Food fraud: Brazil bored bureaucrat mob-influenced version

Federal authorities announced Friday they’re investigating evidence that companies including JBS SA and BRF SA, the nation’s largest meat producers, bribed government officials to approve the sale and export of soiled meat. Federal police served hundreds of court orders, including more than 30 detention warrants, in what local media says is the largest police operation in the country’s history.

Police released transcripts of recorded conversations showing how agricultural inspectors were bribed, sometimes in the form of prime cuts of beef. It’s alleged that some of the meat, including sausages and cold cuts, was adulterated with ingredients including pig heads, and that suspect smells were masked by applying acid. Inspectors who refused to comply, it’s alleged, were reassigned elsewhere by the meat companies.

“It seems like magic realism,” Marcos Josegrei da Silva, the judge responsible for overseeing the so-called Weak Flesh investigation, said in a court order. “Unfortunately, it is not.”

In a statement, the Brazilian unit of Wal-Mart said it fully trusts its internal food safety procedures.

But should consumers?

The story trickled around the globe over the weekend and is now like a Brisbane downpour.

Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi said Saturday Brazil fears that it may lose foreign markets for its agricultural products.

The minister confirmed earlier media reports that the United States, the European Union and China have already requested Brazilian authorities to launch an investigation against the unscrupulous meat producers. However, none of these countries has so far announced that it was closing its market for animal products from Brazil.

On Friday, Brazil’s federal police arrested members of a major criminal group involved in trade of tainted food, mostly meat. According to police, the operation involved almost 1,100 police officers and became the country’s largest ever. The operation targeted major Brazilian meat producers selling their products both domestically and internationally.

Investigators detained a number of meat industry employees, who are suspected of bribing agriculture watchdogs to receive quality certificates for low-quality goods without proper checks. Some of those money were reportedly used to finance political parties.

Police says that the suspects also used acid and other chemicals to make the rotten meat appear fresh.

The Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and the Environment has stated it is taking the issue seriously and will investigate if spoiled meat has been brought to Finland.

In Finland, Brazilian meat has been sold in stores belonging to S Group.

Hep A outbreak leads to restaurant disclosure in NJ

Hamilton unveiled a searchable website Monday that lists inspection ratings for the township’s 500 restaurants and retail food shops in hopes of giving diners a greater peace of mind.

sopranos.food“This new website will not only provide our local restaurants patrons with added transparency to enhance consumer confidence, but will also encourage food establishments to hold themselves accountable to the highest health standards, knowing that this information will be easily accessible by the public,” Mayor Kelly Yaede said.

The website was prompted, in part, by the Hepatitis A health scare that hit the township in late 2014. In late November, a food handler at Rosa’s Restaurant and Catering fell ill with the disease and in the months following, three people who ate at the restaurant contracted the disease.

Inspection reports later revealed the restaurant had a history of health violations.

Last month, Rosa’s quietly announced that it was closing its doors, but would continue the catering portion of the business.

Yaede said all retail food establishments are inspected annually and receive ratings of “satisfactory,” “continually satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.” The new database shows the three most recent inspection results.

Users may search the new site, hamiltonnj.com/foodsafety, by establishment name or address.

Food crime occurring on ‘unprecedented’ scale – report

“Food crime” has reached unprecedented levels, a new report to be published on Thursday is expected to say.

sopranos.don't.fuck.with.usCommissioned by the UK environment agency and health department, the report is understood to recommend the creation of a “food crime unit”.

It draws on evidence from international police bodies Interpol and Europol.

They say that international gangs are diversifying – shifting from drug trafficking and armed robbery to illegal and fraudulent food trading.

The review of Britain’s food supply chains was announced in response to the horsemeat fraud in 2013.

Michael Ellis, assistant director of Interpol, told BBC News: “This has changed the scope of investigations. Criminals have realized that they can make the same amount of money by dealing with counterfeit food. Invariably the sentences are much lighter.

“In my experience, the patterns used by criminals involved in counterfeiting are very similar to those used in the dealing of drugs. They operate front companies, they employ front bank accounts, they will have false declarations for the movement of their goods, they will mis-declare their shipments.”

Mozzarella mafia: cheese smuggling ring is brought down in Canada

Canadians have gone hardcore as notorious cheese smugglers.

NPR reports a “large scale Canada-U.S. cheese smuggling operation” has been brought down, after an international investigation tracked criminals who were skirting import duties and Canada’s higher cheese prices.

“The investigation revealed over $200,000 worth of cheese and other products were purchased and distributed for an estimated profit of over $165,000,” Niagara police said.

The smugglers — one current and one former police officer, and one civilian — reportedly sought out pizza restaurants to move their merchandise. News emerged this week that charges would soon be announced against what Mark called a “mozzarella mafia.”

As Windsor, Ontario, pizzeria owner Bob Abumeeiz told the CBC, he has been asked several times if he’s interested in buying cheese smuggled from America, where prices are anywhere from a third to half what they are in Canada.

“Cheese is the white gold in the restaurant business. Cheese is 50 percent of the taste on a pizza,” he said. “The price is rising every year two or three percent.”

The network operated in Ontario, where two of the accused have worked for the Niagara Regional Police Service.

California restaurants decry ‘Yelp extortion’

Continuing with the gangster theme, mobster hacks are using the Internet to collect points.

The Sacramento Bee reported a few days ago that restaurant owner Sonny Mayugba was given an offer he almost could not refuse two weeks ago.

Not by a local gangster, but by a user of a popular online review site, Yelp.com.

Mayugba said the user threatened to blast the Red Rabbit Kitchen and Bar at 2718 J St., which Mayugba co-owns, on Yelp because he believed he and his party got food poisoning from their meals.

Mayugba said it was impossible to prove whether the man got food poisoning from the restaurant but offered to give him a $60 gift card to a restaurant of his choice. The man said he deserved $100. If the restaurant did not pay up, he said he would write a bad Yelp review and report him to health authorities.

Is what happened to the Red Rabbit Kitchen an isolated case? Or has the growth in popularity of restaurant review websites – which allow anyone to write and rate restaurants from one to five stars – created a new way for some people to get preferential treatment.

Restaurant owners say online websites have changed consumer behavior as many people rely more on citizen reviews than on reviews of professional critics or advertisements. Yelp had a monthly average of more than 71 million unique visitors and 27 million reviews worldwide this year from January to the end of March, the company said.

In the end, Mayugba said, he refused to give the man anything and is not sure if the man posted a review on Yelp. But he said the experience made him rethink the value of Yelp and websites like it, which he said he loves.

"I was so upset," Mayugba said. "He was taking something that was inherently good to use it as a tool to extort a restaurant. It was just so wrong."

Kristen Whisenand, public relations manager for Yelp, said in an email that the website allows for users and business owners to flag reviews that violate the website’s terms of service. If it is determined the review is fake, biased or malicious, it will be taken down.

"More people trust citizen reviews these days," said Mayugba, who started a social networking website for the restaurant industry in 2007.

"Social media is a wonderful thing for the world, but when its integrity is compromised, what is it worth?

Fancy food isn’t safe food: Nino’s of New York edition

DNAinfo reports that celebrity-heavy Nino’s on the Upper East Side of New York City was hit with a whopping 56 points during an inspection on Monday, according to the health department’s website.

A grade higher than 27 points would merit hanging a C in the window, but the restaurant’s grade is pending as the department gives it some time to clean up their act. Restaurants with violations under 13 points get As.

The health department found a range of violations, including evidence of rats and mice, roaches present in the food or non food areas, flies, cold food not stored properly and food surfaces improperly washed. Also, the inspector found the supervisor of food operations did not hold a Food Protection Certificate, which is required by the health department.

At Nino’s Positano in Midtown, Selimaj named a chicken special after regular customer Derek Jeter, after the Yankees shortstop reached his 3,000th hit. That restaurant, at 890 Second Ave., was briefly closed by the health department after a June 22 inspection tallied 72 violation points. The restaurant currently has a letter B grade.

Nino Selimaj didn’t return calls.
 

60 sickened, 30 hospitalized with salmonella from custard in South Australia

Someone finally asked, and when South Australia Health said a lot of people were sick from salmonella in custard, it really was a lot.

ABC news (that’s Australian not American) reports at least 60 people have fallen ill, nearly half of them needing to be admitted to hospital.

SA Health’s investigation has linked the infections to Vili’s custard-filled berliner buns and St George Cakes and Gelati’s custard-filled cannolis and eclairs in Adelaide.

Kevin Buckett from SA Health says they expect more test results later in the week, adding,

"We’re continuing to interview the 60 or so people that were notified to us last week and obviously the more we interview the better chance we have to get a good track on what common foods people have eaten."