Chefs with Issues is a platform for chefs and farmers we love, fired up for causes about which they're passionate. Josh Grinker is the executive chef at Stone Park restaurant in Brooklyn, New York. He has previously written about five things chefs don't want you to know.
The New York City Department of Health has outdone itself by giving a "C" health inspection grade to Per Se, one of the finest - and most expensive - restaurants in the world, because of violations of the department's arbitrary and punitive letter-grading program.
The grading system and presence of grade cards in the window, required since July 2010, “provides diners with easily interpretable information" and "gives restaurants the incentive to maintain the highest food safety practices," according to Thomas Farley, the former Commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
While clarity and food safety are certainly laudable goals, consumers should realize that these "A," "B" and "C" letters are poor indicators of a restaurant’s cleanliness and the quality of its operation.
In cooking, the process of clarification entails straining out extraneous muck from liquids so that they might be pure, clear and ideal for consumption. With this series on food terminology and issues we're attempting to do the same.
If it seems food safety issues are on the rise, that's because they are. About 48 million people contract some form of food poisoning each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At any given time the FDA is responsible for watching over some 167,000 domestic food facilities or farms, and another 421,000 facilities or farms outside the United States, according to FDA officials. But there are only about 1,100 inspectors to oversee these facilities, officials told CNN in 2012.
There is a third party audit system, where farms or facilities hire auditors to inspect their premises and provide scores. But some say the audit system is full of conflicts of interest. For instance, shortly before Jensen Farms in Colorado caused a listeria outbreak that killed 30 people, a private inspection company’s auditor gave them a “superior” grade, even after noting that they had no anti-microbial solution in place to clean their cantaloupes.
Sometimes, food slips through the cracks and makes it to the consumer marketplace, as in the recent case of the 8.7 million pounds of meat from Rancho Feeding Corporation (and their associated products like Hot Pockets) that were recalled due to "adulteration." Here's what that means.
Nestlé USA has issued a recall of two varieties of Philly Steak and Cheese Hot Pockets because they may contain meat that has already been recalled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The two brands are Hot Pockets brand Philly Steak and Cheese in three different pack sizes, and Hot Pockets brand Croissant Crust Philly Steak and Cheese in the two pack box.
Anyone who's ever read a nutrition label knows that our food supply is full of hard-to-pronounce chemicals. Most are generally recognized as safe, as the Food and Drug Administration likes to say, but a few have given scientists cause for concern.
Azodicarbonamide, for instance. Subway announced last week that it would be removing the controversial chemical from its bread. Generally used for strengthening dough, azodicarbonamide is also found in yoga mats and shoe soles, according to the Centers for Science in the Public Interest. One of the breakdown products is a recognized carcinogen.
Though Subway is going to remove azodicarbonamide, there's a long list of other chemicals used in its bread: calcium carbonate, calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate, DATEM, sodium stearoyl lactylate, potassium iodate and ascorbic acid, according to the restaurant's website (PDF).
And Subway certainly isn't alone. What other chemical additives are commonly found in your food? Here are seven, picked at random as good practice for the upcoming CNN Spelling Bee (just kidding).
Some 8.7 million pounds of meat from a Northern California company have been recalled because they came from "diseased and unsound" animals that weren't properly inspected, a federal agency announced Saturday.
The recall affecting Rancho Feeding Corporation products - as detailed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service - marks a significant expansion of one announced January 13, when just over 40,000 pounds of the company's products were recalled.
According to the U.S. agency, Rancho Feeding "processed diseased and unsound animals and carried out these activities without the benefit or full benefit of federal inspection."
Take a look at ingredients for some varieties of Subway's bread and you'll find a chemical that may seem unfamiliar and hard to pronounce: azodicarbonamide.
To say this word, you would emphasize the syllable "bon" - but the attention the chemical has been getting has not been good. Besides bread, the chemical is also found in yoga mats and shoe soles to add elasticity.
"We are already in the process of removing azodicarbonamide as part of our bread improvement efforts despite the fact that it is (a) USDA and FDA approved ingredient," Subway said in a statement. "The complete conversion to have this product out of the bread will be done soon."
Tyson Foods has announced a recall of nearly 34,000 pounds of chicken on fears of salmonella contamination.
The United State Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service was notified of a Salmonella Heidelberg cluster of illnesses on December 12, 2013. Together with the Tennessee Department of Health, the FSIS discovered a link between mechanically separated chicken products from Tyson Foods, and an outbreak of illness in a Tennessee correctional facility. Seven people were sickened, and of those cases, two were hospitalized.
Wal-Mart is recalling donkey meat in China after it was found to be contaminated with other animal products.
Wal-Mart said it was recalling the meat in Jinan, the provincial capital of Shandong. The company apologized to customers and said it would provide refunds.
State media said the product - Five Spice Donkey Meat - had been contaminated with fox meat.
Editor's note: Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY) is the only microbiologist in Congress and has been a leader on public health issues, particularly on the overuse of antibiotics on the farm. Dr. Robert S. Lawrence is professor of Environmental Health Sciences, Health Policy, and International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the founding director of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.
Strep throat should not kill you. Nor should a knee scratch that becomes infected.
For decades, the world has relied upon antibiotics to treat common infections. As bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics, these minor afflictions could soon become life-threatening.
Procedures that place patients at risk of infection, like hip replacements, dental work and open-heart surgery, could become far more dangerous.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in October that antibiotic-resistant bacteria - known as "superbugs" - cause at least two million infections and 23,000 deaths in the United States yearly. The cost to the U.S. health care system has been pegged at $17 billion to $26 billion annually.