Barf scam: UK cracks down

Food is, and remains, 21st century snake oil.

For every fatal, life-threatening or barf-inducing foodborne illness, there’s a grifter, huckster or con around the corner.

According to Joe Hinton of the Daily Star, hoteliers in popular resorts say holidaymakers have been suffering “harassment” from conmen.

The fraudsters convince tourists to make false claims and then take a cut of any payout. A source told the Daily Star Sunday: “This is almost as big a business as drugs in some places.

“Yes, the authorities are trying to crack down, but there are still hundreds going through every week.

“Hotels don’t want the hassle of legal fees so they pay out more often than not.

 “All you need is a picture of a receipt for anti-sickness medication.

“Most people get £2,000 a claim. The tout skims off the top and so does the law firm.”

Now police are going undercover to catch the fraudsters, who are costing the hotel industry £60million a year.

The investigation has been backed by UK tour operators.

Freedom of Information documents seen by the Daily Star Sunday show that Jet2, Thomas Cook, Monarch and TUI are looking into hundreds of bogus claims in Mallorca and other islands.

The documents said: “The rise in the number of fraudulent claims is having a serious impact on contracts for next season as hoteliers turn to other markets such as Germany.

“And Spanish police are eager to make some arrests to start setting a clear example.”

UK tour operators and Spanish hotels have been hit with scores of compensation claims in the last few months.

Swindlers are making official complaints about food poisoning.

Then, on arrival in the UK they are getting anti-sickness drugs. Under our laws they don’t even need a doctor’s note – a pharmacy receipt is enough to make a claim.

Millions have already been paid out to holidaymakers – leading to chefs in the resorts being unjustly sacked.

Last week Brit mum Laura Joyce, 37, was arrested in Mallorca on suspicion of running a £9million holiday sickness scam.

She is accused of using middlemen to encourage holidaymakers to fake illnessness to claim compensation.

Jet2 has now hired private detectives to nail the cowboy companies touting for business.

It has already caught one couple touting for business in Benidorm.

Scotch and a smoke with your kid? Raw milk fans cheer state laws

Bioethicist Arthur Caplan, head of the Division of Medical Ethics, at New York University, tells Today Health, “Adults drive, cliff dive and smoke, but they have to be informed about risks. The ethical considerations become much more difficult when kids are involved.”

colbert.raw.milkThat’s because kids disproportionately get sick from raw milk.

This past week, West Virginia — which, like many states, bans the direct-to-consumer sales of raw milk —joined other states in a growing movement called herd sharing, which allows citizens of the state to sign a contract with a farmer, buy shares of a cow, and then to pay the farmer to care for the animals and milk them. These shareholders then get the milk in all its raw glory.

“A lot of states are looking at raw milk sales in one way or another, including herdshares, which are sometimes called cowshares,” says Pete Kennedy, president of the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, a group which opposes the ban against interstate sale of raw milk. “But it’s tough trying to get legal or expanded access to (raw) milk for people who want it, and state by state, it can get a little crazy.”

That’s because back in the late 1980s, the Food and Drug Administration prohibited the distribution of raw milk across state lines for direct sale to consumers. But the U.S. can’t halt products being made within a state to be sold inside that state. That’s led to a patchwork of state laws governing the sale of raw milk.

SnakeOilIn California, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, among other states, you can buy raw milk straight from a retail shelf or farmer’s market, according to the advocacy group. But in New York and Massachusetts, for example, you have to go to a licensed farm to buy raw milk. In Illinois and Kansas you can buy from an unlicensed farm, but if you live in Florida, you can’t buy it at all, unless it’s for your pet.

Currently, the FDA, the World Health Organization, American Medical Association, American Veterinary Association, International Association for Food Protection, and the National Environmental Health Association advise against drinking raw milk, as does the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“People want to be more responsible for their sustainable environment and what they are putting into their bodies but they conflate the two issues because natural doesn’t always equal healthy,” says Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, professor of pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine and lead author of the American Academy of Pediatric position statement on raw milk.

The dairy industry worries that illnesses from raw milk sales could damage public confidence in the safety of dairy products.

“I grew up on a dairy farm and anytime you start milking a cow I will tell you they start defecating, and it can get everywhere,” says Dr. Faith Critzer, a food microbiologist with the University of Tennessee and a food safety extension specialist for the state of Tennessee. “There are just too many points of contamination and pasteurization will get rid of contamination. It will save your life.”

“These are educated people and getting some to change their minds about raw milk is difficult,” she says. “But when things go wrong (with raw milk), they can go terribly wrong.”

Market food safety at retail so consumers can choose: Not training or technology

Maple Leaf Foods hosted its Sixth Annual Food Safety Symposium last week in Mississauga (that’s in Canada).

hucksterAccording to The Poultry Site, this year’s event was themed ‘People or Technology’, asking participants to debate which was the best investment to make a step change in food safety globally.

Dr. Randy Huffman, SVP Operations and Chief Food Safety Officer at Maple Leaf said, as many do, that food safety as a non-competitive issue and the company actively shares food safety learnings and promotes sharing of information among industry and government groups.

These are the wrong questions and wrong assumptions.

Yes, people need training – ever seen a peer-reviewed paper evaluating the effectiveness of such training?

Yes, new technology does wonderful things and also creates wonderful new opportunites for new bugs because food is a biological system that will always change.

Yes, food safety should not be a competitive issue and information should be shared.

But that’s not marketing at retail.

Any time I say, food safety should be marketed at retail – E. coli counts in spinach, Salmonella in eggs, Listeria in (Maple Leaf) cold cuts, I get told food safety is a non-competitive issue.

But I’m talking about marketing. People say the reason they buy local, organic, natural, sustainable, dolphin-free and hundreds of other categories is primarily because of safety.

market.naturalAs a consumer, I want to know which eggs have a history of low Salmonella counts. The technology exists and is being used to access complete restaurant  inspection reports with smart phones on those A-B-C rating in New York City.

Food safety may be non-competitive, but implementation is altogether different: some companies are better than others. As a parent doing all the grocery shopping, I want to know what companies are better at microbial food safety. As a PhD in food safety, I want to figure out how best to convey meaningful information.

But have your conferences, feel important, and read daily and bear witness to the outrageous levels of microbial food safety failures.

The kind that make people sick.