Nadine Bell

July 18, 2012 – Yahoo

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is warning the public of possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination in Earth Green Brand Organic Italian Blend salad.

No illnesses have yet been linked to eating the salads.

Sobeys Quebec Inc., the distributor of the salad bags in Canada’s eastern provinces, is voluntarily recalling the salad bags over the warning. The CFIA is motoring the recall.

The salads in question have the UPC code 8 18431 00107 3, the best before date of 2012 JL 13 and lot code 2217915MI, CBC News reports.

The Listeria monocytogenes bacteria can cause listeriosis, an illness that can cause high fever, nick stiffness, severe headaches and nausea. The CFIA warns that food contaminated with the bacteria may not look or smell spoiled.

“Do not consume the product — discard it, destroy it. There is no cure for it in terms of cooking,” food safety and recall specialist Shashi Kulkarni told CBC News Nova Scotia.

The Listeria scare comes following the news that the federal government will slash the CFIA’s budget by $56 million over the next three years.

[ Related: Chef serves up raw meat protest in Windsor ]

While Ottawa promises that meat inspectors won’t be laid off, hundreds of other inspectors and agency employees will lose their jobs.

“I know times are tough and there are cutbacks in a lot of places, but I don’t think your food source is one of them to be chancy with,” Karen Clark, whose mother, Frances, died in the deadly listeriosis outbreak of 2008, told the Huffington Post. “They’re just looking for another disaster.”

Twenty-two deaths and 35 illnesses were linked to contaminated Maple Leaf Foods deli meats that year, the Globe and Mail reports.

Both the government and the CFIA are trying to reassure the public that most of the cuts are administrative and won’t pose a risk to food safety in Canada:

“No food safety-related inspectors will be declared surplus and we have not, and will not, reduce staff or cut programs that would in any way place the health and safety of Canadians at risk,” the CFIA said in a statement.
Not everyone agrees.
“It’s impossible to cut that many people and not affect food safety,” Bob Kingston, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s Agriculture Union told the Globe and Mail.
The Huffington Post reports that “Sam Barlin, the only inspector in Manitoba responsible for inspecting honey and processed fruits and vegetables, will lose his job as part of the cuts.”
These foods are typically less risky than meats or raw spinach. Still, Barlin has found contaminated honey and unlabeled allergens in his inspections that will now go unnoticed.
“If a commodity is considered low risk, is it a hazard?” said Barlin. “There is definitely a food safety element to all of the inspections
Nadine Bell

July 18, 2012 – Yahoo

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is warning the public of possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination in Earth Green Brand Organic Italian Blend salad.

No illnesses have yet been linked to eating the salads.

Sobeys Quebec Inc., the distributor of the salad bags in Canada’s eastern provinces, is voluntarily recalling the salad bags over the warning. The CFIA is motoring the recall.

The salads in question have the UPC code 8 18431 00107 3, the best before date of 2012 JL 13 and lot code 2217915MI, CBC News reports.

The Listeria monocytogenes bacteria can cause listeriosis, an illness that can cause high fever, nick stiffness, severe headaches and nausea. The CFIA warns that food contaminated with the bacteria may not look or smell spoiled.

“Do not consume the product — discard it, destroy it. There is no cure for it in terms of cooking,” food safety and recall specialist Shashi Kulkarni told CBC News Nova Scotia.

The Listeria scare comes following the news that the federal government will slash the CFIA’s budget by $56 million over the next three years.

[ Related: Chef serves up raw meat protest in Windsor ]

While Ottawa promises that meat inspectors won’t be laid off, hundreds of other inspectors and agency employees will lose their jobs.

“I know times are tough and there are cutbacks in a lot of places, but I don’t think your food source is one of them to be chancy with,” Karen Clark, whose mother, Frances, died in the deadly listeriosis outbreak of 2008, told the Huffington Post. “They’re just looking for another disaster.”

Twenty-two deaths and 35 illnesses were linked to contaminated Maple Leaf Foods deli meats that year, the Globe and Mail reports.

Both the government and the CFIA are trying to reassure the public that most of the cuts are administrative and won’t pose a risk to food safety in Canada:

“No food safety-related inspectors will be declared surplus and we have not, and will not, reduce staff or cut programs that would in any way place the health and safety of Canadians at risk,” the CFIA said in a statement.
Not everyone agrees.
“It’s impossible to cut that many people and not affect food safety,” Bob Kingston, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s Agriculture Union told the Globe and Mail.
The Huffington Post reports that “Sam Barlin, the only inspector in Manitoba responsible for inspecting honey and processed fruits and vegetables, will lose his job as part of the cuts.”
These foods are typically less risky than meats or raw spinach. Still, Barlin has found contaminated honey and unlabeled allergens in his inspections that will now go unnoticed.
“If a commodity is considered low risk, is it a hazard?” said Barlin. “There is definitely a food safety element to all of the inspections
Sarah Schmidt

July 21, 2012

After discovering Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq quietly killed back in 2009 a departmental proposal to regulate trans fat levels in processed food, I wanted to find out if the issue was dead. After all, the department’s plan was drafted in accordance with a commitment from Aglukkaq’s predecessor, Tony Clement, to regulate if industry didn’t make enough progress under a voluntary program, tracked by Health Canada’s monitoring program. So, I filed an access to information to see if the issue was being discussed at Health Canada’s Food Expert Advisory Committee.

Turns out departmental officials wanted to revisit the issue after Aglukkaq quashed their 2009 proposal, so they solicited the advice of their external expert committee, established in 2010 to weigh in on such matters. In June 2011, the committee settled on a few recommendations: to renew monitoring of trans-fat levels in processed foods and send a “strong signal” to companies that regulations are on the table if levels don’t drop. Aglukkaq’s office confirmed this week that the recommendations have been rejected.

Sound familiar? Check out some recent examples of other solicited expert advice on food policy that has been ignored (and what other departmental commitments have been dropped):

Sodium: Aglukkaq prematurely disbanded her much-touted expert panel on sodium in December 2010. The Sodium Working Group was created in 2007 and had unveiled a plan in July 2010 to track, over the next five years, if companies were reducing the level of salt in processed foods. Then, last fall, Aglukkaq withdraw her support for a joint federal-provincial sodium-reduction plan, modelled on a key recommendation of the Sodium Working Group, to set up a monitoring system to track industry progress. She objected to the idea of outing food companies for failing to meet specific targets. After the Sodium Working Group was disbanded, Health Canada said it would rely on the Food Expert Advisory Committee for advice on the government’s sodium-reduction plans.

Food labelling: Last fall, the Institute of Medicine issued a report, developed at the request of the U.S. Congress and sponsored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, calling for a “fundamental shift” in the way companies are allowed to present certain nutrition information on the front of food packages. Aglukkaq immediately shot down the idea and defended the way companies label their food products. The U.S. government science panel concluded proprietary front-of-package food labelling programs developed by food manufacturers and retailers should be scrapped and replace them with a single nutrition-rating system regulated by government. Since her department has a special team tasked with working to harmonize the front-of-pack food policies of Canada and the U.S., where the proposal is now under review, you can imagine how surprised officials at Health Canada were to see Aglukkaq’s comments. That’s what internal records released under access to information show.

Energy Drinks: Granted, Health Canada’s Expert Panel on Energy Drinks recommended some drastic steps to better regulate the energy-drink market. But the advice – to classify products like Red Bull, Rockstar and Monster as a “stimulant drug containing drink” to be sold under the direct supervision of a pharmacist – shouldn’t have come as a surprise to the department, given a key panel member penned an editorial calling for drug designation before the panel was convened. After sitting on the report for over a year, Aglukkaq finally announced she was rejecting the advice.

Whole Wheat: Five years after unveiling a proposal to end consumer confusion over “whole wheat” claims on bread products, Health Canada confirmed earlier this year it has no plans to change the food-labelling rule. The department identified a problem in January 2007, when it proposed revising food regulations to make it clear to consumers whole wheat is not necessarily whole grain. The standard for whole wheat flour in Canada’s food regulations, dating to 1964, permits the exclusion of five per cent of the wheat berry. This effectively means about 70 per cent of the germ is typically removed, so regular whole wheat bread can be made with flour with a significant percentage of the germ missing.

See a pattern?

Nadine Bell

July 18, 2012 – Yahoo

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is warning the public of possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination in Earth Green Brand Organic Italian Blend salad.

No illnesses have yet been linked to eating the salads.

Sobeys Quebec Inc., the distributor of the salad bags in Canada’s eastern provinces, is voluntarily recalling the salad bags over the warning. The CFIA is motoring the recall.

The salads in question have the UPC code 8 18431 00107 3, the best before date of 2012 JL 13 and lot code 2217915MI, CBC News reports.

The Listeria monocytogenes bacteria can cause listeriosis, an illness that can cause high fever, nick stiffness, severe headaches and nausea. The CFIA warns that food contaminated with the bacteria may not look or smell spoiled.

“Do not consume the product — discard it, destroy it. There is no cure for it in terms of cooking,” food safety and recall specialist Shashi Kulkarni told CBC News Nova Scotia.

The Listeria scare comes following the news that the federal government will slash the CFIA’s budget by $56 million over the next three years.

[ Related: Chef serves up raw meat protest in Windsor ]

While Ottawa promises that meat inspectors won’t be laid off, hundreds of other inspectors and agency employees will lose their jobs.

“I know times are tough and there are cutbacks in a lot of places, but I don’t think your food source is one of them to be chancy with,” Karen Clark, whose mother, Frances, died in the deadly listeriosis outbreak of 2008, told the Huffington Post. “They’re just looking for another disaster.”

Twenty-two deaths and 35 illnesses were linked to contaminated Maple Leaf Foods deli meats that year, the Globe and Mail reports.

Both the government and the CFIA are trying to reassure the public that most of the cuts are administrative and won’t pose a risk to food safety in Canada:

“No food safety-related inspectors will be declared surplus and we have not, and will not, reduce staff or cut programs that would in any way place the health and safety of Canadians at risk,” the CFIA said in a statement.
Not everyone agrees.
“It’s impossible to cut that many people and not affect food safety,” Bob Kingston, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s Agriculture Union told the Globe and Mail.
The Huffington Post reports that “Sam Barlin, the only inspector in Manitoba responsible for inspecting honey and processed fruits and vegetables, will lose his job as part of the cuts.”
These foods are typically less risky than meats or raw spinach. Still, Barlin has found contaminated honey and unlabeled allergens in his inspections that will now go unnoticed.
“If a commodity is considered low risk, is it a hazard?” said Barlin. “There is definitely a food safety element to all of the inspections
Sarah Schmidt

July 21, 2012

After discovering Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq quietly killed back in 2009 a departmental proposal to regulate trans fat levels in processed food, I wanted to find out if the issue was dead. After all, the department’s plan was drafted in accordance with a commitment from Aglukkaq’s predecessor, Tony Clement, to regulate if industry didn’t make enough progress under a voluntary program, tracked by Health Canada’s monitoring program. So, I filed an access to information to see if the issue was being discussed at Health Canada’s Food Expert Advisory Committee.

Turns out departmental officials wanted to revisit the issue after Aglukkaq quashed their 2009 proposal, so they solicited the advice of their external expert committee, established in 2010 to weigh in on such matters. In June 2011, the committee settled on a few recommendations: to renew monitoring of trans-fat levels in processed foods and send a “strong signal” to companies that regulations are on the table if levels don’t drop. Aglukkaq’s office confirmed this week that the recommendations have been rejected.

Sound familiar? Check out some recent examples of other solicited expert advice on food policy that has been ignored (and what other departmental commitments have been dropped):

Sodium: Aglukkaq prematurely disbanded her much-touted expert panel on sodium in December 2010. The Sodium Working Group was created in 2007 and had unveiled a plan in July 2010 to track, over the next five years, if companies were reducing the level of salt in processed foods. Then, last fall, Aglukkaq withdraw her support for a joint federal-provincial sodium-reduction plan, modelled on a key recommendation of the Sodium Working Group, to set up a monitoring system to track industry progress. She objected to the idea of outing food companies for failing to meet specific targets. After the Sodium Working Group was disbanded, Health Canada said it would rely on the Food Expert Advisory Committee for advice on the government’s sodium-reduction plans.

Food labelling: Last fall, the Institute of Medicine issued a report, developed at the request of the U.S. Congress and sponsored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, calling for a “fundamental shift” in the way companies are allowed to present certain nutrition information on the front of food packages. Aglukkaq immediately shot down the idea and defended the way companies label their food products. The U.S. government science panel concluded proprietary front-of-package food labelling programs developed by food manufacturers and retailers should be scrapped and replace them with a single nutrition-rating system regulated by government. Since her department has a special team tasked with working to harmonize the front-of-pack food policies of Canada and the U.S., where the proposal is now under review, you can imagine how surprised officials at Health Canada were to see Aglukkaq’s comments. That’s what internal records released under access to information show.

Energy Drinks: Granted, Health Canada’s Expert Panel on Energy Drinks recommended some drastic steps to better regulate the energy-drink market. But the advice – to classify products like Red Bull, Rockstar and Monster as a “stimulant drug containing drink” to be sold under the direct supervision of a pharmacist – shouldn’t have come as a surprise to the department, given a key panel member penned an editorial calling for drug designation before the panel was convened. After sitting on the report for over a year, Aglukkaq finally announced she was rejecting the advice.

Whole Wheat: Five years after unveiling a proposal to end consumer confusion over “whole wheat” claims on bread products, Health Canada confirmed earlier this year it has no plans to change the food-labelling rule. The department identified a problem in January 2007, when it proposed revising food regulations to make it clear to consumers whole wheat is not necessarily whole grain. The standard for whole wheat flour in Canada’s food regulations, dating to 1964, permits the exclusion of five per cent of the wheat berry. This effectively means about 70 per cent of the germ is typically removed, so regular whole wheat bread can be made with flour with a significant percentage of the germ missing.

See a pattern?

Stephanie Storm – The New York Times

August 18, 2012

Don Barrett, a Mississippi lawyer, took in hundreds of millions of dollars a decade ago after suing Big Tobacco and winning record settlements from R. J. Reynolds, Philip Morris and other cigarette makers. So did Walter Umphrey, Dewitt M. Lovelace and Stuart and Carol Nelkin.

Ever since, the lawyers have been searching for big paydays in business, scoring more modest wins against car companies, drug makers, brokerage firms and insurers. Now, they have found the next target: food manufacturers.

More than a dozen lawyers who took on the tobacco companies have filed 25 cases against industry players like ConAgra Foods, PepsiCo, Heinz, General Mills and Chobani that stock pantry shelves and refrigerators across America.

The suits, filed over the last four months, assert that food makers are misleading consumers and violating federal regulations by wrongly labeling products and ingredients. While there has been a barrage of litigation against the industry in recent years, the tobacco lawyers are moving particularly aggressively. They are asking a federal court in California to halt ConAgra’s sales of Pam cooking spray, Swiss Miss cocoa products and some Hunt’s canned tomatoes.

“It’s a crime — and that makes it a crime to sell it,” said Mr. Barrett, citing what he contends is the mislabeling of those products. “That means these products should be taken off the shelves.”

The food companies counter that the suits are without merit, another example of litigation gone wild and driven largely by the lawyers’ financial motivations. Mr. Barrett said his group could seek damages amounting to four years of sales of mislabeled products — which could total many billions of dollars.

“It’s difficult to take some of these claims seriously, for instance, that a consumer was deceived into believing that a chocolate hazelnut spread for bread was healthy for children,” said Kristen E. Polovoy, an industry lawyer at Montgomery McCracken, referring to a lawsuit that two mothers brought against the maker of Nutella. “I think the courts are starting to look at the implausibility of some of these suits.”

A federal judge in California in 2009 dismissed a case against PepsiCo, which accused the company of false advertising because Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries cereal does not contain real berries. He ruled that “a reasonable consumer would not be deceived into believing that the product in the instant case contained a fruit that does not exist.”

While the lawyers are being questioned about their motives, they are not alone in pursuing the food industry.

In recent weeks, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has sued General Mills and McNeil Nutritionals over their claims on Nature Valley and Splenda Essentials products, and warned Welch’s it would sue unless the company changed the wording on its juice and fruit snacks. The Federal Trade Commission won settlements from companies like Dannon and Pom Wonderful for claims about their products’ health benefits. And PepsiCo and Coca-Cola face lawsuits over claims that their orange juice products are “100% natural.”

The latest playbook — like the one that paid off in the wave of tobacco litigation — could prove potent, as the food companies’ own lawyers have warned.

Other plaintiffs’ lawyers have largely taken aim at food products marketed as “healthy” or “natural,” subjective claims that can be easily disputed by expert witnesses. Unlike foods labeled “organic,” there are no federal standards for foods that are called “healthy” or “natural.”

The new batch of litigation argues that food companies are violating specific rules about ingredients and labels. Mr. Barrett’s group, for example, has brought a case against Chobani, the Greek yogurt maker, for listing “evaporated cane juice,” as an ingredient in its pomegranate-flavored yogurt. The Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly warned companies not to use the term because it is “false and misleading,” according to the suit.

“If you’re going to put sugar in your yogurt, why not just say it’s sugar?” said Pierce Gore, a lawyer affiliated with Mr. Barrett’s group.

© The New York Times
Nadine Bell

July 18, 2012 – Yahoo

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is warning the public of possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination in Earth Green Brand Organic Italian Blend salad.

No illnesses have yet been linked to eating the salads.

Sobeys Quebec Inc., the distributor of the salad bags in Canada’s eastern provinces, is voluntarily recalling the salad bags over the warning. The CFIA is motoring the recall.

The salads in question have the UPC code 8 18431 00107 3, the best before date of 2012 JL 13 and lot code 2217915MI, CBC News reports.

The Listeria monocytogenes bacteria can cause listeriosis, an illness that can cause high fever, nick stiffness, severe headaches and nausea. The CFIA warns that food contaminated with the bacteria may not look or smell spoiled.

“Do not consume the product — discard it, destroy it. There is no cure for it in terms of cooking,” food safety and recall specialist Shashi Kulkarni told CBC News Nova Scotia.

The Listeria scare comes following the news that the federal government will slash the CFIA’s budget by $56 million over the next three years.

[ Related: Chef serves up raw meat protest in Windsor ]

While Ottawa promises that meat inspectors won’t be laid off, hundreds of other inspectors and agency employees will lose their jobs.

“I know times are tough and there are cutbacks in a lot of places, but I don’t think your food source is one of them to be chancy with,” Karen Clark, whose mother, Frances, died in the deadly listeriosis outbreak of 2008, told the Huffington Post. “They’re just looking for another disaster.”

Twenty-two deaths and 35 illnesses were linked to contaminated Maple Leaf Foods deli meats that year, the Globe and Mail reports.

Both the government and the CFIA are trying to reassure the public that most of the cuts are administrative and won’t pose a risk to food safety in Canada:

“No food safety-related inspectors will be declared surplus and we have not, and will not, reduce staff or cut programs that would in any way place the health and safety of Canadians at risk,” the CFIA said in a statement.
Not everyone agrees.
“It’s impossible to cut that many people and not affect food safety,” Bob Kingston, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s Agriculture Union told the Globe and Mail.
The Huffington Post reports that “Sam Barlin, the only inspector in Manitoba responsible for inspecting honey and processed fruits and vegetables, will lose his job as part of the cuts.”
These foods are typically less risky than meats or raw spinach. Still, Barlin has found contaminated honey and unlabeled allergens in his inspections that will now go unnoticed.
“If a commodity is considered low risk, is it a hazard?” said Barlin. “There is definitely a food safety element to all of the inspections
Sarah Schmidt

July 21, 2012

After discovering Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq quietly killed back in 2009 a departmental proposal to regulate trans fat levels in processed food, I wanted to find out if the issue was dead. After all, the department’s plan was drafted in accordance with a commitment from Aglukkaq’s predecessor, Tony Clement, to regulate if industry didn’t make enough progress under a voluntary program, tracked by Health Canada’s monitoring program. So, I filed an access to information to see if the issue was being discussed at Health Canada’s Food Expert Advisory Committee.

Turns out departmental officials wanted to revisit the issue after Aglukkaq quashed their 2009 proposal, so they solicited the advice of their external expert committee, established in 2010 to weigh in on such matters. In June 2011, the committee settled on a few recommendations: to renew monitoring of trans-fat levels in processed foods and send a “strong signal” to companies that regulations are on the table if levels don’t drop. Aglukkaq’s office confirmed this week that the recommendations have been rejected.

Sound familiar? Check out some recent examples of other solicited expert advice on food policy that has been ignored (and what other departmental commitments have been dropped):

Sodium: Aglukkaq prematurely disbanded her much-touted expert panel on sodium in December 2010. The Sodium Working Group was created in 2007 and had unveiled a plan in July 2010 to track, over the next five years, if companies were reducing the level of salt in processed foods. Then, last fall, Aglukkaq withdraw her support for a joint federal-provincial sodium-reduction plan, modelled on a key recommendation of the Sodium Working Group, to set up a monitoring system to track industry progress. She objected to the idea of outing food companies for failing to meet specific targets. After the Sodium Working Group was disbanded, Health Canada said it would rely on the Food Expert Advisory Committee for advice on the government’s sodium-reduction plans.

Food labelling: Last fall, the Institute of Medicine issued a report, developed at the request of the U.S. Congress and sponsored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, calling for a “fundamental shift” in the way companies are allowed to present certain nutrition information on the front of food packages. Aglukkaq immediately shot down the idea and defended the way companies label their food products. The U.S. government science panel concluded proprietary front-of-package food labelling programs developed by food manufacturers and retailers should be scrapped and replace them with a single nutrition-rating system regulated by government. Since her department has a special team tasked with working to harmonize the front-of-pack food policies of Canada and the U.S., where the proposal is now under review, you can imagine how surprised officials at Health Canada were to see Aglukkaq’s comments. That’s what internal records released under access to information show.

Energy Drinks: Granted, Health Canada’s Expert Panel on Energy Drinks recommended some drastic steps to better regulate the energy-drink market. But the advice – to classify products like Red Bull, Rockstar and Monster as a “stimulant drug containing drink” to be sold under the direct supervision of a pharmacist – shouldn’t have come as a surprise to the department, given a key panel member penned an editorial calling for drug designation before the panel was convened. After sitting on the report for over a year, Aglukkaq finally announced she was rejecting the advice.

Whole Wheat: Five years after unveiling a proposal to end consumer confusion over “whole wheat” claims on bread products, Health Canada confirmed earlier this year it has no plans to change the food-labelling rule. The department identified a problem in January 2007, when it proposed revising food regulations to make it clear to consumers whole wheat is not necessarily whole grain. The standard for whole wheat flour in Canada’s food regulations, dating to 1964, permits the exclusion of five per cent of the wheat berry. This effectively means about 70 per cent of the germ is typically removed, so regular whole wheat bread can be made with flour with a significant percentage of the germ missing.

See a pattern?

Stephanie Storm – The New York Times

August 18, 2012

Don Barrett, a Mississippi lawyer, took in hundreds of millions of dollars a decade ago after suing Big Tobacco and winning record settlements from R. J. Reynolds, Philip Morris and other cigarette makers. So did Walter Umphrey, Dewitt M. Lovelace and Stuart and Carol Nelkin.

Ever since, the lawyers have been searching for big paydays in business, scoring more modest wins against car companies, drug makers, brokerage firms and insurers. Now, they have found the next target: food manufacturers.

More than a dozen lawyers who took on the tobacco companies have filed 25 cases against industry players like ConAgra Foods, PepsiCo, Heinz, General Mills and Chobani that stock pantry shelves and refrigerators across America.

The suits, filed over the last four months, assert that food makers are misleading consumers and violating federal regulations by wrongly labeling products and ingredients. While there has been a barrage of litigation against the industry in recent years, the tobacco lawyers are moving particularly aggressively. They are asking a federal court in California to halt ConAgra’s sales of Pam cooking spray, Swiss Miss cocoa products and some Hunt’s canned tomatoes.

“It’s a crime — and that makes it a crime to sell it,” said Mr. Barrett, citing what he contends is the mislabeling of those products. “That means these products should be taken off the shelves.”

The food companies counter that the suits are without merit, another example of litigation gone wild and driven largely by the lawyers’ financial motivations. Mr. Barrett said his group could seek damages amounting to four years of sales of mislabeled products — which could total many billions of dollars.

“It’s difficult to take some of these claims seriously, for instance, that a consumer was deceived into believing that a chocolate hazelnut spread for bread was healthy for children,” said Kristen E. Polovoy, an industry lawyer at Montgomery McCracken, referring to a lawsuit that two mothers brought against the maker of Nutella. “I think the courts are starting to look at the implausibility of some of these suits.”

A federal judge in California in 2009 dismissed a case against PepsiCo, which accused the company of false advertising because Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries cereal does not contain real berries. He ruled that “a reasonable consumer would not be deceived into believing that the product in the instant case contained a fruit that does not exist.”

While the lawyers are being questioned about their motives, they are not alone in pursuing the food industry.

In recent weeks, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has sued General Mills and McNeil Nutritionals over their claims on Nature Valley and Splenda Essentials products, and warned Welch’s it would sue unless the company changed the wording on its juice and fruit snacks. The Federal Trade Commission won settlements from companies like Dannon and Pom Wonderful for claims about their products’ health benefits. And PepsiCo and Coca-Cola face lawsuits over claims that their orange juice products are “100% natural.”

The latest playbook — like the one that paid off in the wave of tobacco litigation — could prove potent, as the food companies’ own lawyers have warned.

Other plaintiffs’ lawyers have largely taken aim at food products marketed as “healthy” or “natural,” subjective claims that can be easily disputed by expert witnesses. Unlike foods labeled “organic,” there are no federal standards for foods that are called “healthy” or “natural.”

The new batch of litigation argues that food companies are violating specific rules about ingredients and labels. Mr. Barrett’s group, for example, has brought a case against Chobani, the Greek yogurt maker, for listing “evaporated cane juice,” as an ingredient in its pomegranate-flavored yogurt. The Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly warned companies not to use the term because it is “false and misleading,” according to the suit.

“If you’re going to put sugar in your yogurt, why not just say it’s sugar?” said Pierce Gore, a lawyer affiliated with Mr. Barrett’s group.

© The New York Times

Warning issued after potentially deadly E. coli 0157 found in meat

Matthew McClure – The Calgary Herald

Sept. 27, 2012

CALGARY — The country’s food inspection agency says steaks contaminated with a potentially fatal bacteria that made four Edmonton people ill may have come from an Alberta plant that recently shipped tainted meat to wholesalers and grocery chains.

Tim O’Connor, spokesman for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, said late Wednesday the offending strip loins sold at a Costco Wholesale store in that city’s northeast came from either the XL Foods facility in Brooks or another unidentified plant.

“We can’t say definitively that those steaks eaten by those people came from XL or where along the chain of supply they were contaminated,” O’Connor said.

“There is no smoking gun.”

But with Alberta’s health authority announcing that lab results showed a genetic match between the strain of E. coli 0157 found in the patients’ stool and one of uneaten steaks, CFIA was forced to issue a health alert warning the public not to consume any Kirkland brand strip loins purchased at the outlet between Sept. 4 and Sept. 7.

While any bacteria on the exterior of a steak is normally killed during cooking, Dr. Gerry Predy, AHS’s senior medical officer of health, said a tenderizing process done at the Costco outlet by a machine with needles may have allowed the bacteria to get inside the cuts of meat.

If the internal temperature of the steaks never reached the required level of 71 C (160 F), then the bacteria would remain potentially lethal.

At the authority’s request, the retailer has since stopped using the tenderizing process at its stores.

AHS officials said they have shared an imprint of the E. coli 157 strain from the Edmonton case with CFIA, but O’Connor was unable to confirm whether it is a match for the bacteria that his federal inspectors first learned on Sept. 4 was in beef trimmings shipped from the XL plant.

This is the eighth time the beleaguered agency has had to reissue and expand its initial alert on Sept. 16 to include additional products that may or do contain contaminated meat from cattle slaughtered and processed at XL’s plant in Brooks.

Another warning issued late Tuesday includes ground beef, meat loaf and numerous sausage products packed between Sept. 18 and Sept. 21 and sold at Co-op stores across the Prairies.

Three people from Calgary and one from central Alberta have also fallen ill, although AHS is still investigating the food source of those cases.

Some of those patients fell ill as late as Sept. 19, something that an AHS spokesman said commonly happens within three to four days after consuming contaminated product.

In a written statement, the company said its thoughts were with those who had become sick.

“Even though there has been no definitive link of illness between our products and people who have become ill,” said the statement, “we are very concerned for their well-being and working in their best interests.”

The initial health alert from CFIA and XL’s first voluntary recall were issued on Sept. 16, nearly two weeks after both learned of positive results from the test of contaminated product that American authorities had intercepted at the international border.

While the Canadian agency has yet to respond to dozens of queries from the Herald about the chronology of events after that initial discovery, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service revealed Wednesday that most of the affected product that has now been recalled came from cattle that were slaughtered Aug. 23 and then further processed into trim for ground beef on four days that followed.

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has said that all of the trim processed on the same day as the lot with the first positive test was caught before it got to store shelves.

But neither Riz nor CFIA officials replied Wednesday to questions about why all of the other product from cattle slaughtered on the same day was also not quarantined pending further testing.

Canadian inspectors only began an in-depth review of the facility on Sept. 13, when U.S. officials informed them they were banning XL product from their country after two more shipments inspected at the border also turned out to be contaminated.

Richard Arsenault, CFIA’s director of meat programs, said earlier this week that that review found some deficiencies on the killing floor such as a spray nozzle for cleaning or disinfecting carcasses that was not working, a situation that could have resulted in contamination.

But Arsenault said the larger problem was that the plant’s laboratory failed to increase the intensity of testing when there was a sudden spike in positive test results for the bacteria in trimmings destined for use in ground beef. As a result, he said, some lots that tested negative and were shipped out for further processing may have been tainted.

But a Food Safety and Inspection Service release issued Wednesday indicates American authorities are now of the opinion that much of the meat slaughtered during the recall period could be contaminated and poses a health risk if it is further processed in “non-intact” product.

For example, the release noted that beef short ribs, produced on the same production dates, were being trimmed in order for that material to be used for ground beef.

“Whole muscle cuts were being used to produce ground beef,” the release said.

“Product from these cuts are also considered to be adulterated unless they receive a full lethality treatment capable of eliminating E. coli 0157.”

Doug O’Halloran, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers local that represents employees at XL, said it’s clear in hindsight that neither CFIA nor the company acted swiftly or thoroughly enough to prevent potentially contaminated product from reaching restaurants and barbecues.

“Our members have little control beyond telling management when there is a potential problem on the line, but somewhere higher up the ball got dropped,” O’Halloran said.

“This is a tough lesson for the company and the government, but I’m pretty sure some things will change as a result.”

He said the plant, which normally exports about half its production south of the border, has been operating at about half its normal capacity of 4,000 head-a-day since the Americans imposed the ban.

© The Calgary Herald
Dan Flynn – Food Safety News

Sept 20, 2012

Tuna-loving school kids are at risk for mercury poisoning, according to a new report sponsored by several public health, consumer and environmental groups.

“Most children are already consuming only modest amounts of tuna and are not at significant risk,” said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project (MPP). “So the focus really needs to be on kids who eat tuna often, to limit their mercury exposure by offering them lower-mercury seafood or other nutritious alternatives.”

In its report called “Tuna Surprise,” MPP’s first tests of canned tuna sold to schools assesses the exposure of children to mercury in canned tuna. Here’s what it concludes:

– School children should not eat albacore tuna. Albacore or “white” tuna, according to MMP, contains three times more mercury than light tuna. The report says there is no justification for tripling a child’s mercury dose.

– Children weighing less than 55 pounds should consume no more than one tuna meal per month. MMP says the less body weight requires an added margin of caution, especially appropriate for young children.

– Children weighing more than 55 pounds should limit their tuna intake to two servings per month. This amount is more than the average child currently consumes and the mercury dose it contains is an acceptably low risk.

– Tuna-loving children should be the “focus of risk management efforts” including taking steps to prevent children from daily consumption of tuna. Parents and schools should offer children other seafood choices, including shrimp and salmon. These choices are just as nutritious but with lower mercy levels.

– USDA should phase out the purchase of canned tuna and replace it with low mercury seafood alternatives.

– Parents should monitor the canned tuna consumption of their children to make sure their home and school consumption does not exceeded recommendations for exposure.

In the report, MPP tested the content of 59 samples representing eight brands of tuna sold to schools in 11 states.

“As far as we know, no one has previously tested this market sector,” said Bender.

Testing showed that mercury levels of tuna sold to schools were similar to those in tuna sold by supermarkets. Albacore or “white” tuna had the higher levels of mercury than “light” tuna. Mercury levels in both types were said to be highly variable.

Clinical methylmercury poisoning is rare in America, but the “Tuna Surprise” study said such cases do exist.

Mercury in tuna has been a concern for years, with the best health advice usually centering on limiting one’s intake. This new study, co-sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), focuses on some children that may be at greater risk than others.

“Fish, including tuna, is generally a nutritious part of a healthy diet,” says Sarah Klein, staff attorney for the food safety program at CSPI. “But especially for out littlest, most vulnerable children, we have to make sure the risks from mercury in tuna don’t outweigh tuna’s benefits. We’re urging parents and schools to limit children’s tuna consumption and, when they do serve it, to choose lower-mercury options.”

Eric Uram of Safe Minds, another sponsor, said light tuna contains one-third as much mercury as albacore or “white” tuna. And the Tuna Surprise report clearly focuses on canned tuna as the largest source of mercury in the American diet.

On the positive side of the debate, it said canned tuna is an inexpensive and nutritious source of low-fat protein. Americans eat twice as much canned tuna than any other kind of fish. One in every six seafood meals includes canned tuna.

“Kids who eat tuna frequently can easily get very high mercury doses,” said Ned Groth, an environmental health scientist. He analyzed for the report various scenarios in which children of different ages ate different amounts of tuna with different mercury levels.

“Some of the larger doses are clearly far too high to be acceptable,” Groth said.

Included in his study were levels from one quarter to more than 40 times the current federal levels for safe exposure.

A spokesman for the Physicians for Social Responsibility said, “It is a shame that such a great source of inexpensive protein is contaminated with mercury.” In the meantime, he said, reducing children’s exposure to tuna and controlling mercury pollution with fewer coal-fired power plants will be necessary.

© Food Safety News
Dan Flynn – Food Safety News

Sept 20, 2012

Tuna-loving school kids are at risk for mercury poisoning, according to a new report sponsored by several public health, consumer and environmental groups.

“Most children are already consuming only modest amounts of tuna and are not at significant risk,” said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project (MPP). “So the focus really needs to be on kids who eat tuna often, to limit their mercury exposure by offering them lower-mercury seafood or other nutritious alternatives.”

In its report called “Tuna Surprise,” MPP’s first tests of canned tuna sold to schools assesses the exposure of children to mercury in canned tuna. Here’s what it concludes:

– School children should not eat albacore tuna. Albacore or “white” tuna, according to MMP, contains three times more mercury than light tuna. The report says there is no justification for tripling a child’s mercury dose.

– Children weighing less than 55 pounds should consume no more than one tuna meal per month. MMP says the less body weight requires an added margin of caution, especially appropriate for young children.

– Children weighing more than 55 pounds should limit their tuna intake to two servings per month. This amount is more than the average child currently consumes and the mercury dose it contains is an acceptably low risk.

– Tuna-loving children should be the “focus of risk management efforts” including taking steps to prevent children from daily consumption of tuna. Parents and schools should offer children other seafood choices, including shrimp and salmon. These choices are just as nutritious but with lower mercy levels.

– USDA should phase out the purchase of canned tuna and replace it with low mercury seafood alternatives.

– Parents should monitor the canned tuna consumption of their children to make sure their home and school consumption does not exceeded recommendations for exposure.

In the report, MPP tested the content of 59 samples representing eight brands of tuna sold to schools in 11 states.

“As far as we know, no one has previously tested this market sector,” said Bender.

Testing showed that mercury levels of tuna sold to schools were similar to those in tuna sold by supermarkets. Albacore or “white” tuna had the higher levels of mercury than “light” tuna. Mercury levels in both types were said to be highly variable.

Clinical methylmercury poisoning is rare in America, but the “Tuna Surprise” study said such cases do exist.

Mercury in tuna has been a concern for years, with the best health advice usually centering on limiting one’s intake. This new study, co-sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), focuses on some children that may be at greater risk than others.

“Fish, including tuna, is generally a nutritious part of a healthy diet,” says Sarah Klein, staff attorney for the food safety program at CSPI. “But especially for out littlest, most vulnerable children, we have to make sure the risks from mercury in tuna don’t outweigh tuna’s benefits. We’re urging parents and schools to limit children’s tuna consumption and, when they do serve it, to choose lower-mercury options.”

Eric Uram of Safe Minds, another sponsor, said light tuna contains one-third as much mercury as albacore or “white” tuna. And the Tuna Surprise report clearly focuses on canned tuna as the largest source of mercury in the American diet.

On the positive side of the debate, it said canned tuna is an inexpensive and nutritious source of low-fat protein. Americans eat twice as much canned tuna than any other kind of fish. One in every six seafood meals includes canned tuna.

“Kids who eat tuna frequently can easily get very high mercury doses,” said Ned Groth, an environmental health scientist. He analyzed for the report various scenarios in which children of different ages ate different amounts of tuna with different mercury levels.

“Some of the larger doses are clearly far too high to be acceptable,” Groth said.

Included in his study were levels from one quarter to more than 40 times the current federal levels for safe exposure.

A spokesman for the Physicians for Social Responsibility said, “It is a shame that such a great source of inexpensive protein is contaminated with mercury.” In the meantime, he said, reducing children’s exposure to tuna and controlling mercury pollution with fewer coal-fired power plants will be necessary.

© Food Safety News
Stephanie Storm – The New York Times

August 18, 2012

Don Barrett, a Mississippi lawyer, took in hundreds of millions of dollars a decade ago after suing Big Tobacco and winning record settlements from R. J. Reynolds, Philip Morris and other cigarette makers. So did Walter Umphrey, Dewitt M. Lovelace and Stuart and Carol Nelkin.
Enlarge This Image

James Patterson for The New York Times
Don Barrett is among a group of lawyers taking on food companies over what they say are mislabeled products and ingredients that mislead consumers.
Readers’ Comments
Readers shared their thoughts on this article.
Read All Comments (494) »
Ever since, the lawyers have been searching for big paydays in business, scoring more modest wins against car companies, drug makers, brokerage firms and insurers. Now, they have found the next target: food manufacturers.

More than a dozen lawyers who took on the tobacco companies have filed 25 cases against industry players like ConAgra Foods, PepsiCo, Heinz, General Mills and Chobani that stock pantry shelves and refrigerators across America.

The suits, filed over the last four months, assert that food makers are misleading consumers and violating federal regulations by wrongly labeling products and ingredients. While there has been a barrage of litigation against the industry in recent years, the tobacco lawyers are moving particularly aggressively. They are asking a federal court in California to halt ConAgra’s sales of Pam cooking spray, Swiss Miss cocoa products and some Hunt’s canned tomatoes.

“It’s a crime — and that makes it a crime to sell it,” said Mr. Barrett, citing what he contends is the mislabeling of those products. “That means these products should be taken off the shelves.”

The food companies counter that the suits are without merit, another example of litigation gone wild and driven largely by the lawyers’ financial motivations. Mr. Barrett said his group could seek damages amounting to four years of sales of mislabeled products — which could total many billions of dollars.

“It’s difficult to take some of these claims seriously, for instance, that a consumer was deceived into believing that a chocolate hazelnut spread for bread was healthy for children,” said Kristen E. Polovoy, an industry lawyer at Montgomery McCracken, referring to a lawsuit that two mothers brought against the maker of Nutella. “I think the courts are starting to look at the implausibility of some of these suits.”

A federal judge in California in 2009 dismissed a case against PepsiCo, which accused the company of false advertising because Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries cereal does not contain real berries. He ruled that “a reasonable consumer would not be deceived into believing that the product in the instant case contained a fruit that does not exist.”

While the lawyers are being questioned about their motives, they are not alone in pursuing the food industry.

In recent weeks, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has sued General Mills and McNeil Nutritionals over their claims on Nature Valley and Splenda Essentials products, and warned Welch’s it would sue unless the company changed the wording on its juice and fruit snacks. The Federal Trade Commission won settlements from companies like Dannon and Pom Wonderful for claims about their products’ health benefits. And PepsiCo and Coca-Cola face lawsuits over claims that their orange juice products are “100% natural.”

The latest playbook — like the one that paid off in the wave of tobacco litigation — could prove potent, as the food companies’ own lawyers have warned.

Other plaintiffs’ lawyers have largely taken aim at food products marketed as “healthy” or “natural,” subjective claims that can be easily disputed by expert witnesses. Unlike foods labeled “organic,” there are no federal standards for foods that are called “healthy” or “natural.”

The new batch of litigation argues that food companies are violating specific rules about ingredients and labels. Mr. Barrett’s group, for example, has brought a case against Chobani, the Greek yogurt maker, for listing “evaporated cane juice,” as an ingredient in its pomegranate-flavored yogurt. The Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly warned companies not to use the term because it is “false and misleading,” according to the suit.

“If you’re going to put sugar in your yogurt, why not just say it’s sugar?” said Pierce Gore, a lawyer affiliated with Mr. Barrett’s group.

©
Dan Flynn – Food Safety News

Sept 20, 2012

Tuna-loving school kids are at risk for mercury poisoning, according to a new report sponsored by several public health, consumer and environmental groups.

“Most children are already consuming only modest amounts of tuna and are not at significant risk,” said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project (MPP). “So the focus really needs to be on kids who eat tuna often, to limit their mercury exposure by offering them lower-mercury seafood or other nutritious alternatives.”

In its report called “Tuna Surprise,” MPP’s first tests of canned tuna sold to schools assesses the exposure of children to mercury in canned tuna. Here’s what it concludes:

– School children should not eat albacore tuna. Albacore or “white” tuna, according to MMP, contains three times more mercury than light tuna. The report says there is no justification for tripling a child’s mercury dose.

– Children weighing less than 55 pounds should consume no more than one tuna meal per month. MMP says the less body weight requires an added margin of caution, especially appropriate for young children.

– Children weighing more than 55 pounds should limit their tuna intake to two servings per month. This amount is more than the average child currently consumes and the mercury dose it contains is an acceptably low risk.

– Tuna-loving children should be the “focus of risk management efforts” including taking steps to prevent children from daily consumption of tuna. Parents and schools should offer children other seafood choices, including shrimp and salmon. These choices are just as nutritious but with lower mercy levels.

– USDA should phase out the purchase of canned tuna and replace it with low mercury seafood alternatives.

– Parents should monitor the canned tuna consumption of their children to make sure their home and school consumption does not exceeded recommendations for exposure.

In the report, MPP tested the content of 59 samples representing eight brands of tuna sold to schools in 11 states.

“As far as we know, no one has previously tested this market sector,” said Bender.

Testing showed that mercury levels of tuna sold to schools were similar to those in tuna sold by supermarkets. Albacore or “white” tuna had the higher levels of mercury than “light” tuna. Mercury levels in both types were said to be highly variable.

Clinical methylmercury poisoning is rare in America, but the “Tuna Surprise” study said such cases do exist.

Mercury in tuna has been a concern for years, with the best health advice usually centering on limiting one’s intake. This new study, co-sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), focuses on some children that may be at greater risk than others.

“Fish, including tuna, is generally a nutritious part of a healthy diet,” says Sarah Klein, staff attorney for the food safety program at CSPI. “But especially for out littlest, most vulnerable children, we have to make sure the risks from mercury in tuna don’t outweigh tuna’s benefits. We’re urging parents and schools to limit children’s tuna consumption and, when they do serve it, to choose lower-mercury options.”

Eric Uram of Safe Minds, another sponsor, said light tuna contains one-third as much mercury as albacore or “white” tuna. And the Tuna Surprise report clearly focuses on canned tuna as the largest source of mercury in the American diet.

On the positive side of the debate, it said canned tuna is an inexpensive and nutritious source of low-fat protein. Americans eat twice as much canned tuna than any other kind of fish. One in every six seafood meals includes canned tuna.

“Kids who eat tuna frequently can easily get very high mercury doses,” said Ned Groth, an environmental health scientist. He analyzed for the report various scenarios in which children of different ages ate different amounts of tuna with different mercury levels.

“Some of the larger doses are clearly far too high to be acceptable,” Groth said.

Included in his study were levels from one quarter to more than 40 times the current federal levels for safe exposure.

A spokesman for the Physicians for Social Responsibility said, “It is a shame that such a great source of inexpensive protein is contaminated with mercury.” In the meantime, he said, reducing children’s exposure to tuna and controlling mercury pollution with fewer coal-fired power plants will be necessary.

© Food Safety News
Stephanie Storm – The New York Times

August 18, 2012

Don Barrett, a Mississippi lawyer, took in hundreds of millions of dollars a decade ago after suing Big Tobacco and winning record settlements from R. J. Reynolds, Philip Morris and other cigarette makers. So did Walter Umphrey, Dewitt M. Lovelace and Stuart and Carol Nelkin.
Enlarge This Image

James Patterson for The New York Times
Don Barrett is among a group of lawyers taking on food companies over what they say are mislabeled products and ingredients that mislead consumers.
Readers’ Comments
Readers shared their thoughts on this article.
Read All Comments (494) »
Ever since, the lawyers have been searching for big paydays in business, scoring more modest wins against car companies, drug makers, brokerage firms and insurers. Now, they have found the next target: food manufacturers.

More than a dozen lawyers who took on the tobacco companies have filed 25 cases against industry players like ConAgra Foods, PepsiCo, Heinz, General Mills and Chobani that stock pantry shelves and refrigerators across America.

The suits, filed over the last four months, assert that food makers are misleading consumers and violating federal regulations by wrongly labeling products and ingredients. While there has been a barrage of litigation against the industry in recent years, the tobacco lawyers are moving particularly aggressively. They are asking a federal court in California to halt ConAgra’s sales of Pam cooking spray, Swiss Miss cocoa products and some Hunt’s canned tomatoes.

“It’s a crime — and that makes it a crime to sell it,” said Mr. Barrett, citing what he contends is the mislabeling of those products. “That means these products should be taken off the shelves.”

The food companies counter that the suits are without merit, another example of litigation gone wild and driven largely by the lawyers’ financial motivations. Mr. Barrett said his group could seek damages amounting to four years of sales of mislabeled products — which could total many billions of dollars.

“It’s difficult to take some of these claims seriously, for instance, that a consumer was deceived into believing that a chocolate hazelnut spread for bread was healthy for children,” said Kristen E. Polovoy, an industry lawyer at Montgomery McCracken, referring to a lawsuit that two mothers brought against the maker of Nutella. “I think the courts are starting to look at the implausibility of some of these suits.”

A federal judge in California in 2009 dismissed a case against PepsiCo, which accused the company of false advertising because Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries cereal does not contain real berries. He ruled that “a reasonable consumer would not be deceived into believing that the product in the instant case contained a fruit that does not exist.”

While the lawyers are being questioned about their motives, they are not alone in pursuing the food industry.

In recent weeks, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has sued General Mills and McNeil Nutritionals over their claims on Nature Valley and Splenda Essentials products, and warned Welch’s it would sue unless the company changed the wording on its juice and fruit snacks. The Federal Trade Commission won settlements from companies like Dannon and Pom Wonderful for claims about their products’ health benefits. And PepsiCo and Coca-Cola face lawsuits over claims that their orange juice products are “100% natural.”

The latest playbook — like the one that paid off in the wave of tobacco litigation — could prove potent, as the food companies’ own lawyers have warned.

Other plaintiffs’ lawyers have largely taken aim at food products marketed as “healthy” or “natural,” subjective claims that can be easily disputed by expert witnesses. Unlike foods labeled “organic,” there are no federal standards for foods that are called “healthy” or “natural.”

The new batch of litigation argues that food companies are violating specific rules about ingredients and labels. Mr. Barrett’s group, for example, has brought a case against Chobani, the Greek yogurt maker, for listing “evaporated cane juice,” as an ingredient in its pomegranate-flavored yogurt. The Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly warned companies not to use the term because it is “false and misleading,” according to the suit.

“If you’re going to put sugar in your yogurt, why not just say it’s sugar?” said Pierce Gore, a lawyer affiliated with Mr. Barrett’s group.

©
Stephanie Storm – The New York Times

August 18, 2012

Don Barrett, a Mississippi lawyer, took in hundreds of millions of dollars a decade ago after suing Big Tobacco and winning record settlements from R. J. Reynolds, Philip Morris and other cigarette makers. So did Walter Umphrey, Dewitt M. Lovelace and Stuart and Carol Nelkin.

Ever since, the lawyers have been searching for big paydays in business, scoring more modest wins against car companies, drug makers, brokerage firms and insurers. Now, they have found the next target: food manufacturers.

More than a dozen lawyers who took on the tobacco companies have filed 25 cases against industry players like ConAgra Foods, PepsiCo, Heinz, General Mills and Chobani that stock pantry shelves and refrigerators across America.

The suits, filed over the last four months, assert that food makers are misleading consumers and violating federal regulations by wrongly labeling products and ingredients. While there has been a barrage of litigation against the industry in recent years, the tobacco lawyers are moving particularly aggressively. They are asking a federal court in California to halt ConAgra’s sales of Pam cooking spray, Swiss Miss cocoa products and some Hunt’s canned tomatoes.

“It’s a crime — and that makes it a crime to sell it,” said Mr. Barrett, citing what he contends is the mislabeling of those products. “That means these products should be taken off the shelves.”

The food companies counter that the suits are without merit, another example of litigation gone wild and driven largely by the lawyers’ financial motivations. Mr. Barrett said his group could seek damages amounting to four years of sales of mislabeled products — which could total many billions of dollars.

“It’s difficult to take some of these claims seriously, for instance, that a consumer was deceived into believing that a chocolate hazelnut spread for bread was healthy for children,” said Kristen E. Polovoy, an industry lawyer at Montgomery McCracken, referring to a lawsuit that two mothers brought against the maker of Nutella. “I think the courts are starting to look at the implausibility of some of these suits.”

A federal judge in California in 2009 dismissed a case against PepsiCo, which accused the company of false advertising because Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries cereal does not contain real berries. He ruled that “a reasonable consumer would not be deceived into believing that the product in the instant case contained a fruit that does not exist.”

While the lawyers are being questioned about their motives, they are not alone in pursuing the food industry.

In recent weeks, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has sued General Mills and McNeil Nutritionals over their claims on Nature Valley and Splenda Essentials products, and warned Welch’s it would sue unless the company changed the wording on its juice and fruit snacks. The Federal Trade Commission won settlements from companies like Dannon and Pom Wonderful for claims about their products’ health benefits. And PepsiCo and Coca-Cola face lawsuits over claims that their orange juice products are “100% natural.”

The latest playbook — like the one that paid off in the wave of tobacco litigation — could prove potent, as the food companies’ own lawyers have warned.

Other plaintiffs’ lawyers have largely taken aim at food products marketed as “healthy” or “natural,” subjective claims that can be easily disputed by expert witnesses. Unlike foods labeled “organic,” there are no federal standards for foods that are called “healthy” or “natural.”

The new batch of litigation argues that food companies are violating specific rules about ingredients and labels. Mr. Barrett’s group, for example, has brought a case against Chobani, the Greek yogurt maker, for listing “evaporated cane juice,” as an ingredient in its pomegranate-flavored yogurt. The Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly warned companies not to use the term because it is “false and misleading,” according to the suit.

“If you’re going to put sugar in your yogurt, why not just say it’s sugar?” said Pierce Gore, a lawyer affiliated with Mr. Barrett’s group.

© The New York Times
Dan Flynn – Food Safety News

Sept 20, 2012

Tuna-loving school kids are at risk for mercury poisoning, according to a new report sponsored by several public health, consumer and environmental groups.

“Most children are already consuming only modest amounts of tuna and are not at significant risk,” said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project (MPP). “So the focus really needs to be on kids who eat tuna often, to limit their mercury exposure by offering them lower-mercury seafood or other nutritious alternatives.”

In its report called “Tuna Surprise,” MPP’s first tests of canned tuna sold to schools assesses the exposure of children to mercury in canned tuna. Here’s what it concludes:

– School children should not eat albacore tuna. Albacore or “white” tuna, according to MMP, contains three times more mercury than light tuna. The report says there is no justification for tripling a child’s mercury dose.

– Children weighing less than 55 pounds should consume no more than one tuna meal per month. MMP says the less body weight requires an added margin of caution, especially appropriate for young children.

– Children weighing more than 55 pounds should limit their tuna intake to two servings per month. This amount is more than the average child currently consumes and the mercury dose it contains is an acceptably low risk.

– Tuna-loving children should be the “focus of risk management efforts” including taking steps to prevent children from daily consumption of tuna. Parents and schools should offer children other seafood choices, including shrimp and salmon. These choices are just as nutritious but with lower mercy levels.

– USDA should phase out the purchase of canned tuna and replace it with low mercury seafood alternatives.

– Parents should monitor the canned tuna consumption of their children to make sure their home and school consumption does not exceeded recommendations for exposure.

In the report, MPP tested the content of 59 samples representing eight brands of tuna sold to schools in 11 states.

“As far as we know, no one has previously tested this market sector,” said Bender.

Testing showed that mercury levels of tuna sold to schools were similar to those in tuna sold by supermarkets. Albacore or “white” tuna had the higher levels of mercury than “light” tuna. Mercury levels in both types were said to be highly variable.

Clinical methylmercury poisoning is rare in America, but the “Tuna Surprise” study said such cases do exist.

Mercury in tuna has been a concern for years, with the best health advice usually centering on limiting one’s intake. This new study, co-sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), focuses on some children that may be at greater risk than others.

“Fish, including tuna, is generally a nutritious part of a healthy diet,” says Sarah Klein, staff attorney for the food safety program at CSPI. “But especially for out littlest, most vulnerable children, we have to make sure the risks from mercury in tuna don’t outweigh tuna’s benefits. We’re urging parents and schools to limit children’s tuna consumption and, when they do serve it, to choose lower-mercury options.”

Eric Uram of Safe Minds, another sponsor, said light tuna contains one-third as much mercury as albacore or “white” tuna. And the Tuna Surprise report clearly focuses on canned tuna as the largest source of mercury in the American diet.

On the positive side of the debate, it said canned tuna is an inexpensive and nutritious source of low-fat protein. Americans eat twice as much canned tuna than any other kind of fish. One in every six seafood meals includes canned tuna.

“Kids who eat tuna frequently can easily get very high mercury doses,” said Ned Groth, an environmental health scientist. He analyzed for the report various scenarios in which children of different ages ate different amounts of tuna with different mercury levels.

“Some of the larger doses are clearly far too high to be acceptable,” Groth said.

Included in his study were levels from one quarter to more than 40 times the current federal levels for safe exposure.

A spokesman for the Physicians for Social Responsibility said, “It is a shame that such a great source of inexpensive protein is contaminated with mercury.” In the meantime, he said, reducing children’s exposure to tuna and controlling mercury pollution with fewer coal-fired power plants will be necessary.

© Food Safety News
Stephanie Storm – The New York Times

August 18, 2012

Don Barrett, a Mississippi lawyer, took in hundreds of millions of dollars a decade ago after suing Big Tobacco and winning record settlements from R. J. Reynolds, Philip Morris and other cigarette makers. So did Walter Umphrey, Dewitt M. Lovelace and Stuart and Carol Nelkin.
Enlarge This Image

James Patterson for The New York Times
Don Barrett is among a group of lawyers taking on food companies over what they say are mislabeled products and ingredients that mislead consumers.
Readers’ Comments
Readers shared their thoughts on this article.
Read All Comments (494) »
Ever since, the lawyers have been searching for big paydays in business, scoring more modest wins against car companies, drug makers, brokerage firms and insurers. Now, they have found the next target: food manufacturers.

More than a dozen lawyers who took on the tobacco companies have filed 25 cases against industry players like ConAgra Foods, PepsiCo, Heinz, General Mills and Chobani that stock pantry shelves and refrigerators across America.

The suits, filed over the last four months, assert that food makers are misleading consumers and violating federal regulations by wrongly labeling products and ingredients. While there has been a barrage of litigation against the industry in recent years, the tobacco lawyers are moving particularly aggressively. They are asking a federal court in California to halt ConAgra’s sales of Pam cooking spray, Swiss Miss cocoa products and some Hunt’s canned tomatoes.

“It’s a crime — and that makes it a crime to sell it,” said Mr. Barrett, citing what he contends is the mislabeling of those products. “That means these products should be taken off the shelves.”

The food companies counter that the suits are without merit, another example of litigation gone wild and driven largely by the lawyers’ financial motivations. Mr. Barrett said his group could seek damages amounting to four years of sales of mislabeled products — which could total many billions of dollars.

“It’s difficult to take some of these claims seriously, for instance, that a consumer was deceived into believing that a chocolate hazelnut spread for bread was healthy for children,” said Kristen E. Polovoy, an industry lawyer at Montgomery McCracken, referring to a lawsuit that two mothers brought against the maker of Nutella. “I think the courts are starting to look at the implausibility of some of these suits.”

A federal judge in California in 2009 dismissed a case against PepsiCo, which accused the company of false advertising because Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries cereal does not contain real berries. He ruled that “a reasonable consumer would not be deceived into believing that the product in the instant case contained a fruit that does not exist.”

While the lawyers are being questioned about their motives, they are not alone in pursuing the food industry.

In recent weeks, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has sued General Mills and McNeil Nutritionals over their claims on Nature Valley and Splenda Essentials products, and warned Welch’s it would sue unless the company changed the wording on its juice and fruit snacks. The Federal Trade Commission won settlements from companies like Dannon and Pom Wonderful for claims about their products’ health benefits. And PepsiCo and Coca-Cola face lawsuits over claims that their orange juice products are “100% natural.”

The latest playbook — like the one that paid off in the wave of tobacco litigation — could prove potent, as the food companies’ own lawyers have warned.

Other plaintiffs’ lawyers have largely taken aim at food products marketed as “healthy” or “natural,” subjective claims that can be easily disputed by expert witnesses. Unlike foods labeled “organic,” there are no federal standards for foods that are called “healthy” or “natural.”

The new batch of litigation argues that food companies are violating specific rules about ingredients and labels. Mr. Barrett’s group, for example, has brought a case against Chobani, the Greek yogurt maker, for listing “evaporated cane juice,” as an ingredient in its pomegranate-flavored yogurt. The Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly warned companies not to use the term because it is “false and misleading,” according to the suit.

“If you’re going to put sugar in your yogurt, why not just say it’s sugar?” said Pierce Gore, a lawyer affiliated with Mr. Barrett’s group.

©
Stephanie Storm – The New York Times

August 18, 2012

Don Barrett, a Mississippi lawyer, took in hundreds of millions of dollars a decade ago after suing Big Tobacco and winning record settlements from R. J. Reynolds, Philip Morris and other cigarette makers. So did Walter Umphrey, Dewitt M. Lovelace and Stuart and Carol Nelkin.

Ever since, the lawyers have been searching for big paydays in business, scoring more modest wins against car companies, drug makers, brokerage firms and insurers. Now, they have found the next target: food manufacturers.

More than a dozen lawyers who took on the tobacco companies have filed 25 cases against industry players like ConAgra Foods, PepsiCo, Heinz, General Mills and Chobani that stock pantry shelves and refrigerators across America.

The suits, filed over the last four months, assert that food makers are misleading consumers and violating federal regulations by wrongly labeling products and ingredients. While there has been a barrage of litigation against the industry in recent years, the tobacco lawyers are moving particularly aggressively. They are asking a federal court in California to halt ConAgra’s sales of Pam cooking spray, Swiss Miss cocoa products and some Hunt’s canned tomatoes.

“It’s a crime — and that makes it a crime to sell it,” said Mr. Barrett, citing what he contends is the mislabeling of those products. “That means these products should be taken off the shelves.”

The food companies counter that the suits are without merit, another example of litigation gone wild and driven largely by the lawyers’ financial motivations. Mr. Barrett said his group could seek damages amounting to four years of sales of mislabeled products — which could total many billions of dollars.

“It’s difficult to take some of these claims seriously, for instance, that a consumer was deceived into believing that a chocolate hazelnut spread for bread was healthy for children,” said Kristen E. Polovoy, an industry lawyer at Montgomery McCracken, referring to a lawsuit that two mothers brought against the maker of Nutella. “I think the courts are starting to look at the implausibility of some of these suits.”

A federal judge in California in 2009 dismissed a case against PepsiCo, which accused the company of false advertising because Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries cereal does not contain real berries. He ruled that “a reasonable consumer would not be deceived into believing that the product in the instant case contained a fruit that does not exist.”

While the lawyers are being questioned about their motives, they are not alone in pursuing the food industry.

In recent weeks, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has sued General Mills and McNeil Nutritionals over their claims on Nature Valley and Splenda Essentials products, and warned Welch’s it would sue unless the company changed the wording on its juice and fruit snacks. The Federal Trade Commission won settlements from companies like Dannon and Pom Wonderful for claims about their products’ health benefits. And PepsiCo and Coca-Cola face lawsuits over claims that their orange juice products are “100% natural.”

The latest playbook — like the one that paid off in the wave of tobacco litigation — could prove potent, as the food companies’ own lawyers have warned.

Other plaintiffs’ lawyers have largely taken aim at food products marketed as “healthy” or “natural,” subjective claims that can be easily disputed by expert witnesses. Unlike foods labeled “organic,” there are no federal standards for foods that are called “healthy” or “natural.”

The new batch of litigation argues that food companies are violating specific rules about ingredients and labels. Mr. Barrett’s group, for example, has brought a case against Chobani, the Greek yogurt maker, for listing “evaporated cane juice,” as an ingredient in its pomegranate-flavored yogurt. The Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly warned companies not to use the term because it is “false and misleading,” according to the suit.

“If you’re going to put sugar in your yogurt, why not just say it’s sugar?” said Pierce Gore, a lawyer affiliated with Mr. Barrett’s group.

© The New York Times
Stephanie Storm – The New York Times

August 18, 2012

Don Barrett, a Mississippi lawyer, took in hundreds of millions of dollars a decade ago after suing Big Tobacco and winning record settlements from R. J. Reynolds, Philip Morris and other cigarette makers. So did Walter Umphrey, Dewitt M. Lovelace and Stuart and Carol Nelkin.
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James Patterson for The New York Times
Don Barrett is among a group of lawyers taking on food companies over what they say are mislabeled products and ingredients that mislead consumers.
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Ever since, the lawyers have been searching for big paydays in business, scoring more modest wins against car companies, drug makers, brokerage firms and insurers. Now, they have found the next target: food manufacturers.

More than a dozen lawyers who took on the tobacco companies have filed 25 cases against industry players like ConAgra Foods, PepsiCo, Heinz, General Mills and Chobani that stock pantry shelves and refrigerators across America.

The suits, filed over the last four months, assert that food makers are misleading consumers and violating federal regulations by wrongly labeling products and ingredients. While there has been a barrage of litigation against the industry in recent years, the tobacco lawyers are moving particularly aggressively. They are asking a federal court in California to halt ConAgra’s sales of Pam cooking spray, Swiss Miss cocoa products and some Hunt’s canned tomatoes.

“It’s a crime — and that makes it a crime to sell it,” said Mr. Barrett, citing what he contends is the mislabeling of those products. “That means these products should be taken off the shelves.”

The food companies counter that the suits are without merit, another example of litigation gone wild and driven largely by the lawyers’ financial motivations. Mr. Barrett said his group could seek damages amounting to four years of sales of mislabeled products — which could total many billions of dollars.

“It’s difficult to take some of these claims seriously, for instance, that a consumer was deceived into believing that a chocolate hazelnut spread for bread was healthy for children,” said Kristen E. Polovoy, an industry lawyer at Montgomery McCracken, referring to a lawsuit that two mothers brought against the maker of Nutella. “I think the courts are starting to look at the implausibility of some of these suits.”

A federal judge in California in 2009 dismissed a case against PepsiCo, which accused the company of false advertising because Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries cereal does not contain real berries. He ruled that “a reasonable consumer would not be deceived into believing that the product in the instant case contained a fruit that does not exist.”

While the lawyers are being questioned about their motives, they are not alone in pursuing the food industry.

In recent weeks, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has sued General Mills and McNeil Nutritionals over their claims on Nature Valley and Splenda Essentials products, and warned Welch’s it would sue unless the company changed the wording on its juice and fruit snacks. The Federal Trade Commission won settlements from companies like Dannon and Pom Wonderful for claims about their products’ health benefits. And PepsiCo and Coca-Cola face lawsuits over claims that their orange juice products are “100% natural.”

The latest playbook — like the one that paid off in the wave of tobacco litigation — could prove potent, as the food companies’ own lawyers have warned.

Other plaintiffs’ lawyers have largely taken aim at food products marketed as “healthy” or “natural,” subjective claims that can be easily disputed by expert witnesses. Unlike foods labeled “organic,” there are no federal standards for foods that are called “healthy” or “natural.”

The new batch of litigation argues that food companies are violating specific rules about ingredients and labels. Mr. Barrett’s group, for example, has brought a case against Chobani, the Greek yogurt maker, for listing “evaporated cane juice,” as an ingredient in its pomegranate-flavored yogurt. The Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly warned companies not to use the term because it is “false and misleading,” according to the suit.

“If you’re going to put sugar in your yogurt, why not just say it’s sugar?” said Pierce Gore, a lawyer affiliated with Mr. Barrett’s group.

© The New York Times
Dan Flynn – Food Safety News

Sept 20, 2012

Tuna-loving school kids are at risk for mercury poisoning, according to a new report sponsored by several public health, consumer and environmental groups.

“Most children are already consuming only modest amounts of tuna and are not at significant risk,” said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project (MPP). “So the focus really needs to be on kids who eat tuna often, to limit their mercury exposure by offering them lower-mercury seafood or other nutritious alternatives.”

In its report called “Tuna Surprise,” MPP’s first tests of canned tuna sold to schools assesses the exposure of children to mercury in canned tuna. Here’s what it concludes:

– School children should not eat albacore tuna. Albacore or “white” tuna, according to MMP, contains three times more mercury than light tuna. The report says there is no justification for tripling a child’s mercury dose.

– Children weighing less than 55 pounds should consume no more than one tuna meal per month. MMP says the less body weight requires an added margin of caution, especially appropriate for young children.

– Children weighing more than 55 pounds should limit their tuna intake to two servings per month. This amount is more than the average child currently consumes and the mercury dose it contains is an acceptably low risk.

– Tuna-loving children should be the “focus of risk management efforts” including taking steps to prevent children from daily consumption of tuna. Parents and schools should offer children other seafood choices, including shrimp and salmon. These choices are just as nutritious but with lower mercy levels.

– USDA should phase out the purchase of canned tuna and replace it with low mercury seafood alternatives.

– Parents should monitor the canned tuna consumption of their children to make sure their home and school consumption does not exceeded recommendations for exposure.

In the report, MPP tested the content of 59 samples representing eight brands of tuna sold to schools in 11 states.

“As far as we know, no one has previously tested this market sector,” said Bender.

Testing showed that mercury levels of tuna sold to schools were similar to those in tuna sold by supermarkets. Albacore or “white” tuna had the higher levels of mercury than “light” tuna. Mercury levels in both types were said to be highly variable.

Clinical methylmercury poisoning is rare in America, but the “Tuna Surprise” study said such cases do exist.

Mercury in tuna has been a concern for years, with the best health advice usually centering on limiting one’s intake. This new study, co-sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), focuses on some children that may be at greater risk than others.

“Fish, including tuna, is generally a nutritious part of a healthy diet,” says Sarah Klein, staff attorney for the food safety program at CSPI. “But especially for out littlest, most vulnerable children, we have to make sure the risks from mercury in tuna don’t outweigh tuna’s benefits. We’re urging parents and schools to limit children’s tuna consumption and, when they do serve it, to choose lower-mercury options.”

Eric Uram of Safe Minds, another sponsor, said light tuna contains one-third as much mercury as albacore or “white” tuna. And the Tuna Surprise report clearly focuses on canned tuna as the largest source of mercury in the American diet.

On the positive side of the debate, it said canned tuna is an inexpensive and nutritious source of low-fat protein. Americans eat twice as much canned tuna than any other kind of fish. One in every six seafood meals includes canned tuna.

“Kids who eat tuna frequently can easily get very high mercury doses,” said Ned Groth, an environmental health scientist. He analyzed for the report various scenarios in which children of different ages ate different amounts of tuna with different mercury levels.

“Some of the larger doses are clearly far too high to be acceptable,” Groth said.

Included in his study were levels from one quarter to more than 40 times the current federal levels for safe exposure.

A spokesman for the Physicians for Social Responsibility said, “It is a shame that such a great source of inexpensive protein is contaminated with mercury.” In the meantime, he said, reducing children’s exposure to tuna and controlling mercury pollution with fewer coal-fired power plants will be necessary.
Dan Flynn – Food Safety News

Sept 20, 2012

Tuna-loving school kids are at risk for mercury poisoning, according to a new report sponsored by several public health, consumer and environmental groups.

“Most children are already consuming only modest amounts of tuna and are not at significant risk,” said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project (MPP). “So the focus really needs to be on kids who eat tuna often, to limit their mercury exposure by offering them lower-mercury seafood or other nutritious alternatives.”

In its report called “Tuna Surprise,” MPP’s first tests of canned tuna sold to schools assesses the exposure of children to mercury in canned tuna. Here’s what it concludes:

– School children should not eat albacore tuna. Albacore or “white” tuna, according to MMP, contains three times more mercury than light tuna. The report says there is no justification for tripling a child’s mercury dose.

– Children weighing less than 55 pounds should consume no more than one tuna meal per month. MMP says the less body weight requires an added margin of caution, especially appropriate for young children.

– Children weighing more than 55 pounds should limit their tuna intake to two servings per month. This amount is more than the average child currently consumes and the mercury dose it contains is an acceptably low risk.

– Tuna-loving children should be the “focus of risk management efforts” including taking steps to prevent children from daily consumption of tuna. Parents and schools should offer children other seafood choices, including shrimp and salmon. These choices are just as nutritious but with lower mercy levels.

– USDA should phase out the purchase of canned tuna and replace it with low mercury seafood alternatives.

– Parents should monitor the canned tuna consumption of their children to make sure their home and school consumption does not exceeded recommendations for exposure.

In the report, MPP tested the content of 59 samples representing eight brands of tuna sold to schools in 11 states.

“As far as we know, no one has previously tested this market sector,” said Bender.

Testing showed that mercury levels of tuna sold to schools were similar to those in tuna sold by supermarkets. Albacore or “white” tuna had the higher levels of mercury than “light” tuna. Mercury levels in both types were said to be highly variable.

Clinical methylmercury poisoning is rare in America, but the “Tuna Surprise” study said such cases do exist.

Mercury in tuna has been a concern for years, with the best health advice usually centering on limiting one’s intake. This new study, co-sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), focuses on some children that may be at greater risk than others.

“Fish, including tuna, is generally a nutritious part of a healthy diet,” says Sarah Klein, staff attorney for the food safety program at CSPI. “But especially for out littlest, most vulnerable children, we have to make sure the risks from mercury in tuna don’t outweigh tuna’s benefits. We’re urging parents and schools to limit children’s tuna consumption and, when they do serve it, to choose lower-mercury options.”

Eric Uram of Safe Minds, another sponsor, said light tuna contains one-third as much mercury as albacore or “white” tuna. And the Tuna Surprise report clearly focuses on canned tuna as the largest source of mercury in the American diet.

On the positive side of the debate, it said canned tuna is an inexpensive and nutritious source of low-fat protein. Americans eat twice as much canned tuna than any other kind of fish. One in every six seafood meals includes canned tuna.

“Kids who eat tuna frequently can easily get very high mercury doses,” said Ned Groth, an environmental health scientist. He analyzed for the report various scenarios in which children of different ages ate different amounts of tuna with different mercury levels.

“Some of the larger doses are clearly far too high to be acceptable,” Groth said.

Included in his study were levels from one quarter to more than 40 times the current federal levels for safe exposure.

A spokesman for the Physicians for Social Responsibility said, “It is a shame that such a great source of inexpensive protein is contaminated with mercury.” In the meantime, he said, reducing children’s exposure to tuna and controlling mercury pollution with fewer coal-fired power plants will be necessary.

Tainted beef alert delayed two weeks

U.S. inspectors noticed E. coli in samples from Alberta

Matt McClure – Calgary Herald

Sept. 25, 2012

CALGARY — Federal food safety bureaucrats waited nearly two weeks to issue a public health alert after learning that beef from an Alberta plant was contaminated with a potentially deadly bacteria.

Officials with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency revealed Monday they launched an in-depth review of the sanitation and controls at the XL Foods facility in Brooks only after their counterparts south of the border found two more contaminated samples of animal trimmings destined for ground beef.

The product was infected with E. coli 0157.

A senior executive with the Public Service Alliance of Canada and veteran meat inspector said the affected product should have been recalled within days of the initial positive tests.

“We’ve allowed potentially-contaminated product to get to the tables and into stomachs of people across this country, ” said Bob Jackson, PSAC’s executive vice-president in B.C.

“They should have taken action immediately when they had that positive result. Under the CFIA’s new regulations and procedures, those decisions are left to the company, but there was a time when a federally-appointed, independent inspector would have tagged that product and insisted it wasn’t going anywhere.”

In the week since the first health warning was announced on Sept. 16, CFIA has had to reissue alerts and expand the voluntary recall six more times to include 250 different products. It has been trying to track down and isolate potentially-contaminated product that has moved along the supply chain toward restaurant kitchens and consumer barbecues throughout Canada and parts of the United States.

No deaths have so far been linked to the contaminated meat, but Alberta’s health authority confirms it is looking at five cases of illness, including one in Calgary, that may be related.

The exact chronology of how the contaminated beef was detected is beginning to emerge.

However, CFIA officials were still unable to estimate Monday the volume of affected product, identify on what days it was produced, or say how much may have already reached grocery store shelves.

Garfield Balsom, a food safety and recall specialist with the agency, stressed the importance of acting swiftly to protect the public, and conceded the recall may have to be further expanded as new information comes forward about where the tainted meat ended up.

“It’s a very high priority for us to move as expeditiously as possible to determine the products that may have been affecting Canadians, especially in the marketplace,” Balsom said.

“It’s also important that we do a thorough effective investigation so we understand the scope and provide the appropriate detail so they can know exactly what they need to avoid.”

XL Foods executives did not agree to be interviewed for this story, but an executive with a large American food distributor confirmed on condition of anonymity that the company had told him the contaminated product did not test positive at the plant’s in-house laboratory after it was slaughtered and processed Aug. 27.

But a shipment that later crossed the border was sampled by inspectors from the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service on Sept. 3 and was found to be contaminated with the bacteria.

The tests results were passed on to CFIA the next day, the same day the Canadian agency said its own routine sampling found a positive result in product from the XL plant. While agency officials said they immediately began an investigation, no recall was issued based on Health Canada’s assessment that normal cooking would eliminate any risk to consumers.

On Sept. 12, FSIS notified Canadian officials of two more contaminated samples in product that had been intercepted at the border and tested.

That discovery prompted an in-depth review at the plant by CFIA that found the company had been deviating from the control and testing procedures it said it was following to prevent product from becoming contaminated or getting out of the plant.

“Trend analysis was not always conducted consistently at the facility,” CFIA said in an written statement.

“The company was unable to demonstrate that it regularly reviewed or made necessary updates to its control plan.”

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz was unavailable to comment Monday, but his press spokesman defended the agency’s oversight of XL Foods and the speed with which it has responded to the food scare.

“The CFIA’s testing and tracing is based on sound science, and this important work takes time,” Meagan Murdoch said in a e-mailed statement.

This is not the first time that American authorities have singled out the Brooks facility or wrapped the CFIA on the knuckles for its oversight of meat slaughter and processing facilities that export product to the United States.

A 2008 audit of what was then Lakeside Packers found knives used to check carcasses had blood and residue from the use the previous day, and scrap metal near the building was a potential harbour for pests.

In 2005, the audit cited dripping condensation over the boning and trim line that had been previously noted but for which no corrective action had been ordered. Thermometer calibration was also not being properly verified or recorded in log books.

The 2010 audit noted there had been two instances when contaminated ground beef from unidentified plants in Canada had ended up being caught during FSIS’s border inspections.

The agency concluded it has systemic concerns with the Canadian inspection system, including the fact CFIA was not consistently assigning federal inspectors to each shift at plants where product was produced. A review of Canadian inspector logs found a low number of documented non-compliances, which didn’t reflect what their counterparts found when American officials visited the plants.

© The Calgary Herald

Dan Flynn – Food Safety News

Sept 20, 2012

Tuna-loving school kids are at risk for mercury poisoning, according to a new report sponsored by several public health, consumer and environmental groups.

“Most children are already consuming only modest amounts of tuna and are not at significant risk,” said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project (MPP). “So the focus really needs to be on kids who eat tuna often, to limit their mercury exposure by offering them lower-mercury seafood or other nutritious alternatives.”

In its report called “Tuna Surprise,” MPP’s first tests of canned tuna sold to schools assesses the exposure of children to mercury in canned tuna. Here’s what it concludes:

– School children should not eat albacore tuna. Albacore or “white” tuna, according to MMP, contains three times more mercury than light tuna. The report says there is no justification for tripling a child’s mercury dose.

– Children weighing less than 55 pounds should consume no more than one tuna meal per month. MMP says the less body weight requires an added margin of caution, especially appropriate for young children.

– Children weighing more than 55 pounds should limit their tuna intake to two servings per month. This amount is more than the average child currently consumes and the mercury dose it contains is an acceptably low risk.

– Tuna-loving children should be the “focus of risk management efforts” including taking steps to prevent children from daily consumption of tuna. Parents and schools should offer children other seafood choices, including shrimp and salmon. These choices are just as nutritious but with lower mercy levels.

– USDA should phase out the purchase of canned tuna and replace it with low mercury seafood alternatives.

– Parents should monitor the canned tuna consumption of their children to make sure their home and school consumption does not exceeded recommendations for exposure.

In the report, MPP tested the content of 59 samples representing eight brands of tuna sold to schools in 11 states.

“As far as we know, no one has previously tested this market sector,” said Bender.

Testing showed that mercury levels of tuna sold to schools were similar to those in tuna sold by supermarkets. Albacore or “white” tuna had the higher levels of mercury than “light” tuna. Mercury levels in both types were said to be highly variable.

Clinical methylmercury poisoning is rare in America, but the “Tuna Surprise” study said such cases do exist.

Mercury in tuna has been a concern for years, with the best health advice usually centering on limiting one’s intake. This new study, co-sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), focuses on some children that may be at greater risk than others.

“Fish, including tuna, is generally a nutritious part of a healthy diet,” says Sarah Klein, staff attorney for the food safety program at CSPI. “But especially for out littlest, most vulnerable children, we have to make sure the risks from mercury in tuna don’t outweigh tuna’s benefits. We’re urging parents and schools to limit children’s tuna consumption and, when they do serve it, to choose lower-mercury options.”

Eric Uram of Safe Minds, another sponsor, said light tuna contains one-third as much mercury as albacore or “white” tuna. And the Tuna Surprise report clearly focuses on canned tuna as the largest source of mercury in the American diet.

On the positive side of the debate, it said canned tuna is an inexpensive and nutritious source of low-fat protein. Americans eat twice as much canned tuna than any other kind of fish. One in every six seafood meals includes canned tuna.

“Kids who eat tuna frequently can easily get very high mercury doses,” said Ned Groth, an environmental health scientist. He analyzed for the report various scenarios in which children of different ages ate different amounts of tuna with different mercury levels.

“Some of the larger doses are clearly far too high to be acceptable,” Groth said.

Included in his study were levels from one quarter to more than 40 times the current federal levels for safe exposure.

A spokesman for the Physicians for Social Responsibility said, “It is a shame that such a great source of inexpensive protein is contaminated with mercury.” In the meantime, he said, reducing children’s exposure to tuna and controlling mercury pollution with fewer coal-fired power plants will be necessary.

Tainted beef alert delayed two weeks

U.S. inspectors noticed E. coli in samples from Alberta

Matt McClure – Calgary Herald

Sept. 25, 2012

CALGARY — Federal food safety bureaucrats waited nearly two weeks to issue a public health alert after learning that beef from an Alberta plant was contaminated with a potentially deadly bacteria.

Officials with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency revealed Monday they launched an in-depth review of the sanitation and controls at the XL Foods facility in Brooks only after their counterparts south of the border found two more contaminated samples of animal trimmings destined for ground beef.

The product was infected with E. coli 0157.

A senior executive with the Public Service Alliance of Canada and veteran meat inspector said the affected product should have been recalled within days of the initial positive tests.

“We’ve allowed potentially-contaminated product to get to the tables and into stomachs of people across this country, ” said Bob Jackson, PSAC’s executive vice-president in B.C.

“They should have taken action immediately when they had that positive result. Under the CFIA’s new regulations and procedures, those decisions are left to the company, but there was a time when a federally-appointed, independent inspector would have tagged that product and insisted it wasn’t going anywhere.”

In the week since the first health warning was announced on Sept. 16, CFIA has had to reissue alerts and expand the voluntary recall six more times to include 250 different products. It has been trying to track down and isolate potentially-contaminated product that has moved along the supply chain toward restaurant kitchens and consumer barbecues throughout Canada and parts of the United States.

No deaths have so far been linked to the contaminated meat, but Alberta’s health authority confirms it is looking at five cases of illness, including one in Calgary, that may be related.

The exact chronology of how the contaminated beef was detected is beginning to emerge.

However, CFIA officials were still unable to estimate Monday the volume of affected product, identify on what days it was produced, or say how much may have already reached grocery store shelves.

Garfield Balsom, a food safety and recall specialist with the agency, stressed the importance of acting swiftly to protect the public, and conceded the recall may have to be further expanded as new information comes forward about where the tainted meat ended up.

“It’s a very high priority for us to move as expeditiously as possible to determine the products that may have been affecting Canadians, especially in the marketplace,” Balsom said.

“It’s also important that we do a thorough effective investigation so we understand the scope and provide the appropriate detail so they can know exactly what they need to avoid.”

XL Foods executives did not agree to be interviewed for this story, but an executive with a large American food distributor confirmed on condition of anonymity that the company had told him the contaminated product did not test positive at the plant’s in-house laboratory after it was slaughtered and processed Aug. 27.

But a shipment that later crossed the border was sampled by inspectors from the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service on Sept. 3 and was found to be contaminated with the bacteria.

The tests results were passed on to CFIA the next day, the same day the Canadian agency said its own routine sampling found a positive result in product from the XL plant. While agency officials said they immediately began an investigation, no recall was issued based on Health Canada’s assessment that normal cooking would eliminate any risk to consumers.

On Sept. 12, FSIS notified Canadian officials of two more contaminated samples in product that had been intercepted at the border and tested.

That discovery prompted an in-depth review at the plant by CFIA that found the company had been deviating from the control and testing procedures it said it was following to prevent product from becoming contaminated or getting out of the plant.

“Trend analysis was not always conducted consistently at the facility,” CFIA said in an written statement.

“The company was unable to demonstrate that it regularly reviewed or made necessary updates to its control plan.”

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz was unavailable to comment Monday, but his press spokesman defended the agency’s oversight of XL Foods and the speed with which it has responded to the food scare.

“The CFIA’s testing and tracing is based on sound science, and this important work takes time,” Meagan Murdoch said in a e-mailed statement.

This is not the first time that American authorities have singled out the Brooks facility or wrapped the CFIA on the knuckles for its oversight of meat slaughter and processing facilities that export product to the United States.

A 2008 audit of what was then Lakeside Packers found knives used to check carcasses had blood and residue from the use the previous day, and scrap metal near the building was a potential harbour for pests.

In 2005, the audit cited dripping condensation over the boning and trim line that had been previously noted but for which no corrective action had been ordered. Thermometer calibration was also not being properly verified or recorded in log books.

The 2010 audit noted there had been two instances when contaminated ground beef from unidentified plants in Canada had ended up being caught during FSIS’s border inspections.

The agency concluded it has systemic concerns with the Canadian inspection system, including the fact CFIA was not consistently assigning federal inspectors to each shift at plants where product was produced. A review of Canadian inspector logs found a low number of documented non-compliances, which didn’t reflect what their counterparts found when American officials visited the plants.

© The Calgary Herald

Tainted beef alert delayed two weeks

U.S. inspectors noticed E. coli in samples from Alberta

Matt McClure – Calgary Herald

Sept. 25, 2012

CALGARY — Federal food safety bureaucrats waited nearly two weeks to issue a public health alert after learning that beef from an Alberta plant was contaminated with a potentially deadly bacteria.

Officials with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency revealed Monday they launched an in-depth review of the sanitation and controls at the XL Foods facility in Brooks only after their counterparts south of the border found two more contaminated samples of animal trimmings destined for ground beef.

The product was infected with E. coli 0157.

A senior executive with the Public Service Alliance of Canada and veteran meat inspector said the affected product should have been recalled within days of the initial positive tests.

“We’ve allowed potentially-contaminated product to get to the tables and into stomachs of people across this country, ” said Bob Jackson, PSAC’s executive vice-president in B.C.

“They should have taken action immediately when they had that positive result. Under the CFIA’s new regulations and procedures, those decisions are left to the company, but there was a time when a federally-appointed, independent inspector would have tagged that product and insisted it wasn’t going anywhere.”

In the week since the first health warning was announced on Sept. 16, CFIA has had to reissue alerts and expand the voluntary recall six more times to include 250 different products. It has been trying to track down and isolate potentially-contaminated product that has moved along the supply chain toward restaurant kitchens and consumer barbecues throughout Canada and parts of the United States.

No deaths have so far been linked to the contaminated meat, but Alberta’s health authority confirms it is looking at five cases of illness, including one in Calgary, that may be related.

The exact chronology of how the contaminated beef was detected is beginning to emerge.

However, CFIA officials were still unable to estimate Monday the volume of affected product, identify on what days it was produced, or say how much may have already reached grocery store shelves.

Garfield Balsom, a food safety and recall specialist with the agency, stressed the importance of acting swiftly to protect the public, and conceded the recall may have to be further expanded as new information comes forward about where the tainted meat ended up.

“It’s a very high priority for us to move as expeditiously as possible to determine the products that may have been affecting Canadians, especially in the marketplace,” Balsom said.

“It’s also important that we do a thorough effective investigation so we understand the scope and provide the appropriate detail so they can know exactly what they need to avoid.”

XL Foods executives did not agree to be interviewed for this story, but an executive with a large American food distributor confirmed on condition of anonymity that the company had told him the contaminated product did not test positive at the plant’s in-house laboratory after it was slaughtered and processed Aug. 27.

But a shipment that later crossed the border was sampled by inspectors from the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service on Sept. 3 and was found to be contaminated with the bacteria.

The tests results were passed on to CFIA the next day, the same day the Canadian agency said its own routine sampling found a positive result in product from the XL plant. While agency officials said they immediately began an investigation, no recall was issued based on Health Canada’s assessment that normal cooking would eliminate any risk to consumers.

On Sept. 12, FSIS notified Canadian officials of two more contaminated samples in product that had been intercepted at the border and tested.

That discovery prompted an in-depth review at the plant by CFIA that found the company had been deviating from the control and testing procedures it said it was following to prevent product from becoming contaminated or getting out of the plant.

“Trend analysis was not always conducted consistently at the facility,” CFIA said in an written statement.

“The company was unable to demonstrate that it regularly reviewed or made necessary updates to its control plan.”

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz was unavailable to comment Monday, but his press spokesman defended the agency’s oversight of XL Foods and the speed with which it has responded to the food scare.

“The CFIA’s testing and tracing is based on sound science, and this important work takes time,” Meagan Murdoch said in a e-mailed statement.

This is not the first time that American authorities have singled out the Brooks facility or wrapped the CFIA on the knuckles for its oversight of meat slaughter and processing facilities that export product to the United States.

A 2008 audit of what was then Lakeside Packers found knives used to check carcasses had blood and residue from the use the previous day, and scrap metal near the building was a potential harbour for pests.

In 2005, the audit cited dripping condensation over the boning and trim line that had been previously noted but for which no corrective action had been ordered. Thermometer calibration was also not being properly verified or recorded in log books.

The 2010 audit noted there had been two instances when contaminated ground beef from unidentified plants in Canada had ended up being caught during FSIS’s border inspections.

The agency concluded it has systemic concerns with the Canadian inspection system, including the fact CFIA was not consistently assigning federal inspectors to each shift at plants where product was produced. A review of Canadian inspector logs found a low number of documented non-compliances, which didn’t reflect what their counterparts found when American officials visited the plants.

© The Calgary Herald

Dan Flynn – Food Safety News

Sept 20, 2012

Tuna-loving school kids are at risk for mercury poisoning, according to a new report sponsored by several public health, consumer and environmental groups.

“Most children are already consuming only modest amounts of tuna and are not at significant risk,” said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project (MPP). “So the focus really needs to be on kids who eat tuna often, to limit their mercury exposure by offering them lower-mercury seafood or other nutritious alternatives.”

In its report called “Tuna Surprise,” MPP’s first tests of canned tuna sold to schools assesses the exposure of children to mercury in canned tuna. Here’s what it concludes:

– School children should not eat albacore tuna. Albacore or “white” tuna, according to MMP, contains three times more mercury than light tuna. The report says there is no justification for tripling a child’s mercury dose.

– Children weighing less than 55 pounds should consume no more than one tuna meal per month. MMP says the less body weight requires an added margin of caution, especially appropriate for young children.

– Children weighing more than 55 pounds should limit their tuna intake to two servings per month. This amount is more than the average child currently consumes and the mercury dose it contains is an acceptably low risk.

– Tuna-loving children should be the “focus of risk management efforts” including taking steps to prevent children from daily consumption of tuna. Parents and schools should offer children other seafood choices, including shrimp and salmon. These choices are just as nutritious but with lower mercy levels.

– USDA should phase out the purchase of canned tuna and replace it with low mercury seafood alternatives.

– Parents should monitor the canned tuna consumption of their children to make sure their home and school consumption does not exceeded recommendations for exposure.

In the report, MPP tested the content of 59 samples representing eight brands of tuna sold to schools in 11 states.

“As far as we know, no one has previously tested this market sector,” said Bender.

Testing showed that mercury levels of tuna sold to schools were similar to those in tuna sold by supermarkets. Albacore or “white” tuna had the higher levels of mercury than “light” tuna. Mercury levels in both types were said to be highly variable.

Clinical methylmercury poisoning is rare in America, but the “Tuna Surprise” study said such cases do exist.

Mercury in tuna has been a concern for years, with the best health advice usually centering on limiting one’s intake. This new study, co-sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), focuses on some children that may be at greater risk than others.

“Fish, including tuna, is generally a nutritious part of a healthy diet,” says Sarah Klein, staff attorney for the food safety program at CSPI. “But especially for out littlest, most vulnerable children, we have to make sure the risks from mercury in tuna don’t outweigh tuna’s benefits. We’re urging parents and schools to limit children’s tuna consumption and, when they do serve it, to choose lower-mercury options.”

Eric Uram of Safe Minds, another sponsor, said light tuna contains one-third as much mercury as albacore or “white” tuna. And the Tuna Surprise report clearly focuses on canned tuna as the largest source of mercury in the American diet.

On the positive side of the debate, it said canned tuna is an inexpensive and nutritious source of low-fat protein. Americans eat twice as much canned tuna than any other kind of fish. One in every six seafood meals includes canned tuna.

“Kids who eat tuna frequently can easily get very high mercury doses,” said Ned Groth, an environmental health scientist. He analyzed for the report various scenarios in which children of different ages ate different amounts of tuna with different mercury levels.

“Some of the larger doses are clearly far too high to be acceptable,” Groth said.

Included in his study were levels from one quarter to more than 40 times the current federal levels for safe exposure.

A spokesman for the Physicians for Social Responsibility said, “It is a shame that such a great source of inexpensive protein is contaminated with mercury.” In the meantime, he said, reducing children’s exposure to tuna and controlling mercury pollution with fewer coal-fired power plants will be necessary.

Tainted beef alert delayed two weeks

U.S. inspectors noticed E. coli in samples from Alberta

Matt McClure – Calgary Herald

Sept. 25, 2012

CALGARY — Federal food safety bureaucrats waited nearly two weeks to issue a public health alert after learning that beef from an Alberta plant was contaminated with a potentially deadly bacteria.

Officials with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency revealed Monday they launched an in-depth review of the sanitation and controls at the XL Foods facility in Brooks only after their counterparts south of the border found two more contaminated samples of animal trimmings destined for ground beef.

The product was infected with E. coli 0157.

A senior executive with the Public Service Alliance of Canada and veteran meat inspector said the affected product should have been recalled within days of the initial positive tests.

“We’ve allowed potentially-contaminated product to get to the tables and into stomachs of people across this country, ” said Bob Jackson, PSAC’s executive vice-president in B.C.

“They should have taken action immediately when they had that positive result. Under the CFIA’s new regulations and procedures, those decisions are left to the company, but there was a time when a federally-appointed, independent inspector would have tagged that product and insisted it wasn’t going anywhere.”

In the week since the first health warning was announced on Sept. 16, CFIA has had to reissue alerts and expand the voluntary recall six more times to include 250 different products. It has been trying to track down and isolate potentially-contaminated product that has moved along the supply chain toward restaurant kitchens and consumer barbecues throughout Canada and parts of the United States.

No deaths have so far been linked to the contaminated meat, but Alberta’s health authority confirms it is looking at five cases of illness, including one in Calgary, that may be related.

The exact chronology of how the contaminated beef was detected is beginning to emerge.

However, CFIA officials were still unable to estimate Monday the volume of affected product, identify on what days it was produced, or say how much may have already reached grocery store shelves.

Garfield Balsom, a food safety and recall specialist with the agency, stressed the importance of acting swiftly to protect the public, and conceded the recall may have to be further expanded as new information comes forward about where the tainted meat ended up.

“It’s a very high priority for us to move as expeditiously as possible to determine the products that may have been affecting Canadians, especially in the marketplace,” Balsom said.

“It’s also important that we do a thorough effective investigation so we understand the scope and provide the appropriate detail so they can know exactly what they need to avoid.”

XL Foods executives did not agree to be interviewed for this story, but an executive with a large American food distributor confirmed on condition of anonymity that the company had told him the contaminated product did not test positive at the plant’s in-house laboratory after it was slaughtered and processed Aug. 27.

But a shipment that later crossed the border was sampled by inspectors from the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service on Sept. 3 and was found to be contaminated with the bacteria.

The tests results were passed on to CFIA the next day, the same day the Canadian agency said its own routine sampling found a positive result in product from the XL plant. While agency officials said they immediately began an investigation, no recall was issued based on Health Canada’s assessment that normal cooking would eliminate any risk to consumers.

On Sept. 12, FSIS notified Canadian officials of two more contaminated samples in product that had been intercepted at the border and tested.

That discovery prompted an in-depth review at the plant by CFIA that found the company had been deviating from the control and testing procedures it said it was following to prevent product from becoming contaminated or getting out of the plant.

“Trend analysis was not always conducted consistently at the facility,” CFIA said in an written statement.

“The company was unable to demonstrate that it regularly reviewed or made necessary updates to its control plan.”

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz was unavailable to comment Monday, but his press spokesman defended the agency’s oversight of XL Foods and the speed with which it has responded to the food scare.

“The CFIA’s testing and tracing is based on sound science, and this important work takes time,” Meagan Murdoch said in a e-mailed statement.

This is not the first time that American authorities have singled out the Brooks facility or wrapped the CFIA on the knuckles for its oversight of meat slaughter and processing facilities that export product to the United States.

A 2008 audit of what was then Lakeside Packers found knives used to check carcasses had blood and residue from the use the previous day, and scrap metal near the building was a potential harbour for pests.

In 2005, the audit cited dripping condensation over the boning and trim line that had been previously noted but for which no corrective action had been ordered. Thermometer calibration was also not being properly verified or recorded in log books.

The 2010 audit noted there had been two instances when contaminated ground beef from unidentified plants in Canada had ended up being caught during FSIS’s border inspections.

The agency concluded it has systemic concerns with the Canadian inspection system, including the fact CFIA was not consistently assigning federal inspectors to each shift at plants where product was produced. A review of Canadian inspector logs found a low number of documented non-compliances, which didn’t reflect what their counterparts found when American officials visited the plants.

© The Calgary Herald

Tainted beef alert delayed two weeks

U.S. inspectors noticed E. coli in samples from Alberta

Matt McClure – Calgary Herald

Sept. 25, 2012

CALGARY — Federal food safety bureaucrats waited nearly two weeks to issue a public health alert after learning that beef from an Alberta plant was contaminated with a potentially deadly bacteria.

Officials with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency revealed Monday they launched an in-depth review of the sanitation and controls at the XL Foods facility in Brooks only after their counterparts south of the border found two more contaminated samples of animal trimmings destined for ground beef.

The product was infected with E. coli 0157.

A senior executive with the Public Service Alliance of Canada and veteran meat inspector said the affected product should have been recalled within days of the initial positive tests.

“We’ve allowed potentially-contaminated product to get to the tables and into stomachs of people across this country, ” said Bob Jackson, PSAC’s executive vice-president in B.C.

“They should have taken action immediately when they had that positive result. Under the CFIA’s new regulations and procedures, those decisions are left to the company, but there was a time when a federally-appointed, independent inspector would have tagged that product and insisted it wasn’t going anywhere.”

In the week since the first health warning was announced on Sept. 16, CFIA has had to reissue alerts and expand the voluntary recall six more times to include 250 different products. It has been trying to track down and isolate potentially-contaminated product that has moved along the supply chain toward restaurant kitchens and consumer barbecues throughout Canada and parts of the United States.

No deaths have so far been linked to the contaminated meat, but Alberta’s health authority confirms it is looking at five cases of illness, including one in Calgary, that may be related.

The exact chronology of how the contaminated beef was detected is beginning to emerge.

However, CFIA officials were still unable to estimate Monday the volume of affected product, identify on what days it was produced, or say how much may have already reached grocery store shelves.

Garfield Balsom, a food safety and recall specialist with the agency, stressed the importance of acting swiftly to protect the public, and conceded the recall may have to be further expanded as new information comes forward about where the tainted meat ended up.

“It’s a very high priority for us to move as expeditiously as possible to determine the products that may have been affecting Canadians, especially in the marketplace,” Balsom said.

“It’s also important that we do a thorough effective investigation so we understand the scope and provide the appropriate detail so they can know exactly what they need to avoid.”

XL Foods executives did not agree to be interviewed for this story, but an executive with a large American food distributor confirmed on condition of anonymity that the company had told him the contaminated product did not test positive at the plant’s in-house laboratory after it was slaughtered and processed Aug. 27.

But a shipment that later crossed the border was sampled by inspectors from the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service on Sept. 3 and was found to be contaminated with the bacteria.

The tests results were passed on to CFIA the next day, the same day the Canadian agency said its own routine sampling found a positive result in product from the XL plant. While agency officials said they immediately began an investigation, no recall was issued based on Health Canada’s assessment that normal cooking would eliminate any risk to consumers.

On Sept. 12, FSIS notified Canadian officials of two more contaminated samples in product that had been intercepted at the border and tested.

That discovery prompted an in-depth review at the plant by CFIA that found the company had been deviating from the control and testing procedures it said it was following to prevent product from becoming contaminated or getting out of the plant.

“Trend analysis was not always conducted consistently at the facility,” CFIA said in an written statement.

“The company was unable to demonstrate that it regularly reviewed or made necessary updates to its control plan.”

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz was unavailable to comment Monday, but his press spokesman defended the agency’s oversight of XL Foods and the speed with which it has responded to the food scare.

“The CFIA’s testing and tracing is based on sound science, and this important work takes time,” Meagan Murdoch said in a e-mailed statement.

This is not the first time that American authorities have singled out the Brooks facility or wrapped the CFIA on the knuckles for its oversight of meat slaughter and processing facilities that export product to the United States.

A 2008 audit of what was then Lakeside Packers found knives used to check carcasses had blood and residue from the use the previous day, and scrap metal near the building was a potential harbour for pests.

In 2005, the audit cited dripping condensation over the boning and trim line that had been previously noted but for which no corrective action had been ordered. Thermometer calibration was also not being properly verified or recorded in log books.

The 2010 audit noted there had been two instances when contaminated ground beef from unidentified plants in Canada had ended up being caught during FSIS’s border inspections.

The agency concluded it has systemic concerns with the Canadian inspection system, including the fact CFIA was not consistently assigning federal inspectors to each shift at plants where product was produced. A review of Canadian inspector logs found a low number of documented non-compliances, which didn’t reflect what their counterparts found when American officials visited the plants.

© The Calgary Herald

Sarah Schmidt – Postmedia News

Oct. 25, 2012

OTTAWA—Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said Thursday that government inspectors could have been “more hard-nosed” when dealing with the plant responsible for Canada’s largest beef recall.

© Postmedia News
Dan Flynn – Food Safety News

Sept 20, 2012

Tuna-loving school kids are at risk for mercury poisoning, according to a new report sponsored by several public health, consumer and environmental groups.

“Most children are already consuming only modest amounts of tuna and are not at significant risk,” said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project (MPP). “So the focus really needs to be on kids who eat tuna often, to limit their mercury exposure by offering them lower-mercury seafood or other nutritious alternatives.”

In its report called “Tuna Surprise,” MPP’s first tests of canned tuna sold to schools assesses the exposure of children to mercury in canned tuna. Here’s what it concludes:

– School children should not eat albacore tuna. Albacore or “white” tuna, according to MMP, contains three times more mercury than light tuna. The report says there is no justification for tripling a child’s mercury dose.

– Children weighing less than 55 pounds should consume no more than one tuna meal per month. MMP says the less body weight requires an added margin of caution, especially appropriate for young children.

– Children weighing more than 55 pounds should limit their tuna intake to two servings per month. This amount is more than the average child currently consumes and the mercury dose it contains is an acceptably low risk.

– Tuna-loving children should be the “focus of risk management efforts” including taking steps to prevent children from daily consumption of tuna. Parents and schools should offer children other seafood choices, including shrimp and salmon. These choices are just as nutritious but with lower mercy levels.

– USDA should phase out the purchase of canned tuna and replace it with low mercury seafood alternatives.

– Parents should monitor the canned tuna consumption of their children to make sure their home and school consumption does not exceeded recommendations for exposure.

In the report, MPP tested the content of 59 samples representing eight brands of tuna sold to schools in 11 states.

“As far as we know, no one has previously tested this market sector,” said Bender.

Testing showed that mercury levels of tuna sold to schools were similar to those in tuna sold by supermarkets. Albacore or “white” tuna had the higher levels of mercury than “light” tuna. Mercury levels in both types were said to be highly variable.

Clinical methylmercury poisoning is rare in America, but the “Tuna Surprise” study said such cases do exist.

Mercury in tuna has been a concern for years, with the best health advice usually centering on limiting one’s intake. This new study, co-sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), focuses on some children that may be at greater risk than others.

“Fish, including tuna, is generally a nutritious part of a healthy diet,” says Sarah Klein, staff attorney for the food safety program at CSPI. “But especially for out littlest, most vulnerable children, we have to make sure the risks from mercury in tuna don’t outweigh tuna’s benefits. We’re urging parents and schools to limit children’s tuna consumption and, when they do serve it, to choose lower-mercury options.”

Eric Uram of Safe Minds, another sponsor, said light tuna contains one-third as much mercury as albacore or “white” tuna. And the Tuna Surprise report clearly focuses on canned tuna as the largest source of mercury in the American diet.

On the positive side of the debate, it said canned tuna is an inexpensive and nutritious source of low-fat protein. Americans eat twice as much canned tuna than any other kind of fish. One in every six seafood meals includes canned tuna.

“Kids who eat tuna frequently can easily get very high mercury doses,” said Ned Groth, an environmental health scientist. He analyzed for the report various scenarios in which children of different ages ate different amounts of tuna with different mercury levels.

“Some of the larger doses are clearly far too high to be acceptable,” Groth said.

Included in his study were levels from one quarter to more than 40 times the current federal levels for safe exposure.

A spokesman for the Physicians for Social Responsibility said, “It is a shame that such a great source of inexpensive protein is contaminated with mercury.” In the meantime, he said, reducing children’s exposure to tuna and controlling mercury pollution with fewer coal-fired power plants will be necessary.

Tainted beef alert delayed two weeks

U.S. inspectors noticed E. coli in samples from Alberta

Matt McClure – Calgary Herald

Sept. 25, 2012

CALGARY — Federal food safety bureaucrats waited nearly two weeks to issue a public health alert after learning that beef from an Alberta plant was contaminated with a potentially deadly bacteria.

Officials with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency revealed Monday they launched an in-depth review of the sanitation and controls at the XL Foods facility in Brooks only after their counterparts south of the border found two more contaminated samples of animal trimmings destined for ground beef.

The product was infected with E. coli 0157.

A senior executive with the Public Service Alliance of Canada and veteran meat inspector said the affected product should have been recalled within days of the initial positive tests.

“We’ve allowed potentially-contaminated product to get to the tables and into stomachs of people across this country, ” said Bob Jackson, PSAC’s executive vice-president in B.C.

“They should have taken action immediately when they had that positive result. Under the CFIA’s new regulations and procedures, those decisions are left to the company, but there was a time when a federally-appointed, independent inspector would have tagged that product and insisted it wasn’t going anywhere.”

In the week since the first health warning was announced on Sept. 16, CFIA has had to reissue alerts and expand the voluntary recall six more times to include 250 different products. It has been trying to track down and isolate potentially-contaminated product that has moved along the supply chain toward restaurant kitchens and consumer barbecues throughout Canada and parts of the United States.

No deaths have so far been linked to the contaminated meat, but Alberta’s health authority confirms it is looking at five cases of illness, including one in Calgary, that may be related.

The exact chronology of how the contaminated beef was detected is beginning to emerge.

However, CFIA officials were still unable to estimate Monday the volume of affected product, identify on what days it was produced, or say how much may have already reached grocery store shelves.

Garfield Balsom, a food safety and recall specialist with the agency, stressed the importance of acting swiftly to protect the public, and conceded the recall may have to be further expanded as new information comes forward about where the tainted meat ended up.

“It’s a very high priority for us to move as expeditiously as possible to determine the products that may have been affecting Canadians, especially in the marketplace,” Balsom said.

“It’s also important that we do a thorough effective investigation so we understand the scope and provide the appropriate detail so they can know exactly what they need to avoid.”

XL Foods executives did not agree to be interviewed for this story, but an executive with a large American food distributor confirmed on condition of anonymity that the company had told him the contaminated product did not test positive at the plant’s in-house laboratory after it was slaughtered and processed Aug. 27.

But a shipment that later crossed the border was sampled by inspectors from the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service on Sept. 3 and was found to be contaminated with the bacteria.

The tests results were passed on to CFIA the next day, the same day the Canadian agency said its own routine sampling found a positive result in product from the XL plant. While agency officials said they immediately began an investigation, no recall was issued based on Health Canada’s assessment that normal cooking would eliminate any risk to consumers.

On Sept. 12, FSIS notified Canadian officials of two more contaminated samples in product that had been intercepted at the border and tested.

That discovery prompted an in-depth review at the plant by CFIA that found the company had been deviating from the control and testing procedures it said it was following to prevent product from becoming contaminated or getting out of the plant.

“Trend analysis was not always conducted consistently at the facility,” CFIA said in an written statement.

“The company was unable to demonstrate that it regularly reviewed or made necessary updates to its control plan.”

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz was unavailable to comment Monday, but his press spokesman defended the agency’s oversight of XL Foods and the speed with which it has responded to the food scare.

“The CFIA’s testing and tracing is based on sound science, and this important work takes time,” Meagan Murdoch said in a e-mailed statement.

This is not the first time that American authorities have singled out the Brooks facility or wrapped the CFIA on the knuckles for its oversight of meat slaughter and processing facilities that export product to the United States.

A 2008 audit of what was then Lakeside Packers found knives used to check carcasses had blood and residue from the use the previous day, and scrap metal near the building was a potential harbour for pests.

In 2005, the audit cited dripping condensation over the boning and trim line that had been previously noted but for which no corrective action had been ordered. Thermometer calibration was also not being properly verified or recorded in log books.

The 2010 audit noted there had been two instances when contaminated ground beef from unidentified plants in Canada had ended up being caught during FSIS’s border inspections.

The agency concluded it has systemic concerns with the Canadian inspection system, including the fact CFIA was not consistently assigning federal inspectors to each shift at plants where product was produced. A review of Canadian inspector logs found a low number of documented non-compliances, which didn’t reflect what their counterparts found when American officials visited the plants.

© The Calgary Herald

Tainted beef alert delayed two weeks

U.S. inspectors noticed E. coli in samples from Alberta

Matt McClure – Calgary Herald

Sept. 25, 2012

CALGARY — Federal food safety bureaucrats waited nearly two weeks to issue a public health alert after learning that beef from an Alberta plant was contaminated with a potentially deadly bacteria.

Officials with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency revealed Monday they launched an in-depth review of the sanitation and controls at the XL Foods facility in Brooks only after their counterparts south of the border found two more contaminated samples of animal trimmings destined for ground beef.

The product was infected with E. coli 0157.

A senior executive with the Public Service Alliance of Canada and veteran meat inspector said the affected product should have been recalled within days of the initial positive tests.

“We’ve allowed potentially-contaminated product to get to the tables and into stomachs of people across this country, ” said Bob Jackson, PSAC’s executive vice-president in B.C.

“They should have taken action immediately when they had that positive result. Under the CFIA’s new regulations and procedures, those decisions are left to the company, but there was a time when a federally-appointed, independent inspector would have tagged that product and insisted it wasn’t going anywhere.”

In the week since the first health warning was announced on Sept. 16, CFIA has had to reissue alerts and expand the voluntary recall six more times to include 250 different products. It has been trying to track down and isolate potentially-contaminated product that has moved along the supply chain toward restaurant kitchens and consumer barbecues throughout Canada and parts of the United States.

No deaths have so far been linked to the contaminated meat, but Alberta’s health authority confirms it is looking at five cases of illness, including one in Calgary, that may be related.

The exact chronology of how the contaminated beef was detected is beginning to emerge.

However, CFIA officials were still unable to estimate Monday the volume of affected product, identify on what days it was produced, or say how much may have already reached grocery store shelves.

Garfield Balsom, a food safety and recall specialist with the agency, stressed the importance of acting swiftly to protect the public, and conceded the recall may have to be further expanded as new information comes forward about where the tainted meat ended up.

“It’s a very high priority for us to move as expeditiously as possible to determine the products that may have been affecting Canadians, especially in the marketplace,” Balsom said.

“It’s also important that we do a thorough effective investigation so we understand the scope and provide the appropriate detail so they can know exactly what they need to avoid.”

XL Foods executives did not agree to be interviewed for this story, but an executive with a large American food distributor confirmed on condition of anonymity that the company had told him the contaminated product did not test positive at the plant’s in-house laboratory after it was slaughtered and processed Aug. 27.

But a shipment that later crossed the border was sampled by inspectors from the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service on Sept. 3 and was found to be contaminated with the bacteria.

The tests results were passed on to CFIA the next day, the same day the Canadian agency said its own routine sampling found a positive result in product from the XL plant. While agency officials said they immediately began an investigation, no recall was issued based on Health Canada’s assessment that normal cooking would eliminate any risk to consumers.

On Sept. 12, FSIS notified Canadian officials of two more contaminated samples in product that had been intercepted at the border and tested.

That discovery prompted an in-depth review at the plant by CFIA that found the company had been deviating from the control and testing procedures it said it was following to prevent product from becoming contaminated or getting out of the plant.

“Trend analysis was not always conducted consistently at the facility,” CFIA said in an written statement.

“The company was unable to demonstrate that it regularly reviewed or made necessary updates to its control plan.”

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz was unavailable to comment Monday, but his press spokesman defended the agency’s oversight of XL Foods and the speed with which it has responded to the food scare.

“The CFIA’s testing and tracing is based on sound science, and this important work takes time,” Meagan Murdoch said in a e-mailed statement.

This is not the first time that American authorities have singled out the Brooks facility or wrapped the CFIA on the knuckles for its oversight of meat slaughter and processing facilities that export product to the United States.

A 2008 audit of what was then Lakeside Packers found knives used to check carcasses had blood and residue from the use the previous day, and scrap metal near the building was a potential harbour for pests.

In 2005, the audit cited dripping condensation over the boning and trim line that had been previously noted but for which no corrective action had been ordered. Thermometer calibration was also not being properly verified or recorded in log books.

The 2010 audit noted there had been two instances when contaminated ground beef from unidentified plants in Canada had ended up being caught during FSIS’s border inspections.

The agency concluded it has systemic concerns with the Canadian inspection system, including the fact CFIA was not consistently assigning federal inspectors to each shift at plants where product was produced. A review of Canadian inspector logs found a low number of documented non-compliances, which didn’t reflect what their counterparts found when American officials visited the plants.

© The Calgary Herald

Sarah Schmidt – Postmedia News

Oct. 25, 2012

OTTAWA—Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said Thursday that government inspectors could have been “more hard-nosed” when dealing with the plant responsible for Canada’s largest beef recall.

© Postmedia News
Sarah Schmidt – Postmedia News

Oct. 25, 2012

OTTAWA—Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said Thursday that government inspectors could have been “more hard-nosed” when dealing with the plant responsible for Canada’s largest beef recall.

© Postmedia News
Dan Flynn – Food Safety News

Sept 20, 2012

Tuna-loving school kids are at risk for mercury poisoning, according to a new report sponsored by several public health, consumer and environmental groups.

“Most children are already consuming only modest amounts of tuna and are not at significant risk,” said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project (MPP). “So the focus really needs to be on kids who eat tuna often, to limit their mercury exposure by offering them lower-mercury seafood or other nutritious alternatives.”

In its report called “Tuna Surprise,” MPP’s first tests of canned tuna sold to schools assesses the exposure of children to mercury in canned tuna. Here’s what it concludes:

– School children should not eat albacore tuna. Albacore or “white” tuna, according to MMP, contains three times more mercury than light tuna. The report says there is no justification for tripling a child’s mercury dose.

– Children weighing less than 55 pounds should consume no more than one tuna meal per month. MMP says the less body weight requires an added margin of caution, especially appropriate for young children.

– Children weighing more than 55 pounds should limit their tuna intake to two servings per month. This amount is more than the average child currently consumes and the mercury dose it contains is an acceptably low risk.

– Tuna-loving children should be the “focus of risk management efforts” including taking steps to prevent children from daily consumption of tuna. Parents and schools should offer children other seafood choices, including shrimp and salmon. These choices are just as nutritious but with lower mercy levels.

– USDA should phase out the purchase of canned tuna and replace it with low mercury seafood alternatives.

– Parents should monitor the canned tuna consumption of their children to make sure their home and school consumption does not exceeded recommendations for exposure.

In the report, MPP tested the content of 59 samples representing eight brands of tuna sold to schools in 11 states.

“As far as we know, no one has previously tested this market sector,” said Bender.

Testing showed that mercury levels of tuna sold to schools were similar to those in tuna sold by supermarkets. Albacore or “white” tuna had the higher levels of mercury than “light” tuna. Mercury levels in both types were said to be highly variable.

Clinical methylmercury poisoning is rare in America, but the “Tuna Surprise” study said such cases do exist.

Mercury in tuna has been a concern for years, with the best health advice usually centering on limiting one’s intake. This new study, co-sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), focuses on some children that may be at greater risk than others.

“Fish, including tuna, is generally a nutritious part of a healthy diet,” says Sarah Klein, staff attorney for the food safety program at CSPI. “But especially for out littlest, most vulnerable children, we have to make sure the risks from mercury in tuna don’t outweigh tuna’s benefits. We’re urging parents and schools to limit children’s tuna consumption and, when they do serve it, to choose lower-mercury options.”

Eric Uram of Safe Minds, another sponsor, said light tuna contains one-third as much mercury as albacore or “white” tuna. And the Tuna Surprise report clearly focuses on canned tuna as the largest source of mercury in the American diet.

On the positive side of the debate, it said canned tuna is an inexpensive and nutritious source of low-fat protein. Americans eat twice as much canned tuna than any other kind of fish. One in every six seafood meals includes canned tuna.

“Kids who eat tuna frequently can easily get very high mercury doses,” said Ned Groth, an environmental health scientist. He analyzed for the report various scenarios in which children of different ages ate different amounts of tuna with different mercury levels.

“Some of the larger doses are clearly far too high to be acceptable,” Groth said.

Included in his study were levels from one quarter to more than 40 times the current federal levels for safe exposure.

A spokesman for the Physicians for Social Responsibility said, “It is a shame that such a great source of inexpensive protein is contaminated with mercury.” In the meantime, he said, reducing children’s exposure to tuna and controlling mercury pollution with fewer coal-fired power plants will be necessary.

Tainted beef alert delayed two weeks

U.S. inspectors noticed E. coli in samples from Alberta

Matt McClure – Calgary Herald

Sept. 25, 2012

CALGARY — Federal food safety bureaucrats waited nearly two weeks to issue a public health alert after learning that beef from an Alberta plant was contaminated with a potentially deadly bacteria.

Officials with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency revealed Monday they launched an in-depth review of the sanitation and controls at the XL Foods facility in Brooks only after their counterparts south of the border found two more contaminated samples of animal trimmings destined for ground beef.

The product was infected with E. coli 0157.

A senior executive with the Public Service Alliance of Canada and veteran meat inspector said the affected product should have been recalled within days of the initial positive tests.

“We’ve allowed potentially-contaminated product to get to the tables and into stomachs of people across this country, ” said Bob Jackson, PSAC’s executive vice-president in B.C.

“They should have taken action immediately when they had that positive result. Under the CFIA’s new regulations and procedures, those decisions are left to the company, but there was a time when a federally-appointed, independent inspector would have tagged that product and insisted it wasn’t going anywhere.”

In the week since the first health warning was announced on Sept. 16, CFIA has had to reissue alerts and expand the voluntary recall six more times to include 250 different products. It has been trying to track down and isolate potentially-contaminated product that has moved along the supply chain toward restaurant kitchens and consumer barbecues throughout Canada and parts of the United States.

No deaths have so far been linked to the contaminated meat, but Alberta’s health authority confirms it is looking at five cases of illness, including one in Calgary, that may be related.

The exact chronology of how the contaminated beef was detected is beginning to emerge.

However, CFIA officials were still unable to estimate Monday the volume of affected product, identify on what days it was produced, or say how much may have already reached grocery store shelves.

Garfield Balsom, a food safety and recall specialist with the agency, stressed the importance of acting swiftly to protect the public, and conceded the recall may have to be further expanded as new information comes forward about where the tainted meat ended up.

“It’s a very high priority for us to move as expeditiously as possible to determine the products that may have been affecting Canadians, especially in the marketplace,” Balsom said.

“It’s also important that we do a thorough effective investigation so we understand the scope and provide the appropriate detail so they can know exactly what they need to avoid.”

XL Foods executives did not agree to be interviewed for this story, but an executive with a large American food distributor confirmed on condition of anonymity that the company had told him the contaminated product did not test positive at the plant’s in-house laboratory after it was slaughtered and processed Aug. 27.

But a shipment that later crossed the border was sampled by inspectors from the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service on Sept. 3 and was found to be contaminated with the bacteria.

The tests results were passed on to CFIA the next day, the same day the Canadian agency said its own routine sampling found a positive result in product from the XL plant. While agency officials said they immediately began an investigation, no recall was issued based on Health Canada’s assessment that normal cooking would eliminate any risk to consumers.

On Sept. 12, FSIS notified Canadian officials of two more contaminated samples in product that had been intercepted at the border and tested.

That discovery prompted an in-depth review at the plant by CFIA that found the company had been deviating from the control and testing procedures it said it was following to prevent product from becoming contaminated or getting out of the plant.

“Trend analysis was not always conducted consistently at the facility,” CFIA said in an written statement.

“The company was unable to demonstrate that it regularly reviewed or made necessary updates to its control plan.”

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz was unavailable to comment Monday, but his press spokesman defended the agency’s oversight of XL Foods and the speed with which it has responded to the food scare.

“The CFIA’s testing and tracing is based on sound science, and this important work takes time,” Meagan Murdoch said in a e-mailed statement.

This is not the first time that American authorities have singled out the Brooks facility or wrapped the CFIA on the knuckles for its oversight of meat slaughter and processing facilities that export product to the United States.

A 2008 audit of what was then Lakeside Packers found knives used to check carcasses had blood and residue from the use the previous day, and scrap metal near the building was a potential harbour for pests.

In 2005, the audit cited dripping condensation over the boning and trim line that had been previously noted but for which no corrective action had been ordered. Thermometer calibration was also not being properly verified or recorded in log books.

The 2010 audit noted there had been two instances when contaminated ground beef from unidentified plants in Canada had ended up being caught during FSIS’s border inspections.

The agency concluded it has systemic concerns with the Canadian inspection system, including the fact CFIA was not consistently assigning federal inspectors to each shift at plants where product was produced. A review of Canadian inspector logs found a low number of documented non-compliances, which didn’t reflect what their counterparts found when American officials visited the plants.

© The Calgary Herald

Tainted beef alert delayed two weeks

U.S. inspectors noticed E. coli in samples from Alberta

Matt McClure – Calgary Herald

Sept. 25, 2012

CALGARY — Federal food safety bureaucrats waited nearly two weeks to issue a public health alert after learning that beef from an Alberta plant was contaminated with a potentially deadly bacteria.

Officials with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency revealed Monday they launched an in-depth review of the sanitation and controls at the XL Foods facility in Brooks only after their counterparts south of the border found two more contaminated samples of animal trimmings destined for ground beef.

The product was infected with E. coli 0157.

A senior executive with the Public Service Alliance of Canada and veteran meat inspector said the affected product should have been recalled within days of the initial positive tests.

“We’ve allowed potentially-contaminated product to get to the tables and into stomachs of people across this country, ” said Bob Jackson, PSAC’s executive vice-president in B.C.

“They should have taken action immediately when they had that positive result. Under the CFIA’s new regulations and procedures, those decisions are left to the company, but there was a time when a federally-appointed, independent inspector would have tagged that product and insisted it wasn’t going anywhere.”

In the week since the first health warning was announced on Sept. 16, CFIA has had to reissue alerts and expand the voluntary recall six more times to include 250 different products. It has been trying to track down and isolate potentially-contaminated product that has moved along the supply chain toward restaurant kitchens and consumer barbecues throughout Canada and parts of the United States.

No deaths have so far been linked to the contaminated meat, but Alberta’s health authority confirms it is looking at five cases of illness, including one in Calgary, that may be related.

The exact chronology of how the contaminated beef was detected is beginning to emerge.

However, CFIA officials were still unable to estimate Monday the volume of affected product, identify on what days it was produced, or say how much may have already reached grocery store shelves.

Garfield Balsom, a food safety and recall specialist with the agency, stressed the importance of acting swiftly to protect the public, and conceded the recall may have to be further expanded as new information comes forward about where the tainted meat ended up.

“It’s a very high priority for us to move as expeditiously as possible to determine the products that may have been affecting Canadians, especially in the marketplace,” Balsom said.

“It’s also important that we do a thorough effective investigation so we understand the scope and provide the appropriate detail so they can know exactly what they need to avoid.”

XL Foods executives did not agree to be interviewed for this story, but an executive with a large American food distributor confirmed on condition of anonymity that the company had told him the contaminated product did not test positive at the plant’s in-house laboratory after it was slaughtered and processed Aug. 27.

But a shipment that later crossed the border was sampled by inspectors from the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service on Sept. 3 and was found to be contaminated with the bacteria.

The tests results were passed on to CFIA the next day, the same day the Canadian agency said its own routine sampling found a positive result in product from the XL plant. While agency officials said they immediately began an investigation, no recall was issued based on Health Canada’s assessment that normal cooking would eliminate any risk to consumers.

On Sept. 12, FSIS notified Canadian officials of two more contaminated samples in product that had been intercepted at the border and tested.

That discovery prompted an in-depth review at the plant by CFIA that found the company had been deviating from the control and testing procedures it said it was following to prevent product from becoming contaminated or getting out of the plant.

“Trend analysis was not always conducted consistently at the facility,” CFIA said in an written statement.

“The company was unable to demonstrate that it regularly reviewed or made necessary updates to its control plan.”

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz was unavailable to comment Monday, but his press spokesman defended the agency’s oversight of XL Foods and the speed with which it has responded to the food scare.

“The CFIA’s testing and tracing is based on sound science, and this important work takes time,” Meagan Murdoch said in a e-mailed statement.

This is not the first time that American authorities have singled out the Brooks facility or wrapped the CFIA on the knuckles for its oversight of meat slaughter and processing facilities that export product to the United States.

A 2008 audit of what was then Lakeside Packers found knives used to check carcasses had blood and residue from the use the previous day, and scrap metal near the building was a potential harbour for pests.

In 2005, the audit cited dripping condensation over the boning and trim line that had been previously noted but for which no corrective action had been ordered. Thermometer calibration was also not being properly verified or recorded in log books.

The 2010 audit noted there had been two instances when contaminated ground beef from unidentified plants in Canada had ended up being caught during FSIS’s border inspections.

The agency concluded it has systemic concerns with the Canadian inspection system, including the fact CFIA was not consistently assigning federal inspectors to each shift at plants where product was produced. A review of Canadian inspector logs found a low number of documented non-compliances, which didn’t reflect what their counterparts found when American officials visited the plants.

© The Calgary Herald

Sarah Schmidt – Postmedia News

Oct. 25, 2012

OTTAWA—Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said Thursday that government inspectors could have been “more hard-nosed” when dealing with the plant responsible for Canada’s largest beef recall.

© Postmedia News
Sarah Schmidt – Postmedia News

Oct. 25, 2012

OTTAWA—Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said Thursday that government inspectors could have been “more hard-nosed” when dealing with the plant responsible for Canada’s largest beef recall.

© Postmedia News

Public health officials reported 6, 800 cases of salmonella last year

Tracy Johnson – CBC News

Nov. 19, 2012

A CBC News examination of Canada’s food safety record over the last decade reveals mixed results.

A decade ago, nearly 1,200 cases of E.coli per year were reported by the provinces.

The number shrunk to 428 in 2011, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

But illnesses from salmonella are much higher in absolute terms.

Last year, public health officials reported 6,800 cases and 6,200 cases were reported in 2002.

Eight years later, the number jumped to 7,200, pointing to an upward trend.

Calgary father on dealing with E. coli

Robert Boschman’s daughter, Christie, was three years old when she got E. coli poisoning from eating cold cuts.

Boschman, an English professor at Mount Royal University, was out of town when he received a “hysterical” phone call from his then wife, Tracy.

Their daughter Christie was at the Alberta Children’s Hospital with acute bloody diarrhea.

When he arrived at the hospital, Christie was lying on a gurney as white as a ghost.

Luckily for Christie, the hospital was testing an experimental drug called Synsorb.

Doctors gave her the drug and within 24-hours she was feeling better.

Boschman credits the drug for bringing his daughter quickly back to health and avoiding the organ damage that happens when E. coli poisoning progresses to its most advanced stage.

“Within 24 hours, Christie was on the mend. We felt that we had just dodged a major bullet,” says Boschman.

However, almost immediately following that hospital visit, the Boschman’s were back after their other daughter Nina, also contracted E. coli poisoning.

“I watched Nina and by this time, I was experienced enough to do a little counting, so I counted how many times Nina went to the bathroom in the first 48 hours,” he told CBC News.

Report highlights extent of problem

Boschman’s daughters contracted E. coli poisoning in 1999 — the same year the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report on food borne illness that allowed North Americans to learn the scale of the food safety problem.

The study concluded that 76 million people got sick and 5,000 died each year in the U.S. from food pathogens, such as E. coli and salmonella.

Chris Bolton, who works for a Calgary lab that tests for food-borne pathogens in water, says Canada does not have a good reputation for accuracy when it comes to tracking E. coli.

“Canada has been chastised by the Center for Disease Control, and even by provincial health associations that they’re under, [for] reporting food-related illnesses. Unlike other industrialized nations, we’re very inept at tracking these cases,” said Bolton, the head of Benchmark Labs.

Experts also caution there are questions about how Canada reports food safety numbers.

The Canadian Medical Association suggests that only one in 200 cases of food-borne illness are actually reported.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency itself says 11 million Canadians get sick every year from food-borne diseases.

High number of E. coli cases in Canada

Even though Canada’s E. coli numbers have dropped, a working paper written by Dennis Curtis at the University of Guelph shows that Canada has the highest reported rate of E. coli cases amongst nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Over the past decade, Canada reported 3.54 E. coli cases per 100,000 people — more than twice the rate of the United States.

Canada’s high numbers are in part because of the Walkerton, Ont., E. coli outbreak in 2000.

But Sylvain Charlebois — one of the co-researchers on the Curtis working paper — cautions Canada’s numbers are high, despite the high-profile Ontario outbreak that killed seven people.

“If you take out Walkerton, you’re seeing a trend upwards of E. coli cases and it’s very difficult to explain right now why that is, so we need to further investigate,” says Charlebois.

Experts say one of Canada’s key problems is traceability — tracking food from farm to fork.

Canada regularly ranks near the bottom of the developed world in our ability to track food through the food chain.

Change to food safety system needed, says expert

Charlebois suggests a systemic change to Canada’s food safety system would help mitigate the problem.

Under the current regulatory system, Agriculture Canada oversees both the agriculture industry and food safety.

The minister of Agriculture is responsible for protecting both the agriculture industry and consumers.

Charlebois says there is an inherent conflict in that system.

“Sometimes these two mandates conflict with each other,” he told CBC News.

“Which is why some other Commonwealth countries, we have parliaments dissecting both roles, [create] an independent agency focusing solely on food safety issues.”

But Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says the new Safe Food for Canadians Act, which was adopted by the Senate in October, will give the CFIA more tools and resources to help keep Canadian food safe, like tougher penalties and better control over imports and exports.

Key tools include the enhanced ability for inspectors to demand food producers provide information in a timely and standardized manner and the authority to require traceability systems for food producers.

The government said these measures will help find products faster in recall situations so they can be removed from the shelves quicker and in a more comprehensive way.

© CBC
Pat Atkinson – The StarPhoenix

Oct.31, 2012

Canadians are questioning whether it is wise to have most of the cattle in the country slaughtered and processed at three huge plants.

With the exception of smaller provincial meat processors, most of the beef we consume comes from XL’s Food’s Lakeside plant in Brooks, Alta., whose management was taken over last week by JBS USA – a subsidiary of the world’s largest meat company, JBS S.A. of Brazil – and two Cargill plants, one in High River, Alta., and the other at Guelph, Ont.

The Brooks plant slaughters 4,500 head of cattle a day, employs 2,200 workers and processes about 35 per cent of the beef in the market. The Cargill plants process 6,000 head, employ close to 3,000 people and do about 55 per cent of Canada’s beef processing.

In the wake of the largest beef recall in Canadian history at XL, and decisions by successive federal governments to allow the meatpacking industry essentially to regulate itself with a diminished oversight role for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, several public policy issues must be addressed.

There is no question that the beef industry has undergone dramatic changes in the past two decades. Dozens of smaller meatpacking plants, such as XL’s Moose Jaw plant, have been closed while companies have received government money to expand their operations at consolidated facilities.

Increasingly, large feedlots supply cattle to the beef processors, with massive slaughter and processing plants located in smaller centres close to the feedlots. A large workforce of temporary foreign workers, refugees and immigrants provides the labour, performing physically demanding and repetitive work.

In former days, the meat-packing industry provided a decent wage. Now the work is done by immigrants who are paid lower wages, or worse, by temporary foreign workers who have no option but to return home if they don’t like the working conditions.

At the height of the mad cow crisis in 2003, Canadians rose to the occasion, with their vehicles sported “Eat Canadian Beef ” bumper stickers. Canadians ate their way out of the crisis and supported local cattle producers.

I’m not sure that will happen this time. It’s nine years later and consumers are becoming a force to be reckoned with. I suspect that, unless the industry dramatically changes from its current form, we will continue to see a decline in beef sales in Canada.

What needs to happen to regain the confidence of consumers, shaken by the largest beef recall in our history?

A compulsory national cattle vaccination program against E. coli could be a start. In the aftermath of the recent XL recall, Brett Findlay, a leading microbiologist from the University of British Columbia whose research team developed a vaccine, called on Ottawa to ensure that every cow in Canada is vaccinated. At a cost of $6 per animal, the vaccine could largely prevent cattle from shedding E. coli bacteria.

Instead of the federal government acting to support consolidation in the packing industry, it’s time to support smaller provincial plants. It is obvious that bigger isn’t always better in beef processing.

The last federal budget signalled that CFIA inspectors no longer will inspect packing plants under provincial jurisdiction. This is another case of the feds downloading to the provinces. Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz needs to stop these cuts.

The federal government should rethink its notion of having a few plants processing most of the beef Canada produces. Cattle operators in Saskatchewan have little choice but to ship to Alberta for processing practically every beef animal they produce.

As we have just witnessed, federally inspected plants have worrisome issues. Round-the-clock processing of 4,500 head of cattle, with workers who have little choice of where they work, is a disaster waiting to happen. Working quickly becomes imperative.

Speed may mean volume, but doesn’t necessarily mean quality. However, when it comes to food, the quality of the product has to be paramount.

While Ritz has told us that XL Foods had 40 CFIA inspectors and six veterinarians at Lakeside, obviously that wasn’t enough, given the volume of beef processed there. Inspectors need to be on site enforcing food safety rules, and the federal government must end self-regulation at such mega-plants.

Citizens are increasingly talking about where their food comes from and asking questions about issues such as fair trade, organic farming and how their food is produced and processed. In response, restaurants are buying locally grown food and many consumers are linking directly with farmers to get their vegetables, red meat and poultry.

Canadians are starting to eat with a conscience. It is time that the meat industry recognizes this reality.

© The StarPhoenix
Pat Atkinson – The StarPhoenix

Oct.31, 2012

Canadians are questioning whether it is wise to have most of the cattle in the country slaughtered and processed at three huge plants.

With the exception of smaller provincial meat processors, most of the beef we consume comes from XL’s Food’s Lakeside plant in Brooks, Alta., whose management was taken over last week by JBS USA – a subsidiary of the world’s largest meat company, JBS S.A. of Brazil – and two Cargill plants, one in High River, Alta., and the other at Guelph, Ont.

The Brooks plant slaughters 4,500 head of cattle a day, employs 2,200 workers and processes about 35 per cent of the beef in the market. The Cargill plants process 6,000 head, employ close to 3,000 people and do about 55 per cent of Canada’s beef processing.

In the wake of the largest beef recall in Canadian history at XL, and decisions by successive federal governments to allow the meatpacking industry essentially to regulate itself with a diminished oversight role for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, several public policy issues must be addressed.

There is no question that the beef industry has undergone dramatic changes in the past two decades. Dozens of smaller meatpacking plants, such as XL’s Moose Jaw plant, have been closed while companies have received government money to expand their operations at consolidated facilities.

Increasingly, large feedlots supply cattle to the beef processors, with massive slaughter and processing plants located in smaller centres close to the feedlots. A large workforce of temporary foreign workers, refugees and immigrants provides the labour, performing physically demanding and repetitive work.

In former days, the meat-packing industry provided a decent wage. Now the work is done by immigrants who are paid lower wages, or worse, by temporary foreign workers who have no option but to return home if they don’t like the working conditions.

At the height of the mad cow crisis in 2003, Canadians rose to the occasion, with their vehicles sported “Eat Canadian Beef ” bumper stickers. Canadians ate their way out of the crisis and supported local cattle producers.

I’m not sure that will happen this time. It’s nine years later and consumers are becoming a force to be reckoned with. I suspect that, unless the industry dramatically changes from its current form, we will continue to see a decline in beef sales in Canada.

What needs to happen to regain the confidence of consumers, shaken by the largest beef recall in our history?

A compulsory national cattle vaccination program against E. coli could be a start. In the aftermath of the recent XL recall, Brett Findlay, a leading microbiologist from the University of British Columbia whose research team developed a vaccine, called on Ottawa to ensure that every cow in Canada is vaccinated. At a cost of $6 per animal, the vaccine could largely prevent cattle from shedding E. coli bacteria.

Instead of the federal government acting to support consolidation in the packing industry, it’s time to support smaller provincial plants. It is obvious that bigger isn’t always better in beef processing.

The last federal budget signalled that CFIA inspectors no longer will inspect packing plants under provincial jurisdiction. This is another case of the feds downloading to the provinces. Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz needs to stop these cuts.

The federal government should rethink its notion of having a few plants processing most of the beef Canada produces. Cattle operators in Saskatchewan have little choice but to ship to Alberta for processing practically every beef animal they produce.

As we have just witnessed, federally inspected plants have worrisome issues. Round-the-clock processing of 4,500 head of cattle, with workers who have little choice of where they work, is a disaster waiting to happen. Working quickly becomes imperative.

Speed may mean volume, but doesn’t necessarily mean quality. However, when it comes to food, the quality of the product has to be paramount.

While Ritz has told us that XL Foods had 40 CFIA inspectors and six veterinarians at Lakeside, obviously that wasn’t enough, given the volume of beef processed there. Inspectors need to be on site enforcing food safety rules, and the federal government must end self-regulation at such mega-plants.

Citizens are increasingly talking about where their food comes from and asking questions about issues such as fair trade, organic farming and how their food is produced and processed. In response, restaurants are buying locally grown food and many consumers are linking directly with farmers to get their vegetables, red meat and poultry.

Canadians are starting to eat with a conscience. It is time that the meat industry recognizes this reality.

© The StarPhoenix
Ottawa (September 26, 2012) – United States authorities closed the border to products from the E. coli 0157:H7-tainted XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alberta days before Canadian consumers were advised and a product recall was launched in Canada.

According to a bulletin from the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, the XL Foods plant was “de-listed” on September 13th, four days before the potentially tainted beef trim and associated products were recalled in Canada.  “De-listing” means that the company is forbidden from shipping its products to US markets.

“This is more evidence that too much authority has been handed off to the industry to self-police that has resulted in this unacceptable delay,” says Fabian Murphy First National Vice President, of the Agriculture Union – PSAC.

Although the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has the authority to force a product recall this power is rarely used in favour of persuading companies to “voluntarily” recall hazardous product, a process that takes too long.

Microbiological testing of a shipment of XL product destined for the United States by US inspectors at the Sweetgrass, Montana inspection station originally uncovered a positive test result for the E. coli bacteria.

The Canadian and US federal government are currently negotiating the elimination of the border inspection program that uncovered the problem.  The “Beyond the Border” initiative would allow certain Canadian meat processors to leapfrog traditional border inspection.  The program is at the pilot phase right now.

“XL Foods is a perfect example of why we need to keep and strengthen food inspection at the border, not eliminate it.  Ottawa should cancel the pilot project and back away from this dangerous idea,” Fabian Murphy said.

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For information: John Chenery 416-532-8218