Restaurants in China mall adopts live streaming for food safety

Everyone’s got a camera, consumers are asking more about food safety, so quit the bickering and get ahead of the curve.

blade-runner-foodA shopping mall in Hongkou district of China had digital screens installed at the front doors of its restaurants to broadcast real-time scenes from inside their kitchens, the Jiefang Daily reported.
According to Shanghai Municipal Food and Drug Supervision Administration, the mall’s live streaming is a pilot for the new transparent kitchens and stoves project promoted by the local authority.
Liu Jun, an official from Hongkou District Market Supervision and Management Bureau, said that other information such as business licenses and health certificates may also be presented on the screens. Mobile phone applications that contribute to food safety will also be utilized.
“With these food-safety applications, citizens can have more access to what ingredients are used and where leftovers go,” Zhang Lei, an official from Shanghai Municipal Food and Drug Supervision Administration said.

Be good at whatever you do: especially preparing food that makes people barf

Amy is away in Adelaide, doing what she is good at: French professoring.

larry-molsonWalking Sorenne to her last day of grade 2 this morning – summer in Australia – she asked me, what should I be when I grow up?

I said, I’ll let you know when I grow up.

We chatted back and forth, and then came the advice I had heard from my father and uncle: I don’t care what you do, but be really good at it.

I told Sorenne mom was really good at the French professoring thing, I was really good at the food safety thing, and she could decide what to be really good at.

My uncle Larry is in this pic (below, left); he worked the railroads and played hockey in the Huntsville-north-of-Toronto-but not-too far-north leagues; settled in Barrie and when I was a kid, about 1970, on those every other weekends we would visit from Brantford, would go watch what I thought were giants of the neighborhood on a sunday morning pick-up, and then watch them drink beers.

I keep this amongst my hockey memorabilia.

In his later years, uncle Larry drove a truck for Molsons brewery out of Barrie.

That plant is long defunct, I don’t know who owns Molsons, but I do know that in 1982, uncle Larry would be delivering a load to Guelph and would honk at me as he passed by.

He also gave me a ridiculous supply of beer returned from the stores.

Larry and aunt  Shirley also let me and my high school girlfriend, Sue, sleep in the same bed.

That was awesome.

larry-hockey-16So when the free beer allotment for Labatt retirees — which was part of the workers’ pension benefit package for more than five decades — will soon go flat, I thought of Larry.

Labatt has announced the long-standing perk will be phased out by Jan.1, 2019 because it’s too expensive. But workers call the cut petty when compared to the company’s ballooning revenues.

Labatt said the allotment for existing retirees would be cut in half in 2018 and cut off completely in 2019.

“I just think it’s nickel-and-diming of our retirees that put in a lot of work for many, many years,” said local union president Jim Stirr. “In the cost of doing business, it’s such a small, small thing.”

Labatt, a formerly Canadian beermaker, is now owned by Belgium-based global super-producer Anheuser-Busch InBev. That’s a publicly traded company that owns more than 400 beer brands worldwide and reported $55 billion in revenue in 2015 alone.

“The reason for the change relates to the rising overall cost of maintaining a full benefits package, including health care coverage for retirees,” Labatt vice-president Lindsay King wrote in a letter to employees dated Oct. 28.

As in hockey, as in life, Some talk, some do, some play hockey.

Not: How to talk food safety with customers

Talk with, not to, people.

not-waynes-worldAnd if you’ve invested “tremendous resources in food safety” why not brag about it at retail, rather than in a lame journal no one will read.

FightBac sucks.

Food retailers have invested tremendous resources in food safety over the past two decades. Food safety is the foundation of food retailers’ relationships with their customers—consumers expect the food they purchase is safe. According to US Grocery Shopper Trends 2016 (FMI), nearly nine out of 10 shoppers have confidence in the safety of the food at the grocery store. Also, an increasing number of consumers are taking personal responsibility for food safety compared to just six years ago.

Food retailers are a credible and very accessible source of food safety information for consumers. For this reason, FMI has been a founding member and partner of the Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE) since its inception in 1997. PFSE is better known as the FightBac!® campaign which promotes  four core practices for food safety– Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill. The FightBac!® campaign provides food safety education to a variety of audiences through a network of health and food safety educators, called BAC Fighters. The retail food industry is an integral part of the BAC Fighter network.

 Because interacting with customers is essential for doing business, grocers are well positioned to put food safety information at shoppers’ fingertips. Over the years, PFSE has developed campaigns and toolkits for retailers to use in stores to help promote safe food handling at home.

Going public: FDA not liable for $15 million in damages sought by tomato grower for food safety warning error

I remember. I was in Quebec City with a pregnant Amy when all this went down. Doing hour-long iradio interviews where midnight callers asked about aliens and Salmonella.

tomato

Michael Booth of the National Law Journal reports the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cannot be held liable for financial damages suffered by farmers when it issues emergency, but erroneous, food safety warnings, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has ruled.

In its Dec. 2 ruling, the Fourth Circuit refused to allow a South Carolina tomato farmer to seek more than $15 million in damages from the federal government under the Federal Tort Claims Act after the FDA issued a warning that an outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul was caused by contaminated tomatoes, when it was later determined that the outbreak was caused by contaminated peppers imported from Mexico.

A South Carolina tomato farm, Seaside Farm on St. Helena Island, sued the federal government, claiming that the incorrect warnings issued by the FDA, beginning in May 2008 and later corrected, cost it $15,036,294 in revenue. The Fourth Circuit agreed with a trial court that the FDA was acting within its authority to issue emergency food safety warnings based on preliminary information in order to protect public health.

“We refuse to place FDA between a rock and a hard place,” wrote Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson for the panel, sitting in Richmond.

“One the one hand, if FDA issued a contamination warning that was even arguably overbroad, premature, or of anything less than perfect accuracy, injured companies would plague the agency with lawsuits,” he said.

“On the other hand, delay in issuing a contamination warning would lead to massive tort liability with respect to consumers who suffer serious or even fatal consequences that a timely warning might have averted,” Wilkinson said.

Judges Paul Niemeyer and Dennis Shedd joined in the Dec. 2 ruling.

The medical crisis arose on May 22, 2008, when the New Mexico Department of Health notified the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that a number of residents had been diagnosed as having Salmonella Saintpaul, a strain that causes fever, diarrhea, nausea and, if left untreated, death. Soon after, similar reports came in from Texas.

The CDC determined that a “strong statistical” analysis determined that the illnesses were caused by people eating raw tomatoes. By June 1 of that year, CDC was investigating 87 illnesses in nine states.

tomato-irradiationThe FDA then issued a warning to consumers in New Mexico and Texas. By June 6, 2008, however, reported cases grew to 145 incidents in 16 states. In New Jersey, three people were reported to have been diagnosed with the illness. On June 7, the FDA issued a blanket nationwide warning telling consumers that they should be wary of eating raw tomatoes. (New Jersey tomatoes were not implicated, since they do not ripen until later in the season.)

The warning listed a number of countries and states, including South Carolina, that were not included and were not implicated, but those states were not listed in media reports. Eventually, 1,220 people were diagnosed as having Salmonella Saintpaul.

Raw tomatoes were not the cause of the illnesses, however. The contamination was traced to imported jalapeño and serrano peppers imported from Mexico.

Seaside Farm, which had just harvested a large crop of tomatoes, sued in May 2011. The farm claimed the erroneous FDA warning about tomatoes cost it $15 million-plus damages in revenue. 

FSA idiots: Cooking until the juices run clear is a bad way to tell if the meat is done

It’s sorta sad when the PhD boffins at the UK Food Standards Agency get stood up by Cooks Illustrated.

chicken-thermWorse when they fail to acknowledge the error of their ways, but still earn the big bucks.

Cooking a chicken until its “juices run clear when pricked” is pretty standard poultry advice but, according to Cook’s Illustrated, it’s not a very dependable way to tell if your chicken is properly cooked.

As reported by Claire Lower of Skillet, though myoglobin (the molecule that gives meat its pink or red hue) does lose its color when heated, the temperature at which the color change occurs can vary depending on a whole bunch of factors. In fact, when Cook’s Illustrated tested this theory, they found the color of the juice had very little to do with the temperature of the meat:

But when we cooked whole chickens, in one case the juices ran clear when the breast registered 145 degrees and the thigh 155 degrees—long before the chicken was done. And when we pierced another chicken that we’d overcooked (the breast registered 170 degrees and the thigh 180 degrees), it still oozed pink juices.

The takeaway? Get a thermometer, use it, and never under-cook or overcook your chicken again.

Stick it in and use a thermometer.

barfblog-stick-it-in

 

Spread the safe salad message – at retail

The Packer writs in an editorial that the produce industry is justified in being upset about the latest accusation of lax food safety practices, but also acknowledges the industry has a strong food safety message and should be eager to share it.

lettuceIt’s important that retailers and foodservice providers know the industry’s response to the most recent attack, this time from a United Kingdom study that raises concerns about salmonella in bagged salads

How to do that?

Because at retail, the person consumers are going to ask is some minimum-wage kid who is stocking produce when a shopper walks by.

Most people want to go shopping, not do homework.

They are an abundance of tools that have been developed to help support risk communication at retail.

On the front lines.

Where sales are won and lost.

Market microbial food safety at retail rather than offering boilerplates.

Surveys still suck: Australians identify ingredients hate list, so retailers can make a buck

Nielsen research has found almost half of Australian consumers wish there were more “all natural” food products on supermarket shelves.

trump-snake-oilA reflection of the way the question was asked.

Would you like all natural food products that contained dangerous microorganisms?

Probably not.

The findings from the Global Health and Ingredient Sentiment Survey show Australians are adopting a “back-to-basics mindset”, focusing on simple ingredients says Nielsen.

Close to nine in 10 respondents said they avoid specific ingredients because they believe them to be harmful to their own or their family’s health, while six in 10 consumers said they are concerned about the long-term health impact of artificial ingredients in their diet.

“Informed and savvy consumers are demanding more from the foods they eat and are happy to pay more if they believe it is better for them,” said Michael Elam-Rye, associate director – retail at Nielsen.

They are not informed; they are responding to what grocery stores, TV, the Internet and friends tell them.

But in a Donald Trump era, it’s a fact-free world.

Trump won because he told people what they wanted to hear.

People embrace natural foods and are anti-vaccine because someone is telling them what they want to hear.

It’s seductive.

And it’s big bucks for the purveyors of food porn – farmers, processors, retailers – especially retailers – and media outlets that make a buck telling people what they want to hear.

I get it. I’ve always said – since I was about 20-years-old – getting attention in the public domain is a mixture of style and substance. Scientists can work on their style, everyone else can work on their substance (and just because you eat does not make you an expert).

But substance has to win out, about 60-40.

It’s a peculiarity that society expects bridges and other engineering feats, along with medicine, to be exceeding current and revolutionary, yet many expect to produce food as in the old days.

trump-special-kind-stupidIt’s not peculiar: it’s advertising, messaging and manipulation.

John Defore writes about a new documentary Food Evolution, which defends the place of genetically engineered food in agriculture.

Neil deGrasse Tyson – who seamlessly blends the 60-40 suggestion of substance over style – and director Scott Hamilton Kennedy challenge enviro-activist orthodoxy, much in the same way I’ve been doing for 30 years.

But they’re more skilled at the style.

Food Evolution sounds on paper like it might be one of those hack-job rebuttals in which moneyed right-wing interests disguise propaganda as a documentary. Many on the left will likely dismiss it as such, which is a shame … the movie makes an excellent case against those who seek blanket prohibitions against genetically modified organisms — and … against those of us who support such bans just because we assume it’s the eco-conscious thing to do.

[I]t investigates the motives of some prominent anti-GMO activists — like those who are “very entrepreneurial,” finding ways to make money off fears the film believes are baseless, or like researcher Chuck Benbrook, whose work was financed by companies making billions from customers afraid of GMOs.

Hope bridges don’t start falling down because people want them more natural.

The folks who did the survey say, “This presents an opportunity for food manufacturers to increase share by offering and marketing products that are formulated with good-for-you ingredients, and an opportunity for retailers to trade consumers up with more premium priced products.”

snakeoilTell lies. Bend rules. Make a buck.

Trump is the embodiment for the times.

Top 10 ingredients Australian consumers avoid:

Antibiotics/hormones in animals products

MSG

Artificial preservatives

Artificial flavours

Artificial sweeteners

Foods with BPA packaging

Artificial colours

Sugar

Genetically modified foods

Sodium

I avoid dangerous microorganisms, which sicken 1-out-of-8 people every year.

That’s a lot of barfing.

And it’s not on the list.

Data says so: Australia does have a raw egg problem

Statistics show that the consumption of foods containing raw or minimally cooked eggs is currently the single largest source of foodborne Salmonella outbreaks in Australia.

garlic_aioliI based a large part of my research career on verifying the soundbite, ‘we have released guidelines’ or, ‘we follow all recommendations’ by arranging to have students see what actually goes on.

In October 2014, the New South Wales Food Authority released Food Safety Guidelines for the Preparation of Raw Egg Products (the Guidelines). Despite this, outbreaks continued to take place, particularly where business hygiene and temperature control issues were apparent. In addition, businesses and councils approached the Food Authority for advice on desserts containing raw eggs and other unusual raw egg dishes. As a result, the Guidelines were recently updated and give specific reference to Standard 3.2.2, Division 3, clause 7 of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code to ensure that only safe and suitable food is processed.

To reduce the risk of foodborne illness outbreaks caused by Salmonella, retail businesses are advised to avoid selling food containing raw or minimally cooked eggs. The Guidelines give food businesses that do sell food containing raw egg specific safety steps for its preparation and clear guidance and advice on what they must do to meet food safety regulations. The revised Food Safety Guidelines for the Preparation of Raw Egg Products is available at www. foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/_Documents/ retail/raw_egg_guidelines.pdf.

raw-eggsOr as the Australian Food Safety Information Council now says, buy, don’t make aioli or mayonnaise.

This is nice but of no use to consumers at a restaurant who order fish and chips  with a side of mayo or aioli. I’ve already begun an ad hoc investigation – because I don’t want my family to get sick – and can say that out of the 15 times I’ve asked over the past few years – is the aioli or mayo made at the restaurant or bought commercially – the server invariably returns and proclaims, We only use raw eggs in our aioli or mayo.

Wrong answer.

Only once, so far, has an owner or chef said, we know of the risk, we only use the bought stuff. And they’re ex-pat Canadians.

Giv’r, eh.

A table of Australian egg outbreaks is available at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-10-9-15.xlsx

Leafy green cone of silence: Salad producers say don’t be scared by ‘ridiculous’ study

In a time when facts don’t matter and Donald Trump is President-elect, there is scrutiny of any new study, and rhetoric is increasingly common.

spongebob-oil_-colbert-may3_-10Socrates, via Plato, had some thought on rhetoric (yes I dabbled in philosophy many decades ago, didn’t everyone experiment in university?).

Still no comment from the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement but they sent a few of their spokesthingies out to counter a study that says Salmonella grows in cut leafy greens, even at refrigerator temperatures..

Ashley Nickle of The Packer reports that Bruce Taylor, CEO and founder of Salinas, Calif.-based Taylor Farms, emphatically denounced the study.

“We find the artificial conditions created by this study to be ridiculous,” Taylor said in an e-mail. “Producers of bagged salads do not have ‘juice’ in the salad bag, and producers take painstaking steps to avoid the introduction of salmonella or any other pathogen.”

The conclusion regarding refrigeration was the only notable one in the study, said Trevor Suslow, a member of the technical committee of the Center for Produce Safety. Scientists would expect salmonella to be able to survive at the temperature recorded in the study but would not expect it to grow, he said.

“People will definitely be trying to reproduce their results as far as growth under refrigeration temperature for salmonella,” Suslow said. “That’s, for me, the key issue.”

Suslow, an extension research specialist at the University of California-Davis, said it is already known that a bagged salad is an environment in which salmonella can have the nutrients it needs to grow, which is why the industry has focused so intently on ensuring no pathogens make it into bags into the first place.

Drew McDonald, vice president of quality, food safety and regulatory affairs at Salinas-based Church Brothers Farms, said in an e-mail that, although the researchers did some things well, he also had some issues with the study.

“From my read, the study essentially grew salmonella in juices extracted from actual bagged salads in a mixture of sterile water,” McDonald said. “The issue is that in the ‘real’ world the salmonella has to come from somewhere (the surface of the leaf for example) but along with this would be many other microorganisms. That they were able to grow salmonella under these forced, artificial conditions without any competition from other organisms is not surprising.”

lettuceAlong with the growth conditions, the washed status of the lettuce also gave McDonald pause.

“From my understanding, (the) project used ‘bagged salad,’” McDonald said. “I am assuming this means it was already washed. The fact that they added salad juice and salmonella after it had already been bagged and washed really just shows how important it is to not cross-contaminate cleaned product.”

The researchers, as a result of their findings, suggested people eat bagged salads as soon as possible after purchase to minimize risk. They wrote in a question-and-answer supplement to the release that they no longer keep their bagged salads in the refrigerator longer than one day.

“Ridiculous recommendation,” Taylor said in his e-mail. “For 30 years consumers have enjoyed hundreds of millions of bagged salads weekly with great benefit to their health and wellbeing.”

Jennifer McEntire, vice president of food safety and technology at United Fresh Produce Association, also disagreed with the recommendation.

“People should always follow the instructions, including best-by dates, on packages, mainly so that they experience the best quality product,” McEntire said in an e-mail. “People shouldn’t be afraid to keep salad in their refrigerators for the full duration of the shelf life.”

She may mean use-by dates.

Suslow described the study as another piece of the puzzle in trying to find long-term solutions for food safety issues, but he was not impressed by it.

“Sort of generating a lot of additional concern and fear without any real basis for changing what (is) sort of standard practice isn’t necessarily helpful,” Suslow said. “Could hurt the category, but probably no more so than other things such as those instances when there are outbreaks or recalls.

“I think consumers understand that there’s no such thing as zero risk,” Suslow said (smartest thing anyone said in this story). “They understand and appreciate the convenience of packaged salads with multiple ingredients with very healthy mixed leafy greens, and that’s how the category has grown.”

Low incidence of TSEs in the EU, says EFSA

EFSA has published its first EU summary report on the monitoring of Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs) in cattle, sheep and goats. Previously, the annual reports on TSEs were compiled by the European Commission.

TSEs are a group of diseases that affect the brain and nervous system of humans and animals.  With the exception of Classical BSE, there is no scientific evidence that other TSEs can be transmitted to humans.

mad-cows-mothers-milkA low number of BSE cases in cattle were detected in EU Member States, none of which entered the food chain.

Some of the main findings of the report are:

Five cases of BSE in cattle have been reported in the EU, out of about 1.4 million animals tested.

641 cases of scrapie in sheep (out of 319,638 tested) and 1,052 in goats have been reported (out of 135,857 tested) in the EU.

This report provides results on data collected by all EU Member States, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland for 2015 on the occurrence of bovine spongiform encephalopathy