Not the Sopranos: Police in Europe break up network selling illegal horse meat

Raphael Minder of The New York Times reports police in Europe have dismantled a criminal network that was selling horse meat across the Continent that was “not suitable for consumption,” arresting 66 people as part of a four-year investigation prompted by the discovery in Ireland of horse meat in burgers sold as beef.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said on Sunday that all but one of the arrests had been made in Spain. But the Spanish police said in a separate statement that their part of the investigation had accounted for “a small portion of a network stretching across the whole of Europe, under the control of a Dutch citizen.”

The Dutch citizen, who has not been publicly identified and was taken into custody in April in Belgium, was described in a Europol statement as the leader of a criminal gang that had acquired horses on the Iberian Peninsula that were judged to be “in bad shape, too old or simply labeled as ‘not suitable for consumption.’ ”

The animals’ meat was processed and sent to Belgium, one of the European Union’s biggest exporters of horse meat, and the criminal organization modified the animals’ microchips and documentation to facilitate the fraudulent export, the statement said.

The Pan-European investigation began after a scandal over horse meat in burgers in Ireland in 2013, and it was widened to other European countries as dishes like frozen lasagna labeled as containing beef were found to have horse meat.

In addition to the arrests, the Spanish police said on Sunday that they had seized property and luxury cars, and that they had frozen bank accounts. The police in Britain, France, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Switzerland also carried out interventions, according to Europol, although the statement did not provide details.

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.

Don’t like your inspection result? Change your restaurant’s ownership

It seems like a lot of work but NBC Bay Area reports there is a loophole in erasing inspection history – good and bad – change the ownership.

But a name change alone doesn’t change how the managers and staff address food safety.

“It’s not for me to make sense of it, it is what the law requires us to do,” said Stephanie Cushing, who heads the city’s restaurant inspection process as the Director of the San Francisco’s Department of Environmental Health.dohevhiomwpyri5adsqz

Cushing’s team of 30 field inspectors make daily checks at restaurants across the city to ensure they comply with health and safety codes, but she acknowledges those inspection reports are promptly removed from the city’s website once a restaurant files paperwork to indicate changes in ownership of the business, even if managers and employees remains largely the same.

Cushing’s team of inspectors are no strangers to a Chinese restaurant at 5238 Diamond Heights Boulevard. Even though the sign on the building says All Season, don’t expect to find that name anywhere on the city’s online database of restaurant inspection reports. A

ccording to city records, the business changed its name to Harbor Villa last year, as well as a change in ownership, which required the city to remove the inspection history for All Season restaurant from the city’s website.

While the restaurant listed new company officers in 2014, the Investigative Unit discovered that ownership was still under the same corporation.

Last year, the restaurant filed another change of ownership, and listed a new corporate name, but the two officers of that corporation stayed the same.

Even after the restaurant name change, Harbor Villa was forced to close on two more times for serious health and safety violations, including a cockroach infestation.

I dunno how many places go through the process and the paperwork of changing company officers and names, but it seems like managing food safety risks is probably easier. And better for business.

Testing gods’ food: Moving from faith-based food safety in India

The Food Safety and Standards Association of India (FSSAI) has said it intends to regulate public kitchens run by temple trusts in association with state regulators.

SiddhivinayakThe food regulator had approached the Siddhivinayak and Shirdi temple trusts in Maharashtra and found them open to the idea of scrutiny, said Pawan Agarwal, the chief executive officer of FSSAI.

“While temple trusts do get a licence from the FSSAI to run public kitchens, we are speaking of taking public health and safety to the next level by adhering to food safety standards. This calls for greater awareness and scrutiny, which we propose to do along with state food regulators.”

Sanjiv S Patil, executive officer of Shree Siddhivinayak Ganapati Temple Trust, said the regulator had surveyed the temple’s public kitchen two months ago and advised them on food safety standards. “We have joined hands with the FSSAI and the Association of Food Scientists & Technologists of India for standardisation and to maintain the quality of the prasadam we offer. We are committed to maintaining our quality standards.”

Nearly 100,000 devotees visit the Shree Siddhivinayak temple each day in Mumbai.

In Kerala, where the popular Sabarimala temple is located, food safety officers do checks at regular intervals to ensure the food served at the temple is safe.

bhogAn editorial in The Tribune says, only gods (note the plural, monotheism is sorta boring) know if they would like to taste FSSI-standardised bhog and prasad. The food regulator is hoping to ensure the “safety” of prasad distributed in temples and at other religious places. Its approach is secular, however.

According to the 2001 Census, India has 2.4 million places of worship, visited by approximately 300 million people every day. the FSSAI has already begun standardising prasad at famous temples like Shri Siddhivinayak temple (Mumbai), Sri Venkateswara Swamy temple (Tirupati) and Sai Baba temple (Shirdi), the fate of its crusade would rest with millions of bhakts. Will they like to have the food, supposedly partaken by the gods, after it is sullied in the name of sanitising and standardising by the FSSAI? 

Where faith is at work, even angels fear to tread! But the FSSAI assumes to straighten up complex socio-cultural issues. The organisation is in its infancy. Launched only in 2006, it has no judicial power to punish offenders.

4 Frendz recalls beef jerky products that may be undercooked

I don’t buy beef jerky.

I really don’t buy beef jerky from 4 Frendz who can’t spell.

beef.jerky.recall.may.16For those who do, this Clarkston, Wash. establishment, is recalling approximately 497 pounds of beef jerky products due to under-processing and potential survival of bacterial pathogens in the products.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) says the items were produced from Aug. 10, 2015 to April 11, 2016. The following products are subject to recall:   

3-oz. VACUUM-PACKED packages containing “SOUTHFORK SAUSAGE MESQUITE PEPPER JERKY.” 

3-oz. VACUUM-PACKED packages containing “SOUTHFORK SAUSAGE HONEY JERKY.” 

3-oz. VACUUM-PACKED packages containing “SOUTHFORK SAUSAGE MESQUITE JERKY.” 

3-oz. VACUUM-PACKED packages containing “SOUTHFORK SAUSAGE TERIYAKI JERKY.”

3-oz. VACUUM-PACKED packages containing “SOUTHFORK SAUSAGE HOT HONEY JERKY.”

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. M22017” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were shipped to retail locations in Idaho and Washington.                                

The problem was discovered during a comprehensive FSIS Food Safety Assessment (FSA) inspection performed in the establishment by an FSIS Enforcement Investigations and Analysis Officer.

There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products. Anyone concerned about an injury or illness should contact a healthcare provider. 

2 dead, 30 sickened with Salmonella in 2015: Australian bakery will probably never pay fine

Shannon Tonkin of the Illawarra Mercury reports that the defunct Wollongong food company fined more than $60,000 in court last week will most likely never pay the penalty, with financial records obtained by the Mercury showing the business was $144,000 in the red at the time the offences occurred.

1462144920322-1Betta Maid was convicted of 10 charges under the NSW Food Act in Wollongong Local Court last week and fined a total of $63,000.

The court found the company was responsible for the spread of a rare strain of Salmonella through Illawarra Retirement Trust aged care homes on the South Coast and ACT between January and March 2015, resulting in the death of two residents.

Another 30 fell ill, with unhygienic food preparation surfaces, the presence of rodents (including feces), rusty equipment and unclean utensils to blame.

(I’d still like to know where the Salmnoella bovismorbificans came from. It’s commonly found in cattle and horses – dp).

Betta Maid was put under external management in early April after the matters came to light and has since been placed in the hands of a liquidator to be wound up.

Documents obtained through the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) show the company owed an estimated $212,000 to 34 different companies around the time of the outbreak, including $131,000 in unpaid taxes.

A summary of the business’ financial position, signed by then-director Udo Boschan, estimated the value of the company’s assets at only $68,000, leaving a shortfall of about $144,000.

Local businesses owed money include Hasties Toptaste Meats in Wollongong, radio station Wave Fm, Sydney and South Coast Food in Dapto and Cazmont Computers in Shellharbour.

However, the chance of any creditors recovering what is owed to them appears lost, with a more recent ASIC statement filed by the liquidator saying it did not expect any creditors to receive their money. It is understood this would also apply to the court fines.

betta.maid.bakeryMeantime, court documents have revealed Food Authority inspectors carried out a routine inspection of the Betta Maid facility at Unanderra two and a half months before the salmonella outbreak.

Several concerns and contraventions of food handling laws were identified at the time, including rust and significant damage to equipment, some of which was unclean.

The company was given a month to rectify the situation, however the outbreak occurred before a further inspection took place.

Inspections and audits are never enough.

 

Way forward for safer eggs: Forget faith-based food safety, inspections and audits are never enough

The editorial board of The Des Moines Register writes that if there’s one lesson to be learned from the 2010 salmonella outbreak that originated in Iowa and sickened thousands of consumers nationwide, it’s the high cost of failing to properly regulate egg audit.checklistproduction.

Maybe.

But what constitutes proper regulation?

What constitutes proper audits and inspections?

How can consumers choose?

Jack and Peter DeCoster, who were criminally charged for the way they ran the Quality Egg operation in Iowa, were bad actors, as the Iowa egg industry now admits. But what sort of regulatory system do we have that allows scofflaws to not only flourish but also become some of the industry’s biggest players?

That’s a question our governor and state legislators have steadfastly, and very deliberately, refused to address. Still, it has to be asked, particularly in light of the recent revelations that the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship indefinitely suspended its inspection of egg production facilities last year to eliminate any risk of inspectors spreading the bird flu virus.

After the 2010 salmonella outbreak and shortly before leaving office, Iowa Gov. Chet Culver proposed a series of reforms aimed at addressing five vulnerabilities in Iowa’s egg production regulations. None have been acted upon by the Branstad administration.

Among the proposed reforms:

More stringent state oversight of the smaller egg farms — those with fewer than 3,000 laying hens — that are exempt from federal regulations.

AIB.audit.eggsState-mandated reporting, by both testing laboratories and egg producers, of positive tests for salmonella enteritidis.

Accreditation and certification standards for laboratories that perform testing for salmonella.

Creation of a state-mandated salmonella detection and prevention program, with minimum training and competency standards for the staff.

Creation of a new funding stream to support the implementation of a comprehensive, statewide egg-safety program.

But that’s not enough.

Consumers and their pocketbooks will drive food safety innovation and accountability at retail.

Market food safety at retail so consumers can choose.

Audits and inspections are never enough: A critique to enhance food safety

30.aug.12

Food Control

D.A. Powell, S. Erdozain, C. Dodd, R. Costa, K. Morley, B.J. Chapman

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713512004409?v=s5

Abstract

Internal and external food safety audits are conducted to assess the safety and quality of food including on-farm production, manufacturing practices, sanitation, and hygiene. Some auditors are direct stakeholders that are employed by food establishments to conduct internal audits, while other auditors may represent the interests of a second-party purchaser or a third-party auditing agency. Some buyers conduct their own audits or additional testing, while some buyers trust the results of third-party audits or inspections. Third-party auditors, however, use various food safety audit standards and most do not have a vested interest in the products being sold. Audits are conducted under a proprietary standard, while food safety inspections are generally conducted within a legal framework. There have been many foodborne illness outbreaks linked to food processors that have passed third-party audits and inspections, raising questions about the utility of both. Supporters argue third-party audits are a way to ensure food safety in an era of dwindling economic resources. Critics contend that while external audits and inspections can be a valuable tool to help ensure safe food, such activities represent only a snapshot in time. This paper identifies limitations of food safety inspections and audits and provides recommendations for strengthening the system, based on developing a strong food safety culture, including risk-based verification steps, throughout the food safety system.

Iowa egg oversight ended last year

Jason Clayworth of The Des Moines Register reports that Iowa, the epicenter of a nationwide salmonella outbreak that sickened thousands of people nearly six years ago, has suspended its egg facility inspections to guard against a recurrence of bird flu. While the risk may be slight, state agriculture officials say they fear that inspectors might spread the virus from one flock to another as they visit egg facilities.

egg.farmGovernment officials and egg industry supporters contend that suspending inspections, which stopped almost a year ago, has not compromised food safety. Farmers are still expected to follow safety regulations, some put in place after the 2010 egg recall.

But critics say the lack of inspections in the nation’s top-producing egg state jeopardizes food safety for biosecurity and leaves the precautions up to corporate farm operators. And they point to the most recently available reports from federal or state inspections, done before the checks ended, to emphasize why such oversight is necessary.

Those records show:

STRAY ANIMALS: Multiple incidents of stray animals getting inside poultry houses, including one site where “approximately eight” frogs were found. Contact between poultry and other animals that can carry disease is forbidden in the facilities. That includes amphibians, which can carry salmonella and cause serious illness to humans.

REFRIGERATION: Not washing or storing eggs at appropriate temperatures at multiple facilities.

BOTCHED TESTS: Improper or no testing for salmonella as required by federal rules in at least 14 sites.

RODENTS: Evidence of rodent infestations, including

“This is jaw-dropping. I just don’t know what else to say,” said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University and an author of books on food safety. “The inspectors are turning up potential hazards. Why anybody would tell you with a straight face that suspending these inspections is no big deal is beyond my comprehension.”

cafe-free.eggOscar Garrison, a food safety executive for United Egg Producers, said stopping bird flu also impacts human health. The virus led to the destruction of more than 31 million chickens, turkeys and other birds in Iowa last year.

Garrison said he believes that suspending the inspections was an appropriate step, given the context of the bird flu catastrophe.

Other top-producing egg states have either continued to inspect egg producers during the outbreak or stopped temporarily and later resumed them, the Register found. Ohio, the second-largest egg-producing state, and Texas, the nation’s fifth-top egg producer, resumed their inspections late last year. Indiana, the third-largest, continued its inspection throughout, as did fourth-largest Pennsylvania, state officials said.

Pennsylvania officials changed their protocol after the outbreak, instructing inspectors to wait at least seven days between inspection visits to different farms. Such an alternative — or requiring inspectors to wear biosafety gear — is more sensible than suspending inspections entirely, said William Marler, a Seattle attorney whose firm represented more than 100 victims of the 2010 nationwide salmonella outbreak whose origins were traced to Iowa.

“Given the black eye Iowa’s egg production got in 2010, it just seems shortsighted to suspend the inspections,” Marler said. “It sends a completely wrong message to consumers.”

In 2010 eggs contaminated with salmonella from Wright County Egg showed up in 23 states and resulted in a recall of 550 million eggs.

salmonella.eggsThe government reported that at least 1,939 cases of illness were likely associated with the outbreak. But some believe the number to be more than 50,000 people, citing  Centers for Disease and Prevention reports that estimate that for every reported illness, more than 38 go unreported.

Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son, Peter, were sentenced in April to 90 days in jail and fined $100,000 each for their role in the outbreak.

Their trials brought to light what federal officials said was a deliberate and routine effort to avoid proper health regulations. That included falsifying paperwork to a firm that inspected the plant. On the eve of each audit, workers were given blank, signed audit forms and told to fabricate data for the report, prosecutors said.

After reports of human illness, regulators made findings that included rodent infestations and as much as 8 feet of manure beneath some of the facilities.

Guess he figured no one would notice in Burford: Meat business, owner fined

Burford is a wonderful little hamlet outside of my hometown of Brantford, Ontario. I’m sure it’s a lovely place now, but when I was a teenager it was a destination for and depravity and decadence.

burfordA lot of people had mullets.

 A Burford meat business and its owner have been fined $3,750 for violating provincial food safety law, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

On Jan. 27, 1107053 Ontario Inc., operating as Greenwood Meats, of 124 King St., and owner Thomas Greenwood pleaded guilty in provincial offences court in Brantford to one count each of processing meat products without a licence under the Food Safety and Quality Act, said a media release.

On June 18, 2015, a joint inspection was conducted at Greenwood Meats by regulatory compliance officers of the ministry and the Brant County Health Unit.

During the inspection, Greenwood admitted that about 330 pounds of ready-to-eat meat products were produced on site without a licence under the act, the ministry stated in a media release.

Greenwood had signed a document in 2008 stating that he would not produce this type of meat products at his premises, according to the ministry.

The meat products, valued at about $1,600, were voluntarily condemned so they would not be distributed or sold to the public.

Greenwood and his company were fined a total of $3,000 plus a $750 victim fine surcharge.

‘Treat chicken like hazardous waste’ Investigation about Salmonella outbreaks linked to Foster Farms earns national award

I treat all food like hazardous waste.

Editor Mark Katches writes that Lynne Terry of The Oregonian/OregonLive began writing about the federal government’s alarming handling of Salmonella outbreaks caused by store-bought chicken that began in the Pacific Northwest.

lynne.terryShe found that over the course of a decade, the U.S. Department of Agriculture had not one, not two, not three, but four opportunities to warn the public about salmonella outbreaks involving Foster Farms chicken. Each time, the agency hemmed and hawed.

Terry was the first journalist in America to identify and write about this trend. But it didn’t come easily. She learned that reporters from Frontline, The Center for Investigative Reporting and the New York Times were circling around the story as she entered the final stages.

“It was tough,” said Terry, about the competition. “I felt this story was mine from the beginning, and I didn’t want anyone else to break it. It’s in our backyard. I had inside sources. I knew this stuff. So I did what anyone would do: I worked long hours every day for months on end to bring it home.”

Terry indeed got the scoop. Her “A Game of Chicken” project turned out to be a stunning and illuminating examination of the way the USDA operates.

And this week, the American Health Care Journalists awarded her first place in the public health category, beating out stiff competition from the Chicago Tribune and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

In her investigation that spanned more than a year, Terry set out to determine if the USDA’s slow handling of a major salmonella outbreak in 2013-2014 was an isolated case.

It wasn’t.

She reviewed thousands of pages of previously undisclosed documents dating back to 2003. What she found was disturbing: More than 1,000 people had rushed to their doctors with bouts of food poisoning. Regulators had strong evidence pointing to the cause of the outbreaks but took virtually no steps to protect consumers from tainted chicken. Health officials in Oregon and Washington had pushed vigorously for federal action, having identified clear and convincing evidence of problems. But the USDA wouldn’t budge. Terry got a big assist from senior watchdog reporter Les Zaitz, who was serving as investigations editor at the time. And video producer Teresa Mahoney’s remarkable video helped break down complex issues in a compelling way while also warning consumers to thoroughly cook their chicken to 165 degrees.

Terry’s meticulous reporting showed that USDA officials were so fearful of being sued by the companies they regulate that the agency had set an almost impossible bar for evidence, even rejecting samples of tainted chicken that state health agencies believed would help clinch their case.

She also found out that government inspectors were under pressure to go easy on food processors. In one notable case, the USDA transferred an inspector after Foster Farms complained he wrote too many citations.

The agency rejected a wide-ranging Freedom of Information Act request. We appealed the denial and won. But months passed before the USDA finally released any records. Many of the documents were heavily redacted – often with entire pages blacked out.

“They refused records requests, and didn’t release anything for more than a year,” Terry said.

foster.farms.salmonellaShe filed more FOIA requests. And then more. The agency dribbled out partial releases, sending something every four or five months in response to our requests for updates. The federal agency’s attempts to stonewall Terry were even chronicled in a Columbia Journalism Review article lauding The Oregonian’s persistence.

Terry overcame other obstacles. Foster Farms sent two foreboding letters to The Oregonian/OregonLive before we published. After the stories appeared, the company didn’t question the accuracy of our reporting.

Despite these hurdles, Terry was able to piece together a story of bureaucratic failure that had devastating human consequences. She found victims of salmonella poisoning who were willing to share their stories. She translated complicated epidemiological information into language readers could understand. She tracked down key documents. And she built the trust of USDA inspectors, who feared losing their jobs if they spoke out.

Her work was cited by members of Congress. In Oregon, Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, D-Gresham, referred to the investigation while she was arguing for a Senate bill that would limit antibiotic use in farm animals. Terry’s reporting also emboldened other USDA inspectors to come forward and tell their stories.

We went to extraordinary lengths to ensure “A Game of Chicken” was fair and totally accurate. Our lawyers reviewed drafts at least four times at our request.

It would have been easy to have been pushed by the swirling competition to publish as fast as possible. But that can sometimes introduce errors if reporters and editors short-hand the bullet-proofing process. Our watchdog motto is to publish when we’re ready. Or in this case, fully cooked.

Here’s a transcript of the Q&A with Oregonian/OregonLive health reporter Lynne Terry.

How long did it take to tell this story?

Longer than it should have, thanks to foot-dragging by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I put in my first public records request in spring 2013 and filed several more through 2014. I worked on the story sporadically over a year or so but then dug into the trenches in autumn 2014 when they started responding to public records and I landed an inside contact. I worked nonstop for about eight months before we published.

What were the biggest complications?

Four initials: USDA. They refused records requests, and didn’t release anything for more than a year. They were wearing me down, frankly. Fortunately, Les Zaitz got involved. He was our investigations editor. He was a huge help in pushing the USDA. We never did get their enforcement data, however.

How did it affect you knowing that Foster Farms was sending seemingly threatening letters before we published?

At the time? It made me nervous. I don’t even like covering courts, let alone testifying. And the thought of The O being dragged into court because of my reporting was scary. But in retrospect, I think they helped us. We knew we had to have a rock solid package, and we did. We didn’t hear a peep from the USDA or Foster Farms after we published.

What impact did it have knowing that a number of other media were swirling around pieces of this story?

It was tough. I felt this story was mine from the beginning, and I didn’t want anyone else to break it. It’s in our backyard. I had inside sources. I knew this stuff. So I did what anyone would do: I worked long hours every day for months on end to bring it home.

Were you ever close to giving up on this story?

Several times. I was floundering when you came to The O. I was pretty much working on my own. I knew I had a good story but my editors were too busy with the daily churn. I was, too. Getting time to focus on it helped. Having Les to work with was crucial.

What has been the reaction?

I got quite a few emails from members of the public who said they’ve stopped eating chicken. Foster Farms has stepped up its internal controls and now says it has the safest chicken in the country. The USDA has tightened its regulations over salmonella but it has not banned the bacteria even though it sickens more than a million people a year.

Has this story changed the way you look at chicken?

Yes. I’ve not had chicken much since. There’s one quote that sticks with me. An Oregon epidemiologist said: “Treat it like hazardous waste.” That’s a bit of an appetite killer.