Food that won’t make you barf? Cargill ‘working hard to understand what consumers want’

Lisa M. Keefe of Meatingplace reports that Cargill Meats is preparing to launch its Pasture Crafted Beef brand, which will be grass-fed, grain-finished, “guaranteed tender and traceable to birth on sustainably operated ranches.”

cargill-pasture-craftedNicole Johnson-Hoffman, Cargill’s vice president and managing director of Cargill’s North American McDonald’s business, discussed the forthcoming product line at the Global Conference for Sustainable Beef, held here this week.

“Cargill is working hard to understand what consumers are looking for in their proteins. And we’re working to adjust our business to make sure that we are able to provide the products that people want and the information that they want about that product,” Johnson-Hoffman said.

The Pasture Crafted brand is “designed for the socially conscious beef consumer who can’t afford to go all the way to organic,” Cargill explained on its website.

Can’t you design beef that won’t make people barf? I know you can, can you at least brag about microbiologically safe food rather than playing to, and encouraging, consumer fears (so you can make more money).

Tracing produce helps answer outbreak questions – Chipotle edition

When I was a graduate student investigating food safety in the produce industry, I saw a lot of transactions and product movement while I was in packing sheds. Repacking, trading pallets (“I’m short on product but I need to fill an order”) and cash sales. These transactions are messy, documentation and separation-wise, and provide a challenge to traceability within the supply chain.

Traceability and being able to follow the route that a a supply is part of a good food safety culture. When it works, it allows investigators to find the source of a problem leading to lessons learned.Chipotle

According to WRAL, some folks I know in the North Carolina food safety world are helping out trace produce ingredients identified as the source of 40 cases of E. coli O26 linked to Chipotle restaurants.

When the E. coli outbreak occurred at Chipotle restaurants in the Northwest, tracing the source of the problem started at Food Logiq, a software food safety company in Durham. Food Logiq contracts with companies like restaurants and grocery stores to track fresh fruits, vegetables and other products from the source to where they end up. If there’s a problem—as in the case of Chipolte—Food Logiq’s software can trace it.

“The big thing that we do is proactive data collection,” said Andrew Kennedy, co-founder of Food Logiq. 

“This case label, not only does it have the product, but it has the log code which then points to packaging dates,” Kennedy said. “We know exactly what dates it was packed. We can trace that back to the farm of origin, and that is the key piece of information.”

Ben Chapman, a food safety expert and associate professor at North Carolina State, blogs about food safety issues. He says companies like Food Logiq track vital information about the food supply chain. “The more we can trace these things, and pull that information together, that means we can all build—in our community and food safety community—better tools to help reduce the chances of people getting sick,” Chapman said.

Parents in Tennessee want to know how six-year-old meat could be served at school

Dozens of parents and students packed into the Hawkins County Board of Education, expecting answers about how their children could be served six-year-old meat in the cafeteria.

They were stunned to learn the school’s current system doesn’t keep track of dates such as when food shipments arrived or when it was time to throw unused food away.

School board members came to realize there’s been almost no such plan up to this point.

“People got it, it was normal and it was a just no. it was not normal once you tasted it obviously,” said Olivia Ewing, Cherokee High School senior.

On Thursday, 10News reported that some schools in the system had served six-year-old pork last week. The meat had been frozen up until preparation.

Board of Education Chairman Chris Christian is working to find out when the meat arrived at the schools.

Dutch safety council poised to slam ‘untransparent’ meat industry

I’m not sure untransparent is a word, but that’s the Dutch.

According to a new report in the Telegraaf, the Dutch safety institute is poised to publish a damning report about food safety in the meat industry.

The report by the Onderzoeksraad voor de Veiligheid says there are serious shortcomings in food industry supervision which pose a risk to food safety, the paper says.

In particular, the report is criticial of the lack of transparency in the meat trade. For example, a supermarket hamburger or meatball could have been handled by three or four different meat processors and the origin of the meat is often untraceable.
The Telegraaf says the industry itself is waiting for the report on tenterhooks following a string of food safety scandals over the past year.

These involve beef contaminated with horse and feces and salmonella in salmon.

Last year some 60,000 people suffered salmonella poisioning in the Netherlands, the paper says.

Yet the number of NVWA food safety inspectors has been ‘eaten away’ over the past few years.

Knowing where food comes from doesn’t mean safe: ‘data is currency of digital economy real-time data is king’

For over 15 years I’ve been experimenting with ways to provide parents like me with information they actually want in the food they buy. And I’ve always advocated layered information, and more information as the technology catches up.

According to a story in, some consumers already demand to know where their food comes from and how it’s handled on the to their plate, but growing pressures on world food production – and therefore food safety – will make those questions of increasing importance to everyone.

But safety requires data, not feel-good sentiment.

Pathways to Market is a multimillion-dollar research collaboration designed to  deliver a smorgasbord of digital information to producers, distributors and consumers here and in Asia.

The project – described by University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) Distinguished Research Professor Jordan Louviere as “an ambitious combination of cutting-edge science and marketing research” – could one day have consumers swiping their smartphones over packaging to discover where a food came from, who processed it and the conditions under which it was transported and stored.

In turn, real-time data collected from consumers will drive innovation by producers and processors and help distributors keep food safe and fresh.

Ros Harvey of Sense-T says: “Accurate data is the currency of the digital economy, and real-time data is the king of data.”

If Michigan can track cattle birth to plate, why not add food safety info?

Cattle in Michigan have been electronically tagged and tracked since 2010 in a bid to control bovine tuberculosis.

According to NPR, whenever a steer or cow leaves a farm in Michigan, or goes to a slaughterhouse, it passes by a tag reader, and its ID number goes to a central computer that keeps track of every animal’s location.

If an animal is discovered to be sick, “we can track that animal all the way back, through every herd that it’s been in, through any sale yard it’s been cow-meatthrough, back to the farm of origin,” said Steve Halstead, Michigan’s state veterinarian.

“There’s a large number of people that would like to know where their food comes from, just understand that better,” says Daniel Buskirk, an expert on the beef industry at Michigan State University.

He’s using the university’s own herd of cattle to experiment with ways to track those animals and then make information about them available to shoppers in the store.

“This is one way that we can hopefully kind of connect the story of how this food is being produced with the consumers who are consuming it,” Buskirk says.

Last year, when 72 of the university’s steers went to the slaughterhouse, Buskirk set up a system that transferred the identity of each animal from its electronic ID tag to a new set of tags — little square bar codes.

Those bar codes were pinned to the carcass. And as butchers went to work on it, cutting it into smaller pieces, they used a little handheld device to scan that first bar code and print new ones for each new cut of meat. In this case, the meat just went to the university’s food service, not a grocery store.

But the same system eventually could produce a label that would go on a package of meat in the store. “Then if you have a smartphone,” Buskirk says, “I can scan that two-dimensional bar code, and it will give information about the origin of that beef.”

In the case of the meat that went to Michigan’s food service, it showed an aerial picture of the farm. But in theory, the label could link to any at all. It could tell consumers “what goes on at the farm, how the animals might be cared for, how they might be fed,” Buskirk says.

Even better, microbial food safety data and interventions used to reduce the risk of dangerous pathogens.

Technology is also changing the business of restaurant inspection disclosure

Government Technology reports that a new national open data standard, called the Local Inspector Value-Entry Specification, was created. To enable any city to voluntarily share restaurant inspection scores on Yelp or other websites to make that data more transparent.

On the mobile app front, Sacramento County, Calif., and other municipalities are releasing smartphone apps that will make looking up inspection scores easier.

Launched in late 2011, the Sacramento County Food Facilities Inspections app shows a person’s current location in the county and nearby retail food facilities, which are marked on a map and on a list. The color of the markers on the map indicate the most recent food inspection result, inspection date and links to more detailed information.

Food inspection data refreshes daily and is complete for all food facilities in the county, including restaurants, bars, grocery stories, convenience stores, school cafeterias and most facilities that dispense food to the public.

Wholesale Co linked to horsemeat bankrupt; bid to halt mass meat recall fails

A Dutch court has rejected a meat wholesaler’s bid to quash an order recalling 50,000 tonnes of beef potentially contaminated with horsemeat.

“The court rejects the request for a preliminary injunction,” on Dutch food authority NVWA’s recall of meat handled by Willy Selten, judge Reinier van Zutphen said at the commercial court in The Hague on Thursday.

Businessman Selten, allegedly a key player in Europe’s horsemeat scandal, had sought to overturn the NVWA’s order to recall all meat sold by the horse.meat.09company over the past two years.

The watchdog recalled 50,000 tonnes of beef suspected to have been contaminated with horse, asking hundreds of companies across Europe supplied by Selten to check their products.

Selten’s company was on Tuesday declared bankrupt and placed under curatorship.

Lawyer Peters had argued on Tuesday that the recall was “disproportionate” and “bizarre and bordering on the mass hysteria gripping the whole of Europe”.

He said there had never been a complaint in the 22 years in which Selten’s company distributed meat from the small Dutch town of Oss, stressing: “All his meat comes from within the European Union.”

The NVWA said it had sent a letter to 130 Dutch companies who were supplied with possible horse-contaminated beef from the Selten company, asking them to “take it off the market as a precautionary measure” and “verify all products.”

Ikea’s moose lasagna pulled due to surprise pork meat

Paula Forbes of Eater writes that furniture/meatball and rice cake emporium Ikea has pulled 17,600 moose lasangas from stores in Europe after they were discovered to also contain surprise pork.

According to the BBC, the contamination was discovered by Belgian authorities, and the meat supplier told local Swedish press that the contamination “was due to its facilities not being cleaned ikea-elk-2properly between the handling of different animals and that it was taking steps to improve its practices.” Gross. One batch of lasagna tested contained 1.4% pork.

Ikea recently pulled both meatballs and sausages from stores due to possible horse meat contamination. After meatballs were returned to shelves, Ikea Foods Chief Executive Edward Mohr declared the company’s intent to “have a traceability standard in place, tracing meat from farm to fork.” From farm to contaminated meat processing plants to frozen moose lasagna to fork?

‘Fast food should be made of fast animals’ Stephen Colbert on horse meat

Eater summarizes the latest, best take on the on-going horse meat scandal (U.S. fish are next, and, as I told Huffington Post today, if all these big chains with their food-safety-is-first traceability schemes don’t horse-hamburgerknow what’s in the products they’re hawking, how are mere mortals and consumers to know?).

Last night on the Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert took on “a story that is rocking the world of meat,” the European horse meat scandal. He goes through the back story of how the scandal spread through Europe with blame landing on Romania and perhaps organized crime. And he is not at all surprised the mob might be involved because, after all, “if you’re going to leave a horse head in a bed, why waste all that good body meat?”

But Colbert doesn’t really understand what everyone is so upset about. As he says, “We don’t feel guilty when we happily consume the rest of Noah’s Ark” — and he also jokes that Europeans are all worried about eating horse burgers “instead of their usual delicacy of pickled sheep brain.” In the end, he proclaims, “There’s nothing wrong with eating horse burgers. Fast food should be made of fast animals.” Scandal over?

Still no beef fix a year after salmonella outbreak

One year after a recall of contaminated ground meat sold at Hannaford stores exposed blind spots in the nation’s food-safety chain, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has yet to move forward with a proposed rule to improve record-keeping and, in turn, better protect public health.

According to the Maine Sunday Telegram when a salmonella outbreak that sickened 20 people was traced to the supermarket chain in late 2011, Hannaford voluntarily improved its tracking procedures so it could better identify the point of origin of its beef and therefore the origin of any contamination.

But while the USDA said it expected to send a detailed proposal of its new rule requiring other grocers to do the same to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review last summer, that still hasn’t happened.

And no one from the USDA will say what has held up the process, or when the rule might move forward.

“I have to say, I’m extremely disappointed that the regulations haven’t been put into place yet,” said U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Maine Democrat representing the 1st District. She has served on the House Agriculture Committee for the past two years and hopes to continue.

After the recall, the Maine Sunday Telegram/Portland Press Herald investigated the problem and exposed the holes in the USDA’s system in a special report published in March.

Meanwhile, several people sickened in the salmonella outbreak are still seeking compensation from Hannaford.

“I just want the bills paid and the things to go away,” said Kenneth Koehler, 53, of Old Orchard Beach, who has racked up $8,000 in medical expenses since he was sickened more than a year ago.

He hasn’t eaten a hamburger since.

No one from the USDA, which was also tight-lipped during the recall investigation, would say when it might send the proposal to the White House.