food news

More arrests in follow-up operation into sale of expired products

Another three people have been arrested in the second phase of an investigation into expired food being reintroduced into the supply chain.

Measures were taken against the trio this month. The operation involved Europol, France, Germany, Spain, and the Carabinieri NAS of Turin, and Italian Financial Police (Guardia di Finanza). It was under the umbrella of Operation Opson, an annual effort to combat food and drink counterfeit.

Law enforcement officials conducted 14 searches including private homes and commercial sites in six regions and seized more than 500,000 food and drink items as well as equipment used by the suspected criminals. Many of these items were expired and already spoiled, highlighting the potential harm to consumers, according to Europol.

The alleged criminal network collected expired or expiring food and beverages for little or no cost and replaced the shelf life dates with new ones to enable their resale. After reintroducing these items into the supply chain, gains were made at the expense of consumers. There is no involvement of food producers but intermediate suppliers or other entities working in food disposal were involved.

Investigations started in March 2022 when the Carabinieri NAS of Turin found a confectionery at a retailer in the city of Novara that lacked commercial documentation and had an expiry date which was later found to be counterfeit. Further work revealed products that came from another company, also located in the Novara area.

This past October, officials seized several tons of food from a warehouse in Novara, which was valued at €1 million ($1.1 million). It had already been relabeled and was ready for sale, despite the items being expired.

initial operation
The first action day in May involved Estonia, France, Germany, Lithuania, Romania, Europol, and Eurojust.

This led to the arrest of 24 people in Lithuania. About 70 searches of warehouses and other locations were carried out. Officers uncovered equipment for altering expiry dates. This includes household solvents, printers and labels. More than 1 million food and beverage packages were found and prevented from entering the market.

Exploiting vulnerabilities in the supply chain initially because of the COVID-19 pandemic, suspects started acquiring expired food and beverages. They would then chemically erase the date printed on each item and reprint a new one. In other cases, a new label was forged and applied, giving the impression that food or beverages were still fresh and safe for consumption.

Actively since early 2021, the organized crime group is believed to have purchased large amounts of expired food products and other perishable goods from Germany and France. They changed the dates on products and supplied them to the Lithuanian market, where they were bought by thousands of consumers.

The gang, which is also under investigation for VAT fraud, is believed to have made at least €1 million ($1.1 million) in profits from the food labeling scam. A link connecting the Lithuanian and Italian investigations was found by Europol specialists.

In June, the State Food and Veterinary Service (VMVT) in Lithuania reported that 50 inspections had been carried out and the activities of 14 food processing firms had been “restricted.” The supply of more than 220 tons of food products to the market was blocked. Seized items include sweets, non-alcoholic drinks, popcorn, crackers, waffles and lollipops which are popular among children.

VMVT also selected several products to be tested for Listeria, Salmonella and Ochratoxin A but all samples were satisfactory.

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Ferrero finds Salmonella again at the Belgian factory

Ferrero has informed Belgian authorities that he has found Salmonella at the site that was behind a major outbreak in 2022.

The confectionery company notified the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) of the Salmonella detection in the environment of the Arlon factory. It is not clear when the Salmonella positive was found, when the authorities were told or whether it is the same type that was behind the outbreak.

FASFC, also known as AFSCA and FAVV, said an investigation is ongoing but no products have tested positive and based on currently available information, no end product which could potentially be contaminated has reached the consumer.

“It goes without saying that if the FASFC finds facts or learns of information during this investigation which requires additional measures in order to guarantee consumer protection, it will not hesitate to take them without delay,” said an agency statement.

Local media reported that Ferrero had stopped affected production lines while looking at the root cause of the positive result.

In 2022, a monophasic Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak from Kinder chocolate was revealed that sickened more than 450 people. Children were particularly affected and many of those ill were hospitalized. People fell sick between December 2021 and June 2022. The UK had the most patients followed by France. There were four cases in Canada and one in the United States.

Operations at the factory were suspended in April 2022, which led to the recall of products made there. Potentially implicated chocolate was distributed to more than 110 countries. In May, Ferrero asked to be allowed to produce again and in June, FASFC gave conditional approval for the plant to restart. In September 2022, the company received the all-clear after no problems were found during the initial approval period.

An investigation into the incident by the Luxembourg Public Prosecutor’s Office is ongoing.

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Big donation supports Nanaimo food security program | NanaimoNewsNOW

Sawchuk added they wanted to raise $50,000 over the summer to keep the program going at full speed.

Donations are being actively sought to keep the shelves at their Fry St. depot stocked, which also helps provide food security to communities across the central and north Island.

Thrifty Foods has also stepped up, sending 10,000 bags out into the community for people to fill with non-perishable food items and return to the food bank.

The check presented on Thursday, June 22 was the result of a donation from Woodgrove Chrysler.

“The charities we choose, we always want it to be a local charity,” Brandon Kot, vice president of the Kot Auto Group, said. “We don’t want it to be a charity across Canada, we always want to get involved in the local community.”

Loaves and Fishes is moving through a long and complicated process to move from their Fry St. location and into a new depot on East Wellington Rd.

In May, the organization received $7 million in provincial funding for the new warehouse, which has already cleared several local steps with the City of Nanaimo.

Donations can be made directly to Loaves and Fishes through their website.

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Food handler played role in Italian outbreak, finds study

A Staphylococcus aureus outbreak in Italy has been associated with food handler contamination, based on findings from a study.

The outbreak was because of the contamination of food from an asymptomatic food handler. Staphylococcal food poisoning (SFP) is caused by the ingestion of preformed staphylococcal enterotoxins (SEs), produced by enterotoxigenic strains of coagulase-positive staphylococci (CPS), mainly Staphylococcus aureus.

“The suspected outbreak can be considered as a typical Staphylococcal intoxication in which food handlers carry enterotoxin-producing Staphylococcus aureus in their noses or on their hands are regarded as the main source of food contamination,” said the study.

In August 2019, a staphylococcal food poisoning outbreak occurred in a nursing home in Piedmont, Italy. Eleven people had gastrointestinal symptoms, nausea and headache about three hours after eating food. They recovered after 10 hours and nobody required hospitalization.

The epidemiological investigation among people who consumed the meal at lunch identified chicken salad as the most likely source of the outbreak, found a study published in Zoonoses and Public Health.

Need to follow good hygiene practices
Nasal swabs were collected from personnel involved in food handling who were on duty on the day and the day before the outbreak, including the cook and the cook’s helpers, and analyzed for Staphylococcus aureus.

Staphylococcus aureus was isolated from seven samples, including one vomit sample from a guest of the nursing home, two food samples of chicken salad with and without mayonnaise and nasal swabs from four people working in the kitchen of the home.

Overall, 69 people consumed the meal prepared by the internal canteen. Out of 33 people who ate the chicken salad, nine guests and two healthcare professionals were symptomatic. The menu was pasta with pesto and fresh tomatoes, pasta with oil, chicken salad with or without mayonnaise and cooked vegetables.

Staphylococcus aureus isolates were classified into four sequence types (STs): STs 72, 45, 22 and 1162. Four ST-72 isolates originated from vomit, chicken salad with and without mayonnaise, and the nasal swab of one food handler working the day before the outbreak during the meal preparation of chicken salad and other foods. The incident was the first reported foodborne intoxication due to Staphylococcus aureus ST-72 in Italy, scientists said.

Researchers hypothesized that the outbreak was caused by a worker who contaminated the chicken salad by failing to follow good hygienic practices.

“Early identification of the source of food contamination during a foodborne outbreak is of crucial importance for robust contact tracing, cohorting and other infection control practices. Staphylococcal intoxications are usually self-limiting and without severe consequences, but in the case of an outbreak within a home for the elderly the rapid identification of the source of contamination can be crucial.”

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Why has British Chinese food shocked the US?

British Chinese food, and more specifically Chinese takeaway food, has recently become a focal point on TikTok among Americans with #britishchinesefood amassing 36.9 million views, spurring a flurry of controversy and debate.

One TikToker, American Asian Soogian, expressed confusion over the meals that British people were sharing on the social media platform, as they little resembled the Chinese cuisine (including American Chinese dishes) she was familiar with. The conversation quickly descended into a general smearing of British Chinese takeaway food, with another TikToker asking, “Are the British eating out of a dumpster?”

What seems to be getting these Americans in a tizzy are the meals consisting almost entirely of fried food with the inclusion of chips and curry sauce, two traditional non-Chinese food staples in the UK. But what’s missing from the debate (aside from the fact that American Chinese food is itself an immigrant cuisine adapted to suit local tastes) is the nuance of British Chinese cuisine and its history, effectively side-lining the ingenuity of immigrant Chinese cooks who have adapted their dishes to meet a British palate. And although menu items – like curry sauce or chicken balls or sweet and sour chicken – might appear similar from one shop to the next, each takeaway shop has its own recipes that reflect the tastes of its local neighborhood.

This begs the question, what is British Chinese food?

It’s impossible to understand Chinese food – as well as many food cultures – in Britain without the context of colonialism. Hong Kong and the New Territories were the last colonial outpost of the British Empire (from 1841 to 1997) and became part of an established trading route, meaning many European shipping companies would hire Southern Chinese men as sailors who then traveled and migrated to the UK . Although citizenship or access to full rights weren’t granted to these sailors (or future generations of Chinese migrants), many of them, who were often poor and in search of better lives, set up home in Britain. As a means of survival, to feed the growing Chinese communities and the sailors passing through, they started casual noodle shops; this reached a peak between World War One and Two.

By the mid-1900s, due to changes in UK immigration laws that allowed for greater migration to fulfill a post-war need for labour, there was a Chinese “restaurant boom”. Between 1957 and 1964, the number of food establishments doubled, with many catering to non-Chinese palates.

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A new cooking show breaks down borders through food

For Emmanuel Gonzalez Perez, the Mexican dish carne en su jugo — meat in its juices — is a reminder of the home he hasn’t been able to return to in over 20 years.

Gonzalez Perez, 27, of Sacramento, California, has taken his family’s recipe to “No Borders, Just Flavors!” — a YouTube cooking competition.

Produced by United We Dream, the country’s largest youth-led immigrant advocacy network, the coming show pits a young immigrant cast competing against one another as they showcase family recipes.

Contestants from first- and second-generation immigrant backgrounds prepare meals from their families’ heritages, including salted egg tofu, a common delicacy in China and Indonesia, Indian panchmel dal (lentils) and seco de pollo (chicken stew), which is common in Ecuadorian and Peruvian cuisine.

For Gonzalez Perez, crafting the meal with its flavorful bacon, beans and broth with blended tomatillos is one of the few ways he can connect with his mainland and family. “Even though we’re so far away, we’re still able to at least eat the same food with the same taste,” he said.

United We Dream has been one of the country’s most visible organizations pushing for young immigrants’ rights, credited with applying pressure for government action that culminated in President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows immigrants to be brought to the US as children but without legal status to work and study without fear of being deported.

“I think that we take for granted that food is a medium of storytelling. There’s history behind almost every dish we eat. … Food is a space for storytelling, and it’s also a space for meaning-making and identity-making,” said executive producer Juanita Monsalve, a senior creative director at United We Dream.

The production was intended to show and share diverse immigrant stories that don’t center on tragedy and hardship. It is meant to spotlight stories of joy, courage and wisdom, she said.

It’s also a pioneering YouTube entertainment show, created and distributed by an advocacy organization, according to Monsalve.

“I think that unlike other cooking shows, the show doesn’t ask people to hold a part of themselves back. And so we brought a diverse set of people with unique experiences and asked them to share all forms or all aspects of their identities through their cooking,” he said.

Contestants cook dishes based on specific categories and are judged by the host, Morelys De Los Santos Urbano, an Afro Dominican college student who founded an organization at Morgan State University to support undocumented students like her — one of the first groups of its kind at an HBCU (historically Black college and university). Other judges include guest TikTok food content creators and chefs. The contestants have 90 minutes to complete their concoctions.

Winning dishes are selected based on flavour, presentation and storytelling. Contestants are able to sabotage their competitors by choosing to hit a “dance-off button,” requiring contestants to stop cooking and dance for three minutes. Or they’re able to request help by hitting the “teamwork button,” and their competitors will help on their own dishes for three minutes.

‘Connecting with other communities’ through food

Gonzalez Perez, a community assistant at the Weber Institute of Applied Sciences & Technology high school in Stockton, California, is featured in the first episode.

Originally from Guadalajara in the Mexican state of Jalisco, Gonzalez Perez is a DACA recipient. Under the program, he can travel back to his home country with “advance parole” only for educational, employment or urgent humanitarian purposes.

Gonzalez Perez said he grew up a big fan of cooking shows but didn’t see much diversity reflected in them. By being able to participate in the show, he was able to learn other cultures through his competitors’ stories and dishes.

“I think the show does an amazing [job] in showcasing our humanity, our identity, and I think this should serve as a point for people to really [be] able to start connecting with other communities. Sometimes we tend to only eat our own food or stay within our own culture,” he said.

Monsalve has been working to humanize immigrant stories for six years. She also produced “Home is Here,” a nine-part documentary shorts series that was submitted to the US Supreme Court as the first digital amicus (friend of the court) brief in support of the immigrant rights movement, which helped build support to protect DACA.

The show’s four 15-minute episodes were filmed in Houston by a diverse crew in December. Episodes will premiere at 8 am ET Thursdays on YouTube starting Thursday.

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Sure, the cost of living is up. But NB stores are a bargain compared to my old home

Photo of store shelf with various fruits and berries.
A selection of fruits in a New Brunswick grocery store. Contributor Tara Pyfrom has observed prices rise, but still finds produce cheaper than what she would pay in the Bahamas. (Submitted by Tara Pyfrom )

This column is an opinion by Tara Pyfrom, a New Brunswick-based poet and writer. For more information about CBC’s Opinion sectionplease see the FAQs.

While so many in New Brunswick are complaining about the rising cost of food, I sometimes struggle to join the conversation.

My point of view on the cost of food differs from many of my neighbors because in the Bahamas, my home country, food has always been expensive, and prices are much higher than here.

My family and I arrived in New Brunswick in 2019, six months before the world first heard of coronavirus. Both my wife and I were born and raised in the islands of the Bahamas.

When Hurricane Dorian hit Grand Bahama Island, our home is filled with ocean water to ceiling height, with us inside. We were so lucky to survive.

After that experience, we decided to leave the country permanently and immigrate to Canada. When we started researching the best place to call home, we discovered that New Brunswick at the time had one of the cheapest average costs of home prices in Canada.

We had never visited New Brunswick before, so this was a big draw for us as we navigated an international move while fighting post-traumatic stress disorder.

Right out of a movie

The first time we stepped foot in one of the larger grocery stores in New Brunswick was a moment straight out of a movie scene. We all stopped, slack-jawed, and marveled at the store’s sheer size.

Just picture our family of three, standing in the entryway with that awe-inspiring music you hear in the movies when the characters have reached the holy grail. That was us!

A sandy beach with trees and water is covered by deep blue skies.
The beach in the Bahamas where Pyfrom used to live. (Catherine Pyfrom/Submitted by Tara Pyfrom )

We could not believe how clean and bright the store was and how fresh the fruits and vegetables looked. We were even more impressed when we made it through the checkout line to find out that our shopping cart of groceries did not cost nearly what we expected.

The Bahamas is made from limestone islands with almost no soil, so there are very few crops grown within the country and no livestock except a couple of small chicken farms.

As a result, virtually all of the food is imported from Florida, usually by ship. Dairy, vegetables, fruit, dry goods and meats are all imported.

Most of our seafood is locally caught. You can find occasional salmon or shrimp in grocery stores.

Importing all that food is expensive. It means that people and machines in Florida must package and transport goods from wholesalers to the port to be loaded onto ships. Those cargo ships travel to the Bahamas, are unloaded, and transported again to various retail stores. In some cases, the goods must be offloaded onto smaller ships heading to smaller islands.

The costs add up

You can see how the expense of such transport logistics can be quickly added up. That additional cost goes directly into the retail price of the items on the shelves.

Let’s also not forget that the extra travel time between the farmers worldwide and the items’ arrival at a local grocery store in the Bahamas also means that the goods are not fresh. Fruits and vegetables are often overripe or spoiled on the shelves. I’ve purchased milk in the Bahamas more than once to get home and discovered it is already sour.

This is a normal part of living for people who call the Bahamas home. It is a source of incredible frustration but a fact of life.

Rows of cartons of milk sitting in a fridge cooler.
Lactose-free milk in the Bahamas, like other products, is sold at a rate equivalent to American dollars. Grocery products across the board are more expensive than in New Brunswick stores. (Sissel Mosvold-Johnson/Submitted by Tara Pyfrom )

After COVID-19 found its way to New Brunswick in 2020, people started to notice the domino effect of slowed or stopped food production and factory operations, together with cross-border transportation challenges.

While the cost of essential food items where I live in New Brunswick increased by 9.2 per cent between June 2021 and June 2022it’s still cheaper than any grocery bill I’ve ever had while living 40 years in the Bahamas.

Paycheck to paycheck

The Canadian government has given its best shot at controlling inflation with interest rate adjustments. The Bahamas put temporary price control measures in place on various essential food items to help alleviate the pressure on people just trying to get by paycheque to paycheque.

Still, the fact remains that food costs creep up because food suppliers have a more significant overhead now than before the pandemic.

Philip Vanderpol of the Dairy Processors Association of Canada recently said, “With cost increases of this magnitude, it is obvious that costs have had to be passed on down the supply chain.” The result of the global pandemic is that it costs the producers of our food more to get to us now than before COVID-19, much like it has always cost more in the Bahamas to import our food.

Two side-by-side images show broccoli on sale in two different places.  The Canadian price on the left is $3.99 each.  The store in the Bahamas is selling broccoli for $6.49 in American currency.
Broccoli prices in New Brunswick and the Bahamas on the same day in March. (Tara Pyfrom/Sissell Mosvold-Johnson)

I’ve had several conversations with friends and strangers over the last couple of years where they undoubtedly complained about the rising cost of milk or eggs.

According to Numbeo, the Bahamas ranks fourth worldwide for the cost of living while Canada ranks 25th.

While I was writing this, a two-liter carton of lactose-free milk at the store in New Brunswick cost me $6.36. A similar brand and size in the Bahamas is priced at $6.99 US, or just under $10 here.

A head of broccoli in NB costs $3.99, and a package of chicken for an evening meal might cost $12 at a big box store. In the Bahamas, your supper of chicken and broccoli could cost $27.86 in Canadian dollars. It adds up quickly.

I can’t complain about the rising cost of living in New Brunswick because my point of reference comes from sticker shock every time I’ve shopped in the Bahamas.

If you think New Brunswick’s cost of living has skyrocketed, imagine what life is like in places that were already expensive before this new normal.

Folks in the North or remote communities of Canada are struggling even more than ever. The cost of transporting goods to these communities — where most food must be flown in — has doubled the already extremely high price tag.

More and more folks in places like Fond-du-Lac, Sask., are experiencing food insecurity because they simply cannot afford to pay $14 for a bagged salad kit.

For me, buying food in New Brunswick is still far more economical.

From my perspective, no matter how costly essential items become, they will always be cheaper and fresher than anything I could expect back home.

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