Who wants to market lousy food: Food safety and promotion, yes they go together

Ron Doering, the creator of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and its first president, writes in this column for Food in Canada that, in a recent column I wrote on the occasion of the 20th birthday of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), I proudly concluded that the CFIA had mostly met its original objectives. Since then I have received several responses from industry leaders suggesting I was overly generous in my assessment. Several responses focused particularly on one complaint: that too many at the CFIA seemed to have forgotten that in addition to its primary role to protect the health and safety of Canadians, the CFIA also has a clear legislative mandate to help the commercial linterests of Canadian industry.

From the very beginning of the 1995 consultations with industry, all sectors expressed grave concern that while con­solidating 16 programs delivered by four different departments might promote efficiency and effectiveness and provide a single point of contact for consumers, industry and the provinces, such consolida­tion might also result in an erosion of the longstanding understanding that while safe food was the overarching priority, all programs also had an important role in promoting the commercial health of the various sectors. To answer this fear, we changed the draft legislation to specify that the minister responsible for the CFIA would be the minister of Agriculture, and we built right into the legislation that the CFIA’s mandate included the “promotion of trade and commerce.” Without this solemn promise to industry, it’s unlikely that the CFIA would have been created.

Of course, except in situations where consumer health and safety is threatened, such as in a case of an outbreak of foodborne illness, inspecting for safe food and promoting market access are not conflicting objectives. The most important marketing advantage for the Canadian food industry is Canada’s repu­tation for safe food and the credibility of our rigorous regulatory system. Putting the whole food chain — seeds, feeds, fertilizer, plant protection, animal health, and all food commodities including fish — under the same umbrella agency created a real opportunity for a more comprehensive and focused approach to promoting international market access for Canadian products. Moreover, still unique in the world, we would have one agency to negotiate equivalency agree­ments and other arrangements for access. Many products can only be exported if they first receive CFIA certification. That is how we export food, plants and animals to over 100 countries, usually without re-inspection.

After raising this issue in my speech at the recent annual meeting of the Canadian Meat Council, many participants confirmed the problem and stressed that it has been seriously worsening in the last three years since the Conservative govern­ment changed the primary reporting relationship of the CFIA to the minister of Health. One industry leader insisted that it was obvious that since then “the CFIA is giving less time, resources and attention to industry’s commercial needs.” Another reported that “most CFIA inspectors now seem to think their sole job is consumer protection, and market access is just not part of their job.” Another added that “increasingly, and particularly in the last few years, the culture of the CFIA is that they’re in the public health business; the health of the industry is none of their concern.”

There is a great deal of talk these days about the potential for Canada to be an agri-food powerhouse. Canadians can’t eat much more food, so the key is to increase exports. Our industry is up to the task, but the agri-food business (unlike many other industry sectors) cannot even begin to achieve its potential unless the government does its job to:

  1. Provide a clear, responsive and well implemented regulatory system that will serve to improve competitiveness, enhance investment and promote innovation; and
  2. Remind the CFIA that it is also its responsibility to help industry gain greater market access and then adequately resource this function.

Meat industry leaders tell me that they have already met the new CFIA president and stressed the need to change attitudes and to reinvigorate the market access function. This is a good start, but real progress will require a united and sustained push.

Food fraud in Canada

I love Canada except for the ridiculous sub-zero temperatures we get here in the winter-Powell and Chapman can attest to this having lived in Ontario.
Canada is not immune to food fraud and with increase testing of food products, we’ll see just how bad it is. A study conducted by Sylvain Charlebois, the dean of the Faculty of Management and professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University indicates that more than 40 per cent of Canadians believe to have been victims of food fraud already.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed. – Mahatma Gandhi

Liam Casey of the Globe and Mail writes

A federally funded study has found that 20 per cent of sausages sampled from grocery stores across Canada contained meats that weren’t on the label.
The study, published this week in the journal Food Control, was conducted by researchers at the University of Guelph and commissioned by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
It examined 100 sausages that were labelled as containing just one ingredient – beef, pork, chicken or turkey.
“About one in five of the sausages we tested had some off-label ingredients in them, which is alarming,” said Robert Hanner, lead author of the study and an associate professor with the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario at the University of Guelph.
The CFIA reached out to Prof. Hanner for the study after the European horse meat scandal in 2013, where food labelled as beef was found to have horse meat – in some cases beef was completely substituted by horse meat.
The goal of the study, the federal food regulator said, was to examine scientific methods used by Prof. Hanner to see if the CFIA could use them in its regulatory practices. The scientific tools showed promising results, the CFIA said.
Seven of 27 beef sausages examined in the study contained pork. One of 38 supposedly pure pork sausages contained horse meat. Of 20 chicken sausages, four also contained turkey and one also had beef. Five of the 15 turkey sausages studied contained no turkey at all – they were entirely chicken.
None of the sausages examined contained more than one other type of meat in addition to the meat the sausage was meant to contain, Prof. Hanner said, noting, however that researchers were only testing for turkey, chicken, pork, beef and horse.
“The good news is that typically beef sausages predominantly contain beef, but some of them also contain pork, so for our kosher and halal consumers, that is a bit disconcerting,” Prof. Hanner said.

The undeclared meats found weren’t trace levels, Prof. Hanner noted.
“The levels we’re seeing aren’t because the blades on a grinder aren’t perfectly clean,” he said, adding that many of the undeclared ingredients found in the sausages were recorded in the range of 1 per cent to 5 per cent.
More than one per cent of undeclared ingredients indicates a breakdown in food processing or intentional food fraud, Prof. Hanner explained.

Norovirus in frozen raspberries: Quebecers sick

My grandfather, Homer the Canadian asparagus baron, always said if it wasn’t asparagus, he figured raspberries would be a good cash crop.

He had a patch out front and as a child I could often be found in the raspberry patch, picking a few and eating many.

So I’m disappointed (how Canadian) whenever cheap raspberries are the culprit in transmitting norovirus or hepatitis A.

I’m even more disappointed when taypayer-funded bureaucrats in government and public journalism fail to ask basic questions or provide basic information so consumers can make actual food choices, away from the hucksterism.

CBC News reports the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPAQ) has issued a warning list of raspberry and raspberry products that may have been contaminated by norovirus.

Several cases of illness have already been reported to the ministry.

Those who have products on the list are asked to avoid consuming them and return them to the facility where they were purchased, or discard them.

Media coverage notes the bad batch of raspberries that is the likely culprit has been recalled by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Oddly, the only recall on the CFIA website involving norovirus and frozen raspberries happened on June 20, 2017, with almost no supporting information, other than, media should call.

Gelsius brand IQF Whole Raspberries were recalled due to norovirus,and were distributed by Farinex (113712 Canada Inc.), a Quebec-based distributor of all things food.

Here’s some questions to ask:

Where were the frozen berries grown?

Were they covered in human shit?

Why so little info from CFIA?

Montreal locations affected by the recall:

Crémerie Gélato Cielo (10414 Gouin Blvd. W.)

Raspberry gelato

Raspberry sorbet

Berry sorbet

C’Chô-Colat Inc. (1255 Bishop St.)

Raspberry gelato

Raspberry sorbet

Berry sorbet

Les Délices Lafrenaie Inc. (8405 Lafrenaie St.)

Frutti di bosco

Heavenly berry

Les gourmandises de Marie-Antoinette (4317 Ontario St. E.)

Marie-Antoinette cake

Glaces et Sorbets Kem Coba inc. (60 Fairmont Ave. W.)

Raspberry sorbet

Boulangerie Et Pâtisserie Lasalle R.D.P. Inc. (8591 Maurice-Duplessis Blvd.)

Berry cake

Gourmet Bazar inc. (9051 Charles-de-la-Tour St.)

Whole raspberries

Me thinks something is going on here.

Homer would be ashamed that raspberries got a bad name.

Handle flour like raw meat: More Canadian flour and people sickened with E. coli O121

In April 2017, health-types in Canada said E.coli O121 had sickened 26 people that was linked to Robin Hood All Purpose Flour, Original.

On May 26, 2017, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Ardent Mills is recalling various brands of flour and flour products due to possible E. coli O121 contamination. Consumers should not consume the recalled products described below.

This recall was triggered by findings by the CFIA during its investigation into a foodborne illness outbreak. The CFIA is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.

The CFIA is verifying that industry is removing recalled products from the marketplace.

There have been reported illnesses associated with flour; however, at this time, there have been no confirmed illnesses associated with the products identified in this Food Recall Warning.

But there have been with Roger flour in B.C.

On May 21, 2017 the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) alerted British Columbians after six people in BC were infected with the same strain of E. coli O121 between February and April, 2017.

A sample of flour from one of the ill people was tested by the BCCDC Public Health Laboratory and found positive for the same strain of E. coli O121 as seen in all the illnesses.

While it is unknown at this time whether the other ill people consumed the same flour, the BCCDC recommends consumers:

Dispose of Rogers all-purpose flour in a 10kg bag with the lot number MFD 17 Jan 19 C.  This flour was available to Costco customers in B.C. beginning in January 2017.

Although this outbreak is occurring at the same time as a national outbreak involving a different strain of E. coli O121 that has been linked to various flours and flour products, it is unclear whether there is a link between the two outbreaks.

The national outbreak has affected 30 people from six provinces: British Columbia (13), Saskatchewan (4), Alberta (5), Ontario (1), Quebec (1) and Newfoundland and Labrador (5). One of the 30 cases was a visitor to Canada. The illness onset dates range from November 2016 to April 2017.

These are the questions that remain about the interactions between Robin Hood, Ardent, Rogers and their flour: Do you folks all get your flour from the same place and slap your name on it like Trump slaps his name on towers? If so, where is the common processor, and why the fuck is there E. coli O121 in it? What are companies prepared to do, like offering pasteurized flour, especially so the medically vulnerable can continue to bake without fretting about flour dust?And when will the Public Health Agency of Canada move beyond boilerplate fairy tales like wash hands, and offer something meaningful to Canadians who bake?

Overpaid bureacrats, worried about their retirement savings rather than a nasty bug like E. coli O121.

Inhale the dust, assholes.

The outpouring of compassion for the victims is underwhelming.

Sweet summer basil with Salmonella

I love fresh basil.

Last night we had barramundi fillets, grilled in a garlic-butter-olive oil-lemon-and-basil coating that was delicious.

Unfortunately, the fucking possums in this country also like my basil and are helping themselves to it, bottom up.

They don’t care for the mint (in the background, and yes, that is our view from the deck).

Maybe we should stop feeding the cats so they will become a little more aggressive about chasing away the possums.

In New Zealand, they poison possums.

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Three Dolphins Wholesale is recalling L.A. Lucky brand Sweet Basil Seed from the marketplace due to possible Salmonella contamination. Consumers should not consume the recalled product described below.

The following product has been sold from Three Dolphins Wholesale, 4801 Victoria Drive, Vancouver, British Columbia.

L.A. Lucky Sweet Basil Seed, 60g, UPC 8 20678 201697, Codes: all units sold from October 1, 2015 up to and including May 25, 2017

This recall was triggered by a recall in another country. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of this product.

Food fraud: CFIA lays charges after regular cheese passed off cheese as kosher at kids’ camp

I don’t get the kosher-halal food thing, seems to involve excessive animal suffering, but hey, who doesn’t want to make a buck and fly live animals for slaughter 150 years after frozen food transport was invented.

According to Michele Henry of the Toronto Star, for the first time in Canada, the country’s food inspection agency has laid criminal charges against a businessman and his company for allegedly trying to pass off run-of-the-mill food as kosher.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has charged Creation Foods and its vice-president, Kefir Sadiklar, with sending cheddar cheese falsely described as “kosher” to Jewish summer camps in June 2015. The agency alleges forged documents were created to make it seem like the cheese adhered to Jewish dietary laws.

The regulatory body, which polices food labels across Canada, has laid five charges against Sadiklar and his family-run Woodbridge-based distributor related to cheese products sent to two camps — Camp Moshava near Peterborough and Camp Northland-B’nai Brith in Haliburton.

The agency alleges that forged letters of kosher certification were slipped into boxes of non-kosher Gay Lea Ivanhoe shredded “Ivanhoe Old Cheddar Cheese” that Creation delivered to “strictly kosher” Jewish summer camps in June 2015. Kosher products are typically sold at a higher price than non-kosher products.

In an email to the Star, the federal food inspection agency said this is the first case it “has brought before a provincial court related to the misrepresentation of a kosher food product.”

Sadiklar, 39, is scheduled to make his next appearance in Newmarket court on May 20.

If convicted, he and Creation could face steep fines and even jail time.

The allegations made by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have not been tested in court.

The term “kosher” refers to food that follows Judaism’s strict dietary rules that dictate not only what observant Jews can eat, but how the food is prepared and handled. In the case of making cheese, a rabbi would be responsible for adding the coagulation enzyme at the first stage and certifying that no non-kosher products touched the kosher cheese on the line.

A rabbi has more microbiological knowledge than a microbiologist?

Market food passed on safety, not some weird religious stuff.

If god was so caring, why are so many people getting sick from the food they eat?(Darwin had the same problem with religion after his daughter, Annie, died at 10-years-old).

Kelly oysters brand Gigas Oysters recalled due to domoic acid

One of the first science columns I ever wrote for a newspaper 36-years ago was about domoic acid in shellfish.

Everything old is new again.

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency DOM International Limited is recalling Kelly Oysters brand Gigas Oysters from the marketplace due to marine biotoxin which causes amnesic shellfish poisoning. Consumers should not consume and retailers, hotels, restaurants and institutions should not sell, serve or use the recalled product described below.

This recall was triggered by the company. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of this product.

This is what creativity looks like at its ugly peak (even though this was filmed with makeup and tricks 7 years after being written, it’s still the best vid)

Ron Doering: Of course I’m proud of CFIA, why isn’t the rest of Canada?

Doering writes: The 20th anniversary of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)  seems to have gone by unnoticed, even by the CFIA. Has it lived up to the original vision? Has it achieved its promise from 20 years ago?

Of course I‘m not an unbiased observer. In April, 1995 I was given the lead responsibility to carry out the consultation on how Canada should reorganize its food inspection and related activities. I put together the team to carry out the review.  We called ourselves the Office of Food Inspection Systems (OFIS). When we completed the consultation, we  recommended the most ambitious of the options reviewed–that the government should create a new independent legislated agency with the full regulatory authority for the whole food chain. Our Minister Ralph Goodale went to Cabinet in  the late fall of 1995 and the Chretien Government adopted our recommendation. OFIS was also given the lead to set it up and we got the historic legislation through in time to open the doors on April 1, 1997. Later I served as its President until I retired from the public service. 

Looking back on the original OFIS documents, the CFIA was created to meet five broad objectives. How well have these been met? 

Enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of federal food inspection and related services. The CFIA clearly met this goal. $44 million dollars were saved.  Overlap and duplication was reduced. Sixteen programs that had formerly been delivered by four different departments were brought under one roof. Consumers and industry now have one point of contact. 

Provide integrated governance of food safety, plant health and animal health. This was fully achieved.    We are still the only jurisdiction in the world that brings under one agency the whole food chain: feed, seeds, fertilizer, all food including fish as well as animal and plant health. The value of this integration has been widely recognized. For example, Canada managed the challenge of BSE better than most countries because senior officials in charge of animal health were also in charge of food safety. This integration also accounts for our fully integrated investigation and recall system led by the widely-respected Office of Food Safety and Recall (OFSR). Canadians now take this single point of contact for granted. Remember, for example, that in the US it is still the case that a vegetarian pizza is the responsibility of FDA but a pepperoni pizza falls under the jurisdiction of USDA etc.

Enhance international market access.  The CFIA has harmonized technical trade areas, negotiated many international equivalency agreements, challenged misuse of technical measures and played a major role in influencing international standards. Former OFIS member and afterwards CFIA Vice-President Peter Brackenridge has noted that “with the changing international trade environment, a single organization like the CFIA is well placed to manage the challenge of protectionism by the misuse of technical standards.”

Enhance Provincial and Federal regulatory harmonization.  Former OFIS member and afterwards CFIA Vice-President Cam Prince notes that this is one area where progress has not met our original expectations. This issue may take on increased impetus in light of the recently announced Canadian Free Trade Agreement but there continues to be major international trade law barriers to full intergovernmental harmonization.

Modernize Canadian Food Law. In 1999 the CFIA introduced  First Reading of Bill C-80 which would have provided a truly modernized legal basis for the regulation of food and related activities but it did not proceed for political reasons. With the current Safe Food for Canadians Act (and Regulations) now being completed, finally we will have a more modern legal foundation for the future, though not as integrated as the former Bill would have provided. 

With an annual budget of over $700 million and over 6,000 staff the CFIA is, by far, Canada’s largest science-based regulatory agency, respected within the federal system, by the provinces and admired around the world as a model. 

The CFIA has met most of our original expectations. While there have been bumps along the road, Canadians should be proud of the CFIA’s many achievements. Its anniversary should be celebrated.

Except Salmonella “We’re a small business, so we can keep a little bit of tabs on things’

Ran-Cher Acres is recalling Ran-Cher Acres brand Goat Cheese (all flavours) from the marketplace due to possible Salmonella contamination. Consumers should not consume the recalled products described below.

salm-goat-cheese-nov-16Brand Name//Common Name//Size//Code(s) on Product//UPC//Additional Info

Ran-Cher Acres//Goat Cheese//170 g//Best Before: 20 NOV//None//Affected products: all flavours including plain, chive, dill, herb provence, garden herb, garlic & cayenne, Italian blend, onion blend, herb & garlic, peppercorn

This recall was triggered by the company. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products

The company’s owners told the CBC they aren’t sure how their cheese became contaminated. 

“There’s salmonella in many, many places, it’s very common. So maybe someone didn’t wash their hands well and handled something else,” said Cheryl Hiltz co-owner of Ran-Cher Acres. 

We pasteurise the product so it was probably contaminated after the pasteurisation … we have a farm so there’s the possibility of cross contamination.”  

Hiltz said this is the first time in about 30 years that they have had any problems with their products. 

 “We’re a small business, so we can keep a little bit of tabs on things,” said Hiltz.

Black Bean and Yam Chili manufactured by Hinty’s recalled due to potential C. bot

With Amy gluten intolerant, my shopping experiences last about twice as long and I need a couple of pairs of glasses: Can’t you people make the labels so grumpy grandfathers like me can read the fucking things?

But she loves the Mexican food and I’m sorta learning how to make it, and will have my first batch of homemade refried beans — from beans, not a can — going next week – because why does it cost twice as much to have beans that have already been cooked be cooked again?

black-bean-chili-bot-nov-16That’s not what refried beans are? Change the name.

Same with chili. It’s just beans and slop, because is a ridiculous cost versus the ingredients, and seems to be getting recalled routinely because these processors have forgotten the basics of canning.

Hinty’s is recalling Black Bean and Yam Chili from the marketplace because it may permit the growth of Clostridium botulinum. Consumers should not consume the recalled products described below.

Brand Name//Common Name//Size//Code(s) on Product//UPC

None//Black Bean and Yam Chili//Approximately 500 mL//All units sold up to and including November 2, 2016//None

None//Black Bean and Yam Chili//Approximately 1 L//All units sold up to and including November 2, 2016//None

This recall was triggered by test results. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.

The CFIA is verifying that industry is removing recalled product from the marketplace.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products.