Your Guide to Reading Between the Tines

Archive for the 'Food Safety' Category

Food News of the Weird

Just for your reading pleasure, here’s some tidbits I unearthed recently about food, industry, and the places they intersect.  In no particular order:

1) Six German states banned Red Bull Cola after the food safety agency in North Rhine-Westphalia (LIGA) found trace amounts of cocaine in the brew.  Austria-based Red Bull claims that no such traces were found in their internal tests, but that if those Rhinelanders thought they found something, well, it was certainly just due to Red Bull’s participation in the common industry practice of including decocainised coca leaf extract to give it that little sumpin’ sumpin’.  Decocainised coca leaf.  Like decaf tea leaves, but with cocaine.  Meanwhile, Coca-Cola has refused to comment on whether it still uses coca leaves in its famous beverage.  Food industry execs, predictably, are trying to quash the concern before it grows.  My favorite quote, from the Time article, is this: “If you start examining lots of other drinks and food so carefully, you’d find a lot of surprising things.”

Read more


Dadgum It. Pistachios Are the New Peanuts.

Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella, Inc. (California), has just issued a voluntary recall of some one million pounds of pistachio products after a routine test came up positive for salmonella.  Once again, the Unicyclist and I are in the thick of it, having a package of pistachios from Trader Joe’s in the cupboard.  No word yet on whether TJ’s pistachios are squeaky clean or questionable, but we’ll be waiting before eating any more.  We’ll have plenty of time to stay updated on the breaking news, since we’ll just be standing around, beating our heads against the wall in utter disbelief that this is happening again, already.  Find the updated recall list here.

I’m starting to feel like this blog could keep trucking just covering food-borne illnesses.

Does that make anyone else want to cry?


Peanut Butter Giant Files for Bankruptcy

I’ve been avoiding updating you all on the peanut butter situation for two reasons.  One, I’m sure most of you know what’s going on already.  And two, it’s pretty doggone depressing.  I do so like it when this blog is a happy, salmonella-free place where everyone takes responsibility for their own actions.  Dredging up the latest muck from the headlines on peanut butter sort of takes the happy-go-lucky out of me.  Wherefore, you ask?

Well, if the 2100 items currently on the FDA’s recall list weren’t reason enough, don’t worry—I have more for you to chew on.

Remember when I wrote about how the Peanut Corporation of America was shipping products from its Georgia plant which had tested positive for salmonella after additional testing for salmonella came up negative?  Remember when I mentioned how suspicious that seemed to me, how convenient it was that, time after time, it tested positive, then tested negative and was shipped?

Well, it was suspicious.  It turns out that PCA was shipping it even before those second tests came back in.  Apparently they must have been reeeeeal confident it was a “mistake.”  Of course, knowingly shipping a contaminated product is less an example of unsinkable optimism and more an example of a criminal offense, but who am I to nitpick?

Read more


Peanut Butter Gets Uglier

Current stats:  501 reported illnesses and 8 deaths attributed to this outbreak

On Wednesday on up at the capital, senior state and congressional officials called foul on the Peanut Corporation of America, the manufacturer responsible for the recent salmonella debacle.  Specifically, they charge that the PCA knowingly shipped peanut butter contaminated with salmonella multiple times throughout 2007 and 2008.  You can read the FDA report on-line to get all the gritty details about the contaminations, as well as unacceptable plant conditions, but let me hit some highlights for you.

First up is the charge that PCA knowingly shipped products contaminated with salmonella.  Reading over the report, you’ll find one dozen instances from June 2007 through the end of September 2008 where one strain or another of salmonella was discovered.  Troublingly, the write-ups read almost identically: Peanut product manufactured on x date under batch z tested positive for salmonella by a private laboratory.  After the firm retested the product and received a negative status, the product was shipped in interstate commerce.

Read more


More on the Peanut Butter Recalls

The saga continues.

As of yesterday, the FDA was reporting just over 500 cases of salmonella, and its recall list has become epic.  Plenty of snack crackers, ice creams, and cookies are on the list, but so are a bunch of what most consumers imagine are “healthy” snacks, including Lära Bars, Clif Bars, Carob Energee nuggets at Whole Foods, Health Valley brand granola bars, and more.  Salmonella is an equal opportunity offender.  This lesson is an important one to learn.

Read more


On the Peanut Butter Recalls

For anyone who hasn’t heard, peanut butter is the latest regrettable star in ongoing food safety issues.  The recall was issued January 13, but the initial statement claimed that, “None of the peanut butter being recalled is sold directly to consumers through retail stores.”  This was industrial peanut butter, sold in containers ranging from 5 pounds to 50 pounds to hospitals, prisons, nursing homes, and the like.  Even so, 470 people have gotten sick and six have died in this debacle.

And now, there’s a new problem.

Apparently, some of this peanut butter was sold to other processed food manufacturers.  Unsurprisingly, some peanut butter snack crackers and packaged cookies testing positive for salmonella have been traced back to this same institutional peanut butter.  In addition to the concerns for humans, there is also cause for concern if you have four-legged family members.  PetSmart is pulling some peanut butter flavored dog biscuits from its stores.  Store managers are pulling a variety of peanut butter products off the shelves until more information emerges, and consumers are now being counseled to avoid peanut butter based products of all kinds…except the standard jars of peanut butter, which are believed to be safe.

To my chagrin, Clif Bar has also instituted a voluntary recall on a variety of its peanut butter flavors.  I checked my cupboards this morning.  I had a bar included in the recall.  Now I’m sitting here, typing this post, looking at this cheerfully-colored package of “Peanut Toffee Buzz,” and feeling frustrated, hoodwinked, and a wee little bit stupid.

Read more