Dog meat fades in S. Korea

The USA Today today reports that for more than 30 years, chef and restaurant owner Oh Keum-il built her expertise in cooking one traditional South Korean delicacy: dog meat. her twenties, Oh traveled around South Korea to learn dog meat recipes from each region. During a period of South Korean reconciliation with North Korea early last decade, she went to Pyongyang as part of a business delegation and tasted a dozen different dog dishes, from dog stew to dog taffy, all served lavishly at the Koryo, one of the North’s best hotels.

She adapted famous dishes to include dog meat, replacing beef with dog in South Korea’s signature meat and rice dish bibimbap. But the 58-year-old’s lifelong experience with a food eaten for centuries in Korea is about to become history.

Daegyo, the famous dog meat restaurant she opened in a Seoul alley in 1981, will serve its last bowl of boshintang, or dog stew, on Friday, a reflection of the challenges facing a trade that is neither legal nor explicitly banned under South Korean laws governing livestock and food processing.

33 sickened: tuna linked to E. coli O157:H45 in South Korea

Background: In May 2013, an outbreak of gastroenteritis occurred in a high school in Incheon, South Korea. We investigated the outbreak in order to identify the pathogen and mode of transmission.

kimchi_tuna_bibimbap_00-Materials and Methods: A case–control study was performed using standardized questionnaires with a case definition of illness with diarrhea. Stool samples, environmental samples, and samples from preserved food items were collected to test pathogens. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) was performed on the outbreak-related Escherichia coli strains.

Results: Thirty-three people (attack rate: 2.5%) met the case definition, and the pattern of the epidemic curve suggested a point-source outbreak. The common symptoms of cases were diarrhea (100.0%), abdominal pain (75.8%), chills (45.5%), and nausea (39.4%). Cases were found to be 8.26 times more likely to have eaten spicy fish soup with cod (95% confidence interval: 1.05–65.01). Consumption of egg soup with spring onions or braised eggs with razor clam flesh was significantly associated with illness. Atypical enteropathogenic E. coli O157:H45 was isolated from samples of 9 cases (27.3%) and tuna bibimbap. PFGE patterns of all tested isolates of O157 serotype were indistinguishable.

Conclusions: This outbreak was caused by atypical enteropathogenic E. coli O157:H45 and the food vehicle was suspected to be tuna bibimbap. The statistical analysis was not in concordance with the microbiologic tests, probably owing to low pathogenicity of atypical enteropathogenic E. coli O157. This is the first report of an outbreak caused by atypical enteropathogenic E. coli O157.

Foodborne Pathogens and Disease

Ji-Hyuk Park, Sung-Suk Oh, Kyung-Hwan Oh, Jaeseung Shin, Eun Jung Jang, Byung-Yool Jun, Seung-Ki Youn, and Seung-Hak Cho

South Korea PM vows to improve food safety at school cafeterias

South Korea will prohibit food suppliers that fail to meet certain safety criteria from providing school meals, Prime Minister Chung Hong-won said Wednesday.

belushi.cafeteria“Food suppliers that fail to meet standards set forth by the HACCP system will not be able to enter a bid to provide meals in school cafeterias,” Chung said.

“We also plan on canceling the HACCP license of any supplier that violates food safety measures, even if it’s just a one-time offense,” he added.

Food safety inspections will be conducted later this month at some 7,500 restaurants near popular summer destinations, Chung said.

246 sick; Taiwanese tourists in South Korea hit by norovirus

A recent diarrhea outbreak among Taiwanese tourists in South Korea was caused by a norovirus infection the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said Saturday.

The CDC said it has notified South Korean health authorities to investigate the matter and asked travel agencies to change the meals they arrange for their customers.

The CDC recently received reports from the Tourism Bureau and local travel agencies that norovirus-2members of 14 Taiwanese tourist groups that visited South Korea developed diarrhea and gastroenteritis.

An examination of the tourists who still showed the symptoms found that of 36 specimens from 28 people, four tested positive for the norovirus, while 17 were negative and 15 were still being tested, the CDC said.

The agency tracked 412 tourists from the 14 groups and found that 246 of them had developed such symptoms as diarrhea, stomach aches and nausea.

Authorities in Seoul had also tested 10 Taiwanese tourists who sought medical treatment there and discovered the presence of the virus, the CDC said.

Jim Romahn: It’s time for general Canadian public to speak up

I’ve know Jim Romahn for about 15 years. His writing drives a lot of bureaucrats ballistic, which is why he’s recognized as one of Canada’s best journalists writing about food and agriculture.

Jim just sent me this column about food, protectionism and hypocrisy. The South Koreans went somewhat nuts about American beef earlier this year, with riot police called to quell the protests of tens of thousands.

Six months later and the Washington Post reported, what was the big deal?

“Low-priced U.S. beef has appeared in supermarkets here in recent days, after a decision by three major retailers to start selling it again, and the reaction has been brisk business and no political fuss. Fifty tons of U.S. beef disappeared from shelves the first day it was offered for sale."

That’s usually the way things work. Politicians worried about particular constituencies will make outrageous claims on behalf of all Canadians or Koreans or consumers in general, in the absence of any data. Yet when people are allowed to vote at the grocery store, with their wallet, conventional wisdom becomes political nonsense.

So here’s Jim’s take on Canada, South Korea, trade and BS.

Pity the beef and pork producers eager to increase exports to South Korea.

Trade talks have been dragging on for years.

For sure, the beef and hog producers of South Korea oppose dropping tariffs on Canadian products.

But there’s also a big problem in our own back yard.

The Koreans want to sell us cars, but Chrysler, Ford and General Motors are lobbying hard to maintain the 6.1 per cent tariff. So is the Canadian Autoworkers Union.

There is another big problem – our dairy industry.

The trade talks have expanded to bring in other countries to make a deal more attractive, especially to increase exports.

So far those talks involve Singapore, Chile, Brunei and New Zealand.

New Zealand wants to export its dairy products. And everybody knows Canadian dairy farmers won’t budge one iota.

So, after 13 rounds of negotiations with South Korea, and a few with the so-called P4, Canada’s special interests are blocking trade deals that would quite obviously benefit beef and hog farmers and all Canadian consumers.

It’s one thing to stonewall at the World Trade negotiations. It’s even more upsetting when our politicians stonewall on country-specific negotiations, and this P4 group of minor countries.

What are the chances our politicians will agree to trade terms that will increase competitive pressure on our auto industry?

What are the chances they will undermine supply management for the dairy and poultry farmers?

What hope, then, that Canadians will be able to heed the advice of Prime Minister Stephen Harper when he says the current economic crisis calls for free trade.

Harper reminds world leaders that protectionism gets blamed for some of the depth of the Great Depression.

It’s not world leaders who need a lecture. It’s our own Canadian protectionists.

What’s more, Harper has the tools to back his talk with action.

 If he could make a deal with the P4, it would set the stage for him to take a far more aggressive position in the World Trade negotiations.

 And there the goal from the beginning of the Doha round has been to benefit poor nations. And among the poorest people in those nations are farmers.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture and a series of agriculture ministers have pretended we can take a “balanced” position in trade negotiations, winning market access for our exporters and continued protection for the marketing boards.

It’s obviously not true.

The Doha round talks have repeatedly stalled. Thirteen rounds of negotiations with South Korea have failed to yield a deal. And Canada is unlikely to stay at the negotiating table with the P4 because it won’t compromise with New Zealand.

It’s time for the general Canadian public to speak up and demand an end to political pandering to special interests. We can’t afford to waste our money and resources, especially as the rest of the world moves to capture the benefits of freer trade.