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Rick Biros, President/Publisher, Innovative Publishing Co. LLC
Biros' Blog

Bill 2491 – NIMBY Pesticides and GMOs

By Rick Biros
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Rick Biros, President/Publisher, Innovative Publishing Co. LLC

Kauai is the 4th largest island of Hawaii.  It is lush and green with a 12-month growing season. Kauai is also where many of the outdoor scenes were filmed for Jurassic Park, the movie where a science experiment ran amok.

Syngenta is the inventor and primary patent holder of the pesticide Atrazine. Syngenta’s host country Switzerland as well as the rest of the European Union prohibits the use of Atrazine. The CDC website says one of the primary ways that Atrazine can affect your health is by altering the way that the reproductive system works. Studies of couples living on farms that use Atrazine for weed control found an increase in the risk of pre-term delivery. According to the CDC, Atrazine caused liver, kidney, and heart damage in animals; it is possible that Atrazine could cause these effects in humans, although this has not been examined.

In 2006 and 2008, dozens of children and teachers at Waimea Canyon Middle School on Kauai were sickened and sent to local hospitals. Syngenta denied that the adjacent fields of experimental GMO corn and the related pesticide spraying was the culprit. The Hawaii State Teachers Association filed a temporary restraining order against Syngenta to force them to stop spraying next to the school. Once Syngenta stopped spraying those fields and since then there have been no further incidents. Atrazine and other chemicals have been found in the drainage ditches leading from the fields into coastal waters and residents on the west side of Kauai reported massive sea urchin die offs in coastal areas. Obstetricians, pediatricians and other local physicians have expressed concerns about what they believe to be unusually high levels of normally rare birth defects and certain types of cancers. Parents report their children have higher than normal incidents of nose bleeds and respiratory problems. All this has been reported in his blog by Gary Hooser, a Kauai council member who co-introduced Bill 2491, late last year. 

According to Hooser, Bill 2491 contains three basic provisions:

  1. Pesticide and GMO disclosure;
  2. Buffer zones around schools, hospitals and homes; and 
  3. A county sponsored and paid for comprehensive study of health and environmental impact. 

The Kauai County Council passed into law Bill 2491 after they overrode a veto from Kauai’s mayor. Bill 2491 does not ban pesticides nor does it ban GMOs, it simply requires disclosure according to Hooser. The mayor of Kauai is not the only local to oppose Bill 2491. Opponents say the studies that the county will pay for (through higher taxes), are redundant to EPA, USDA and FDA activities regarding the use of both GMO plants and pesticides.

On January 10th, DuPont, Syngenta and Dow filed suit trying to overturn Bill 2491 as being invalid. In a joint statement that was published in the Wall Street Journal they said “It (the bill) arbitrarily targets our industry with burdensome and baseless restrictions on farming operations by attempting to regulate activities over which counties in Hawaii have no jurisdiction.”

I don’t think the bill “arbitrarily” targets the pesticide and GMO industry. I think it specifically targets the pesticide and GMO industry and that local governments should have the ability to regulate pesticides and agricultural activity. It’s their backyard, it’s their health, their commerce (or lack there of), it’s their lives and they are willing to finance it. Simply, it’s their decision!

Bill 2491 almost seems like a local zoning law, however, and a lot of anti-GMO consumer activist groups have jumped on the Bill 2491 bandwagon and it has become a battle ground for the GMO companies who will not yield any ground to additional regulations for fear that the local movement on GMO zoning will snowball on them. Perhaps this is why Bill 2491 is dubbed “The Pesticide Bill” by the local media, but The Huffington Post calls the same bill the “GMO Bill.” 

General Mills, Post and Kellogg’s have all announced non-GMO versions of their core brands of cereals. Why? Because there is a market for them! The organic market continues to gain market share, with food processors and retailers helping accelerate the growth. Kauai happens to have a fairly large organic farming community, which is at risk from cross contamination from experimental GMO plants that are being sprayed with pesticides to determine the amount of pesticides needed. This is a point that even Hooser failed to point out.

I am not opposed to all GMOs and feel they offer certain benefits (drought resistance for example) that should be utilized when appropriate. However, the use of GMOs for the sole purpose of selling more pesticides is not something I support. And if I felt threatened by them, I’d like to have the ability, with the consensus of my community, to prevent them from being used in or very near my backyard.

References: 
1. CDC’s website with Atrazine information, http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/PHS/PHS.asp?id=336&tid=59

Rick Biros, President/Publisher, Innovative Publishing Co. LLC
Biros' Blog

Two New Proposed Rules. In about a year, it’s HACCP for everybody!

By Rick Biros
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Rick Biros, President/Publisher, Innovative Publishing Co. LLC

Some of the most boring press conferences are when coaches face the press after a game. Most of the questions coming from the press corps are not well thought out. It’s like they are just asking questions just because they can. While the coaches are required to be accessible to the press, I appreciate it when they put some personality and thought into their answers. One time, former Chicago Bears coach Mike Dikta confronted a reporter with “What’s the difference between a three-week-old puppy and a sportswriter? In six weeks, the puppy stops whining.”

The reason some of us watch these press conferences is for the remote possibility the coach actually says something interesting or even better, when they break down under the weight of all the really stupid questions. There was a Coors Light commercial series with coaches completely losing it. Football fans might remember former Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Mora whining “Playoffs?”  See video 

Bill Parcells, former head coach of the New York Giants was classic. Parcells had no patience for stupidity and used to yell at reporters, “That’s a really stupid question. Next question!”

Dr. Margaret Hamburg, Commissioner and Michael Taylor, Deputy Commissioner from FDA held a press conference Friday, January 4 announcing two new proposed food safety rules that I had the pleasure of attending. Hamburg said “This is a very big step in direction of creating a comprehensive prevention-based food safety system.”

The first rule proposed would require makers of food to be sold in the United States, whether produced at a foreign- or domestic-based facility, to develop a formal plan for preventing their food products from causing foodborne illness. The rule would also require them to have plans for correcting any problems that arise. A.K.A. HACCP. 

In the past, FDA enforced HACCP in seafood and juice. USDA enforced HACCP in meat and poultry. In about a year, it’s HACCP for everybody! Here’s the link to the rule: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/FSMA/ucm334115.htm

The second proposed rule proposes enforceable safety standards for the production and harvesting of produce on farms. FDA is targeting the five pathways of microbiological contamination: water, worker hygiene, soil materials, animals and packing houses – http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/FSMA/ucm334114.htm

We are now in a 120-day review period for the two proposed rules. Taylor said, it typically takes the agency about a year to review the comments and issue the final rule.  So, we are looking at HACCP being the law of the land in all segments of the food industry in 2014.

The question food companies need to ask is not what will FDA’s HACCP rule look like in 2014, but how good is our HACCP plan now? Hamburg said the preventive controls rule is basic common sense food safety. Use 2013 as the year to revisit your HACCP plan. When was it last revised? What type of records are you keeping? Simply, if you have a good HACCP plan in place now, regulatory compliance should not be difficult. 

In the press conference, Hamburg said that additional rules to follow soon include new responsibilities for importers to verify that food products grown or processed overseas are as safe as domestically-produced food, and accreditation standards to strengthen the quality of third-party food safety audits overseas.

Unlike many coaches after a game, Hamburg and Taylor did a good job communicating their points. However, it was the consumer press with their questions that brought to mind how well composed Hamburg and Taylor stayed handling questions such as “How many foodborne illnesses will be prevented if these rules are carried out,” “How much does this cost,” and the best one, “How will FDA make sure farms will prevent wildlife from contaminating fields?” They remained cool and politely answered the questions. I guess they have more patience than me.

That last question made me think, how would Bill Parcells answer that? Picture this old grouchy guy who doesn’t care what anybody thinks of him rephrasing the question: “You want me to tell you how my agency will make sure farms are preventing wildlife from walking through or flying over the fields?? Next question!”

Rick Biros, President/Publisher, Innovative Publishing Co. LLC
Biros' Blog

Food Safety Supply Chain Quality Assurance

By Rick Biros
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Rick Biros, President/Publisher, Innovative Publishing Co. LLC

Both the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) have certainly raised the awareness of food safety in the supply chain.  The subject has been covered extensively by Food Safety Tech with articles such as the Taylor Farms Unnecessary Recall, and Product Tracing.  Earlier this year, at Food Safety Tech’s Supply Chain Vulnerabilities Conference we learned about many supply chain threats to food companies.

Last month, Food Safety Tech Editorial Advisors David Acheson, Jennifer McEntire and Jerry Roberts met with Tom, Beth and me in Philadelphia to discuss the next Food Safety Supply Chain Conference.  After an lively conversation over lunch, David commented that the topics we were proposing for the next conference were so numerous that we were looking at an eight day conference, thus, the conference series was established!

Food safety in the supply chain is certainly immense and overwhelming topic.  Through the conference evaluation forms we learned it’s one thing to learn about the problems, it’s another to know what the solutions are!

Food Safety Tech has taken steps to help the food industry tackle these challenges by developing a Food Safety Supply Chain Conference series and premiering the Supply Chain Resource Center.  Both will inform you on the threats to your company from the supply chain, but equally, if not more importantly, how to deal with these threats with best practices and technology solutions.

The October two day Food Safety Supply Chain Conference in Philadelphia focuses on:

  • Food Safety Supply Chain Quality Assurance
  • Traceability
  • Recall Management Strategies
  • Legal Liabilities

You will learn not only the vulnerabilities in the supply chain that you need to protect your company from, but also learn of best practices and technology tools to help you reduce your company’s exposure to food safety recalls as a result of your suppliers and improve profitability.  Simply, the goal is to provide practical information that after attending the conference you can begin implementing what you learn at your company immediately.

The Supply Chain Resource Center, sponsored by SafetyChain Software is a microsite within FoodSafetyTech.com that is a central point or repository of food safety supply chain news, articles, white papers, case histories, videos, archived webinars and more.  The Resource Center is more than just didactic content.  You can become an active member of the industry by participating in the interactive poll.  “Food for Thought” allows you to voice your opinion and thoughts.  “More Resources,” on the lower right are helpful industry links and the “Safety Chain Learning Center” is content posted by the sponsor.  We encourage you to bookmark the page and visit the Resource Center on a weekly basis to review most current news on food safety supply chain quality assurance in one convenient spot.

Later this year, we plan to roll out more Resource Centers on topics such as Traceability, Recall Management, Food Safety Audits, Food Microbiology, Food Forensics and Food Safety Training.  Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in contributing content or are interested in the sponsorship opportunities.

Both the Food Safety Supply Chain Conference and the Supply Chain Resource Center demonstrate Food Safety Tech’s belief that while many food companies have a good handle on their own food safety programs, their exposure to food safety incidents is getting higher with the larger, more global food supply chain and it is our job as a trusted information provider to educate the industry on the vulnerabilities as well as the solutions to these challenges.

All the best!

Rick Biros
Publisher/President

Rick Biros, President/Publisher, Innovative Publishing Co. LLC
Biros' Blog

What You Don’t Know Will Hurt You, and Food Execs in Orange Prison Suits

By Rick Biros
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Rick Biros, President/Publisher, Innovative Publishing Co. LLC

Delegates from Food Safety Tech‘s Supply Chain Vulnerabilities left the conference better prepared to face the challenges from the threats to their companies from the global supply chain.

Pat Brown, Senior Director of Food Safety at Rite Aid, who is a Food Safety Tech Advisor and was interviewed for the “What Keeps You Up at Night?” Food Safety Tech article, said to me at this week’s Supply Chain Vulnerabilities Conference in a tongue-in-cheek manner, “Rick, you know what keeps me up now? Your f#@&! conference!”

I know Pat well enough to understand his comment and Pat did not have the monopoly on the word “Fear.” Our intent in developing this conference was not to scare the pants off food safety and quality professionals but to educate them on the threats to their customers and companies from the supply chain and, equally important, introduce some best practices and technology solutions.  

Speakers presented supply chain threats to food companies and their customers such as spices from Asia and everything that comes with them such as pesticide residues, bacteria and rocks. Tim Sonntag from Wixon pointed out that spices and seasonings topped  FDA’s Reportable Food Registry of salmonella-related entries and explained why traceability is a challenge when sourcing products such as spices from Asia.  

Marty Mukenfuss from FDA gave us an update on the Food Safety Modernization Act as well as a rundown of the FY 2011 Imported Food Report.  Tatiana Lorca of Ecolab provided a GFSI overview but more importantly, Best Practices of making the best use of GFSI. The case histories that were presented were from big and medium size companies and provided us with real world solutions to better managing supplier risk.  The two lawyers in the group, Jack Hall and Marty Ellis were entertaining and enlightening on the legal threats and thus, financial damages of a food safety outbreak caused by a supplier. Also, they discussed the legal ramifications of FSMA and provided available tools to protect the industry.

It’s not just imported food supplies that are threats. Paul Hall of Flying Foods told us of pre-cooked chicken from a domestic supplier that tested 95 percent positive for salmonella and the steps his company took to prevent that.  

Pharmaceutical and Medical Device executives have gone to jail when found negligent in product safety issues. With FSMA, FDA has more enforcement power than ever before, which was confirmed by Mukenfuss. Dr. David Acheson, the chairperson of this conference, moderated a panel discussion that included the question “should food executives go to jail if they are knowledgeable and negligent in a food safety outbreak that cased injury to the public?” The consensus from the panel: “Yes!”

Jennifer McEntire of Leavitt Partners gave a fantastic presentation on Traceability and she reviewed the background of an IFT traceability pilot project she is working on. The project was commissioned by FDA to determine what data is needed to trace products and how to make sure it is accurate and quickly accessible. The data is being reviewed by IFT now and will be presented to Congress this summer. Food Safety Tech plans to report on its findings as soon as it is available.

Overall, the presentations led to discussions between speakers, delegates and sponsors. Solutions, tools and best practices were discussed so that fear was not the underlining them of the conference. I would say the takeaways were: 

  1. With more and more global procurement of supplies, it is even more difficult now to produce safe, quality food products;
  2. FSMA is a game changer for the food industry; 
  3. There are tools, solutions and best practices that can guide you through FSMA compliance as well as protect you from supply chain threats;
  4. GFSI is a great tool but is not the silver bullet. Also, you need to understand the difference between a good audit and a bad audit; and
  5. Supply Chain education and understanding is key to protecting your customers and company.

The purpose of the conference was not only to illustrate things that food safety and quality professionals need to be aware of but how to plan for and prevent these threats from harming your customers and company. The conference was successful because delegates left with tools and techniques that they can start using and implementing right away.

At the conclusion of the conference we realized that this subject is much larger and can’t be covered in two days.  We are now planning a follow up program for the fall.

All the best!

Rick Biros
Publisher/President

Rick Biros, President/Publisher, Innovative Publishing Co. LLC
Biros' Blog

The Then and Now of Food Safety

By Rick Biros
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Rick Biros, President/Publisher, Innovative Publishing Co. LLC
I just finished reading “Steve Jobs,” the biography by Walter Isaacson, on my iPad, of course! Jobs would have celebrated his 57th birthday on February 24. 
 
Jobs did not invent many things, but he was a master at putting together ideas, art and technology in ways that invented the future. He was instrumental in changing how we interact with all sorts of content, how we listen to music, interact with our phones, read books and consume content. We still listen to music. We still talk on the phone. We still read books and we still consume content. We just do it differently now. 
Think then and now. What’s the same and what’s different in your life?  
 
Then, again, think then and now. What’s the same and what’s different in food safety? There are still food safety challenges but how are they different?
 
In 1993, in the Pacific Northwest part of the US, three children died from eating hamburgers contaminated with E.coli O157; one more child died from being exposed to the bacteria through cross contamination in a day care facility. Sixty people had liver failure as a result of the contaminated food.  
 
The E. coli O104 bean sprout outbreak in Europe last summer showed us that Mother Nature continues to challenge food safety professionals with new strains of pathogens, this time even more deadly. The statistics from this outbreak are more than 10 times greater than what happened in 1993 in Seattle with more than 60 people dead and over 600 affected by liver failure.
 
In 1994, the World Trade Organization was established to help countries have improved access to export markets. They identified the need to ensure confidence in the safety of the food supply.  “Quality assurance systems such as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system will encourage the food industry and government alike to control food production by concentrating on the critical factors to ensure food quality and safety.”1
 
Now, we have increased world trade in the food industry, yet today, U.S. food companies tell us that one of their biggest fears is contaminants coming into their facility from foreign suppliers. We’ve got more trade but with even more food safety challenges, though the WTO had hoped to avoid such an issue.
 
The genesis of Food Quality 
In December 1994, I launched the first trade magazine focused on food quality assurance, Food Quality. We printed 22,000 copies and dropped them in the mail, hoping people would read it. The premiere issue had Moses in a lab coat carrying two tablets with HACCP chiseled on them. I wrote a Publisher’s Column for every issue. Some were pretty good such as “Playing With Fire” which I wrote in December 2003, which warned about the potential of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or Mad Cow Disease coming into the North American meat supply because of the continued use of feed with ruminant additives. The column was published 10 days prior to the first case of BSE was reported in the U.S. and was later recognized by the American Business Publication Editors with an award. (Food Quality is now published by Wiley, and since 2009, I am no longer affiliated with it.)
 
In the 18 years since Food Quality’s premiere, pathogens and contaminants continue to rear their ugly heads with a trail of death and injury in their wake. Have things gotten any better?  
 
Yes. I believe food safety technology has advanced significantly empowering the industry with the ability to detect contaminants, faster and more accurately. Food safety awareness in the food industry as well as education has increased. Food safety professionals have earned the respect from the C-level suite and are seeing increased support. That’s a big step forward from 1994, however, food safety is a marathon with no finish line in sight and there is still much more work to be done!   
 
In a conversation I had with Dr. David Acheson this summer, we discussed the state of the food industry and several new food safety “game changers” that will affect the industry. 
  1. Here in the US, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is changing the way FDA will monitor and enforce food safety standards and controls. Most of the food industry is unprepared for FSMA. FDA will no longer be an annoying gnat that a food company can just swat away.  
  2. The bean sprout outbreak in Europe last summer was a game changer. What’s the next strain? When will it hit and how hard? 
  3. GFSI supplier audits are all the rage but are they the foolproof tool that food companies can put blind faith into? Perhaps not. The cantaloupe incident last year showed us that. GFSI audits can be good tools when used right. But there is a lot more to supplier controls that food companies need to prepare for… trust but verify!
  4. HACCP is not just for meat, dairy, seafood vertical industries anymore. Thanks to FDA, it will be applicable across the food industry. Yes, many verticals have the same level of knowledge about HACCP that the meat industry had in 1998; i.e. HACCP = Have a Cup of Coffee and Pray!
  5. Severe drought in Texas and the Southwest and unusually wet summers in the Mid-Atlantic sections of the U.S. affects not only agriculture but also food processing. How will this affect supply and quality, and what other impact will climate change have on food safety?   
The food industry certainly has its challenges ahead and there is a growing need for information, education and knowledge, on a global scale.  
 
Food Safety Tech: A new digital platform
With that said, I am happy to premiere Food Safety Tech, a new digital platform for knowledge and information of food safety, food quality, food business and food sustainability! The goal is to not only provide you with the information you need, but to provide it in one convenient place. While the task at hand of informing the food industry is still the same as it was in 1994, the way we deliver content is more in line with the way people consume content now.  
 
Using a core team of food industry subject matter experts, editors with both life science and journalism degrees coupled with decades of B2B publishing, events and management experience, we have built Food Safety Tech from the ground up as a new media online solution balancing both the readers’ informational needs along with advertisers marketing objectives.  
 
When I say subject matter experts, I’m not kidding! Food Safety Tech has some the best names in the industry advising us on editorial topics and direction:
 
  • David Acheson, MD, Managing Director – Food and Import Safety, Leavitt Partners
  • Gary Ades, Ph.D., President G&L Consulting Group, LLC
  • Jeff Bloom, Executive VP, The Dairy Practices Council
  • Patrick Brown, Senior Director of Food Safety, Rite Aid Corporation
  • Marcos Cantharino, Global Business Director, DuPont Qualicon
  • Mark Carter, CEO, QC Laboratories
  • Jeffery Cawley, VP Industry Leadership, Northwest Analytics
  • Ben Chapman, Ph.D. Asst. Professor, Food Safety Specialist, North Carolina State University
  • Larry Cohen, Food Safety Director, Saputo Cheese U.S.A. 
  • Philip Elliot, Ph.D, Food Safety, Global Quality Assurance, W.K. Kellogg Institute
  • Larry Epling, Divisional QA/Food Safety Manager – FPP, Perdue Farms, Inc.
  • Bryan Farnsworth, VP, Quality Management, Hormel Foods Corporate Services, LLC
  • Jennifer McEntire, Senior Director, Leavitt Partners
  • Steven Niedelman, Lead Quality System & Compliance Consultant, King & Spaulding
  • Kathleen O’Donnell, Chief Scientist, Wegmans Food Markets, Inc.
  • Doug Powell, Ph.D, Professor Food Safety, KSU
  • Mansour Samadpour, President, IEH Laboratories
  • Donald W. Schaffner, Ph.D., Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
  • Jhana Senxian, President and CEO, Sustainability Guild International, LLC
  • Bill Snyder, Sr. VP, Supply Chain, Hormel Foods Corporate Services, LLC
  • John Surak, Ph.D., Consultant
  • R. Craig Wilson, Assistant VP, GMM, Food Safety and Quality Assurance, Costco Wholesale
With a digital delivery, we are not confined to North America as we were with print. We expect to see the discussions take on a global perspective. There are several benefits of the digital platform and a key attribute is reader engagement.  For example, if you agree or disagree with my opinions in my blog, or any other article on Food Safety Tech, then share them in the comments section.   
 
Also, you can join in the lively discussions and polls in Food Safety Tech’s LinkedIn group. Currently, there are several discussions with polls including “Is attorney, Bill Marler, a friend or foe to the food industry?” Click to comment and/or to vote. 
 
You can find us (and friend us) on Facebook and Twitter, where I’ll be tweeting Food Safety Tech eNewsletters and content. 
 
We encourage you to become an active member of the Food Safety Tech community.  If you are so inclined to write and would like to contribute an article, please contact us through the links at the bottom on the page.  
 
In order to continue to receive content for Food Safety Tech, please click on this link and become a member of the Food Safety Tech community. Forward to friends as well!
 
Lastly, Food Safety Tech is more than an eMagazine. We are developing educational webinars as well as conferences. Look for announcements in the next several weeks about our first conference on Supply Chain Vulnerabilities in the Food Industry.
 
Thank you for the time and attention.  I’m looking forward to the next leg of the journey (with no finish line) and hope that our efforts educate and entertain you along the way. By doing so, Food Safety Tech can fulfill it’s mission to contribute to a safer, better and more sustainable global food supply.
 
All the best!
 
 
Rick Biros
Publisher/President
 
 
 

References: