Give a health inspector a hug / Training is the key to food safety

I recently read a story today which ran in Food Safety News and the South Bend Tribune about a food service establishment in a gas station which was fined and placed on probation for health code violations. Exactly as expected, health officials inspected the establishment and came back two weeks later and found that not all violations had been corrected which triggered the penalties. The major violations dealt with food being sold at "temperatures insufficient to prevent the growth of pathogens". In other words, no one was keeping the food hot enough. At lower temps, bad stuff can grow on food and make you ill.

So all good, right? Everyone did their job. Yes they did. And I am very supportive of our health inspectors. It is definitely one of those thankless jobs. I'm not joking, they need their own appreciation day (there may already be one, I just didn't Google it). But anyway, the next time you see one, give them a hug.

What concerns me more are the penalties. Fines and probation. Yeah, these are ok. But what about training and re-education? Indiana requires that only one person per establishment be a "Certified Food Handler" (a). What about the rest of the workers? I understand that the worker at the establishment who has been to a course should then educate the rest of the staff, but obviously, it didn't happen in this case. So, why not make an additional penalty which states that now at least two workers will have to be certified? A course only costs $140 (b). Much cheaper than the $1000 fine (c).

Footnotes:

(a) http://www.in.gov/isdh/files/FoodHandler-Final.pdf

(b)  http://www.sfhcorp.com/sfh_2004/pages/2014%20Indiana%20Brochure.pdf

(c) http://www.stjosephcountyindiana.com/departments/sjchd/PDFs/Chapter%20117-St.%20Joseph%20County%20Food%20Establishments.pdf

 

 

GMO Labelling - Don't you want to know what's in your food?

On July 23rd, the United States House of Representatives voted to pass House Resolution 1599 titled Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015.

I love how these bills are named. The term "accurate" may not be a proper description if one reads the details of the bill. Mediamatters.org reports that the bill "would block states and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from labeling foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMO), and allow food companies to describe products containing GMO ingredients as "natural"."

What? GMO ingredients are "natural"? Come on! We can do better than this people!

Consumers should know what is in their food. And the label is the first place they look. Do I think that the U.S. should be as strict as the European Union? No, I don't. The E.U. has about the strictest policies on GMOs in the world. The U.S. and the E.U. are both a nice balance when it comes to GMOs. The U.S. is more liberal and the E.U. is conservative. But the U.S. should allow consumers the right to be informed if a product contains GMOs.

Representative John Conyers, D-Michigan, wrote a good Op-Edl on CNN.com, which is a good read on why this bill should be worrisome to people who are interested in knowing what is in their food.

Reuters article:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/23/us-usa-gmo-labeling-idUSKCN0PX17920150723
 

 

 

 

 

 

It is on the label...it must be true....right?

We have all seen these kinds of products on the shelves at the local super market. Right there, in big and bold letters: LOW FAT, LOW CARB, HIGH PROTEIN. These products are sitting right next to the other ones with no nutritional claims. So what should you do? Your brain is telling you that if you don't take the low fat product, you are choosing high fat, right?

But what are the definitions of these claims? How is it determined what is HIGH IN FIBER and what is LOW SODIUM?

Well, if you live in the EU, the following nutritional claims have been defined and are permissible according to the Annex of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006:

LOW ENERGY
A claim that a food is low in energy, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where the product does not contain more than 40 kcal (170 kJ)/100 g for solids or more than 20 kcal (80 kJ)/100 ml for liquids. For table-top sweeteners the limit of 4 kcal (17 kJ)/portion, with equivalent sweetening properties to 6 g of sucrose (approximately 1 teaspoon of sucrose), applies.

ENERGY-REDUCED
A claim that a food is energy-reduced, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where the energy value is reduced by at least 30 %, with an indication of the characteristic(s) which make(s) the food reduced in its total energy value.

ENERGY-FREE
A claim that a food is energy-free, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where the product does not contain more than 4 kcal (17 kJ)/100 ml. For table-top sweeteners the limit of 0,4 kcal (1,7 kJ)/portion, with equivalent sweetening properties to 6 g of sucrose (approximately 1 teaspoon of sucrose), applies.

LOW FAT
A claim that a food is low in fat, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where the product contains no more than 3 g of fat per 100 g for solids or 1,5 g of fat per 100 ml for liquids (1,8 g of fat per 100 ml for semi-skimmed milk).

FAT-FREE
A claim that a food is fat-free, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where the product contains no more than 0,5 g of fat per 100 g or 100 ml. However, claims expressed as ‘X % fat-free’ shall be prohibited.

LOW SATURATED FAT
A claim that a food is low in saturated fat, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made if the sum of saturated fatty acids and trans-fatty acids in the product does not exceed 1,5 g per 100 g for solids or 0,75 g/100 ml for liquids and in either case the sum of saturated fatty acids and trans-fatty acids must not provide more than 10 % of energy.

SATURATED FAT-FREE
A claim that a food does not contain saturated fat, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where the sum of saturated fat and trans-fatty acids does not exceed 0,1 g of saturated fat per 100 g or 100 ml.

LOW SUGARS
A claim that a food is low in sugars, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where the product contains no more than 5 g of sugars per 100 g for solids or 2,5 g of sugars per 100 ml for liquids.

SUGARS-FREE
A claim that a food is sugars-free, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where the product contains no more than 0,5 g of sugars per 100 g or 100 ml.

WITH NO ADDED SUGARS
A claim stating that sugars have not been added to a food, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where the product does not contain any added mono- or disaccharides or any other food used for its sweetening properties. If sugars are naturally present in the food, the following indication should also appear on the label: ‘CONTAINS NATURALLY OCCURRING SUGARS’.

LOW SODIUM/SALT
A claim that a food is low in sodium/salt, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where the product contains no more than 0,12 g of sodium, or the equivalent value for salt, per 100 g or per 100 ml. For waters, other than natural mineral waters falling within the scope of Directive 80/777/EEC, this value should not exceed 2 mg of sodium per 100 ml.

VERY LOW SODIUM/SALT
A claim that a food is very low in sodium/salt, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where the product contains no more than 0,04 g of sodium, or the equivalent value for salt, per 100 g or per 100 ml. This claim shall not be used for natural mineral waters and other waters.

SODIUM-FREE or SALT-FREE
A claim that a food is sodium-free or salt-free, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where the product contains no more than 0,005 g of sodium, or the equivalent value for salt, per 100 g.

NO ADDED SODIUM/SALT
A claim stating that sodium/salt has not been added to a food and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer may only be made where the product does not contain any added sodium/salt or any other ingredient containing added sodium/salt and the product contains no more than 0,12 g sodium, or the equivalent value for salt, per 100 g or 100 ml.

SOURCE OF FIBRE
A claim that a food is a source of fibre, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where the product contains at least 3 g of fibre per 100 g or at least 1,5 g of fibre per 100 kcal.

HIGH FIBRE
A claim that a food is high in fibre, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where the product contains at least 6 g of fibre per 100 g or at least 3 g of fibre per 100 kcal.

SOURCE OF PROTEIN
A claim that a food is a source of protein, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where at least 12 % of the energy value of the food is provided by protein.

HIGH PROTEIN
A claim that a food is high in protein, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where at least 20 % of the energy value of the food is provided by protein.

SOURCE OF [NAME OF VITAMIN/S] AND/OR [NAME OF MINERAL/S]
A claim that a food is a source of vitamins and/or minerals, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where the product contains at least a significant amount as defined in the Annex to Directive 90/496/EEC or an amount provided for by derogations granted according to Article 6 of Regulation (EC) No 1925/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 December 2006 on the addition of vitamins and minerals and of certain other substances to foods[1].

HIGH [NAME OF VITAMIN/S] AND/OR [NAME OF MINERAL/S]
A claim that a food is high in vitamins and/or minerals, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where the product contains at least twice the value of ‘source of [NAME OF VITAMIN/S] and/or [NAME OF MINERAL/S]’.

CONTAINS [NAME OF THE NUTRIENT OR OTHER SUBSTANCE]
A claim that a food contains a nutrient or another substance, for which specific conditions are not laid down in this Regulation, or any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where the product complies with all the applicable provisions of this Regulation, and in particular Article 5. For vitamins and minerals the conditions of the claim ‘source of’ shall apply.

INCREASED [NAME OF THE NUTRIENT]
A claim stating that the content in one or more nutrients, other than vitamins and minerals, has been increased, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where the product meets the conditions for the claim ‘source of’ and the increase in content is at least 30 % compared to a similar product.

REDUCED [NAME OF THE NUTRIENT]
A claim stating that the content in one or more nutrients has been reduced, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where the reduction in content is at least 30 % compared to a similar product, except for micronutrients, where a 10 % difference in the reference values as set in Directive 90/496/EEC shall be acceptable, and for sodium, or the equivalent value for salt, where a 25 % difference shall be acceptable.
The claim "reduced saturated fat", and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made:
(a) if the sum of saturated fatty acids and of trans-fatty acids in the product bearing the claim is at least 30 % less than the sum of saturated fatty acids and of trans-fatty acids in a similar product; and
(b) if the content in trans-fatty acids in the product bearing the claim is equal to or less than in a similar product.
The claim "reduced sugars", and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made if the amount of energy of the product bearing the claim is equal to or less than the amount of energy in a similar product.

LIGHT/LITE
A claim stating that a product is ‘light’ or ‘lite’, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, shall follow the same conditions as those set for the term ‘reduced’; the claim shall also be accompanied by an indication of the characteristic(s) which make(s) the food ‘light’ or ‘lite’.

NATURALLY/NATURAL
Where a food naturally meets the condition(s) laid down in this Annex for the use of a nutritional claim, the term ‘naturally/natural’ may be used as a prefix to the claim.

SOURCE OF OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
A claim that a food is a source of omega-3 fatty acids, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where the product contains at least 0,3g alpha-linolenic acid per 100g and per 100kcal, or at least 40mg of the sum of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid per 100g and per 100kcal.

HIGH OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
A claim that a food is high in omega-3 fatty acids, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where the product contains at least 0,6g alpha-linolenic acid per 100g and per 100kcal, or at least 80mg of the sum of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid per 100g and per 100kcal.

HIGH MONOUNSATURATED FAT
A claim that a food is high in monounsaturated fat, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where at least 45% of the fatty acids present in the product derive from monounsaturated fat under the condition that monounsaturated fat provides more than 20% of energy of the product.

HIGH POLYUNSATURATED FAT
A claim that a food is high in polyunsaturated fat, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where at least 45% of the fatty acids present in the product derive from polyunsaturated fat under the condition that polyunsaturated fat provides more than 20% of energy of the product.

HIGH UNSATURATED FAT
A claim that a food is high in unsaturated fat, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer may only be made where at least 70% of the fatty acids present in the product derive from unsaturated fat under the condition that unsaturated fat provides more than 20% of energy of the product.

So the next time you read a nutritional claim on a label, check out to see what is behind it. Sometimes it might not be all what it is claiming. For some very interesting reading, check out the Food and Drug Administration warning letters page. Here you will be able to see some examples where the FDA sends warning letters to food companies who may have not be fully compliant when it comes to food labeling. Check out an interesting example here.

For some further reading:

http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20599288,00.html

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-162182/How-food-labels-mislead-shoppers-fat-content.html

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2014/09/5-misleading-food-label-claims/index.htm

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CONSLEG:2006R1924:20100302:EN:PDF