Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Burnbrae struggled to rid eggs of salmonella

Documents released under Access to Information indicate Burnbrae Farms Ltd. struggled for months trying to get rid of salmonella in its egg-grading station at Lyn.

Salmonella montivideo was first detected by CFIA testing in March, 2016, but it wasn’t until December that ongoing testing at the station failed to turn up salmonella.

Burnbrae filed repeated “action plans” to respond to the CFIA test results, but in April, July and September CFIA tests indicated those action plans did not clean up the grading station.

The issue is particularly serious if salmonella can get inside cracked eggs. The documents released to a reporter indicate that some cracked eggs did pass from that grading station to retail outlets.

Even though Burnbrae is the largest egg-grading, egg-producing and egg-processing business in Canada, capable of employing the most advanced and automated technology, CFIA inspections continued to detect eggs that were cracked and dirty.

Similar issues, albeit less frequent, turned up at Gray Ridge Eggs at Strathroy. It is Canada’s second-largest egg grader, producer and processor.

The two grade more than 90 per cent of eggs reaching consumers in Ontario.

Burnbrae not only had troubles with salmonella, but also with facility maintenance.

Inspectors filed repeated complaints about wet and dirty floors and condensation and twice extended deadlines to have floor repairs and relocation of a floor drain completed – first to Jan. 31, then to Feb. 28.

Burnbrae Farms also fed a ration containing an illegal chemical for laying hens. The CFIA detected residue and warned the company.

The documents indicate the CFIA considered the residue level detected in retail-ready eggs to be low enough that a recall was not necessary.

The chemical is not identified in the documents, but they are heavily censored, particularly responses Burnbrae filed with the CFIA. Most of those are completely blocked from release.

Both Burnbrae and Gray Ridge have a long history of marketing eggs that are cracked and dirty, all of it documented in previously-released inspection reports obtained via Access to Information.

There have been unofficial estimates that each of the companies has been able to increase profits in excess of $10 million a year by selling some cracked and dirty eggs.

Producers and the Ontario marketing board also profit by inflating the percentage of eggs that are passed off as Grade A – producers because they get paid top price for their eggs and the marketing board because it is funded by a levy, or tax, that applies only to Grade A eggs.

What’s in a (cow’s) face?

Cargill Inc. is investing in an Irish venture that uses facial recognition software for dairy farming.

Cargill has taken a minority stake in Cainthus, which harnesses machine-learning and imaging techniques to identify cows and glean information on everything from their behavior to appetite, David Hunt, president and co-founder of Cainthus, said in a telephone interview with the Bloomberg news agency.

The new partners did not divulge any of the financial details.

They have also not explained how this high-tech approach is better than transponders currently work to identify cattle for feeding and robotic milking.

Cianthus also uses drones and image-capturing technologies for precision crop farming.

Hunt has also talked about cutting nitrogen use in half by applying it close to plants and only as needed. He said a lot is wasted in broadcast application because some feeds weeds and some is leached away.

Chicken companies accused of pricing collusion

Two giant food-distribution companies have filed court action against chicken processors, claiming they conspire to set wholesale prices.

Farmers have also accused the companies of colluding to set production-contract terms and compensation.

Sysco Corp. and U.S. Foods Inc. sued Tyson Foods Inc, Pilgrim’s Pride Corp, Sanderson Farms and Perdue Farms in separate complaints filed in federal court on Tuesday.

Tyson, the biggest U.S. chicken company, and Pilgrim’s Pride denied the latest accusations.
Sanderson Farms said it will defend itself against the claims, while privately held Perdue declined to comment.

The court action came the same day as the Competition Bureau in Canada filed documents indicating it believes bread companies met with major supermarket chains to tell them they had agreed to price increases and to promise they would not offer their supermarket competitors better deals.


Canada approves GMO apple

Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have approved production and marketing of a Fuji apple variety that has been genetically modified so it doesn’t brown when cut.

The United States granted approval earlier.

The Canadian officials say Arctic Fuji poses no greater risk to human health than apples already on the market.

The variety is controlled by Okanagan Specialty Fruit Inc. of Summerland, British Columbia.

The company said Health Canada decided that Arctic Fuji does not affect allergies and has the same nutritional values as other apples.

What a huge waste of time and money to prove an apple safe for consumption. 

And why, pray tell, did a Canadian innovation get approvals from the United States before Canada? 

Might it be more a matter of profits and politics than nutrition and safety? I suppose it would be helpful to know that the apples can be sold in the U.S. before launching in Canada, but why that's a government, rather than a company, decision is an interesting question.

Bayer takeover of Monsanto delayed

The likely date for completion of Bayer’s purchase of Monsanto has been pushed back five days to March 12 as work to satisfy European officials continues.

The more than $60-billion deal had been pushed back before and Bayer says it has provided more than four million pages of documents to investigators.

The companies have made deals to sell off some of what they own to satisfy competition regulators. For example, the LibertyLink glyphosate weed killer business has been sold to BASF.

If Bayer and Monsanto do combine they say research in chemical, data science and seeds will be streamlined for simultaneous innovation.