Issue #69 | Weirdest Food Safety Moments of 2022 | The 5 Whys | Best Christmas Desserts | Merry Quackin' Xmas |
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A 🦆 gift for you (quack quack…)
GFSI versus IFS - the fight begins
The Five Whys Technique, plus a helpful template
Weirdest Food Safety Moments of 2022
53 Best Christmas Desserts (Just for Fun)
News and Resources Roundup
Food fraud incidents, updates and emerging issues
Welcome to Issue 69 of The Rotten Apple, and to the last issue for 2022. To celebrate the international season of gift-giving, we bought you some ducks.
The climate crisis has arrived — and it’s hurting some more than others. In Bangladesh, the ever-present threat of flooding makes it hard to keep farming activities afloat. But with your support, we’re training women to raise ducks that — unlike chickens — can swim. Farmers can eat and sell the duck eggs and, every year, they have a new brood of ducklings to sell. What a quack-tastic way to tackle poverty!
Thank you for making space for us in your inbox this year. We wish you and your family a safe, relaxing and joyous holiday period.
In this week’s issue, we share the surprising news that the standards owner IFS has had its GFSI recognition suspended. Grab some popcorn, this is going to get ugly.
Then we revisit the weirdest food safety moments of the year: AIDs drugs in meat, brain viruses in cheese, and floor sealant instead of milk for breakfast…
Plus there’s a special supplement for paying subscribers with a unique and helpful downloadable checklist. And a mouth-watering collection of Christmas desserts – some of which (to this non-American) seemed outrageously foreign and sugary, some which sound absolutely MARVELLOUS!
As always, food fraud news is at the end for paying subscribers who can catch up by listening to this email while driving, or blearily wrapping gifts late at night after the kids have gone to bed…
This is our last issue for 2022. We’ll be back with Issue #70 on the 9th of January 2023.
Until then, my assistant Jane and I wish you all the best.
💝 🌲 👪 🌞 👪 🌲 💝
GFSI versus IFS (grab some popcorn)
The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) has suspended recognition of the IFS food standards for 3 months from Dec 8th 2022. It’s the first big public punch thrown in what IFS calls “the strained relationship” between the two organisations. Both groups are lawyering-up, so get some popcorn, this could get ugly.
Reminder: GFSI is a group of food retailers and brand owners that considers itself "an extended food safety community to oversee food safety standards.” They do this by setting standards for food safety standards, in a process known as benchmarking. The GFSI-benchmarking requirements are supposed to represent best practice and help to recognise and align different standards. GFSI-benchmarked standards include those published by SQF, BRCGS, GlobalGAP, FSSC 22000 and, until recently IFS.
When the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) was launched in 2000, one of its aims was to reduce the number of food safety audits that food companies would have to submit to. I think it’s fair to say that goal has not been achieved.
These days, food companies tell me they are hosting more audits than ever. The audits have become longer and more complex, as the GFSI has updated its benchmarking program to include many more requirements since 2000.
The GFSI also launched a program called Race to the Top in 2020. The program puts more requirements on certification scheme owners. It is this program that appears to be the source of the conflict between IFS and the GFSI. IFS says they have asked the Federal Cartel Office to review The Race to the Top program to assess its legality with respect to antitrust and competition law.
IFS stresses that the reason for the suspension is a communication misunderstanding, not a food safety issue.
Food companies that get IFS certificates between 8th December 2022 and the date the suspension is lifted will be affected; those certificates will not be GFSI recognised. Merieux NutriSciences recommends that food companies with IFS certification review their customer contracts to check the wording around GFSI-recognised standards. And of course, if your company is IFS certified, it is a good idea to keep your customers informed of the situation.
In short: 🍏 Standards owner IFS and the GFSI are fighting about the GFSI’s Race to the Top program 🍏 IFS implies it may be anti-competitive 🍏 GFSI has suspended their recognition of IFS’s food safety standards 🍏 IFS emphasises this is not a food safety issue and is appealing 🍏 Food companies with IFS certification should keep their customers informed and review customer contracts 🍏
🍏 Find the GFSI statement and links to their FAQs here: https://mygfsi.com/news_updates/gfsi-steering-committee-sanctions-international-featured-standards-ifs/ 🍏
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The Five Whys
You’ve probably heard of the Five Whys technique for doing root cause analysis. It’s easy and powerful. This special post (linked below) will help you get the most out of the technique and includes a super-helpful downloadable template with guidance notes for your food safety program.
Weirdest Food Safety Moments of 2022
Last week’s spinach recall in Australia was pretty weird. Here’s some more about that, plus a collection of other weird events and recalls from the year.
Authorities in Australia have recalled baby spinach and salad products containing baby spinach from a single supplier after 120 people were affected by symptoms including delirium and hallucinations. The symptoms are being blamed on contamination with “unsafe plant material.”
It’s not out of the question that this is a deliberate contamination event, although the local health authorities said “Initial investigations are suggestive of accidental contamination”.
"The patients that have been quite unwell have been to the point of marked hallucinations where they are seeing things that aren't there. They can't give a good recount of what happened,” said the medical director of the NSW Poisons Information Centre in the Sydney Morning Herald.
What type of weeds could cause these symptoms? They are, according to the local health department, suggestive of anticholinergic syndrome, which can be caused by plants including nightshade, Datura and mandrake.
Mandrake contamination of spinach caused food poisoning that required hospitalisations in Italy earlier this year, with one person needing intensive care.
Datura has featured in food safety incidents before and I wrote about it in Plant Toxins that Kill in Issue #55. It is known as jimsonweed in some countries and thorn apple in Australia. The leaves have an angular shape and an unpleasant odour when crushed so one would imagine they would be identifiable as a contaminant to spinach harvesting or packing workers and consumers. Mysterious!
Silica Beads in Hot Choc Powder
Hot chocolate powder (brand Aero) was recalled in Ireland in November due to the presence of silica beads of up to 3 mm in size. All pack types and all batches are affected.
I asked an online food safety community group what they thought the source of the beads might be and the most common answer was that this was a malicious contamination event. That seems unlikely to me: if a person with malicious motives had a chance to add something to the product, surely they would have chosen something more dangerous than silica beads? The source has not been publicly disclosed.
Industrial Chemicals Served as Milk
In July I reported on how kids at a school in Alsaka were accidentally served - and drank! - construction chemicals that looked like milk.
Someone had accidentally included containers of the construction chemical, a sealant used for floor tiles, in a bulk shipment of large bag-in-box containers of shelf-stable milk. The shipment was sent to a school district food warehouse.
The boxes of sealant looked similar to the boxes of milk in the same shipment and were not declared on the shipping manifest. They were, however, labelled with “warning notifications”.
Three schools in the district received deliveries of floor sealant instead of milk. At one of those schools, a kitchen worker poured servings of the sealant into cups that were served to students at breakfast.
Twelve students and two adults drank the sealant, immediately experiencing burning in their mouths and throats, as well as nausea and headaches. All victims recovered.
AIDS drugs in pork meat
Also in July I shared the mind-boggling story of how some farmers in sub-Saharan Africa were feeding human AIDS medicines to their pigs and chickens. The medicines are cheap to obtain through government medical programs and help animals to grow faster and larger as well as protecting them from diseases like African Swine Fever and Newcastle Disease.
Residues of human anti-viral medicines have been found in pork and chicken meat and in commercial animal feeds in Uganda, in at least two separate peer-reviewed studies. In one study 27 per cent of pork samples were affected.
For a list of sources, see the original story in Issue #47.
Tick-borne brain virus spread by food
In October, we reported that a virus that causes encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and that is usually only transmitted by tick-bites caused a foodborne illness outbreak that sicked 43 people in France.
Investigators found that the virus had been transferred to goats by ticks while they were grazing outdoors. The viral particles were secreted in goat’s milk that was used to make raw (unpasteurised) goat’s cheese. The raw cheese was the source of the outbreak. Check out our October news roundup for a list of sources and links to more information about foodborne tick-borne encephalitis (TBE).
🍏 For more of our best posts of 2022, check out this post 🍏
53 Best Christmas Desserts of All Time (Just for Fun)
You might get high cholesterol just reading this list of recipes, but I challenge you not to save at least one of these to your “recipes to try one day” list. It has everything from egg-nog flavoured doughnuts to fried Italian sweets, even a vegan Christmas fruit cake. Yum!
Below for paying subscribers: Food fraud news, incident reports, and emerging issues, plus an 🎧 awesome audio version 🎧 (so you can catch up while on the go)
📌 Food Fraud News 📌
Scammers who impersonated the email addresses of top food company executives have convinced food suppliers to ship hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of
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