Food Safety Culture

Since I started writing food safety plans, I have been interested in looking at recalls and seeing how a food safety plan could have prevented the recall. Additionally, I like to think about how the food safety plan would need to be updated now there has been a recall for a particular product or ingredient.

For example, today there is a recall of Ritz crackers due to Salmonella in the whey powder which is an ingredient. We don’t currently know who the whey powder supplier and manufacturer are as that has not been released to the public. However, as Mondelēz Global LLC, the food manufacturer who owns Ritz brands, is following Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) standards for supply chain rules, they certainly do. As part of the supply chain controls, they would have guarantees of quality and safety standards, which would include providing a product being free of pathogens, including Salmonella.

What is whey? Remember the nursery rhyme? The curds and whey that Little Miss Muffet was eating on her tuffet is what happens when acid added to milk. You can do this at home by adding vinegar or lemon juice to milk. The milk separates into a lumpy clump solid portion and a liquid. The curds form as the insoluble milk proteins such as casein bind together with the milk fat. The liquid part is whey which contains the water soluble parts of milk including non-casein proteins as well as small amount of milk sugar (aka lactose) and minerals (Dairy Processing Handbook). Commercial whey is a dairy byproduct from cheese production.

Salmonella being present in whey powder is unexpected as milk, in the USA, is typically pasteurized before cheese production and after being separated from the curds, the water is removed first by ultra-filtration and then by drying. Since finding out that their whey powder was contaminated with Salmonella, the processor, and most likely probably FDA and other inspectors, will be looking to see if pasteurization and/or drying were sufficient to be processing preventive controls. They will also be checking their environmental monitoring and sanitation standards to find out where the Salmonella happened and prevent it from happening again. As well as contacting the FDA, they will also be contacting other companies that they provided their whey powder to as part of their recall process.

Fortunately, there is a small chance of Ritz crackers actually causing an outbreak of Salmonella as the crackers are cooked during manufacturing. The manufacturer will have this listed as a process preventive control in their food safety plan and, after this recall, if they haven’t done this before they will be validating the baking step to ensure that it is sufficient to kill Salmonella. This means they don’t have to rely on their suppliers for food safety.

Interested in food safety plans and how to use them to improve your food processing? Leave a comment below.

Gifting is Beautiful

The quote from Momentum this morning is “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” by  David Viscott. I wanted to know more about David Viscott as this quote is meaningful to my personal journey. From this article at the Quote Investigator I found some interesting information some of which I used to write this post.

David Viscott was a psychiatrist who hosted a pioneering radio talk show in the 1980s and 1990s during which he provided tough love counseling to callers. Unfortunately he died in 1996 of a probable heart attack.

Viscott’s statement was composed of three parts instead of two:

The purpose of life is to discover your gift.
The work of life is to develop it.
The meaning of life is to give your gift away.

I like this three part version because I like the idea that effort and work are required as many gifts are wasted when we don’t work on them. On a personal level, I’m still trying to work out what my gift is and, hence, what my life’s work and meaning are. I know I want to use my food science technical knowledge to make the food system more equitable and I want to appreciate beauty in world more. By beauty I mean both enjoying and appreciating the natural world and to add beauty to the world through my own creativity and actions. I’m trying to link these two purposes together.

On the subject of gifts, Ralph Waldo Emerson stated that a gift should require effort. Thus, creating a gift is a more meaningful gift than giving one that was purchased.

Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me. Therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd, his lamb; the farmer, corn; the miner, a stone; the painter, his picture; the girl, a handkerchief of her own sewing.

I’m definitely happier when I give gifts I have made. However, not everyone is appreciative of such gifts and therefore worthy of a handmade gift. Knitters call this knitworthy.  I wonder if Emerson was truly knitworthy.


Following on from my last two posts about the rendering of children from families seeking asylum in the USA.

It has been confirmed that the government does not have a process for re-uniting the families. Border control separated the children from their parents for the misdemeanor of  entering the USA illegally. These are families that are so desperate that they left their home countries due to violence and when they arrive at the USA border they are turned away. So they cross the border illegally as this is their only chance to a half-way decent life. Some of the families have been re-united and there are heart-breaking stories all over the internet about children having not been cared for or washed while they were in US custody and are returned to their parents, filthy with lice.

There is a video showing the reunification of a mother and daughter, while heart-warming, it also shows a child who appears deeply traumatized. I would say that these videos should’t be shown for the sake of the child’s privacy, but we need witnesses to the horrors that the US government has inflicted on these refugees.

Furthermore, there is now evidence that children were taken to an office building and held there. This building was not approved to childcare and lacked facilities for children to stay overnight or for a long-time.

Additionally in one of the Texas “shelters” children were given anti-psychotic drugs to keep them docile. Some were told to take the drugs or never see their families again.

We need to do better.


Hug Your Family

Continuing yesterday’s post as there is more from the testimony on the policy of zero tolerance towards immigration and the effects of tearing families apart. Adam Klasfeld summarizes the second document. I am not going to quote from it or Adam’s thread this evening. This document emphasizes that there is no system in place for parents and children to communicate or to be reunited. Additionally details of the trauma experienced by both the parents and the children is stated in stark terms. Even if you think immigration into the USA should be limited, there is NO reason to be treating anyone so horribly, especially refugees fleeing violence.

If you have children, give them a hug.

If you haven’t seen this video from Now This, you should know that asylum seeking children are expected to represent themselves at their immigration hearings. They are not guaranteed a lawyer. This video is a re-enactment of children in immigration court. I read one tweet that said it was actually worse in court than shown in the video.

If you have children, hugs to your children.

I read this a few weeks ago, but it just came up again on Twitter today. The Department of Homeland Security is going to re-examine naturalized citizens’ applications and may revoke citizenship. I’m hyperventilating about this one and, no, I didn’t lie on my application. The process is complex so wording could be twisted to make anything a lie if the government or lawyers chose. Also I am from Britain and I’m white, so…

Hug your family.

There are a number of protests around the country. The one at the Statue of Liberty is getting a lot of publicity and I’ve been following the protest at the ICE facility in Philadelphia. Thanks to these protesters.



Not in My Name

I cannot write a reasonable and civil post after reading this thread of tweets.  The government which makes refugees unwelcome and prevented from seeking asylum does not represent me. I am angry. Not in my name.

“When I first spoke with ICE officers, they told us, ‘why did you come from your country?’, ‘don’t you know that we hate you people?’, ‘we don’t want you in our country.’ … We are being treated like criminals in chains and everything. We’re just seeking refuge.”

I cannot permit trauma to be inflicted on vulnerable people fleeing violence and seeking asylum. I am crying. Not in my name.

“Children who have been forcibly separated from their parents face not only this trauma, but also the trauma of having been torn from their parents, placed in detention centers and brought to new places and people that they may not know.” Catholic Charities, Boston, refugee dir.

I cannot sit quietly when people are turned away at the border before being able to ask for asylum. When they then enter illegally to escape violence and abuse, they are arrested and their children were torn away from them, and once in detention asylum seekers are treated appallingly. I am furious. Not in my name.

“They took me to the ‘icebox.’ … It was very cold and we were only given blankets made of aluminum foil. We were sleeping on the freezing ground. We were being grossly shouted at.” Honduran single mom separated from her 6-year-old.

I cannot watch idly when more than a week after we were told that the families would be reunited, there isn’t a system in place which allows families find each other, let alone get back together again. There appear to be little ore no records of where different family members were sent. I am frustrated. Not in my name

“As of our last communication with them, none of the above individuals had been informed of plans to reunite them with their minor children, grandchildren, or other minor aged family members.” Senior staff attorney for ABA Immigration Justice Project, referring to families here.

I cannot remain silent as my heart breaks when any person is treated inhumanely. I am enraged. Not in my name.

I demand that all refugees are treated with respect and, yes, civility when they ask for help. I am determined. In my name.

Original Report  Thanks the Adam Klasfeld for taking the effort to read through and  make public the information in the recently released documents on immigration.



A fishy story

Writing this sent me down memory lane of my childhood neighborhood. In addition, I checked some of the distances on Goggle maps because I remember everything being much further away as I was a particularly small child. Some background might be helpful.

I grew up in Birmingham (England for my oh-so-amusing American friends who have said “you don’t sound like you are from Alabama”) in a suburb called Selly Park, which in my mind is part of Selly Oak . Selly Park was “posh”, Selly Oak was more lower class and industrial. I have no idea what either are like now.

A couple of days ago, I was reading this article from the Guardian, which bought back some great food memories. My mum was a health nut before there were health nuts or more likely before I knew there were health nuts. She refused to eat parsnips and black pepper for years because she heard they caused cancer. She ate whole wheat bread at the time that white sliced bread was the best thing ever and whole wheat bread was chewy and tough and essentially indigestible. She didn’t like chocolate.

One time I was being a brat about eating fish, I demanded fish fingers instead of the fresh fillets that she usually cooked. I didn’t want the fresh fish that mum had almost definitely got from the Birmingham fish market which was in the city center or Town as we called it. My parents didn’t drive so getting fish required her walking to the bus stop about 7 mins from our house and a 20 min bus ride into town, followed by a 10 min walk to the market. I’m sure she bought other stuff when there; if I was with her there were prawns in a little bag to keep me quiet. After buying fish she probably stopped at the Bullring market for fruit and veg, probably with me whining as I hated the market then, it was busy and noisy and I was terrified of losing mum [I was a very small child, remember]. Then she/we returned home. If she was carrying a lot she might get a taxi. Lacking a car meant we used lots of taxis.

If she didn’t go into Town she might walk up to the shops in Selly Oak that were 10 min away and she would stop at the greengrocer, the butcher, and the baker to get our different food supplies. Oh, and the shops were closed Wednesday afternoon and Sunday and probably all closed by 5:30 every day and earlier on Saturdays and she worked full-time after I was about 9 years old. I don’t remember when the first supermarket came to Birmingham. The first I remember was a Sainsbury’s in Northfield that must have opened around 1975ish. Northfield was south of us away from Town so we didn’t go there very often, as Town was more exciting. I remember Sainsbury’s have so much choice and they pumped out bakery smells into the shopping center. (In a fit of honesty, I should point out, because my brother will if I don’t, as we got older and independent it is was more likely that my brother and, once he left home myself, buying the food in Town. Actually dad might have bought the food before we did. So while mum had it tough, she gladly gave up her responsibilities for food shopping as soon as she could.)

So I refused those delicious cod or plaice fillets she had made such an effort to buy and demanded fish fingers. Her solution was to hand-make fish fingers, because she didn’t have enough to do all ready. I was really disappointed. Truly all I was hoping for the bright orange coated Bird’s Eye fish fingers that I got at friend’s house. That was real food!


Health, Knowledge and Flavors

Salud, saberes y sabores

I just found out about a new FAO publication which has recipes from women who live in Latin America and the Caribbean:  Health, Knowledge and Flavors. The purpose is to recover culinary knowledge while recognizing women’s work in improving the nutritional quality of traditional foods.

I’m intrigued with some of these recipes and looking forward to trying them. I also see that there are a number of ingredients that I don’t know, so it will be interesting to see if I can find them in southern NJ.