Burritos recalled after plastic found: Flagship Food Group, an Albuquerque, N.M., company, is recalling some 8,622 pounds of a frozen burrito product that may be contaminated with hard, clear plastic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has announced. Three consumers complained about the presence of plastic bits in their breakfast burritos, with one reporting minor oral injuries. This is another reminder of the potential cost of product contamination, intentional or otherwise. Three burritos were found to be tainted, and more than 8,000 were recalled at considerable expense and possible damage to the brand. You just can’t be too careful. READ MORE

PUBLIC HEALTH

Another case of HPAI: The Associated Press reports that a third commercial poultry breeding operation in Tennessee has tested positive for avian flu. State agricultural officials on Thursday said the latest chicken breeding facility to be infected is in Lincoln County, close to a farm where poultry was diagnosed with bird flu less than two weeks ago. Officials say the chickens at both facilities have the same strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). Lincoln County lies south of Nashville, close to the state line with Alabama, a major poultry-producing state. Another chicken breeding facility has been diagnosed with infected birds is in neighboring Giles County. READ MORE

PERSONNEL SECURITY

Farmers need solution to immigration challenge: Jim Mulheron, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, says too many of the nation’s dairy farmers are facing an ongoing, daunting challenge: finding enough American workers to fill jobs on their farms, even when they provide wages higher than those paid by other local jobs. This “between a rock and hard place” dilemma has grown more acute as the national unemployment rate has dropped – and will likely get even more dire, now that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has begun stepping up its efforts to locate and remove undocumented individuals. And the problem isn’t limited to dairy farmers, by any means. READ MORE

LEGISLATION

Proposal would put ag and food officials security committee: Another bipartisan proposal with a security bent has been introduced by two powerful Midwestern senators, reports Food Safety News. The legislation would put agriculture and food officials into permanent slots on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). CFIUS is an inter-agency committee authorized to review transactions that could result in control of a U.S. business by a foreign person (“covered transactions”), in order to determine the effect of such transactions on the national security of the United States. Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan have introduced the “Food Security is National Security Act of 2017,” which will include new agriculture and food-related criteria for CFIUS to consider when reviewing transactions that could result in control of a U.S. business by a foreign company. READ MORE

Food industry reps urge Congress to fund FSMA: Food Safety News reports that food corporations are urging congressional budget writers not to back off on funding the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) just as it is being implemented. Representatives from major food companies and trade associations have signed a letter that was dropped off at the offices of the four top budget writers on Capitol Hill this week. Food industry organizations signing the letter were the American Bakers Association, the American Frozen Food Institute,  the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the International Bottled Water Association, the National Fisheries Institute, the Peanut and Tree Nut Processors Association, the Produce Marketing Association, and the United Fresh Produce Association. The letter also was signed by representatives from Campbell Soup Co., Cargill Inc., Coca-Cola Co., Conagra Brands Inc., Costco Wholesale, Hershey, Kellogg Co., Land O’ Lakes Inc., Mars Inc., Nestle U.S.A., PepsiCo Inc. Unilever Inc., and Walmart Stores Inc. “For all our companies and associations, food safety is our number one priority and represents a critical standard we work hard to meet every day,” the letter says. “Consumer confidence in our companies and associations and in our brands is the foundation of everything we do and the reason we invest our reputations and resources in producing safe products.” READ MORE

MISCELLANEOUS

The dangers of stable and barn fires: When a fire tore through a Kentucky horse training center in December, 23 horses were killed and the loss was estimated at around $2 million, between the deaths of the horses and the destruction of the barn. Eric Reed, owner of the Mercury Equine Center in Lexington, said 36 horses were inside the barn when the fire broke out at around 1:15 a.m. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that 13 horses managed to escape the blaze. As we get to the end of winter—when horses in colder parts of the U.S. are kept in stalls—we are less likely to see such stories. Nevertheless, it is still important to understand the factors that contribute to such fires. An important factor is hay storage in the same building where horses are housed, because hay is highly combustible. Any spark can start a fire, and takes only moments to go from a spark to a blaze. In previous generations when smoking was socially acceptable, many barn and stable fires were caused by sparks or incompletely extinguished cigarette butts. Prevention is key. Most barns and stables have “NO SMOKING” posted prominently and strictly enforced. Commercial/professional stables and confinement livestock operations store hay and other combustible feeds in a separate building nearby, so that even if stored hay catches fire it is unlikely to directly involve the structure where animals are housed. Insurance companies are proactive in educating horseowners, commercial farmers and owners of small livestock operations, and the insurance industry also has to be vigilant about intentional fires and criminal insurance fraud, which is more of a problem now than in previous generations. -Stephanie Ostrowski, DVM, MPVM, DACVPM

The work goes on, despite massive snowfall: Last week’s winter storm in the Northeast brought up to 40 inches of snow in some areas, but despite snow dairies still had to go about their daily chores. According to the National Weather Service, the massive snowfall narrowly missed record levels because of a blizzard in 1993 on the exact same day. Some truckloads of milk were dumped because roads were impassable, and there were reports of barns collapsing. See stunning photos of the storm HERE.