Emergency food needs to be safe food, and often is; but formality of systems is lacking

A few years ago an outbreak linked to a Denver homeless shelter made it into the barfblog new and notable category. Forty folks who depended on the emergency food were affected by violent foodborne illness symptoms after eating donated turkey. Fourteen ambulances showed up and took those most affected to area hospitals.

Volunteering as a food handler at a mission, shelter or soup kitchen and having a good heart and intentions doesn’t automatically lead to safe meals. An understanding of risks and having systems how to reduce them may.33364_oh_45701_athens-county-food-pantry_acv

Around the same time as the Denver outbreak, colleague, friend and STEC CAP collaborator Christine Bruhn created a set of food safety materials for folks volunteering with food in their communities. Ashley Chaifetz, a former graduate student in the department of public policy at UNC-Chapel Hill took Christine’s content foundation and went out to the food pantry community to assess infrastructure and current food safety practices to tailor materials to the audience.

Martha Waggoner of the Associated Press wrote about Ashley’s work this week,

[A] study by researchers at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill finds that pantry procedures are often informal, although they do a good job in many areas, including provided hand-washing facilities.

“Generally, we found they were doing things pretty well,” said Ben Chapman, senior author of a paper about pantries and food handling published in the Journal of Food Protection. “They were in line with what you see in at commercial entities.”

Safety was likely to be more formal at pantries were associated with a food bank, said Chapman, associate professor of youth, family and consumer sciences at N.C. State.

Chapman and a researcher from UNC-Chapel Hill (Ashley Chaifetz -ben) visited 105 pantries in 12 counties. They then developed protocols for food pantry volunteers, such as a flow chart for when canned food should be tossed.

The researchers learned that some pantries get large cuts of fresh meat that their volunteers must cut, while almost 10 percent were accepting and distributing home-canned items, which can be risky because of the chance of botulism.

“From a hunger standpoint, that’s fantastic,” he said. “Just relying on canned foods and dried foods doesn’t give you a lot of choices … It’s really good for the hunger world, but there’s an increase in safety risks.”

The paper, Evaluating North Carolina Food Pantry Food Safety–Related Operating Procedures, was published online Nov. 1 in the Journal of Food Protection. The work was supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative grant 2012-68003-30155 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Scientists Evaluate Food Safety Practices to Help Support Nonprofit Food Pantries

From an NC State press release,

Researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have done an in-depth analysis of food safety at nonprofit food pantries that distribute food directly to people in need. While the work has identified shortcomings at many such pantries, the goal was to identify how food safety experts can help these pantries best meet the needs of their clients.Food-Pantry-HEADER-848x477

“We knew that food pantries, in North Carolina and many other states, aren’t regulated the same way that restaurants are, and that pantries are crucial distributors of food to those in need, but we did not have a good understanding of how food safety is practiced at food pantries,” says Ben Chapman, an associate professor of youth, family, and consumer sciences at NC State and senior author of a new paper on the work.

“This is a particularly important issue because research tells us that the people most likely to rely on help from food pantries are also those who have less access to health care to address foodborne illness in the event that they do get sick,” says Ashley Chaifetz, lead author of the paper. Chaifetz completed the research while a doctoral student at UNC-Chapel Hill.

For this study, the researchers examined operating procedures and interviewed managers at 105 food pantries in 12 counties across North Carolina. The researchers found that pantry food safety procedures were often informal.

In many ways, the results were promising.

For example, researchers found that virtually all pantries did a good job of limiting opportunities for cross-contamination and providing adequate handwashing facilities – both of which are incredibly important in reducing food safety risk.

However, the pantry managers lacked full information on storage and handling or did not have available resources to properly store all perishable items. Given the focus on health and poverty, many pantries have increased the amount of fresh produce and perishables they distribute, which require proper handling and refrigeration. But more than 75 percent of pantries didn’t provide volunteers with formal training on how to handle that food safely. Thirty-six percent of pantry managers didn’t have a system in place to obtain information on food safety recalls. Additionally, only 32 of the 105 pantries had a protocol in place on how to determine whether sick volunteers should be allowed to handle food.

“This is not about bashing food pantries, which provide an essential service to their communities on a shoestring budget,” Chapman says. “But we needed to identify areas of concern so that we could find ways to help them protect the communities they serve.

“Pantries are doing a lot of things right. Our goal was to develop tools to help them do even better, and to help protect underserved groups. We need to know where the gaps are to better support this incredibly important and passionate nonprofit sector.”

The research has already been used to develop a suite of free, online resources for food pantries, which has been used by nonprofits across North Carolina – both those that participated in the research and those that did not.

The paper, “Evaluating North Carolina Food Pantry Food Safety–Related Operating Procedures,” was published online Nov. 1 in the Journal of Food Protection. The work was supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative grant 2012-68003-30155 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

For more information contact Ben Chapman (919 515 8099/benjamin_chapman@ncsu.edu).

Emergency food should be safe food

A few years ago an outbreak linked to a Denver homeless shelter made it into the barfblog new and notable category. Forty folks who depended on the emergency food were affected by violent foodborne illness symptoms after eating donated turkey. Fourteen ambulances showed up and took those most affected to area hospitals.

Volunteering as a food handler at a mission, shelter or soup kitchen and having a good heart and intentions doesn’t automatically lead to safe meals. An understanding of risks and having systems how to reduce them may.

Exposing individuals coping with food security and hunger to risky practices isn’t a good humanitarian approach. Last week KOMO News (Seattle) covered the possible closure of a free meal program for food safety reasons:HPIM3829

Every Thursday, Celeste Wilson whips up some of her best recipes. “They say it tastes very good because it’s Chinese food,” she said with a laugh. “It’s not just soup or salad or sandwich. Something different.”

Wilson is one of dozens of volunteers who makes food at home and then serves it at the Issaquah Community Hall.

As many as 80 people attend the free Thursday lunch as well as volunteer provided dinners, which are served seven days a week to countless people.

The diners come for something they wouldn’t have otherwise – a healthy, home cooked meal. But “home cooked” just got the attention of the Public Health of Seattle-King County, which says meals like these must be prepared in a commercial kitchen by someone with food safety certification.

“We don’t like to think of food in that way of having that potential of being the source that could make us sick. But just because we don’t know that someone has gotten sick, doesn’t mean that someone hasn’t. With food it’s very possible,” said Becky Elias, Manager of Food Protection and Water Recreation Programs at Public Health.

Around the same time as the Denver outbreak, colleague, friend and STEC CAP collaborator Christine Bruhn created a set of food safety materials for folks volunteering with food in their communities. Ashley Chaifetz, a former graduate student in the department of public policy at UNC-Chapel Hill took Christine’s content foundation and went out to the food pantry community to assess infrastructure and current food safety practices to tailor materials to the audience.

The assessment work was published in the November issue of the Journal of Food Protection:

Evaluating North Carolina Food Pantry Food Safety–Related Operating Procedures

Ashley Chaifetz, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Benjamin Chapman, North Carolina State University

Journal of Food Protection

Vol. 78, No. 11, 2015, Pages 2033–2042

DOI: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-15-084

Abstract: Almost one in seven American households were food insecure in 2012, experiencing difficulty in providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources. Food pantries assist a food-insecure population through emergency food provision, but there is a paucity of information on the food safety–related operating procedures that pantries use. Food pantries operate in a variable regulatory landscape; in some jurisdictions, they are treated equivalent to restaurants, while in others, they operate outside of inspection regimes. By using a mixed methods approach to catalog the standard operating procedures related to food in 105 food pantries from 12 North Carolina counties, we evaluated their potential impact on food safety. Data collected through interviews with pantry managers were supplemented with observed food safety practices scored against a modified version of the North Carolina Food Establishment Inspection Report. Pantries partnered with organized food bank networks were compared with those that operated independently. In this exploratory research, additional comparisons were examined for pantries in metropolitan areas versus nonmetropolitan areas and pantries with managers who had received food safety training versus managers who had not. The results provide a snapshot of how North Carolina food pantries operate and document risk mitigation strategies for foodborne illness for the vulnerable populations they serve. Data analysis reveals gaps in food safety knowledge and practice, indicating that pantries would benefit from more effective food safety training, especially focusing on formalizing risk management strategies. In addition, new tools, procedures, or policy interventions might improve information actualization by food pantry personnel.

Food pantry policy and food safety

Dr. Ashley Chaifetz. a research assistant at N.C. State University writes via UVM’s Food Feed,

Every year, an estimated 48 million Americans contract a foodborne illness. Those illnesses have come from pretty much every place where there’s food: grocery stores, hospitals, church dinners, county fairs, schools, restaurants, prisons, private homes, and even emergency food providers. I wish I could say that foodborne illness prevention was simple, that everyone knew how to reduce risk, that access to institution-specific food safety materials is readily-available, or that our food is always safe and we didn’t need to worry. Unfortunately, that’s not the case; although some food distributors are more closely regulated than others, it’s incredibly difficult to trace an illness to its source.Food Pantry 1

Foods distributed through shelters, food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens, backpack programs, and other institution-specific programs are referred to as emergency food. In North Carolina, there are seven food banks and at least 2,500 emergency food providers associated with Feeding America (the country’s largest hunger-relief charity), plus hundreds more independent organizations.

To examine and analyze the standard operating procedures and supply chain of the food pantry system, I conducted interviews at 105 food pantries in 12 counties across North Carolina. While committed to social welfare, the food pantries are self-governed, and the issues of hunger and nutrition can supersede other concerns for the vulnerable populations served. Increasingly, food pantries create rules and regulations in the absence of those created by any level of government. Each food pantry operates with its own set of rules, some of which are formalized and some that are informal.

While their mission is similar, food pantries are diverse. More than 80% of the pantries distribute fruits and vegetables, as well as frozen meat (pork, beef, and chicken), in addition to canned and packaged items. On average, the managers get food from 3.73 sources, including food banks, grocery stores, food distributors, school gardens, farms, hunting trips, federal commodity programs (TEFAP and SNAP), restaurants, individuals, and food drives. Some pantries distribute the same amount of food to each person, while other managers base the number of bags individuals receive on family size. Many food pantries now use a client-choice model, which means the food pantry is set up like a grocery store, allowing the clients to “shop.” Some pantries are open six days per week, while others are open only once per month. Their capacity and ability to store items varies, and few pantry managers receive food safety training of any kind.

As a result of this data analysis, I identified the gaps in their food safety prevention measures and, with Dr. Ben Chapman at NC State University and North Carolina Cooperative Extension, put together a series of online videos to better inform pantry mangers and volunteers of the best food handling and storage practices at food pantries. At that time, best practices for food pantries were nowhere to be found; these are publicly available to all, without a password or special program.

  • Given the importance of the topic, the first video is centered on general food safety information, details on foodborne illnesses, riskier foods, wild game, and past-date foods (which also encompass the entire fourth video).
  • Risk prevention is key, and there are low-cost ways to prevent contamination when storing and handling food. Based on the 2009 Food Code (as used in North Carolina), the second video concentrates on three focus areas: time-temperature abuse, cross-contamination, and hand-washing.
  • So that new and veteran volunteers have the same information on how the pantry is designed to operate (and be kept safe), the third video provides detail on writing standard operating procedures and how to get information on recalled foods (including links from the FDA). Though less related to food safety, there’s a fourth video on how long items can be consumed past the date on the package.
  • Six additional documents have been provided to assist in implementing new protocols, from checklists and templates for writing the standard operating procedures, to signage, including a flowchart on how to tell if canned foods are ok to eat.

Food pantry managers and volunteers might be confused about food handling—and what we do at home is not always the best practice. Regardless of income level, consumers should have access to food that is safe, requiring all supply chain actors to do their respective parts. Unlike other food systems institutions, food pantries are private (predominately faith-based) organizations that provide a public good; that designation does not mean they should be treated as outliers in terms of food safety and handling information.

Ashley Chaifetz will be a speaker at the UVM Food Systems Summit on June 16-17 at the UVM Davis Center.  For more information or to register, visit uvm.edu/foodsystemssummit.

Walking the walk

Ashley Chaifetz, a PhD student studying public policy at UNC-Chapel Hill writes:

A company should be able to survive and improve in the wake of a major food recall; it’s an opportunity to reevaluate and strengthen what’s great about an operation and fix what has gone impossibly wrong.2014-03-10 17.23.50

In 2013, my dog Chloe’s (right, exactly as shown) food was recalled due to Salmonella contamination. After some struggles with refunds, we haven’t returned to feeding her any of the Natura brands foods. After trying multiple brands, we landed on the Diamond Naturals Grain Free Chicken kibble and she’s been consuming it for more than a year already. I am a fan of its ingredient list (lots of fats and proteins) and nutritional content (probiotics, omega-6 and 3, complex carbs, antioxidants), as well as its price point; Chloe seems to find it delicious.

Diamond Pet Foods had a 2012 recall due to Salmonella that resulted in 49 cases of foodborne illness in humans in 20 states due to contamination at a single production facility, discovered via a routine check. Two years later, Costco (a distributor of the Kirkland product, also recalled) settled claims for over $2M initiated by the death of Barbara Marciano’s dog, which ate the contaminated food purchased from Costco. The contaminated food had not yet been recalled. Part of the settlement included “new and improved quality control procedures and therapeutic reforms that had not been implemented prior to the recalls.”

During the investigation, the FDA observed the following: 1) All reasonable precautions are not taken to ensure that production procedures do not contribute contamination from any source. 2) Failure to provide handwashing and hand sanitizing facilities at each location in the plant where needed. 3) Failure to maintain equipment, containers and utensils used to convey, hold, and store food in a manner that protects against contamination. 4) Failure to maintain equipment so as to facilitate cleaning of the equipment.

Now, the Diamond website depicts its commitment to food safety and mentions: on-site product testing, mycotoxin control, microbial testing, water quality, air quality, and its test-and-hold program. To the average consumer (including myself), its difficult to decipher what this means and how it is different from the pre-recall era.

I called Diamond for an explanation.

The customer service person answered all my food safety questions without stumbling. She explained since the 2012 recall, they’ve made a lot of changes. Some of her descriptions remained a bit vague; others came with more detail. She said all ingredients are tested (a series of tests, she explained) and then multiple times as they are manufactured. There are on-site labs at each facility—one of the biggest changes since the recall. For each batch of food, they retain samples to test for Salmonella. Each batch must be tested and held before it is released; if it comes up as Salmonella-positive, they will not distribute it. She explained that they used to send samples out for testing, but not hold the product – so the dog food could be consumed by the time Salmonella was detected.

Additionally, there are new safety protocols in each of the plants; incoming products are segregated from final product, not just within a space, but also by room through the use of walls and dividers. The result, she told me, is less cross-contamination. I also asked about how manufacturing might have changed, if there were any major changes in how the food was processed and she said no.

It’s hard to know what any manufacturer is doing to reduce risk of contamination, it’s all about trust; I appreciate that Diamond answered the call and my questions. It’s important to me to believe that a company can learn from bad experiences and improve its operations in the face of a recall, rather than attempt to cheat the system or disagree with the recommendations. But I also pay close attention to pet product recalls (there are so many!); if there’s another recall like the one in 2012, there’s a good chance Chloe will get to try another brand.

Fine dive

Ashley Chaifetz, a PhD student studying public policy at UNC-Chapel Hill writes:

As a food policy doctoral student, I pay special attention to articles on food waste and its prevention—which includes dumpster diving. This activity is at the intersection of policies on food insecurity, waste, safety, and liability—and comes with a lot of uncertainties.   This week, Tove Danovich wrote about dumpster diving for Civil Eats:

Dumpster divers of the world, unite. Last week, food waste activist Rob Greenfield offered to pay the fines and bring some media attention to anyone who gets arrested or ticketed for taking and eating tossed food.Image 2

Greenfield has been drawing attention to food waste by traveling the country, engaging local communities, and photographing the enormous quantities of wasted food he finds. Now he hopes more Americans will begin looking at the problem directly by trying it themselves by taking people’s fear of arrest and fines out of the equation.

“From what I can tell the main reason that people don’t dumpster dive is the fear of getting arrested or ticketed,” wrote Greenfield recently on his website.

Rob Greenfield makes an effort to remind people about the problem of food waste. At a loss rate of approximately 40%, Americans are tossing almost as much food as they consume. But, Greenfield’s suggestion that people do not dumpster dive due to fines seems ludicrous; it is probably due to the products.

The issue with dumpster diving that is often forgotten is food safety. Neither Greenfield nor any other dumpster diver can tell via taste or smell if the food was tossed due to pathogen contamination. Even when if food is thrown away due to cosmetic reasons, the dumpsters themselves are not clean and sanitized like a food contact surface. If a product contaminated with a pathogen was discarded into the dumpster, the products pulled by the dumpster divers may be contaminated as well.

Individuals concerned with food safety can take other actions to lessen food waste: consuming all of the food purchased, choosing the “reduced for quick sale” items, shopping in salvage grocery stores, or even encouraging large grocery chains to donate those items to food pantries and food banks (many which already do).

Salvage Grocery Stores: The Next Big Thing In Food Isn’t Even New

The below is a reprint of an article by Ashley Chaifetz, a PhD student studying public policy at UNC-Chapel Hill, that appeared at Modern Farmer.

At this point, you’ve probably heard: the ex-president of Trader Joe’s, Doug Rauch, intends to open a grocery store, Daily Table, in Massachusetts that will sell past-date packaged foods and misshapen fruits and vegetables. The store will target low-income customers in Roxbury (a suburb of Boston) and will recover foods currently headed towards the dumpsters — as well as create and sell value-added goods from those products.salvage2

The store is Rauch’s reaction to the insane amounts of available food that Americans fail to consume each year: 133 billion pounds. Here’s the thing: This isn’t a radical new idea.Stores that sell past-date items are not a new phenomenon. It is thought these salvage groceries, as they are known, began in the ever-thrifty Amish community — or at least, that’s who popularized them. To that end, southern Pennsylvania and Ohio have multiple Amish-run stores and even some chains. In fact, there are at least 500 salvage groceries nationwide, likely many more. Conventional grocery stores have strict rules as to what they will accept — and a single damaged good on the pallet can mean rejection. Next step? Salvage grocery.

The stores exist in every state (at last count) and many have been around for decades — this is not a post-2008 recession invention. United Grocery Outlet, which has 36 stores in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina, opened as the Bargain Barn in 1974 and has been growing ever since. Amelia’s Grocery Outlet has 16 locations and a warehouse in southeastern Pennsylvania alone.

Fresh to Frozen in Richmond, Virginia, which has been around for 30 years, posts low price updates on its Facebook page: 5 pounds of tomatoes for $1, 2 pints of strawberries for $1, Pillsbury Grands biscuits for 58 cents, 10 pounds of potatoes for $2.99, and Earthbound Organic spring lettuce mix boxes for $1.68. Hopey and Company in Black Mountain, North Carolina sell bananas at 49-cents per pound, grass-fed ground ribeye at $4.99 per pound, and Simply Orange juices for $1.99 each.

A sale at a conventional grocery store can sometimes generate lower prices than a salvage grocery. But that price is likely short-lived, while the prices at a salvage grocery store are consistently reduced.Salvage groceries buy directly from manufacturers and are less concerned with perfection than their conventional counterparts. A salvage grocery store sells a combination of the following, at a below-market price: past-date or nearly-past-date foods, commercial-sized items, holiday and seasonal foods, failed products (sometimes merely character-themed), items that never made it to market, less-than-perfect fruits and vegetables (that supermarkets no longer want to display), items that did not sell well in a particular city or region, items with misspelled or misshapen labels, overrun products, and products in dented boxes. The stores often have contracts with the manufacturers regarding certain brands and will provide services like distributing damaged products, repacking bulk products, and in-house labeling and relabeling of items.

Broadly, if an item is sold in a conventional grocery store, it can also be found in a salvage grocery. In fact, many of the stores sell a combination of salvage and traditional grocery items. Overall, it depends on the store, but the options can include specialty foods: rice milk, organic potato chips, small-batch chocolate bars, frozen fruit, craft beer, grass-fed steak, gluten-free cereal, locally-grown vegetables, and even bulk items. There are even aisles full of of cosmetics, pet foods, household cleaners, and other random items.

So, if salvage grocery stores sell the same items as major chains, what makes them different? Mainly, that they eschew strict adherence to the “sell by” date on foods. And, no, that doesn’t mean the food is less safe. Except for infant formula (which cannot be sold after the date on the package), the dates on food are unregulated. Any date (best-by, use-by, sell-by) is put on the package by the producer or distributor and it is arbitrary, meaning that two cracker companies might have different ideas as to how long their crackers are at their best. The quality decreases with each passing day, but it’s not a question of safety. Salvage grocery store owners are required to take the same precautions regarding storage, refrigeration and food handling as any conventional grocery store.

While many salvage grocery stores accept them, the bulk of the revenue is not necessarily from food stamps (SNAP). Many are not allowed to accept coupons, as per the manufacturers.

Jessica Cason, Store Manager at Fresh to Frozen, said there are a lot of lower-income customers, but also the “people who want the organic and Whole Foods type of stuff.” She continued to explain, “we get people from all over — all different spectrums.”Jamie Eastridge, manager of the Banana Box in Newton, North Carolina says their customers are “everyone from homeless to doctors and lawyers. It seems like we get a lot folks in the medical field — they don’t even look at the dates.” So why aren’t we shopping at these stores en masse and wasting less than we do now? To begin, they are seemingly unknown to most people. There’s a single list of salvage groceries floating around the Internet and it is not entirely accurate. They don’t have nationwide advertising campaigns like for the larger chain grocery stores. While media outlets like The Today Show have done short segments on salvage groceries, it’s atypical for national news. Combine that with a cultural aversion to eating food past its sell-by date and it’s easy to see why salvage stores are an open secret.And, Eastridge says, such stores can be hard to sustain, unless you’re able to provide an obvious financial incentive over the regular stores.“

The Banana Box didn’t profit in its first 5 years because it can be hard to find the deals.” He has seen competitors try and fail. “It has to be a value for the customers. Many stores start up and shut down in 3-4 months.”But, for many, it may be worth finding their local salvage store: for their wallets and for waste prevention. Doug Rauch’s efforts might actually be the push needed to sway the undecided shopper into this new, old-fashioned market.


The meat beat

Ashley Chaifetz, a PhD student studying public policy at UNC-Chapel Hill writes:

Feeding a raw diet to your pet? And through a dog food co-op? This might sound like an awesome idea, but it is not the safest plan.

Sheila Pell at Modern Farmer writes,

Offer a dog a piece of kibble in one hand and a morsel of meat in the other. It’s that obvious choice that moves many pet parents to join a dog food co-op, and share the task of procuring fresh meats, fruits and vegetables to be shared among their pet’s food bowls. Not everyone can find one nearby, but more are cropping up all the time.IMG_5238-225x300

While feeding raw food might be preferable to the dog, taste-wise, a pet doesn’t know which foods might be contaminated with SalmonellaE. coli or other pathogens.  Domesticated animals rely on humans to make the best choices possible for their meals.

Yet, that might not always happen.

Proponents also argue that dogs evolved to eat primarily raw foods, mainly meat and bones, not starchy overcooked grains. The benefits of approximating that diet, many say, include healthier skin and coats, cleaner teeth, more energy and less poop.

Pell notes that there are dissidents,

Many veterinarians, and the FDA, discourage raw feeding due to threats from bacteria. Studies in veterinary journals have documented the risks. Some long-time raw feeders point out that bacteria (salmonella, for one) is also a problem in commercial pet food. Other risks are feeding an unbalanced diet and the potential for whole bones to cause choking, break teeth or puncture an organ.

My dog would regularly eat poop for dinner if it were up to her. Commercial dry food has had contamination issues the risk is increased when the meal is raw. Veterinarians have suggested that raw chicken can have too much phosphorous or calcium—and consuming bones, among other items, can easily get stuck in an animal’s esophagus and lead to other health issues (Thompson et al., 2012). But it’s safety that got the pet owners interested in this diet in the first place.

But pet food recalls and the local/organic food trend got pet owners interested in providing their dogs with a higher quality feed. By shortening the farm-to-bowl chain, many owners feel they can rule out many of the toxic traces of industrial food production.

Just shortening the supply chain is not the mythical answer to lessening a supposed toxic industrial food system. A nearby processor of raw food can be just as risky as a far-away processor of conventional kibble. And while dog food co-ops might use best practices, it is not a guarantee that every purveyor does as such.

I look up product contents, company histories, and prevalence of recalls, as well as how any recall was handled, before feeding my dog a new brand of food. Before joining a cooperative, I would research its processing practices, transport procedures, and operating procedures –for the health of my dog and me, since I can get sick from contaminated dog food: dry, wet, or raw.