Food safety sucks in some S. Aust. day and agedcare centres

Eleven daycare centres were among more than 800 food preparation places issued warning notices under food safety laws last year. aged care sites were also given written warnings in 2014-15 because of food safety concerns.

SA Health data from local council inspections shows that more than 9000 food businesses across the state were checked. The vast majority were given approval.

Health Minister Jack Snelling said under the SA Health Food Act Report in 2014-15, local government environmental health officers issued food businesses with 803 written warnings, 328 improvement notices, 114 expiation notices and four prohibition orders.

“Three businesses were prosecuted and found guilty of breaches under the Food Act 2001,” Mr Snelling said.

These businesses were Champion Bakery at Port Wakefield, fined a total of $171,000; Omega Foods at Hindmarsh ($71,000); and Garam Masala Indian Cuisine Dernancourt ($6660).

Mr Snelling noted that businesses are stepping up to new laws.

“What is pleasing to see is that overall the great majority of South Australian food businesses that were inspected complied with food safety standards,” he said.

SA Health Director of Food and Controlled Drugs Dr Fay Jenkins said the public had an important role to play in alerting authorities to potential food safety issues.

“Councils received 1082 complaints and reports from the public, which resulted in 640 inspections,” Dr Jenkins said.

“Of the complaints, the highest percentage related to staff personal hygiene or food handling, unclean premises and pest infestation.

“I encourage anyone with concerns about hygiene or food safety practices in a food business to contact their council who will ensure the matter is investigated and rectified.

Everyone has a camera.

Surveys suck: Consumers don’t accurately report what they do in kitchen

Research utilizing both survey and observational techniques has found that consumers do not accurately report their own food handling behaviors. The goal of this study was to objectively observe conditions related to food safety risks and sanitation in domestic kitchens in an urban environment.

survey-saysSubjects (n = 100) were recruited from Philadelphia, PA. Homes were visited over a one-year period by two trained researchers using a previously developed audit tool to document conditions related to sanitation, refrigeration, and food storage.

Potential food safety risks identified included evidence of pest infestation (65%), perishable food stored at room temperature (16%), storage of raw meat above ready-to-eat foods (97% of homes where raw meat was present), and a lack of hot running water in the kitchen (3%). Compliance with correct refrigeration practices was also low, with 43% of refrigerator temperatures ≥ 41°F, and only 4% of refrigerators containing a thermometer. Consumers of minority race/ethnicity were more likely to have evidence of pest infestation in the home, lack a dishwasher and lack a cutting board in the kitchen, while Caucasian consumers were more likely to have an animal present in the kitchen during the audit visit.

 Visual audit of food safety hazards present in homes in an urban environment

Food Protection Trends, vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 290-301, July 2015

Patricia A. Borrusso, Shauna Henley, Jennifer J. Quinlan


China arrests over 110 people for selling contaminated pork

China has arrested more than 110 people, suspected of selling pork from pigs that died from disease, and confiscated more than 1,000 tonnes of contaminated pork in its latest crackdown on food safety violations.

pig.disease.chinaThe Ministry of Public Security said on Sunday the people were part of a network made up of 11 groups who, since 2008, had been buying pigs that had died of illnesses from livestock farms at low prices.

The meat was sold off to markets in 11 provinces, including Henan and Guangxi, or was processed into bacon or cooking oil for sale. The accused also bribed food supervisory authorities to obtain quarantine certificates, the ministry said.

Seventy-five of the suspects have been prosecuted. Several food quarantine staff have also been sent to prosecutors, said the ministry, which had been investigating the network since the end of 2013. 

Everybody says they’re in favor of food safety, but who wants to pay for it

Barry Wilson has been writing about agriculture in Canada for Western Producer magazine as long as I’ve been around.

consumer.foodsafe.supermarketAnd he usually gets it right.

Wilson writes that many consumers say what they know they should say or what they believe their ethics dictate when it comes to food and food safety. Then they head to the bargain bins or the box stores where they can get the best prices.

All the evidence points to most consumers saying one thing and doing another – supporting all the good things about Canadian food production in theory, but then heading to the cheap ice cream, the imported tomatoes or apples, the meat from wherever.

For farmers, this is an old problem.

Society wants more but refuses to pay more.

Consumers and customers of Canadian food production insist on safe, ecologically responsible production but generally aren’t prepared to pay more for it and consider it simply the cost of doing business.

The vast majority of food producers want to do the right thing for ethical and market reasons but often can’t afford the additional cost. 

Stop blaming consumers: be the bug, food safety is farm-to-fork

It’s the first day of spring in Australia, which means daughter Courtlynn is heading back to the Northern Hemisphere to start school, the temperature is soaring, and an entire month awaits of unverified, repetitious and banal food safety messages aimed at consumers.

The Brits got an early start about a week ago.

The Food Standards Agency published a review of existing studies that explore how people manage food safety in their homes.

The report found that, although they are often aware of good food hygiene practices, many people are failing to chill foods properly, aren’t following advice on food labels and aren’t sticking to simple hygiene practices that would help them avoid spreading harmful bacteria around their kitchens. People often know what they should be doing, but they don’t put this knowledge into practice, believing they are not vulnerable to food poisoning.

Yes, individuals are impervious to risk; been known for decades.

There’s oodles of material to pick through in the full report, but my favorite is this: people have a low level of awareness of recommended good practice with respect to cooking (correct final cooked temperature).

Maybe FSA should stop telling people to cook things until they are ‘piping hot.’

Food safety isn’t just a consumer thing – it’s an everybody thing. Forget the farm groups and industries that fund the blame-consumers approach. What did consumers have to do with outbreaks involving peanut butter, pizza, pot pies, pet food, pepper and produce (washing don’t do much). That’s just the Ps.

Reciting prescriptive instructions – cook, clean, chill, separate – like some fascist country line dancing instructor benefits no one. Food safety is complex, and it takes effort.

Marketing food safety, but what does HACCP mean?

A colleague sent me these pictures of fish seasoning purchased in a San Francisco Asian supermarket. The back mentions both HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) and ISO 9001, but doesn’t say what either mean.

In Brisbane, we bought a pint of fresh strawberries from Gowinta Farms, which bills itself as the largest strawberry farm on the sunshine coast, featuring a café, fruit shop, packhouse, transportation and a workshop.

And you can see from the plastic container, it’s all HACCP-certified.

I’m not sure what that means, or if consumers know what it means, but these are further indications of baby-steps to start promoting microbial food safety directly to consumers.

People say they will pay more for safer food, will they? Someone needs to test at retail

Willingness-to-pay studies are excellent indicators of what people think they will do in imaginary situations.

Willingness-to-pay studies are terrible indicators of what people will actually do at the grocery store.

Brian Roe, professor of agricultural, environmental and development economics at Ohio State University (isn’t that The OSU?) and Mario Teisl of the University of Maine report in the journal Food Policy, that based on surveys from 3,511 individuals, Americans would be willing to pay about a dollar per person each year, or an estimated $305 million in the aggregate, for a 10 percent reduction in the likelihood that hamburger they buy in the supermarket is contaminated by E. coli.

A monkey just flew out of Wayne Campbell’s butt (see video below from last week’s Saturday Night Live).

By comparison, a 2008 U.S. Department of Agriculture analysis estimated the value of eradicating a specific type of E. coli contamination from all food sources would result in a benefit valued at $446 million.

In the questionnaire, they set up six hypothetical scenarios around the purchase of either a package of hotdogs or a pound of hamburger. They set prices for the packages – both "status quo" foods and those treated with either ethylene gas processing or electron beam irradiation to reduce contaminants – and then laid out a variety of probabilities that the treated or untreated food packages contained contamination with either E. coli or listeria, another pathogen that can cause food-borne (sic) illness.

They followed by asking respondents to choose one of three actions: buy the food treated with the pathogen-reducing technology, buy their usual brand, or stop buying this product altogether.

The results showed that consumers will reach a limit to how much they want to pay to reduce their chances of getting sick. If the treated product cost only 10 cents more than an untreated package, about 60 percent of respondents said they’d buy the improved product. But when that higher price reached $1.60 more per package, less than a third would opt for the treated product.

The structure of the survey also allowed researchers to see the influence of human behavior and opinions on likely illness outcomes.

"If the food industry were forced to put technology in place that lowered the presence of E. coli and that ramped up prices to the extent where everybody had to pay about a dollar more out of pocket each year for hamburger, we’re saying that, according to this model, that would be about an equal tradeoff for the U.S. population. And if the technology costs only about 10 cents per person instead, that would seem like a good deal to most people," he said.

"If regulators could become more comfortable with this measurement process, agencies might change the way they conduct their cost-benefit analysis. And that would be an interest of ours, to see if our work and others’ work in this area will eventually change the way people attack these questions."

So it’s more about changing the way estimates are done. Estimates are lousy surrogates. I’m all for marketing food safety – at retail, food service, markets, everywhere. Brag about test results, use big signs, smart phone readers, just be able to back it up.

Dining in Denver: new safety rules served to restaurants

Denver is going forward with a lousy restaurant inspection disclosure system that is more protective of restaurant owners than consumers.

Bob McDonald, director of the city’s public health inspections division, told the Denver Business Journal the idea is to more quickly penalize and bring about correction of the most severe health violations, and to allow restaurants with less health-endangering issues to correct theirs with less public notice. McDonald worked with the Colorado Restaurant Association for 18 months to create the new rules.

Under the new rules, critical violations will leave restaurants subject to fines for a second citation but not public notices.

Pete Meersman, president/CEO of the Colorado Restaurant Association, said his members have lobbied for changes to what they saw as an “unfair” system.

Under the new rules, the most-serious violators will be punished the most seriously, and the less-serious violators will be punished with fines but not the massive loss of business that can come with a public notice on their front doors.

“Owners … felt the adverse effect the postings had on their business was overly punitive for the issues involved.”

CDC: what’s with blaming consumers

As an agency that prides itself on data – I guess that’s why it took 11 years to update the incidence of foodborne illness – I’m wondering, why did the U.S. Centers for Disease Control find it necessary to specifically finger consumers when it comes to food safety.

“CDC continues to encourage consumers to take an active role in preventing foodborne infection by following safe food-handling and preparation tips of separating meats and produce while preparing foods, cooking meat and poultry to the right temperatures, promptly chilling leftovers, and avoiding unpasteurized milk and cheese and raw oysters.”

Why didn’t the CDC press release also say,

“CDC continues to encourage spinach farmers to keep cow poop off the produce.”

“CDC continues to encourage egg farmers to keep piles of poop away from fresh-market eggs.”

“CDC continues to encourage processors to cook the crap out of pot pies, pizzas and pet food that may sicken consumers (and their pets).”

“CDC continues to encourage retailers to sell food from sources that are known to manage food safety.”

“CDC continues to encourage restaurant-types to not let employees work while sick and to wash the damn poop off their hands before preparing salad.”

Consumers have a role. But the amount of cross-contamination that goes on in a home or food service kitchen means the contaminants have to be reduced before entering the next environment in the system, beginning on the farm.

Does CDC have meaningful data on where foodborne illness happens and whose fault it? We’ve published a paper on the silliness of blaming any particular group; the numbers simply aren’t there, and there are so many opportunities for contamination from farm-to-fork.

The FoodNet surveillance system was established within the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in 1995 to determine more precisely and to monitor better the burden of foodborne diseases and to determine the proportion of foodborne diseases which are attributable to specific foods and pathogens. Whatever criticisms and uncertainties exist, the establishment of FoodNet was revolutionary in better understanding the impact of foodborne illness.

For every known case of foodborne illness, there are 10 -300 other cases, depending on the severity of the bug. Most foodborne illness is never detected. It’s almost never the last meal someone ate or whatever other mythologies are out there. A stool sample linked with some epidemiology or food testing is required to make associations with specific foods.

Foodborne illness is vastly underreported – it’s known as the burden of reporting foodborne illness, or the burden of illness pyramid (left), a model for understanding foodborne disease reporting. Someone has to get sick enough to go to a doctor, go to a doctor that is bright enough to order the right test, live in a State that has the known foodborne illnesses as a reportable disease, and then it gets registered by the feds.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that up to 30 per cent of individuals in developed countries acquire illnesses from the food and water they consume each year. U.S., Canadian and Australian authorities support this estimate as accurate, or did, (Majowicz et al., 2006; Mead et al., 1999; OzFoodNet Working Group, 2003) through estimations from available data, active disease surveillance and adjustments for underreporting. WHO has identified five factors of food handling that contribute to these illnesses: improper cooking procedures; temperature abuse during storage; lack of hygiene and sanitation by food handlers; cross-contamination between raw and fresh ready to eat foods; and, acquiring food from unsafe sources.

Food safety is much more than consumers.

Majowicz, S.E., McNab, W.B., Sockett, P., Henson, S., Dore, K., Edge, V.L., Buffett, M.C., Fazil, A., Read, S. McEwen, S., Stacey, D. and Wilson, J.B. (2006), “Burden and cost of gastroenteritis in a Canadian community”, Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 69, pp. 651-659.

Mead, P.S., Slutsjer, L., Dietz, V., McCaig, L.F., Breeses, J.S., Shapiro, C., Griffin, P.M. and Tauxe, R.V. (1999), “Food-related illness and death in the United States”, Emerging Infectious Diseases, Vol. 5, pp. 607-625.

OzFoodNet Working Group. (2003), “Foodborne disease in Australia: Incidence, notifications and outbreaks: Annual report of the OzFoodNet Network, 2002”, Communicable Diseases Intelligence, Vol. 27, pp. 209-243.

Bureaucrats babbling: Health Canada blames consumers

Health Canada said today while telling pregnant women to be especially careful about the 11 million cases of foodborne illness that strike Canadians each year that,

“Many of these illnesses could be prevented by following proper food handling and preparation techniques.”

Please, please, oh please. Show us mortals the data on which that statement is based?

And since Health Canada advises pregnant women to “make sure to cook hot dogs and deli meats until they are steaming hot before eating them,” please, please, oh please, stand up and say the advice provided by the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children Motherrisk program is complete nonsense.