by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Food-safety

Oct 10 2017

FDA says love is not a food ingredient

Food regulation is no trivial matter.  Every word on a food label has a Federal Register notice and Code of Federal Regulation section behind it.

Consequently, I was amused to learn that the FDA was not amused when it found the word “love” in the ingredient list of granola from Nashoba Brook Bakery.  The FDA issued a warning letter with this presumably non-ironic statement:

Your Nashoba Granola label lists ingredient “Love”. Ingredients required to be declared on the label or labeling of food must be listed by their common or usual name [21 CFR 101.4(a)(1). “Love” is not a common or usual name of an ingredient, and is considered to be intervening material because it is not part of the common or usual name of the ingredient.

From its website, the bakery looks like it makes great stuff, but its owners must not be familiar with FDA’s byzantine regulatory requirements.  The warning letter also chided the bakery for a long list of food safety violations, among them:

  • Approximately five flies in the ready-to-eat cooling area and processing area of the facility, all near or on food.
  • One approximately 1″ long crawling insect underneath exposed ready-to-eat foods in the pastry area, including focaccia breads, 7-Grain rolls, and brioche rolls.
  • The mixing employee was wearing a blue plastic bracelet while working with raw dough. The bracelet came into repeated contact with raw dough and dough varieties.
  • A production employee wore a nose ring and earrings while handling and shaping raw dough.

I hope the bakery gets its regulatory and food safety act together right away.

Personally, I like a little love in my granola.

Aug 21 2017

The Papaya Salmonella (4 kinds!) outbreak continues

The CDC tracking of the papaya outbreak continues, with a score of

  • Case Count: 173
  • States: 21
  • Deaths: 1
  • Hospitalizations: 58
  • Recall: Yes

All foodborne illness outbreaks are devastating for victims but fascinating for investigators, since each is different.

This investigation has traced the illness-causing Salmonella to one kind of papaya (Maridol, under Caribeña, Cavi, and Valery brands) to one Mexican farm (Carica de Campeche).

But four Salmonella strains have been found in papaya samples and in ill people:

  • Kiambu
  • Thompson
  • Agona
  • Gaminara

The shift from one to another is evident in the epi curve:

The moral:

  • Don’t buy Maridol papayas.
  • If you have one, throw it away (but be careful not to cross contaminate surfaces)
  • If you don’t know where the papaya was grown, don’t eat it

If you are interested in the legal implications, check Bill Marler’s website.

Jul 26 2017

Uh oh: Papayas with Salmonella

First cantaloupe, now papayas.

The CDC has opened up a homepage on Salmonella infections associated with eating Yellow Maradol Papayas.

Here’s the count so far:

  • 47 Cases
  • 12 States
  • 12 Hospitalizations
  • 1 Deaths

Food Safety News has the story.  And provides the label you had best avoid.

As usual, by the time the CDC finds out about outbreaks, cases have slowed down (it takes time to find them).

This one is affecting people in states all over the country.

Papayas grow on trees.  Salmonella are animal bacteria.  Monkeys?  Arboreal sloths?

A more likely explanation is that the fruit came in contact with human waste or dirty hands sometime during collection, transport, or processing.

What to do?

Bacteria are on the rind.  They get on the fruit itself when you cut through it.  You can try scrubbing the outside before you peel the papaya.  The CDC recommends discarding it and cleaning your kitchen carefully.

Better preventive controls?  They are on the books (the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act).

Enforcement?  Not unless Congress appropriates the funds.

Why won’t it?  FDA appropriations go through agricultural appropriations, not health.  Do ag committees care about food safety?

I wish.

Addition:  Food Safety News reports that the distributor of the papayas has started recalling them, but not publicly.

Jul 3 2017

Wishing you a safe and sane July 4

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Jun 20 2017

The administration’s war on food: summary by the Environmental Working Group

Scott Faber, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Environmental Working Group summarizes Trump’s Full-Scale War on Food.  Since taking office, he writes, Trump has:

  • Proposed to cut food safety funding for the Food and Drug Administration by $117 million.
  • Proposed to cut funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, by $193 billion – a 25 percent cut – and cut international food aid by $2 billion.
  • Delayed new labeling rules for menus and packaged foods that would give consumers more information about calories and added sugars, and so far failed to issue a draft rule to implement a new law on disclosing genetically modified ingredients in food.
  • Weakened new rules designed to drive junk food out of U.S. schools.
  • Proposed to eliminate several Department of Agriculture programs that helped farmers sell directly to local consumers.
  • Proposed to eliminate funding for an entire division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that works to reduce obesity.
  • Withdrawn new rules to protect drinking water supplies from polluters and proposed cutting the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 31 percent.
  • Proposed to suspended two of the largest farmland stewardship programs and mothball others.
  • Postponed new rules designed to strengthen animal welfare standards on organic farms and proposed to eliminate funding for programs that help farmers switch to organic farming.
  • Reversed a ban on a pesticide linked to brain damage in kids and proposed cutting EPA funding for pesticide review programs by 20 percent.
  • Punted on new rules to protect farmworkers from pesticides, and proposed to eliminate a program to train migrant and seasonal farmworkers.
  • Mothballed new voluntary sodium guidelines that would drive reformulation of foods.
  • Called for so-called regulatory “reforms” that would block agencies like the FDA and USDA from adopting new rules designed to keep food safe, update food labels or provide students healthier meal options in schools.

This is an impressive list, calling for serious resistance.

How?  That’s the question….

 

May 8 2017

The cost of poor food safety practices: $36 million in two years

Food Safety News, my go-to source for information about current and past episodes of foodborne illness, reports the price of insufficient corporate diligence: $36 million in recalls by Dole Foods.

Dole, a privately-held company is going public, which means it has to file lots of financial documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).  For the past couple of years, these show:

2015: $10.8 million to recall bagged salads in which a sample tested positive for Salmonella.

2016: $25.5 million for a four-month shutdown of a salad processing plant found to be contaminated with Listeria, and manage a recall. Listeria at the plant was linked to four deaths and 33 cases of illness in the U.S. and Canada.  The company continued to ship salads from the facility after swab tests were positive for Listeria.

The SEC requires companies to list potential risks.  In its SEC filing, Dole said:

We are subject to the risk of product contamination and product liability claims…Even if a product liability claim is unsuccessful or it not fully pursued, the negative publicity surround any assertion that our products caused illnesses or injury could adversely affect our reputation with existing and potential customers and our corporate and brand image.  Moreover, claims and liabilities of this sort might not be covered by our insurance or by any rights of indemnity or contribution that we may have against others.

This is why diligent attention to preventive controls is essential for producing safe food.

Not using them kills people; it also is expensive.

Mar 30 2017

Global Meat News Special Edition on Food Safety

Special Edition: Food Safety

Food safety is an issue every meat business takes considerable careover as the financial costs of a recall, not to mention the reputational risk, can be devastating. In this special newsletter, GlobalMeatNews takes a look at the latest recalls, changes to food safety regulation and other key developments across the supply chain.

Feb 16 2017

Again, after 40 years, GAO still wants a unified food safety system

The congressional watchdog Government Accountability Office (GAO) has just published its latest plea for coordinating federal food safety programs: A National Strategy Is Needed to Address Fragmentation in Federal Oversight.

GAO persists in pointing out that 16 federal agencies administer 30 laws government food safety and quality, although USDA (meat and poultry) and FDA (everything else) have the greatest responsibility.

Despite some progress, GAO’s long-standing recommendation for a single, unified food safety agency continues to be ignored.

HHS’s and USDA’s efforts since 2014 are positive steps toward government-wide planning, but OMB has not addressed our recommendation for a government-wide plan for the federal food safety oversight system. Without an annually updated government-wide performance plan for food safety that includes results-oriented goals, performance measures, and a discussion of strategies and resources…Congress, program managers, and other decision makers are hampered in their ability to identify agencies and programs addressing similar missions and to set priorities, allocate resources, and restructure federal efforts, as needed, to achieve long-term goals. Also, without such a plan, federal food safety efforts are not clear and transparent to the public.  OMB staff told us that they were not aware of any current plans to develop a government-wide performance plan for food safety.

The footnotes list previous GAO reports aimed at rationalizing our food safety system, among them:

  • GAO, High-Risk Series: An Update, GAO-15-290 (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 11, 2015), GAO-15-180.
  • GAO, Federal Food Safety Oversight: Food Safety Working Group Is a Positive First Step but Government-wide Planning Is Needed to Address Fragmentation, GAO-11-289 (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 18, 2011)
  • GAO, High-Risk Series: An Update, GAO-07-310 (Washington, D.C.: January 2007)
  • GAO, Food Safety: U.S. Needs a Single Agency to Administer a Unified, Risk-Based Inspection System, T-RCED-99-256 (Washington, D.C.: Aug. 4, 1999).
  • GAO, Food Safety: A Unified, Risk-Based System Needed to Enhance Food Safety, T-RCED-94-71 (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 4, 1993)
  • GAO, Food Safety and Quality: Uniform, Risk-based Inspection System Needed to Ensure Safe Food Supply, RCED-92-152 (Washington, D.C.: June 26, 1992)
  • GAO, Need to Reassess Food Inspection Roles of Federal Organizations, B-168966 (Washington, D.C.: June 30, 1970).

One of these years, maybe?

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