Tag Archives: produce

Chipotle to Adopt “Highest Level of Safety” Following E. Coli Outbreak

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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After bringing in IEH Laboratories and Consulting Group to reevaluate its practices after an E.coli outbreak that sickened dozens, Chipotle Mexican Grill announced it is implementing a program to ensure it achieves “the highest level of safety possible”. According to a press release issued today, Chipotle is enhancing its food safety program and taking the following actions:

  • Conducting high-resolution DNA-based testing of all fresh produce prior to shipment to restaurants
  • Conducting end-of-shelf-life testing of ingredient samples to ensure quality specifications are maintained throughout ingredient shelf life
  • Engaging in continuous improvements throughout its supply chain leveraging test result data to measure its vendor and supplier performance
  • Improving internal employee training related to food safety and food handling

The CDC and FDA investigation of the E. coli outbreak is ongoing and the source of the outbreak is still unknown.

GM Apples and Potatoes are ‘Safe’: FDA

Arctic Apples have ‘silenced’ genes that prevent them from turning brown when bruised, while genetic modification of Innate potatoes reduces the activity of genes that cause tubers to turn brown.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has completed its evaluation for two varieties of apples genetically engineered by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, Inc., and for six varieties of potatoes genetically engineered by J. R. Simplot Company and concluded that these foods are “as safe and nutritious as their conventional counterparts.”

Okanagan’s Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties of apples, known collectively by the trade name “Arctic Apples,” are genetically engineered to resist browning associated with cuts and bruises by reducing levels of enzymes that can cause browning.

Simplot’s varieties of Ranger Russet, Russet Burbank and Atlantic potatoes are collectively known by the trade name “Innate” and are genetically engineered to reduce the formation of black spot bruises by lowering the levels of certain enzymes in the potatoes. In addition, they are engineered to produce less acrylamide by lowering the levels of an amino acid called asparagine and by lowering the levels of reducing-sugars. Acrylamide is a chemical that can form in some foods during high-temperature cooking, such as frying, and has been found to be carcinogenic in rodents.

Foods derived from genetically engineered plants must meet the same legal standards, including safety standards, as foods derived from traditional plant breeding methods. Though producers of genetically engineered foods are not compelled to submit their products for FDA approval, both Okanagan, of British Columbia, Canada, and Simplot, of Boise, Idaho, submitted to FDA a summary of their safety and nutritional assessments.

“The consultation process includes a review of information provided by a company about the nature of the molecular changes and the nutritional composition of the food compared to traditionally bred varieties,” said Dennis Keefe, Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Office of Food Additive Safety. “This case-by-case safety evaluation ensures that food safety issues are resolved prior to commercial distribution.”

The changes are expected to make the produce healthier, more palatable and easier to transport and sell without spoilage, and hence result in less food waste. But the approval is expected to spark controversy among critics who argue that genetically modified foods will introduce potentially dangerous unknowns into the American food supply. Okanagan and Simplot may label their products as GMO, something that many consumer groups have advocated for.

Source: FDA.gov

Eating Organic Produce Lowers Pesticide Exposure

A recent study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, concluded that we consume fewer pesticides when we eat organic foods compared to their conventionally grown counterparts.

University of Washington’s Cynthia Curl and her fellow authors surveyed nearly 4,500 people about what they eat. They combined this information with average residue levels in those items from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program to estimate their intake of organophosphate pesticides (OPs). Organophosphates are a group of manufactured chemicals that are the most widely used insecticides today but are not allowed for use in organic farming.

Symptoms of sudden poisoning by organophosphates include headache, dizziness, weakness, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, salivation, watery eyes and small pupils. Severe symptoms include seizures, slow pulse, difficulty breathing and coma.

Long-term exposure to organophosphates can cause confusion, anxiety, loss of memory, loss of appetite, disorientation, depression and personality changes. After exposure, people can also develop nervous system problems such as muscle weakness and numbness and tingling of the hands and feet, and some studies in adults and children have linked organophosphate exposure to lymphoma and leukemia.

In their study, Curl and her team also collected urine samples from 720 people to test for dialkylphosphate (DAP) metabolites — common byproducts of the body metabolizing most OPs. DAP concentrations supported the estimated pesticide exposure, and the researchers also found that the 240 participants who said they ate more organic produce had “significantly lower” DAP concentrations.

This isn’t the first study relating to chemical residues and food consumption, but it is the first to include information on organic food consumption habits. “The food composition — chemical residue method described in the present study may prove useful in future epidemiological studies of long-term dietary OP exposure, particularly if paired with information on organic food consumption, which may modify the observed exposure-response relationship,” the authors wrote. “As concern grows regarding potential effects of low-level OP exposures, the need increases for more sophisticated exposure assessment methods.”