US health groups want mechanically tenderized meat label rule finalized

Food safety types are pressuring the Obama administration to finalize a rule before the year ends that will require meat packers to label beef that is mechanically tenderized.

needle.tenderize.crThe Center for Foodborne Illness (CFI) Research & Prevention said if the U.S. Department of Agriculture labeling rule is not published by Dec. 31, it won’t be implemented until January 2018 due to Food Safety and Inspection Service uniform compliance date requirements for labeling meat and poultry products.

The nonprofit health organization said mechanically tenderizing meat creates a higher risk of bacteria contamination that causes food poisoning. 

Mechanically tenderized products like steaks and roasts are repeatedly pierced by small needles or blades, which the group says increases the risk of pathogens located on the surface of the product being transferred to the interior.

needle.tenderize.beef.HC.feb.14From 2003 to 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received reports of five foodborne illnesses attributable to needle- or blade-tenderized beef products prepared in restaurants and consumers’ homes. 

The rules would require the labels to display cooking instructions so consumers have the information they need to properly destroy pathogens.

Canada passed a labeling law in Aug. 2014.

Australian raw milk producer awaits impact

In the increasingly bizarre statements from raw milk producers in Australia, add Simon Schulz, of the Schulz Organic Dairy, who told Australian Dairy Farmer while their raw milk was clearly labeled as not for human consumption, he has no way of knowing if customers choose to drink it and that raw milk was subject to all the same hygiene standards as human consumption milk, with the exception of pasteurization.

colbert.raw.milkLabeling raw milk as not for human consumption and as “bath” or “cosmetic” milk has long provided a loophole for suppliers. 

Botulism-in-seal-oil outbreak under control, says Alaska

The outbreak of botulism across a few Southwest Alaska communities from a batch of seal oil appears to be contained, but not all of those who consumed some of the product are out of the woods just yet.

Ringed_seal_1_2000-08-13Dr. Michael Cooper is the Infections Disease Program Manager with the state’s Public Health Department. He says medical officials are still keeping an eye on just over a handful of the original 25 who were known to eaten some of the contaminated oil:

“We’re down to seven or eight people who are still being monitored, one until December 31, one until January 1, and five until January 2. They’re asymptomatic, and we’re just watching them, checking in daily, to see if they develop symptoms,” said Dr. Cooper.

Dr. Cooper said the batch of contaminated seal oil has been accounted for and destroyed.

You owe me an apology, says prez: Taiwan indicts two businessmen in latest food scandal

Two Taiwanese businessmen have been charged with using banned industrial dyes to adulterate food products, a case which prompted mass recalls in the island’s latest food safety scandal, prosecutors said Tuesday.

apologyThey sought a 20-year jail term for Lu Tien-jung on charges of food safety violations and fraud. His son and business partner Lu Chia-chien may face an 18-year jail term on the same charges, in addition to a fine of Tw$20 million (S$882,600) for each man.

The pair, who run the Chien Hsin company at the centre of the scandal, were charged with manufacturing and selling soybean emulsifiers tainted with dimethyl yellow and diethyl yellow dyes which have been banned from food products since late 2008, said the Changhua district prosecutor’s office.

Meanwhile, the President of Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou, on Tuesday filed defamation lawsuits against a radio host for alleging that he accepted illicit political donations from a company implicated in food safety scandals.

Ma is seeking compensation of NT$10 million (HK$2.4 million) and printed apologies in four major newspapers from Clara Chou in a civil defamation suit, his lawyer Hung Wen-jun told reporters outside Taipei district court.

He also filed a criminal aggravated defamation suit against Chou since she “continues to make the same remarks concerning the case even though relevant persons have made many clarifications or even filed lawsuits against her”, Hung said.

Chou accused Ma of accepting under-the-table funds totalling NT$200 million to act as the “guardian” of food giant Ting Hsin, which has faced widespread public outrage and an island-wide boycott of its products following several food safety scandals.

Australia looks at whole chain approach to Salmonella risk management

Australia still has an egg problem. So Dr Kylie Hewson is, according to The Poultry Site, developing through-chain Salmonella risk management strategies for eggs.

raw.eggsDr Hewson explained: “If I’m talking to producers, it is about understanding the basis for their current salmonella risk management strategies, and how they go about improving or reviewing these. If I’m talking to retailers or regulatory authorities, it is about the basis for their standards on-farm in terms of food safety and what information their decisions are based on.”

“The first step is to develop scientifically-grounded standards and get them in place,” said Dr Hewson. This involves a lot of research, talk and groundwork. She has been spending quite a bit of time with Health Departments and food regulatory authorities to understand their processes for investigating foodborne illness outbreaks.

“I’ve been asking why they do the things they do, and why they look at what they look at,” she said. Similarly for retailers, questions about what their standards are based on have been asked. …

“A major issue for the industry is that if there is a foodborne illness outbreak, it does not matter where the eggs have come from, the industry as a whole is tarred with the same brush, so it becomes reputational.”

One strategy being investigated is the option of creating a market for eggs produced to the highest standards of Salmonella risk management. This idea mirrors the British Lion scheme in the United Kingdom, and is especially applicable to high-risk food producers, e.g. those producing raw-egg products.

New Listeria discovery in Danish supermarkets

As a year that has been plagued by food scandals comes to an end, a new batch of listeria-infected deli meat has been detected and recalled from supermarkets.

As was the case with a listeria outbreak that has thus far killed 17 people, a new outbreak of the bacteria has been found in the popular spiced deli meat rullepølse.

Nearly 60 kilos of the infected meat was produced by the Aarhus-based company Defco and delivered to Bilka and Føtex supermarkets nationwide. The contaminated batch of meat has an expiration date between December 24-29 and has been recalled by the company.rullepølse

Defco CEO Knud E. Czaja said he was surprised by the Listeria discovery.

“We send between 100 and 200 tests into the lab every month to be checked and in one of the tests here at Christmas time, there was a Listeria suspicion. Therefore, we are recalling the product,” Czaja told Ritzau.

“I have no idea how it happened. It could have come through the air or through a person. It is after all found everywhere and this isn’t something we have experienced before,” he added.

Czaja said that the outbreak that began in August at the food company Jørn A. Rullepølser has caused Defco’s sales of rullepølseto drop by 30 percent. Jørn A. Rullepølser has since been shut down by the food authorities.

2 sickened: Fancy food ain’t safe food, Listeria in Wash. ice creamery edition

A Snohomish gourmet ice-cream producer linked to two cases of Listeria poisoning failed a health inspection in October, but state officials didn’t shut it down until the infections came to light. Aleccia of the Seattle Times reports the problems detected during the Oct. 15 inspection weren’t deemed “critical,” so the firm continued operations, said Kirk Robinson, assistant director for food safety and consumer services with the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA).

“When we do an inspection, 90 or above would be a passing inspection,” Robinson said, noting that Snoqualmie scored 87 in October.

Among the problems noted in October: deteriorating floors; excessive dust and “dried, flaking residue” on parts of the pasteurizer vat; “black residue” on metal carts; mold on a bucket used to collect water; standing water in a walk-in cooler; flies; and male workers without facial-hair protection.

The plant, which typically sends 1,000 gallons a day of ice cream, sorbet and gelato to Whole Foods, Fred Meyer, Molly Moon, Seattle’s Space Needle and others, was shut down last week, after the Listeria illnesses were confirmed in two King County men.

Second worst year for food closure orders in Ireland

Dead rats, bags of cows’ skins and mold-covered mayonnaise were just some of the reasons for the temporary closure of restaurants and other food outlets this year, according to records released by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

checking-meat-630x343Alison Healy of The Irish Times, writes the records, released under the Freedom of Information Act, also show environmental health officers ordered the temporary closure of premises because of filthy kitchens, rat and mouse droppings, and bizarrely, a wellington filled with cigarette ash.

The wellington was found on the premises of Giles Brothers Fish Shop in Phibsborough, Dublin, where an environmental health officer also found a radiator “covered in filthy cigarette ash”. He said the premises had a “history of non-compliance with food legislation”.

The order was lifted a few days later when the problems were remedied.

While final figures are not yet available for this year, it will be the second worst year on record for the number of closure and other enforcement orders issued.

Some 113 orders were served up until December 23rd, compared with 143 enforcement orders in 2013, which was the highest number to date. In 2012, 109 orders were issued.

Dr Bernard Hegarty, the authority’s director of service contracts, said environmental health officers were still finding “shocking conditions” in some premises.

“We’re seeing places where inspectors are finding evidence of pest infestations, of cockroaches, rodents and so on. Really there’s no excuse for that,” he said. “And that’s really not where a business should be if it wants to protect the safety and health of its customers.”

He said there were about 48,000 food businesses in the State “so we are still looking at quite small numbers of breaches” but there was no excuse for these breaches.

Ethnic food businesses accounted for more than half of the orders issued this year. Dr Hegarty said the FSAI was providing training initiatives focusing on sectors such as ethnic restaurants.

More needles found in potatoes at Canada’s Cavendish Farms

Cavendish Farms has confirmed that more potatoes with needles in them have been found at their New Annan, P.E.I. production facility.

potato-needles-720The discovery was made between Dec. 27 and 28.

A representative for Cavendish Farms said Monday that the affected potatoes were harvested in 2014 and that an investigation has narrowed down their farm of origin. These needles (they did not say how many) did not come from Linkletter Farms Ltd. like those found previously.  

They did not, however, say where these new potatoes were from or what led them to believe they are not from Linkletter Farms Ltd.

This would mark the first time tampered potatoes have been traced back to a second farm.

Since October there have been 10 potatoes with needles shoved in them reported to P.E.I. RCMP, though the original discoveries were made in several provinces. All the needles, until now, came from bags of table potatoes from Linkletter Farms Ltd.

“Our established food safety processes and technology worked as they were designed. Food safety is the number one priority for Cavendish Farms,” said Bill Meisner, vice-president of operations.

“The needles were detected through our hazard analysis critical control point processes and technology. Our employees responded as trained. We have full confidence in our safety processes and the safety of our product.”

Merb’s Candies announces voluntary recall of caramel apples due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes

Merb’s Candies, is issuing a voluntary recall of the Merb’s Candies brand Bionic Apples and Double Dipped Apples because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

merbs.candy.apples.dec.14Bionic Apples and Double Dipped Apples were available for retail sales at St. Louis area locations, through local supermarkets (located in the produce section) and through mail orders nationwide. The product is individually packaged in a clear, burgundy and gold cellophane bag and would have been available from September 8th through November 25th 2014 – no identifying lot codes were used.

Merb’s Candies has been working with the Food and Drug Administration in their investigation of the current outbreak of Listeriosis, which has been associated with caramel apples. Bidart Brothers, who is one of Merb’s Candies apple suppliers, has initiated a recall as there may be a connection between this outbreak of Listeria Monocytogenes and apples they supplied Merb’s Candies.

As has been reported in the news, the Center for Disease Control has noted 30 illnesses in 10 states linked to the outbreak and they have advised consumers not to eat commercially produced, pre-packaged caramel apples until more is known.

Production of Merb’s Candies caramel apples has ceased- as of November 23rd 2014 – and the caramel apples produced are no longer available for purchase. However, out of an abundance of caution and consumer safety concerns, we recommend that any consumers that are still in possession of caramel apples follow the advice of the CDC and dispose of the product in a secure container to avoid potential contamination to animals.