An internal USDA audit has found shortcomings in the agency’s system for ensuring foreign meat and egg inspections are equivalent to those in the U.S. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspections Service is charged with ensuring meat and egg products imported into the U.S. are subject to equivalent protections against food safety hazards.Auditors from USDA’s Office of Inspector General said the agency has a “robust system” for scrutinizing countries that apply to export meat and eggs to the U.S. but found fault with its ongoing monitoring of trading partners once they’ve qualified.The audit said that “without more robust controls” for determining the equivalence of foreign inspections, the FSIS program is “vulnerable to weaknesses that increase the risk of adulterated or unsafe meat, poultry, or egg products being imported into the United States.”In response to the audit, FSIS said it was making improvements to enact many of the audit’s recommendations, though the agency disagreed with some of the characterizations in the report.The report claimed FSIS didn’t consistently follow its own policy for auditing countries based on performance assessments, for example.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has said it will override Maine’s ability to run its own meat inspection program unless the state clarifies the law. Maine’s Department of Agriculture is concerned that the law would keep it from inspecting any meat slaughtered and processed in a town that is food sovereign, negating an agreement it has with the USDA to meet federal standards. The prospect that meat-processing facilities like Bisson’s could close, even temporarily, has sent food producers across Maine into a state of near panic and confusion. The cause of the problem is the food sovereignty bill that Gov. Paul LePage signed into law in June despite opposition from his chief agricultural advisers. The bill, called “An Act to Recognize Local Control Regarding Food Systems,” endorses the right of Maine communities to declare themselves “food sovereign,” something 20 communities, including several on the Blue Hill Peninsula, already have done.In practical terms, it means consumers can buy directly from farmers and food producers in those communities who are operating outside of state and federal licensing. The legislation was intended by those who shaped it, including state Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, its sponsor, and state Rep. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, who has put forth numerous similar bills, as a means to encourage local food production and consumption.
Unsurprisingly, the session that left me with the most questions was one titled “The Mystery of Meat,” featuring speakers from Beyond Meat (plant-based burger company), Mosa Meat (cultured meat) and Memphis Meats (cultured meat). The speakers (aided by representatives in the audience from HSUS and The Good Food Institute, which is a spinoff of Mercy for Animals focused on promoting meat alternatives) pushed the term “clean meat” for their products. If you follow my blogs, you know I have a bone to pick with that word choice. To its credit, the Wall Street Journal referred to “so-called ‘clean meat’” in the conference program.
A dairy industry group with strong ties to Wisconsin has added more examples to its list of what the group says is “fear-based” food labeling. The latest examples range from “non-GMO” labels on products for which no genetically modified version exists to “no added hormone” labels on poultry products when the addition of hormones is already prohibited by federal law.Some food companies have turned to “fear-based” labeling that plays on the fears of things like GMO products, synthetic animal-growth hormones and high fructose corn syrup, the National Milk Producers Federation says about its “Peel Back the Label” campaign.
Tens of thousands of wilting South Floridians stood hours in the sweltering, soggy heat Sunday at Tropical Park, waiting to apply for special food stamps available only to victims Hurricane Irma, stunning state officials who were expecting just a fraction of that response. “We’ve been dealing with about 10,000 people a day,” said Ofelia Martinez, the Miami site manager for the state Department of Children and Families (DCF). “But when we opened the doors this morning, the police told us there were already 50,000 people waiting outside.”
For at least the third time this year, the crowd-sourced website iwaspoisoned.com has identified a foodborne illness outbreak, this time among students who ate at a Georgia Tech dining hall. The “North Avenue Dining Hall” at the university in Atlanta started showing up in reports on the foodborne illness website in the past couple of days. When such clusters of reports at one foodservice location pop up, Patrick Quade keeps a close eye on the website he launched in 2009. The iwaspoisoned.com founder alerted local health officials in Fulton County, GA, as well as officials at the Georgia Institute of Technology, when he noticed the flurry of reports from students who ate at that specific dining hall. They were reporting the same symptoms of diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Seventeen reports hit Quade’s website in less than 24 hours. Statistically speaking, that’s more than a little significant.Tuesday afternoon, university officials notified Georgia Tech students about a possible foodborne illness outbreak and cautioned them to avoid contact with others if they become sick. The school leaders also reminded the student body about proper hand washing.
Crowd Cow delivers premium beef from small, independent farms to foodies nationwide. “People are looking for more clarity about what they’re eating,” says co-founder Ethan Lowry. The company sells one cow at a time, offering shares to customers who’ve signed up for email alerts.
Nestlé’s USA announced that by 2024 the company will strive to source all of the broiler chickens used as ingredients for its U.S. food portfolio from suppliers that raise chickens in certain ways, including slower growth rates. The company is also dictating some slaughter procedures. In a news release, the company said it is committed to working with its U.S. suppliers to:Transition to breeds of chicken recognized as having improved welfare outcomes, including slower growth rates and better leg health, as approved by the Global Animal Partnership (GAP).Reduce stocking density to a maximum of 6 pounds per square foot.Improve the environment in which broiler chickens are kept in line with the new GAP standard, including access to natural light, improved litter, and enriched surroundings to help allow expression of natural behavior.Ensure broiler chickens are processed in a manner that avoids pre-stun handling, and instead use multi-step controlled atmospheric system that produces an irreversible stun.Show compliance with these standards through third-party audits and to report on progress.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recent enforcement action against a Massachusetts granola maker for listing “love” as an ingredient in its product is a clear indication that the agency has time and resources to enforce regulations against the use of the term “milk” on the labels of plant-derived dairy imitators, the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) said today. In a letter to FDA, NMPF pointed out that many of the same criticisms leveled by the agency against Nashoba Brook Bakery's granola and bread products apply to the manufacturers of plant beverages that are in violation of FDA standards of identity defining milk as the product of a dairy animal.“While we have no doubt that the folks at Nashoba do indeed put love into the manufacture of their product, we hate to see misleading food labels that don’t comply with legal standards that other companies follow,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF.“We hope that the agency’s enforcement action against a small New England baker for misusing food labeling standards, innocuous though this violation might be, is a prelude to FDA taking action against the myriad companies that manufacture hundreds of dairy imitators that also misappropriate federally-defined terms such as ‘milk’ and ‘yogurt,’” NMPF said in its letter to FDA.In a warning letter sent recently to Nashoba Brook Bakery, FDA cited the company for listing “love” as an ingredient in its granola: “’Love’ is not a common or usual name of an ingredient, and is considered to be intervening material because it is not part of the common or usual name of the ingredient,” the letter said.The FDA letter also warned the Concord, Mass., bakery that its whole wheat bread “fails to conform” to the standard of identity for products made from whole wheat flour: “This product contains wheat flour and corn meal. Therefore, it does not meet the standard of identity for whole wheat bread.”
Kroger, Wal-Mart and Albertsons spend millions of dollars on dairy processing plants in effort to expand their foothold in the industry. Food retailers are becoming big players in the milk processing and bottling business, a development that threatens to squeeze a longstanding network of dairy processors and farmer-owned plants.