The Checkout

Archive: July 2008

Not-so-live blogging House Food Safety Hearing No. Two

Apologies for the delayed post. My air card died just as the produce industry was piling on the FDA and CDC. If you want to listen along, you can go to the House Energy and Commerce Committee Web site. The theme of today's hearing is "Lessons Learned" from the salmonella outbreak. So in that vein, I thought I'd write up my top five lessons learned. 1. Outbreaks don't respect state borders. I wrote Wednesday about a Colorado woman, Cheryl Grubbs, whose husband was an outbreak victim. She had trouble getting the attention of her local health officials partly because Colorado...

By Annys Shin | July 31, 2008; 12:44 PM ET | Comments (3)

J.Crew says sorry

J. Crew wants you to know that it doesn't take technical glitches lightly. Consider this e-mail that appeared in my inbox and on the front of the retailer's Web site yesterday (trendy all-lowercase style is theirs): "we've made some mistakes ... (too many in our mind). we want to say that we're sorry for any issues you have experienced while shopping J.Crew online or over the phone over the last few weeks -- we know we've let you down. we are in the midst of making some enhancements to our web site an call center (and unfortunately encountered some bumps...

By Ylan Mui | July 31, 2008; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (7)

BREAKING NEWS: Salmonella Saintpaul Found in Irrigation Water on Mexican Pepper Farm

Dr. David Acheson, who is the top food safety official at the Food and Drug Administration, has just told the House panel that they have found likely source of Salmonella saintpaul, which has eluded countless officials for weeks. "We have a positive sample in water used for irrigation and serrano peppers from the same farm that have matched outbreak strain," he said. Acheson says the FDA is now changing its warning to include Mexican Serrano peppers. The agency says consumers should now stop eating raw serrano peppers. Dr. Lonnie King of the Centers for Disease Control is testifying after Acheson...

By Annys Shin | July 30, 2008; 2:44 PM ET | Comments (8)

Live blogging the House's food safety hearing

Hello from the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture That I Have Never Heard Of Until Now. I've threatened to live blog before and today I have finally procured a laptop and an air card. The point of this gathering today--and there is a second one tomorrow--is ostensibly to talk about the problems with tracing produce through the distribution chain in case of an outbreak or terrorist attack on the food supply. The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control honchos have said the difficulty tracing tomatoes slowed the Salmonella saintpaul investigation. Other food safety...

By Annys Shin | July 30, 2008; 2:22 PM ET | Comments (3)

Update: Earthworks Responds to WMT's New Jewelry

Mining reform advocacy group Earthworks has responded to Wal-Mart's new jewelry line, Love, Earth, which can be traced back to mines that meet certain environmental and social standards. The group said it is hopeful that the jewelry line is a first step but that it does not consider any large gold mines "responsible." You can read their full statement in all its nuance here. We reported last week that Wal-Mart joined Earthworks' No Dirty Gold campaign last year after repeated pleas from the group. The Love, Earth line launched last week in partnership with Conservation International....

By Ylan Mui | July 25, 2008; 9:19 AM ET | Comments (99)

Giant's Seafood Makeover

Last week, we reported on Whole Foods and other supermarkets' new sustainable seafood initiatives. Yesterday, Giant Food announced support for the principles of the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions, a coalition of nonprofit groups that works with retailers to change the way they buy seafood. Giant said it is committing to work toward buying environmentally responsible products, making information on seafood products readily available and supporting policy changes that have positive environmental impact. The company's seafood buyers are now also ranking their purchases on how plentiful the species is, how it is caught and what effect fishing has on the...

By Ylan Mui | July 24, 2008; 7:01 AM ET | Comments (77)

Found: Smoking Jalapeno

As reported Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration has found the strain of salmonella that has been making people sick since April in a jalapeno pepper collected from a small Texas produce distributor. The FDA found the pepper by tracing back food eaten by people who got sick. The victims were part of one of the restaurant clusters FDA has been investigating, hoping to come across a lead like this one. Now the FDA can focus its efforts on where that pepper came from and hopefully find a source. So you don't get confused, there is a separate recall going...

By Annys Shin | July 23, 2008; 7:03 AM ET | Comments (36)

The Product Safety Bill: Not Done Yet

Last week, House and Senate lawmakers met for the second time to hash out their differences on product safety reform legislation. Remember that? Congress's attempt to protect us from lead paint on toys and dots that turn into the date rape drug when you swallow them? Anyway, while they whittled down the number of things they disagree about, they still haven't resolved everything. The outstanding issues include a ban on phthalates--chemicals that make plastic soft and have been linked to reproductive problems--and preemption. In English, that means whether some of the new standards and testing protocols that will go into...

By Annys Shin | July 21, 2008; 12:05 PM ET | Comments (1)

Tomato Salad for Everyone

So the latest in the salmonella outbreak last week was the Food and Drug Administration lifting their warning about certain types of tomatoes. All we know at this point is tomatoes on the market are safe because there is no way they could be coming from farms that were shipping tomatoes back in April when people first started getting sick. FDA and the Centers for Disease Control are not saying tomatoes weren't responsible for the outbreak, only that the ones on the market now are safe. They are "seriously considering" the possibility that jalapeno peppers as well as tomatoes may...

By Annys Shin | July 21, 2008; 7:42 AM ET | Comments (115)

Cracking Down on Hidden Fees

A bill that would allow merchants to negotiate interchange fees directly with credit card companies cleared a hurdle this week. In a 19 to 16 vote, the House Judiciary Committee approved the Credit Card Fair Fee Act of 2008. And what exactly are interchange fees? You may not know this but every time you use your credit card to buy something, the merchant has to pay a fee to your card company. That fee is non-negotiable. You, the consumer, end up incurring the cost of that fee because retailers include them in their prices. Supporters of the proposal say it...

By Nancy Trejos | July 18, 2008; 7:18 AM ET | Comments (170)

Latest in the Salmonella Outbreak

With the tally of ill people brushing up against 1,200, the folks trying to figure out--and stop--the source of the salmonella outbreak are hoping a new set of interviews in New Mexico and Arizona will provide more leads. The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with state health officials in the two states and the Indian Health Service, are talking to people who fell ill after June 1. For anyone who has been following the outbreak investigation closely, this doesn't sound that earth shattering, but it could prove fruitful. All of the folks...

By Annys Shin | July 17, 2008; 2:13 PM ET | Comments (1)

Cleaning Up Dirty Gold

For years, mining reform advocacy group Earthworks called on Wal-Mart to endorse its No Dirty Gold campaign and promise to adhere to several principles, including respecting human rights, cleaning up mine sites and not forcing communities off their land. The group never got a response -- except once, from the communications department -- from the company that sells more jewelry than any other retailer in the United States. That is, not until 2006, after Wal-Mart had embarked on its sustainability makeover. In February 2007, it publicly joined the No Dirty Gold campaign. The other day, this press release with this...

By Ylan Mui | July 17, 2008; 7:04 AM ET | Comments (1)

Transsexual Tilapia?

I know what you're thinking already. It sounds totally insane. But the tilapia you eat very likely has gone through a sex change. Let me explain: When we began working on our story about Whole Foods' new farmed seafood standards, one bullet point caught our eye: No Methyl testosterone for sex reversal. As it turns out, farm-raised tilapia is typically given testosterone in their food when they're very small, for the first 35-40 days of feeding, Whole Foods seafood quality standards coordinator Carrie Brownstein told me. Any fish that were on the path to a womanly fishhood change course to...

By Ylan Mui | July 16, 2008; 2:03 PM ET | Comments (4)

Men, Women and Shopping

A new poll by Consumer Reports quantifies what many of us already know: Men and women just don't shop the same. The survey found that 84 percent of couples say they shop together at least sometimes. Three-quarters say they have held hands while shopping, and 46 percent admit to "other" public displays of affection, which, really, we don't need any more detail about. That's the boring stuff, anyway. Here's the good dish: More than a quarter of couples say they have argued in public while shopping, and 25 percent have been embarassed by their partner in a store. ("Honey, put...

By Ylan Mui | July 15, 2008; 7:05 AM ET | Comments (1)

Here's the Beef

Happy Monday folks. Sorry I've been radio silent for a week. I had a lot of tomatoes and pepper news to weed through. And beef news too, which is what I'm going to tell you about today. Last Friday, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer and Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Richard Raymond announced the agency would soon begin disclosing the names of retailers that receive recalled meat but only in situations where there's a high chance of people getting sick from eating the recalled meat. Raymond has been pushing for this rule for two years. Two. And...

By Annys Shin | July 14, 2008; 10:34 AM ET | Comments (41)

It Pays to Know Your Score

Consumer understanding of credit scores has improved over the past year, according to an annual survey commissioned by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and Washington Mutual Bank (WaMu). But that's not saying much. Credit scores are important. Very important. That's how lenders decide if you're too risky to lend money to. According to this survey, the results of which were released Thursday, fewer than one-third of Americans know that credit scores indicate risk of not repaying a loan. "Lack of consumer knowledge about credit scores not only increases the costs of their credit and insurance, but also reduces the...

By Nancy Trejos | July 11, 2008; 7:01 AM ET | Comments (3)

Meanwhile, in Nebraska...

With tomatoes getting all the attention--or should I say Mystery Produce--you may have missed the latest ground beef outbreak in the Midwest. On Thursday, Nebraska Beef, an Omaha-based meat packer, said it was recalling 5.3 million pounds of hamburger meat that it produced since in mid-May after it was linked to an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Ohio and Michigan. The Kroger grocery chain which bought from Nebraska Beef is pulling ground beef from stores across the country. This was an expansion of a recall announced Monday of only a half a million pounds. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's...

By Annys Shin | July 5, 2008; 4:39 PM ET | Comments (33)

Toy Chests Are Not Toys

I know everyone is probably gone for the Fourth, but a recall just flashed over my e-mail that I thought you might like more info about. Bayside Furnishings of San Diego said yesterday it is recalling 9,350 LaJolla Boat and Pirates of the Carribean Twin Trundle beds after a 22-month-old boy died when the lid of a toy chest that is at the end of the bed fell on his neck and strangled him. The beds were sold at Costco, Costco.com and furniture retail stores from January 2006 through May of this year for between $700 and $1,400. Bayside is...

By Annys Shin | July 4, 2008; 7:36 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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