I just wanna dance like Pete and forget all this food safety BS

Paul Davenport of the Star Tribune reports a man was arrested and accused of food tampering after he allegedly poured liquids into a freezer case at a Target store, authorities said Wednesday.

Police said David Clare Lohr Jr., 48, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of adding a harmful substance to food and that investigators believed he was involved in previous potential tampering incidents at five other Target stores in Phoenix and three suburbs.

Food fraud: Would you like wood in your cheese

The cheese you’re using on your pasta might not be so “grate” after all.

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese on a wooden chopping board.

According to Bloomberg Business, the FDA has reported that Castle Cheese Inc. — the manufacturer that makes Market Pantry’s “100% grated Parmesan Cheese,” which used to be sold at Target — used substitutes, including wood pulp on their product.

In fact, the report showed that “no parmesan cheese was used to manufacture” the cheese. Instead, it was made with Swiss, mozzarella and white cheddar (which are cheaper) — and the added bonus of cellulose (a byproduct of the wood pulp).

And Target isn’t alone. While a safe level of cellulose (which acts as an anti-clumping agent) is around 2 to 4 percent, according to Blomberg, certain common brands have tested much higher.

Walmart’s Great Value 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese, for example, reportedly came in at 7.8 percent, and Essential Everyday 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese (sold at Jewel-Osco) had 8.8 percent. Whole Foods and Kraft showed some percentage of cellulose either below or within the acceptable level.

While these substitutes and fillers are costing manufacturers less to produce, the FDA is cracking down on the people cutting the cheese—literally. According to reports, Castle Cheese Inc. has stopped making the not-so-Parmesan cheese, and filed for bankruptcy in 2014.

D.C. Target’s grocery area shut down after health violations, including rodent droppings

D.C. residents who like to do their grocery shopping at Target need to find another place to purchase their food for now.

rat.droppingsThe D.C. Department of Health suspended the retailer’s license at its Columbia Heights store after it failed a health inspection Thursday afternoon. Inspectors found a number of violations throughout the store, including rodent droppings in the back storage area, according to Ivan Torres, a spokesman for the D.C. Department of Health.

The fresh grocery area of the store and the pizza cafe, which serves hot prepared food, are closed. All other parts of the store are still open.

“At Target, food safety and quality are a top priority,” a Target spokesman wrote in an email. “We take this issue very seriously and are working with officials to address any concerns as quickly as possible.”

Salmonella Bredeney outbreak update: Sunland, Inc recalls lots of nut butter products

Peanut butter is one of the staples in our house. With a four-year-old who won’t eat much beyond bread, pasta and hummus, peanut butter is one of the protein sources we count on for growth and development. But it’s faith-based risk management wherever we buy it.
There isn’t much I can do to reduce the risk at home. I have to hope that whomever made it is effectively reducing the chance that Salmonella gets into their plant – and if it does, that they have some sort of validated kill-step and their sanitation crew is paying attention while cleaning and sanitizing lines and equipment.

On Friday the keen public health folks in Pennsylvania put out some information about a cluster of Salmonella Bredeney illnesses linked to a private-label Trader Joe’s peanut butter. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Saturday they are investigating 29 illnesses going back to June 8, 2012. And Illnesses that occurring after August 29, 2012 might not yet be reported due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported.

According to CDC, 22 of the ill individuals are under 18, and the median age is 7. I guess lots of other kids eat peanut butter.

Trader Joe’s recalled the stuff Saturday and today, the supplier, Sunland Inc have recalled all peanut and almond butter products produced since March – including products packed under Target’s Archer Farms brand.

Top Chef dirty hands leave a bad taste

The producers of Bravo’s Top Chef have me pegged as their target audience. Tonight’s episode featured the Sesame Street characters Telly, Cookie Monster, and Elmo (who were hilarious judges), and new ads for Target featuring former Top Chef cheftestants and Padma. It’s an entertaining episode that left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Tonight’s challenge was to cook a meal for 100 employees in a closed Target super store in the middle of the night. Because of the improvised cooking setting, the chefs were forced to set up their kitchens, find their ingredients, and prepare to serve the employees and judges within a 3 hour time limit. Some concentrated on table linens, some on flavors, but there was a frightening absence of handwashing. Granted, many of the chefs opted to make soup, which in theory should allow for thorough cooking of all ingredients. But what about any fancy garnish and fresh salad that ends up on the plate?

My favorite of the season, Richard Blais, made a pork tenderloin (pictured right exactly as shown). He then topped his finished pork with some freshly sliced apple and green chili slaw before serving. His concern? "It’s not the prettiest dish in the world. I know that. But I’m ready to defend my dish if I have to. I think it’s tasty."

Anthony Bourdain confirmed, "Frankly, I think Richard’s disk was butt ugly, but it was delicious."

One day I hope a chef will stand up and protest the cooking conditions or demand a meat thermometer. I will leave the food safety assessment to the experts, but I spotted a few potential concerns:

– using all cooking utensils and dishes straight from boxes with no chance to sanitize them

– improvised utensils, linens, garbage cans, etc.

– no handwashing stations, sanitizing solutions or rags to clean work surfaces or dishes.

I have hit pause on the DVR so many times that I’m not even done watching this episode yet, but I hope it does not end with a foodborne outbreak.

NZ consumer affairs show fined almost $40,000 for false food safety information

I get called regularly by some journalist wanting to stick it to the man – to show the shoddy side of the food business. And what better place than some local café.

I advise caution and getting the story right – journalistic basics which have substantially declined over the past 20 years, especially at the local level.

On June 16, 2009, New Zealand’s TV3 consumer affairs program, Target, showed an undercover camera segment looking at the hygiene standards of several Auckland cafes.

The New Zealand Herald explains food was bought from the cafes and then samples sent for laboratory testing, one of which came back with a high reading of fecal coliform. The show attributed that sample to Ponsonby-based Cafe Cezanne.

Target wrote to Cafe Cezanne’s owners telling them a chicken sandwich from their cafe had tested positive for faecal coliforms. However, the letter contained incorrect information about the date of purchase.

The owners questioned whether the sample was from their cafe but Target went ahead with the broadcast.

The program was forced to apologize the following week after it found a mistake had been made in labeling the samples, and the show broadcast a statement saying: "Due to a human error by a former Target staff member coding the results, we cannot confirm which cafe produced this high fecal coliform count".

Cafe Cezanne complained to the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) that the original item and the apology were inaccurate and unfair. They said the apology had not stated that the sample had been wrongly attributed to Cafe Cezanne.

In a decision released today, the BSA said it had found Target was in possession of two documents, which unequivocally exonerated the cafe, before the apology.
The documents showed the contaminated sample was collected and delivered to the laboratory on a different day from the sample from Cafe Cezanne, and it was therefore clear the contaminated sample definitely did not come from Cafe Cezanne.

That, uh, oversight resulted in almost $40,000 in fines.

TV3 broadcaster TVWorks was fined $5000 for the incorrect allegation and another $5000 for the apology, which it said did not unequivocally clear the cafe.
It was also ordered to pay the cafe owners’ full legal costs of $28,068.75, and to broadcast an apology and summary of the BSA’s decision on Target.

As well, it must publicize the decision on radio stations and in a newspaper advertisement.

Whole Foods, Target, playing same game of consumer deceit with seafood

Seafood in Kansas sucks.

Of course it does, we’re at least 20 hours from any major body of water.

 But the available choices became a bunch more confusing.

I chuckle when one of the local upscale restaurants advertizes mussels from Prince Edward Island (that’s in Canada) for some outrageous price to pay for the air transit. They’re mussels, a buck a pound in Ontario.

Whole Foodies announced a few days ago they would continue selling farmed fish, but only under the Whole Foods Market Responsibly Farmed logo, verified by third-party auditors, which is completely meaningless.

Now Target Corp., another of our regular shopping destinations, has announced it has eliminated all farmed salmon from its fresh, frozen and smoked seafood sections at stores nationwide.

The discount giant said it wanted to ensure that its salmon was "sourced in a sustainable way that helps to preserve abundance, species health and doesn’t harm local habitats."

The Minneapolis company said salmon farms could hurt the environment through pollution, chemicals and parasites.

So who’s right? Whole Foods or Target? I want aquaculture, to save the oceans, and don’t buy into some third-party auditing bullshit.


Bad frozen dessert — and labels — on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was a decidedly low-key affair this year. As the parents of a soon-to-be 1-year-old, we’re just tired. We’ve been to a baby shower, hosted a birthday party with too much good scotch (and turkey) and are driving to Missouri on Saturday, so we were all happy to hang out in our PJs.

Our friend Angelique came over for some Champagne, but the scallops and beef I made to top the pasta was far too salty. For dessert, it was the frozen kind from Target.

Amy got some frozen Tiramisu. And I had no idea what that was. But the label and handling directions were horrible. Thaw 6 hours before serving? And cut into 1-inch cubes and divide into 4 wine glasses, and then thread cubes and berries onto skewers?

Amy tried to zap it in the microwave. Didn’t work out so well.

Best of Thanksgiving from blue eyes.


Shopping cart sanitation (and don’t let kids lick packages of raw meat)

Amy, Sorenne and I go grocery shopping fairly frequently. The 11-month-old is curious about everything, a trait I called the day she was born; she’s alert, curious and increasingly mischievous.

When she was strong and co-ordinated enough to sit on her with a seatbelt on the seat behind the handle, a battle of wills soon emerged as Sorenne would have her hands on the handle, then in her mouth, or worse, would try to suckle the handle.

At this point I become much more rigorous and consistent about using those sanitary wipes  to wipe down the shopping cart seat and handle.

In 2004, clear displays promoting shopping cart sanitation were novel. And this one from Phoenix (upper right) is far more dramatic and attention-grabbing than a small container nailed to a bleak wall beside the shopping carts, which is still the norm today.

But things are changing.

Last year, USA Today reported that supermarkets and other retailers that provide shopping carts are increasingly looking to limit germ exposure for customers and their families.???, making sanitary wipes more readily available and in some cases, installing a whole cart cleaning system like this one in Wisconsin (photo by Peter J. Zuzga, for USA TODAY)

The trend continues to grow. Newspuller Gonzalo was in the Manhattan (Kansas) Target store recently and snapped these shots (below).

Parents and caregivers also have to think like the bad bug: like, don’t give the kids packages of raw meat to play with or leave within reach. Olga Henao, an epidemiologist for the U.S. Centers for disease control told USA Today last year that doing so triples the chance they may contract salmonella and quadruples it for campylobacter.

“Infants can become ill when they transfer bacteria from the packaging into their mouths.”