Local Food – Food Safety Website https://www.storkxx.com Breaking news for everyone's consumption Mon, 10 Aug 2020 14:31:07 +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 Local Food – Food Safety Website https://www.storkxx.com 32 32 The state of Food Safety Website https://www.storkxx.com/2020/08/the-state-of-food-safety-news/ https://www.storkxx.com/2020/08/the-state-of-food-safety-news/#respond Mon, 10 Aug 2020 04:03:57 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=196336 Continue Reading]]> Food Safety News was founded in 2009 by the world-recognized food safety expert, attorney Bill Marler.

Since then, FSN has grown into a leading outlet for news about all aspects of the food safety arena — with 40,000 followers on Twitter, 200,000 likes on Facebook, and more than 40,000 subscribers that receive daily email updates with FSN’s latest stories. Our articles and social media posts reach and inform tens of thousands of readers everyday. 

Here at Food Safety Website, we are determined as ever to bring our readers the latest updates in Food Safety innovation, legislation, food policy and law, recalls, outbreaks, and the stories of those impacted by food poisoning.

This past year we have covered numerous outbreaks, from E.coli in romaine lettuce to Fresh Express’s Cyclospora current outbreak. And this week we have been coving the Salmonella outbreak linked to Thomson International Inc. onions

We have spotlighted a marine recruit whose life plans were dramatically changed by his fight with E.colia South African woman who’s outlook on life was changed by Listeria poisoning, a mother whose heart stopped three times while in the hospital with E.coli poisoning, and many more food poisoning victims.

A bit about us — Food Safety Website staff

Bill Marler, Publisher, founder

Marler is the Managing Partner of Marler Clark LLP, a Seattle, WA, law firm that specializes in foodborne illness cases. He began representing victims of foodborne illness in 1993, when he represented Brianne Kiner, the most seriously injured survivor of the Jack in the Box E. coli O157: H7 outbreak traced to burgers from Jack in the Box restaurants in multiple states. She received an unprecedented $15.6 million settlement.

Dan Flynn, Editor in Chief

Flynn is a Northern Colorado-based writer and editor with more than 15 years of food safety experience.  As a public affairs professional, he worked with government and regulatory agencies at the local, state, and federal levels.  Flynn also worked for daily newspapers for a decade.

Coral Beach, Managing Editor

Beach is a print journalist with more than 30 years of experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, trade publications, and freelance clients including the Kansas City Star, the Independence Examiner and Land Line Magazine. Before joining Food Safety Website, Beach was a reporter for The Packer newspaper, an online and broadsheet trade publication covering the fresh produce industry in North America.

Joe Whitworth, Writer/Reporter — Europe and World

Whitworth is a food and beverage trade journalist. Prior to reporting for Food Safety Website, he worked for William Reed Business Media since 2012 as Editor of Food Quality News before becoming a food safety editor for Food Navigator. He is based in England. 

Jonan Pilet, Writer/Reporter and Social Media Manager

Pilet earned his Bachelor of Arts in writing at Houghton College in New York. He also studied writing at the University of Oxford and received a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at Seattle Pacific University. 

Cookson Beecher, Contributing Writer

A journalist by trade, Beecher spent 12 years working as an agriculture and environment reporter for Capital Press, a four-state newspaper that covers agricultural and forestry issues in the Pacific Northwest. Before working at Capital Press, she was the editor of a small-town newspaper, the Courier Times, in Skagit County, WA.

Chuck Jolley, Ad Director

Jolley is president of Jolley & Associates, a marketing and public relations firm that concentrates on the food industry. He’s also president of the Meat Industry Hall of Fame, honoring the legendary figures of the industry.

Share, Tweet, Subscribe

If you love Food Safety Website, share us with your friends, like us on Facebook and leave us a review, or follow us on Twitter

You can also let us what you think about individual stories by submitting comments. Our comments are moderated, so please be patient as it sometimes takes us a few hours to approve comments.

To subscribe to our free daily morning news, please go to our website at www.storkxx.com and click on the subscribe button on the right side of the page. You will need to enter your email address and when you receive the automated confirmation message you must click on the link in the confirmation message to activate your subscription. Our free news email is only sent once a day, so your inbox will not be overloaded.

If there are ways you think Food Safety Website can improve, let us know via our contact page. We appreciate our readers and love to hear your feedback!

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

https://www.storkxx.com/2020/08/the-state-of-food-safety-news/feed/ 0
State fairs find ways to promote local agriculture despite cancelations https://www.storkxx.com/2020/07/state-fairs-find-ways-to-promote-local-agriculture-despite-cancelations/ https://www.storkxx.com/2020/07/state-fairs-find-ways-to-promote-local-agriculture-despite-cancelations/#respond Sun, 26 Jul 2020 04:05:02 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=196017 Continue Reading]]> There are many food safety risks associated with fairs and carnivals; mobile and temporary vendors can lack clean workstations, there aren’t always sinks for employees to wash their hands or even gloves for employees to use when handling food, and vendors might not have refrigeration on-site for raw ingredients or precooked foods.

This year, many state and county fairs across the U.S. have been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but those in charge are still finding ways to promote and recognize local agriculture.

For the New York State Fair, this is only the second time it has had to cancel in its nearly 140-year history, the first was during World War II.

“We are proud to put on the Great New York State Fair and provide a showcase for the best of New York agriculture, but our No. 1 concern is always the health and safety of our fairgoers, vendors and staff,” said New York State Fair Director Troy Waffner.

Other state fairs have had to get creative about how they will showcase their state’s agriculture. This past month the Washington State Fair had three weekends where fair food vendors sold food via drive thru. The Iowa State Fair is running similar weekend events called “Taste of the Fair Food,” where attendees can social distance and support local food vendors. The Ohio State Fair has posted a series of recipes so that those who are missing fair food can enjoy it at home.

Perhaps one of the more unique responses to cancellation is the California State Fair’s “Digital Festival.” Visitors are encouraged to go to a website and take part in various activities, including a Fair Twitch hangout, a pet look-alike contest, satellite horse wagering and more. The fair is also promoting its local agriculture by offering free virtual company tours of last year’s commercial winners in the winery, brewery, cheese and olive oil categories.

Though the Texas State Fair was also canceled, organizers recognize the importance of the fair for agriculture and livestock.

“Although the 2020 State Fair of Texas is canceled due to the current landscape related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fair is committed to offering youth livestock participation opportunities in a safe environment for our exhibitors and staff, to carry-on our nonprofit mission of promoting agriculture, education and community involvement,” said a fair spokesperson.

In a similar mode to Texas, the Missouri State Fair is pivoting from its usual state fair to having only its youth livestock show, scheduled for mid-August. The fair’s cancellation press release says, “The fair will continue to allow the invaluable agriculture education experience to Missouri 4-H and FFA members by offering a Youth Livestock Show only.”

Though every state fair director and organizer conveyed their disappointment at the canceling of their fairs, they expressed their optimism for resuming regular fair activities in 2021.

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

https://www.storkxx.com/2020/07/state-fairs-find-ways-to-promote-local-agriculture-despite-cancelations/feed/ 0
Oil slick off coast of Labrador threatens food chain https://www.storkxx.com/2020/06/oil-slick-off-coast-of-labrador-threatens-food-chain/ https://www.storkxx.com/2020/06/oil-slick-off-coast-of-labrador-threatens-food-chain/#respond Thu, 11 Jun 2020 04:03:38 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=194931 Continue Reading]]> A food chain important to Inuit in Northeastern Canada has been poisoned by a fuel slick off the coast of Labrador, potentially causing short and long-term food safety concerns.

Even when lethal impacts are not observed, oil can make fish and shellfish unsafe for humans to eat.

Officials are trying to determine the cause of the slick as they plan a cleanup operation. A plane survey observed an estimate of 2,000 to 3,000 liters of “pollutant” spread over 13 square kilometers — 5.01 square miles.

The smell of diesel alerted the community to the fuel slick in the Postville harbor Monday afternoon. The discovery of the slick has immediately raised fear for the safety of ocean wildlife, especially those species used for food.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a U.S. scientific agency within the United States Department of Commerce, when exposed to oil, adult fish may experience reduced growth, enlarged livers, changes in heart and respiration rates, fin erosion, and reproduction impairment. Fish eggs and larvae can be especially sensitive to lethal and sublethal impacts.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there are two ways that oil can cause seafood to be unfit for consumption.

  • The first is through the presence of certain levels of chemicals known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), some of which are carcinogenic. Oil is composed of many chemicals. However, it is the carcinogenic, or potentially cancer-causing, PAHs which are of greatest concern because they can be harmful if consumed in sufficient amounts over a prolonged period of time.
  • The second way seafood can be considered unfit for consumption is if it smells or tastes like a petroleum product. This is known as the presence of “taint.” Under U.S. law, a product tainted with petroleum is considered “adulterated” and is not permitted to be sold as food. Petroleum “taint” in and of itself is not necessarily harmful and may be present even when PAHs are below harmful levels; however, it should not be present at all.

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

https://www.storkxx.com/2020/06/oil-slick-off-coast-of-labrador-threatens-food-chain/feed/ 0
IAFP international conference could be rescheduled for fourth quarter https://www.storkxx.com/2020/06/iafp-international-conference-could-be-rescheduled-for-fourth-quarter/ https://www.storkxx.com/2020/06/iafp-international-conference-could-be-rescheduled-for-fourth-quarter/#respond Tue, 02 Jun 2020 04:01:11 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=194694 Continue Reading]]> Having earlier this year postponed the organization’s annual conference, officials with the International Association for Food Protection report they hope to soon announce new dates, likely in the fourth quarter of this calendar year.

The association (IAFP) officials released a statement Monday regarding this year’s conference and meeting, indicating the event would remain in Cleveland, OH, as originally scheduled. The IAFP board anticipates making a decision about the specific dates for the annual event no later than June 10.

Thousands of food safety professionals from more than 100 countries attend the event. Attendees include representatives from academia, government and industry. Research results are presented at the conference and emerging areas of food safety concerns are covered in dozens of lectures and panel discussions.

“Developments related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) including statements and guidance issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization are being continually monitored,” according to the IAFP statement.

“If the meeting is held as a person-to-person meeting, attendees of IAFP 2020 will be expected to follow all recommended precautions to prevent transmission of infectious diseases.”

The annual meeting, conference and trade show were originally scheduled for August, but organization officials postponed it indefinitely earlier this year when shelter in place orders were beginning to be enacted. 

The event is still set for the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland. Local officials are working with the IAFP executive staff on potential arrangements.

“IAFP will continually follow updates from public health authorities throughout this worldwide crisis. You may continue to monitor the IAFP 2020 website for updates,” according to the statement.

For further questions or concerns, contact the IAFP office at 515-276-3344 or info@foodprotection.org.

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

https://www.storkxx.com/2020/06/iafp-international-conference-could-be-rescheduled-for-fourth-quarter/feed/ 0
Raw milk dairy shut down in New York following positive Listeria test https://www.storkxx.com/2020/05/raw-milk-dairy-shut-down-in-new-york-following-positive-listeria-test/ https://www.storkxx.com/2020/05/raw-milk-dairy-shut-down-in-new-york-following-positive-listeria-test/#respond Wed, 20 May 2020 04:05:32 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=194386 Continue Reading]]> State officials are warning the public against consuming unpasteurized milk from a New York dairy because sample test results show it to be contaminated with Listeria.

Anyone who has any raw milk from Serenity Meadows Dairy in Cayuga County is urged to throw it away. Anyone who has consumed raw milk from the dairy recently should monitor themselves in the coming weeks for symptoms of Listeria infection, which can take up to 70 days to develop.

The state Department of Agriculture and Markets had samples of raw milk from Serenity Meadows tested, according to information released by the department. Two samples, including one taken Monday, returned positive results for Listeria monocytogenes, a potentially deadly foodborne pathogen.

The dairy operator, Doren Martin, was ordered to halt sales until samples show it is free of bacteria and other pathogens. As of Tuesday no illnesses had been confirmed in relation to the implicated milk.

Federal law prohibits the interstate sale of raw milk, but some states have laws allowing sales in limited settings and at retail. In New York, unpasteurized, raw milk can only be sold from the dairy directly to the consumer who will be using it. Dairies selling raw milk are required to meet several testing requirements, including for brucella, Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria and others. 

About Listeria infections
Food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes may not look or smell spoiled but can still cause serious and sometimes life-threatening infections. Anyone who has consumed any of the implicated milk and developed symptoms of Listeria infection should seek medical treatment and tell their doctors about the possible Listeria exposure.

Also, anyone who has eaten any of the recalled products should monitor themselves for symptoms during the coming weeks because it can take up to 70 days after exposure to Listeria for symptoms of listeriosis to develop.

Symptoms of Listeria infection can include vomiting, nausea, persistent fever, muscle aches, severe headache, and neck stiffness. Specific laboratory tests are required to diagnose Listeria infections, which can mimic other illnesses.

Pregnant women, the elderly, young children, and people such as cancer patients who have weakened immune systems are particularly at risk of serious illnesses, life-threatening infections, and other complications. Although infected pregnant women may experience only mild, flu-like symptoms, their infections can lead to premature delivery, infection of the newborn, or even stillbirth.

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

https://www.storkxx.com/2020/05/raw-milk-dairy-shut-down-in-new-york-following-positive-listeria-test/feed/ 0
MDARD says all wild-foraged mushrooms offered for sale must be inspected https://www.storkxx.com/2020/05/mdard-says-all-wild-foraged-mushrooms-offered-for-sale-must-be-inspected/ https://www.storkxx.com/2020/05/mdard-says-all-wild-foraged-mushrooms-offered-for-sale-must-be-inspected/#respond Tue, 12 May 2020 04:03:50 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=194170 Continue Reading]]> The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is reminding mushroom hunters that their wild-foraged treasures intended for sale must be inspected by a certified mushroom expert to help control food poisoning. The MDARD also announced that all certifications set to expire in 2020 have been extended for one year. Certification must be renewed every five years.

This certification extension comes after the untimely passing of the Midwest American Mycological Information (MAMI) Executive Director Chris Wright, according to the state department. Wright was a nationally recognized mushroom expert and researcher at Michigan State University. He instructed MAMI certification exams. The certification and training courses have been suspended for 2020 as the organization looks for someone to succeed Wright beginning in 2021.

Michigan’s Food Code requires wild-foraged mushrooms to only be sold by mushroom identification experts or after being inspected individually by an expert.

Rules regarding wild mushrooms vary by jurisdiction, but many states’ food codes include safety controls. 

“Wild mushrooms, like morels and chanterelles, help define the forests of Michigan and provide potential income streams for foragers, farmers, restaurateurs and food entrepreneurs,” said Tim Slawinski, MDARD Food and Dairy Division director.

“However, if improperly identified, mushrooms can pose serious health risks. If you are purchasing wild mushrooms, you should only purchase them from a certified mushroom identification expert, as required by Michigan’s Food Code, to assure they are safe and edible.”

Many edible mushroom species grow wild in Michigan, however, there is risk involved because of toxic and poisonous species. These toxic species include lookalikes that can cause serious illness or even death when eaten. This is why it is important that a certified mushroom expert properly identify the mushrooms.

“Please enjoy hunting for and eating your favorite wild mushrooms, but make sure you know how to properly identify them,” said Slawinski.

“If you plan to sell your wild mushroom harvest, you must be a certified mushroom identification expert or have the mushrooms inspected by one; and if you operate a store or restaurant and plan to purchase mushrooms for resale to your customers, they must be purchased from an approved source and individually inspected by a certified mushroom identification expert. Finally, if you’re purchasing wild mushrooms, especially online through social media platforms, always ask for proof of certification before purchasing any mushrooms.”

Mushroom poisoning can range from an upset stomach to death. Common symptoms include, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, weakness, lethargy known as jaundice. Illness and death can come on quickly in some instances.

Anyone suspecting mushroom poisoning should get immediate assistance and call the Michigan Poison Control Center 800-222-1222.

For information about mushroom identification experts in Michigan or how to become certified, visit the Midwest American Mycological Information website.

Illegal sales of wild-forged mushrooms can be reported to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development at 800-292-3939.

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

https://www.storkxx.com/2020/05/mdard-says-all-wild-foraged-mushrooms-offered-for-sale-must-be-inspected/feed/ 0
Safety aspects of indoor farming signal a change in agriculture https://www.storkxx.com/2020/02/safety-aspects-of-indoor-farming-signal-a-change-in-agriculture/ https://www.storkxx.com/2020/02/safety-aspects-of-indoor-farming-signal-a-change-in-agriculture/#respond Mon, 24 Feb 2020 05:05:11 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=192514 Continue Reading]]> An indoor agricultural evolution is in the making. That’s how some people see the surge of interest in growing leafy greens in greenhouses. No doubt about it, this approach to farming has increased dramatically in every corner of the country, even the South.

Not surprisingly, food safety has been one of the driving forces pushing indoor farming forward. Repeated recalls over the past several years  of romaine lettuce contaminated by the potentially deadly E. coli O157:H7 pathogen grown in the Yuma, AZ, and Salinas, Calif., regions have been enough to have consumers shying away from the popular lettuce and often other leafy greens. 

The most recent romaine outbreak just before Thanksgiving 2019, originating in the  the Salinas, CA, growing  area triggered yet more apprehensions about the lettuce. 

Advice to consumers from the CDC just after Thanksgiving solidified those fears. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised consumers not to eat any romaine at all from the Salinas growing area until the outbreak was over — unless it was grown indoors. That outbreak has since been declared over.

In effect, the CDC was giving greenhouse-grown romaine a food safety thumbs up. 

“Hydroponically and greenhouse-grown romaine from any region does not appear to be related to the current outbreak,” said the agency on its December 2019 update about the outbreak in the Salinas growing area. It also noted that the lettuce might be labeled as “indoor grown.”

That came as welcome news to greenhouse growers — and also to buyers such as restaurants and other foodservice establishments that wanted to keep offering romaine to their customers. In many cases, demand outstripped supply.

“The more outbreaks we have, the more this trend will probably grow,” said Kirk Smith, director of the Minnesota Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence, one of six centers around the U.S. designated by the CDC to strengthen the safety of the nation’s food system.

“There’s an upswing in interest in a big, big way,” said John Bonner, co-owner of Great Lake Growers. “I’ve seen consumers’ knowledge base about this increase. They like that it’s safer, fresher and lasts longer. It’s almost like ‘why wouldn’t you buy greenhouse salad greens.’ It’s a catalyst for change.”

Looking ahead, he believes indoor growing will happen on a bigger scale yet, although, as he quickly concedes:  “It might take 20 years. “But it’s coming,” he said.

Ryan Oates, founder and owner of Tyger River Smart Farm in South Carolina, sees hydroponics as “the future of farming” because there are so many advantages to it, among them conserving water and nutrients. Also, you can do it year round.

“We’ll see more and more of it,” he says in a video on Tyger River’s website. “You’ll see a lot of crops moving in that direction.”

As for food safety, Oates said the biggest advantage is that you’re growing inside greenhouses, which allows me to keep things really clean. “It’s a lot easier to do that than growing outdoors.”

Because indoor growing is a controlled environment, the farmers don’t have to deal with wildlife, domestic animals, and birds flying overhead — all of which can contaminate the crops.

Bendon Kreieg, a partner and sales manager at Revol Greens said that the government’s advice on this is definitely helping.

“We are seeing an uptick in demand from retailers and restaurants because it has such a major impact on their business when they suddenly can’t serve salads,” Kreieg said.

A spokesperson for Gotham Greens, a New York-based operation with three locations in New York City, two in Chicago, one under construction in Baltimore, and more underway in other states, told a reporter that the farm has been selling out of its greenhouse grown leafy greens every day.

Janeen Wright, editor for Greenhouse Grower magazine, said that although the publication has always covered greenhouse cultivation of vegetables — as well as ornamental and nursery plants — it has been covering the vegetable side of the industry a lot more recently. 

Referring to the romaine recalls in 2018 and 2019, Wright said growers have told her that the recalls have really helped them “get a name for themselves.” 

“Unfortunately, all of these recalls will be a concern for consumers,” said Scott Horsfall, CEO of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement. “The plantings (for romaine lettuce) are down but there’s still demand for it.”

As for whether greenhouse lettuces and greens will overtake field grown lettuces and greens, Horsfall doesn’t think that will ever happen especially considering the vast quantity of the crops that are field grown.

“I certainly haven’t seen concerns about this on the production side of the industry,” he said.

Even so, greenhouse farming is making important strides. During the 52 weeks ending Sept. 29, 2019, sales of produce marked as greenhouse grown increased 7.6 percent and sales of produce described as locally grown increased 23.2 percent, according to the latest Fresh Facts on Retail report from United Fresh Produce Association, a trade organization.

The “local” aspect is important because greenhouses are located in many regions of the country and therefore lettuces grown in them don’t have to be shipped across the country from Yuma and Salinas during the winter months. Because the lettuces and greens can be grown year-round they have an extra “local” advantage.

In the winter, more than 90 percent of the lettuces and greens in the United States are grown in the Yuma, AZ, and Salinas, CA, growing regions. Salinas is often referred to as America’s “Salad Bowl,” and Yuma, the “Lettuce Capital of the World.” 

Yuma is home to nine factories that produce bagged lettuce and salad mixes. Each of these plants processes more than 2 million pounds of lettuce per day during Yuma’s peak production months, November thru March.

“It’s a long way from Yuma to Cleveland,” said John Bonner, co-owner of Great Lake Growers based in Ohio. He pointed out that the difference in distance between the two is part of why the lettuces and greens don’t arrive in stores and restaurants as fresh as they do when they arrive in establishments that are near his greenhouses.

In addition, consumers’ interest in locally grown food has risen dramatically. Some are even referring to the lettuces from the Yuma and Salinas growing regions as “corporate lettuce.”

Controlled-environment agriculture, another way to describe greenhouse cultivation when done according to certain standards, is helping grow the local food market. The USDA estimated they would reach $20 billion in sales by 2019, up from $12 billion in 2014.

Peace of mind about food safety is another important part of the puzzle when it comes to increased demand for greenhouse produce. A spokesperson for Gotham Greens agrees that the food safety scares originating from large-scale farms have buyers looking for lettuces and greens grown on a smaller scale and closer to home.

For the most part, greenhouse growers don’t use pesticides or other harmful-to-humans chemicals on their crops, and many follow strict organic standards.

Greenhouses: The indoor option
When you think of farming, you think of soil.

In contrast, most indoor farming — or greenhouse growing — does away with soil. Instead, crops are grown hydroponically in controlled sterile environments.

In most hydroponic systems, plants are grown in nutrient-rich water, instead of in soil. The water is rich in phosphorus, nitrogen and calcium.  

At the top of the list when it comes to the advantages of hydroponics is that it requires only 10 percent to 16 percent of the same amount of water to produce vegetables as conventional irrigation systems in outdoor farming. That’s because water in a hydroponic system is captured and reused, rather than allowed to run off and drain into the environment, according to indoor growers.

That’s especially important in areas where water is scarce. In California, for example, conventional outdoor agriculture accounts for 80 percent of total water use. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has been implementing hydroponic farming in areas of the world beset with food shortages. There are currently ongoing projects to establish large hydroponic farms in  Latin American and African countries. 

NASA has even gotten into the act. In the late 20th century, physicists and biologists put their heads together to come up with a way to grow food in space. They began by growing plants on the International Space Station, opting for hydroponices because it needs less space and fewer resources — and produces vastly higher yields — than growing in soil.

In 2015, astronauts actually dined on the first space-grown vegetables.

Although there hasn’t been much government funding for research on greenhouse agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently gave Michigan State University $2.7 million for research into indoor growing techniques. In addition to that, the researchers have won industry grants bringing the project total to $5.4 million.

A focus of the research will be gathering information on the economically viability of greenhouse growing. 

Food safety and hydroponics
Food-safety scientist Kirk Smith, who has been leading investigations into food safety outbreaks for many years, said one thing that has emerged in outbreak investigations is that E. coli contamination in produce almost always comes from irrigation water used on fields. 

Making things more complicated, the Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law by President Obama in 2011, has yet to establish definitive standards for agriculture water quality.

Leafy greens, including romaine lettuce, are chopped and washed in huge volumes as part of the bagged salad production process. This allows bacteria on one head of lettuce to be spread to hundreds or thousands of bags. Photo illustration

Another challenge beyond irrigation is washing the field-grown produce after it’s been harvested. That step is when using clean water is especially critical, otherwise contamination from one head of lettuce can spread to the rest of the produce in the factory. 

Food safety scientists warn that even though a package of bagged salad greens that have been field grown says the greens have been triple washed, that doesn’t mean there’s no chance of some of the greens being contaminated. In the case of E. coli, for example, the pathogen can hold on tight and resist being washed away.

In contrast, most greenhouses use municipal water and many wash their greens with running water instead of dunking them into a tank. Some don’t even need to wash them since they never come into contact with any water simply because it’s the roots that are being watered, not the leaves.

Bonner said that his farm makes sure the water it uses is clean and tested.

“We have extensive testing for E. coli,” he said. “We’re monitoring it every second.”

As for farmworkers, Bonner said one part of the audit his company goes through is dedicated strictly to food safety and farmworkers.

“We’re in a building, and the bathrooms are right there,” he said. “And we have handwashing sinks all over the place.”

Because most greenhouse farms grow food year round, there’s no need to rely on a seasonal workforce. In Bonner’s case, the company works with a local Amish community whose young people are eager to work for his company.

In other cases where greenhouses are located in cities, farmworkers live in city apartments. This stability in housing and location gives greenhouse farms a stable workforce.

Nothing’s perfect
Of course, there’s no guarantee that a foodborne pathogens will never occur in greenhouse settings. 

And because most lettuces and greens are eaten raw, they don’t go through a “kill step” to kill pathogens that might be on them.

Many of the foods popular with indoor growers — lettuces, sprouts, fresh herbs, microgreens and wheat grass  — carry the highest risk of outdoor produce, some of that because it grows so close to the ground.

That’s why prevention is so important, the greenhouse growers say. This would include paying attention to how water, tools, animal intrusions, pests and human handling plays a role in preventing food from being contaminated. 

What is it about romaine?
Romaine lettuce is “particularly susceptible” to E. coli, said Keith Warriner a University of Guelph (Canada) professor, in an interview with City News.

During research, Warriner said, scientists discovered that out of all the lettuces, E. coli likes romaine the best.

A study the food safety scientist conducted showed that extracts of romaine lettuce actually brought E. coli out of a dormant state when it’s in the soil. Once out of its dormant state, which can last up to a year, it can flourish.

The FDA included this Google Earth view in its memorandum on the environmental assessment related to the E. coli outbreak. It shows a section of the Wellton canal that is adjacent to a 100,000-head feedlot. Portions of this image (in gray) were redacted by the government. However, the FDA report says the image shows the locations of the feedlot, sites where E. coli-positive water samples were collected, unlined sections of the irrigation canal, and a retention pond at the feedlot. The water in the canal flows from west to east.

Warriner describes several reasons why romaine is particularly susceptible. To begin with, the crop is mostly grown in Arizona and California. That’s cattle country, and irrigation water used on the romaine fields can become contaminated with bacteria from animal feces via water runoff and dust in the air.

Added to that, because both states have hot weather, the lettuce needs an abundance of water.

Warriner pointed out that even though other leafy greens like spinach and kale are also grown in the same areas, and under similar conditions, their leaves are, as he described them, “as tough as nails.”

Romaine is considered the most nutritious lettuce when compared to red leaf, green leaf, butterhead and iceberg.

Although it’s low in fiber, it’s high in minerals, such as calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and potassium. It’s also naturally low in sodium. Another plus is that romaine lettuce is packed with Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and folate. And it’s a good source of beta carotene, which converts into Vitamin A in the body.

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

https://www.storkxx.com/2020/02/safety-aspects-of-indoor-farming-signal-a-change-in-agriculture/feed/ 0
Sanitizer found in milk; one person sick with recall underway https://www.storkxx.com/2020/01/sanitizer-found-in-milk-one-person-sick-with-recall-underway/ https://www.storkxx.com/2020/01/sanitizer-found-in-milk-one-person-sick-with-recall-underway/#respond Sun, 26 Jan 2020 20:25:59 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=191952 Continue Reading]]> Officials are reporting at least one person is sick in relation to milk that is now under recall because it is contaminated with a sanitizer.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has posted a recall for seven varieties of milk packaged under two brands, Sealtest and L’ecole, c’est nourissant. The recall notice does not include how much milk is under recall, per the agency’s policy.

Agropur Cooperative, the recalling company, reported distributing the milk in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

“This recall was triggered by the company. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products,” according to the recall notice.

“Check to see if you have the recalled products in your home. Recalled products should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased.”

Photos of the recalled milk are available on the CFIA website. Consumers can use the following information to determine whether they have the recalled milk in their homes.

Brand Product Size UPC Codes
Sealtest Skim Milk 2 L 64420001412 FE 08 (1490)
Sealtest Skim Milk 4 L 64420001405 1490 FE08
Sealtest 1% Milk 4 L 64420001603 1490 FE08
Sealtest 2% Milk 4 L 64420000774 1490 FE08
Sealtest 2% Milk 1 L 64420000798 FE 08 (1490)
L’ecole, c’est nourissant 2% Milk 150 mL 55872001068 FE 08 (1490)
Sealtest 3.25% Milk 1 L 64420000244 FE 08 (1490)

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

https://www.storkxx.com/2020/01/sanitizer-found-in-milk-one-person-sick-with-recall-underway/feed/ 0
State finds Listeria in raw milk — warns consumers, shuts down dairy operations https://www.storkxx.com/2020/01/state-finds-listeria-in-raw-milk-warns-consumers-shuts-down-dairy-operations/ https://www.storkxx.com/2020/01/state-finds-listeria-in-raw-milk-warns-consumers-shuts-down-dairy-operations/#respond Wed, 22 Jan 2020 19:10:51 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=191864 Continue Reading]]> Officials have shut down operations at a raw milk dairy and are warning consumers against using unpasteurized milk from Pennings Farm because of positive tests for potentially deadly Listeria monocytogenes.

Initial and followup testing showed the contamination, according to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. State officials first notified the dairy owners of positive initial test results on Jan. 15, but operations continued. Confirmation testing returned positive results for the pathogen on Jan. 21.

Pennings Farm, Warwick, NY, is now prohibited from selling raw milk until testing shows no contamination. No illnesses have been confirmed in relation to the raw, unpasteurized milk.

Any consumers who have any of the raw milk from Pennings Farm on hand should dispose of it immediately. Anyone who has consumed any of the raw milk should monitor themselves for symptoms of Listeria infection for the following 70 days.

About Listeria infections
Food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes may not look or smell spoiled but can still cause serious and sometimes life-threatening infections. Anyone who has consumed any implicated milk and developed symptoms of Listeria infection should seek medical treatment and tell their doctors about the possible Listeria exposure.

Also, anyone who has consumed any of the Pennings Farm raw milk should monitor themselves — or children who consumed the milk — for symptoms during the coming weeks because it can take up to 70 days after exposure to Listeria for symptoms of listeriosis to develop.

Symptoms of Listeria infection can include vomiting, nausea, persistent fever, muscle aches, severe headache, and neck stiffness. Specific laboratory tests are required to diagnose Listeria infections, which can mimic other illnesses.

Pregnant women, the elderly, young children, and people such as cancer patients who have weakened immune systems are particularly at risk of serious illnesses, life-threatening infections, and other complications. Although infected pregnant women may experience only mild, flu-like symptoms, their infections can lead to premature delivery, infection of the newborn, or even stillbirth.

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

https://www.storkxx.com/2020/01/state-finds-listeria-in-raw-milk-warns-consumers-shuts-down-dairy-operations/feed/ 0
‘Local’ farms study offers food safety snapshot; it’s more than common sense https://www.storkxx.com/2019/12/local-farms-study-offers-food-safety-snapshot-its-more-than-common-sense/ https://www.storkxx.com/2019/12/local-farms-study-offers-food-safety-snapshot-its-more-than-common-sense/#respond Tue, 03 Dec 2019 05:05:31 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=190331 Continue Reading]]> A noted food-safety expert says she’s pleased with how much information about local farms and food safety is contained in a recently released needs assessment survey report,  but she also admitted to being surprised at one of the unexpected that surfaced in the report.

According to the report, some local food producers were confident in their ability to assess food safety risks in their operations, despite more than a third of the participants in the survey indicating that they had not been to any formal food-safety training, such as Good Agriculture Practices (GAPs) or a Produce Safety Alliance grower training.

And even though less than half of the respondents said they had attended some type of produce safety training, the majority felt confident in their ability to identify how human pathogens spread (86 percent), how to reduce food safety risks (90 percent) and in their ability to describe the difference between ‘cleaning’ and ‘sanitizing (88 percent).

“This is one of the most perplexing results of the survey,” says the report.

One of the authors of the report, Cornell food scientist Elizabeth Bihn and director of the Produce Safety Alliance, said that some of these growers may have had training that the survey did not capture — or “it could be that growers think it (food safety) is common sense.”

Betsy Bihn

But Bihn doesn’t buy into that line of thinking. “Having worked with growers for more than 20 years, I think that food-safety training is really valuable because I do not think all of this is common sense,” she said. “Growers often comment after training that they were not aware of certain risks or how practices could reduce those risks so training gives them the opportunity to learn about microbial risks present in growing and packing environments.”

And even though many consumers believe that “local” food  is safer because it’s grown closer to home, as opposed to food from corporate agriculture, which is often shipped great distances from where the food was produced,  Bihn said that local food is not “inherently safer.”

“All produce is subject to contamination, so growers who do not understand microbial contamination could be using practices that increase risks,” she said. “Every farmer should understand food-safety risks, how to assess their farm risks, and reduce them. How do you know you have the knowledge you need if you’ve never been exposed to the information?”

Foodborne risks include dangerous, and sometimes deadly, microscopic organisms such as pathogenic strains of E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria, which can contaminate the food. This can happen if farmworkers (including farm owners, their families, or friends) don’t wash their hands before picking or packing the food or if domestic animals such as cows or wild animals enter the fields and leave their poop on the produce. Water contaminated with these pathogens, when it contacts produce directly through irrigation or washing, is another risk, among others.

For fresh produce that will be eaten raw such as leafy greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, and most fruits, this is especially concerning because it doesn’t go through the “kill step,” which happens when food is cooked.

When asked about statistics pertaining to foodborne illnesses and “local farms,” Bihn said that information is hard to come by simply because local farms are generally small, which means their customer base is small. Someone might feel sick after eating some food from a local farm, but unless he or she knows other people who ate the same food from the same farm, the sickened person might think it’s an individual problem, not something that should be reported to health officials.

In  2006, it was bagged spinach from a 2.8-acre field (transitioning to organic) in California that caused the “historic” E. coli outbreak.

According to the USDA, by the time the outbreak was over, 204 people had become ill across 26 States and Canada, 104 had been hospitalized, 31 had developed the serious complication of hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), and three had died.

It was this outbreak that led the produce industry, and consumers, to demand that something be done to make food safer. In 2011, the Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law. Its focus took an entirely different tack: instead of reacting to outbreaks, which had been the case before the act was passed, the focus was put on preventing them.

Part of that legislation is the Produce Safety Rule, which requires produce growers to follow food-safety rules. However, many small-scale growers are exempt. This is why it’s so important that they learn about and follow established food-safety practices, even though doing so is voluntary.

As food safety officials point out, the exemption doesn’t exempt them from lawsuits should any of their customers get sick. Or the remorse of knowing that their food got someone sick. Not to mention, the possible closing down of their farm.

On  the other side of the coin, the increasing concentration within the produce industry puts the spotlight on corporate ag when an outbreak does occur.

According to the USDA, “If something goes wrong at an operation handling a large volume of product, the number of ill consumers may be quite large and the outbreak may be more likely to be detected.”

As an example, USDA pointed to the “capital-intensive bagged-salad industry” where two processing firms account for about 90 percent of the retail market.

A snapshot of ‘local’

The Local Food Safety Collaborative Needs Assessment Survey was designed to determine the food-safety practices, knowledge, barriers and attitudes of food producers considered to be ‘local.”

For this survey, “local” was defined as food producers who sell more than 50 percent of their products within 275 miles from their farm or food operation.

In the survey, farmers, food processors and food packers/aggregators were recruited to complete, either on line or paper-based, surveys.

The picture that emerged was that 60 percent of  those surveyed sold direct to customers, followed by domestic wholesale markets (14 percent) and to retail (11 percent).

These figures highlight the significant economic role of local food production at the county-level.

Bihn pointed out that local farms play an important part in food security. “The more access we have to fresh food, the better.,” she said. “Having small-plot production points insulates us from times when food might be scarce” for one reason or another, and fresh produce always tastes better.

The report was released earlier this month by the National Farmers Union Foundation’s Local Food Safety Collaborative (LFSC) and Cornell University.

“All farmers understand the importance of food safety on their operations,” said National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson. “First and foremost, they want to keep American consumers healthy by protecting them from foodborne illnesses. But they also want access to markets to sell their products, and that often means complying with food safety regulations. This assessment will help us ensure that farmers have access to the resources they need in order to comply with those regulations, which will, in turn, ensure their economic viability and the health of the public at large.”

The combined results of the report and the listening sessions that followed will be the basis of the organizations’ Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) educational outreach in the future.

The LFSC and Cornell University organized the listening sessions, which were held across the country. During the sessions, small groups of local food producers had the opportunity to discuss the issues brought up in the report in greater detail.

What are the hurdles?

Farming is always a challenge. Adverse weather, crop pests, poor production, and weak markets are always looming in the background.

But when it comes to meeting food-safety requirements, farmers in the survey pointed to three biggies: Time, money, and infrastructure, all of which can be in short supply on a local farm.

More than half of respondents said that these barriers were either moderately or greatly limiting to their farming operations. Other concerns were the need for skilled labor, technical assistance, appropriate supplies and equipment, and knowledge and information. Some said that instead of training and educational sessions on the broad topic of food safety, they’d like to see sessions geared to specific locations and specific crops.

In addition, they agreed that financial and technical assistance could help them put good food-safety practices into place.

What motivates them? 

Local growers in the survey point to four top reasons. At the top of the list is personal commitment to producing a safer product (86 percent), followed by reducing exposure to lawsuits (82 percent), maintaining market access to meet buyer requirements (79 percent) and meeting regulatory requirements in the Food Safety Modernization Act. They also cited gaining new markets, receiving higher prices and preventing loads of food from being rejected.

What about third-party audits?

The report says that some of the farmers didn’t even know what a third-party audit is. As long as they’re just selling direct to customers, they wouldn’t need one. But once they want to expand to other markets, they’ll probably need to have one done.

Simply put, it’s a matter of a third party coming in and assessing a farm to see if it’s following food-safety requirements.

In 1999, Safeway became the first U.S. grocery chain to require audits from its suppliers of high-risk fresh produce, which would include produce that is usually eaten raw. Other grocery retailers and restaurants followed suit.

USDA says that retailer food safety requirements have shaped the current food safety landscape and will determine the extent to which the Food Safety Modernization Act’ Produce Safety Rule will affect growers.

For local growers who want to sell to wholesalers and retailers,  getting an audit is usually required. The customer asking for an audit will usually point a grower to a third party auditor. Growers can also contact their local Extension agents for a list of auditors.

What about organic?

According to the report, local organic food producers “appear to be closer to meeting regulatory expectations of the Food Safety Management Act.”

Ann Novak and Larry Hartford own Highland Farm West near Burlington, WA.

Two of those farmers, Ann Novak and Larry Hartford, owners of Highland Farm West near Burlington, Wash., said that is probably because most organic producers follow National Organic Program standards even if they’re not certified organic.

“There’s more awareness about food safety,” Novak said.

But she also said it’s important that food safety not be “over-administered.”

Farms are in a squeeze,” she said. “There are some grants available but there needs to be more funding for opportunities such as Good Agricultural Practices and other food-safety programs. We always look at new ideas.”

A ‘working’ example of food safety on local farms

Viva Farms (vivafarms.org), a non-profit Farm Business Incubator and Training Program in Western Washington, was established in 2009. Operating farms in three locations, it lowers barriers for beginning farmers and creates the opportunity for them to be successful in farming. It is currently incubating 24 farms, seven of them Latino-owned.

So far, it has educated more than 900 small farmers (150+ Spanish speakers) in sustainable organic farming.

Not surprisingly food safety is an important part of this.

“This is important to us at Viva because we have a brand name, and we all have to work together to protect our brand,” said Rob Smith, who oversees food-safety training programs at Viva.

Viva Farms undergoes a third-party Washington State Department of Agriculture audit and has an umbrella Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) certification that covers all of the incubating farms.

“We can consolidate the administrative portions of our GAPs certificate on behalf of farmers and thus do the heavy lifting in terms of paperwork and management,” said Smith.

During the practicum in Sustainable Agriculture before becoming part of Viva, farmers learn about food safety.

“Really right from the get-go,” Smith said. “They take it seriously. Everyone here is a farm owner. They know that if there’s a ‘food-safety” incident’ they’d be out of business.”

He describes food safety as “a lens” to use when you’re looking at the whole farm as opposed to an isolated program.

“It all works together,” he said.

Smith, who has been at Viva for 6 years, said he has seen a change over those years in people’s attitudes toward food safety.

“This is the world we’re living in,” he said. “They’re hearing it from their own customers. They’re not resistant. And that’s a win for everyone.”

Smith said that it’s very satisfying knowing that he’s involved in an enterprise that is helping beginning farmers grow safe healthy food and support their families.

“They take pride in it,” he said. “And a large part of that is food safety.”

The good news

According to the report, even though many local producers are not under the regulatory gun to adopt food-safety practices, many have voluntarily put them into place on their farms.

“Overall local food producers responding to this survey are engaged with the concept of food safety and are interested in additional information as reflected in their open-ended responses,” says the report.

Bihn said she has seen improvements over the past 20 years.

“Absolutely,” she said. “I still do bump into farmers who are unaware of food safety, but not as much as before. Clearly, there’s much more dialog about food safety. Growers are implementing practices because they think it’s the right thing to do.”

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

https://www.storkxx.com/2019/12/local-farms-study-offers-food-safety-snapshot-its-more-than-common-sense/feed/ 0