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Food News


THIS SECTION IS FOR NEWS AND INTERESTING STORIES RELATED TO FOOD, NUTRITION AND FOOD PROCESSING. THEY ARE NOT NECESSARILY RELATED TO KOSHER BUT MAY BE OF INTEREST TO THE KOSHER CONSUMER, MANUFACTURER OR MASHGIACH.

Israeli cops keep crowd from going nuts over egg shortage

April 6, 2020 - World Israel News:

"Police were called in to control a crowd of shoppers Sunday when word got out that two local grocery stores received a shipment of eggs – a commodity in short supply as Israelis remain homebound due to the coronavirus crisis."

"Officers arrived at the stores in Rishon Lezion, just south of Tel Aviv, after local residents started congregating when news spread that a truckload of eggs was on the way, Ynet reported."

"With most Israelis off work and at home due to the epidemic, consumption of eggs has skyrocketed leading to a country-wide shortage for the past two weeks. Many supermarkets are restricting purchases to one or two dozen at a time, but are running out quickly nonetheless."

"When shoppers crowded outside the stores, police set up a line and demanded they comply with social distancing regulations to prevent the spread of the highly contagious virus. The shoppers did comply and kept the required safe distance, but within a few hours both stores had sold out and the crowds dispersed."

"Although Israel has a well-developed egg industry and usually self-sufficient, the stay-at-home order that led to panic buying and hoarding of toilet paper also got Israelis scrambling for eggs. A statement last week from the prime minister’s office noted that two of Israel’s major foreign egg suppliers are Spain and Italy – the European countries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic."

"To help satiate the market demand, millions of eggs are being imported from Europe and Ukraine. A million eggs were flown in from Portugal and millions more were arriving by sea from Ukraine, Spain and France in time for the week-long Passover holiday that begins Wednesday evening."

"More cargo planes loaded with eggs are due to land before Passover, but there still might be an estimated shortage of up to 30 million eggs, Channel 12 reported."

Israel: First shipment of emergency eggs arrives in Ashdod

April 5, 2020 - JPost.com:

"The first shipment carrying millions of eggs arrived at Ashdod Port on Sunday, after the government worked to import millions of eggs from Spain after Israel was hit by a nationwide egg shortage."

"The second ship is expected to arrive on Tuesday. Government agencies prepared trucks and logistics centers in order to bring the eggs to stores starting on Sunday." "

The previous item can be cited with the URL: http://www.kashrut.com/News/?alert=W1015

Empire, leading kosher-chicken provider, closes due to Covid-19

April 2, 2020 - Crain's New York Business:

"Empire Kosher, the leading kosher-poultry supplier in New York and most everywhere else, closed its processing facility for at least two weeks after two employees tested positive for the coronavirus."

"The closing comes a week before the Jewish holiday of Passover, but chickens are expected to be available for those planning to serve them at seders next week, said Rabbi Menachem Genack, chief executive of the Orthodox Union's kosher-certification agency, which supervises the Empire facility in Mifflintown, Pa."

"In a letter to customers, Empire President Jeff Brown said 'the very difficult and unprecedented decision' to close the plant stemmed from employees testing positive "beyond the previous noticed cases." Affected employees were immediately removed from the site and self-quarantined."

"At Empire, the plan is to reopen April 13. The company closes its doors every year for part of the Passover holiday, but this time the coronavirus forced it to do so earlier. A spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture said the closing was not done at the order of the state."

"Wendell Young, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, applauded Empire's decision to close the 550-employee plant."

"'There is no cleaner chicken facility than Empire's," Young said. "Giving it an extreme sanitizing is the right thing to do.'"

"Empire, founded in 1938, is owned by private-equity firm Aterian Investment Partners, which last year acquired the brand and other assets from Hain Celestial for $80 million."

The previous item can be cited with the URL: http://www.kashrut.com/News/?alert=W1014

No Matzah Shortage Expected Before Pesach

March 30, 2020 - from Hamodia

Israel "will have enough matzah for Pesach, the Economy Ministry and major supermarkets said on Monday, rejecting reports of a shortage."

"Two of the biggest retail chains, Rami Levi and Shufersal, said that though shelves might briefly be empty, there is an ample supply in their warehouses. Some panic-buying in recent days as pandemic restrictions were imposed did result in a temporary shortage, but fears of empty supermarkets have abated, The Jerusalem Post reported."

"Officials at the Economy Ministry said they have been carefully tracking food production and distribution since the coronavirus outbreak in Israel in order to quickly identify shortages, and that supplies are adequate to meet demand."

"The demand for matzah is up by about 15 percent, but that production has been increased accordingly. The Economy Ministry said on Monday that matzah bakeries were well prepared for any further increase in demand and that they had sufficient raw ingredients to meet any spike."

"The rise in demand is caused at least in part by the greater number of Israelis staying home this year, in view of the bans on travel abroad."


Will The Coronavirus Crisis Cause A Matzah Shortage In Israel?

February 26, 2020 - from the Yeshiva World

The corona virus is affecting Israeli business owners because they are not getting the merchandise from China. 'An employee in a large electrical store chain told B’Chadrei that their situation is similar. “We have very little merchandise and we’ve almost run out of products that we usually order before Pesach like ovens, toaster ovens, urns and hotplates.'"

"Apparently, it’s not just clothing and household products that are impacted by the coronavirus situation – the most important purchase for Pesach may be affected as well. A shortage of matzah in Israel is likely, not due to the lack of labor in China but to the increased amount of Israelis that are likely to remain at home for the chag."

Companies "order the merchandise according to a calculation that takes into account the fact that 5%-7% of Israelis are abroad on Pesach and no one is interested in eating kosher l’Pesach food after Pesach."

"If..there’s even a 3%-4% increased demand for matzah on Pesach [due to Israelis canceling trips abroad] that the market can’t supply…it will lead to a shortage.”

"The retail chain owner added that there’s already a shortage of certain products every year on Pesach such as Osem croutons, Elite wafers and Telma cereal due to the fact that companies produce a limited amount, knowing that no one buys Pesach products after the chag is over even at rock-bottom prices."

The previous item can be cited with the URL: http://www.kashrut.com/News/?alert=W1001

Uruguay’s inspections of beef and lamb found "equivalent to that of United States"

March 30, 2020 - Food Safety News:

"Uruguay exports raw and processed beef and lamb products to the United States, and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) finds no reason that those shipments cannot continue."

"The FSIS performed an on-site equivalence verification audit in Uruguay Dec. 2 to Dec. 13, 2019, without identifying any systemic findings of shortcomings. The final report dated March 19, 2020, was a clean bill of health for the South American country."

"'The purpose of the audit was to determine whether Uruguay’s food safety inspection system governing raw and processed meat (i.e. beef and lamb) products remains equivalent to that the United States, with the ability to export meat products that are thermally processed, commercially sterile beef, ready-to-eat (RTE) salt-cured beef; RTE beef fully cooked without subsequent exposure tot he environment; RTE fully cooked beef; RTE fully-cooked beef; RTE dried beef; RTE acidified /fermented beef (without cooking); raw intact beef; and raw intact lamb to the United States,' says the report."

"'The FSIS concluded that Uruguay's meat food safety inspection system is organized to provide ultimate control, supervision, and enforcement of regulatory requirements,' according to the report."

"It says Uruguay’s 'has implemented sanitary operating procedures and a HACCP system to ensure controls of the food safety inspection system for raw and processed beef and lamb.' Further, the report says Uruguay 'has implemented microbiological and chemical residue testing that is organized and administered by the national government to verify the country’s food safety inspection system.'"

The previous item can be cited with the URL: http://www.kashrut.com/News/?alert=W1013

On-line Free Disaster Relief Food Safety Training

March 26, 2020 - State Food Safety is a free course is designed to instruct volunteer food workers on general food safety principles to ensure safe food handling while serving those in need.

The previous item can be cited with the URL: http://www.kashrut.com/News/?alert=W1012

Scientists find evidence of huge increase in parasitic worms found in raw seafood dishes

March 23, 2020 - from Food Safety News:

"The next time you eat sashimi, nigiri or other forms of raw fish, you should consider doing a quick check for worms, according to a team of researchers."

"A new study led by scientists at the University of Washington found 'dramatic increases in the abundance of a worm that can be transmitted to humans who eat raw or undercooked seafood.'"

"'Its 283-fold increase in abundance since the 1970s could have implications for the health of humans and marine mammals, which both can inadvertently eat the worm,” according to a report on the scientists’ work. They looked at a parasitic worm, known as Anisakis or “herring worm.'"

"Their’s is the first study to combine the results of previous research to investigate how the global abundance of these worms has changed through time. The findings were published March 19 in the journal Global Change Biology."

"The worms can’t reproduce or live for more than a few days in a human’s intestine, but they can persist and reproduce in marine mammals. The worms actually reproduce in the intestines of these animals and are released into the ocean via the marine mammals’ feces. Then the worms infect other creatures."

"The worms can be up to 2 centimeters in length, about as long as a nickel is wide."

"The worms actually reproduce in the intestines of these animals and are released into the ocean via the marine mammals’ feces, then infecting more animals."

"The authors aren’t sure what caused the large increase of Anisakis worms over the past several decades, but climate change, more nutrients from fertilizers and runoff, and an increase in marine mammal populations over the same period could all be potential reasons, they wrote."

Ed. note: Anisakiasis can be prevented by freezing or cooking. See CDC Anisakiasis FAQs and Seafood Health Facts

The previous item can be cited with the URL: http://www.kashrut.com/News/?alert=W1011

Egg prices sharply higher as consumers stock up during COVID-19 homing

March 20, 2020 - from Food Business News:

"Retail and processing egg prices have soared amid tight supplies as consumers swoop eggs off grocery shelves in anticipation of more at-home meals over an extended period in efforts to avoid getting or to stop the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19)."

"The change in sales reflects the shift in consumer eating patterns to significantly more at-home meals and significantly fewer away-from-home meals during the pandemic."

"Eggs were one of the staples, along with sugar, flour, pasta, beans, rice, soup and certain other items that were flying off grocery shelves as consumers stocked up on, and in some cases hoarded, because of COVID-19."

"The USDA reported prices for shell eggs going to retail surged 21¢ to 55¢ a dozen depending on size and region on March 16, with gains of about 10¢ to 20¢ a dozen daily as the week progressed."

"The Midwest source noted that egg processors already practiced strict sanitation procedures prior to the COVID-19 pandemic with heavy washdowns of the plant every night."

"Although COVID-19 is not food borne, new cleaning procedures were aimed at keeping employees safe."

The previous item can be cited with the URL: http://www.kashrut.com/News/?alert=W1010

COVID-19 cannot be transmitted by either farm animals or domestic animals

March 11, 2020 - from French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety:

"When asked about potential transmission of the COVID-19 disease via contaminated domestic animals or food, ANSES urgently convened an expert group to answer this question. On the basis of their report, the Agency concluded that in light of the scientific knowledge available, there is no evidence that pets and livestock play a role in the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus causing this disease. Any transmission through food would therefore necessarily imply contamination of that food by a patient or person infected with the virus, during handling or meal preparation. This could concern all types of foods (animal or plant products). Furthermore, while there is no evidence to suggest that consumption of contaminated food can lead to infection of the digestive tract, the possibility of the respiratory tract becoming infected during chewing cannot be completely ruled out. The Agency reiterates that cooking food and observing good hygiene practices when handling and preparing food are effective at preventing contamination with the SARS-CoV-2 virus."

"Since the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus – responsible for the COVID-19 disease – emerged in China in December 2019, the knowledge acquired has shown that its main route of transmission is human-to-human, through contact between people or inhalation of infectious droplets emitted by patients when they sneeze or cough."

"The expert group reached the following conclusions:

The previous item can be cited with the URL: http://www.kashrut.com/News/?alert=W1009

Israel’s Sephardi Chief Rabbi permits use of phones during Sabbath

March 18, 2020 - from Washington Post and Jerusalem Post:

"The Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel ruled Wednesday that observant Jews can use their cellphones on Sabbath to receive developments and alerts regarding the coronavirus."

"'There is no doubt that everyone who has been tested for coronavirus must leave a cell phone available on Shabbat in order to answer,” Yitzchok Yosef wrote in a letter. “If they see the phone call coming from the health care provider, then they can be updated on their condition and where they should go. And even if there is doubt that the call is from the health care provider, it must be answered.'"

"'Even those who haven’t been tested for coronavirus should leave a cellphone available,' Yosef continued, “so that if it is found that they were near a confirmed sick person and must go into isolation, they can be notified."

"Yosef has decided that, amid the coronavirus outbreak, Pikuach nefesh applies to permit phones as a critical safety measure. Judaism does not have a universal spiritual leader — like Catholicism does with the pope — but a sector of Jews will look to Yosef for guidance."

"In the letter, Yosef also calls for synagogues within hospitals to be closed, since they are often small spaces and people cannot stay two meters apart, as the country’s ministry of health has recommended."

The previous item can be cited with the URL: http://www.kashrut.com/News/?alert=W1008

FDA Import Alert - Mexican Cantelopes

March 3, 2020 from FDA:

During 2000, 2001, and 2002, there were four multi-state Salmonellosis outbreaks traced back to Mexican cantaloupes. The pathogen identified in three of the outbreaks was Salmonella Poona and in the other outbreak Salmonella Anatum. Reported cases per outbreak ranged from 35 to 50. There were two deaths in California associated with the 2001 outbreak. At least 18 people were hospitalized. All outbreaks occurred between March and June. FDA's traceback investigations implicated Mexican cantaloupe from the states of Michoacan and Guerrero as the source of the four outbreaks. In 1999, 2001, and 2002, FDA collected samples of Mexican cantaloupes for Salmonella analysis. The salmonella-positive samples include nearly all the major cantaloupe producing states in Mexico including Sonora (7), Jalisco (1), Colima (1), Coahuila (1), Mexico (1), and Tamauilpas (1). Positive samples cover both the fall/winter and spring/summer season.

Moreover, in the outbreaks of 2000, 2001, and 2002, the illnesses were spread over a wide geographical area in the U.S., as well as in Canada, and occurred over a 4 to 6 week period. These two facts also suggest that more than one shipment was the cause and make it extremely unlikely that a random natural event or events caused the contamination.

FDA believes that the source of Salmonella contamination is most likely attributable to a broader source of contamination. Sources of contamination may include irrigation of fields with water contaminated with sewage, processing ("cleaning and cooling") produce with Salmonella contaminated water, and/or poor hygienic practices of workers that harvest and process the produce, pests in packing facilities, and lack of adequate cleaning and sanitizing of equipment that comes in contact with the product.

Inspectional findings (conducted in response to the outbreaks) at a number of cantaloupe growing areas and packing sheds in Mexico reveal that Mexican cantaloupe are indeed manufactured, processed, or packed under gross insanitary conditions. Further, these inspections underscore the lack of an overall environmental sanitation program, as well as apparent lack of regulatory authority in Mexican law to address the insanitary conditions that FDA believes lead to Salmonella contamination. In addition, practices that result in product from different states being commingled means that any shipment of cantaloupe may contain fruit from states that have been the source of contaminated cantaloupe.

FDA believes that cantaloupe imported from Mexico appear to be adulterated under Section 801(a)(3) of the Act because they appear (1) to contain Salmonella, an added poisonous or deleterious substance that may render food injurious to health within the meaning of section 402(a)(1) of the Act and (2) to have been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have been rendered injurious to health within the meaning of Section 402(a)(4)of the Act. In addition, the cantaloupe violate section 801 (a)(1) of the Act in that they appear to have been manufactured, processed, or packed under insanitary conditions.

This alert covers both whole cantaloupe and sliced, chopped, or diced cantaloupe. The processing associated with producing fresh versus intact produce increases the opportunity for contamination and the chance of cross contamination over an even larger volume of product.

Furthermore, processes such as cutting, dicing, and slicing, increase the surface area available for contamination and growth of microorganisms. Nutrients to support microbial growth (i.e., from plant juices and exposed flesh) are also more available. Concerns about pathogens are further amplified when the characteristics of the particular fruit or vegetable (e.g. pH) can support their growth. This is the case with many vegetables, certain soft fruit, and melons, including cantaloupe.

Guidance: Districts may detain, without physical examination, all raw and raw fresh refrigerated cantaloupes, frozen, and processed cantaloupe, including fresh cantaloupe sliced/chopper for salad bars offered for importation from the country of Mexico.

The previous item can be cited with the URL: http://www.kashrut.com/News/?alert=W1007
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