Opinion & Contributed Articles – Food Safety Website https://www.storkxx.com Breaking news for everyone's consumption Sun, 16 Aug 2020 04:25:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.4&lxb_maple_bar_source=lxb_maple_bar_source https://www.storkxx.com/files/2018/05/cropped-siteicon-32x32.png Opinion & Contributed Articles – Food Safety Website https://www.storkxx.com 32 32 Letter from the Editor: Time to put the branding irons in the museum https://www.storkxx.com/2020/08/letter-from-the-editor-time-to-put-the-branding-irons-in-the-museum/ https://www.storkxx.com/2020/08/letter-from-the-editor-time-to-put-the-branding-irons-in-the-museum/#respond Sun, 16 Aug 2020 04:23:01 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=196619 Continue Reading]]> Opinion

Later this week, the ranchers who belong to that group with the long name are holding their annual convention in Deadwood, SD. One major item on their agenda is to decide whether to continue to slow the use of RFID technology to keep track of livestock.

R-CALF USA  represents U.S. cattle producers. Its long-form name is the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America. In the last year, it’s gone to federal court to keep RFID technology at bay.

R-CALF USA is not alone in representing the cattle industry.   State cattlemen’s organizations from major beef producing regions are also involved in the RFID issue.   They’ve helped startup  U.S. Cattle Trace, a new disease traceability initiative.

Its goal is to develop a national infrastructure for disease traceability and encourage private industry’s use of the infrastructure for individualized management practices. Cattle Trace partners include the Kansas Livestock Association, Florida Cattlemen’s Association, Texas Cattle Feeders Association, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, and Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association.

Maybe the cattle industry is going to put its branding irons away for the last time.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recently awarded contracts to purchase up to eight million low-frequency radio frequency identification (RFID) ear tags.

The contract allows APHIS to purchase additional tags each year for up to five years.

“USDA continues its commitment to protecting our Nation’s animal agriculture by increasing traceability in the cattle and bison sectors, in this case by providing free RFID tags to interested producers,” said Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach. “This will not only help offset the costs of switching to RFID tags but also help us more quickly respond to potential disease events.”

In their court case, R-CALF was complaining about how much RFID tags would cost economically strapped cattlemen. Traceability in food safety and managing animal disease would both benefit from the adoption of RFID technology.

APHIS’s job is to keep animal disease away from U.S. shores. It sees RFID as “the best opportunity to rapidly contain the spread of high economic impact diseases.”

It says the use of RFID tags better positions the livestock industry, State and Federal veterinarians to accurately and quickly trace animals exposed or infected with potentially devastating diseases before they can do substantial damage to the U.S. livestock industry.

Its plan is to provide RFID tags through animal health officials for distribution and use in breeding cattle and bison at no cost to the producer. According to APHIS:

  • RFID low-frequency official calf-hood vaccination (OCV) button tags are available for brucellosis-vaccinated animals, and official “840” white button tags are available for non-vaccinated heifers. 
  • Free metal National Uniform Eartagging System tags will remain available as USDA continues to receive comments and evaluate the next steps on its proposed RFID transition timeline. 
  • The proposal is available for review and public comment through October 5, 2020.

Contracts for the RFID tags were awarded to three American tag companies, all compliant with the Buy American Act– Allflex (Dallas, TX), Datamars (Temple, TX), and Y-Tex (Cody, WY). Contracting with all three manufacturers will allow USDA to procure the number of tags needed to meet an industry volume equivalent to the number of replacement heifers in the United States.

As part of its overall effort to increase traceability in cattle and bison, APHIS distributed more than 1.1 million RFID tags to 38 states between January and July 2020. Each state veterinarian distributes the tags in a way that best serves their industry.

In that court dustup, attorney Harriet Hageman of the New Civil Alliance, representing R-CALF, claimed USDA with an attempt to unlawfully mandate the exclusive use of RFID tags. USDA appears more like a salesman giving free samples than an official with mandates.

R-CALF’s reaction will likely come in convention and the organization is not known for rolling over and saying “nevermind.” But for the rest of us, USDA’s strategy may be working out.

Late last year in the Netherlands, I did a slow-walking tour through a large VanDrie veal beef plant. The Dutch know what they are doing in any number of ways. But, the major takeaway for me was the Dutch use of RFID tags.

At the end of the tour, our Dutch guide could pick out a basket of finished veal beef products with a system that could identify the specific contributing animals.

That’s not something we’ve done much in the United States. For too long we’ve accepted a kind of lottery system, allowing a  single hamburger to become the product of 50 animals from four countries. I am thinking of course of the tragic case of the Minnesota dancer. 

All because nobody can answer the question: “where did this come from?

But restaurants crawling back from being shut down during the coronavirus scare, more information is better. Chipolte Mexican Grill, which five years ago was rocked by one food safety outbreak after another, now says it has a from “seed to stomach” traceability plan.

Food safety would benefit if we knew exactly what happens when an animal is processed. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service also would benefit during outbreaks of animal disease.

And experts like Derrel Peel, Oklahoma State University ag economist, says that without an ID system, the USDA is hindering market access. “Virtually every other beef exporting country has an ID system in place,” says Peel.

Currently, cattle producers have various options for animal identification. Metal ear tags, backtags, brands, and tattoos are all among them.   It is time to get with the 21st Century.

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Letter from the Editor: Any sign of normalcy is worth feeling cheerful about https://www.storkxx.com/2020/08/letter-from-the-editor-any-sign-of-normalcy-is-worth-feeling-cheerful-about/ https://www.storkxx.com/2020/08/letter-from-the-editor-any-sign-of-normalcy-is-worth-feeling-cheerful-about/#respond Sun, 09 Aug 2020 04:03:27 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=196436 Continue Reading]]> Opinion

Now when I get a report on Salmonella infections in backyard flocks across 46 states or hundreds sickened by Salmonella Newport due to contaminated onions, I feel just a little bit of cheer.

Oh, it’s not that I am heartless about those suffering from Salmonella or unfeeling about just how icky almost 800 cases of cyclosporiasis can be. It’s just that at the moment, foodborne illness outbreaks and pathogens are signs that we might eventually be getting back to normal.

And that cheers me.

We’d started 2020 nicely enough with outbreaks of Listeria in 17 states for contaminated enoki mushrooms and of E. coli O103 infections in 10 states over clover sprouts.

President Trump activated the federal emergency over the COVID-19 coronavirus on Jan.31. For a while, after that, it seemed like foodborne illness dried up. Now it’s starting to feel like things might be getting back to good old normal.

We are into seven months of life being very different than it was before this emergency drill. We’ve all changed—some more than others.

As my routine involves news-gathering and writing, solo activities, I’ve been luckier than most. Still, I found myself listening to satellite radio’s Classics and Rural Radio instead of my bad old habits for talking heads on TV or radio.

There’s also more time for reading and reaching out without any noise.
Like most of us, I spend a half-hour or so each date updating myself on the various COVID-19 data sources–Worldmeter, John Hopkins, and CDC are all useful.

Is it good that we are at 5.1 million COID-19 cases when we had 60.8 million H1Ni cases during the 2009 pandemic? Or is it just bad that COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. had hit 165,000 when we got off with 12,469 during the 2009 pandemic?

Somebody this week wrote that we are closer to the end than the beginning. I think that is all a matter of one’s geographic perspective. I’ve been going back and forth between two areas with different experiences.

Weld County, CO, for example, has produced only a trickle of new COVED-19 cases this summer, and only one additional death. In the spring, it was a hotspot with more than 3600 cases and 90 deaths.

When I first arrived in Hays County, TX in the spring, fatalities since the onset was still in single digits, but grew to a total of at least 34 over the summer. Hays County did not escape the spike in cases Texas experienced over the summer, reaching 5,012 cases since the first diagnosis of the virus within the county on March 14.

There are currently 2,803 active coronavirus cases with 2,175 recoveries in Hays County, home to Texas State University in San Marcos.

Weld County is home to the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
Several convalescent homes and the JBS beef plant ran up the Weld County numbers in the spring. Texas put caution aside for a while, causing the spike, which came after TSU adjourned.

Living in either Greeley or San Marcos without fear is not difficult, although it can be tedious. It mainly involves staying away from other humans and masking up when some limited, short-time contact is required, like at the grocery store.

Dining is either take-out or outdoor seating, and some of the options are pretty good. Restaurants have done well with take-outs of dinner and drinks.

Traveling between the two locations is a two and one-half hour United non-stop from Austin to Denver. An MIT study out last week found there is a 1 in 4300 chance of contracting COVID-19 from a nearby passenger, or even better at 1 in 7,700 if the middle seat is vacant.

I’ve already “risked it” a couple of times, and plan to do so again in two weeks. Airports and airlines require masks, and its easy to avoid contact with people in the terminals. TSA wants to see your face but only requires removing your cover for a few seconds.

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Consumer Reports: ‘One Health Certified’ label is meaningless, misleading https://www.storkxx.com/2020/07/consumer-reports-one-health-certified-label-is-meaningless-misleading/ https://www.storkxx.com/2020/07/consumer-reports-one-health-certified-label-is-meaningless-misleading/#respond Thu, 23 Jul 2020 04:02:43 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=195972 Continue Reading]]> Opinion

By Brian Ronholm and Charlotte Vallaeys 

Upon conducting a review of the “One Health Certified” label for meat and poultry products, Consumer Reports has determined that this label is essentially meaningless and should be ignored by consumers. In addition to being confusing and misleading, the label represents the equivalent of a participation trophy for normal operations.

Labels on food packaging tell a number of stories about a particular product, whether it is identifying particular ingredients, explaining how it was produced, or helping consumers determine whether it is healthy. They also can serve as an important source of information for consumers who have food allergies or want to limit intake of a certain ingredient for health reasons. Unfortunately, some labels have more to do with marketing hype than information consumers can trust when shopping at the grocery store.

In September 2019, Consumer Reports developed a food label ratings system using a methodology based on a review of government regulations, a certifying organizations’ standards and policy manuals, and information from surveys on consumer perceptions of label claims. In addition to determining that the One Health Certified (OHC) label offers no meaningful information, our evaluation of the poultry standards for the label found that it does not require companies to make any significant improvement to their practices.

What is One Health Certified?
According to the One Health Certified web site, OHC is an industry-focused marketing label that producers can use to demonstrate to consumers their commitment to responsible, sustainable, and transparent animal care practices. It is part of a Process Verified Program (PVP) administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) that offers producers a way to market their products. Companies participating in a PVP are required to develop a process and AMS verifies their adherence to this process through audits.

Not to be confused with One Health
The OHC label is attempting to borrow legitimacy from an existing collaborative, multisectoral, and transdisciplinary approach called One Health. Working at the local, regional, national and international levels, the goal of One Health is to achieve optimal health outcomes recognizing the interconnection between people, animals, plants and their shared environment.

Among its biggest promoters, One Health is often referred to in spiritual terms and represents a harmonic convergence for food policy because it is viewed as an effective way to fight health issues at the human-animal-environment interface. According to the CDC, agencies use this approach by involving experts in human, animal, environmental health, and other sectors in monitoring and controlling public health threats, and to learn about how diseases spread among people, animals, plants, and the environment. There certainly is some validity to this approach given current events.

With the One Health Certified label, the industry is attempting to link itself to this approach by implying that it is concerned with issues such as antibiotic resistance, food safety, animal welfare and environmental contamination. However, a closer examination of the label’s standards shows there is a distinct difference between the public health goals of One Health and the industry-driven marketing goals of OHC.

Meaningless OHC standards
While companies are audited for compliance with the OHC standards, the standards themselves largely reflect normal industry practices and do not require companies to make any significant improvements to animal welfare, drug use practices, and environmental impact.

  • Animal Welfare. “Responsible Animal Care” is featured prominently at the top of the OHC label in bold letters. However, to meet animal welfare standards for OHC, producers are allowed to use minimal trade association guidelines that essentially represent the norm in poultry production. For chickens, the indoor space requirement is less than one square foot per bird, and there is no requirement for access to the outdoors. There also is no requirement to equip indoor living spaces with features that allow chickens to engage in natural behaviors. Even basic allowances such as controlling indoor ammonia levels produced by animal waste is not required.
  • Antibiotic Use. While the OHC label standards place some restrictions on the use of antibiotics, it allows meat from animals treated with antibiotics to be sold with the label. This removes the implied incentive in the label that producers reduce the use of antibiotics and address root causes in a meaningful One Health way. In addition to medically important uses, the OHC standard allows antibiotics to be administered to prevent disease and expedite the animals’ growth. The OHC standard also does not specifically address the use of other types of growth promotion drugs.
  • Environmental Impact. The environmental section of the OHC label standard requires producers to conduct a life cycle assessment that measures their carbon footprint. However, the standard lacks any requirements to take measures to reduce environmental impacts.
  • Other One Health Concepts. A meaningful One Health label that promotes optimal health for animals, people and the environment likely would address critical issues such as working conditions and labor rights at slaughterhouses. It also would incorporate a fair trade concept that ensures farmers have fair and stable contracts with companies that purchase from them. Unfortunately, these concepts and arrangements run counter to the current vertically integrated system that disadvantages farmers. Thus, there are no references to these issues under the OHC label standards.

Food companies should refrain from affixing the One Health Certified label on their products since it largely reflects current industry practices and is misleading. If consumers encounter this label at the store, they should be aware that it only means that a company used their normal operations to process food-producing animals and decided to reward themselves with a sticker.

About the authors

Brian Ronholm is Director of Food Policy for Consumer Reports, an independent, nonprofit member organization that works with consumers for truth, transparency, and fairness in the marketplace. He is former deputy under secretary for food safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and prior to that, worked for Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).

Charlotte Vallaeys is Senior Policy Analyst at Consumer Reports. She leads the organization’s efforts to ensure that food labels are clear, accurate and meaningful as part of their commitment to support a safer, fairer and more sustainable food system. 

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Nation’s food, drug officials’ association gives FDA blueprint thumbs up https://www.storkxx.com/2020/07/nations-food-drug-officials-association-gives-fda-blueprint-thumbs-up/ https://www.storkxx.com/2020/07/nations-food-drug-officials-association-gives-fda-blueprint-thumbs-up/#respond Wed, 15 Jul 2020 04:01:13 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=195738 Continue Reading]]> Opinion


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has released its blueprint for agency’s “New Era of Smarter Food Safety.” It represents a new approach to food safety, leveraging technology and other tools to create a safer and more digital, traceable food system.

The blueprint seeks out simpler, more effective, and modern approaches and processes. The ultimate goal is to bend the curve of foodborne illness in this country by reducing the number of illnesses.

Back in December of 2019, Association of Food and Drug Officials Executive Director Steven Mandernach provided written comment on the blueprint for a “New Era of Smarter Food Safety” on behalf of ADFO and its members.

“We are pleased that our input clearly helped inform the development of the Blueprint’,” Mandernach says.

“The New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint leverages the existing relationships with domestic mutual reliance with state, local, tribal, and territorial food safety agencies while also enhancing this relationship through information sharing, modernizing inspections, and adoption of root cause analysis.

“Further, FDA recognizes in this program the importance of modernizing food safety in restaurants and other retail food establishments that are is the source for many of the illnesses.

“AFDO looks forward to collaborating with FDA to achieve the vision of the New Era of Smarter Food Safety.”

About the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) from the association website: Since 1986, AFDO unites high-level regulatory officials, industry representatives, trade associations, academia and consumer organizations. AFDO members strive to foster uniformity in the adoption and enforcement of science-based food, drug, medical device and cosmetic products safety laws and regulation for improved public health. 

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Letter from the Editor: Infections and deaths from COVID-19 in meat, poultry industries https://www.storkxx.com/2020/07/letter-from-the-editor-infections-and-deaths-from-covid-19-in-meat-poultry-industries/ https://www.storkxx.com/2020/07/letter-from-the-editor-infections-and-deaths-from-covid-19-in-meat-poultry-industries/#respond Sun, 12 Jul 2020 04:05:34 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=195638 Continue Reading]]> Opinion

When Saul Sanchez, a 78-year old “green hat” supervisor at the JBS beef plant in Greeley, CO, died from COVID-19 this past  April 7, nobody was thinking he might be the first of nearly 100 others in the industry to succumb to the virus. Sanchez worked at the Greeley beef plant for more than 30 years and he reported for work early in the pandemic and was among those who paid the ultimate price.

The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) is now out with the human cost of keeping meat and poultry plants running this past spring and into the summer months as COVID-19 drags on. Market disruptions and reduced production did occur, but the feared nationwide meat shortages did not.

When infections create fear and when COVID-19 deaths leave behind incredible sadness, some 525,000 meat and poultry industry employees showed up for shift after shift so American consumers never came up short of bacon or sirloins. Those 525,000 industry professionals keep about 3,500 facilities up and running nationwide, according to MMWR.

“Essential jobs” during the pandemic have included  “good news” and “bad news” elements. The good news was that unlike someone in a non-essential job,  there was an option of going to work every day.   Bad news is some of the “essential” jobs included significant risks.

The MMWR has provided the first comprehensive report on just how risky it was for meat and poultry industry employees who kept things running. Overall, 239 facilities in 28 states reported 16,233 COVID-19 cases and 86 COVID-19–related deaths among workers, as of the writing of the report. Demographic characteristics reported by 21 states show Hispanics bore the brunt of the meat industry’s COVID-19 illnesses.  And the MMWR data suggests a disproportionate burden.

“Among animal slaughtering and processing workers from the 21 states included in this report whose race/ethnicity was known, approximately 39 percent were white, 30 percent were Hispanic, 25 percent were black, and 6 percent were Asian,” according to MMWR. “However, among 9,919 workers with COVID-19 with race/ethnicity reported, approximately 56 percent  were Hispanic, 19 percent  were black, 13 percent were white, and 12 percent  were Asian, suggesting that Hispanic and Asian workers might be disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in this workplace setting.”

The MMWR says meat and poultry processing facilities “face distinctive challenges in the control of infectious diseases, including coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) (1). COVID-19 outbreaks among meat and poultry processing facility workers can rapidly affect large numbers of persons.”    The report documents the evolution of COVID-19’s strike on the industry.

  •  Assessment of COVID-19 cases among workers in 115 meat and poultry processing facilities through April 27, 2020, documented 4,913 cases and 20 deaths reported by 19 states. 
  • The report provides updated aggregate data from states regarding the number of meat and poultry processing facilities affected by COVID-19, the number and demographic characteristics of affected workers, and the number of COVID-19–associated deaths among workers, as well as descriptions of interventions and prevention efforts at these facilities.
  • Aggregate data on confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths among workers identified and reported through May 31, 2020, were obtained from 239 affected facilities (those with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 case in one or more workers) in 23 states.* COVID-19 was confirmed in 16,233 workers, including 86 COVID-19–related deaths. 
  • Among 14 states reporting the total number of workers in affected meat and poultry processing facilities (112,616), COVID-19 was diagnosed in 9.1 percent of workers. Among 9,919 (61 percent) cases in 21 states with reported race/ethnicity, 87 percent occurred among racial and ethnic minority workers. 

This is important work because until this MMWR report came out unions and other non-government organizations were the only sources for information on the COVID-19’s impact on the meat and poultry industries.  When a number of meat and poultry plants around the country became “hot spots,” and emotions ran high, the unions and NGOs were often the only sources of numbers. And some alleged people were being “forced” to work in the industry.  That is not really accurate of course and takes away from the gallantry of employees who volunteer to take these risks.

The MMWR found “commonly reported interventions and prevention efforts” at the facilities included:

  • implementing worker temperature or symptom screening and COVID-19 education, 
  • mandating face coverings, 
  • adding hand hygiene stations, 
  • and adding physical barriers between workers. 

Targeted workplace interventions and prevention efforts that are appropriately tailored to the groups most affected by COVID-19 are critical to reducing both COVID-19–associated occupational risk and health disparities among vulnerable populations. Implementation of these interventions and prevention efforts across meat and poultry processing facilities nationally could help protect workers in this critical infrastructure industry.

The MMWR said states reported COVID-19 cases determined by the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists confirmed case definition. 

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Change in the Time of COVID-19 https://www.storkxx.com/2020/07/change-in-the-time-of-covid-19/ https://www.storkxx.com/2020/07/change-in-the-time-of-covid-19/#respond Mon, 06 Jul 2020 04:03:43 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=195432 Continue Reading]]> Opinion

Editor’s note: Each Spring, attorneys Bill Marler and Denis Stearns teach a Food Safety Litigation course in the LL.M. Program in Agricultural and Food Law at the University of Arkansas School of Law. This specialized program for attorneys brings together those who are interested in our food system, from farm to table. As a final assignment, students are asked to write an op-ed or essay on food safety, with the best to be selected for publication in Food Safety Website. The following is one of the essays for 2020.

By Savannah Clay 

“Chicago will be ours!” This is the last line of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, which captured the horrific working conditions immigrants working in meat factories experienced. The descriptions of how adulterated and unsafe our food was so disgusting that the book was a catalyst for President Theodore Roosevelt’s call to investigate meat processing plants. These investigations led to the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act. Sinclair later lamented that the public latched onto the unsafe handling of food and overlooked the labor exploitation. But the safe handling of food and labor exploitation are inextricably linked.

The nation has been dealing with a new, unprecedented crisis in COVID-19. It can seem impossible to return to normal. People are scared, confused, concerned, angry, and so many other things. People are worried about the economy, their safety, and has people desiring to “go back to normal.” But in the food industry, is “going back to normal” what we want? This crisis shed a light on the dark, dangerous work environments our food workers are still subjected to. This crisis presents a new moment, much like Sinclair’s The Jungle presented in 1906, to call for and demand change from the meat and farming industry and the food industry more broadly. There are countless stories in the news about how farmers are unable to sell their fruit and vegetable crops; dairy farmers are pouring out milk; piglets and chicks are being exterminated for fear that meat processing facilities will shut down. The news can be scary and overwhelming, especially in this time of uncertainty. But does that mean we will think it is okay to sacrifice the safety of our essential workers in the food supply chain? I certainly hope not. 

John H. Tyson, the chairman of Tyson’s executive board, wrote a full-page editorial earlier this (year) and said, “the food supply chain is breaking.” He said this because several pork, beef, and chicken processing plants have become hotbeds for the spread of COVID-19 and have had to shut down. As of now there are approximately 20 slaughterhouses and processing plants that have had to shut down. This spread accelerated in large part because of the poor working conditions the people in these facilities face. These workers are put in crowded rooms to work on the lines. They do not have 6 feet between each worker on the line, and often these workers are not equipped with PPE. Mr. Tyson argues the work done in these factories is essential, because it is getting meat to the grocery stores for us to consume. It is essential to feed America. I agree. Feeding America is essential. But we should prioritize and protect those essential workers who are putting themselves, and potentially their loved ones, at risk to go to work to get the beef, pork, and chicken products to grocery stores all over the country.

It is difficult to look at Mr. Tyson’s plea with anything less than a skeptical eye. Is this about feeding America or is this about Tyson’s continued ability to turn a profit? If it was truly about feeding America, wouldn’t Tyson and Smithfield’s and JBS work with regulators to provide their essential workers with the appropriate PPE and restructure the working environment to allow 6 ft between each worker. Wouldn’t these big companies look at how their facilities are turning into hotbeds and take this not as an indication that there is a threat to their bottom line, but that there is a threat to their employees? It is not just the employees who are at increased risk in these facilities. Meat inspectors, who are required by law to be in facilities if these facilities want to run, are experiencing higher rates of infection. What do we do if there are not enough inspectors to adequately inspect the products these plants are producing?

 If it is truly about being essential and providing food to Americans, these companies should jump on the opportunity to make their work environments safer. Will the processing speeds be as fast? No, they most likely won’t be. But isn’t that a good thing? Increasing line speeds put workers at greater risk for potential amputation injuries as well as overuse injuries, like arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome. This is just the focus on the meat processing plants. 

On Tuesday, April 28, 2020, President Trump signed an executive order to keep these processing plants open. He used the Defense Production Act to mandate that these plants continue production. The New York Times reported “the order is designed in part to give companies legal cover with more liability protection in case employees catch the virus as a result of having to go to work.” This notion solidifies the idea that this executive order, and the pleas from Mr. Tyson, are focused more on production and profit than worker health and safety. If the workers are too sick or scared to come to work, the food supply chain will continue to break. This is a half-measured solution to the growing problem. 

“While we share the concern over the food supply, today’s executive order to force meatpacking plants to stay open must put the safety of our country’s meatpacking workers first,” the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union said in a statement.

What about the working conditions of the farmers and farm hands who are harvesting the fruits and vegetables we consume? Working conditions for farm laborers are terrible. Often, workers live on or near the farms they are harvesting because they tend to be migrant workers. The stereotype that all farm laborers are illegal immigrants also reverberates in the minds of many. Regardless of the status of these workers, they are entitled to protection from the coronavirus. These workers also deserve PPE, and safe and sanitary working and living conditions. What happens if too many of these laborers fall ill? Who will harvest the crops for us to consume? If we are truly concerned about the potential collapse of the food supply chain, we need to make the conscious decision to provide these workers with as many protections as possible.  This includes updating their living quarters and adapting their work to the crisis COVID-19 presents. This will not be easy. I understand that. There is not an example in the past to look to and form a new work model. This will take time, cooperation, and money. The action these major farming operations and meat processing operations take may eat into their profits. But they will be doing right by their workers. They will be showing their workers, and the country, that protecting the supply chain is important, but protecting their workers are more important. 

Consumers tend to have long memories when companies make the headlines in negative ways. If our food supply chain is truly breaking, we need to look at all the factors causing it to break, and we need to address them all. Merely keeping the processing plants open will not make the workers feel more comfortable going to work. If the plants are open but there are no workers on the lines and no inspectors ready, then the plant is open for naught. If the plants are open and workers continue to get sick, this will call into question the cleanliness of the facilities. If the facilities are not clean enough to keep their workers safe and protected from COVID-19, is our food safe? How could the outbreak of COVID-19 in these plants bleed into consumer concerns about the relative safety of the food these plants are processing. Will consumers be less likely to purchase Tyson or Smithfield’s or JBS products because of their inability to keep their workers safe? 

Activists can use the actions these companies take now to create and perpetuate the narrative that these big farms and big companies do not care about their workers. They care about their bottom line. And if all they care about is their bottom line, how is the safety of our food being negatively impacted. Worker conditions and food quality are inextricably linked. It’s time to demand better working conditions and more protections for the essential workers risking their health and safety to ensure we have the products we demand available at supermarkets and grocery stores. This time of crisis is unparalleled to anything I’ve witnessed in my lifetime. It has highlighted inequities we don’t want to acknowledge, and it’s forcing us to reevaluate our priorities. These major companies should not be able to carry on as normal. Normal was not good enough before the outbreak. Normal is not good enough during the outbreak. Normal will not be good enough after the outbreak. It is past time to demand more of our food supply chain. Our workers deserve safe working conditions, regardless of pandemic status. They deserve a living wage. And they deserve to be protected. Implementing these changes will lead to better handling of food practices and will hopefully raise our standards of food safety. We must protect our food supply chain, but that includes protecting the workers involved. If we don’t do that we aren’t protecting the supply chain at all. We are just protecting the major companies’ abilities to generate a profit. 

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Florida needs to get on with enforcement of COVID-19 rules https://www.storkxx.com/2020/07/florida-needs-to-get-on-with-enforcement-of-covid-19-rules/ https://www.storkxx.com/2020/07/florida-needs-to-get-on-with-enforcement-of-covid-19-rules/#respond Sun, 05 Jul 2020 04:06:44 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=195428 Continue Reading]]> Opinion

It is clear that many people and many businesses are sympathetic to protecting public health, and also understand the risks they face trying to conduct business as usual during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there are too many people not practicing social distancing, and not wearing face coverings in the community. The lack of compliance by some of our businesses and citizens is now driving the surge of cases in Florida, and we should ask why this is happening. 

The simple answer is that poor compliance with COVID-19 precautions in restaurants, retail stores, bars, and other places of transmission in our community happens because businesses and patrons think they can get away with not following the rules and guidance from our authorities.

But its more complicated than that. In addition to the wrong messages from some of our leaders, and disrespect by some for the rules, our agencies are partly to blame for non-compliance. Given that there is little transparency with state agencies in Tallahassee, there appears to be a lack of coordination between the agencies that technically have the ability to hold businesses accountable to follow the accepted guidance and rules.

Lack of political support for the Florida Department of Health, and poor leadership at the agency over many years, has silenced what should be the most effective agency with the means of controlling COVID-19 in Florida’s communities. In recent years, the DOH has lost jurisdiction over food services, childcare and institutions-including healthcare facilities. Those responsibilities have been divided between the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation- FLDBPR, The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services-FLDACS, and the Agency for Health Care Administration-AHCA There is poor coordination between these agencies in regards COVID-19 control, and no discernable central command, so to speak. Therefore, there appears to be no expedient way to bring the varied rules these agencies operate under into a cohesive enforcement effort. Currently, Florida has a disconnected patchwork of rules and agencies, with the remarkable result that ACHA and DBPR are now tasked with protecting public health during a deadly pandemic! 

The problem is, neither AHCA nor DBPR are public health agencies. While they do have the capacity to take action against a licensed establishment, the problem is with the agencies themselves. DBPR suffers from having to maintain the political support of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association lobby, for one thing. Another is that some field staff in these agencies do not have science backgrounds, or even college degrees, and yet they make sometimes complex public health decisions, i.e., identifying and managing an outbreak, or who stays open and who gets closed. 

I am not aware of a formal mechanism for DBPR, AHCA and DOH to work together to investigate COVID-19 compliance issues. When a cluster of cases is suspected in a facility, our agencies should be coordinating together to investigate the cluster, apply their respective expertise and take the corrective actions as necessary to protect the public. The DOH has limited jurisdictional powers and cannot even enter a nursing home without being invited in by the licensing agency, much less enforce a rule. That is even more troubling, considering the terrible loss of life in Florida’s nursing homes.

Another observation is that there is little visible evidence of effective public health promotion at the DOH, even though the disciplines of Public Health Promotion and Education can be effective functions when communication channels are properly utilized. In order to change negative public opinion, messages must reach the community explaining to them the “why’s” of social distancing, and face coverings. 

Enforcement of COVID-19 rules is now a policing issue in a growing number of Florida municipalities. Sending a police officer to deliver a citation, or levy a fine may deter some violations, but this method of dealing with COVID compliance is a scattershot approach, and may not be sustainable. 

The root-cause of the present dysfunction in enforcement is the politicizing of the existing agencies tasked with protecting public health and safety. Little by little, DOH’s jurisdiction has been taken apart, piece by piece by Florida’s legislators.

Now that we have a crisis, where is the strong and effective public health agency, the one agency whose mission it is to protect public health? It sits on the sidelines. We barely hear anything from DOH outside of telling us about the gruesome statistics.

It seems ironic, but it is the public that must support public health. The public must understand that undercutting health protections for political purposes has put them at risk. Our citizens should demand that our legislature reverse the gutting of DOH programs and provide DOH with political support, sufficient manpower, and funding. We should not let lobbyists in Tallahassee dictate public health policy as they continue to do. 

What has happened to the Department of Health is an insult to our citizens and should be remembered in November. Voters need to send a strong message: Public Health, Safety and Welfare are the Overriding Goals of ALL Regulatory Agencies! We need emergency legislation to amend the Florida statutes and administrative codes, and give back to the Florida DOH its rightful jurisdictional power, allowing them to do the professional public health work they have the responsibility for. 

While Florida’s governor has recently come out in favor of enforcement, there must be other initiatives. Alone, measures such as shutting down bars and pulling a few alcohol licenses do not address the long-term compliance and transmission problems we are surely facing. 

The reluctance of businesses to enforce the required COVID 19 controls is now backfiring, and injured persons are filing lawsuits and seeking damages. The public’s disrespect for social distancing and face coverings is also backfiring, with the state of Florida now considered a nationwide COVID-19 transmission hot spot. 

It is obviously in the best interest of everyone to comply with best practices. Education, the application of science, and enforcement, when necessary, will get us out of this dilemma- but we need to get on with it. 

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Senator’s Call for Meat Industry’s Answers Exposes Reach of Money in Politics   https://www.storkxx.com/2020/07/meat-industry-questions-expose-flawed-campaign-financing/ https://www.storkxx.com/2020/07/meat-industry-questions-expose-flawed-campaign-financing/#respond Sat, 04 Jul 2020 04:00:51 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=195430 Continue Reading]]> Opinion

By Brendan Fischer and Maggie Christ


Despite what you might think, America’s broken campaign finance system is about more than expensive ads flooding your screen and glossy mailers clogging your mailbox. The outsized role of money in politics has a real-world impact, with elected officials too often prioritizing the interests of a wealthy donor class and leaving many people behind. 

Take the White House’s treatment of the meat-processing industry during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. Industry CEOs who wrote big campaign checks had their profits protected. But the front-line workers whose lives are at risk — and who cannot afford thousands of dollars in political contributions – have been largely ignored. 

From North Carolina to South Dakota, from Nebraska to Missouriand from Iowa to Coloradoworkers at meat processing plants—owned by just a few multinational corporations, like Tyson Foods—have become acutely vulnerable to infectionAnd plant outbreaks have rippled through surrounding communities, tooAs the Associated Press reported, “of the 15 U.S. counties with the highest per-capita infection rates between April 28 and May 5, all are homes to meat processing plants or state prisons.” 

Workers in many plants complained that safety measures have been inadequatetheir employers have failed to provide safety gear, slow down line speeds to implement social distancing, or even inform workers when their colleagues tested positive or died. But they faced pressure to keep showing up, particularly since most of these workers don’t have paid sick days. 

It was against this backdrop that President Trump declared in April that “we’re working with Tyson” and pledged to sign an executive order that would “solve any liability problems” for the company.  

Trump’s subsequent order declared meat-processing plants “critical infrastructure” in an effort to keep them open—overriding the authority of state and local governments to close unsafe facilities, and helping to protect the companies from accountability if they negligently fail to keep workers and communities safe. 

It is perhaps no surprise that Tyson Foods Chairman John Tyson has given over $90,000 to Trump’s party since 2017. Other top industry executives have given millions more. Ronnie Cameron, the CEO of poultry processor Mountaire Farms, gave $2 million to a pro-Trump super PAC in 2016, $5 million to super PACs aligned with party leaders in the House and Senate, and $4.5 million to the Koch network super PAC AFP Action, among other contributionsIn April, the White House announced Cameron won a spot on one of Trump’s Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups.

Contributions like those apparently helped buy an audience with the president—and likely helped the industry’s executives get what they wanted.

The White House developed Trump’s order in consultation with industry executives, but line workers have the most at stake. At least 27,000 COVID-19 cases have been tied to outbreaks at meatpacking plants, and at least 90 workers have died, according to one analysis.

Yet it doesn’t appear that the White House consulted with workers—or workplace safety experts—before issuing the order. That might be because workers in the meat processing industry can’t afford big political contributions like industry executives canline workers in the industry are paid, on average, less than $14 per hour

A review of campaign finance records shows that Tyson Foods workers (other than executives or board memberswho have made contributions via ActBlue or WinRed this election cycle gave an average donation of just $14, far less than John Tyson’s tens of thousands. Mountaire Farms’ CEO has personally given more than 1,000 times as much this election cycle as all other non-executive Mountaire workers combined.

And it has been the workers who’ve suffered the most. When meatpacking plants reopened following Trump’s executive order, the number of coronavirus cases at the plants surged.

As it turns out, during the same period that meatpacking executives like Tyson were warning of food shortages and pressing Trump to keep plants open, their companies were quietly exporting record amounts to China. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker are demanding answers from the industry, pointing out in a letter to meatpacking executives that as their companies ramped up foreign exports, they “put thousands of your workers in harm’s way to maintain production, dramatically increased prices for U.S. consumers, and successfully lobbied the President to sign an executive order designating your plants as critical infrastructure that allowed them to continue operating in an unsafe fashion.” 

For years, a smaller and smaller share of very wealthy donors has come to fund a larger and larger share of our elections, and we know that those donors’ policy priorities often bear little to no resemblance to the top issues facing working families. 

The coronavirus crisis has exposed a number of existing inequalities, including the wide and growing gap between those who fund officeholders’ campaigns and those whom officeholders are supposed to represent. When the influential donor base increasingly looks nothing like the constituent base, and when those populations most impacted by government action or inaction can’t have their voices heardserious reform is required. 

Fortunately, a number of structural reforms have been proposed that would begin to narrow that gap by elevating the voices of small-dollar donors and limiting the influence of money over our political system Many of those are included in H.R. 1, the “For the People Act,” passed by the House last year.

There’s no single, discrete solution, as these problems are the product of years of misguided court decisions, congressional inaction, and regulatory intransigence. But large problems demand large solutions—and the enormity of the problem has never been clearer than it is in the present crisis..

Authors: Brendan Fischer directs the Campaign Legal Center’s federal reform team, Maggie Christ is money-in-politics research at CLC.

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Publisher’s Platform: Good riddance to bad rubbish https://www.storkxx.com/2020/07/publishers-platform-good-riddance-to-bad-rubbish/ https://www.storkxx.com/2020/07/publishers-platform-good-riddance-to-bad-rubbish/#respond Fri, 03 Jul 2020 04:08:06 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=195455 Continue Reading]]> CNN reported this week that Coca-Cola is shutting down the juice and smoothie brand Odwalla at the end of July. Coca-Cola purchased the brand in 2001.

Coca-Cola made the call “given a rapidly shifting marketplace and despite every effort to support continued production,” John Hackett, president of Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid business unit, which includes the company’s juice brands, said in a statement e-mailed to CNN Business.

Coca-Cola had been assessing Odwalla’s business for the past several years, according to a company spokesperson, who added that the decision to discontinue the brand is not directly related to the coronavirus pandemic. Health-conscious consumers are less interested in smoothies than they used to be, she explained.

“This decision was not made lightly,” he added.

Forgive me if I do not “lightly” shed a tear for anyone but the child that died in 1996, and several others who were stricken with acute kidney failure, after consuming Odwalla’s unpasteurized apple juice.  I represented many of those sickened and left with life-long complications.

In October of 1996, the Seattle-King County Department of Public Health linked 13 cases of E. coli O157:H7 to unpasteurized apple juice sold by Odwalla. The FDA subsequently announced a recall of all Odwalla juices containing raw apple juice.

The E. coli outbreak eventually included 65 confirmed victims in the western United States and British Columbia. More than a dozen victims developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) from their infections (acute kidney failure). One Colorado toddler died.

During the course of the litigation, we uncovered that Odwalla had attempted to sell its juice in 1996 to the U.S. Army – no, not as a biological weapon – but to be sold in base grocery stores to our men and women service members and their families. The Army rejected the product – because it was not fit for military consumers.  This letter tells that story:

Despite being told by the Army that it would not buy Odwalla’s product, Odwalla continued to ignore the warnings and to not test its product, because it did not want to document that it was in fact unsafe.

Odwalla kept selling the product to pregnant women and children until it poisoned too many people to be ignored.

The Court ordered the disclosure of Odwalla’s emails:

Odwalla paid out 10’s of millions of dollars in settlements to the victims of its pathogenetic juice.

In 1998, Odwalla was indicted and held criminally liable for the 1996 E. coli outbreak. The company pled guilty to 16 federal criminal charges and agreed to pay a $1.5 million fine.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety Website, click here.)

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Food safety goes hand-in-hand with COVID-19 safety this year https://www.storkxx.com/2020/07/food-safety-goes-hand-in-hand-with-covid-19-safety-this-year/ https://www.storkxx.com/2020/07/food-safety-goes-hand-in-hand-with-covid-19-safety-this-year/#respond Fri, 03 Jul 2020 04:01:21 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=195446 Continue Reading]]> Planning to enjoy a picnic, barbecue, or meal under the summer sun on this holiday weekend? In addition to food safety, remember to practice social distancing — stay 6 feet apart from others you don’t live with — and follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s safety precautions to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, which is a respiratory illness that is spread from person-to-person, unlike foodborne viruses that can make people sick from contaminated food. 

Remember to pack your picnic basket with food safety in mind, as foodborne bacteria that cause food poisoning multiply faster in warm weather.

Follow these tips to keep your food safe when eating outdoors:

Before your picnic

  • Defrost meat, poultry, and seafood in the refrigerator or by submerging sealed packages in cold water. You can also microwave-defrost, but only if the food will be grilled immediately afterward.
  • Marinate foods in the fridge not the countertop. Never reuse marinade that touched raw foods unless you boil it first or set some of the marinade aside before marinating food to use for sauce later.
  • Wash all produce before eating, even if you plan to peel it. The knife you use to peel it can carry bacteria into the part you eat. Fruits and vegetables that are pre-cut or peeled should be refrigerated or kept on ice to maintain quality and safety.
  • If your picnic site doesn’t offer clean water access, bring water or pack moist towels for cleaning surfaces and hands. Don’t forget to pack a food thermometer!

Packing coolers

  • Place food from the refrigerator directly into an insulated cooler immediately before leaving home.
  • Use ice or ice packs to keep your cooler at 40 degrees F or below.
  • Pack raw meat, poultry, and seafood in a separate cooler, or wrap it securely and store at the bottom of the cooler where the juices can’t drip onto other foods. Place beverages in a separate cooler; this will offer easy drink access while keeping perishable food coolers closed.
  • Avoid loading coolers in the trunk of the car, as it can collect heat. Once at the picnic site, keep food in coolers until serving time (out of direct sun) and avoid opening the lids often.


  • Have clean utensils and platters available. Cook meat, poultry, and seafood to the right temperatures ─ use a food thermometer to be sure (see Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures Chart). Keep cooked meats hot at 140 °F or warmer until serving time — set them to the side of the grill rack to keep them hot.
  • When removing foods from the grill, place them on a clean platter.
  • Never use the same platter and utensils for cooked food that you used for raw meat, poultry, or seafood.

Time and temperature

Don’t let hot or cold food sit in the “Danger Zone” (between 40 °F and 140 °F) for more than 2 hours – or 1 hour if the outdoor temperature is above 90 °F. If they do, throw them away.

Learn more:



To Do List from the CDC:

— Visit parks that are close to your home

Traveling long distances to visit a park may contribute to the spread of COVID-19, as:

  • Travel may require you to stop along the way or be in close contact with others with whom you may not otherwise have contact.
  • Travel may also expose you to surfaces contaminated with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

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— Check with the park or recreation area in advance to prepare safely.

The federal or state and local authorities will decide whether parks and other recreational facilities will open. Check with the park in advance to be sure you know which areas or services are open, such as visitors’ centers, bathroom facilities, and concessions, and bring what you need with you, such as hand sanitizer or other supplies to maintain proper hygiene.

— Beaches or other swimming areas: State and local authorities will decide whether swim areas at oceans, lakes, and other natural bodies of water will be open. Please check with individual beaches for specific details, including whether the water is open for swimming.

— Stay at least 6 feet away from people you don’t live with (social distancing), and take other steps to prevent COVID-19 spread.

— When visiting parks, beaches, or recreational facilities open for public use, try to protect against exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, by practicing social distancing and everyday steps such as washing hands often and covering coughs and sneezes.

— Follow these actions when visiting a park, beach, or recreational facility:

  • Do not go into a crowded area.
  • Avoid gathering with people you don’t live with.
  • Wear a cloth face covering as feasible. Face coverings are most essential in times when social distancing is difficult. Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, can’t move, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Adults and older children who can safely use hand sanitizer: Use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol and rub hands together until dry, if soap and water are not readily available.

— Carefully consider use of playgrounds, and help children follow guidelines.

In communities where there is ongoing spread of COVID-19, playgrounds can be hard to keep safe because:

  • They are often crowded and could make social distancing difficult;
  • It can be difficult to keep surfaces clean and disinfected;
  • SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can spread when young children touch contaminated objects, and then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth.

If you choose to visit a playground:

  • Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet away from people you don’t live with.
  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
    • Adults and older children who can safely use hand sanitizer: Use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol and rub hands together until dry, if soap and water are not readily available.

— Play it safe around and in swimming pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds, and keep space between yourself and others. Evidence suggests that COVID-19 cannot be spread to humans through most recreational water. Additionally, proper operation of these aquatic venues and disinfection of the water (with chlorine or bromine) should inactivate SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Swimming and other water-related activities are excellent ways to get the physical activity needed for a healthy life. Taking steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is one way you can play it safe in and around swimming pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds. Don’t visit a swimming pool if you are sick with, tested positive for, or were recently exposed to COVID-19. Practice social distancing by staying at least 6 feet (two meters) from people you don’t live with. Swimming does carry some health and safety risks. Visit CDC’s Healthy Swimming website for information to help you prevent illness and drowning, so you can safely enjoy the fun and health benefits of swimming.

The Don’t List from the CDC

Don’t: Visit parks if you are sick with, tested positive for COVID-19, or were recently (within 14 days) exposed to COVID-19.

  • If you are sick with or tested positive for COVID-19, were recently exposed (within 14 days) to someone with COVID-19, or just don’t feel well, do not visit public areas including parks or recreational facilities.
  • Follow recommended steps to take if you are sick.

Don’t: Visit crowded parks

  • Do not visit parks where you cannot stay at least 6 feet away from people you don’t live with.
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