Everyone’s got a camera, consumers are asking more about food safety, so quit the bickering and get ahead of the curve.
A 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.
I’ve long been an advocate of electronics and digital monitoring for improving food safety outcomes.
But only with clear objectives and limits.
In Oman, cameras have been installed on a trial basis at different restaurants located at tourist spots, butcher shops and slaughterhouses in a bid to maintain hygiene standards.
“The aim is to keep an online tab on food processing,” the ministry said.
Ahmed bin Abdullah Al Shehhi, Minister of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources, said the project enjoys full confidentiality guaranteed by the laws to all of the information including visual and non-visual data of food establishments.
The video also appears to show pigs with puss-filled abscesses being sent down the line. Others are covered in feces.
“If the USDA is around, they could shut us down,” says a worker, wearing a bright yellow apron, standing over the production line.
The graphic video — available on YouTube in an edited form — was covertly filmed by a contracted employee of Compassion Over Killing, a nonprofit animal rights group that claims to have infiltrated an Austin, Minn., facility run by Quality Pork Processors (QPP), a supplier of Hormel Foods, the maker of Spam and other popular processed meats. The group has turned over the 97-minute unedited video to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which has raised serious concerns about the conditions at the QPP facility and pledged a thorough investigation. A reporter has also seen the full-length video provided by the group.
“The actions depicted in the video under review are appalling and completely unacceptable, and if we can verify the video’s authenticity, we will aggressively investigate the case and take appropriate action,” said USDA spokesman Adam Tarr, adding that the agency can’t comment definitively in the middle of the probe.
QPP, which has seen both the edited and unedited versions, says the edited film makes it look as though there were violations when, in fact, there were none.
“Early on, there may very well be contamination present in the process, but we have multiple interventions that ensure that it will not only be visually removed, but completely removed,” said Nate Jansen, who is the vice president of human resources and quality services at QPP. “Had it been allowed to show the entire sequence of these events, all of these hogs were all handled appropriately.”
To gain access to the QPP facility, the Compassion Over Killing contractor applied for five months for jobs at meat processing companies and was eventually hired at QPP. Compassion Over Killing requested the person’s name not be disclosed because he still works at QPP, but showed a pay stub indicating employment there. The person did not describe on his job applications his affiliation with the activist group.
“I don’t think you can look at the video along with the USDA guidelines and say that QPP is following the law,” said Ted Genoways, the author of “The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food,” and has seen the video but is not associated with the group. “This plant is the symbol of everything that is wrong with the meat industry.”
In particular, the video shines a light on a government-approved pilot program, known as the HACCP-Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP), which allows processors like QPP to assume more responsibility over the inspection process.
The company is one of five pork processors participating in the HIMP program, which the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) first launched in the late 1990s. As part of the initiative, the government substantially changed the way it oversees meat production, more than doubling the number of safety checks (from 11 to 24) within a facility and reallocating government inspectors to focus more closely on food safety. The goal, as stated on the agency’s Web site, was to “produce a flexible, more efficient, fully integrated” system.
In the HIMP inspection model, three government inspectors are stationed on the production line, compared to the usual seven who oversee the handling of carcasses in the traditional system. In both, an additional offline inspector is free to move around. The reduction in government inspectors dedicated to checking hogs on the line has allowed the government to save money by reducing its inspection force. It has also allowed plants to increase their line speed — on average, participants in the pilot program process roughly 120 extra hogs per hour, according to the USDA.
The USDA speaks highly of the program, which it has repeatedly defended. “Obviously, we believe that the model is an appropriate one,” said Phil Derfler, the deputy administrator at FSIS. “That’s why we went ahead with the rule-making in order to adopt it — it’s an improvement on the traditional system.”
But Lisa Winebarger, who serves as a legal counsel to Compassion Over Killing and helped bring the investigation to the USDA, said QPP is violating those directives.
“I understand that QPP is denying any wrongdoing, but we can assure you that much of what we have documented are serious problems labeled as ‘egregious inhumane treatment’ and ‘egregious noncompliances'” by the government’s directives, she said.
Passersby have clicked pictures of rats running on food containers and have posted them on the social media, enraging many and some vowing never to eat at the venue.
One resident took on the social media and complained that he got sick after eating at that particular place.
The restaurant did not respond to emails sent by this website. However, master developer Nakheel, the operator of Ibn Battuta Mall, was quick to confirm that it is aware of the issue and has already taken action.
“We are aware of this issue and have taken immediate action to rectify the situation, including alerting the appropriate authorities,” a Nakheel spokesperson told Emirates 24|7.
“This restaurant is a standalone establishment located outside the mall itself, and, under the terms and conditions of its contract, is responsible for its own health, safety and hygiene management. As mall operator, our role is to ensure that such obligations are met,” the Nakheel spokesperson added.
An interminable proverbial snag linked with our industry has been the unwillingness to be transparent. Keeping all communication channels wide-open is always the prudent passageway for companies to take.
Full and unabridged transparency, indelibly evinces a company’s veracity and intent to run ones business within defined demarcation lines of legality and integrity.
An adopted full transparency stance projects to the PETA’s of the world, including the susceptible public, that when egregious acts to livestock occur – and they do – that it’s going to be corrected in a timely manner with future preventive actions planned, documented and executed in order to preclude a similar occurrence in the future.
Cut! Case closed. That’s a take.
I like video cameras at meat and poultry plants.
That is, if a company makes it a policy to share video footage.
Video cameras are an exceptional all-around deterrent as well as a useful tool for plant security, occupational safety, human resources, quality assurance, production efficacy, HACCP and SSOP Systems, and the humane handling of livestock.
I’ve written in the past how the USDA can shut down slaughter plants entire operations in a nanosecond with leaving no recourse for the establishment to stay open.
If a slaughter company has video cameras in place, their recordings could help preclude a plant closure, truncate NR’s, while making the USDA inspector think 3 or 4 times on her/his sometimes subjective call involving egregious treatment of livestock.
If a slaughter company is equipped with video cameras and they really want to claim fame to having the USDA’s proclaimed robust humane handling program, then sharing video footage from the continuum of receiving livestock to the shackling and sticking stages of a slaughter HACCP flow chart is a must.
Like it or not, video cameras in one form, (smart phones) or another, (hidden fiber-optic cameras) are here to stay. They’re never going away.
Ask PETA or HSUS’ Oscar winning undercover cameramen, (and women) under the category of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir cinematography if they’d like your company having well-managed video cameras.
They don’t. It’s the last thing they want.
But if you do have video cameras, and you fail to share your video recordings, then you’re doing precisely what they’re hoping you’d do. You’re promulgating suspicion that you’re hiding something.
Today, many food folks are held hostage by their worst employees, agenda-oriented foodies, and their own stupidity.
Whether it’s a restaurant inspection, a farm, a slaughterhouse, provide that data to the public; I don’t care who does it, as long as it’s open to public scrutiny by mere mortals. Sorta what Jefferson was getting at when he said,
“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion by education.”
Activists of all types may suck at science but are successful when it comes to street theater, attracting attention, on-line or in the park.
The Los Angeles Times reports the folks at Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) found a way to get people to watch disturbing animal cruelty videos: pay them.
Operating on the premise that watching a four-minute video could persuade a viewer to drastically and permanently reduce the amount of animal products consumed in their diet, FARM launched a national tour in early May to show the public a graphic “Farm to Fridge” video, made with hidden-camera footage showing farm animals, including cows, chickens and pigs, living in factory farm conditions and being processed at slaughter. Participants are paid $1 to watch the video, displayed on a vehicle specially equipped to host up to 32 simultaneous viewers.
The 10-Billion Lives Tour (named after the estimated 10 billion land animals raised and killed every year for food in the United States) began in Portland, Ore., and has traveled south, stopping at colleges, universities and fairs along the way in Eugene, Sacramento, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara.
In conditions similar to the Iowa egg farms involved in the 2010 salmonella-in-eggs outbreak – without the salmonella outbreak – the Humane Society of the U.S. plans to release on Thursday the results of an undercover investigation into Kreider Farms, which produces 4.5 million eggs each day for supermarkets like ShopRite.
Nicholas Kristof writes in today’s N.Y. Times that he’s reviewed footage and photos taken by the investigator, who says he worked for Kreider between January and March of this year. In an interview, he portrayed an operation that has little concern for cleanliness or the welfare of hens.
“It’s physically hard to breathe because of the ammonia” rising from manure pits below older barns, said the investigator, who would not allow his name to be used because that would prevent him from taking another undercover job in agriculture. He said that when workers needed to enter an older barn, they would first open doors and rev up exhaust fans, and then rush in to do their chores before the fumes became overwhelming.
Mice sometimes ran down egg conveyer belts, barns were thick with flies and manure in three barns tested positive for salmonella, he said. (Actually, salmonella isn’t as rare as you might think, turning up in 3 percent of egg factory farms tested by the Food and Drug Administration last year.)
In some cases, 11 hens were jammed into a cage about 2 feet by 2 feet. The Humane Society says that that is even more cramped than the egg industry’s own voluntary standards — which have been widely criticized as inadequate.
“These allegations by the Humane Society are a gross distortion of Kreider Farms, our employees and the way we care for birds,” Ron Kreider, the president of Kreider Farms, told me in a statement. He acknowledged that three barns had tested positive for salmonella but said that consumers were never endangered.
“The reality of food processing can be off-putting to those not familiar with animal agriculture,” added Kreider, the third-generation family leader of the company. “When dealing with millions of birds, there is always a small percentage of dead birds. Older-style chicken houses will inherently contain a level of fly and rodent activity.” Kreider added that his company was leading the industry in replacing old barns with state-of-the-art.
The report by China Central Television offered no evidence of widespread problems with the China operations at either company. But their quick apologies highlight the pressures foreign companies can face in China, as well as rising food-safety worries there.
CCTV reported late Thursday that a Beijing branch of McDonald’s sold chicken wings an hour and 24 minutes after they had been left on a warming tray, compared with the 30-minute limit that the store sets. The report also said outlet personnel cooked and sold beef that had fallen on the outlet’s kitchen floor.
China’s Food and Drug Administration said late Friday that it sent health investigators to the McDonald’s outlet featured in CCTV’s report and ordered the company to act in accordance with food-safety laws and to boost employee food-safety awareness. The incident should be a warning to all McDonald’s outlets, it said.
The network also said a Carrefour outlet in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou, in central Henan province, sold expired chicken and labeled regular chicken as more the expensive free-range variety.
CCTV’s report came as part of an annual broadcast feature marking World Consumer-Rights Day on March 15, or what is known in China as "315." Analysts say that China has historically used the day as an educational tool to give Chinese consumers more information on the products they use and as an outlet for their complaints.
JBS SA, the world’s largest beef processor, saw a 60% drop in the level of E. coli found by company inspectors after it installed monitoring cameras, said John Ruby, head of technical services for the company’s beef division. The Brazilian meat processor started with a pilot program after it recalled 380,000 pounds of beef that sickened 23 people in nine states in 2009.
A trial run at its Souderton, Pa., plant showed an immediate improvement in results, so the company placed cameras in all eight of its U.S. plants.
"We are seeing increased interest among meat companies in remote video auditing as part of their food safety and animal welfare programs," said J. Patrick Boyle, president of the American Meat Institute, which represents most beef and pork packing companies. "Those who have implemented these programs have reported very good results."
Cargill Inc., another major U.S. beef producer, uses video cameras to make sure its cattle are treated humanely before they are slaughtered. The Minneapolis-based company is now considering an expansion to monitor for food safety in its pork and turkey operations, according to Mike Siemens, head of the company’s animal welfare division.
Aurora, Ill.-based OSI Group LLC., a meat processor, for several years has used video cameras to monitor employees in three of its five U.S. plants for general food-safety practices. The company, which supplies McDonald’s and other companies with bacon, sausage and chicken, decided in June to expand the monitoring to its other two plants.
After the JBS results, the Agriculture Department—the government agency responsible for overseeing the safety of the U.S. meat supply—in August released voluntary guidelines for video monitoring at meat companies.
In some cases, companies are watching to see if sloppy work is allowing meat contamination. They are also using the cameras to make sure employees aren’t mistakenly sending the expensive cuts into hamburger grinders.
Arrowsight has two facilities—one in Huntsville, Ala., and one in Visakhapatnam, India—employing 50 people to monitor meat-cutting operations. The company was wary about using workers in India, where parts of the country outlaw cattle slaughter, to monitor beef production.
But it hasn’t had problems with that, Mr. Aronson said. Arrowsight routes the most graphic slaughter video to its staff in Huntsville, he said.