March 6th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Salmonella-tainted hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) produced by Basic Food Flavors, Inc., of Las Vegas, has led to a nationwide recall of numerous mainstream, natural and organic products, including:
- Follow Your Heart tofu, burritos, organic salad dressings and dips
- Trader Joe’s organic salad dressing
Manufacturers sometimes add HVP as a flavor enhancer to processed soups, hot dogs, chilis, stews, dips, salad dressings, gravies, frozen dinners and snack foods.
While no illnesses have been reported, “this situation clearly underscores the need for new food safety legislation to equip FDA with the tools we need to prevent contamination,” says Dr. Jeff Farrar, associate commissioner for food protection.
A full list of recalled products is available here. Expect the number to grow as more food companies report use of the affected HVP.
Read More:Trader Joe’s Recalls Organic Salad Dressing
January 29th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working with state public-health officials, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Montevideo.
As of 9 p.m. Monday, 189 individuals in 40 states have been infected with a matching strain, and 37 people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.
Epidemiologists analyzed the foods that patients ate, and preliminary findings point to Italian sausage and salami products from Rhode Island-based Daniele International Inc.
The company has recalled 1.2 million pounds of products, including artisan and natural brands like:
- Boar’s Head All-Natural Salame Coated with Coarse Black Pepper (8-ounce packages)
- Daniele Naturale Salame Coated with Coarse Black Pepper (10-ounce packages)
- Dietz & Watson Artisan Collection Party Platter Pack
A full list of recalled products, which are sold through grocers and delis, is available here.
This is a Class I recall, which signifies “a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.”
The CDC and its public-health partners are now trying to determine which ingredients were contaminated, how the contamination occurred and whether any other foods may be involved. They suspect the pepper in the salami’s coating may be tainted.
If you have any questions, call the Daniele International hotline: (888) 345-4160.
Read More:Sausage Recall Includes Artisan, Natural Brands
December 27th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
On Christmas Eve, National Steak and Poultry of Owasso, OK, recalled approximately 248,000 pounds of beef products (not organic) that may be contaminated with E. coli.
The is a Class I recall, which signifies “a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) became aware of the problem while investigating a cluster of E. coli illnesses.
Working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as state health and agriculture departments, FSIS determined an association between non-intact steaks (blade tenderized prior to further processing) and illnesses in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, South Dakota and Washington.
FSIS is continuing to work with the CDC and affected state public health partners on the investigation. Anyone with signs or symptoms of foodborne illness should consult a physician.
Click here for a full list of recalled products, which include sirloin steaks, boneless beef tips, Philly steak, tri tip and skirt steak.
If you have questions about the recall, please call the company’s hotline at (866) 439-7348.
Read More:New Beef Recall Announced
December 27th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
First came peanuts.
Pistachios were next.
Now, hazelnuts (aka filberts) have been recalled because of potential salmonella contamination.
Willamette Shelling of Newberg, OR, recalled 114,350 pounds of shelled hazelnuts—both organic and nonorganic—after product sampling revealed the presence of salmonella in one production lot.
The nuts involved were processed in the company’s facility between Oct. 12 and Nov. 25, under the following brand names: Kunze Farms, Evonuk Oregon Hazelnuts, Canadian Hazelnuts and Firestone Farms.
Unshelled hazelnuts are not subject to this recall, and no illnesses have been reported to date.
Whole Foods Market is one of the company’s customers, so the grocery chain is recalling organic raw hazelnuts and nonorganic dry-roasted hazelnuts sold in bulk through stores in California, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Customers who purchased the nuts may return them for a full refund. If you have additional questions, please call (512) 542-0656.
Read More:Organic Hazelnut Recall
November 4th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
I’m serving a special five-course meal to the intellectually challenged members of Congress who support Big Agribusiness and predatory insurance companies over the health and safety of the American people.
Let’s review the menu:
First Course: Double Cheeseburger
Sourced from: San Diego Meat Co. On Oct. 13, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) declared a Class I recall on 925 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli.
As a refresher, dear legislators, a Class I recall is defined as “a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.”
Cases of ground beef patties and bulk ground beef were shipped to restaurants and caterers in San Diego. Fly to SoCal, and eat up, guys! You can barf later on Shamu.
Second Course: Beef Tongue
Sourced from: Cargill Meat Solutions Corp., Milwaukee. The affected 5,522 pounds, recalled Oct. 17, may include tonsils, which means the company failed to comply with USDA regulations. Tongue tissue may be infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad-cow disease).
No worries, guys. It’s a Class II recall, which means there’s a “remote probability of adverse consequences.” You like to gamble with people’s lives, so dig in!
Third Course: Chicken & Apple Sausage
Sourced from: Vatran’s Fine Foods, Inc., Tracy, Calif. Approximately 11,500 pounds of assorted meat and poultry products were recalled on Oct. 16 because they were produced without the benefit of federal inspection. It’s another high-risk Class I recall, affecting pork, chicken, turkey and lamb sausages, as well as veal frankfurters and other products. Chow down, wieners!
Fourth Course: Beef Butt Steak
Sourced from: Crocetti’s Oakdale Packing Co. (doing business as South Shore Meats, Inc.), Brockton, MA. Some 1,039 pounds of fresh ground beef patties derived from bench trim, as well as mechanically tenderized beef cuts, may be contaminated with E. coli. The USDA declared a Class I recall on Oct. 26. Hope that nice slab of butt is extra juicy!
Fifth Course: Meatballs
Sourced from: Fairbank Farms, Ashville, NY. This is a biggie: a Class I recall Oct. 31 of 545,699 pounds of fresh ground beef products. This one aggravates me even more because it includes Trader Joe’s Butcher Shop Fine Quality Meats and the Wild Harvest Natural brand. So far, 28 people have been sickened, and at least one person has died.
You’re expected to clean your plates. Luckily, you have great health insurance—you know, the kind of coverage you refuse to provide to your constituents.
Read More:Serving Spoiled Meat to Lawmakers
September 2nd, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
September is National Food Safety Education Month. So, should we don our party hats?
I think not.
Let’s look at some recent news events:
- A woman is fighting for her life in Las Vegas. Linda Rivera was infected with E. coli after eating contaminated Nestle Cookie Dough, which was later recalled.
- Cantaloupes from a Florida distributor tested positive for salmonella on Aug. 21 and have been recalled.
- Jumbo green onions from several distributors were recalled Aug. 12. They, too, tested positive for salmonella.
- The romaine recall we told you about on July 26 continues. Salinas, Calif.-based Tanimura & Antle has expanded it to cover all 50 states.
- Cilantro from a Texas distributor joined the salmonella-infection club on July 28. The product originated in Mexico.
If there was ever a time for a national overhaul of our food-safety systems, it’s now.
True, the House of Representatives has passed the Food Safety Enhancement Act (HR 2749), but there were unresolved issues regarding organic producers and access to local food. OrganicAuthority Publisher Laura Klein has grave concerns about this bill.
Do you worry about the safety of our country’s food supply? Please let us know how recent events have changed your buying habits.
Photo courtesy of the CDC
Read More:Food Safety Takes a Beating
August 17th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
They call it “bench trim”—remnants from steaks and other cuts of meat that are used to make ground beef.
In an attempt to prevent E. coli outbreaks, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service has issued a guidance that amps up inspection efforts. Inspectors would begin taking samples of bench trim, which is not routinely tested, during site visits.
According to FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, MD, the guidance—which would apply to mainstream and organic meat producers—represents a shift from a reactive (dealing with outbreaks) to a proactive (preventing contamination) agenda.
In recent years, E. coli has been responsible for numerous outbreaks. The bacterium can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration and kidney failure. Most susceptible to infection are children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
Consumer groups, lawmakers and the Obama administration have demanded FDA reforms and an overhaul of our antiquated food safety system.
Read More:A Safer Beef Supply?
August 8th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Two new food recalls—ground beef and fresh cilantro—remind us that the safety of the U.S. food supply remains a pressing issue.
On July 30, the House of Representatives passed HR 2749 (also known as the Food Safety Enhancement Act) by a vote of 283 to 142. It gives the FDA increased authority and resources to prevent foodborne illnesses by:
- Requiring food facilities to have safety plans in place to identify and mitigate hazards
- Increasing the frequency of FDA inspections of food facilities
- Providing enforcement tools like mandatory recalls, stronger penalties and subpoena authority
- Expanding the FDA’s traceback capabilities in the event a food-related outbreak occurs
The bill, however, is not without controversy.
Singing its praises is its author, Rep. John D. Dingell (D-MI): “Over the past two years we have seen issues of melamine in infant formula; tainted peppers from Mexico; harmful seafood from China; and E. coli in spinach. Each year, 76 million people contract a foodborne illness in the United States. According to CDC, about 5,000 die. The Food and Drug Administration—the agency responsible for regulating about 80% of the food supply—has been expected to adequately protect American consumers with outdated authorities and woefully inadequate funding. HR 2749 has the support of consumer groups, food safety groups and industry groups. It is a monumental piece of bipartisan legislation that will grant FDA the authorities and resources needed to effectively oversee an increasingly global food marketplace.”
But the Organic Consumers Association has concerns about how the bill will affect small farms and local producers, as well as consumers’ ability to access their products. As the OCA’s Alexis Baden-Mayer notes:
While the language instructing FDA to coordinate with USDA, secured by the House Agriculture Committee in its negotiation with Energy and Commerce, is a very positive step in the right direction, specific language that requires the FDA to coordinate with the National Organic Program on the development and enforcement of standards with respect to organic farming should be included.
Click here to read Baden-Mayer’s full analysis.
The bill now heads to the Senate.
Read More:Food Safety Act Passes; Organic Issues Unresolved
August 2nd, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
The FDA has published three draft guidances designed to help growers and others in the food supply chain minimize or eliminate microbial contamination in tomatoes, leafy greens and melons.
“These new food safety guidelines will facilitate the development of enforceable food safety standards and ensure a safer supply of fresh food for all Americans,” says FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, MD.
The guidances will be made final after a public comment period and “will be followed within two years by enforceable standards for fresh produce,” she says.
The recommendations are based on three fundamental food safety principles:
- Prevent harm to consumers
- Use good data and analysis to ensure effective food safety inspections and enforcement of the law
- Quickly identify outbreaks of foodborne illness and stop them
The guidances include recommendations regarding produce growing, harvesting, packing, processing, transportation and distribution. Recordkeeping requirements are also included to enable the FDA to rapidly determine the source of future outbreaks.
The actions taken “will result in safer food in our country, which means healthier children, longer lives and less costly healthcare,” says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
“We commend the FDA for moving forward on initiatives to improve the safety of fresh produce,” adds Jim O’Hara, director of the Produce Safety Project at Georgetown University. “The proposed guidance documents put out for comment address three of the highest-risk commodities, and we hope that the agency will finalize these documents quickly. We also look forward to the agency’s next steps regarding produce safety: issuance of proposed regulations. Science-based, risk-based, enforceable safety standards will restore consumer confidence in foods that are key components of a healthy diet.”
To view the actual draft guidances, follow these links:
Read More:FDA Drafts Guidances on Tomatoes, Leafy Greens, Melons
July 26th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Romaine, Cookie Dough Recalls
We have a new recall to report: romaine lettuce from Salinas, Calif.-based Tanimura & Antle. The company sells artisan lettuces and specialty vegetables.
As for the Nestle cookie dough recall, the Associated Press reveals that the company had refused to supply reports to the FDA over the last 5 years—not illegal, but certainly noteworthy as U.S. food-safety incidents pile up.
As consumers, we need to put pressure on mainstream and organic companies to comply with FDA inspectors’ requests—even the voluntary ones.
Farm Aid Adds Artists
Farm Aid has signed new artists for its Oct. 4 concert.
“We’re looking forward to welcoming Jason Mraz and Phosphorescent to the Farm Aid family, and having Wilco and Jamey Johnson back to Farm Aid this year,” says Carolyn Mugar, executive director. “Every year, artists and bands donate their time to perform on the Farm Aid stage, raising funds and awareness about the critical contributions family farmers make to our country.”
Farm Aid seeks to build a vibrant, family farm-centered system of agriculture in America.
What’s on My iPod?
I can’t get enough of Jason Mraz’s We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things—and not just because he’s supporting Farm Aid.
Science geek that I am, I’m finishing up Mary Roach’s audiobook Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. It’s also available in paperback. Great info about the human body, but not recommended for those with queasy stomachs!
Photo courtesy of Tanimura & Antle
Read More:Update: Food Recalls, Farm Aid, My iPod Playlist