2 sick with E. coli O157:H7 from Vermont’s Bread & Butter Farm

Vermont Livestock Slaughter and Processing, LLC, a Ferrisburg, Vt., establishment, is recalling approximately 133 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The ground beef was produced on July 24 and 25, 2017.  The following products are subject to recall:

* 1-lb. vacuum sealed packages containing “Bread & Butter Farm Ground Beef” with lot codes #072517BNB and #072417BNB.

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. 9558” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were sold at Bread & Butter farm in Shelburne, Vt. (I could write a book about the BS in the pic, above; maybe I will).

On September 30, 2017, FSIS was notified of an investigation of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses. Working in conjunction with the Vermont Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, FSIS determined the cooked beef burgers that were served at an event at Bread & Butter Farm was the probable source of the reported illnesses. Based on the epidemiological investigation, two case-patients were identified in Vermont with illness onset dates ranging from September 18, 2017, to September 23, 2017. Traceback information indicated that both case-patients consumed ground beef products at Bread & Butter Farm which was supplied by Vermont Livestock Slaughter & Processing. Vermont Livestock Slaughter and Processing, LLC is recalling the products out of an abundance of caution. FSIS continues to work with public health partners on this investigation and will provide updated information as it becomes available.

Natural doesn’t equal safe

A ‘natural’ food label doesn’t really mean much to me. Some equate it with healthier, or using traditional growing and processing methods (whatever that means). There’s research that demonstrates consumers, when surveyed, have a mix of understanding and perception about what natural represents.

USDA has a natural label definition for meat and poultry that involves a mix of no artificial ingredients, no added colors and is only minimally processed which means whatever has happened to it doesn’t fundamentally alter the product.all-natural-label

What I want to know as a buyer and consumer of lots of different foods from retailers and restaurants is how folks are reducing my risk of foodborne illness, whether unnatural or not.

According to The Guardian, a U.S. trade group, the Organic and Natural Health Association (OHNA) is creating a certification system for labeling in the absence of FDA definitions.

ONHA will roll out a certification program, beginning in early 2016, that will offer a “natural” seal that participating companies can put on the front of their product packaging.

The seal comes after years of criticisms and lawsuits against food manufacturers such as Welch’s for allegedly misleading consumers with ambiguous package labels that do not necessarily accurately reflect the food contained inside.

“It became clear to us that we just needed to define ‘natural’ as what it was,” ONHA CEO Karen Howard said. That’s because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates food labeling, “has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives,” according to its own materials. The FDA also does not object to the use of the term on products with “added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances.”

The seal would not be a government-approved package label, but rather a self-selecting way for manufacturers to help consumers better understand the contents and production of foods. The program would be voluntary and overseen by ONHA.

Companies will have to pay a small fee for the seal and must pay to go through the compliance process themselves.

A study conducted by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale Univeristy found that nutrition-related claims mislead consumers in unexpected ways, with packaging claims promoting their ingredients are more nutritious than similar products without such claims. The study also found that package claims made consumers think they could gain health benefits even beyond those suggested by the manufacturer.

Jennifer Harris, the lead author of that study, said that consumers were often skeptical of direct claims from manufacturers, but through inference often persuade themselves into believing that an unhealthy product could have a positive health outcome.

How about some meaningful safety labels.

‘Natural’ helps sell $40 billion worth of food in the U.S. every year—and the label means nothing

Nothing makes Americans buy a food product quite like the fabulously ambiguous word “natural.”

chobani.yogurtThe top 35 health claims and food labels include words most anyone who has been to a supermarket in the past five years should recognize—ones like “natural,” yes, but also “organic,” and “fat free,” and “carb conscious,” and “100 calories.”  These phrases helped the food industry sell more than $377 billion worth of masterfully marketed food items in the United States during the past year, according to data from market research firm Nielsen.

The list of lucrative food labels is long, and, at times, upsetting.

Many of these labels are pasted onto food packages for good reason. It’s imperative, after all, that consumers with celiac disease be able to tell which food items are gluten free, or that those with milk allergies be able to tell which are made without lactose.

But some are utterly meaningless. Take food labeled with the word “natural,” for instance. Actually, remember it, because it’s probably the most egregious example on supermarket shelves today. The food industry now sells almost $41 billion worth of food each year labeled with the word “natural,” according to data from Nielsen. And the “natural” means, well, nothing. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t even have an official definition or delineation of what “natural” actually means. The only thing the FDA has regarding the word is this statement, on its website:

From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.

market.naturalIt’s hardly the only misleading adjective the food industry is swinging around these days. The word organic, while a bit less nebulous, still means a good deal less than one might think. Several others, including ones that reference antioxidants, proteins, calcium and other vitamins and minerals, are confusing consumers by tricking them into believing certain food products are healthier than they actually are, a recent study found. And the trend is only likely to get worse. Many of the top grossing food labels are still growing—and fast.

But it’s natural: Investigating the control of Listeria monocytogenes on a ready-to-eat ham product using natural antimicrobial ingredients and postlethality interventions

Ready-to-eat (RTE) meat and poultry products manufactured with natural or organic methods are at greater risk for Listeria monocytogenes growth, if contaminated, than their conventional counterparts due to the required absence of preservatives and antimicrobials. Thus, the objective of this study was to investigate the use of commercially available natural antimicrobials and post-lethality interventions in the control of L. monocytogenes growth and recovery on a RTE ham product.

publix.deli.warningAntimicrobials evaluated were cranberry powder (90MX), vinegar (DV), and vinegar/lemon juice concentrate (LV1X). Post-lethality interventions studied were high hydrostatic pressure at 400 (HHP400) or 600 (HHP600) MPa, lauric arginate (LAE), octanoic acid (OA), and post-packaging thermal treatment (PPTT). Parameters evaluated through 98 days of storage at 4±1°C were residual nitrite concentrations, pH, aw, and viable L. monocytogenes on modified Oxford (MOX) media. On day 1, OA, 90MX, DV, and LV1X yielded lower residual nitrite concentrations than the control, whereas HHP400, HHP600, and LAE did not. LAE, HHP400, and OA reduced L. monocytogenes population compared to the control after 1 day of storage by 2.38, 2.21, and 1.73 log10 colony-forming units per gram, respectively. PPTT did not achieve a significant reduction in L. monocytogenes populations. L. monocytogenes recovered and grew in all post-lethality intervention treatments except HHP600. 90MX did not inhibit the growth of L. monocytogenes, while DV and LV1X did.

Results of this study demonstrate the bactericidal properties of HHP, OA, and LAE and the bacteriostatic potential of natural antimicrobial ingredients such as DV and LV1X against L. monocytogenes.

Lavieri Nicolas A., Sebranek Joseph G., Brehm-Stecher Byron F., Cordray Joseph C., Dickson James S., Horsch Ashley M., Jung Stephanie, Larson Elaine M., Manu David K., and Mendonça Aubrey F.

Foodborne Pathogens and Disease. June 2014, 11(6): 462-467.

Specialty meat not safer

The number one health concern with meat is making sure it’s cooked enough to kill dangerous bacteria, which is something both conventionally and organically produced meats have.

So says Dr. Dana Hanson, a meat specialist in North Carolina State University’s Food Science Department in a piece for WRAL (see below).

“The end result is a healthy food product in either scenario. To say that one is better or more healthy than the other is, quite frankly, a stretch.”

There are also debates about animal treatment, environmental concerns and how antibiotics may impact bacteria strains. But those debates are separate from the nutrition and safety of the meat we ultimately eat.

Those comments were markedly different than those from producers of specialty meats

Ritchie Roberts of Double R Cattle Services Farm near Hillsborough said,

“I know that my beef is all grass-fed and handled correctly and is super good and nutritious for you ’cause I know what goes into it. and I have control of that. It boils down to that sense of being able to support maybe a local industry and that’s really where the benefits of organic come in.”

Draft owner Dean Ogan says, “The most important thing for us is to know where it came from, know who produced it, know the process.”

All worthy objectives — that have nothing to do with safety.

Nosestretcher alert: Organizations express concern over Food Safety Modernization Act

I don’t care much for all the attention paid to food safety legislation. The stuff that food buyers, suppliers and service folks do every day goes far beyond the endless and mindless chatter about government.

So today, when I read that more than 100 food, agricultural, ranching and consumer groups have signed a letter being distributed to all U.S. Senators urging them to adopt amendments introduced by Montana Senator Jon Tester that would exempt small food processors from the expense and regulatory oversight required by the Food Safety and Modernization Act, I thought, yawn.

The letter says,

“All of the well-publicized incidents of contamination in recent years – whether in spinach, peppers, or peanuts – occurred in industrialized food supply chains that span national and even international boundaries.”

Except that spinach was transitional organic. So the grower was trying to cash in on a production system that has nothing to do with food safety.

“Farmers and processors who sell directly to consumers and end users have a direct relationship with their customers that ensures quality, safety, transparency and accountability.”

Just because I can shake your hand doesn’t mean I know you washed it before you lovingly put your poop-laden fingers all over that tomato you just picked.


You serve food, in any form, make it microbiologically safe.