The FBI is taking a bigger interest in U.S. food safety, focusing specifically on intentional contamination and spending more resources on tracking incidents, FBI Supervisory Special Agent Thomas Rosato said during a briefing held by the University of Minnesota’s National Center for Food Protection and Defense.
While the FDA and other agencies focus on incidents of foodborne illnesses from produce or other products, the FBI steps in when when a person or organization tampers with the food supply, for reasons ranging from terrorism to economic motives.
“It starts with an understanding that we are in a fight,” Rosato said. “There are people who would try to harm and terrorize through the food system.”
The FBI has a food defense mission and can assign thousands of agents for a “surge” in the event of a major threat to the food supply. A response would be national and yet also run out of FBI field offices, using the agency’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces, Hazardous Evidence Response Teams and agents specializing in intelligence analysis. (read more…)
Time is running out to comment on the 2010 Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Safety and Preventive Control rules and advocates for farmers markets and sustainable agriculture are urging the public to weigh in on what they say are regulations that could make it more difficult and more expensive for small farmers to do business.
“The rules are based on assumptions of farming that are not necessarily accurate,” Jen O’Brien of the Farmers Market Coalition said during a webcast held to explain grower issues and generate public comments before the Nov. 15 deadline.
O’Brien said some definitions in the rules are unclear and parts conflict with mandates of the FSMA, which covers standards of production and food safety issues.
A big issue is how the FDA determines what constitutes a farm and what makes up a facility, definitions that govern which regulations that must be followed. Farm advocates also are concerned whether the regulations are scaled to appropriate risk for small farmers and larger growers and facilities. (read more…)
In the session titled “Exploring Emerging Technology with Industry Innovators” at PMA’s Fresh Summit this year in New Orleans, Dr. Bob Whitaker started the session fittingly by telling people not to turn their cell phones off and gave a code to make votes on questions he posed throughout the session, which showed in real time.
Like a focus group, the audience was presented with specific new technologies and was asked what they thought of them.
“When it comes to applying new technologies and ideas in the produce industry, staying ahead of competition may feel like a constant battle,” Dr. Whitaker said. “Some companies use technology to generate higher volume, others use it to have more consistent product quality. And still, other companies are looking to apply technology in new ways every day.”
Five companies, representing new technologies in food safety, traceability and biotechnology, presented their innovations, and the panel, which included Dr. (read more…)
Even though National Food Safety Month is coming to a close, it’s important to remember that food safety is critical during every month of the year, at every stage of foodservice operations. Traceability along the supply chain is essential to food safety, and barcodes and other technology are making it easier than ever for suppliers and restaurants to communicate.
The Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative was launched in 2009 by 55 founding foodservice companies, the National Restaurant Association and others to drive waste out of the supply chain, enhance food product information for restaurant buyers, and lay the foundation for traceability and food safety. The goal of the Initiative is for 75% of the industry (measured by revenue) to adopt GS1 Standards for product/location identification and data sharing by 2015.
I interviewed Scott DeFife, executive vice president of policy and government affairs for the National Restaurant Association, about why NRA joined the initiative and how it and other programs can affect traceability and food safety. (read more…)
After years of food-makers, restaurateurs and consumers struggling with unclear definitions and making due with inconsistent labeling, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month issued an official definition of what constitutes a “gluten-free” food. I interviewed Anita Jones-Mueller, president and founder of Healthy Dining Finder, on what the new rules mean for restaurants and how they can offer healthy, safe food for gluten-free diners.
Under the FDA’s new requirements, items voluntarily labeled as “gluten free” must contain fewer than 20 parts per million of gluten. Does that standard apply to the restaurant industry?
Yes, the final rules released by the Food and Drug Administration on August 5, 2013 state that by August 5, 2014, any use of the term “gluten-free” or similar claims made in restaurants and other retail food service establishments will need to meet the new ruling that defines the standards for “gluten-free.”
The FDA ruling states that using the term is voluntary, but if the term “gluten-free” or similar terms, such as “free of gluten,” “no gluten,” or “without gluten” are used, then they must meet four criteria, primarily that the item does not contain 20 or more parts per million of gluten. (read more…)