Organic garlic powder recalled because of Salmonella risk

Vitamin Cottage Natural Food Markets, Inc., a Lakewood, Colorado-based natural grocery chain, is recalling two lots of Natural Grocers brand Organic Garlic Powder as the product has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. Consumption of products containing Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

natural.grocers.garlic.powderHealthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms) endocarditic and arthritis.

This recall was initiated after being notified of positive Salmonella findings in product sampled by the FDA.

The recalled product is packaged in clear plastic bags with Natural Grocers label notating Julian pack on dates and pricing per pound. The product was produced in size ranges of 0.25 pound to 0.30 pound. The lots being recalled are identified by Julian packed on date and include: 351-14 and 006-15

The product was distributed to Natural Grocers’ 92 stores located in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. Consumers can find the specific locations of Natural Grocers stores at:

Only packages bearing the Julian packed on dates listed above are subject to recall.

To date the company has received no reports of illness. Consumers who may have purchased this product should return it to the store for credit or refund.

Food producers – speak up

I have a garden.

This is the spinach Amy harvested yesterday. Good crop, although I need to get out there and weed (or convince some students that it’s part of a local, natural experiment and they should volunteer; happens all the time).

I don’t think it’s sustainable to drive 11,000 miles to brag about it
. I just like my garden.  And I have an excellent crop of blackberries and raspberries coming in.

I still won’t drive 11,000 miles to brag about it.

I was on this panel discussion at Kansas State about a month ago, where we were all told to talk for 6-8 minutes, and of course, the organic person talked scientific bullshit for 40 minutes.

And she drove to the meeting, while I rode my bike.

At what point did organic/natural/local types capture the language of sustainability? Even if they drive 11,000 miles to talk about it? I know lots of farmers who grow lots of decent food (far more than I could) and they are the stewards of sustainability, yet, the critics have captured the language.

Conventional farmers, get your voice out there.

Congressional food safety conspiracies – small farms will be criminal

The New York Times picked up on the burgeoning food safety conspiracy theory business that’s been flooding the Intertubes.

There’s been a lot of outbreaks of foodborne illness and a lot of people barfing. So politicians have been busy bill-making bees, with numerous proposals before the U.S. House and Senate.

As the Times story put it,

“… small farmers, who are most accountable for their food’s freshness and health, may suffer the heaviest burden under proposed new food rules. … Small farmers argue that they are already much more accountable to their customers for the quality of their product than are mass-production facilities, and that they will be crushed under the weight of well-meaning laws aimed at large industrial offenders.”

Farmers, regardless of size, are accountable for food’s freshness and health, and more importantly, the microbial food safety of that food. Farmers, big and small, are accountable to their customers. Small is not better, and there is no evidence that smaller is safer. Small, local, organic, whatever, can be microbiologically safe, but that requires attention to sources of dangerous microorganisms and effective measures to reduce levels of risk – regardless of farm size.

And before someone chimes in with the smaller-is-easier-to-trace-and-contain line, there is no evidence to support that argument other than wishful thinking. To make an effective comparison, the number of illnesses per conventional or local/small/organic meal consumed would have to be calculated. And because a lot more people eat, say, conventional tomatoes compared to local/small/organic tomatoes, illnesses with conventional product are more likely to be detected. The data simply is not available to make any meaningful comparison.

What can be said is that local/small/organic is a lifestyle choice. And like any lifestyle choice, go for it but play safe. Try not to make people barf  and even embrace evidence-based microbiologically safe food. Sales will probably increase.

Back to the story. Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director of the Organic Consumers Association, said,

"Organic standards specifically say you are supposed to cultivate the wild land on your farm, and having the area filter water has a lot of benefits. One of the principles is just that — we’re going to farm in a way that’s not disruptive to nature."

Farming is not natural; any type of farming is disruptive to nature. So produce food in a way that minimizes the impact on the natural environment, and doesn’t make people barf. But that isn’t what organic is about. As Katija and I showed in our 2004 paper, organic guidelines could be adjusted to incorporate microbial food safety standards, but as they stand, organic standards are a specification for growing organic — not microbiologically safe — food.

The best and most dangerous mythology in the story is this:

Critics say the rules unfairly penalize small farmers who grow crops and raise cattle on the same farm, while failing to address what they believe is the root of the E. coli problem — large, mismanaged feedlots that cram cattle together and spew waste runoff.

A percentage of all ruminants carry E. coli O157:H7. Feedlots are an easy target. But there are lots of outbreaks. Like E. coli O157:H7 in spinach in 2006 that sickened 200 and killed at least three. The source of the E. coli O157:H7 in the transitional organic spinach was a neighboring cow-calf operation – not a feedlot.

Any bill that gets past the discussion stage will be considerably modified and even if passed into law will accomplish … nothing. Conspiracy theories are fun, as is busy bee bill making, but will either result in fewer sick people? Growers, processors, retailers, restaurants and consumers should do what they can today to produce microbiologically safe food.

Whole Foods bites

I could devote an entire blog to debunking the nonsense that is Whole Foods.

Every day they have a post that contains the most outlandish, fantastical claims about food – and they expect customers to pay twice as much.

Unbeknownst to me, Amy came across part II of the Whole Foods fairy tale about what it means to be natural. And she asked a question:

In light of recent major recalls including natural peanut paste, I’d be more interested in knowing what kind of research you put into the safety behind your ingredients.

That comment has yet to be posted; it never will. The good demagogue that speak for Whole Foods know to never lose control of the microphone. Especially at those prices.

Whole Foods fairytale

Baby Sorenne is already taking an interest in colorful books and images. Soon it will be storytelling.

The Whole Foods blog had a particularly fantastical and derogatory tale today.

Joe Dickson writes in a piece entitled, Standards Even A Kid Can Understand, that he couldn’t figure out how to write about the complexity of quality in one post so he gets to do a series.

Joe, it’s called editing. You’re a terrible writer.

“Is everything here organic?” and Paige said “no” but that everything was natural. And then fumbled through various attempts at explaining what natural means – realizing as she rambled that a typical 11-year-old doesn’t have the background to understand how much junk is in our conventional food supply. Paige eventually came up with this: “You won’t find blue catsup here because catsup comes from tomatoes and tomatoes aren’t blue in nature.” And the friend got it: “So, catsup is red here?” Yes.

Joe the former nursery school teacher then introduces those readers who haven’t fallen asleep or clicked elsewhere to Quality Standards Storytime.

Once upon a time there were only natural foods. I know this is obvious, but one of my most strongly-held beliefs about food is that we should pay attention to the diets that humans have followed for 200,000 years or so. Our bodies and brains evolved on a diet of unprocessed foods — mostly plants and nuts, some animal protein and very little else. The 50-100 years since the advent of food processing and artificial preservatives occupies about .05% of that timeline. I think it’s fairly logical to play it safe and stick to the diets that have proven safe and healthful for most of recorded time.

Then, sometime in the twentieth century, Artificial Preservatives, Colors and Flavors were invented by “food scientists,” devoted to improving the quality of our lives through science. The ability to color, flavor and preserve food indefinitely made it possible to recreate authentic-seeming foods and make them last virtually forever. …

The Organic and Natural Products movements were born in opposition to these changes, based on the belief that natural food is healthier, better for you and better tasting. As the conventional grocery industry got weirder and weirder, the group of resisters got bigger and bigger. Whole Foods Market was born out of that opposition, founded in 1981 as a natural alternative to mainstream grocery stores. Organic agriculture also followed a similar route, rising as a resistance movement to chemical/industrial agriculture during the 1970s and 80s.

What a fairytale. Maybe Whole Foods should worry first about keeping dangerous bacteria out of the food it sells – it’s part of that food science thing – so its customers don’t barf.

And leave the storytelling to experts like Robert Munsch of Guelph, Ontario, whose 1986, Love You Forever, is one of the most popular children’s books ever, with some 8 million copies sold (my kids preferred The Paper Bag Princess, while I preferred Good Families Don’t, because it’s about farts).

Shortly before baby Sorenne was born I gave an animated telling of the story to our prenatal class, complete with bad singing, based on years of practice, and because I’d seen Munsch tell the story a few times.

Natural Grocers defends itself against salmonella

Founded on the belief that "health should not be expensive," Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage grinds its own peanut butter in-store using only domestic, U.S.D.A. certified organic peanuts.

In a statement addressing Natural Grocers’ connection to the outbreak of salmonella in Peanut Corp. of America peanuts, Executive Vice President and Co-Owner of Vitamin Cottage Heather Isely says,

"We are a relatively small, family-owned company that only sells carefully screened natural and organic products, and we work hard to source our products domestically because we believe in the quality controls in place in this country. We – among others – have been hurt by this one unscrupulous supplier…"

The company may have learned the hard way that natural and organic products are not invincible to foodborne pathogens.

Elsewhere in the statement, Isely says,

"[W]e trusted our government and industry food inspection process, which usually works extraordinarily well."

Since January 30, the fresh ground peanut butter made in Vitamin Cottage stores has contained peanuts from a new supplier, Hampton Farms.

"To further reassure our customers," Isely states, "we are now testing each lot of the new peanut butter stock for salmonella. We are working to find even more ways of keeping our customers safe."

Way to be proactive… now that you have to.