Food fraud: Brazil bored bureaucrat mob-influenced version

Federal authorities announced Friday they’re investigating evidence that companies including JBS SA and BRF SA, the nation’s largest meat producers, bribed government officials to approve the sale and export of soiled meat. Federal police served hundreds of court orders, including more than 30 detention warrants, in what local media says is the largest police operation in the country’s history.

Police released transcripts of recorded conversations showing how agricultural inspectors were bribed, sometimes in the form of prime cuts of beef. It’s alleged that some of the meat, including sausages and cold cuts, was adulterated with ingredients including pig heads, and that suspect smells were masked by applying acid. Inspectors who refused to comply, it’s alleged, were reassigned elsewhere by the meat companies.

“It seems like magic realism,” Marcos Josegrei da Silva, the judge responsible for overseeing the so-called Weak Flesh investigation, said in a court order. “Unfortunately, it is not.”

In a statement, the Brazilian unit of Wal-Mart said it fully trusts its internal food safety procedures.

But should consumers?

The story trickled around the globe over the weekend and is now like a Brisbane downpour.

Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi said Saturday Brazil fears that it may lose foreign markets for its agricultural products.

The minister confirmed earlier media reports that the United States, the European Union and China have already requested Brazilian authorities to launch an investigation against the unscrupulous meat producers. However, none of these countries has so far announced that it was closing its market for animal products from Brazil.

On Friday, Brazil’s federal police arrested members of a major criminal group involved in trade of tainted food, mostly meat. According to police, the operation involved almost 1,100 police officers and became the country’s largest ever. The operation targeted major Brazilian meat producers selling their products both domestically and internationally.

Investigators detained a number of meat industry employees, who are suspected of bribing agriculture watchdogs to receive quality certificates for low-quality goods without proper checks. Some of those money were reportedly used to finance political parties.

Police says that the suspects also used acid and other chemicals to make the rotten meat appear fresh.

The Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and the Environment has stated it is taking the issue seriously and will investigate if spoiled meat has been brought to Finland.

In Finland, Brazilian meat has been sold in stores belonging to S Group.

Sydney mother avoids jail over breastfeeding on ‘naturopath’s raw food diet’ that nearly killed baby

Lucy Carter of ABC News reports a 33-year-old woman, who cannot be identified, was last year trying to treat her six-month-old son’s severe eczema and sought the advice of a naturopath who allegedly first put her on the diet and later convinced her to consume only water.

7713006-3x2-340x227The woman’s son nearly died of starvation and dehydration as a result.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) lawyer, Alex Brown, told the Campbelltown Local Court that the woman “was a nurse who decided to blindly follow a naturopath she had only just met” and that her child came within days of death.

Magistrate Ian Guy said the mother would have been given jail time if she had not agreed to give evidence against the naturopath, Marilyn Bodnar, who is expected to face a committal hearing on Monday.

“On any view, [the offence is] extremely troubling and disconcerting considering how long the child had been vomiting,” he said.

Police claim the 59-year-old, from Leppington, gave advice to the mother, over the treatment of her son’s eczema in February 2015.

Officers allege the naturopath advised the mother to stop medicating her child.

In May 2015, the baby boy was admitted to hospital with severe malnourishment and developmental issues.

Bodnar has remained on bail since her arrest on the condition that she not provide naturopathy services to anyone under the age of 16.

FDA investigates video of Kellogg’s worker pissing on Rice Krispies

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has opened a criminal investigation after a video of a man urinating on a Kellogg factory assembly line surfaced online, the company announced.

kellogg's.pee.mar.16The video, which was uploaded to on Friday, shows a man urinating on cereal as it comes off the assembly line. It then pans to a sign featuring the Kellogg’s logo.

An internal investigation by the food giant found that the video was recorded in 2014 at a factory in Memphis, Tennessee.

A statement from the company said products “potentially affected” by the urine would be past their expiration dates by now.

Battle Creek-based Kellogg on Monday apologized to customers over a video in which a man urinated into a Rice Krispies Treats production line.

Do the crime, do the time: US Justice Dept. warning of more food safety prosecution for outbreaks

Following a deadly listeria outbreak in ice cream, the Justice Department is warning food companies that they could face criminal and civil penalties if they poison their customers.

blue.bell.justice“We have made a priority holding individuals and companies responsible when they fail to live up to their obligations that they have to protect the safety of the food that all of us eat,” Associate Attorney General Stuart Delery said in an interview with The Associated Press.

After years of relative inactivity, the administration has stepped up criminal enforcement on safety cases. In the most high-profile case, a federal court in Georgia last year found an executive for the Peanut Corporation of America guilty of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, wire fraud and other crimes after his company shipped out salmonella-tainted peanuts that sickened more than 700 and killed nine in 2008 and 2009.

Delery, the No. 3 official at the Justice Department, wouldn’t say whether the government plans to pursue charges against Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries, which recalled all its products and shut down production earlier this year after listeria in the company’s ice cream was linked to illnesses and three deaths. A Food and Drug Administration investigation found that Blue Bell knew that it had listeria in one of its plants for almost two years before the recall.

Other recent actions prompted by the Justice Department during the Obama administration:

— A 2013 guilty plea from Colorado brothers who grew and sold listeria-tainted cantaloupe that killed more than 30 people in 2011.

— A 2014 plea deal, resulting in prison time and millions of dollars in fines, between the government and an Iowa egg company and its executives. An outbreak of salmonella linked to the eggs sickened almost 2,000 people in 2010.

— A May 2015 settlement with ConAgra Foods for $11.2 million after the company shipped Peter Pan peanut butter tainted with salmonella from a plant in Georgia, sickening more than 600 people in 2006. That sum includes the highest criminal fine in a U.S. food safety case.

Bill Marler, a food safety lawyer who has represented victims in many of those cases, says Justice’s recent activity is especially notable because in many of the cases, company executives didn’t know they were shipping out tainted food, but they were hit with criminal charges anyway.

“It’s been very much of a sea change,” Marler said. “Once you start down this road you have to decide whether you are going to do it all the time or selectively.”

China seizes $625m of smuggled meat, some 40 years old

I used to have a big chest freezer. It was a place where meat and frozen meals went to disappear.

chest.freezerMy grandmother had this huge one in the basement, where she kept freezer-burned ice cream and her cash (she didn’t trust banks, or so I was told).

I’ve downsized to the little one on top of the fridge and am much more vigilant about stuff in, stuff out.

Chinese customs have seized around 3 billion yuan ($625 million) worth of smuggled meat, some more than 40 years old and rotting, the official China Daily said on Wednesday, the latest in a grim series of food safety scares.

Beijing toughened food safety rules in April to shake off a reputation for safety scandals that range from donkey meat tainted with fox DNA to milk contaminated with industrial chemical melamine that killed at least six infants in 2008.

Chinese authorities have launched a crackdown on beef and frozen meat smuggling, in addition to a campaign last year to stamp out the smuggling of farm products.

Authorities had busted 21 criminal gangs by June, leading to seizures of more than 100,000 tonnes of smuggled meat, including chicken wings, beef and pork, state news agency Xinhua said. In one bust, police in southern Hunan province arrested 20 people.

Customs officials found some of the meat was more than 40 years old, meaning it dated back to the 1970s. Other parts were rotten and decomposing, the China Daily newspaper said. It was not clear if the seized meat had been destroyed.

Industry sources say hundreds of thousands of tonnes of beef is being smuggled into China via neighbouring Hong Kong and Vietnam, from countries such as Brazil and India, to sidestep Beijing’s import curbs.

Meat can last for a long time if continuously frozen, but smuggled meat is often moved under poor storage conditions that lead to repeated thawing, making it eventually go bad.

Food crime occurring on ‘unprecedented’ scale – report

“Food crime” has reached unprecedented levels, a new report to be published on Thursday is expected to say.

sopranos.don't.fuck.with.usCommissioned by the UK environment agency and health department, the report is understood to recommend the creation of a “food crime unit”.

It draws on evidence from international police bodies Interpol and Europol.

They say that international gangs are diversifying – shifting from drug trafficking and armed robbery to illegal and fraudulent food trading.

The review of Britain’s food supply chains was announced in response to the horsemeat fraud in 2013.

Michael Ellis, assistant director of Interpol, told BBC News: “This has changed the scope of investigations. Criminals have realized that they can make the same amount of money by dealing with counterfeit food. Invariably the sentences are much lighter.

“In my experience, the patterns used by criminals involved in counterfeiting are very similar to those used in the dealing of drugs. They operate front companies, they employ front bank accounts, they will have false declarations for the movement of their goods, they will mis-declare their shipments.”

For victims, tainted peanut butter trial a chance for justice

Tainted peanut butter killed three Minnesotans six years ago. Now, the trial against food executives brings hope of justice.

Maya Rao of the Minnesota Star Tribune writes that six years after Shirley Mae Almer died from eating a slice of toast topped with tainted peanut butter, the Almer family is at last sensing justice could finally be at hand.

PCA.AIB.certificateThey are making plans to fly to Albany, Ga., to attend an extraordinary trial of three executives of a now-bankrupt peanut butter company that was the source of a salmonella outbreak that became one of the deadliest of its kind in the country in recent years. More than 700 people were sickened and nine were killed, including three in Minnesota.

“It was a long wait,” Ginger Lorentz said from her house in Brainerd, where what she described as her Finnish mother’s sisu — spiritedness — still lingers at the dining room table where she hosted lively meals with friends and in the goofy photo of her dressed up with her dog for July 4th.

On Friday, as the trial began, prosecutors framed the case as one of a company so driven by profit that its leaders were willing to ship peanuts they knew were tainted to customers around the country. Prosecutors presented an e-mail from the former president, saying, “ … just ship it. I cannot afford to lose another customer.” The defense said that the owner struggled to keep up with day-to-day operations but that his inability to do so “is not a crime.”

Stewart Parnell, former chief executive of the now-defunct Peanut Corp. of America, and two other executives face a 76-count indictment in connection with the salmonella outbreak.

Barbara Flatgard, who lost her mother in 2009, said she doubts the defendants will see any prison time, “but just what an accomplishment [it is] that we at least got them charged.”

Lorentz saw Parnell years ago, at a Congressional hearing in which he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. She is determined to see him again at the trial this summer — to catch any sign of remorse, to hear some word of apology.

“I would like to see him in jail for the rest of his life,” she said.

Cantaloupe auditor also criticized in U.S. criminal charges over listeria

“The Primus Labs subcontractor that conducted the pre-harvest inspection of Jensen Farms was seriously deficient in their inspection and findings.”

Which, according to Michael Booth of The Denver Post, questions the role of the third-party auditor.

That allegation was contained in the documents filed in the wake of criminal charges against the Jensen brothers for the 2011 listeria-in-cantaloupe outbreak that killed 33, cantaloupe.handand was made by Dr. Jim. Gorny, who was then senior advisor to the FDA’s Center for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition.

According to Booth’s reading of the records, the Jensens had a visit from a food safety auditor just before they shipped the first tainted cantaloupes, and the federal charges note the Primus Labs auditor gave them a 96 per cent “superior” rating. About the same time, the government notes, Jensen Farms made a pact with Frontera Produce to distribute the cantaloupes across the country.

Critics in the federal charges and elsewhere have said an auditor should have noticed the Jensens were using the wrong kind of equipment to wash and sort their melons. They had bought used potato harvesting equipment, and that was meant for foods that would be fully cooked, not served raw. The machines allowed the water to pool and become tainted over time, with listeria “inoculating” onto the cantaloupe as it passed by. A chlorine-based system should have been added to spray anti-bacterial water onto the cantaloupes, FDA and other critics have said (though that was not a hard and fast government rule at the time, merely a suggestion).

But what is the FDA doing about that troubled third-party system in food, where the company selling the food is paying the auditor to approve the quality of the food? Nothing visible. 

FDA said in a statement the criminal prosecution “sends the message that absolute care must be taken to FDA said after the charges were filed that deadly pathogens do not enter our food supply chain.”

Food safety is first, the responsibility of growers, and some growers are better than others.

Should food execs face criminal terms? Lawyers will figure that out but retailers should provide consumers choice

I like eggs, they’re a baking essential and a useful protein source; Sorenne likes them boiled, but only the white parts.

When I buy eggs, I can get free-range, cage-free, omega-3 and probably many others.

What I can’t get is information on the microbiological  safety of eggs at seasame.street.good.egg.projectretail; and these huckster labels are poor surrogates for safety.

In 2010, at least 2,000 people were sickened with Salmonella from eggs produced by DeCoster farms in Iowa.

Three years later, federal prosecutors are still seeking criminal charges.

Attorneys in Iowa’s Northern District are waiting to sentence a former manager of an Iowa egg company involved in the 2010 outbreak that sickened about 2,000 people, possibly to see what testimony he provides to a grand jury that continues to investigate the case.

Tony Wasmund, 62, of Willmar, Minn., pleaded guilty in September to conspiring to bribe a federal egg inspector at Wright County Egg, one of the Iowa egg farms operated by Austin “Jack” DeCoster and Peter DeCoster, a father and son from Clarion.

Wasmund’s sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 16, nearly a year after he took a plea deal from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The delay feeds speculation that prosecutors are using Wasmund’s testimony to a Cedar Rapids grand jury to implicate others in the DeCoster egg operations.

I understand the law takes a long time; divorce court goes on forever. But there is nothing stopping the better egg producers from bragging about safety, today. And not in scripted media tours targeted at specialized journalists, I want to know, shopping, with my kids.

And I don’t want a cartoon on Sesame Street, I want microbiological data. The best should be loud and proud and brag at retail.

Charges laid over NZ listeria deaths

Charges have been laid against a company connected to a listeria outbreak that claimed the life of one woman and contributed to the death of another.

The Dominion Post understands Napier company Bay Cuisine will this month face the charges in the Napier District Court.

The Ministry for Primary Industries confirmed charges under the Food Act were laid last month, but would not say how many, and would not name the listeriacompany charged. A spokesman said the ministry would make no further comment as the matter was before the court.

The charges follow a ministry investigation sparked after the two deaths between May and July last year. Listeria was found in pre-packaged ready-to-eat meats that had been supplied to Hawke’s Bay Hospital.

Listeria was also found at Bay Cuisine, the sole supplier of pre-packaged meats to the hospital.

The company issued a recall notice for affected products.

The ministry’s investigation sought to establish whether there was any link between the company and the infections.