 for a few hours and Canada won, I was still gutted that personal hero and goaltending guide, Tony Esposito, didn’t get to play.

Forty years ago Friday, Canada beat the Soviets in Moscow in the final and deciding game of the 1972 Summit Series. It could have gone either way, as the sportscasters say: a last-minute goal by Paul Henderson was the difference.

But as reported in the New York Times,  in the flurry of this month’s 40th anniversary commemorations, was the fiercest of fuels in Team Canada’s Moscow fire forgotten? Perhaps it is time to acknowledge that the greatest of Canadian hockey triumphs boils down to this: they never should have messed with our chow.

In 1972, the Canadians contingent brought their own steaks and lots of beer. But the Soviets pilfered it all.

It’s a tale of woe that has long been woven into the legend of that momentous September, a whodunit that has been revived in several new books this fall, including memoirs by Paul Henderson and Brad Park.

Team Canada was brimming with groceries when it arrived in Moscow on Sept. 20 all those years ago. Henderson said they were packing 300 pounds. Coach Harry Sinden’s ’72 memoir, “Hockey Showdown,” said it was 300 steaks. In his 2003 autobiography, “Thunder and Lightning,” Phil Esposito said Team Canada arrived in Moscow with 350 cases of beer, 350 cases of milk, 350 cases of soda.

That means they had 8,400 beers for nine days in Moscow, for a contingent of, say, 50 guys, players, staff and officials. That is an allowance of 168 bottles for every man, or about 18.6 for each of the nine days they were in Moscow.

That’s how Canadians roll.

Piecing together accounts from Henderson, Park and Rod Gilbert over the years, about 100 cases of beer disappeared after the fifth game.

As for the steaks, Mahovlich was on to the hotel’s chefs. “They cut them in half, so we only had half a steak,” he recalled, most recently in this fall’s “Team Canada 1972: The Official 40th Anniversary Celebration of the Summit Series.” “So we complained. Before the third game, they cut the thickness in half. We complained again. It wasn’t until the last game that we finally got a whole steak.”

“The Russian cooks sold the steaks to others in search of a decent meal, many of whom turned out to be our zany Canadian fans,” Henderson wrote. “For about ten dollars U.S. you could get just about anything you wanted, including those precious steaks. The only two Russian dishes that were acceptable to me were borscht and chicken Kiev. The rest was just terrible.”

For all their suffering, the players’ lot was better than what their wives had to endure.

According to Park, this was where the Soviets really screwed up: by angering the wives with disrespect and disgusting food.

Virginia man arraigned for allegedly reselling garbage meat

Oh Virginia, the state, you never cease to amaze.

Gazette.net reports Rodney L. Sparks, of Monrovia, was indicted in June in Warren County, Va., Circuit Court on 10 counts of offering adulterated and misbranded meat for sale.

The criminal complaint against Sparks alleges that he took packages of unsold meat from a trash bin in Berryville, Va., and then tried to resell them, according to court documents.

The 10 counts stem from alleged incidents from Aug. 19, 2011, to Jan. 29.

F.C. Lamneck, an enforcement officer with Virginia’s Office of Meat and Poultry Services, who signed the complaint, described the meat as “temperature abused, freezer burned, putrid, decomposed, unsound, unhealthful, unwholesome, and [appearing to be] unfit for human consumption,” according to the criminal complaint.

The packages were traced to a Food Lion in Berryville, Va. The meat was identified by a manager as originally being from the Food Lion, documents state.