From the cross-contamination bad idea files: RI orders Asian supermarket in Providence to stop selling live frogs, turtles

Madeleine List of the Providence Journal reports Department of Public Health inspectors have ordered the owners of a supermarket on Cadillac Drive to cease the sale of live animals in their store.

Health inspectors responded to a complaint about the Good Fortune Supermarket on Tuesday and found 45 frogs and seven turtles for sale at the establishment, said Joseph Wendelken, spokesman for the Rhode Island Department of Health.

“It’s against Rhode Island food code for there to be live animals in a food establishment,” he said.

The department ordered the owners to stop selling the animals and put up signs at the store to notify the public that the critters were not for sale, Wendelken said.

Health officials will coordinate with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management to determine what to do with the animals, he said. For now, they are still at the store.

Good Fortune, which is described on its website as one of the largest Asian supermarkets in the United States, opened in Providence about two weeks ago, Wendelken said. The market has more than a dozen locations across the U.S., according to its website.

Health officials inspected the establishment before it opened and found no violations, Wendelken said.

“There was no indication at that point that frogs and turtles were going to be sold,” he said.

Everyone’s got a camera — #2 in a supermarket cooler edition

Footage has surfaced of a woman walking through the aisles of a supermarket before doing a poo in a fridge.

The unnamed woman can be seen taking a leisurely stroll through the shop as she looks at products, before checking to see whether anyone is looking so she can do the deed.

She proceeds to lift her dress up, squat over a fully stocked chilling cabinet and calmly take care of her business, The Sun reports.

Perhaps even more worrying is the fact that another woman can be seen pushing a buggy just metres away while she looks at products on the opposite shelves.

Upon realisation of what the woman is up to, she brusquely walks away.

Though it is not clear precisely where and when the gross act occurred, some viewers believe the footage may have come from Russia.

Quebec grocery stores change expiry dates to make food seem fresh

According to documents obtained through an access to information request, 12 supermarkets have been given a total of 14 citations over the past two years for changing expiry date labels on food.

The changed dates vary from as little as one day to as much as two months, and ranged from raw chicken to bacon, mussels and salmon.

“There are foods you don’t mess with,” nutritionist Stephanie Cote said. “Meat, poultry and fish especially.”

Jean-Christophe Cognault, who manages another Montreal-area grocery store, said “the practice is much more common than these 12 supermarkets.

“It’s just that most of them are never caught.”

Cognault used to work for a large supermarket. He shared a few tricks that grocers use to modify best-before and expiry dates.

“For steak, you cut off the meat that’s gone brown on the sides and repackage it,” he said.

Oregon deserves regular, visible grocery inspections

Following up on the series of articles by Tracy Loew about grocery store inspection disclosure in Oregon, her paper, the Statesman Journal, comes out in favor of full disclosure.

image4Good for them.

In Oregon, it is difficult for consumers to learn whether the food at their favorite grocery store is handled safely.

That is the state’s fault.

And that is unconscionable.

The understaffed Oregon Department of Agriculture lags far behind the nationally recommended schedule for store inspections. Even worse, the public cannot easily learn what the inspectors found.

As the Statesman Journal’s Tracy Loew reported last week in stories that should raise legislators’ ire, the Agriculture Department has a huge backlog of grocery store inspections. Some stores have not been inspected for years, even though the federal government recommends inspections every six months.

State agriculture officials say that is because they prioritize inspections based on which activities in the food chain represent the greatest risk to public health and which facilities have a history of problems. That approach sounds defensible from a risk-analysis viewpoint, but it leaves widespread holes in the food-safety system.

The number of serious violations found in grocery store inspections can be astounding. Some — food being sold past the expiration date, food stored at the wrong temperature and food-handling equipment that is unclean — are enough to make the stomach turn.

The Agriculture Department inspection staff is stretched too thin. And some legislators say the situation is not unique to that department.

deli.counterThe 2015 Legislature should undertake a thorough review of inspections conducted by the state’s licensing and regulatory agencies, including:

•Do the inspections serve the purposes for which they were intended?

•Should the inspection process be streamlined? Intensified? Eliminated?

•How are inspections financed, and is staffing appropriate for the workload?

•Are inspection reports promptly posted online, where they are easily available for public view?

For grocery stores, another question desperately needs answering: Should county health departments be given the duty — and the state funding — to inspect grocery stores.

Counties already inspect restaurants. Grocery stores have added delis and other restaurant-style options to meet Americans’ changing lifestyles. For many people, a quick stop at the grocery store has replaced either eating at home or dining out.

In contrast to the backlog in grocery store inspections, about 95 percent of Oregon restaurant inspections are completed on time. The Oregon Health Authority is responsible for those restaurant, cafe and food-cart inspections but delegates that work to counties.

Because grocery stores operate on slim profit margins and face intense competition, it’s in their best interests to have the cleanest, healthiest food handling, display and storage. Some stores have increased their own inspections to compensate for the infrequency of state inspections. That is to their credit.

Still, inspections throughout the food chain are among government’s most important roles. A government inspection report, especially one that the public easily can see, adds clout to the importance of food safety.

It is baffling that the Agriculture Department this year created a database to track inspections and findings but planned the database only for internal management use instead of posting the results online. That suggests misplaced priorities and misunderstanding of the importance of transparency. In contrast, Marion County has an easy-to-use public database of restaurant inspections.

Gov. John Kitzhaber and legislators have a duty to bring Oregon from one of the least progressive states on food-to-table inspections to one of the best. This is an issue of public health, accountability and transparency.

Oregonians should not have to file a public records request and pay a fee for a copy of a grocery store’s inspection report.

Oregonians should not be left in the dark about their neighborhood grocery stores.

Oregonians should expect that their state government ensures their food safety — regularly and publicly.

Shock and shame: Supermarket food safety failings make case for scrutiny

Perhaps my Scottish food safety friend can comment. Thermometers would help.

chicken.thermRichard Lloyd, executive director of Which? makes a strong case in The Scotsman for strong control of Campylobacter.

For the first time, the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) named and shamed seven of the biggest supermarkets based on its testing results for Campylobacter. It wasn’t pretty reading, with the food safety watchdog detailing how more than 70 per cent of the fresh chickens it tested were contaminated with the potentially lethal bug.

Asda was found to have the highest levels, at 78 per cent, but none of the major retailers did well in this survey or met the FSA’s agreed joint industry target. The lowest rates were found in Tesco but it still had nearly two-thirds of samples contaminated (64 per cent). The results are a damning indictment of our big supermarkets, and consumers will be shocked at the failure of trusted household brands to stem the tide of increasingly high levels of Campylobacter. Supermarket bosses should hang their heads in shame.

The FSA’s retailer results were actually worse than a previous survey last August which didn’t name individual stores but showed around six in ten fresh chicken samples tested were contaminated with campylobacter. In research we undertook, as part of our new Make Chicken Safe campaign, we found six in ten people (61 per cent) expressed concern about these high levels, with three-quarters (77 per cent) saying they thought they were too high. More than half (55 per cent) thought that there wasn’t enough information available regarding Campylobacter levels in chicken.

By releasing information about which supermarkets are most affected, in the face of extreme pressure from industry to keep it anonymous, we hope the FSA will pile public pressure on the poor performers to improve and give consumers better information about campylobacter levels. We now want to see supermarkets not only publish effective plans to tackle these scandalously high levels but also demonstrate they’re taking real action to make chicken safe.

Although Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning, cooking chicken at temperatures above 70ºC (165ºF) will kill the bacteria. And there are simple ways to minimize cross-contamination at home, for example not washing raw chicken, because the water can spray bacteria onto the surrounding area of your kitchen.

But we don’t think the onus should be on consumers to tackle this bug. Nearly nine in ten people (86 per cent) say they assume the food they buy from supermarkets won’t make them ill, and three-quarters of people (76 per cent) trust that the fresh chicken supermarkets stock is safe to eat. That is why Which?’s Make Chicken Safe campaign is calling for joint action from the supermarkets, regulator and the chicken processing industry to set out action to bring Campylobacter levels under control; and to publish the results of all the campylobacter testing they undertake.

barfblog.Stick It InControls need to be tightened at every stage of the supply chain, from farms to supermarkets. There can be no shirking responsibility – everyone involved in producing and selling chickens must act now and tell consumers what they’re doing to make sure the chicken we eat is safe. It’s now vital that the industry cleans up its act and works hard to restore consumer confidence.

Reducing Campylobacter levels must also be firmly on the agenda for the new food safety body for Scotland, Food Standards Scotland (FSS), which will shortly be established as part of the Food (Scotland) Bill. Consumers need to be confident in the food they are buying and we want the FSS to put consumers at the heart of its work, right from the start.

To do this, FSS needs teeth and a team of experts led by a proactive chief executive who will be a true consumer champion – starting with tackling the campylobacter scandal.

Blood-covered cardboard and rat droppings found at UK supermarket sentenced for food hygiene offences

Rat droppings on pallets of bottled water and cardboard covered in blood were just some of the shocking finds made at a supermarket in Slough.

The director and manager of Marwa Superstore in High Street have been fined and banned from managing food businesses after pleading guilty to a string of food safety offences.

marwaAppearing at Slough Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, September 25 the owner of the store, Noor Al-Huda Ltd, company director, Raghad Kadham, and day-to-day manager, Mahdi Bourhan, were all fined and ordered to pay costs.

The offences included failure to keep food in a manner which protected it from contamination, failing to keep the premises clean, and failing to have procedures in place to keep the premises free from pests.

All three were also prohibited from being involved in the management of any food business with immediate effect.

Slough Borough Council food safety manager Ann Stewart said: “Marwa clearly haven’t learned their lessons because, despite repeated warnings and food safety rating of zero, a lot of the problems we found were similar to the ones that led to its closure two years ago.

Supermarket madness: shopping for food safety

powell_inside02

From the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety:

Shopping is a competitive sport.

Especially for groceries.

People who would think nothing of laying out $200 for a fancy-pants dinner and atmosphere, will digitally or electronically clip coupons to save $0.10.

I watch people when I go shopping for food, about every second day, and maybe they watch the creepy guy watching them.

My questions may not be the same as other cooks or parents, but I have a lot.

Should that bagged salad be re-washed? Some bags have labels and instructions, some don’t. What about the salad out in bins that came from pre-washed bags? Should it be re-washed?

Is washing strawberries or cantaloupe going to make them safer?

Where did those frozen berries come from? Am I really supposed to cook them and can’t have them in my yogurt because of a hepatitis A risk?

Are raw sprouts risky?

How long is that deli-meat good for? Is it safer at the counter or pre-packaged?

Should I use a thermometer or is piping hot a sufficient standard for cooking meat and frozen potpies? Can I tell if meat is cooked by using my tender fingertips?

Is that steak or roast beef mechanically tenderized and maybe requires a longer cook time or higher temperature?

Are those frozen chicken thingies made from raw or cooked product? Is it labeled? Is labeling an effective communication mechanism?

These are the questions I have as a food safety type and as a parent who has shopped for five daughters for a long time in multiple countries. It has guided much of our research.

I see lots of things wandering through the grocery store, but I don’t see much information about food safety.

When there is an outbreak, retailers rely on a go-to soundbite: “Food safety is our top priority.”

As a food safety type I sometimes see that, but as a consumer, I don’t.

This sets up a mental incongruity: if food safety is your top priority, shouldn’t you show me?

The other common soundbite is, “We meet all government standards.” This is the Pinto defense – so named for the cars that met government standards but had a tendency to blow up when hit from behind – and is a neon sign to shop elsewhere.

Leaving brand protection to government inspectors or auditors is a bad idea.

For a while I started saying, rather than focus on training, which is never evaluated for effectiveness, change the food safety culture at supermarkets and elsewhere, and here’s how to do that.

But now the phrase, “We have a strong food safety culture,” is routinely rolled out but rarely understood, so I’m going back to my old line: show me what you do to keep people from barfing.

doug.ben.family.Food safety information needs to be rapid, reliable, relevant and repeated. I don’t see that at grocery stores.

The days of assuming that all food at retail is safe are over. Some farmers, some companies, are better at food safety. And they should be rewarded.

Most of us just want to hang out with our kids and get some decent food – food that won’t make us barf.

Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety who shops, cooks and ferments from his home in Brisbane, Australia.

Everybody says they’re in favor of food safety, but who wants to pay for it

Barry Wilson has been writing about agriculture in Canada for Western Producer magazine as long as I’ve been around.

consumer.foodsafe.supermarketAnd he usually gets it right.

Wilson writes that many consumers say what they know they should say or what they believe their ethics dictate when it comes to food and food safety. Then they head to the bargain bins or the box stores where they can get the best prices.

All the evidence points to most consumers saying one thing and doing another – supporting all the good things about Canadian food production in theory, but then heading to the cheap ice cream, the imported tomatoes or apples, the meat from wherever.

For farmers, this is an old problem.

Society wants more but refuses to pay more.

Consumers and customers of Canadian food production insist on safe, ecologically responsible production but generally aren’t prepared to pay more for it and consider it simply the cost of doing business.

The vast majority of food producers want to do the right thing for ethical and market reasons but often can’t afford the additional cost. 

337 sick from salmonella in sausage, France, 2011

Those supermarket loyalty cards helped pin down an outbreak of salmonella in sausage in France last year.

Researchers reported in Eurosurveillance last week that an outbreak of the monophasic variant of Salmonella enterica serotype 4,[5],12:i:- occurred in November and December 2011 in France. Epidemiological investigation and food investigation with the help of supermarket loyalty cards suggested dried pork sausage from one producer as the most likely source of the outbreak. Despite the absence of positive food samples, control measures including withdrawal and recall were implemented.

Between 31 October and 18 December (week 44 to week 50), a total of 337 cases of Salmonella enterica serotype 4,[5],12:i:- were identified. The median age was 10 years (range: 0–90 years) with about 30% of children under five. A majority of women were affected (female to male sex ratio: 1.22). Cases were reported throughout France.

An epidemic of Salmonella enterica 4,[5],12:i:- was already observed about three months prior to this outbreak. Between 1 August and 9 October, 682 cases were reported (Figure 1), of whom 100 cases were interviewed at the time but no common vehicle of infection could be identified. In comparison, 212 cases with this serotype had been isolated during the same period in 2010.

Epidemiological investigations pointed to a dried pork sausage purchased principally at supermarket chain A and consumed after week 44, 2011. Therefore purchases of pork delicatessen at supermarkets A and B up to four weeks prior to symptom onset were investigated by the DGAL using data recorded through supermarket loyalty cards.

The use of the loyalty card from supermarket chain A was important to identify the vehicle of infection and the local producer involved in this outbreak. These cards are used more and more and prove helpful in the investigation of food-related outbreaks. Nevertheless we should keep in mind that they do not necessarily reflect the consumption of cases perfectly. For instance, the card may not be used systematically, the household can purchase foods in additional shops and markets for which they have no loyalty cards, many food products are consumed outside the household and not recorded on the card, and the central database of the supermarket does not always contain data on all foods sold such as foods directly purchased by the retailers. For these reasons the data have to be interpreted together with the results from epidemiological and microbiological investigations.

That the producer and microbiological analysis did not find Salmonella does not exclude contamination. The limited number of samples and the processing of the food (especially salting and drying) reduce the likelihood of isolating the bacteria. Implementing checks earlier in the process (before salting and drying) and using additional methods of testing such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) should be considered.

This is the second described outbreak in France involving dried pork sausage, and indicates that this food item might be a likely vehicle of infection and further outbreaks in humans may be expected.

Given the limitations to detect Salmonella in dried sausages, the ability of the standard reference method to detect of monophasic variant strains in dried sausages is questionable. Additional methods should be explored in order to improve monitoring protocols.

The complete report is available at http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleId=20071.
 

Australian supermarkets racing to the hormone-free gutter

Another Australian supermarket chain has gotten into the BS business by claiming the lamb on its shelves is hormone-free.

This despite hormones never being used in lamb production in Australia.

Melbourne supermarket chain Maxi Foods has signs on the meat shelves of its Blackburn and Upper Ferntree Gully stores advertizing that "All our beef, lamb and pork are Australian grown with no added hormones."

The chain is following Coles, which began advertising HGP-free beef last year.
The advertising has angered the Sheepmeat Council, which said hormones have never been used in lamb production in Australia.

President Kate Joseph said growth hormones were never used because they were not needed.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority confirmed no hormones were registered for use in lamb production in Australia.

Australia has just as much foodborne illness as everyone else. Retailers get drunk on the profit margins for specious claims like organic/natural/local/sustainable or hormone-free, which have nothing to do with people barfing.

Market microbiologically safe food – and back it up with meaningful data.