Red onions that were potentially contaminated with salmonella were shipped to all 50 states as well as Canada, according to health officials. Last Saturday, Thomson International in Bakersfield, California, recalled all red, white, yellow and sweet yellow onions shipped from May 1 to the present due to concerns of contamination according to the Food and Drug Administration. Onions were sold in cartons and mesh sacks with brand names including Thomson Premium, TLC Thomson International, Kroger, Food Lion, Hartley’s Best, Tender Loving Care, El Competitor, Imperial Fresh, Onions 52, Majestic and Utah Onions. Packaging photos of the onions can be found on the FDA’s website. The FDA teamed up with the CDC to investigate whether an outbreak of salmonella newport infections could have been connected to the onions. As of now, the FDA has not found a source of contamination. According to the CDC, officials have reported 640 illnesses and 85 hospitalizations in 43 states, and no reported deaths.
Walmart, Kroger, Publix, and Giant Eagle grocery stores across the U.S. have also recalled at least 50 ready-to-eat products that contain the onions, including salads, pizzas and hoagies.
About 38,400 pounds of ground beef has been recalled due to its failure to be presented for U.S. import re-inspection. The Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced JBS Food Canada ULC is recalling the “raw, frozen, boneless beef head meat items” imported on July 13 and “further processed by another company into ground beef products.” The recalled meat came in 80-pound boxes with eight 10-pound chubs of “Balter Meat Company 73/27 ground beef” with “Use by/Freeze by” dates of Aug. 9 or Aug. 10. Pack dates read “072020, 072120 or 072220.” The recall has been classified as a “Class 1” recall by the USDA, defined as a “health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.”
In a recent study of chickpea products, including popular hummus brands such as Sabra and Whole Foods, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that more than 80% of non-organic hummus and chickpeas contained glyphosate, the active chemical in the weedkiller Roundup. One-third of all samples tested exceeded 160 parts per billion for glyphosate, EWG’s recommended upper limit, which equates to roughly 0.01 milligrams per day. That amount is significantly lower than tolerances established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In statement, a Whole Food spokesperson said, “All Whole Foods Market products tested by the Environmental Working Group are fully compliant with EPA tolerances for glyphosate. Whole Foods Market requires that suppliers meet all applicable limits for glyphosate through effective raw material control programs that include appropriate testing.”
In 2015, the World Health Organization concluded that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic,” but in January 2020 the Environmental Protection Agency reapproved the use of the chemical. Read more here at The Hill. Or here at Good Housekeeping.
A long-term study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine found that death by heart disease decreased by 10% among people who consumed a protein-heavy, plant-based diet. Researchers studied data from 416,104 men and women in the U.S. National Institutes of Health–AARP study on diet and health that ran from 1995 to 2011. Study participants were asked questions about their demographic, lifestyle, and diet at the start of the study and were questioned again 16 years later. On average, participants consumed 15% of their daily energy intake in the form of protein with 40% coming from plants and 60% from animal proteins (including 19% from dairy products). Overall, eating plant protein was associated with a reduced risk of death, particularly from cardiovascular disease, and especially when dietary protein came from grain foods such as bread, cereal and pasta instead of from animal foods such as meat and eggs. Researchers found that swapping only 3% of total calories in the diet from animal to plant protein was linked to a 10% decrease in risk of death.
Pizza Hut, Ponderosa Steakhouse, Bonanza Steakhouse, and other restaurant chains have suspended use of their dining room buffets to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Las Vegas casinos have also postponed their popular self-service buffets. Likewise, Whole Foods Market, Wegmans Food Markets Inc. and other grocery stores have closed their popular salad bars and hot food bars. According to Nielsen data, salad bar sales in grocery stores this June are down 95.5% since the same time last year, and sales of self-service bars are down 71.5%.
According to the NPD Group, restaurant buffets account for roughly 1% of the annual $500 billion in overall restaurant sales. The FDA’s recommendations to suspend buffets as well as state guidelines to eliminate buffet service in at least 38 states have contributed significantly to financial losses at restaurants. Eager to resume dine-in services, restaurants are still grappling with how to incorporate or whether to eliminate their buffet and salad bar services. In May, Garden Fresh Restaurants, which owns about 100 Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes restaurants that are based on expansive food buffets, filed for bankruptcy, as sales dropped dramatically and the company saw no clear model for takeout.
The United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP) appealed for nearly $5 billion to help poor and middle-income countries that are food insecure due to the pandemic. The WFP aims to help 138 million people, far exceeding its past record of 97 million in 2019 and making it the biggest humanitarian response in history. According to the WFP, the amount of people going food insecure in countries where WFP operates could balloon to 270 million before the end of 2020, an 82% increase since the pandemic bega. Latin America has been hit the hardest, as the number of people in need of food assistance increased three-fold. Central Africa has seen a 135% increase in food insecurity, and Southern Africa sees a 90% rise. More than half of WFP’s response plan consists of cash transfers, and aid will be sent as both cash and vouchers so that communities in need can buy food at local markets to further boost struggling local economies.
Fresh Express has recalled a bagged salad mix sold in several grocery stores under the Fresh Express brand label as well as store brand labels such as ALDI Little Salad Bar, Giant Eagle, Hy-Vee, Jewel-Osco Signature Farms, ShopRite Wholesome Pantry, and Walmart Marketside. The recalled salads were manufactured by a Fresh Express facility in Streamwood, Illinois, and are linked to a multistate outbreak of Cyclospora infections, which typically causes diarrhea. So far, 206 people in 8 states have been sickened, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Get the full story here at USA Today or CBS News. Details on identifying the recalled products can be found here at the Centers for Disease Control
When coronavirus shutdowns first went into effect, grocery stores remained open but self-serve salad bars and hot bars did not. According to market research firm IRI, prepared food sales fell by 47% in mid-April, year-over-year. Grocers gradually revived their prepared foods business, and sales have slowly picked up, down by only 27% in the last week of May. When shopping, you may notice several new approaches in the prepared foods section of your favorite grocery store. Texas-based supermarket chain H-E-B transformed its cold food bars into beer coolers, and some coolers are now filled with prepared meals from local restaurants. Florida-based Publix reopened its salad bars and hot bars in mid-May, but instead of being self-serve, employees now assemble the dishes. Likewise, at Central Market in Texas, where huge food bars have always been a big part of the business model, items like specialty olives are now pre-packed and employees put together salads and hot bar plates to order. New York-based Wegmans took a similar approach, moving its hummus, olives, and other self-serve foods behind counters for cheese shop employees to assemble.
Prior to the pandemic, growth rates of hot and cold bars had already been waning, according to Jonna Parker, leader for fresh food insights at IRI. As the downward trend continued, grocers responded by selling salad in other ways. The restaurant franchise Saladworks had already been expanding into grocery stores with staff-run kiosks in four locations of the ShopRite grocery chain. Now, it has plans to open 20 more Saladworks kiosks and recently signed a deal with another major grocer, according to CEO Kelly Roddy. Some grocers are considering salad robots as well. Prior to the pandemic, the Chowbotics automated salad kiosk known as Sally was mostly used in universities and hospitals, but Chowbotics just signed three new grocery store deals with more on the way, according to Chowbotics CEO Rick Wilmer. The company’s new app will even allow touchless ordering as customers scan Sally’s QR code then order tailor-made salads on their phones from a mix of 22 different ingredients.
Last week, a panel of 20 nutrition scientists met via videoconference to discuss recommended changes to the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The guidelines are updated every five years by the Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services, and they directly affect eating habits for millions by way of food stamp policies, school lunch menus, food manufacturing, and advice given by nutritionists.
Overall, the panel’s recommendations are similar to those from the previous five years, except for advice on the consumption of alcohol and added sugars. The panel recommended that men keep alcohol intake to one drink per day rather than two drinks, as previously advised. In addition, the panel recommends that all Americans cut back on added sugars.
The advisory committee has been highly scrutinized this year, as more than half of its members have ties to the food industry. For instance, scientists running new subcommittees on pregnant women, lactating mothers and toddlers receive funding from the baby food industry. African-American and Hispanic communities are also skeptical of the recommendations because almost all of the panelists are white. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has final approval over the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are scheduled for release later this year.
Hotel chains such as MGM Resorts, Hilton, Marriott, and Four Seasons and are revamping or eliminating breakfast buffets to prioritize guest safety. Marriott has gathered a team of health and hospitality experts in its Global Cleanliness Council. Council member Dr. Richard Ghiselli, who is also head of the School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Purdue University, says “Restaurant operators are advised to discontinue self-serve buffets and salad bars.” Ghiselli notes that buffets may survive in some locations with updated guidelines. “Where they are permitted, they must have sneeze guards in place,” said Ghiselli, “and staff are advised to change, wash, and sanitize utensils frequently, and place barriers in open areas.”
Hotel buffets may be changing in other countries as well. In Italy, Claudio Scarpa, director of the Venice hotel association says,“The breakfast buffet will be a thing of the past.” The association recently issued a 10-page list of regulations and recommendations for area hotels, and instead of a morning buffet, “guests now receive a breakfast bag,” says Scarpa.
As crowded areas where guests share serving utensils, buffets have come under intense scrutiny during the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this month, buffet restaurant chains Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes threw in the towel and closed all 97 locations permanently. Buffets on cruise ships, however, will likely continue. “Buffets will exist in some sort of form,” says Chris Gray Faust, managing editor of Cruise Critic. Faust notes that buffet food will mostly likely be dished out by staff, there will be fewer communal tables, and staff will be required to wear masks or face shields.