TIME Diet/Nutrition

Baby Food Recalled for Containing Glass

Beech-Nut Nutrition has recalled approximately 1,920 lb. of baby food

A baby-food company has recalled around 1,920 lb. of its product due to possible contamination with small pieces of glass, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The company, Beech-Nut Nutrition, is recalling its “Stage 2 Beech-Nut Classics sweet potato & chicken” baby food in 4-oz. glass jars. The baby food was made on Dec. 12, 2014, and the recall applies to food expiring December 2016. The company learned of the problem when a customer reported a small piece of glass in their baby food, and the USDA notes that a consumer reported an oral injury from the product.

“Outside of this single report, we have no indication that any other jar of our Classics Stage 2 Sweet Potato & Chicken is affected, but as a company of parents and families we are acting with an abundance of caution,” the company said in a statement posted to its website. “The quality and safety of our products is our number one priority. We know we have not met the expectations of parents who rely on Beech-Nut for quality nutrition for their babies and toddlers in this case, and for that we apologize.”

People who have bought the affected product can return the baby food to the store they purchased it from for a refund or exchange.

The recalled baby food contained the product numbers “12395750815” through “12395750821.” It also contains the inspection code “P-68A.” Customers can get more information on the Beech-Nut Nutrition website.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Egg Company Execs Get Jail Time For Food Safety Breach

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The execs were tied to a 2010 salmonella outbreak

The former owner and Chief Operating Officer of the company Quality Egg were sentenced to three months in jail on Monday for their role in a 2010 outbreak of salmonella.

Quality Egg owner Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son and the company COO Peter DeCoster pleaded guilty to distributing adulterated eggs. Quality Egg must pay a fine of $6.79 million and each of the DeCosters must pay $100,000. After three months in prison, the DeCosters will also have one year of supervised release. The company has been placed on a three-year probation. The pair was not taken into custody and may appeal the sentence.

In 2010, adulterated eggs from Quality Egg were tied to 1,939 reported consumer illnesses from salmonella. Workers for the company disregarded food safety standards, according to prosecutors, and mislead its customers—including major retailers like Walmart—about its food safety practices. The court says that the company also falsified documents for food-safety audits and used false expiration dates that misled customers about how old the eggs were.

Quality Egg pleaded guilty to its employees bribing an U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspector on at least two occasions to release eggs that had been flagged for failing to meet quality standards. As NBC reports, it’s not clear when the DeCosters learned about the bribes.

“The message this prosecution and sentence sends is a stern one to anyone tempted to place profits over people’s welfare. Corporate officials are on notice. If you sell contaminated food you will be held responsible for your conduct. Claims of ignorance or ‘I delegated the responsibility to someone else’ will not shield them from criminal responsibility,” said U.S. Attorney Kevin W. Techau for the Northern District of Iowa in a statement about the verdict.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Hummus and 5 Other Foods You Shouldn’t Eat This Week

This week saw six recalls

Correction appended, April 10

Every week lots of foods are pulled from grocery shelves for contamination. There were several recalls this week, but since not every recall reported by the Food and Drug Administration makes headlines, we’ve listed them for you. Here’s all the recalls that have happened over the last week. Remember, if you’ve purchased recalled foods, you can often return it to the vendor for a full refund.

Hummus
Brand: Sabra
Contaminated with: Listeria
Sabra Dipping Co., LLC, the company behind Sabra hummus recalled 30,000 cases of its classic hummus due to possible contamination with the bacteria, listeria. So far no one has reported getting sick from the hummus.

Ice cream
Brand: Blue Bell
Contaminated with: Listeria
Blue Bell Creameries has had a bad month. After five people in a hospital were infected with listeria after eating ice cream from the company (and three people died), Blue Bell has continued to recall more and more of its ice cream after identifying listeria in more product lines. This week, they expanded the recall to include banana pudding ice cream pints.

Macadamia nuts
Brand: Nature’s Eats and Central Market
Contaminated with: Salmonella
Texas Star Nut and Food Co., Inc. recalled some of its Nature’s Eats and Central Market brand macadamia nut products due to possible contamination with the bacteria salmonella.

Cumin
Brand: Deer
Contaminated with: Undeclared peanuts
Best Foods Inc. recalled some of its 7-ounce and 14-ounce packages of Deer brand cumin powder because the products may contain peanuts which are not declared on the label. This could pose a serious problem for people who have peanut allergies.

Soybean sprouts
Brand: Henry’s Farm
Contaminated with: Listeria
Henry’s Farm Inc. of Woodford, Virgina recalled packages of soybean sprouts that were distributed to retailers in Virginia and Maryland due to possible listeria contamination. No illnesses have been reported.

Teriyaki Salmon Jerky
Brand: Central Market
Contaminated with: Undeclared soy and wheat
World Wide Gourmet Foods recalled 2,916 packages of Central Market Teriyaki Salmon Jerky due to undeclared soy and wheat, which is problematic for people allergic to those ingredients.

Read next: What a Massive Spinach Recall Teaches Us About Food Safety

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Correction: The original version of this story misstated the number of cases of hummus recalled by Sabra. There were 30,000.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

351,000 People Die of Food Poisoning Globally Every Year

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Danny Kim for TIME

The World Health Organization releases concerning numbers regarding food safety

New data from the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals the growing problem of food-borne illness around the world. The WHO released initial findings on Thursday showing that hundreds of millions of people worldwide are getting sick from contaminated food. The data is from 2010, which is the latest global data available.

Here are some of the troubling figures:

582 million: The number of cases of 22 different food-borne diseases experienced in 2010

351,000: The number of associated deaths

52,000: The number of deaths caused by the bacteria Salmonella

37,000: The number of deaths caused by the bacteria E. coli

35,000: The number of deaths caused by norovirus (a virus that’s the leading cause of disease outbreaks from contaminated food in the United States)

40%: The percentage of people under the age of 5 who suffered from food-borne diseases

“Food production has been industrialized and its trade and distribution have been globalized,” WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan said in a statement. “These changes introduce multiple new opportunities for food to become contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemicals.”

The WHO notes that foods can contain unsafe viruses and bacteria, which can be contracted from consuming under cooked animal meat, fruit and vegetables contaminated with feces, and toxin-filled shellfish. The agency says governments on the global and national level need to implement measures to protect against food contamination, and respond quickly to food-related outbreaks. Consumers should make sure they practice properly food handing and cooking hygiene.

World Health Day is on April 7, and this year the WHO says it will be focusing on food safety. The agency will be releasing its full report on the state of food-borne illness worldwide in Oct. 2015.

TIME public health

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria From Texan Cattle Yards Are Now Airborne, Study Finds

A herd of longhorn cattle stand as wildfire rages near on September 1, 2011 in Graford, Texas
Tom Pennington—Getty Images A herd of longhorn cattle stand as wildfire rages near on September 1, 2011 in Graford, Texas

Researchers say the bacteria are capable of "traveling for long distances"

A new study says the DNA from antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in American cattle yards has become airborne, creating a new pathway by which such bacteria can potentially spread to humans and hinder treatment of life-threatening infections.

Researchers gathered airborne particulate matter (PM) from around 10 commercial cattle yards within a 200 mile radius of Lubbock, Texas over a period of six-months. They found the air downwind of the yards contained antibiotics, bacteria and a “significantly greater” number of microbial communities containing antibiotic-resistant genes. That’s according to the study to be published in next month’s issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.

“To our knowledge, this study is among the first to detect and quantify antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes…associated with airborne PM emitted from beef cattle feed yards,” said the authors, who are researchers in environmental toxicology at Texas Tech University and at a testing lab in Lubbock.

Co-author Phil Smith told the Texas Tribune that the bacteria could be active for a long time and “could be traveling for long distances.”

His colleague, molecular biologist Greg Mayer, told the paper that some of the study’s findings “made me not want to breathe.”

Because antibodies are poorly absorbed by cows they are released into the environment through excretion. Once in the environment, bacteria will undergo natural selection and genes that have acquired natural immunities will survive.

The genes that have gone airborne are contained in dried fecal matter that has become dust and gets picked up by winds as they whip through the stockyards.

The Texas Tribune reported that representatives from the Texas cattle industry (estimated to control around 14 million beef cows) criticized the study, saying it portrayed the airborne bacteria as overly hazardous to human health.

But the mass of PM2.5 particles (the kind that can be inhaled into lungs) released into the atmosphere is eye opening, with the study estimating the total amount released by cattle yards in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas exceeds 46,000 lbs.(21,000 kg) per day.

Antibiotic-resistant bacterial DNA is already known to be transferable to humans if ingested via water or meat.


TIME Food Safety

Here’s the Terrifying Truth About Metal Shards in Your Food

Inexpensive food from an industrialized food system has its downsides

Kraft Foods is recalling 242,000 cases of its Macaroni & Cheese product because “metal shards” have been found in some boxes. The recall is getting lots of attention both because of the size of the recall and because the product is so popular. But contamination of food with foreign objects, and metal pieces in particular, happens more often than you might think.

In January, Unibright Foods recalled about 50,000 pounds of prepared meat products that were shipped to seven U.S. states after it was discovered that packages might contain what the Department of Agriculture called “extraneous metal materials.” A restaurant in Illinois discovered a piece of stainless steel wire in one of the sukiyaki beef products.

Last June, Wegmans recalled 6,000 bags of ice sold in its stores across the northeast over a period of more than five months that contained metal pieces from a broken machine part. In that case, contaminated bags of ice were discovered by the company itself, and no shards were found in ice that was actually sold.

In 2012, metal pieces in private-label products made by Bay Valley Foods, resulted in a recall of 74,000 cases of boxed pasta mix products, including macaroni and cheese.

That same year, Kellogg recalled 2.8 million boxes of Bite Size Frosted and Unfrosted Mini-Wheats when “due to the possible presence of fragments of flexible metal mesh from a faulty manufacturing part.” The boxes were distributed across the country.

And those are just a few of the cases of metal contamination over the past few years. Nobody knows exactly how often that particular problem occurs. But while food recalls involving disease-causing agents like E. coli and salmonella get the most attention, recalls due to the contamination of foreign objects are far from rare.

It’s perhaps not so surprising that metal pieces end up in food products, given our industrialized food system. When a piece of machinery breaks off in an electronics factory or an automotive plant, that’s a problem. When it happens in the food chain, that’s downright dangerous, though apparently few deaths or serious injuries have been reported from such contamination.

Some companies are taking steps to reduce the problem, including some highly sophisticated ones like ultrasound and nuclear magnetic resonance techniques. Production lines have been reconfigured and redesigned to minimize the number of parts that have metal moving against metal. |

But as long as we want a the wide variety of inexpensive food we get from our industrialized food system, the hazards of metal and other foreign objects making their way into our food supply will remain.

Read next: How Kraft’s Mac and Cheese Recall Will Affect Its Stock Price

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TIME public health

Here’s What Foods Are Most Likely To Have E. Coli or Salmonella

'For more than a decade, our fragmented federal food safety system has been in need of dramatic reform'

More than 80% of the reported E. Coli illnesses were traced to beef and vegetables, according to a new report on foodborne illness. Salmonella, meanwhile, is transmitted in many different kinds of foods, including seeded vegetables, eggs, fruits, chicken, sprouts, beef and pork.

The report, the result of collaboration between three federal agencies that handle food safety, examined nearly 1,000 instances of patient infection with foodborne illness to provide a reliable understanding of how pathogens spread. Researchers hope the findings will “enhance efforts to inform and engage stakeholders, including industry and consumers, about food safety strategies,” the report says.

The news comes as members of Congress push for new federal laws to strengthen food safety. More than 9 million people are infected with foodborne illness every year, and more 50,000 people are hospitalized, according to the report.

“For more than a decade, our fragmented federal food safety system has been in need of dramatic reform,” wrote Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois and Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro of Connecticut in an op-ed in The Hill last month. “This leaves millions of Americans vulnerable to foodborne illness and contamination, whether intentional or unintentional.”

The pair noted that 15 federal agencies are responsible for monitoring the food supply, diminishing their effectiveness. (Among them are the three organizations behind the report—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service).

DeLauro and Durbin have proposed legislation to consolidate the food safety organizations into one agency. Senator Kristen Gillibrand of New York has proposed requiring grocery stores to contact customers individually who have purchased recalled items.

TIME Research

IBM Thinks it Can Make Your Food Safer: Will it Work?

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IBM plans to sequence the microbiomes of food ingredients to prevent outbreaks earlier

Our food system is by no means bulletproof when it comes to pathogens. In just the past year, the United States saw major outbreaks of listeria in caramel apples and salmonella in nut butters, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 48 million Americans suffer from some kind of food-borne diseases annually. Meanwhile, food-borne illness results in $9 billion in medical costs and another $75 billion in contaminated food that’s recalled and tossed out every year. Regulatory agencies have acknowledged that more needs to be done.

One strategy comes from IBM, which announced on Thursday that it’s partnering with Mars on a project called the Sequencing the Food Supply Chain Consortium. Their goal, which will likely take at least three years to accomplish, is to sequence the makeup of various foods and then enter that information into a database. The thinking is that if they can establish, at the molecular level, what a given ingredient is supposed to look like, systems can be put into place to catch brewing problems before contaminated foods make it to your table.

“The hypothesis is that [this process] offers you a microscope into what’s happening in that [food] environment,” says Jeff Welser, vice president of IBM Research. “Any deviation from that might indicate there’s a problem.” IBM says it will take into account variations that could occur in ingredients based on where in the world the product is coming from, and what time of year it is.

“A key challenge for food safety experts today is that typically when they test food they only really have a chance of finding what they set out to look for,” says David Crean, global head of technical food safety development at Mars. “If they are testing for Salmonella, they won’t find Listeria.”

The process is highly time- and data-intensive, and not necessarily something companies will want to put their foods and ingredients through constantly, but IBM thinks the science could be developed into a simple test. “You ought to be able to do this when you’re doing normal testing during the day, like for E.coli. The goal is to find the markers that give you a safety-check barcode, if you will, and if you see a change then it lets you know we need to do further testing,” says Welser.

Within three to five years the consortium estimates it will have more companies involved as well as some version of the testing process available for commercial use. They plan to engage with regulatory agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when it’s determined the process works well.

The FDA says it is prioritizing food safety, and in 2011 the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law by President Obama. The FDA says it’s the most sweeping reform of food safety laws in over 70 years and the goal is to shift focus from responding to contamination to prevention. The FDA is supportive of whole genome sequencing as a way to find bacteria in food.

“Overall this seems to be a great basic science project,” says Jonathan A. Eisen, a professor at University of California, Davis. “Personally I believe we need major efforts in characterizing the communities found in and on food, and that a full characterization of the microbes in the facilities where food is produced would be great. This is the first I have heard of a company planning to do this on a large scale.” Eisen is not involved in the consortium, but has researched the suite of microbes in food.

The concept is ambitious, but could be a new way to keep our foods safer than they are currently.

Read next: Most Americans and Scientists Tend to Disagree, Survey Finds

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TIME Diet/Nutrition

How Much Arsenic Is In Your Rice?

rice
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Why you might want to lay off the rice milk

All rice and rice products are not created equal, according to a new study released today by Consumer Reports. Some types of rice, and some rice grown in specific regions, contain much higher levels of inorganic arsenic (IA) than others.

The report, available online and in the January 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine, offers new information to consumers who were left with questions after a 2012 report revealed measurable levels of arsenic in more than 60 rice samples. Arsenic exposure, especially long-term and at high levels, can lead to higher rates of skin, bladder and lung cancer, and heart disease.

For the latest findings, scientists at the Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center tested 128 samples of white, basmati, and jasmine rice for arsenic levels. They combined these results with tests and data from the original 2012 study, along with data from tests done by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The total number of samples tested was 697.

The results show a clear connection between geography and toxicity. Basmati rice from California has the lowest arsenic levels. Rice from Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana tend to contain the highest levels of IA. White basmati rice from California, India and Pakistan, and sushi rice from the U.S., on average, have half the IA of other types.

In a surprising twist, brown rice has 80 percent more arsenic than white rice of the same type since arsenic accumulates in the grain’s outer layers. Brown rice from California, India, or Pakistan are the best choices in this category, according to the report. Contrary to what one might think, organic, in this particular case, doesn’t mean safer; organic rice sucks up arsenic at the same levels as conventional rice of the same type.

The report also establishes a point system for consumers, which serves to guide people towards understanding what rice products have the highest amounts of arsenic and how to limit intake through serving size and consumption frequency.

In one example, it’s suggested that children consume rice pasta and hot rice cereal only once every two weeks as these products have higher point values.

Dr. Michael Crupain, a board-certified physician and associate director of the Consumer Safety and Sustainability Group, said that children are the most vulnerable population and should either consume certain products rarely, or, in the case of rice milk, never.

“Children younger than five should not drink rice drinks as a substitute for milk,” he explained, echoing the report’s findings.

Rice holds higher levels of arsenic than other grains and acts as one of nature’s “great scavengers of metallic compounds.” Unlike, millet or polenta, rice planted in arsenic-contaminated fields acts as a vacuum for the toxin. Inorganic arsenic, as opposed to the less toxic organic arsenic, which comes from minerals in the earth’s crust, was introduced into the water and soil through pesticides and drugs injected into animal feeds. The FDA rescinded approval for three of these drugs in 2013 after connections were found between poultry feces used as fertilizer on fields and elevated arsenic levels.

“Some parts of the country just have more arsenic in their soil than others,” Crupain explained. “Rice happens to be a plant that tends to take up arsenic when it’s present. It’s probably based on variety, different types of plants take on different amounts.”

Currently, the FDA does not have safety levels for arsenic in rice. The governmental organization has cautioned against making state-by-state or country-by country comparisons in IA levels for rice, citing the varying factors that can influence arsenic concentrations, such as soil composition, fertilizers, seasonal variability, and water-use practices.

In a statement to Civil Eats, FDA press officer Lauren Sucher said that the organization’s assessment of arsenic in rice remains a priority.

“Last year, the FDA released what we believe to be the largest set of test results to date on the presence of arsenic in rice and rice products, and we are planning to release a draft assessment of the potential health risks associated with the consumption of arsenic in these same foods,” she added.

Until then, the FDA and Consumer Reports have similar recommendations: Consumers should strive to maintain a balanced diet and eat a variety of grains. Parents should consider options other than rice cereal as a first solid food for their baby. Cooking rice in volumes of water five to six times that of the rice, and then draining the water, can reduce arsenic content, though this may also reduce the nutritional value of the rice.

The Consumer Reports study also analyzed arsenic levels in other grains. The data shows that quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, and polenta all contain lower IA levels, making them good alternatives. Bulgur, barley, and farro also contain negligible amounts of arsenic.

At the same time, food safety advocates like Dr. Crupain ultimately believe the government should set stronger standards.

“Consumers won’t have to make such difficult decisions about rice intake levels if we ensure that there is less arsenic in rice to begin with,” he said.

This post originally appeared on Civil Eats

TIME Food

USDA Approves Genetically Engineered Super Potato

potato
Stuart Minzey&—Getty Images

But some food-safety experts aren't psyched about the spud

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday approved a genetically engineered potato that is resistant to bruising and cuts down on a possible cancer-causing substance, though some food-safety experts aren’t so excited about the super spud.

The Innate Potato, trademarked by Simplot, contains the DNA of other kinds of potatoes mixed in through a process known as RNA interference technology, The Guardian reports.

“If this is an attempt to give crop biotechnology a more benign face, all it has really done is expose the inadequacies of the US regulation of GE crops,” Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist at Center for Food Safety, said in a statement. “We simply don’t know enough about RNA interference technology to determine whether GE crops developed with it are safe for people and the environment.”

Simplot says the new potato minimizes the creation of an amino acid that at high temperatures reacts with certain chemicals to become acrylamide, a substance the International Agency for Research on Cancer has called a “probably human carcinogen.”

The company has reportedly worked on the potato for more than a decade, but activists are already asking one of the company’s biggest customers, McDonald’s, not to buy it.

[The Guardian]

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