Shane Commentary


USDA Overrules NOSB Ruling on Carrageenan

04/08/2018

According to the April 4th edition of the Federal Register, carrageenan will remain on the list of additives permitted in food products certified under the USDA organic program.

Carrageenan is extracted from seaweed and is a non-synthetic stabilizer added to products containing oils.

The National Organic Standards Board ruled 10 to 3 to remove carrageenan from then National List. There was no scientific justification for the exclusion and the NOSB maintained that xanthan gum was a suitable substitute. This contention was opposed in public comment which confirmed that carrageenan, a natural product cannot be effectively replaced by gums based on changes in texture, taste or other attributes.

 In commenting on the reversal of the NOSB, Michiel Van Genugten, manager of Seaweed Extracts and Colors owned by DuPont Nutrition and Health stated “We commend the USDA for taking seriously its responsibility to review the NOSB recommendation and make a decision based on facts and science.” He added “This decision will allow organic food producers to continue to use a safe, versatile ingredient.”

Predictably, Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports opposed the decision stating “The USDA decision to ignore the NOSB recommendation raises serious concerns about the future of the organic label.” During the past decade this organization has promoted “healthful and natural” to the exclusion of reasonable evaluation. The tone of public comments and articles is progressively opposed to intensive livestock production and packaged foods. Consumer Reports performed a more valuable service when it rated toasters and lawnmowers!


 

FDA Cites Juice Plant-How Many Like This One are out There?

03/30/2018

The FDA has cited A.C. Calderoni and Company located in Brisbane, CA for deviations from standard procedures regulated under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

The FDA determined that juices produced by the plant were adulterated in that they were packed and held under insanitary conditions, potentially injurious to health. The warning letter cited the absence of an effective HACCP plan which failed to identify hazards including Listeria contamination. The plant failed to monitor conditions and practices with adequate frequency, neglected to maintain cleanliness of food contact surfaces, failure to label and store toxic chemicals or maintain records of the health of employees, water safety testing, or pest control. The plant apparently cleaned equipment only monthly.

It is incredulous that a plant in the U.S. operated with gross disregard of public health and failure to conform to established standards in the food industry. What is of concern is the fact that the deficiencies were disclosed on a routine plant inspection. Given the resources of the FDA and infrequent visits, it is questioned how many plants are flying under the Agency radar, functioning with imperfect HACCP plans representing a hazard to public health.

It is also questioned why the FDA is spending time and effort in inspecting egg production farms which have demonstrated conformity to the Final Rule on Salmonella Prevention. With limited resources the FDA appears to ignore gross defects in food plants both in the U.S. and in nations that supply fruit, seafood, produce and meat products which are more frequently associated with foodborne infection than U.S. origin eggs.


 

What is Motivating McDonald’s Push for Sustainability?

03/30/2018

McDonald’s has formed a Chicken Sustainability Advisory Council comprising suppliers, geneticists and academics The intent is for the Council to advise the company on sourcing chickens humanely but also ensuring sustainability.

 

Commentators have suggested that the motive is to attract Generation Z.  This 20 to 25-year old demographic is apparently environmentally conscious, rejects antibiotics and possibly GMOs in production and objects to wastage of resources and energy.  Attitudes expressed by Generation Z is influencing McDonald’s with regards to packaging, eliminating foam, and moving towards sourcing antibiotic-free poultry and pork.

 

McDonald’s is obviously aware of the draw by competitors including Chipotle Mexican Grill and Panera Bread and their clones who have created an image of environmental consciousness which appeals to Generation Z representing 25 percent of the U.S. population.

 

By preemptively eliminating attributes regarded as undesirable by their customers, McDonald’s hope to elevate the Company image among the QSRs which have yet to act on antibiotics or have no fully designated positions on welfare and the environment.


 

Poultry Industry Does Not Get Sufficient Credit for Training and Philanthropy

03/15/2018

USA Today published an announcement by Home Depot on March 9 that their eponymous Foundation in conjunction with the Home Builders Institute will spend $50 million over the next ten years to train 20,000 workers in construction skills.

 

For decades, the USPOULTRY Foundation has solicited and managed donations from the poultry industry to be channeled in to training programs, university recruitment and research grants which directly support graduate students.

 

Consumers are generally unaware of the generosity and philanthropy of the industry including donations to food banks.  While it is generally preferable to hide ones light under a bushel, there are obvious advantages in terms of goodwill to publicize through the mainstream and social media the contributions made by the producers and processors of eggs, broilers and turkeys.

 

Perhaps it would also be advantageous for the USPOULTRY Foundation to set aside funds for structured apprenticeship programs for training in necessary skills including refrigeration, transport, power reticulation and electrical maintenance to strengthen the artisanal level of our industry.


 

Contamination of Organic Health Food Protein Supplements

03/05/2018

The non-profit Clean Label Project based in Denver recently released results of a 2018 study on contamination of protein powders used as nutritional supplements by body builders. A total of 134 brands were tested and 40 percent were found to have detectable levels of heavy metals including lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic.

The study examined both generic and certified organic supplements. It was found that the organic products were twice as likely to reveal lead contamination as generic protein powders. In addition, 75 percent of the organic powders assayed had measurable levels of lead values approximately twice those recorded in conventional protein powders. Other heavy metals including mercury, cadmium and arsenic were present in the organic products at levels above established safety guidelines.

An important comparison was that egg-derived protein supplements were devoid of either heavy metal or BPA, an endocrine disrupter. This is consistent with the reality that even if feed ingredients fed to hens contain heavy metals in low quantities, there is limited transfer to eggs.

The study clearly demonstrates a contention expressed previously by EGG-NEWS and CHICK-NEWS that the USDA Certified Organic Seal only indicates conformity to a set of regulations and has no bearing on either food safety or microbial status.

If the National Organic Program wishes to advance the image of their Seal, it will be necessary to institute a structured program of assays to ensure compliance. A review of paperwork and records, especially in the case of imported ingredients and products is totally inadequate. Although field audits of farms are performed, a valid program of certification requires laboratory confirmation. The major distributor of a nationally branded specialty egg conducts in the region of 50,000 individual assays annually to confirm adherence to standards of quality, purity and freedom from pathogens.


 

India Requires Antibiotic Rehab

03/04/2018

A recent European poultry publication highlighted the extensive misuse of antibiotics in India.  This nation already has a problem of drug-resistant human pathogens including multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, gonorrhea and staphyloccosis, mainly due to inappropriate training of medical practitioners as well as free access to drugs some of which are of questionable potency.

In the livestock sector antibiotics are used routinely to compensate for deficiencies in biosecurity, vaccination and appropriate management.

 

Investigations carried out by the World Health Organization documented the extensive use of colistin (polymyxin E) in India. Uncontrolled and extensive administration of this drug to poultry flocks and swine herds in China has resulted in the emergence of the mcr-1gene which enables pathogens to resist a number of antibiotics of human health significance.  Colistin is regarded as an antibiotic of last resort in human medicine to treat infections caused by Gram-negative bacteria.

 

What is significant is the fact that in India the drug is distributed by the VH Group (Venky’s) a franchisee of a multinational primary breeder and a manufacturer of biologics and pharmaceuticals.  The fact that a leading and presumably ethical veterinary company is involved in chasing rupees by selling antibiotics indiscriminately is a reflection on the ethics of management and characterizes the low concern by CEO Anuradha Desai for public health.

 

It was an incidental observation that at the 2018 IPPE, many of the exhibitors from China listed colistin as available products.  One company even offered fipronil!

 

If India aspires to be an exporter of eggs and poultry meat it will have to curb antibiotic use and adopt alternatives which include sound management practices, improved housing, biosecurity and immunization.  It would appear that the domestic industry continues to rely on antibiotics but more recently the inclusion of botanicals and pixie dust in the face of avian influenza, mycoplasmosis and combinations of viral respiratory infections.


 

AEB Promotes Exports at Gulfood 2018

02/25/2018

During the third week of February 2018, the AEB participated in the Gulfood 2018 Exhibition in Dubai.  This prestigious event attracts upwards of 90,000 visitors from countries in the Gulf region and central Asia creating business opportunities and promoting trade contacts.

 

The AEB points to the increase in exports to the UAE in 2017 compared to the previously year.  USDA-FAS statistics show that exports of shell eggs increased from 7.3 million dozen to 13.1 million dozen with an increase in value of $6.1 to $10.0 million.  The volume and value data obscure the fact that unit value for exports dropped from 83 cents per dozen in 2016 to 76 cents per dozen in 2017.  By comparison, Hong Kong which imported 37.8 million dozen in 2017, representing approximately three times the volume shipped to the UAE purchased eggs at 94 per dozen.

 

The large increase in exports to the UAE in 2017 compared to the previous year has less to do with promotion than it did with restrictions imposed by authorities in the Emirates.  Firstly the fipronil scandal disqualified exporters in western European nations that traditionally supply the Gulf region, forcing buyers to turn to U.S. and other nations.

 

The second factor was the embargo placed on Saudi Arabia ostensibly due to HPAI. This nation which has an excess of egg production relative to domestic consumption has enjoyed long-term duty-free, cross-border exports to Gulf neighbors. Although disease was advanced as the major reason for the embargo, it cannot be justified on the basis of science or even OIE or WTO rules.  Avian influenza is endemic in the entire Gulf region.  There is a measure of political and trade animosity between Saudi Arabia and a number of its neighbor including the UAE which imposed protective restrictions. 

 

Exporters in the U.S. benefited from both fipronil contamination and HPAI in the nations which traditionally supply the region.  It is however questioned whether the factors leading to an increase in exports in 2017 will carry over into 2018 and years beyond.  Exports to the UAE in 2017 represent the combined constant production of 530,000 hens or 0.3 percent of the population of U.S. hens dedicated to producing shell eggs.

 

The figures and commentary presented above are not intended to reflect negatively on the activities of the AEB in promoting exports since every contribution to consumption is beneficial to the industry. EGG-NEWS simply wish to place volume and value figures in perspective.

 

Anne L. Alonzo, president and CEO of the AEB stated, “we are proactively supporting our egg producers in their quest to build demand and develop new markets outside U.S. borders where opportunities for growth exist.”  She added, “the Middle East is a key market for us and our increased participation in Gulfood 2018 evidences our interest.”

 

The AEB in collaboration with USAPEEC are to be commended on their continued commitment to enhancing exports.


 

Are We Descending Into Tit-for-Tat Diplomacy on Trade

02/18/2018

Following imposition of dumping duties by the U.S. on solar panels and washing machines from China, the nation has initiated an investigation into U.S. export of sorghum which they claim is subsidized and dumped onto their market. The volume of sorghum exported to China in 2017 attained 4.8 million tons.

 

Tim Lust, CEO of the National Sorghum Producers Association stated, “U.S. sorghum farmers do no dump our products into China or elsewhere and our products are not unfairly subsidized.  Fair proceedings will demonstrate these facts.”

 

It is evident that if the U.S. protects specific segments of an industry including steel fabrication, China and other trading partners will retaliate.  Even if it is subsequently disclosed that there was no unfair subsidy of a product or commodity, disruption in exports may be prolonged over years given the legal and administrative systems in China and appeal procedures administered by the WTO.


 

Home Delivery an Essential Contributor to Growth or a Passing Fad?

02/18/2018

Spurred by the acquisition of Whole Foods Market by Amazon and the power of Amazon Prime has generating buzz among analysts and commentators.  Prime Now has introduced home delivery within two hours from Whole Foods Market locations in four urban centers with the intention of expanding the program to most of the Whole Foods Market chain during 2018.  John Mackey co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market stated, “We are happy to bring our customers the convenience of two-hour delivery through Prime Now accessing thousands of natural and organic groceries and locally-sourced favorites.”  He may not be aware but Amazon has restructured purchasing and Whole Foods Market is functioning with more centralized purchasing and order-to-shelf stocking disfavoring “local” in favor of margin.  However, it was never intended that John would really stay in the loop or have much say in the company since Amazon purchased Whole Foods Market and not the other way round.

 

Home delivery is being introduced by competing chains. If they are successful in their specific regions this will seriously undermine the initial advantage offered by Amazon Prime Now.  Clearly the demographic loyal to Whole Foods Market will continue to source their requirements especially in high density urban areas from Whole Foods Market. During the past five years, clones such as Sprouts have eroded the Whole Foods Market primacy in the organic and natural space.  In addition major supermarket chains have introduced their own organic and natural brands and have begun selling the concept of “local”. This is evidenced by Kroger soliciting supplies from small-scale and local producers terminated by Whole Foods Market.

 

Click and collect may well be a less expensive alternative to home delivery especially in suburban areas which are well served by the major chains including Safeway, Kroger and the upscale private chains including Wegmans and H-E-B, all of which have strong local support.


 

GUEST COMMENTARY

02/01/2018

Anne Alonzo is the president and CEO of the American Egg Board. Since her appointment in 2016 she has strengthened the management team, initiated numerous programs to increase domestic consumption and exports and focused activities of the Egg Nutrition Center towards promoting the benefits of eggs in our diets.

Growing America’s Agricultural Exports, One Egg at a Time 

By Anne L. Alonzo

A rising star in the U.S. agricultural exports success story is none other than the simple, nutritious egg. 

Traditionally, U.S. egg producers have only exported a modest percentage of their output. But that trend is changing rapidly as the global appetite for U.S. grows and American egg farmers seek to expand their markets.

In 2016, total U.S. egg exports (including table eggs and egg products) were valued at roughly $202 million, and projected to grow by about 21 percent in 2017.  Exports in 2018 are predicted to grow about 20 percent with the largest increases occurring in South Korea and Japan, countries we traditionally think of as selling goods to the U.S. 

The future looks even more promising. In fact, currently 27 countries consume 250 or more eggs per person annually, including Mexico, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Mexico. Countries in the Middle East and the Caribbean also show a fast-growing appetite for eggs.

Why U.S. eggs? U.S. eggs and egg products are subject to the highest standards of safety and quality and are monitored by multiple U.S. government agencies. In the case of U.S. table eggs, they are washed, sanitized, packaged and shipped within hours of laying. Similarly, U.S. egg products are pasteurized and refrigerated across their supply chain ensuring they maintain their quality and safety throughout their shell life. Consumers in other countries are increasingly discovering a safe, nutritious, and versatile food and ingredient. 

U.S. eggs also have passionate promoters. Two years ago, the American Egg Board (AEB), the generic marketing arm for the U.S. egg industry, and the USA Poultry & Egg Council (USAPEEC), its export marketing partner, joined forces and devised a proactive and strategic market development program to help U.S. egg producers export their eggs. 

Since identifying egg exports as a strategic priority, the American Egg Board has been especially busy reaching out to foreign markets. For starters, we identified key geographic areas including Hong Kong, South Korea, Mexico, Japan, the Caribbean and the Middle East for export efforts. Next, we were part of egg trade missions as well as a reverse trade mission involving the countries of Mexico, Cuba and the Caribbean.  

South Korea was key, entailing our supplying the majority of their needs during a Lunar Holiday. We also traveled to South Korea to meet with bakery companies and conducted in-country egg product demonstrations.  At the same time, we invited Korean experts to visit our U.S. egg farms.

As to the Middle East, we support and have expanded our participation in Dubai’s Gulfoods Show, the largest food trade event in the world. We finished off 2017 strong, with a master chef egg demonstration in Mexico City as well as hosting an Egg Export Seminar at AEB’s Chicago headquarters where U.S. egg farmers were able to dive deeper in to learning how to drive even greater egg export demand. 

These activities helped drive strong growth of egg exports to the world in 2017.  For egg products, January through November 2017 figures show more than a 62% increase in volume and 54% increase in value compared to the previous year.  Meanwhile, table eggs were up 1.5% in volume and close to 2% in value.

Recently, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue noted that “Agriculture’s trade surplus is expected to grow eight percent, from $21.3 billion last year to $23 billion in 2018.” Agriculture remains an important pillar of rural America, directly providing 43,000 jobs and supporting hundreds of thousands more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the median income for these positions is $62,920 — a considerable amount where the cost of living is modest.

Through 2018 and beyond, the AEB will be doing all it can to continue its contribution to U.S. economic growth and to expanding agricultural exports … one egg at a time.   

(AA 229-18 February 1st 2018)

 


 

Panera Bread Attempting to Disparage Competitors’ Egg Sandwiches

01/26/2018

In a fairly typical Panera Bread “we are holy than everyone else” approach to marketing, the Company is promoting a new range of egg sandwiches in part by disparaging their competition.

The company claims that their sandwiches will feature “100 % real eggs” without any additives including coloring agents, preservatives or flavors.  The “real eggs” range will include eggs, egg whites and added spinach and avocado. The spices included in the recipes ironically will contain additives, preservatives and flavoring agents, albeit in small quantities.

To support the promotional campaign Panera has asked the Food and Drug Administration to “define an egg”.  Given the speed at which the FDA operates and the possible complications as to what the Agency considers an “egg” Panera had better not hold their breath. The Agency has better things to do than initiate a Talmudic “chicken-and-the egg discourse or to become embroiled in Panera’s deviation from common sense.

Sara Burnett, Director of Wellness and Food Policy stated, “Panera and our competitors use the FDA definitions to guide our product descriptions and names.”  She added, “In the case of eggs, we have no guidance. Brands can say they offer an egg sandwich, but sell an egg product that contains multiple additives.”

Folded eggs included in QSR breakfast sandwiches may contain gums or stabilizers which are approved by the FDA but in no way lower the quality or safety of products but may in fact contribute to preservation of natural flavors and other organoleptic attributes.

The contention that Panera Bread is going to serve either a more nutritious or safer egg product than its competitors is fallacious hype and misinformation of Chipotlian proportions.  Marketing campaigns based on false claims frequently rebound to the detriment of the promoter.

 

(SMS 192-18 January 26th 2018)


 

Drafting “Ag-Gag” Laws that Courts May Uphold

01/21/2018

Tiffany Dowell writing in the Texas Agricultural Law Circular reviewed the legality of “Ag Gag” laws. In 2014 the Idaho legislature passed the Interference with Agricultural Production Act.  This law contained five sections:-

 

  • Entering an agriculture production facility by force, threat, misrepresentation or trespass
     
  • Obtaining records of a facility by force, threat, misrepresentation or trespass
     
  • Obtaining employment by applying force, threat, or misrepresentation with intent to cause economic injury
     
  • Entering a facility not open to the public and making video and audio recordings without consent
     
  • Intentionally causing physical damage or injury to a facility
     
    The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed suit against the Attorney General of Idaho, claiming that the “Ag-Gag” Law violated both the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.  The trial court grant summary judgement ruling that the first four sections violated the First Amendment in addition to the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  The State of Idaho appealed the lower court decision to the Ninth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals.
     
    Whether misrepresentations are protected under the First Amendment hinges on whether false speech is intended for material gain or causes harm.  The court considered that misrepresentation to enter an agriculture production facility would be protected since the provision in the Act was overly broad and did not relate to a compelling government interest.  The court considered that laws relating to trespass prohibiting unauthorized entry onto property would protect owners of farms from intrusion.  The court also considered that the intent of the Idaho Ag-Gag Law was less to protect agricultural operations from intrusion but to prohibit undercover journalism.
     
    The Court upheld the provision relating to application of misrepresentation to obtain records.  Since records are property, using false statements to obtain data would not be protected by either the First or the Fourteenth Amendments.  The court held that misrepresentation to obtain employment and to cause harm would not be protected under either the First or the Fourteenth Amendments with regard to prohibition on recordings. The 9th Circuit found that the law was excessively broad in an attempt to protect privacy and it also banned video and audio recordings.  Restrictions drawn narrowly prohibiting recordings in farm operations would however be acceptable.
     
    The conclusion from the Ninth Circuit ruling is that recording images on private property is protected speech although applying misrepresentation to gain access to a farm would not be protected under either the First or Fourteenth Amendments especially since the false statements to gain access would result in harm to the owner of a farm.
     
    Simply passing legislation to restrict journalists and agents of animal rights organizations is unconstitutional.  Crafting legislation to protect records and to prevent harm is legally acceptable.  It is also evident that laws restricting trespass can be applied to prevent intrusion but not necessarily to restrict the agents of animal welfare organizations who misrepresent their affiliations to gain access to a production facility. 
     

 


 

Outcome of NAFTA Negotiations to Influence Mexican Presidential Election

01/12/2018

Unilateral withdrawal or attempting to impose deal-breaking conditions in NAFTA negotiations will have a negative effect on the outcome of the 2018 presidential election in Mexico. President Pena of the PRI party is currently highly unpopular and although he is constitutionally prevented from running, the nominated candidate lacks charisma and carries the baggage accumulated by the current Administration.

Candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is rising in popularity. Clearly a populous socialist demagogue, Obrador ran unsuccessfully against previous Presidents Calderon and Pena claiming rigged elections and creating turmoil with each narrow loss. Obrador was once aligned with the PRI, the dominant political party in Mexico for decades. In 1989 he split to form the socialistic PRD party. According to Mary Anastase O’Grady in an opinion published in The Wall Street Journal on January 8th, it is clear that if elected, Obrador would introduce policies detrimental to the U.S. Abandoning NAFTA would create considerable economic hardship in Mexico benefitting Obrador.

Trade negotiations have potential outcomes far beyond U.S. jobs, agricultural exports and intellectual property. An unfavorable outcome could result in a Venezuela on our doorstep.

(SMS 083-18 January 12th 2018)  


 

Prospects for Egg Prices in 2018

01/03/2018

Despite optimistic projections made by the Egg Industry Center of Iowa State University, the wholesale price of eggs in 2018 will be determined by the balance between supply and demand. There is no evidence that per capita consumption will increase materially during the first quarter of 2018. USDA projections note an increase of less than one egg per capita between Q1 of 2017 and Q2 of 2018. At the end of December, U.S. total flock attained 327 million hens with 317 million actually in production in commercial flocks above 30,000 hens. During the last week of December 2017 the stock level of generic eggs increased by 7.9 percent over the previous week to 1,653,800 cases of which 80.8 percent were shell eggs.

Prospects for exports do not appear as optimistic as expressed in recent press releases. The fipronil crisis in the E.U. has largely passed as the affected flocks have been cycled out of production and replaced by non-contaminated hens. Korea has largely restocked flocks depleted by the 2016 outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza. In any event, U.S. exporters of shell eggs are non-competitive on the basis of price and shell color compared to product shipped to Korea from Spain, Turkey, the Ukraine and Asian nations.

To state ingenuously that during the first quarter of 2018, egg prices will be 35 percent above the corresponding period in 2017 is not a material advance for the egg industry. The comparison is against unprecedented low prices, considerably below production cost. U.S. producers experienced negative margins for the first nine months of 2017 based principally on the disparity between production and demand.

(SMS 024-18 January 3rd 2018)


 

Studies on Reassortant H5 Viruses in the Netherlands

01/02/2018

Whole genome sequencing and phylogenetic analysis was applied to establish the relationship among viruses responsible for outbreaks of H5N8 avian influenza in the Netherlands in 2016*.

The study was initiated following the emergence of clusters of avian influenza in commercial poultry and in wild birds.  Evaluation of virus isolates revealed that multiple introductions of H5N8 virus occurred and that the specific viruses on five infected commercial farms were not closely related.  In the Biddinghuizen cluster of outbreaks, farm-to-farm transmission was presumed to have occurred although separate introductions to the affected farms from a common source could not be excluded.  The H5N8 viruses which emerged in the Netherlands in 2016 were distinct from the isolates obtained in 2014.

The H5N8 viruses introduced in 2016 were novel derivatives of the Russia-Mongolia H5 clade 2.3.4.4.  Molecular dating indicated that reassortant events occurred during 2016 in wild birds congregating on the border of Russia and Mongolia.  The authors demonstrated differences in the nucleoprotein, polymerase and nuclear protein among isolates.

The conclusion from the study is that increase surveillance is required to determine changes in H5 clade 2.3.4.4 viruses from wild birds congregating in Northern Siberia and the border of Russia and Mongolia to serve as an early warning indicator for subsequent outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Central and Western Europe.

*Beerens, N. et al Multiple Reassorted Viruses as Cause of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A (H5N8) Virus Epidemic, the Netherlands, 2016. Emerging Infectious Diseases 23: 1966-1973 (2017)

(SMS 019-18 January 2nd 2018)


 

New South Wales Government Criticized for Consultation with Industry on Welfare Standards

12/29/2017

The New South Wales government has engendered criticism for consultation with the egg-production industry of the State regarding new welfare regulations relating to housing of hens.

Animal welfare activists exercised the “Freedom of Information” laws in NSW to obtain communications and reports of meetings which the Animal Law Institute claims to be collusion in the standards-writing process. According to disclosures a NSW Department of Agriculture employee suggested elimination of requirements reminiscent of California Proposition 2 since this would have disqualified conventional battery cages.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals maintains that the process of developing standards was “stage managed” for the benefit of producers. A blatantly unfair provision in the development of standards was a requirement that non-profit organizations would have to pay $3,000 to suggest policy options for aspects of the regulations including stocking density. This provision was characterized by Dr. Thomas Clarke of the Corporate Governance Research Center at the University of Technology in Sydney as “absurd and worrying”. He added “I have never heard of an accountable government anywhere in the world charging for contributions to a policy initiative.”

The situation in Australia where the state governments of Victoria and Western Australia have developed their own independent standards has relevance to the U.S. The egg industry of any nation cannot function effectively over the long term unless there is harmonization of welfare standards with clearly defined nomenclature for alternative systems. EGG-NEWS has reported previously on dissention among producers and confusion among consumers as to what constitutes “free-range” and “pastured” in terms of space allowances.

(SMS 2,117-17 December 29th 2017)


 

Efficacy of Foot Baths in Relation to Preventing AI

12/22/2017

Studies conducted by the University of California-Davis have questioned the value of foot baths containing quaternary ammonia compounds (“quats”) in combination with glutaraldehyde solution in foot baths. It was demonstrated that foot baths were unable to destroy either low pathogenicity or high pathogenicity avian influenza (AI) virus on footwear. A chorine-based granular powder in foot baths was however able to destroy virus on contact. “Footwear” is a non-defined concept. The efficacy of exposure to a disinfectant under practical conditions must vary depending on whether one is dealing with smooth-soled footwear or cleated boots with impacted litter and fecal material. 

Despite the reassuring comments made by the CEO of a large broiler integrator to the uninformed at an investor’s conference in 2015, foot baths as a single modality are incapable of preventing introduction of pathogens including AI into commercial flocks.

Simulation studies showed that low pathogenicity AI (LPAI) using H6N2 strain in feces and litter persist for approximately 24 hours. In contrast, highly pathogenic strains of avian influenza (HPAI) using H5N8 strain demonstrated viability for at least 96 hours. The authors of the paper urged further studies on appropriate methods to interdict infection and to evaluate procedures to decontaminate farms after a diagnosis of AI*

The egg-production industry in the U.S. has invested in enhanced Structural Biosecurity (change rooms with showers, blacktop roads, vehicle washing) and Operational Biosecurity (personal protective clothing, restrictions on inter-farm movement, banning hunting) which have raised barriers to introduction of infection. Applying inference from current knowledge of the biology of AI virus and the epidemiology of LPAI and HPAI it has been possible to develop recommendations to reduce the probability of introducing AI into flocks in the face of wild bird dissemination of virus. The effectiveness of current measures varies according to investment in protective measures, training at all levels of personnel and diligence in complying with prevention programs.  

*Hauck, R. et. al., Persistence of Highly Pathogenic and Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza Viruses in Foot Baths and Poultry Manure. Avian Diseases. 61:64-69. (2017)

(SMS 2,096-17 December 22nd 2017)


 

Consumers Confused by Labels Describing Housing and Feeding

12/18/2017

A review of labels in stores catering to high-income demographics and discussion with both producers and retailers confirms confusion among consumers as to what is actually being offered. The outstanding issues are:-

  • Nutrition of flocks-Certified organic or non-GMO
  • Outside access- Occasional release; sun-porches; free-range; pasture with space allowances from 2 ft2 to 108 ft2 per hen

It is interesting that one producer has actually imprinted labels with a notation that
“All organic is GMO-free”. This is in recognition of the reality that GMO-free is growing at a rapid rate while growth in Certified Organic has reached a plateau.

There is overwhelming confusion among consumers as to outside access. Vital Farms, in an evident expression of frustration with outside access claims competing with their 108 ft2 pasture-housed standard initiated a controversial advertising campaign featuring a “No Bull**it” theme.

It is evident that AMS in cooperation with the egg industry will have to develop standards which must be followed by producers as an exercise in fair description. The situation with regard to the image and competitive status of the USDA-AMS Certified Organic seal is a more difficult proposition. Promotion of other than a brand is difficult and ultimately expensive. An attempt by the Organic Standards Board (OSB) to impose even greater outside access and thereby disqualify in-line operations providing access to sun porches has been deferred. The proposed action by the OSB in 2016 would have raised the cost of production and hence selling price, further reducing the attraction of “organic” against less expensive Non-GMO eggs and alternatives. 

(SMS 2,063-17 December 18th 2017)


 

Impact of Banning Glyphosate

12/17/2017

In November, the European Union agreed to extend the license for glyphosate for five years after protracted negotiations and considerable opposition from opponents of intensive crop agriculture and specifically GM technology.

A recent study* calculated that if glyphosate were to be banned, the advantages associated with GM herbicide-tolerant crops would be lost. At the present time, it is estimated that 375 million acres are planted to herbicide-tolerant cultivars. The annual loss to global farm production would be $6.8 billion as a result of reducing soybeans by 18.6 million tons, corn by 3.1 million tons and canola by 1.4 million tons respectively. It is calculated that without glyphosate and GM herbicide-tolerant cultivars, an additional 9,000 tons of herbicide would be required with a profound environmental impact. Carbon emissions would increase the equivalent of adding 12 million autos to the world’s fleet. Yields of crops without the use of glyphosate would fall with soybean output decreasing by 3.7 percent. Land use would have to change with additional planting of 1.9 million acres resulting in deforestation adding to release of carbon dioxide.

*Brookes, G. et al., The Contribution of Glyphosate to Agriculture and Potential Impact of Restrictions on Use at the Global Level. GM Crops and Food, doi.org/10.1080/21645698.2017.1390637 11th December 2017

(SMS 2,050-17 December 17th 2017)


 

Commentary

12/07/2017

Speaking at the recent U.K. Egg and Poultry Industry Conference, Dr. Nigel Gibbens, CBE, Chief Veterinary Officer of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) (equivalent to USDA), questioned the  move to adopt free-range management which represents over 50 percent of U.K. egg production.  In 2012, conventional cages were banned in the E.U.  The U.K. and to a lesser extent Germany, adopted the enriched colony module as an alternative to conventional (“barren”) cages to achieve compliance by January 12, 2012. 

Following trends in E.U. nations and the subsequent commitments in the U.S. by members of the FMI, NRA and NCCR to convert to cage-free production by 2025, there are questions as to the safety and desirability of maintaining flocks outside houses either under free-range (22 square foot per hen) or on pasture (100 square foot per hen).

At issue is the inevitability of exposure to avian influenza.  Migratory waterfowl were responsible for introduction of both LPAI and HPAI strains H5 and H7 over successive years in the E.U. and in the U.S.

Dr. Gibbens emphasized the “conflict between the public’s demand for ethical eggs from free-range hens and the need to protect flocks from avian influenza.”  He opined, “Hens left outside are a greater risk of being infected by wild birds carrying a disease.” In a subsequent interview with a leading U.K. agricultural periodical, Dr. Gibbens noted, “free-range farms are also at higher risk from other diseases based on their exposure.”

During the 2016 and 2017 AI outbreaks in the U.K., DEFRA issued “”confinement orders” which obliged producers in an area where AI had been diagnosed to confine flocks to barns.  Each year the period of risk is extended and the E.U. has lengthened the period of confinement from 12 to 16 weeks without flocks losing their “free-range” status.

The remarks by Dr. Gibbens, based on sound epidemiology and experience evoked considerable negative reaction from welfare organizations in addition to some members of the UK veterinary profession.  He was accused of “brazen endorsement” of the practice of keeping hens in cages which deprive them of “natural behavior”. Based on reports of his address to the Industry Conference this is a biased characterization of his message.

(SMS 1,993-17 December 7th 2017)


 

Advocacy Groups Promote Elimination of Potentially Hazardous Chemicals

12/07/2017

Organizations such as Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families are pressuring retailers to stock items which are free of potentially hazardous chemicals.  Personal care and home cleaning products are at the top of the list but it is expected that the range of products will be expanded.  The “Personal Safety and Health” organizations are evaluating products and rating retailers assigning grades from A to Fail with annual updates on improvements. 

In the newly released November 14th report card, retailers scoring B or higher included Apple, Walmart, Target, CVS Health, while Albertsons and Costco were assigned C- grades.  Walmart published a chemicals policy in 2013 and has joined the Chemical Footprint Project supported by Clean Production Action, a non-chemical and alternative advocacy group. 

Studies conducted by CVS Health showed that shoppers are concerned about potentially hazardous chemicals. This is fueled by information of dubious value available on the internet.  House brands appear to be a specific target of organizations promoting “green chemistry” and CVS is actively urging suppliers to remove parabens, phthalates and any compound that releases formaldehyde from their products.

As with many regulatory trends, EU standards are readily adopted by U.S. activists groups.  The list of 2,700 chemicals to be eliminated or reduced in consumer products was compiled by the EU Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals Regulations (REACH).

The problem of blanket bans on specific compounds by chemical name does not take into account either level of exposure either through concentration or duration.  Unfortunately the exercise of demonizing beneficial compounds and additives may degenerate into a “Science Babe” exercise of eliminating all compounds that a person with a high school education cannot pronounce.

In the short term, it would not appear that the egg industry has any immediate concerns with either shell eggs or liquids. Packaging material or chemical compounds used in the production process may be subject to scrutiny and result in restrictions or sanctions.

As with welfare, a major restraint to the egg industry, consumer concerns, fanned by organizations ranging in their motivation from sincerity through mendacity and extending to zealotry may have an influence in the near future.  As with many trends, it is best to understand the motivation of critics and antagonists in order to develop a preemptive defense. If there are any obvious problem compounds including insecticides, these must be voluntarily removed from the production chain in advance of condemnation.

 

(SMS 1,991-17 December 7th 2017)


 

Childhood Obesity Advances in the U.S.

12/01/2017

According to a study on 42,000 children and adults, Dr. Zachary Ward of the Center for Health Decision Science at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston estimates that 57 percent of children aged 2 to 19 in 2016 will be obese by the time they reach 35 years of age.

It was determined that obesity in childhood is reflected in adult obesity with consequential health issues including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and renal complications.  Currently six percent of U.S. children are severely obese with a body-mass index of 35 or higher.  The study determined that Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks were more likely to be obese than white children and differences among races were present at two years of age.  The converse is also true in that children that are not obese during childhood have a lower probability of adult-onset of obesity.  Children with a low or normal BMI have less than a 50 percent chance of becoming obese by 35 years of age.

The authors of the article cited a 2015 study in Health Affairs concluding that placing a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, setting nutrition standards for foods served in schools and eliminating tax deductions for advertising unhealthy food would be beneficial with respect to obesity.  There appears to be a lack of logic in these recommendations since two-year old obese children would not be at school and their diets would not be influenced by youth-centered advertising. 

Clearly the solution lies in comprehensive education directed at the demographics at risk, both ethnic and economic that have the highest prevalence of obesity.  The “nanny state” directive approach advanced by previous First Lady Michelle Obama and also by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, although well-intentioned was not especially beneficial.  EGG-NEWS did however report on success among lower income immigrant families in Amsterdam, the Netherlands involving a comprehensive program of education, modifying school meals and promoting exercise together with family counselling.

(SMS 1,970-17 December 1st 2017)


 

Unilever Searches for Next CEO

11/29/2017

On October 16th, EGG-NEWS posted an article on the succession plans for the CEO of Unilever.  At issue was the policies followed by Paul Polman, the incumbent since since 2009.  The company disappointed investors failing to meet market expectations on both the top and bottom line for fiscal 2016.  Management also came under criticism for rejecting the Kraft Heinz Company bid, valued at $143 billion. Simply repurchasing stock, divesting segments with low margins and introducing cost-saving measures are ameliorative but do not address the basic problem of rising competition experienced by large multinationals from more agile local enterprises. It is now up to the Unilever board under newly appointed chairman Marijin Dekkers to select from either aspirant candidates within the organization or to appoint a disruptive outside candidate.

During the past decade Unilever has been at the forefront of promoting animal welfare issues using its prestige and international reach to make common cause with pro-vegan activist organizations.  The Company has also become embroiled in conflicts relating to GMO technology. The Ben and Jerry’s subsidiary supports mandatory labeling of products containing GMO ingredients, a position supported by Paul Polman during a 2014 visit to the company headquarters in Vermont.  In contrast as a corporate entity, Unilever has opposed legislation at state level to mandate GM-labeling and contributed to the campaign to oppose a California ballot initiative on GM-designation.

It is hoped that the next CEO of Unilever will adopt a more balanced policy towards welfare, GM and environmental issues and recognize that the responsibility of the company is to its shareholders. Management should not base policy on the Company acting as a vehicle for social change or intertwine their personal inclinations with corporate concerns.

(SMS 1,954-17 November 29th 2017.)


 

Brunch Emerging as a Trend Favoring Egg Consumption

11/26/2017

According to research conducted by Mintel and Technomic, Millennials have overtaken Boomers as the largest demographic group.  Studies show that Millennials enjoy meals as social occasions. They like to eat whatever and whenever they wish and are eager to try new dishes.  Technomic determined that 38 percent of Millennials enjoy consuming foods later in the morning but also enjoy traditional breakfast dishes including eggs, potatoes, and cheese.

The requirements of Millennials were instrumental in the decision by McDonald’s to extend their program of all-day breakfast to the entire chain with beneficial results to traffic and same-store sales.

Technomic® has determined that 40 percent of consumers eat brunch at least once a week and 30 percent consider breakfast to be a destination.  Millennials appear to be skipping breakfast more in 2017 than in 2015 based on time related considerations.

This trend will obviously benefit the industry if new egg-dishes can be developed suitable for brunch.  Eggs will be incorporated as toppings on burgers, pizzas and in bowls for consumption in QSRs, for casual dining in restaurants and as on-the-go meals. The American Egg Board is at the forefront of developing new dishes suitable for brunch servings.

(SMS 1,946-17 November 26th 2017)


 

Promotion of Enriched Omega-3 Diets will Benefit Consumers

11/22/2017

Dr. Alice Stanton of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland recently reported on an experiment involving 161 subjects consuming chickens and eggs enriched with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.  Devenish Nutrition is promoting incorporation of an algae-derived ingredient in diets for laying hens and broiler to increase the omega-3 level of egg yolk and breast muscle of broilers.

The clinical study documented an increase in serum levels of omega-3 fatty acids and a more favorable omega-3 index in red blood cell membranes.  A low omega-3 index attributed to inadequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids including ALA, DHA and EPA is generally associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Heather Hayes director of food innovation for Devenish noted, “Offering birds a natural and sustainable omega-3 PUFA is good for the bird and good for the consumer.  Taste panel studies have shown omega-3 enriched chicken taste as good if not better than conventional chicken.”

Dr. Patrick Wall, Professor of Public Health at the University College Dublin stated, “By enriching the birds’ diet, meat and eggs become naturally enriched with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and the associated nutritional benefits are then passed on to consumers.”

It is possible to raise the omega-3 level in commercial eggs to 115 mg per large egg by supplementing diets with canola oil, flaxseed or flax oil.  Currently eggs containing from 100 to 250 mg omega-3 PUFAs are commercially available including the leading national brand in the U.S. which is also supplemented with a range of B complex vitamins in addition to high levels of vitamins E and A.

Algae-derived dietary supplements are marketed in the U.S. and on the international market to be included in diets for hens, broilers and hogs to raise omega-3 fatty acid levels.

(SMS 1,921-17 November 22nd 2017)


 

Cornucopia Institute Highlighting Issues for National Organic Standards Board Meeting

11/05/2017

In a recent press release the Cornucopia Institute, representing the interests of small-scale organic producers, highlighted the issues which will be reviewed at the semi-annual meeting of the USDA National Organic Standards Board to be held in Jacksonville, Florida. The major concerns relate to hydroponic culture of produce, fraudulent certification of imported organic feed ingredients and the composition of the National Organic Standards Board.

The Cornucopia Institute maintains that family-operated small-scale farms are being squeezed out by larger producers represented by the Organic Trade Association a sentiment they consider degrades the image of the of the organic label.

The Cornucopia Institute has campaigned aggressively against in-line egg-production complexes which are both efficient and sustainable. The organization fails to recognize that these farms supply the Nation’s supermarkets and wholesale club stores with organic eggs at an affordable price, necessary for the growth of the entire organic sector. In reality much of the organic egg production in the U.S. is derived from individual family-owned farms under contract to integrators, co-operatives, feed mills and packers who provide working capital, logistics and marketing which are beyond the capability of independent producers with small flocks.

 

(SMS 1,798-17 November 5th 2017) 


 

Financial Viability of Dutch Kipster Facility Questioned

10/31/2017

Despite laudatory articles relating to an “environmentally friendly” house for laying hens, there are serious questions as to return the on investment even with a premium price for the eggs produced. The entire production of the Kipster house will be assigned to Lidl, a company not exactly noted for its generosity towards suppliers.

 

The Kipster house incorporates over 1,000 solar panels which supply electrical power with a claimed 60 percent of generated capacity sold back into the grid. The article provides no indication of whether this proportion is based on a limited period of maximum solar exposure or whether it represents an average over 24-hours throughout the year. 

 

A feature of one article in an E.U. poultry periodical was obviously authored by a lay-journalist who suggested that “the feed given to the chickens is made from agricultural farm waste products”. This is arrant nonsense. To achieve acceptable production parameters from flocks, it is necessary to satisfy all nutrient requirements including energy, amino acids, minerals, vitamins and micronutrients. A balanced diet cannot be compounded from “waste which would otherwise not be used for human consumption.” Chickens, as with all monogastric livestock effectively compete with humans for ingredients.

 

The design of house incorporates a sunporch and an indoor garden with a glass roof. Outside access will be allowed during acceptable weather conditions and under low risk of avian influenza. Eggs produced by the Kipster Farm will receive a three star certification from the Beter Leven program

 

The lavish description showered on the Kipster project is reminiscent of the “Rondeel” introduced nearly a decade ago and supported by supermarket chain Albert Hein. Apart from the prototype and a small demonstration unit only three other commercial installations have been sold and the concept may be regarded as a commercial if not a practical failure. It will be interesting to determine if any subsidies or financial support was extended to the Kipster operation which would reduce the capital required by the owners and hence lower the fixed cost component of production.

 

Any serious evaluator of the Kipster concept would require capital investment, projection of fixed and variable costs and the selling price specifying any premium to determine the return on investment. Financial data would be more convincing than a discussion of environmental benefits.

 

(SMS 1,777-17 October 31st 2017)


 

Organic Tarragon Spice Recalled for Salmonella Adulteration

10/24/2017

Health authorities in numerous states have informed the retail food distribution industry of the mandatory recall of organic tarragon spice distributed by Spicely Organics located in Fremont, CA. The product was distributed in 21 states although no cases of salmonellosis have been diagnosed. The recall was initiated following detection during routine sampling.

Spices are frequently implicated in outbreaks of food-borne infection. Due to the fact that they are minor ingredients frequently not declared on labels, identifying a pathogen associated with a specific spice included in a recipe is extremely difficult. This is evidenced by the 2011 outbreak of E. coli O104: H4 in North Germany, responsible for 4,300 diagnosed cases with 852 reports of severe hemolytic uremia syndrome. Ninety percent of the cases were adults with 50 fatalities. It took many weeks and a number of false trails to actually determine the specific vehicle of infection. Eventually the vehicle of infection for E. coli O104: H4 was identified as contaminated fenugreek spice imported from Egypt in 2009. At the outset of the investigation cucumbers were implicated but with additional patient surveys on foods consumed, sprouts appeared to be the vehicle of infection although these ingredients were shown to be free of contamination.  Further studies showed that fenugreek was in fact the culprit. Apart from the costs associated with treatment and loss of life and earnings, there was considerable disruption of the food distribution chain and loss of traffic in restaurants in North Germany due to fear of infection apparently associated with salads but without knowing the specific cause.

Spices are mostly imported from developing countries where cultivation, drying and processing lack appropriate HACCP and Good Manufacturing Practices. Although sampling to determine the presence of a pathogen is an established procedure, it is evident that sampling errors will occur allowing potentially adulterated material to contaminate fairly large quantities of food. This is especially the case with salads and other uncooked foods that deprive consumers of  protection from a heat process.

Irradiation of spices using either electron beam pasteurization or cobalt60 irradiation effectively destroys bacterial pathogens. Despite FDA approval for the process, there is little acceptance of irradiation based on the misinformed perception of the benefits of this application of radiation technology.

 

In the case of the contaminated organic tarragon, the product was certified as USDA Organic and therefore would not have been eligible for irradiation.

 

Lessons from this case include:

  • Organic status offers no assurance of food safety.
  • A little bit of spice can go a long way in contaminating a large quantity of food.
  • Demonstrating that a spice is a vehicle of infection is extremely difficult using retrospective menu-recall.
  • Traceback beyond a supplier or distributor is virtually impossible especially with imported spices.
     

(SMS 1,701-17 October 24th 2017)


 

Insurance Policies May Not Indemnify Against Pollution Claims

10/09/2017

A posting on September 25th in the Texas Agriculture Law Blog documents a court ruling against a dairy attempting to claim on an insurance policy arising from groundwater pollution.

Judge Thomas Rice of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington ruled that an insurance company was justified in denying coverage based on “absolute pollution exclusion clauses in the policies issued to the dairy.”

In 2013, the Cow Palace Dairy located in Washington State was sued by environmental groups alleging that seepage from retention ponds resulted in pollution of an underground aquifer. Claims were filed under the Federal Resource Conservation Recovery Act and the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act.

The action was successful and the Cow Palace was obliged to settle the lawsuit at a considerable cost. The dairy in turn claimed on their insurance policy. The policy specifically excluded liability arising from discharge, dispersal, seepage, migration, release or escape of pollutants at or from the premises and at or from any site or location used for the handling, storage, disposal, processing or treatment of waste.

The report authored by Tiffany Dowell notes that this verdict is the second which has held that exclusion clauses indemnify insurance companies against coverage resulting from environmental pollution involving manure.

The take home message is that egg production companies, especially those operating lagoons, must be aware of the limits of their insurance. Effectively in most cases they are liable for damage resulting from environmental pollution since this risk is expressly excluded from their insurance cover.   

(SMS 1,622-17  October 9th 2017)


 

Cornucopia Institute Foiled By USDA

10/03/2017

The Cornucopia Institute has received a determination letter dated September 27th from the USDA-AMS dismissing a formal complaint against Aurora Dairy Farm in Colorado. The action relates to a formal complaint against that livestock had been denied outside access which the Cornucopia Institute considers to be essential for organic certification. The fact that commercial dairies can operate at densities of ten cows per acre compared to one cow per acre for small organic dairy farms (of questionable profitability) has created an adversarial situation between the Cornucopia Institute and USDA-AMS.

Similar complaints have been raised against large organic egg producers providing outside access in the form of sun porches on large in-line complexes. Cornucopia Institute has sought to disqualify large dairies and egg producers under the USDA organic program. Their efforts are less directed at maintaining the integrity of the USDA organic seal than eliminating competition for the benefit of their membership.

(SMS 1,579-17 October 3rd 2017)


 

Panera Bread Introduces Kid’s Menu

09/25/2017

Panera Bread is now offering virtually all items on their menu as small-sized dishes for children.  Ron Shaich Founder, Chairman and CEO of Panera Bread stated, “For too long restaurants in America have served menus full of nutritionally empty chicken nuggets*, pizza and fries paired with sugary drinks and cheap toys.”  He added, “I’m challenging the CEOs of some of the largest companies in the industry to personally eat exclusively from their restaurants’ kids meals for an entire week and if not, to take a thoughtful look at what they are offering our smallest guests."

Panera Bread has from its inception promoted so called “clean menus” appealing to an affluent demographic with an inordinate concern over nutrition and health but susceptible to hype and misinformation.

It is a matter of record that the major chains including McDonald’s Corporation and Wendy’s have modified their kids’ menus to include fruit and juices, low-sodium and low-fat items and with deletion of artificial coloring agents and unnecessary additives.

Shaich in his inimitable way is again promoting his Company and his products at the expense of competitors by dissemination of unsubstantiated claims and innuendo. He did not define the term “empty” in relation to nuggets which have stated values for calories, protein, sodium and fat and the use of the pejorative is sheer hyperbole unworthy of a person in his position. 

 

(SMS 1,530-17 September 25th 2017)


 

USDA Grants for Value-Added Agriculture

09/07/2017

The USDA will make available $18 million in funding for producers to establish viable value-added enterprises. The program is administered by USDA- Rural Development. Grants will allow producers to conduct feasibility studies, develop business plans and initiate marketing programs.

Providing seed money for new agricultural enterprises may appear to be both practical and contribute to agricultural output benefitting communities and consumers. What is important is to establish that expenditure on grants and programs demonstrates a positive return. USDA is quick to announce programs some of which appear to be highly speculative but is reticent in releasing financial evaluation of expenditure of public funds.

The USDA has been less than transparent in publishing the results achieved by recipients of grants. Accordingly under the new administration of Dr. Sonny Perdue, a veterinarian and businessman, the evaluation of projects will presumably be undertaken at the grant-application level but then should be followed through to completion.

 

(SMS 1,440-17 September 7th 2017)


 

Lawyers Deprived of Fees in Unjustified Lawsuit

09/01/2017

Judge Diane Sykes of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals denied a $525,000 settlement to cover plaintiff's legal fees allowed by a lower court in a class-action suit against the Subway chain. At issue was a contention that some "foot-long" sandwiches were only 11 inches from end-to-end.

Judge Sykes characterized the lawsuit as "utterly worthless" and served only to enrich lawyers who filed the case. Nine customers in the class received $500 each in settlement.

Sykes invoked "common sense" avowing that a company cannot guarantee that every roll is exactly 12 inches in length but customers receive the same quantity of ingredients on their sandwiches.

Regrettably, members of the tort bar ("slip and trip shops") are taking their cue from the "oldest profession" and are constantly searching for plaintiffs to initiate shakedown lawsuits against food manufacturers and restaurants claiming spurious damages or alleging deceptive promotion. Hopefully the case law established by this judgement will avert future litigation.

(SMS 1,416-17 September 1st 2017)


 

Recrimination over Fipronil Debacle

08/18/2017

Following revelations that authorities in Belgium knew of Fipronil contamination of eggs in early June but only notified the EU in late July, beleaguered officials are now blaming the Netherlands.  The company allegedly responsible for supplying the insecticide cocktail containing Fipronil applied to as many as 200 farms was based in the Netherlands.  Belgium claims that Holland was tardy in their investigation delaying critical information until the end of July.
   

 

The Minister of Agriculture for Belgium Denis Ducarne addressing a Parliamentary investigation noted "One month without having any information from the Dutch Agency" --presumably the Dutch Food Authority.  Ducarne maintains the Dutch had been aware of Fipronil in eggs since November 2016 without any declaration.

It is significant that no official reports or media articles have actually quoted levels of Fipronil in eggs.  This data would be of interest to actually assess the risk to consumers. Actual assay results will be necessary to reconcile conflicting statements of low-risk made by Dutch, Belgian and U.K. officials in contrast to a more pessimistic interpretation by Germany.

It is hoped that investigations will soon be concluded which will reveal the duration of contamination, the levels in eggs from affected farms and the concentration of residual Fipronil in tissue from culled flocks.  Results from epidemiologic studies involving temporal and spatial considerations included in a comprehensive report should be forthcoming since there are lessons to be learned from this incident which is eerily reminiscent of the dioxin contamination in Germany and the Benelux Nations in 2011.

 

Agriculture Minister Dennis Ducarne of Belgium
reviewing aspects of the fipronil scandal with the media


 

FDA to Delay Compliance Inspections for FSMA

08/16/2017

According to a posting on the website of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Agency has delayed inspections of feed plants to ensure compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act. Inspections scheduled for 2017 will be delayed until the Fall of 2018 according to Dr. Steve Solomon, Director of the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine. This will also delay inspections under the Foreign Supplier Verification Program.

 

The move was enthusiastically endorsed by the American Feed Industry Association. Richard Sellers, Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Education commented "Producing safe, nutritious food and compliance with the law is the animal food industry's number one priority. However, given FSMAs far-reaching and expensive regulatory impact that extends into all areas of our members' business operations, we have been asking the Administration and Congress to provide a reasonable timeframe so that our members can conduct the necessary action they need and dedicate new resources to come into full compliance with the law."

The action by the FDA is an indication of their deficiencies in planning and execution. The egg industry will recollect the problems associated with introduction of on-farm inspections required under the Salmonella Prevention Rule. There was little coordination among regions carrying out inspections, personnel were totally ill-equipped and untrained to evaluate farms or to appreciate the realities of commercial egg production. Inspectors who had spent the majority of their careers in pharmaceutical plants were confronted with farms with high-rise houses, six feet of manure and mice. Initially the inspections were time-consuming and laborious since farmers, their Veterinarians and quality assurance personnel had to virtually train and instruct the FDA inspectors. The program only gathered speed when the USDA delegated responsibility for farm inspections in a number of states to respective department of agriculture in major egg-producing states including Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, California and Iowa.

In advance of a FMSA debacle, the FDA would be well advised to step back, ensure that guidance documents are provided for review and comment by the industry. Inspectors must be trained as to what might be considered acceptable and normal and to realistically evaluate deviations from standard procedures. If FSMA degenerates into a paperwork exercise, the value with respect to prevention of food-borne infection will be lost.

The underlying message for FDA is that they should communicate with industry organizations and specialists in both industry and academia to establish standards and to ensure that personnel are appropriately trained before embarking on a national inspection program.

The Salmonella Prevention Program was incubated and hatched entirely in isolation by the FDA without consulting the industry. Within three months of inception of the program, individuals associated with the rule were still trying to obtain information on the efficacy of vaccination which had already been adopted by the U.S. industry as a standard and had proven effective in the E.U. for over a decade prior to 2010. The guidance documents were only available after initiation of the program

(SMS 1,345-17 August 16th 2017)


 




































































































































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