Proposed Virginia law would allow sale of uninspected home processed food

A few weeks ago my neighbor told me about a how he was making kimchi, a fermented cabbage, carrot and onion concoction, in is kitchen. He put some vegetables into a mason jar, added some water, put the lid on it and tightened it as hard as it could go. Then he left it on the counter for a week. Although he created a pretty nice environment for botulinum toxin production, he luckily didn’t paralyze himself or his family.

After we chatted about fermentation, anaerobic environments and botulism, he decided he’d buy kimchi.

Kenric Ward writes at that some Virginians are looking to change state law around purchasing processed food from neighbors.original_ARTICLE-IMAGE-kimchi-jars-finedininglovers

Virginians who try to sell homemade food from their kitchens are feeling the heat from state and local inspectors.

“I have to turn down my neighbors when they ask if they can buy pesto I make from my own basil plants,”

HB 1290, sponsored by Delegate Rob Bell, R-Charlottesville, would end home-kitchen inspections on items produced for direct sale. The goods would bear a label stating that the products are not for resale and were processed without state inspection.

“If someone wants to buy food from someone, what business is that of the state?” asks Matthew French, a farmer in Bland, Va. “The state basically comes at you with a gun, and says you can only buy from state-approved supplier.”

The push for fresh, locally made food is gaining ground,” French told in an interview. “Buyers want to know the person who’s preparing their food. People want it — and the state is getting in the way,” he said.

My neighbor is a great guy, but he’s not a food processor.

Improperly processed low-acid foods sold at Virginia farmers market; health alert issued

In 2011, a 29-year-old man was hospitalized after five days of progressive dizziness, blurred vision, dysphagia, and difficulty breathing. The patient required mechanical ventilation and botulism antitoxin. He remained in the hospital for 57 days and then spent some time in a rehabilitation facility. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he had tasted some potato soup that included botulinum toxin.

In 1977, 59 patrons of a Detroit Mexican restaurant became ill with botulism after consuming improperly canned peppers. As a result of rumors of a pending shortage of fresh peppers, the restaurant staff decided to stick lightly-cooked peppers and some water in jars and seal them.

Putting low acid foods in a jar and sealing them without either acidifying (with vinegar/fermentation) or processing using pressure is a bad idea.

According to WTVR, Corfino Foods of Richmond VA has been selling soups and sauces that were improperly processed resulting in a health alert from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.corfino-foods

These products were improperly processed, making them susceptible to contamination with Clostridium botulinum.

Corfinio Foods has already suspended production of all of its canned soups and sauces and the firm is currently working with VDACS to come into compliance with state requirements.

Although there have been no reported cases of illness associated with these products, VDACS is issuing this consumer warning so that people who have previously purchased the products do not consume them.

The soups and sauces are packaged in glass, mason style jars with metal, screw on lids and have been sold at the Brandermill Green Market. The jars are marked with the Corfinio Foods label.

The firm was made aware of the dangers associated with selling improperly processed foods of this type and is working with VDACS and the market to notify consumers of the product recall.

Consumers who have any of these products or any foods made with these products should discard them immediately. They should double bag the jars in plastic bags and place in a trash receptacle for non-recyclable trash. Those who don’t wear gloves when handling these products should wash their hands with soap and running water after handling.


FDA to Virginia sprout producer: your place is a dump

In an Aug. 2/12 warning letter made public last week,, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration told Henry’s Farm In. of Woodford, VA that, “We inspected your soybean sprout and mung-bean sprout manufacturing facility on April 30, May 1-4, and 10, 2012. This inspection was conducted in response to a sample of your of soy bean sprouts collected by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) and that yielded Listeria monocytogenes. In this letter we summarize violations we observed and set forth steps you may take to demonstrate your correction.

During the inspection, FDA collected samples of finished JJBS soybean sprout, P-Natto soybean sprout, and mung-bean sprout as well as environmental samples from your facility and your well water. We notified you with a letter dated June 5, 2012 that our laboratory analysis of sample 752567, which consisted of ten approximately 100-gram sub-samples of JJBS soy bean sprout product, yielded Listeria monocytogenes. We acknowledge your cooperation in recalling your soybean sprouts from the marketplace, ceasing of all production activities, and voluntarily disposing of all in-process products.

Our investigators also documented numerous insanitary conditions and practices that may have contributed directly or indirectly to contamination of your sprouts with pathogens and filth. Accordingly, the soybean sprouts and mung-bean sprouts grown in your facility are adulterated within the meaning of Section 402(a)(4) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act) [21 U.S.C. § 342(a)(4)] because they have been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have been contaminated with filth or rendered injurious to health.

Virginia man arraigned for allegedly reselling garbage meat

Oh Virginia, the state, you never cease to amaze. reports Rodney L. Sparks, of Monrovia, was indicted in June in Warren County, Va., Circuit Court on 10 counts of offering adulterated and misbranded meat for sale.

The criminal complaint against Sparks alleges that he took packages of unsold meat from a trash bin in Berryville, Va., and then tried to resell them, according to court documents.

The 10 counts stem from alleged incidents from Aug. 19, 2011, to Jan. 29.

F.C. Lamneck, an enforcement officer with Virginia’s Office of Meat and Poultry Services, who signed the complaint, described the meat as “temperature abused, freezer burned, putrid, decomposed, unsound, unhealthful, unwholesome, and [appearing to be] unfit for human consumption,” according to the criminal complaint.

The packages were traced to a Food Lion in Berryville, Va. The meat was identified by a manager as originally being from the Food Lion, documents state.

Asian culture, food regs collide in Virginia?

The New York Times reports that in the rear of the Great Wall supermarket in Falls Church, Virginia, customers linger over razor clams, frozen conch and baby smelt arrayed at the fish counter. Crabs clamber over the ice. Below, sea bass circle in glass tanks. A girl in a stroller, eye level with a school of tilapia, giggles in delight.

But other tanks are empty. The bullfrogs, turtles and eels that Northern Virginia’s booming Asian population used to buy at the counter and take home to cook are nowhere to be found, seized last year by state agents who leveled criminal charges against two managers of the store accusing them of illegally selling wildlife.

The case, which is scheduled to go to trial in June, has put culinary traditions of Asian immigrants into conflict with state laws, illustrating what some see as a cultural fault line in the changing population of Northern Virginia. Asians make up 13.6 percent of the population of four Northern Virginia counties.

Lawyers for the store managers say that the law governing sales of live fish and other animals has not been updated to reflect advances in aquaculture, and that it is tilted against immigrants with unfamiliar cuisines and customs. In a court filing, they argue that the case “seems to be about the tyranny of the majority.”

It is clear that Kai Wei Jin, one of the managers charged, is unhappy about being in the middle of a criminal case. Mr. Jin, 25, fiddled uncomfortably with his phone during an interview, saying he just wanted to satisfy his customers.

“We’re not trying to break the law,” he said. “We just want to do business, and just support the culture.”

Lee Walker, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, said that the laws were necessary to protect wildlife, and that charges were leveled only after a warning went unheeded.

“We really try to educate folks about the regulations before we ever try to bring charges,” he said. “In this case, every attempt was made to educate about what’s legal. And, unfortunately, action was not taken.”

The case arose early last year after what prosecutors called a “concerned citizen” made a report of illegal sales. Officials went to the store several times and bought red-eared slider turtles and largemouth bass, which they said was labeled “mainland rockfish.” They returned last April, seizing turtles, eels, bullfrogs and crayfish, and delivered a warning, prosecutors said.

When officials returned and found largemouth bass still for sale, they said, they sought charges against the managers. Both were indicted on four felony counts, but the prosecutor later agreed to reduce the charges to misdemeanors, which carry potential penalties of jail time and fines of up to $2,500.

Some of the species fall under a broad category of wildlife that cannot be bought or sold, while sales of largemouth bass are forbidden because it is a native game fish. Crayfish can be sold, but the store lacked permits, according to prosecutors’ court filings.

Lawyers for the store managers say that categorizing the fish and other creatures as wildlife does not make sense, because they were farm-raised for eating.

Receipts filed with court motions show, for example, that some of the turtles were raised in Oklahoma. The bullfrogs were shipped from the Dominican Republic. The bass and some eels came from a Pennsylvania fish farm.

A Great Wall store in neighboring Maryland makes for a study in contrast. The fish counter there has many of the creatures that have vanished from the Virginia store. Turtles labeled “farm-raised” paddle in one tank, selling for $9.99 per pound. At the counter, mesh bags bulge with live bullfrogs for $5.99 a pound.

Update on Virginia girl attacked by E. coli

Five-year-old Zoey Weaver of Abingdon, Virginia, is bright, engaging and can even spell her name. She has also endured a medical nightmare. Zoey loves to draw. She’s at home with her grandmother after spending 25 days at Vanderbilt after contracting E. coli

Mother Rebecca Weaver: said, "the worst time was four or five days in, she was hemorrhaging, and the doctors were very concerned."

For 25 days Zoey battled the deadly invaders. Luckily she doesn’t remember much about her ordeal, but she does remember this.

Zoey Weaver: "I had wires running from here to here." PJ: "Giving you medicine?"

Zoey: "yes."

Rebecca Weaver still wonders how Zoey contracted E. coli in the first place. The whole ordeal has changed her forever.

A video of Zoey is availlable here, at WCYB.

13 E. coli cases, 1 death in Tennessee, Virginia

Reuters reports an outbreak of E.coli cases in northeastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia has sickened 13 people and resulted in the death of a young child, public health officials said on Friday.

Virginia has two confirmed cases of the E. coli strain O157:H7. Both Virginia cases affected children who had close contact with each other, and one of those children died, said Maureen Dempsey, a Virginia Public Health Department deputy chief.

Dempsey declined to confirm the age and sex of each of the children, but local media reported a 2-year-old girl from Dryden, Virginia, died on Sunday and her brother, who was also infected, was released from a hospital a few days later.

Northeastern Tennessee has 11 laboratory-confirmed cases of E.coli since June 1, said David Kirschke, medical director of the Northeast Tennessee Regional Health Office.

Three cases were O157:H7, and the remainder other strains in a category known as non-O157, he said. Kirschke said no link has been made between the Virginia and Tennessee cases.

"We’re not even sure if our cases are linked with each other," he said, adding the Tennessee O157:H7 strains also are being genetically fingerprinted to see if they are from a single source.

Still, Kirschke said health officials are treating the cases as an outbreak due to their large number, their close proximity and the short time frame of their appearance

"It seems too coincidental to have this many cases in a week," he said.

Poop in pet store leads to lawsuit

The USA Today yesterday reported a Virginia man is suing mega pet chain PetSmart for $1 million after slipping in dog feces at their store in Newport News, Va.

Robert Holloway alleges that the retailer and its employees "negligently allowed animals to enter the premises and deposit feces in such a manner as to create a dangerous and hazardous condition" and that it should’ve been cleaned up. His suit claims that he slipped during the incident last year, injuring his back and knocking out four teeth. He was 69 at the time, according to the Virginian-Pilot.

A judge dismissed a suit brought in 2008 by a woman who said she slipped in urine and injured her knee at the same PetSmart location.

The risk of risk comparisons – raw oysters vs Cheetos edition

Risk comparisons can be risky: they usually offend the target audience and make the author sound like a jack-ass.

James Wesson, oyster scientist with the Virginia Marine Resource Commission, told the Daily Press that the overwhelming majority of oysters sold in the United States are not contaminated, adding,

"More people die each year from eating Cheetos than from eating oysters.”

No data was provided.

The comment was made as part of a story about Virginia regulators requiring stiffer rules to prevent the sale of contaminated oysters harvested from the Chesapeake Bay during warm-water months.

Each year about 15 people die from eating contaminated oysters, according to the agency. Most of the problem oysters come from the Gulf of Mexico, but at least one has been linked to Virginia waters since 2000, said Robert Croonenberghs, director of the state Health Department’s shellfish sanitation division.

If the FDA finds another contaminated oyster sold by Virginia seafood suppliers, the agency could prohibit shipping raw oysters outside state lines, he said. Such a ban could stifle the industry and cause thousands of dollars in losses to suppliers, watermen, and oyster farmers.

The number of deaths may be statistically trivial – unless it happens to you or someone you know. And this risk can be managed.