Maybe signs would work: Avacado theft in New Zealand

Someone is stealing avocados in New Zealand. Not just picking a handful to make guacamole for a picnic, but driving up to orchards in the dark of night, using rakes to sweep hundreds from trees, collecting them in blankets and driving off to sell them illegally at road stands, grocery stores and small restaurants in Auckland, according to police.

theft-sign-proofThe problem appears to be one of surging demand and short supply, avocado industry officials say. Traditionally, the soft green fruit have been grown largely for export, but local consumers have been rapidly acquiring a taste for them — just as heavy rainfall in neighbouring Australia badly damaged last year’s harvest. As a result, the price has more than tripled, reaching as high as $NZ6 per avocado ($5.70 in Australian dollars) and fuelling a spate of stealth robberies by enterprising thieves.

“It’s an easy way to make a quick buck, but I don’t think we are dealing with a sophisticated or highly organised operation here, more opportunistic,” Jen Scoular, chief executive officer of New Zealand’s avocado association, was quoted as saying in the Guardian on Wednesday. Officials said there have been dozens of thefts. In the most recent incident, police said, midnight bandits liberated 350 avocados from an orchard in the Bay of Plenty area on the country’s north island.

Police warned that anyone handling or eating the purloined pears may be facing a health risk, because those that have been recently sprayed with pesticides could carry toxins on their skins. No violence or confrontations have been reported in connection with the crime wave, but Scoular said many growers are installing automatic light and alarm systems to protect their lucrative crops.

It’s never happened before sucks as a defense: No criminal charges over tainted iced tea in Utah

No criminal charges will be filed in the case of a customer who nearly died after unknowingly drinking iced tea mixed with chemicals at a suburban Salt Lake City restaurant, prosecutors said Friday.

imagesBut the restaurant, Dickey’s Barbecue, will enter mediation with the customer, Jan Harding, and her family to try to reach a monetary agreement, her lawyer said. If that does not work, the family will file a lawsuit.

The authorities said that an employee at Dickey’s Barbecue in South Jordan unintentionally put heavy-duty cleaning lye in a sugar bag, and that another worker mistakenly mixed it into an iced-tea dispenser in August.

The Dallas-based restaurant chain has said that the episode was isolated and unprecedented in its 73-year history.

Suitable for dog poop: don’t marinate chicken wings in plastic newspaper bags

Mike Much in Upper Saucon Township, apparently saves the bags in which his newspapers are delivered for marinating chicken wings.

Irene “Toilet Lady” Zalutsky, who shared her homemade concoction for clearing a clogged toilet in 2009, responded, “I just wanted to make a comment about the guy who marinates his chicken wings in the newspaper bags. No way. Uh-uh. Not for me. Even if he cleans it out, it’s still unsanitary.”

Newspaper-Bag-300x199Lewis Gaines of South Whitehall Township responded that, “While this frugality is nothing if not amusing, the use of non-food-grade plastics in this application is a bit extreme as food-grade plastics are processed using a more limited range of chemical-grade polymers and processing aides. General-use polymers can have contaminants that should not be ingested. While the risk is low, I strongly recommend that newspaper bags be used only for newspapers or perhaps for retrieving items such as dog poop.”

Lauren Sucher, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration responded her mother used to store used plastic bags beneath their kitchen sink in an empty milk jug to use in trash bins. (I do that too).

“In this case, a bag containing a newspaper may have mineral oil used in the ink from the newspaper on the inside surfaces of the bag,” Lauren said. “The oil would be expected to migrate to the food and be consumed. The type of mineral oil used for printing is generally not safe as a food additive due to the higher levels of carcinogenic aromatics present. Plastics not specifically made for food contact may contain other substances that are not suitable for contact with food.”

Serious about sprouts in China; growers held after safety scare over bean sprouts

The Shanghai Daily reports growers of tainted bean sprouts in Shanghai’s Qingpu District have been detained, local authorities said yesterday.

??Shanghai Food and Drug Administration said the bean sprouts found in unlicensed premises in thesites/default/files/amy_sprouts_guelph_05(24).jpgXianghuaqiao residential community contained illegal additives.?.

Officials gave no further details of what kind of additives they were and it was not known whether they were toxic or added in excessive amounts. ??All the contaminated bean sprouts have been destroyed and several suspects detained after local authorities acted on a tip-off from a resident.

At least they didn’t say safest food in the world; ‘Aussie food is perfectly safe to eat, says regulator’

The ‘perfectly safe’ headline came from ABC News (that’s Australian, not American) riffing on a slightly more modest government press release, “Study confirms safety of Australia’s food supply.”

Unfortunately, the study had nothing to do with microbial food safety.

What it did have to do with was the 23rd Australian Total Diet Study, which examined the dietary exposure of the Australian population to 214 agricultural and veterinary chemicals, 9 contaminants, 12 mycotoxins, and 11 nutrients. A total of 92 foods and beverages commonly consumed in the Australian diet were sampled during January/February and June/July 2008 by Government food agencies in each state and territory in Australia. Foods and beverages were prepared to a table-ready state before being analysed.

Dietary exposure was estimated by determining the concentration of the substance in the foods and beverages multiplied by the amount of food consumed by various age and gender groups, as reported in the two most recent Australian national nutrition surveys (NNS). The dietary exposure to agricultural and veterinary chemicals, contaminants and nutrients was assessed against available reference health standards to determine any potential human health and safety risks. Where there were no Australian health standards, internationally accepted reference health standards or Margins of Exposure (MOE) were used.

The ATDS found that for agricultural and veterinary chemical residues estimated dietary exposures were all below the relevant reference health standards. This is consistent with the findings from previous ATDS. In addition, there were no detections of mycotoxins in any of the foods analysed.

Estimated dietary exposure for contaminants were below the relevant health standards for all population groups at both the mean and 90th percentile consumption levels (high consumers).

The 23rd ATDS confirms the current safety of the Australian food supply in terms of the levels of agricultural and veterinary chemicals, contaminants, selected mycotoxins and nutrients.

New Zealand fruit and vegetable safety – good, but we’ll make sure we do better

Every time there is a food safety outbreak with fresh fruits and vegetables, some journalist or lobby group will call up and say something like, “we want to do some sampling for E. coli or Salmonella and fresh produce.”

And every time, Chapman or I will walk the person through the limitations with testing, especially in fresh produce.

New studies by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) highlight the limitations. In one, two out of 900 samples tested positive for Salmonella in lettuce, both from lettuces from the same grower.

In a related study, none of the chemical residues detected were of health concern, although NZFSA principal advisor for chemicals Dr Paul Dansted says he is disappointed with results from this year’s Food Residue Surveillance Programme (FRSP), which targets food likely to show up problems. This year’s focus was on spinach, celery, ginger and garlic.

“A significant number of samples had levels over the maximum residue limit (MRL) which is used for monitoring purposes, but it’s important to stress that dietary intake assessments on the non-compliant food showed none posed a health or food safety concern.”

Eight out of 27 celery samples and four out of 24 spinach samples had residues that were over the limit. There were none over the limit in 50 samples of garlic, but ginger had 11 samples out of 39 over the limit.

“Celery and spinach can be more vulnerable to persistence of chemical residues,” Dr Dansted says. “Because of their shape, residues that wash off in the rain can collect in the base of the plant. We expected to find some problems, but this is not good enough. We will take regulatory action to ensure better compliance in future.”

Properly structured sampling programs are essential to validate that food safety programs are working. But testing is not enough.