Nov 1, 2012 USDA quietly reduces audits of meat exporters’ food safety systemsThe US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has reduced its audits of the meat safety systems of US trading partners by more than 60% since 2008, according to an investigative report by Food Safety News (FSN). From 2001 to 2008, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) inspected meat and poultry safety systems in 25 to 32 exporting countries per year (except for 2006, when inspections were much reduced), FSN reported. But from 2009 to 2012 the number of countries audited dropped to from 3 to 20 per year, or an average of 9.8. Last year the agency audited meat safety in only three countries: Australia, New Zealand, and Poland. Also, FSN said the FSIS has been slow to release audit reports and that it unveiled reports covering the past 2 years only this week, after multiple FSN requests. Current and former FSIS officials told FSN the agency is shifting to more of a “risk-based” approach to foreign audits, relying more on self-reporting by foreign inspectors. FSIS officials said they had intended to explain the change in a Federal Register notice, but they have been too busy issuing other policy notices. Agency officials asserted that the cutback was not caused by lack of funding, but a former agency employee said budgetary pressures were a major factor. The USDA currently allows 34 countries to export meat and poultry to the US, on the basis of determinations that their safety systems meet USDA standards, the story says.Nov 1 FSN storyFSIS foreign audit reports Feds declare post-hurricane New York public health emergencyHealth and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius declared a public health emergency for New York state yesterday in the wake of hugely destructive Hurricane Sandy, which made landfall on the East Coast on Oct 29. The emergency declaration is necessary for HHS to waive or modify certain Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program requirements, the agency said in a release. The declaration enables affected New York healthcare facilities to adjust some operating procedures temporarily, such as admitting qualified Medicare patients to a nursing home without the usual 3-day hospital stay. HHS said more than 500 of its personnel have been deployed to help affected states respond to public health, medical, and human services needs.Oct 31 HHS news releaseIn related news, destruction from Hurricane Sandy creates a myriad of health concerns, including illness from contaminated water and foodborne disease from improperly refrigerated food, according to an NPR blog post today. Health officials are warning residents of New Jersey, New York, and other affected states of possible health risks, including pathogens from sewage in floodwater, which may cause illness with contact. “That kind of shows up as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms related to gastrointestinal illnesses,” said New Jersey state epidemiologist Christina Tan, MD, MPH. CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, cautioned about the risk of foodborne disease, given that refrigerated food stays cold for only about 4 to 6 hours after a power outage (and millions of East Coast residents are still without power). “In 2003 there was a long blackout in August, and we saw a significant increase in foodborne illness in the days after,” Frieden said. His advice: “If in doubt, throw it out.”Nov 1 NPR blog post
The head of the standard bearer for alternative business structures has admitted the company grew too fast in its early years.Matt Howells (pictured), managing director of Co-operative Legal Services, spoke as the business – the first big non-lawyer consumer brand to enter the new legal market in 2012 – posted losses of £5.1m for the first half of 2014.That figure was 70% up on the same period in 2013, bringing total losses in the last 18 months to more than £14m. Revenues for the first half of 2014 were down by 28%, from £18m to £13m.The losses were blamed on the costs associated with a year of job cuts and rebuilding the business.Howells, who joined CLS in April 2014, revealed that staff numbers are now down to around 400, from a peak of more than 500 in January 2013. And he lifted the lid on the Co-op’s struggle to cope with the rapid expansion that followed the high-profile grant of an ABS licence.‘We grew very quickly and those costs had nowhere to go when the revenue was not coming in,’ he said. ‘The problem was the pace we executed our strategy. We grew far too quickly. There is always a balance between how much noise you make and the attention you want to draw. What you can now expect is a business that is very clear on what it’s trying to achieve.‘We have started to look at what is the right size and shape of the organisation.’Howells said the firm has ‘100% backing’ from the Co-op group, which has absorbed the losses of the past two years, but admitted it has to start turning a profit in 2015. CLS is earmarked to break even in the second half of this year.The former Barclays managing director said probate, wills and family divisions had all brought in revenue in line with expectations, with personal injury income suffering following reforms to the sector.Howells insisted CLS can prosper despite its early setbacks and said he still believes the company has something different to offer compared with traditional firms.‘The reason we’re here is to offer customers an alternative solution,’ he added.‘We’ve tried exceptionally hard to give customers transparent, fixed-fee pricing.‘There is always going to be a need for the high-street [firm] and customers who want that. The key thing is to be an alternative. We need to be more realistic.
Mississippi State signee Delvin Zinn tweetd he will attend school rather than sign a major league contract.The Chicago Cubs are 0 for 2 in drafting Mississippi State signees.Delvin Zinn, who the Cubs drafted in the 28th round in the final day of the MLB Draft, announced Friday, he will attended MSU rather than sign a professional contract.The Pontotoc shortstop is the second Bulldog signee to choose Starkville over Chicago. Left-hander Jared Padgett, who Chicago selected in the 26th round, also will attend Mississippi State.So thankful to have been drafted by the Chicago Cubs but I’m going to honor my commitment to Mississippi State! #HailState— DZ3 (@delvinzinn3) June 12, 2015Three of the six MSU signees have announced their decisions already. Greg Pickett, a power-hitting outfield, already signed a professional contract with the Phillies.That leaves DeSoto Central’s Austin Riley, pitcher Gray Fenter and catcher Elih Marrero.The Braves and Orioles are both confident they can sign Riley and Fenter respectively.MLB clubs confident in signabilty of drafted MSU signeesMarrero’s Twitter profile picture is with MSU’s mascot Bully at Davis Wade Stadium. There will be a draw to professional baseball, though. The Cincinnati Reds selected Marrero in the 29th round. His dad, former major leaguer Eli Marrero coaches the Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Reds.Clubs have until July 17 to reach a deal with their draft picks.Contact Michael Bonner at [email protected] Follow @MikeBBonner on Twitter.