Who’s buying organic foods?

The year 2017 marked continued strength in the organic food market. According to the Organic Trade Association (OTA), U.S. sales surpassed $45 billion over the course of the year, more than doubling in size from a decade ago. OTA notes that the 2017 figures represent a 6.4% increase from the previous year — significant, considering the 1% increase in total food market sales. Organic now accounts for 5.5% of the food sold by U.S. retailers.

“Organic has arrived. And everyone is paying attention. Consumers love organic, and now we’re able to choose organic in practically every aisle in the store,” said Laura Batcha, OTA’s CEO, in a statement.

Consumers report that they’re finding it more convenient than ever before to buy organic. According to market research publisher Packaged Facts, most people say they’re buying more natural and organic foods, and almost half are visiting their local supermarket’s organic section to do so.

The organic market is maturing. Which consumers are helping it grow? [ More … ]

Knickers the Australian steer and other massive cattle

You may have heard about Knickers, an enormous Australian steer who made headlines this week after it was reported that he was simply too big for the butcher shop. But did you know Knickers isn’t the largest steer in the world?

Standing at 6 feet, 4 inches tall and weighing about 1.4 tons, Knickers is a Holstein Friesian who lives with a herd of much smaller wagyu cattle in Western Australia. His owner, Geoff Pearson, tried to sell him, but he was too hefty for the abattoir.

“He’s too big for the chain, he’s out of spec,” Pearson told The Guardian. “He’d be too heavy for the machines and he’d probably actually be hanging on the floor, so there would be contamination issues, and his cuts of meat would be too large.”

Other large cows

While Knickers might be unusually big, he’s not necessarily a freak of nature. [ More … ]

Snow stalls corn harvest in some U.S. states

Neogen’s regular Monday Mycotoxin and Crop Reports may have wrapped up for the year (except for our Capstone Report — stay tuned), but we wanted to sneak in another update for the 2018 harvest season.

Overall corn harvest in the U.S. and Canada is about 94% complete, just two points behind the five-year average. States buried under the snow are still behind, however, leaving grain cold and wet.

North Dakota has 80% of its corn harvested, 13 points below its five-year average of 93%. South Dakota sits at 90% completion, seven points behind its five-year average. Pennsylvania is 82% finished with harvest, with a five-year average of 89%, and Ohio is at 86% with a five-year average of 93%. [ More … ]

The latest on the big E. coli outbreak

It’s now safe to eat some romaine lettuce, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says after last week’s recall of the product due to potential contamination with E. coli O157:H7.

As the investigation has continued, the FDA has found that the contaminated romaine comes from parts of California that grow romaine over the summer months — specifically the central and northern regions of the state.

“The outbreak appears to be related to ‘end of season’ romaine lettuce harvested from the areas,” the FDA said in a statement.

Initially, authorities requested a recall of all romaine products and advised consumers to throw out any they had purchased. With many Americans planning Thanksgiving Day feasts the week of the recalls, it was imperative to spread the news quickly, so that romaine could be taken off the menu. [ More … ]

FDA releases first results in 10-year study on food safety in restaurants

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in the middle of a 10-year-long study on food safety practices in the nation’s restaurants, including food preparation techniques and employee behaviors. Recently, the administration published results from its first year of data collection.

The study, which encompasses both fast food and sit-down restaurants, looks at how certain restaurant practices might contribute to foodborne illness outbreaks. Most importantly, the FDA hopes to use the data it collects to identify areas where restaurants can improve on avoiding common health hazards.

Began in 2013, the study will wrap up in 2023. Data collection is taking place in stages, with collection periods for fast food and full-service restaurants in 2013, 2017 and 2021 and for institutional food services (cafeterias in schools, prisons, etc.) in 2015, 2019 and 2023. [ More … ]

Neogen introduces new handbook for environmental Listeria control

In consultation with industry experts, Neogen has published a new handbook — The Process Control for Listeria Handbook — to help facilities fortify their environmental monitoring programs.

The handbook reviews essential terms and concepts, a recent draft guidance issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the seek-and-destroy approach to monitoring — as well as vectoring techniques to use once a positive result has occurred.

One key aspect of the handbook: helping facilities with the application of diagnostic tools, such as Neogen’s Listeria Right Now, in an environmental monitoring program. Detailed within are real-world examples of how and where Listeria Right Now can provide value, along with the questions users most frequently ask us.

The Process Control for Listeria Handbook can be downloaded at no charge here.

What’s the latest in Global Food Safety Initiative programs?

Much has been said about the similarities and differences between the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) certification programs, with many questioning how closely GFSI programs align with FSMA. Does having a GFSI certification mean a facility complies with the rules of FSMA?

The general consensus is that although certification under one of the GFSI-approved programs means a food supplier usually comes very close to meeting FSMA requirements, these guidelines have slightly different standards, meaning one cannot serve as a substitute for the other.

“The latest developments in GFSI-approved certification programs makes them that much more similar to FSMA than before, especially in the areas of food defense, food fraud prevention and auditor competency,” said Neogen’s Bob Artuso.

GFSI was established in 2000 in response to a wave of foodborne illness scares. Its primary goal was and remains to improve the safety of food around the world by developing a harmonized approach to food safety management systems. Before GFSI was established, food safety management was far less unified, with retailers and buyers requiring different food safety standards for different products. This required suppliers to undergo and keep track of numerous, sometimes redundant audits of their facilities and processes — a costly and inefficient use of time. Different food safety certification programs emerged from this scene, like BRC Global Standards and the IFS Food Standards, providing food companies with certifications to show the effectiveness of their food safety practices. [ More … ]

Monday Mycotoxin and Crop Report for November 26, 2018

We’re wrapping up our Monday Mycotoxin and Crop Report — until our Capstone Report in early December, at least. This week focuses on new reports of fumonisin and zearalenone, the corn harvest’s final stretch and a Tech Tip from Tony: “Can rapid test kits work on feed samples?”

Neogen Corporation takes great care to ensure the integrity of the data we collect from many sources across the country. As these data can vary widely, they should NOT be considered typical of all grain harvested. The mycotoxin levels we report are intended to assist our industry partners in developing their risk assessment programs. Detecting problems before commingling or processing can help avoid quality issues and financial losses.

To subscribe to get these reports straight to your email inbox, click here.

Salmonella outbreaks increase in raw turkey; E. coli a threat to romaine lettuce

With Thanksgiving just around the corner in the U.S., consumers should be aware of the recent influx of Salmonella cases linked to raw turkey products.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 74 cases of salmonellosis (an infection with Salmonella) have been reported since the last update on July 19, 2018. This brings the total outbreak tally, which began on November 20, 2017, to 164 illnesses spanning throughout 35 states. Of these, 63 people have been hospitalized and one death has been reported in California.

CNN reports that there are an estimated 1.2 million salmonellosis cases in the U.S. annually. Typically, symptoms from Salmonella are experienced 12 to 72 hours after the bacteria is consumed. Common symptoms include fever, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. Most people recover within a week of consumption; however, more severe illnesses can last longer.

Consumers must be cautious, as the CDC’s investigation into whether there is a single, common supplier of raw turkey products or live turkeys is still ongoing. The outbreak strain has been found in various raw turkey products, turkey patties, raw turkey pet food, as well as in live turkeys, indicating that it may be widespread throughout the turkey industry. [ More … ]

Tox Tuesday: Despite controversy, FDA approves powerful new opioid painkiller

A highly potent opioid drug has gained U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, despite critics’ fears that another powerful opioid on the market will pose a public health threat.

The drug, going under the brand name Dsuvia, is an under-the-tongue tablet version of an already existing opioid, sufentanil, which is usually administered intravenously. Traditionally, sufentanil is an opioid analgesic used as an anesthetic for surgeries and other serious medical procedures, and must be injected or delivered with an I.V. It’s a Schedule II controlled substance in the U.S.

Opponents to Dsuvia’s approval note that it is five to 10 times more powerful than the synthetic opioid fentanyl, which is already around 100 times more powerful than morphine. Just three milligrams of pure fentanyl can kill an adult. [ More … ]