Sneeze guard? I don’t need no stinkin sneeze guard. Obama lunches at Chipotle

I still don’t like Chipotle and their fatuous claims on food safety. There was a period during Amy’s pregnancy five years ago when I held my nose and went there because Amy was pregnant and had cravings.

obama.sneeze.guard.jun.14On Monday, U.S. President Obama swung by a D.C. Chipotle for lunch.

“It had been awhile since I had the burrito bowl,” Obama told attendees at the White House Summit on Working Families. “It was good.”

Except the Prez committed a severe breach in dining etiquette on Monday when he overeagerly pointed at the ingredients he wanted in his burrito bowl—extending his entire forearm into no-man’s land.

Backlash against Barack’s bad manners flooded Twitter almost instantaneously

Was it thermometer-verified 165? Were there sprouts on it? Obama gets a burger

President Obama escaped the White HouseCoupe with 5 young people and they hit up a very cool, neighborhood burger joint, according to TMZ, with almost no advanced notice. The 5 young people are all working on the Affordable Care Act.

At the time we posted this, they were all still at The Coupe in Columbia Heights.
We’re told Obama is enjoying a Coupe Burger — “Our classic with fried onion rings, sauteed mushrooms and sharp cheddar.  And get this … we were told fries, but turns out the side is spinach.

U.S. continues its embarrassing embrace of food fashion over fact

Someone from Australia asked me on the flight to the colonies what I though of President Obama. I said he was pretty good, being literate and all, but that he was disappointing.

She said he was great.

I don’t dabble in the genetically engineered food nonsense anymore because there are 48 million Americans sick from food poisoning every year, and the johnny-cash-fingerpublic discussion of GE hasn’t changed in 15 years.

But when a science-evidence-based President has a chef and chief gardener who proclaims, “there are no genetically modified crops in our garden,” then I am more than disappointed.

It’s embarrassing and goes to the root of all that is wrong about food porn, placing fashion above facts. Sorta like Obama.

All foods are genetically modified in one way or another; if Mr. Kass means genetically engineered, that’s something different, but why is it we want our medicine current, our technology current, but food we seem to want in the 19th century.

And somehow, that’s cool.

I garden, but I’m not good at it. My relatives are. Every time Michelle Obama and every other food fashionista says grow your own food, cook your own food, they say it’s easy and the solution to various societal woes.

I’ve worked with a lot of farmers over the years and have nothing but respect. It’s not easy.

I’ve cooked my family’s food for 30 years; that doesn’t make me cool; it’s practical.

Fashion doesn’t feed people; food does, especially when it’s produced safely.

So much for hope: best Obama food safety group can do is ‘we have safest food in world’

The last thing people need from any agency is another list of tips to protect consumers from foodborne illness.

Salmonella in jalapeno’s, E. coli in leafy greens and strawberries, listeria in cantaloupes. These are not consumer issues. The only thing consumers can do is to avoid such products. But with no marketing of food safety at retail, shoppers really can’t choose until long after defective foodstuffs are publicized and recalled.

Faith-based food safety.

So when U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius is reduced to reciting meaningless clichés to describe food safety achievements in the Obama administration — “We have the safest food supply in the world, but we can always do more to protect consumer” — they’ve thrown in the towel.

The feds are also going to refocus on consumer education, whatever that means.

As some smart policy wonk (not an oxymoron, in this specific case) told me 25 years ago, when politicians talk about educating people, things have really gone off the rails.

As part of clear consumer education and communication, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today issued a progress report highlighting the accomplishments and strategies of President Obama’s Food Safety Working Group (FSWG) combined with useful information for consumers on safe food handling.

Who said the information was useful? Was the information evaluated? Were consumers asked if they thought the information was useful? Did anyone test to see if this useful information translated into food safety behavioral change? Or is useful just some characterization thrown in by a PR flunky.

“As families across the country share in this holiday season, it is important to reiterate our commitment to protecting the food supply and our desire to remain vigilant to protect the American people,” said Secretary Vilsack. “We have taken a number of steps to improve the safety of America’s meat and poultry supply in recent years and the President’s Food Safety Working Group has proven to be a vital component to our work.”

Yes, the full report highlights a number of accomplishments. Most of these are good. But when the “FSWG also plans to continue its efforts to improve food safety by collaborating more with state and local health and agriculture agencies, and food producers, as well as providing education to consumers” in the absence of any science or data to support such information provision, they’ve thrown in the towel.

Will fewer people barf after Obama signs food safety bill? No

Maybe? Who knows? But with all the gushing —"The Food Safety Modernization Act is the most significant food safety law of the past 100 years" – Debora MacKenzie of New Scientist presents me as food safety grump.

It’s accurate.

Margaret Hamburg, head of the FDA, said at a press conference on 3 January that the law will shift the FDA’s approach to food safety "from a reactive to a preventive mode", regardless of funding.

Didn’t that happen years ago?

On 15 December the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its first estimate since 1999 of the toll of food-borne diseases in the US: 48 million people sick each year, 128,000 hospitalized and 3000 deaths.

This is down from 5,000 deaths in 1999, but it could be even lower if the FDA inspected food producers more often, says Michael Jacobson, head of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a food-safety pressure group in Washington DC. The FDA, which regulates all foods except meat and eggs in the US, normally inspects producers once every five or 10 years.

The new law gives the FDA more inspectors and mandates more inspections. It also requires producers to have written risk-management plans, requires importers to check the safety of imported products, and excludes foreign producers who refuse FDA inspections. In a food-poisoning emergency it gives the FDA power to inspect producers’ records and to order a recall if a producer refuses to do it voluntarily.

The last measure "is a red herring", says Powell: faced with a public relations disaster, no producer ever refuses to recall suspect food.

The bill gives the FDA the money to do its extra inspections by allowing it to charge for them. The expected bill, $1.4 billion over five years, is far less, the FDA argues, than the cost of poisoning incidents to the food industry.

The most effective way forward, Powell believes, is to make producers list safety procedures and track records on food packaging, and compete for buyers on the basis of safety.

Obama dines at critically filthy Miami restaurant

President Barack Obama got a sandwich at Jerry’s Famous Deli in Miami last week, which was slapped with 26 restaurant violations for all types of uncleanliness by a state inspector on Monday.

The restaurant inspection comes less than a week after Obama made his to-go order of two corned beef sandwiches on rye.

An inspector stopped the sale of cooked meatballs after he found raw meat sitting out in the open in unsafe temperatures. Employees were also seen handling meat and bread without gloves and without washing their hands properly.

What’s the worst thing to say to a farmer? Hi, I’m from the government, I’m here to help

We figured out about 15 years ago that the worst thing to say to a farmer was, Hi, I’m from the government, I’m here to help, cause we hung out with farmers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration apparently hasn’t figured this out, and went all gushy about how the two agencies are sharing people and resources to develop new produce regs.

Farmers across the nation were cleaning themselves after hearing the news from Washington.

USDA’s fresh produce chief will join FDA to develop new food safety rules, as part of a cooperative initiative between FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Today’s announcement comes amid beefed up outreach efforts with key agriculture and safe food stakeholders to better share and exchange produce safety ‘best practices’ and ideas.”

Will this result in fewer sick people? No . Is it complete bureau-speak that no one, especially those that grow fresh produce for a nation, will care about? Yes. Saturday Night Live captured the do-nothingness that has already cloaked the Obama change administration.

First lady dined at D.C. restaurant that got lousy inspection

With all the Obama food groupies, someone should have probably figured out before now that the first lady, first vice-lady and D.C.’s mayor and spouse ate at a Washington restaurant earlier this year that sucked at food safety.

But kudos to the Washington Post for highlighting the failures in basic sanitation at a local eatery – the same failures other mere mortals are subjected to on a daily basis.

Toronto, Los Angeles, Sydney, London, Copenhagen: World-class cities that have all come to embrace some form of restaurant inspection disclosure for the consuming public. Maybe Washington, D.C. will one day join the rank of truly world-class cities, and provide basic information to taxpaying citizens.

Obama wants White House farmers market: buy liability insurance, try not to make people barf

U.S. President Obama said on Thursday that he and the First Lady are looking into setting up a farmers market just outside the White House, which might sell food from the White House garden or from local farmers. 

The President said it could give the city of Washington, D.C., “more access to good, fresh food, but it also is this enormous potential revenue-maker for local farmers in the area.”

Obama mentioned the idea while answering a citizen question at a health-care forum.

I’d ask the same questions I’d ask any other purveyor of fresh produce: how often is your water tested and what are the results? What soil amendments are used? And what is the sanitation and handwashing  program for the employees and anyone else who may have handled the produce?

How many food poisoners can you spot on this list?

As Eddie Murphy said in the movie, 48 Hours, “A badge and a gun goes a long way. … There’s a new sheriff in town.”

That’s the impression the Obama Administration is trying to project with a spate of announcements to enhance food safety, which makes me feel it’s 1994 all over again … and look, there’s Michael Taylor back as a food safety advisor at the Food and Drug Administration (good choice, BTW).

For all the various announcements and endorsements today, the list of invitees to the White House is the most telling. How many food poisoners can you spot on this list, the ones who profit from selling food, have proven themselves incapable of providing safe food, and now have to ask for a babysitter?

Below is a list of expected attendees at today’s Food Safety Announcement, including representatives from consumer, industry, producer associations, public health, and academic organizations.
* Vice President Joe Biden
* Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius
* Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
* Dr. Peggy Hamburg, Commissioner, FDA
* Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Deputy Commissioner, FDA
* Melody Barnes, Director, Domestic Policy Council
* Dr. John Holdren, Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy
* Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)
* Representative John Dingell (D-MI)
* Representative Bart Stupak (D-MI)
(in alphabetical order by last name)
* Brent Baglien, ConAgra Foods
* Andrew Bailey, National Turkey Federation
* Scott Becker, Association of Public Health Laboratories
* Georges Benjamin, American Public Health Association
* Ellen Bloom, Consumers Union
* Abigail Blunt, Kraft Foods
* Melane Boyce, Confectioners Association
* Thomas Bradshaw, American Frozen Food Institute
* David Buck, Center for Foodborne Illness, Research & Prevention
* Christine Bushway, Organic Trade Association
* Jonathan Cantu, Government Accountability Project
* Barry Carpenter, National Meat Association
* Anthony Corbo, Food and Water Watch
* Jo Ellen Deutsch- United Food & Commercial Workers International Union
* Caroline DeWaal, Center for Science in the Public Interest
* Orlo Ehart, NASDA
* Cathleen Enright, Western Growers Association
* Sandra Eskin, Georgetown University, Health Policy Institute
* Scott Faber, Grocery Manufacturers of America
* Gregory Ferrara, National Grocers Association
* Anthony Flood, International Food Information Council
* Molly Fogarty, Nestle
* Randall Gordon, National Grain and Feed Association
* Robert Green, United Egg Producers
* Sally Greenberg, National Consumers League
* Lisa Griffith, National Family Farm Coalition
* Robert Guenther, United Fresh Produce Association
* Margaret Henderson, National Fisheries Institute
* James Hodges, American Meat Institute
* Katherine Houston, Cargill, Inc.
* Jonathan James, Allen Family Foods, Inc
* Alice Johnson, ButterBall
* G. Chandler Keys, JBS
* Lonnie King, CDC
* Barbara Masters, Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Bode Matz PC
* Margaret Mellon, Union of Concerned Scientists
* Joel Newman, American Feed Industry Association
* Donna Norton, Mom’s Rising
* Erik Olson, Mars
* H. R. Bert Pena, Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP
* Robert Pestronk, National Association of County and City Health Officials
* Adam Reichardt, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
* Tanya Roberts, Center for Foodborne Illness, Research & Prevention
* Welford Roberts, National Environmental Health Association
* Donna Rosenbaum, S.T.O.P. – Safe Tables Our Priority
* Marianne Rowden, American Association of Exporters and Importers
* Ruth Saunders, International Dairy Foods Association
* Bryan Silbermann, Produce Marketing Association
* Brian Snyder, Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
* Steven Steinhoff, Association of Food and Drug Officials
* Michael Taylor, George Washington University, School of Public Health and Health Services
* Mary Toker, General Mills, Inc.
* Omar Vargas, Pepsi-Cola North America
* Christopher Waldrop, Consumer Federation of America
* Deborah White, Food Marketing Institute
* Heather White, Environmental Working Group
* Andrea Yabulonsky, ConAgra Foods