Friday, January 30, 2015

Foodservice Staff, Product Labels Best Sources of Allergen Information

Originally published in the May 28, 2014, issue
By Dallas Duncan 
Approximately 30,000 Americans visit the emergency room, and more than 150 die, each year due to allergic reactions to food, according to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network.
And there’s no cure, according to the US Food and Drug Administration website. The best thing consumers can do is avoid products that contain the food allergens they have reactions to.
That’s where product labeling comes in, said Patricia Batten, manufactured food program associate for the Department’s Food Safety Division.
“You’ve got to list your ingredients and if any ingredient is made up of sub-ingredients, you have to list it,” Batten said. “I always tell folks, lay your ingredients on the table. … If the allergens are spelled out in the ingredient statement, you do not have to put an allergen statement.”
Take butter, for example. Butter contains milk, so in the ingredient statement, a manufacturer could say, “butter [cream, milk, natural flavoring]” and eliminate the need to have a separate statement on the label saying the product contains milk, she said.
Dairy is one of several food allergens, said Jessica Badour, recall outreach specialist for the Food Safety Division. The others are eggs, shellfish, fish, wheat, peanuts, soybeans, sulfites and tree nuts, including chestnuts, brazil nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews and pine nuts. Some food dyes can also cause allergic reactions.
Consumers can also be intolerant to foods instead of allergic. Food intolerance refers to an abnormal response to a food or additive, such as digestive problems after eating dairy, according to the FDA. A food allergy, on the other hand, occurs when the body produces a specific immunoglobulin – a protein the immune system uses to identify foreign objects, such as viruses – to a food. Once the food is eaten and binds with this protein, it starts an allergic reaction.
If a company does not declare an allergen, the best thing it can do is recall the product, Batten said.
“That’s very costly. Years back, Frito-Lay had made some Grandma’s Cookies Chocolate Chip. They forgot to put eggs in the label. They recalled 1.2 million cookies and they just threw them in the landfill,” she said.
Badour said recalls can come through in three ways. Companies realize they mislabeled, a consumer calls to complain of a potential mislabeling or inspectors might see possible cross-contamination risks during a facility or process inspection.
Some labels will point out that a product is produced in a facility that could cause cross-contamination with allergens, even if a product itself does not contain any.
“That statement is really saying that I’m listing all my allergens here, but I may also process something with nuts. There might be traces,” Batten said.
When it comes to eating out, restaurant menus do not typically declare allergens. That means it’s up to the foodservice staff to know what goes in the food and be able to relay that to customers at risk for allergic reactions.
“Due to the serious nature of food allergies, the current Georgia Food Service Rules and Regulations … requires that the person in charge must demonstrate knowledge of the foods that have been identified as major food allergens and be familiar with the symptoms,” said Chris Rustin, director of the Georgia Department of Public Health Environmental Health Section.
Symptoms of a food allergy include allergic reactions, anaphylaxis and even death, he said. It’s also important for foodservice staff to be aware of food allergens, which could be a matter of mortality for some customers. Rustin added that another step foodservice establishments must take is to clean and sanitize equipment, surfaces and utensils that come into contact with raw animal protein allergens, such as shellfish, before being used for other foods to prevent the “inadvertent introduction of an allergen into a product that the allergen was not intended to be added as an ingredient.”
“With increased knowledge and understanding … food employees are better suited to inform customers about foods containing a major food allergen to reduce the likelihood of exposure,” Rustin said. 

Georgia Grown Profile: Stripling's General Store

Originally published in the May 28, 2014, issue
Committed to quality Georgia meat products for a half-century
By Maggie Dudacek, summer intern
For more than 50 years, Stripling’s has perfected the art of processing sausage. Their “Hot Hog” country sausage put Stripling’s name on the map as part of Sausage Kitchen, and now the business is a full-fledged grocery store that offers specialty jams, pickles and sauces.
Stripling’s General Store recently joined Georgia Grown and is proud to be a part of an organization that supports Georgia businesses. Ashley Goss, the marketing manager who has seen the birth, growth and everything in between, believes that Georgia Grown will help Stripling’s find new business opportunities through marketing, promotion and endorsements.
“We … feel an endorsement from Georgia Grown will help in promoting our products as quality driven,” Goss said. “We are very proud of the fact that we are dedicated to consistent, quality products.”
Out of all of the benefits that Georgia Grown has to offer, Stripling’s is most excited about the network opportunities with other Georgia Grown companies. This new community will assist with questions and feedback, but most importantly, encouragement.
By participating in events and donating their products whenever possible, Stripling’s supports the Department’s biggest marketing program. Through displays featuring the Georgia Grown logo, the business helps promote the project by encouraging other Georgia-based businesses and consumers to sponsor the program.
With more than 300,000 pounds of sausage sold each year, Stripling’s production has grown, but its process, flavor and quality has remained the same for decades, Goss said. With no additional fillers or artificial flavors, customers are provided with high-quality products, while Stripling’s General Store preserves both the history and tradition of the business at its facilities in Cordele, Moultrie and Watkinsville, Ga.

Arty's Garden: An Old Rose that Became an Old Friend

Originally published in the May 14, 2014, issue
I hate when plant breeders name a flower variety after another flower. It can be confusing: ‘Geranium’ narcissus and ‘Pink Camellia’ geranium come to mind.
Another example is the ‘Gardenia’ rose that started blooming in my garden in April. I suppose its open flowers do resemble gardenias in size and color. The pointed buds start out buttery yellow and open to cream before fading to almost white. Gardenias do the reverse, starting out pure white, but aging to shades of yellow.
‘Gardenia’ does not mimic the thick, spicy fragrance of its namesake. There are fruity notes in its perfume profile, and rosarian Peter Beales said the rose’s refreshing fragrance is “reminiscent of apples.” But fragrance can be subjective and hard to pinpoint, especially the complex fragrance of a rose.
For many years I did not know the rose’s true name. I first encountered it at the old Goodson homeplace when I was jogging down Randleman Road in Iron Station, NC. No one was living in the rundown house or had lived there for years, but that did not seem to bother the mystery rose one bit. It was covered with blooms and showed no signs of needing any attention.
A rose that blooms and thrives with no care? Well, that got my attention. I ran home for the clippers to take cuttings. That was 1980 and ‘Gardenia’ has been with me ever since. In the past 34 years it has never been fertilized or sprayed with any fungicide or insecticide. It hasn’t needed it. There may be an occasional hint of black spot or powdery mildew on a couple leaves, but never enough to detract from its appearance or health.  
Three decades may seem like a long time, but ‘Gardenia’ has been around much longer. It came out in 1899 as a cross between the memorial rose (Rosa wichuraiana) and ‘Perle des Jardins,’ one of the finest yellow tea roses of its day. It got good qualities of both parents: color and fragrance from ‘Perle des Jardins’ and vigor and attractive foliage from the memorial rose. The memorial rose received its name because it was often planted in cemeteries, a good indication of its durability as cemeteries are places where plants often have to get by with minimal care.
'Gardenia' is a rambler, but can be grown as a large, mounding shrub. Mine covers the chain-link fence between me and a neighbor. In fact, it has practically hidden the fence and will need some serious pruning after it blooms in order for me to squeeze by it.
Although not a repeat bloomer, ‘Gardenia’ produces oodles of flowers during the few weeks it reigns as queen of the garden. I cut bouquets for friends and neighbors. They delight in the rose’s perfectly pointed yellow buds, changing colors, fragrance and history.
I suppose I could find a rose that blooms longer, requires less pruning or has fewer thorns. But I also have my shortcomings and prickly moments. ‘Gardenia’ may not be perfect, but it has become a valuable garden friend whose history has become entwined with my own.
I hope we have at least 34 more years together.
Arty Schronce is the Department’s resident gardening expert. He is a lifelong gardener and a horticulture graduate of North Carolina State University who encourages everyone to make a friend in the garden.

Consumer Q&A: Toe-may-toe, Toh-mah-toh

Q: I have tomatoes coming out my ears. What can I do with them? I’m not much of a cook, and it’s too hot to cook anyway. I’m not going to can them. Any suggestions besides sandwiches?

A: Share with friends and neighbors or people at your workplace, church, gym or social clubs. Some people never had the pleasure of eating a true homegrown tomato. Also check with your local food bank. The people may be thrilled to get something fresh rather than canned or processed items. 

If you are tired of the traditional sandwich of tomato and mayonnaise or of the BLT, try a TVO (tomato-Vidalia Onion) or slip slices of tomato into pimento cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Why should only hamburgers be honored with tomatoes? Sprinkle diced tomatoes on your hot dog, too. Freshen a storebought or delivery pizza with thin slices of tomatoes.

Tomatoes go well with eggs at breakfast, and halved cherry tomatoes or chopped tomatoes can be used as a topping for grits. Try a slice of tomato on buttered toast.

Drizzle sliced tomatoes with balsamic vinegar and serve with hunks of mozzarella. Stuff cherry tomatoes with pesto.

For extra tomato flavor throughout your salads, blend finely chopped or pureed tomato into your oil and vinegar dressing. You don’t need leafy greens to have a salad; consider a simple salad of tomatoes and cucumbers with vinaigrette. Combine chopped tomatoes and cubed avocado and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Mix tomato wedges or halved cherry tomatoes with slices of peaches and mangoes and slivers of onion. Add a little goat cheese and drizzle with a extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar or vinaigrette and some salt and pepper.

Gazpacho – this summer soup requires no cooking and is a cool and savory combination of tomatoes, tomato juice, garlic, onion and bell peppers. You can also puree some tomatoes and freeze them for making soup in the winter when hot soups (and the heat from cooking them) will be welcomed.

And don’t forget bruschetta and fresh salsa.

We’re too hungry to make any more suggestions…

Q: A friend shared a huge, pinkish red (and delicious!) tomato with me he called ‘Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter.’ Can you tell me more about this tomato? I want to find more or grow some of my own next year.

A: ‘Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter’, or sometimes simply ‘Mortgage Lifter’, was developed by M.C. Byles in the early 1930s in Logan, WV.

Mr. Byles, affectionately known as "Radiator Charlie,” a nickname he received from the radiator repair business he opened at the foot of a steep hill on which trucks would often overheat, created this now-legendary tomato by cross-breeding four of the largest-fruited tomatoes he could find: 'German Johnson', 'Beefsteak', an Italian variety and an English variety. One of the four varieties was planted in the middle of a circle. Using a baby's ear syringe, he cross-pollinated the center plant with pollen from the circle of tomatoes. The pollination and selection process was repeated six more years until he had a stable variety. After Byles developed this large, tasty tomato, he sold plants for $1 each (in the 1940s) and paid off the $6,000 mortgage on his house in six years. Each spring, gardeners drove as far as 200 miles to buy his seedling tomatoes.

In the 1980s Byles donated seeds to Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, a company specializing in preserving old vegetable varieties. ‘Radiator Charlie’s Mortage Lifter’ is still carried by that company and others as well. The variety gained popularity for its large size, flavor and meatiness. You may find this variety for sale now at farmers markets. If you want to grow your own from seed next year, don’t delay ordering because seed companies may sell out of this popular variety. 

‘Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter’ is a tomato with great flavor and a great story to match!

Q: I have heard of tomato varieties from Russia that are cold tolerant. Is this true? Where can I find some? I would love to grow tomatoes in my garden in the winter. 

A: “Cold tolerant” means that a tomato variety tolerates colder temperatures than the average tomato variety. It does not mean that it will grow outdoors in winter. Selecting cold-tolerant varieties may allow you to plant a little earlier in the spring than you would with standard varieties. They are also good for cooler areas like the Pacific Northwest.  

In the past few years, tomato varieties originating in Siberia and other parts of Russia and the former Soviet republics have come on the market. They are available from various seed catalogs such as Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Burpee, TomatoFest, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. However, having “Russian” in its name does not automatically indicate that a variety will be cold tolerant or less tolerant of heat, and there are plenty of non-Russian varieties that are cold tolerant. 

Q: Seed catalogs label some tomato varieties as determinate. What does that mean?

A: Determinate varieties of tomatoes are more compact than indeterminate varieties. They “top out” (stop growing taller) when fruit sets on the terminal or top bud. They ripen all their tomatoes at or near the same time, usually over a few weeks.

Indeterminate varieties of tomatoes are also called "vining" tomatoes. They will grow and produce fruit until killed by frost in the fall and can reach heights of up to 10 feet although six feet is more common. They will bloom and set fruit throughout the growing season.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Recall Roundup: Jan. 17 through 23

Editor's Note: Food recalls related to a foodborne pathogen will be featured on individual blog posts. Food recalls related to food allergens, mislabeling or other causes will be rounded up, when applicable, in a Recall Roundup blog post. For up-to-the-minute information on food recalls, follow @GaMktBulletin and @GDAFoodSafety on Twitter, and visit the Georgia Department of Agriculture's food recall website.

Recalls were issued on select lots of the following products:

Garden Lites: Seven-ounce boxes of Kale & Quinoa Souffle with best by dates of May 25, May 26 and June 23, 2016; seven-ounce boxes of Southwestern Souffle with best by dates of April 5, May 18 and May 19, 2016; seven-ounce boxes of Veggie Chili & Cornbread Melt with best by date of April 26, 2016; nine-ounce boxes of Kale & Brown Rice Veggie Bites with best by dates of April 2, April 7, April 8, April 28 and April 29, 2016; 6.75-pound boxes of Classic Cooking Kale & Quinoa Veggie Cakes with best bydates of April 1, May 19, June 2 and June 29, 2016
Recalled Jan. 15; undeclared peanut allergen. Read more ...

Oma's Pride: 12-ounce packages of Purr-Complete Feline Poultry Meal with best by date of Sept. 12, 2015; two-pound packages of Purr-Complete Feline Poultry Meal with best by date of Sept. 12, 2015
Recalled Jan. 16; potential Salmonella contamination. Read more ...

Freeland Foods, Inc.: one-pound bags of Go Raw Brand Organic Spicy Seed Mix with best by date of May 12, 2015
Recalled Jan. 22; potential Salmonella contamination. Read more ...

Recall: Organic Seed Mix Could Contain Salmonella

Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary W. Black is alerting Georgians to the recall of select lots of spicy seed mix produced by Freeland Foods, Inc., of San Jose, Calif.

Random testing by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency showed the mix could contain Salmonella. Salmonella is a bacterium known to cause salmonellosis in humans and animals. Symptoms of salmonellosis include diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever. Rarely, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments, including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation and urinary tract symptoms. In some cases, they are known to be severe enough to require hospitalization and can cause serious complications or death in young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

The affected product is one-pound bags of Go Raw Brand Organic Spicy Seed Mix with UPC code 8 59888 00040 0 and a best by date of May 12, 2015.

No illnesses have been reported to date.

Georgia Department of Agriculture inspectors will be checking to make sure the recalled products are removed from sale. Consumers who purchased these products are asked to destroy them or return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Questions about this recall?

Consumers  who purchased this product can contact Freeland Foods at 1-877-456-8729 or between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.

To view a comprehensive list of food and feed recalls affecting Georgia, visit our Food Safety Division recall website. If this recall expands or additional details become available in the future, the website will provide the most up-to-date information. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Recipe: Stromboli

Originally published in the May 14, 2014, issue
Editor’s Note: Sam Castillo of Gainesville, Ga., submitted this Italian-inspired recipe. Though we used the meats and cheeses listed below, feel free to experiment with your favorite deli cuts to find the perfect flavor for your family.
2 loaves frozen white or Italian bread
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced
½ pound sliced mushrooms
1.5 green bell peppers, sliced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons corn meal
½ pound each sliced pepperoni, sliced ham, sliced salami
½ pound each sliced provolone and sliced sharp cheddar cheese
1 egg, beaten with pepper and 1 tablespoon olive oil
1. Coat two large bowls and both frozen bread loaves in oil. Defrost bread in bowls by covering with plastic wrap and setting in a warm place for six to eight hours. The bread will expand greatly during defrosting.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Sauté vegetables in butter until tender, using a large skillet.
4. Spread a 9x14-inch cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with oil and sprinkle corn meal on top. Roll out dough to fit pan.
5. Place meat, cheese and vegetables in alternating layers down the center of each loaf.
6. Bring the ends of the dough together to form a rectangle and seal with the beaten egg mixture. Brush dough with any remaining egg mixture.
7. Bake for20 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to cool slightly before slicing.