A Summary of Food Safety
Daily Harvest and Food Safety
In this article, I am discussing the foodborne illness outbreak linked to Daily Harvest French Lentil and Leek Crumbles based on what I learned from a recent episode of Maintenance Phase.
In the podcast, Michael Hobbes uses the Daily Harvest French Lentil and Leek Crumbles foodborne illness outbreak to discuss the food safety crisis in the US Food System. He travels in time from the 1983 Jack in the Box E. coli 0157 H7 outbreak to the illnesses caused by the Daily Harvest French Lentil and Leek Crumbles that occurred this spring and summer. On the way he mentions the switch from E. coli in hamburger to E. coli in leafy greens and the realization that everything in food supply has the potential to make us ill.
It was a salutary reminder of why I do what I do; why I am a food safety consultant. I forget other people don’t understand that food is risky, especially if the food is unprocessed.
Interesting Points From the Podcast
The Daily Harvest outbreak was not from, as far as we can tell, from a foodborne pathogen as there is no evidence of bacteria or viruses being present in the French Lentil and Leek Crumbles.
One ingredient, Tara flour, currently considered responsible for the illnesses, which have been severe with some people having their gallbladder removed. Tara flour is not on the GRAS (General Recognized as Safe) list or recognized as an approved food additive. Food companies may self declare GRAS status for ingredients that are new or unusual as long as they have a panel of experts which agrees. In fact, GRAS substances and status is a food regulatory gray area.
Not everyone who ate the French Lentil and Leek Crumbles became ill, which suggests not everyone has problems with Tara flour. This is like wheat flour, most of us can eat wheat flour with no problem. Those with coeliac disease who cannot digest gluten - the protein in wheat flour - and they get very ill when they eat wheat.
Regulations around meal kits are worrying. In the podcast episode, there was no mention of food safety regulations such as HACCP or FSMA, as Michael Hobbes correctly said, FDA does not regulate most meal kit companies as they sell direct to consumer. From my perspective, as they are selling across state lines all over the country, they face the food safety risks of shipping food across the country. many food businesses selling their products direct to consumers, even if sold over the internet, are not federally regulated.
Food companies selling most of their food wholesale, regulated by the FDA or USDA, are required to maintain excellent policies, procedures, and record-keeping. Much of my consulting is helping direct to consumer food businesses shift to wholesale and direct their food safety program.
Food is not safe. Even if you pick food from your own garden, bacteria and viruses live in the soil, come from bird poop, etc. Dangers lurk everywhere, from flour to chicken.
Listen to the podcast and let me know in the comments what questions you have.
Who is Cathy Davies?
I write about the intersection of food science and food systems with an emphasis on food safety, food justice and resilience. I am concerned that climate disasters and changing weather patterns are affecting our ability to eat healthy, nutritious food.
I run a food safety consultancy, Food Safety Mid Atlantic, supporting specialty food businesses with their food safety plans and programs. If you are interested in learning more about my consulting services, please schedule a free call.
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