As I’m sure most of you know, we have seen an increase in food allergies in the United States over the past two decades. The science and theories about why that is happening is a topic for another day. However, the rise in food allergies has had a major impact on restaurants and food service establishments. As we see an increase in food allergies, we need to see an increase in food allergy training. This is happening, slowly, in food service across the country. Over the past few years, more allergy training courses and certifications have been developed, and regulations for training and notifications have been put into place. But more needs to be done to educate and train food service employees around safely and successfully accommodating food allergies.
Let’s review some basic food allergy statistics. Approximately 15 million people in the United States have food allergies, including 9 million adults and 6 million children. The 8 most common allergies – including milk, eggs, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts – make up 90% of American’s food allergies. Keep in mind, though, there are many other foods that people may be allergic to. In fact, there are over 160 foods that have been identified as an allergen, including some spices. The CDC has found that between 1997 – 2007 there was an 18% increase in allergy rates in children. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can include itching, swelling, stomach cramps, vomiting, dizziness, and even death. It is important that food employees get proper training to protect their customers from illness and, potentially, death. Along with concerns about proper procedures for food allergens, we must also protect customers with food intolerances and sensitivities and those with Celiac Disease.
Food service employees need to understand the risks associated with food allergies and ways they can prevent allergic reactions from happening to their customers. Proper training is required to learn about the allergens, how to avoid cross-contact, the importance of labeling, and how to engage in open communication with the customers…
To read more from Total Food Service, click here.
On April 4, 2017, the Canadian Brand Robin Hood Flour was recalled for Microbiological – E. coli. The E. coli was identified during the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s food safety inspection. Robin Hood is in the process of removing the recalled product from the marketplace.
General Mills flour also took some heat when they had to recall several types of flour due to E. coli illnesses in 2016 as well.
General Mills made a statement to remind the public not to eat raw dough. “Do not eat uncooked dough or batter made with raw flour. Flour is made from wheat that is grown outdoors where bacteria are often present. Flour is typically not treated to kill bacteria during the normal milling process” (General Mills).
Food Safety Magazine reminds people that, “flour products have long shelf lives and recalled products could be in people’s homes for a long time. If you have any recalled flour products in your home, throw them away.”
Food Safety also lists safe food handling practices when it comes to baking with flour and other raw ingredients:
- Do not taste or eat any raw dough or batter, whether for cookies, tortillas, pizza, biscuits, pancakes, or crafts made with raw flour, such as homemade play dough or holiday ornaments.
- Do not let children play with or eat raw dough, including dough for crafts.
- Bake or cook raw dough and batter, such as cookie dough and cake mix, before eating.
- Do not make milkshakes with products that contain raw flour, such as cake mix.
- Do not use raw, homemade cookie dough in ice cream.
- Follow the recipe or package directions for cooking or baking at the proper temperature and for the specified time.
- Keep raw foods such as flour or eggs separate from ready-to eat-foods. Because flour is a powder, it can spread easily.
- Follow label directions to refrigerate products containing raw dough or eggs until they are cooked.
- Clean up thoroughly after handling flour, eggs or raw dough by washing your hands with running water and soap after handling flour, raw eggs or any surfaces that they have touched. Also wash bowls, utensils, countertops and other surfaces with hot water and soap.
Most importantly, stay safe. Make sure to avoid the consumption of raw dough, keep flour sealed and sanitary, and remember to replace flour in your home every so often to keep the product fresh.
For several years, legislative bodies throughout the country have struggled with the issue of whether to label food products as containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or bioengineered food. Congress and various states have wrestled with whether to require foods containing GMOs to be labeled as such, and, if so, what the label should look like.
In July 2016, Congress voted to pass a GMO disclosure bill, establishing national standards for food labeling when foods contain GMO ingredients (with certain exceptions). On July 29, 2016, President Barack Obama signed the bill into law (GMO Labeling law). While proposed federal legislation in 2015 would have made GMO labeling only a voluntary program, the new GMO Labeling law—the result of bipartisan congressional compromise—makes GMO labeling mandatory. The law also preempts individual state GMO labeling laws.
Although the GMO Labeling law provides information about the different ways companies will be permitted to disclose GMO ingredients, it leaves the specific regulations implementing the law to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish by July 2018. Therefore, some uncertainty about the details of the new law remains for food companies, industry groups and consumers. It also remains to be seen how, if at all, the new law and the buzz surrounding it will cause some companies to modify any prior decisions to label GMO-containing products. Additionally, will the law impact the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s highly anticipated definition of the term “natural” in food labeling? Significantly, will the new presidential administration affect implementation of the law, and if so, how? The GMO Labeling law begins a new chapter of the GMO labeling saga, but the tale is far from over.
What Does the New Law Say?
The secretary of agriculture, as head of USDA, is tasked with promulgating the specific GMO labeling regulations, including determining 1) which foods will be considered “bioengineered” and subject to the labeling requirements and 2) the specific ways a company can disclose GMOs on its labels. But the GMO Labeling law requires that disclosure be made on a food label through one of the following ways: text, a symbol or picture, a hotline consumers can call to receive GMO information or a bar code that links to a website displaying GMO information for the product.
Read More at Food Safety Magazine
Popcorn pops because water is stored in a small circle of soft starch in each kernel. As the kernel is heated, the water heats, the droplet of moisture turns to steam and the steam builds up pressure until the kernel finally explodes to many times its original volume. Americans consume 17.3 billion quarts of popped popcorn each year. The average American eats about 68 quarts.
Lettuce is a member of the sunflower family. Almost all lettuce is packed right in the field. About 25% of all iceberg lettuce is made into fresh cut salads.
In the US in 1998, hens produced 6,657,000,000 dozen eggs – 6.657 billion dozen! After these eggs were laid, about two-thirds were sold in the shell and one third of them were broken – not be accident, but on purpose. After the eggs are broken out of their shells, they can be made into liquid, frozen, dried and specialty egg products. The egg shell may have as many as 17,000 tiny pores over its surface. Through them, the egg can absorb flavors and odors. Storing them in their cartons helps keep them fresh. Eggs age more in one day at room temperature than in one week in the refrigerator.
Apples are a member of the rose family. In the winter, apple trees need to “rest” for about 900-1,000 hours below 45 degrees F in order to flower and fruit properly. If you grew 100 apple trees from the seeds of one tree, they would all be different.
Agriculture Council of America
A bill recently introduced by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) calls for a single, independent food safety agency. The Safe Food Act 2015 would combine the responsibilities of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under one roof within the Department of Health and Human Services.
Read the bill here.