Safest food in the world – Canadian edition; US says clean up

The Globe and Mail is reporting that the U.S Agriculture Department has given the Canadian Food Inspection Agency until mid-March to fix significant food safety and sanitation concerns found during an audit of Canada’s meat, poultry and egg inspection systems.

Chicago_meat_inspection_swift_co_1906CFIA met the “core criteria” for overall food inspection, but American officials identified “operation weaknesses related to government oversight, plant sanitation and microbiological testing” for listeria, salmonella and E. coli, according to a final report submitted to CFIA on Jan. 14.

Failure to fix the deficiencies could lead the U.S. government to delist Canadian plants that were audited from exporting their products to the United States.

CFIA issued a statement to The Globe and Mail late Monday insisting that food safety was not compromised and steps are being taken to improve the inspection system.

“It is important to note that none of the audit findings posed a food safety risk to consumers, including the identified sanitation issues,” CFIA said. “At the time of the audit, the CFIA inspectors were already addressing the sanitation findings outlined in the audit report and the establishments were already taking the required steps to fix the issues in question.”

The U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) conducted the audit between May 28 and June 13, 2014, of slaughter and processing plants in Ontario and Quebec.

The audit found CFIA does not conduct ongoing environmental sampling and testing in food-production plants for Listeria monocytogenes (Lm), the bacteria that contaminated cold cuts produced by Maple Leaf Foods in 2008 that resulted in the death of 22 Canadians.

Food-plant employees test the surfaces where ready-to-eat meat and poultry is packaged but “does not collect samples or test for the presence of Lm on non-food contact surfaces,” the audit said.

XL.foodsU.S. auditors also raised concerns that plant inspectors are not checking for the presence of manure, ingesta or milk contamination on carcasses prior to the final wash. Tests are only done once the meat or poultry is in refrigeration units.

“FSIS considers this sanitary measure to not be equivalent [to U.S. standards]. Because this is a significant finding that will impact the overall equivalency of the CFIA inspection system,” the audit said, “CFIA must respond with either correcting the location at which zero tolerance verification occurs or providing an appropriate rational for implementing an alternative inspection procedure within 60 days or FSIS will deem the inspection system to not be equivalent.”

The audit discovered serious sanitation problems in food-processing plants where meat is packaged before being shipped to stores in Canada and the United States. Auditors observed open ceilings, leaking condensate and rust that could contaminate food.

These are the type of sanitation problems that led to the largest meat recall in Canadian history in 2012 when E. coli was found in meat exported to the U.S. from a Brooks, Alta., plant, now owned by JBS Food Canada.

U.S. food inspectors detected the meat before it ended up on U.S. food shelves, but 18 people in Canada got sick from eating the tainted meat. CFIA blamed unsanitary conditions, poor hygiene and the Brooks plant’s failure to immediately disclose E. coli tests.

Canada's Agriculture minister Gerry Ritz attends a meeting of the G8 and G5 agriculture ministers on April 18, 2009 at Castelbrando castle in Cison di Valmarino, northern Italy. Farm ministers from the world's leading industrialised and developing nations meet in Italy this weekend for the first time to find ways of overcoming a global food crisis. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO  (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)

Canada’s Agriculture minister Gerry Ritz attends a meeting of the G8 and G5 agriculture ministers on April 18, 2009 at Castelbrando castle in Cison di Valmarino, northern Italy. Farm ministers from the world’s leading industrialised and developing nations meet in Italy this weekend for the first time to find ways of overcoming a global food crisis. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.S. audit includes written responses from CFIA that strongly objected to the findings, saying the report “paints an inaccurate picture of the actual situation” and insisting the agency was in the process of addressing the food-safety concerns.

Terrence McRae, the director of CFIA’s Food Import and Export division, even tried but failed to persuade the U.S. Agriculture Department to give the agency a better grade.

CFIA did update their manual to require improved testing for listeria, but said it’s unclear if companies are doing the inspections or CFIA. He was unaware of any plans to set up inspection stations before the final wash.

Yes: Can Hepatitis A be eliminated?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that Hepatitis A virus (HAV) disease disproportionately affects adolescents and young adults, American Indian/Alaska Native and Hispanic racial/ethnic groups, and disadvantaged populations.

A packet of frozen Nanna's brand Mixed Berry is pictured in Brisbane, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015. The Patties Foods product has been linked to several cases of hepatitis A in Australia. (AAP Image/Dan Peled) NO ARCHIVING

A packet of frozen Nanna’s brand Mixed Berry is pictured in Brisbane, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015. The Patties Foods product has been linked to several cases of hepatitis A in Australia. (AAP Image/Dan Peled) NO ARCHIVING

During 1996–2006, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) made incremental changes in hepatitis A (HepA) vaccination recommendations to increase coverage for children and persons at high risk for HAV infection. This report examines the temporal association of ACIP-recommended HepA vaccination and disparities (on the absolute scale) in cases of HAV disease and on seroprevalence of HAV-related protection (measured as antibody to HAV [anti-HAV]).

ACIP-recommended childhood HepA vaccination in the United States has eliminated most absolute disparities in HAV disease by age, race/ethnicity, and geographic area with relatively modest ≥1-dose and ≥2-dose vaccine coverage. However, the increasing proportion of cases of HAV disease among adults with identified and unidentified sources of exposure underscores the importance of considering new strategies for preventing HAV infection among U.S. adults. For continued progress to be made toward elimination of HAV disease in the United States, additional strategies are needed to prevent HAV infection among an emerging population of susceptible adults. Notably, HAV infection remains endemic in much of the world, contributing to U.S. cases through international travel and the global food economy.

US: Progress toward eliminating Hepatitis A disease in the United States

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Trudy V. Murphy, MD; Maxine M. Denniston, MSPH; Holly A. Hill, MD, PhD; Marian McDonald, DrPH; Monina R. Klevens, DDS; Laurie D. Elam-Evans, PhD; Noele P. Nelson, MD, PhD; John Iskander, MD; John D. Ward, MD

It’s all about trade: CFIA sucks at communication

In 1997, I co-wrote a book called Mad Cows and Mother’s Milk, which included a chapter about how the newly formed Canadian Food Inspection Agency sucked at communication and enforcement regarding bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

mad.cows.mother's.milkA few years later, when Canada had its first case of mad cow disease, the chief vet was proactive, and consumption of beef actually rose.

But when the Maple Leaf listeriosis outbreak killed 23 in 2008, CFIA was left castrated.

It was probably a political thing.

Kelsey Johnson, a reporter with iPolitics, writes in Canada’s Western Producer that there is nothing more frustrating for a journalist than the inability to get basic information for a story from official channels, particularly at the federal level.

The relationship between the federal government and the Parliamentary Press Gallery is especially strained, one that is unlikely to improve much in the coming months thanks to the rapidly approaching federal election.

Which is why the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s communication response to the single case of H5N2 avian flu in Ontario has been a pleasant surprise.

The CFIA’s last communications effort, which had been prompted by a leak that revealed a case of BSE had been found on an Alberta farm in February, received heavy criticism from some reporters, including yours truly.

In that particular case, obtaining basic information such as the location of the index farm and the birth farm, was like pulling teeth. The agency’s initial plan was to not make the case public until its monthly reporting period in March, a policy that CFIA and the cattle industry insist is simply standard practice.

RS64This time around CFIA appears to have amended its communication strategy.

Reporters were first informed of the single case of avian flu April 7 through a CFIA news release that was sent to the entire Parliamentary Press Gallery. That in itself is an improvement over the BSE case, when the agency put out a response but didn’t send it to the gallery’s main email, which frustrated several reporters who were unaware of the CFIA’s response.

Kelsey, it’s all about trade.

And while is only 20-years-old, the Rolling Stones released their first album, 51 years ago today (thank you, Buddy Holly).


Don’t worry, exports won’t be harmed: Another mad cow case in Canada

Gotta wonder just how effective Canada’s ban on mammalian protein in ruminant feed is, given the number of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) cases there have been over the past decade.

ITALY-G8-G5-AGRICULTURE-FARMWhen there’s a BSE case, or a foodborne illness outbreak like Listeria in the $5.5 billion a year Maple Leaf Foods, government agencies fall over themselves to assure the public – and trading partners – that everything is fine.

Would the Canadian economy sink were it not for the agricultural behemoths? Probably.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says little more than a week passed from the time the most recent case of mad cow disease was first suspected to when it was confirmed and national trading partners were notified.

A timeline of the case at an Alberta farm has been released on the agency’s website.

The website says a private veterinarian took samples on February 4 at the undisclosed farm and submitted them to a provincial lab.

It says they were tested on February 6 and the lab recorded a “non-negative” test result.

The lab repeated the test the following day with the same finding and reported the case to the CFIA, where the agency conducted its own test in Lethbridge, Alta, to confirm the result.

The CFIA says it started gathering information on the animal’s herd on Tuesday, officially confirmed the case on Wednesday and posted the case to its website and notified Canada’s trading partners on Thursday.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said Friday that the infected animal was not born on the farm where it was discovered.

Ritz also said the discovery won’t affect Canada’s international beef trade because it won’t change the county’s controlled BSE risk status from the World Organization for Animal Health. He said Canada has stayed below international protocols that allow for up to a dozen BSE cases a year.

You are ahead by a (half) century: Belarus to Russia on food safety

Allegations of the poor quality of Belarusian foodstuffs are groundless, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said at a meeting to discuss the measures to remove the ban on the import of Belarusian products to Russia and the transit of embargoed food, BelTA has learned.“If we ask Belarusians or Russians which products are safer – Belarusian or Russian ones – the question will make them laugh. With all due respect to Russia, they are 50 years behind Belarus in terms of food safety,” the Belarusian leader said.

“Why whip up tensions, create problems in this situation?” the head of state wondered. In his words, at the start of 2014, before Russia’s embargo, Belarus and the Russian Federation had agreed on the amount of the Belarusian food supplies. “As for today, with the year 2014 coming to a close, we have not yet supplied the agreed amount of food in full. 

Australian importer fined $25K for not testing imported ham

An importer has been fined $25,000 for failing to test 2241 kg Parma ham imported from Italy in 2011.

parma.hamPaqualino Licastro, owner of Perth import company Topas Pty Ltd, was fined $3000 while the company was fined $22,000.

After breaching its import permit, the company then failed to act on a directive from the Department of Agriculture to move the ham to a cold-store facility. The department ordered that the ham be held pending sampling and testing for Staphylococcus, Listeria, E. coli and Salmonella before it could be sold or distributed.

Had the imported ham introduced foot-and-mouth disease into Australia, it could potentially cost more than $50 billion over 10 years, the department estimates.

US FDA will send more inspectors to China office

Food safety is the responsibility of those who produce food.

Government is there to ensure minimal standards are met. best will always far exceed government standards.

But, countries need help, so the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will dispatch more inspectors to China to help ensure the quality of exports, making its China office the largest one overseas.

As early as next year, staff at the China office will be boosted to 21 from the current four, and nine of them will be responsible for food safety, said Christopher J. Hickey, FDA China director. Currently there are only two in food safety, while the rest are in charge of drugs and medical devices.

China is the fourth-largest exporter of food to the US.

Meanwhile, citing a globalized food and drug supply chain, China is also considering sending safety inspectors to the US, said Wu Yongning, chief scientist from the China National Center For Food Safety Risk Assessment.

Wu said that given China’s sheer size, the increase of US FDA inspectors would allow more on-site inspections of particularly high-risk producers.

Michael R. Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods at the Food and Drug Administration, said the staff increase is “important for us as that permits us to work more closely with our Chinese counterparts to become knowledgeable about practices here.”

“We can work with both the Chinese government and the industry to explain our requirements and provide trading support for those exporting to the U.S. to comply with our standards,” he said.

Priorities include agriculture, farm produce, seafood and animal drugs, he noted.

Russia bans Australian kangaroo meat due to E. coli (or non-tariff trade barrier)

The kangaroo meat trade to Russia was initially suspended back in 2008, and then reopened in November 2012.

skippyThe most recent ban was put in place in May this year, but Fiona Corke from the Australian Society for Kangaroos says this information was never made public.

“No politician has come forward and said anything, the kangaroo industry hasn’t come forward and said anything, and we think the public has a right to know.

“Kangaroo meat is marketed to them as being a healthy superfood, yet we have a country that doesn’t want to buy it any more because they’ve found excessive amounts of bacterial contamination.”

The managing director of Macro Meats, which was the sole supplier of kangaroo meat to Russia, says the company is working to reopen the kangaroo meat trade.

Ray Borda says Russia was using the wrong testing standards for kangaroo meat.

Kangaroo export markets generate demand for the meat, creating incentive for harvesters, who then help landholders control the vast kangaroo population in outback Australia.

Western Queensland kangaroo harvester Graham Mackney says harvesters were not formally notified of the ban.

“We all found out by word of mouth.”

He says another ban due to high levels of E.coli looks bad for the industry.

“If it was E.coli again we really have to start looking at where and why this problem keeps happening and put prevention measures in place.”

One country’s food safety program is another’s non-tariff trade barrier; catfish threaten US trade deal

Ten Asian and Pacific nations have, according to the N.Y. Times, told the Office of the United States Trade Representative that the Agriculture Department’s catfish inspection program violates international law, and their objections could hamper Obama administration efforts to reach a major Pacific trade agreement by the end of next year.

catfishdThey say that the inspection program is a trade barrier erected under the guise of a food safety measure and that it violates the United States’ obligations under World Trade Organization agreements. Among the countries protesting are Vietnam and Malaysia, which are taking part in talks for the trade agreement — known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership — and have the ability to derail or hold up those negotiations.

The complaints are outlined in a May 28 letter signed by diplomats from the 10 countries. The letter does not threaten retaliation, but it stresses that the American catfish program stood in the way of the trade talks.

Age of Aquarius: Trade, food safety, always intertwined

I don’t like year-end reviews.

It’s an artificial creation and food safety happens day-in-day-out.

Sure I’ll engage in some sacrifice on the winter solstice (if Chapman is dumb enough to be around) and dance naked under the setting sun of the summer solstice, but that’s it.

However The Packer’s most-viewed stories list of 2012 seemed particularly apt.

Food safety is about trade. That’s why the Mexico/Florida tomato war was the #1 most viewed story.

But #2-4 were actually about food safety:

• cantaloupe outbreak shakes up industry, leading to California’s new certification push;

• tainted mangoes cause widespread illness; and,

• sprout illnesses force national chains into menu changes and two new alliances.

Good food safety is good business. Apparently it’s a new revelation.