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Food Policy and Safety Feed

October 07, 2013

Food Safety: Some Costco Kirkland Brand Chicken is Foster Farms


Reuters is reporting close to 300 people have become ill from Foster Farms chicken products contaminated with Salmonella Heidelberg. My usual response to this sort of thing is a quick look at the various government agencies tasked with food safety to get a handle on what's actually going on.

The Centers for Disease Control swear they are on the job but the latest Foster Farms related information from them seems to be this update on a salmonella outbreak published in July. This seems like a similar incident from a year ago; it says the outbreak seems to be over. Hmmm. That is not this. or maybe it is. In any case, guess this is not their first time at the rodeo.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is closed and grandstanding about politics. Let's just ignore them for now...

Food Safety and Inspection Services returns a 404.

This isn't getting any better. Lets try the manufacturer, surely 278 sick people is worthy of a voluntary recall.

Foster Farms is not recalling any of their chicken, handing off responsibility to the consumer with the advice to Just Heat It. "No Recall is in Effect. Products are Safe to Consume if Properly Handled and Fully Cooked." I don't know about you but I am not a fan of cooking the bacteria out of "likely to be bad" meat.

In the midst of the confusing information about contaminated, but not recalled, chicken that as safe to eat as long as I don't screw it up (how is this about us not Foster Farms?) I felt safe because I mostly buy house-brand chicken at Costco. That warm glow lasted about a minute before fading, leaving me with one big question:

Who produces Costco's Kirkland brand chicken?

A quick check of my freezer turned up a bag of skinless, boneless chicken breasts with a Foster Farms plant number on it. Yikes!

Pretty sure I had my answer, I called my local Costco in Warrenton, Oregon. Chris Delong, the General Manager assured me that Costco was aware of the problem with Foster Farm chicken. He also verified that, yes, the chicken breasts in my freezer had a Foster Farms plant number because they were produced there. (They have a book where they can discover such things. I want to see that book.)

Even though there is no official recall, Costco is accepting returns of chicken from the listed plants for a refund. This is true for both Foster Farms and Kirkland brand products. The chicken is not listed on their recall list but I would expect it to turn up there shortly.

If you have frozen chicken from Costco, do this:

  1. Check the package for the plant number. On whole chickens, it's on the little metal band that seals the bag. On bags, it's a bit of black type printed (usually sideways) on an otherwise unmarked part of the bag.
  2. If your chicken has P6137, P6137A, or P7632 on the bag or tag, don't eat it. Or cook it until it tests at least 165° with an Instant-Read Thermometer.
  3. If you want to return it, take it back to your local Costco. If you have a reciept that's great and helpful but they have computers that know what you ate last summer and where you bought the food. Remember, they are accepting returns of both Foster Farms and Kirkland brand chicken that was packaged at one of the listed plants.

If you are lacking frozen chicken and feeling left out of the fun, the government's food safety site has a big list of recalls and alerts. There are updates as recent as today but nary a mention of the salmonella chicken.

As I was about to publish this, a twitter conversation with @oceansresearch led me to the actual Food Safety and Inspection Services release. It includes the symptoms of salmonella, lest we forget: "The most common symptoms of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within eight to 72 hours. Additional symptoms may be chills, headache, nausea and vomiting that can last up to seven days." Sounds just lovely.

Do me a favor. There are a limited number of chicken producers and Foster Farms may well make other store's products. Check any chicken you have that is not verifiably from someone other than Foster Farms for the plant number. If you have some, call your store and ask about refunds. You know what they say: Better to be safe than puking your guts out.

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July 18, 2012

5 Reasons GMO Labeling Doesn't Matter

I don't want to eat genetically modified (GM) food but I do.

You probably do, too.

According to recent surveys, about 90% of the Americans they asked would like GMO food to bear labels declaring that fact. Presumably, if the label says the product is GM then people won't buy it.

Yeah, right.

Call me cynical—and believe me, you won't be the first—but I think consumers will continue to buy food products with GM ingredients. Yes, even if it's labeled.

Besides, the major GM foods are already labeled, just not the way you think...

Continue reading "5 Reasons GMO Labeling Doesn't Matter" »

June 01, 2011

Wordy Wednesday: Corn and the White House Garden


It's been a sadly drizzly spring here and I'm dreaming of summer. Lare summer. Corn and tomatoes and barbeques by the pond.                    sigh

A wee bit closer to reality, here's a thing to make you think. If the White House garden was planted in crops at the same percentages as taxpayers subsidize them, the single largest crop would be corn, at about 35%. Add in wheat (20%), soy (15%), and cotton (20%) and 90% of the garden is planted. Beyond that, less than 1% is in the sort of stuff most people plant in their gardens: lettuce, peppers, squash, and the thousand other bits of dinner that tastes best fresh from the garden.

This is all a bit esoteric to hold in your head so Kitchen Gardeners International made this sweet little graphic of "America's Subsidy Garden" that shows you what it would look like.

If the weather ever clears up, the first thing I am planting is tomatoes. Little tiny pop in my mouth heirloom tomatoes. The kind we eat like candy in August.

What's in your garden? Your dreams?

March 31, 2011

Thoughts on Making the Hunger Challenge a Bit More Challenging

The Hunger Challenge is an annual event put on by United Way of King County (WA) in which people volunteer to live on a limited food budget of about $7 a person/day for several days in order to gain empathy with people who are living on SNAP (food stamps). Some people wrote, made videos, etc. about their experiences.

As you might imagine, this was executed with varying degrees of success. Some people wrote excellent posts with recipes, resources, strategies and tips for eating on the cheap. Others shared just how difficult the entire thing was for them, some of them before the challenge even started. Yes, really. The response also swung widely with accolades being heaped upon a few bloggers for making it through a single day to, perhaps my favorite, "Poverty isn't a f*cking writing prompt." (Thank you, Miss Britt.)

I did my share of snarky tweeting about stunts and playing at poverty while the challenge was going on and while I do regret that a few friends thought I might be talking about them (I wasn't), I stand by it. I find it offensive to have people pretend to a life that you know is extremely difficult and come away after 72 hours (or less) saying "it's easy." Whatever the intent, it seems dismissive and diminishes the experiences of people who lived it to the benefit of those who write about one small, and highly mitigated, aspect of it on the Interwebs.

However, amd importantly, I also understand that this was not the intent of the individuals who participated in, and wrote about, the Hunger Challenge. Yes, many of the issues people had with the Hunger Challenge came down to what individual bloggers wrote, but I am not calling them out. (Look ma, no links!)

 Instead, in the spirit of fighting the real enemy, and recognizing that while United Way is considering changes they are plannng on doing this again next year, I offer suggestions for structural changes in the Hunger Challenge in order to make it just a wee bit more realistic.

Continue reading "Thoughts on Making the Hunger Challenge a Bit More Challenging" »

April 23, 2010

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Questions

Grays River Covered Bridge

That is the historic Grays River Covered Bridge, the only covered bridge in Washington that is still used by the public. Not sure the public was using it the day the photo was snapped, but mostly. This photo of the bridge is what it looks on drier days. Go look, it's really quite the difference.

The Grays River winds down a nearby valley, at least when it's not escaping its banks to wreak havoc in the area, even on places that are many feet higher than the river itself. The road to Astoria, where we shop, shadows the Grays River valley for a few miles and each trip finds me coveting one piece of waterfront or another. Then I remember. It floods. A lot.

Which flood is pictured here is a darned good question. We are under water quite a lot around here; getting 120 inches - yes, ten feet - of rain annually will do that to you. My memory is that there have been several such floods in the half dozen years since we moved here. Some locals claim that the 100 year floods are happening every 10 years now, others think it might be more often than that.

Even with the floods, I have a soft spot for the Grays River valley. We have friends who happen to live within sight of the bridge, on a bit of a rise so they stay a bit dryer than some others. Perhaps more relevant to me, this is where I broke my arm so horribly a while back. Maybe that soft spot is in my head...

So why do I have (somewhat fewer than 1000) questions about the place?

Two words: Septage dump.

Continue reading "A Picture is Worth A Thousand Questions" »

February 05, 2010

Good news for small farms: No NAIS! (updated)

According to the New York Times, NAIS is dead. Well, this version at least.
Faced with stiff resistance from ranchers and farmers, the Obama administration has decided to scrap a national program intended to help authorities quickly identify and track livestock in the event of an animal disease outbreak.

In abandoning the program, called the National Animal Identification System, officials said they would start over in trying to devise a livestock tracing program that could win widespread support from the industry.
Read the full article here: U.S.D.A. Plans to Drop Program to Trace Livestock

I love that they dropped it because of "stiff resistance" - that means we did it! Since they are already talking about a new version, however, this is no time to let it slide. is my go-to site for information so stop by there for updates as they get going on NAIS v.2.


We knew that was too good to last, didn't we? Son of NAIS has been announced. Major differences from the original NAIS are:

  • Only apply to animals moved in interstate commerce;
  • Be administered by the States and Tribal Nations to provide more flexibility;
  • Encourage the use of lower-cost technology; and
  • Be implemented transparently through federal regulations and the full rulemaking process.

First steps include a forum with states and tribes so if you want a voice, talk to your officials at that level. Don't know who they are? Go to Project Vote Smart and type your zip code in the search box on the top of the left sidebar to get all the relevant information.

Press release: USDA Announces new Framework for Animal Disease Traceability (h/t to podchef for update)

February 04, 2010

Alternet Has a New Food Section

Among my regular web haunts, Alternet is pretty high on the list. Visiting today, I noticed they have a new food section: Alternet: Special Coverage: Food

A sampling of current articles:
If you, like me, are fascinated by the intersection of food, politics and culture, you might want to pop over and take a look at Alternet: Special Coverage: Food.

What's your favorite food news site? Please share with us in the comments.

January 21, 2009

An Obama wordle...and a hungry child

This has little to do with food, but I figure there must be one or two of you who are also word geeks, political geeks (oh yeah, everyone is a political geek this week!), or just plain curious. Besides, since breaking my arm, I have been mostly banished from the kitchen because, well, let's just say that when I cut an onion and cry, it's not about the Syn-propanethial-S-oxide.

So I have been reading a lot, watching endless political TV and playing on twitter just a bit. In the process, I have discovered all sorts of time-sucks, er, I mean cool and useful web tools, One of my favorites is Wordle,

Wordle, in case you have missed it, is this marvelous tool that lets you create custom word clouds using a piece of text, an RSS feed, or even someone's tags. It's a great way to get a quick impression of someone's writing, giving you a quick visual of the topics they address and an idea of their style.

A number of websites have started to use them to illustrate various things. One of my favorites is cookthink, which attaches one to its cookthink questionnaires, which uses a wordle of each person's RSS feed to give you a snapshot of the person being interviewed. Some of the wordles there have one or two clear favored topics, like Julie Biuso's champagne, or Carol Fenster's chocolate.(Note to self: bookmark their sites...)

One word that everyone uses a lot? "Favorite." That's good because it means people are writing about food they truly love. The interviews are interesting, too. Check them out if you haven't yet.

But that's not why we're here...

Continue reading "An Obama wordle...and a hungry child" »

September 18, 2008

Chinese dairy contamination (more melamine)

Remember the contaminated pet food that killed hundreds of critters across the US last year?

Remember the reassurances that it would never happen again, and, more importantly, could never happen to the human food supply.

Yeah, not so much.

Chinese dairy contamination scandal grows

Continue reading "Chinese dairy contamination (more melamine)" »

July 11, 2008

USDA to release names of stores with recalled meat...sometimes

The US Department of Food and Agriculture has just announced that in the future they will be making public the names of stores with recalled meat and poultry.

"The identity of retail stores with recalled meat and poultry from their suppliers has always been a missing piece of information for the public during a recall," said Schafer. "People want to know if they need to be on the lookout for recalled meat and poultry from their local store and by providing lists of retail outlets during recalls, USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service will improve public health protection by better informing consumers."


Well, sort of...

Continue reading "USDA to release names of stores with recalled meat...sometimes" »

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