Mass food poisoning incidents in Egypt, India: As if we need another reminder of how serious food contamination (intentional or otherwise) can be, the New York Times reports that more than 3,300 children were hospitalized in Egypt last week after an outbreak of food poisoning at several state-run primary schools. The mass poisoning occurred in the impoverished Upper Egypt province of Sohag, north of Luxor. Officials suspect school lunches might have been contaminated, and samples from the lunches, consisting of processed cheese cubes, dry sesame paste bars and loaves of bread, are being analyzed. In another apparent food poisoning incident, one child died and 27 others fell ill after taking the “prashad,” or food offering normally consumed by worshippers after a religious ceremony, at a Sikh temple in New Delhi, police said. Read more HERE and HERE.

Bribery scheme allowed meatpackers to sell rotten meat: And here’s another reminder, this one illustrating how poor controls can hurt not only one company but an entire industry and even country. On Monday, China informed the Brazilian government that it would not allow Brazilian meat  to enter its territory until it receives more information about an investigation into a bribery scheme to release sanitary licenses for meat products. Brazil’s president met Sunday with dozens of ambassadors from countries that import Brazilian meat in an attempt to minimize damage from the corruption probe, which alleges meatpackers bribed inspectors to keep rotten meat on the market. Federal police issued 38 arrest warrants involving the giant meatpackers JBS and BRF in a blow to Brazil’s reputation as one of the world’s leading meat producers. The president minimized the investigation, saying only 33 of the 11,000 inspectors at the Agriculture Ministry are being investigated for allegedly taking bribes to overlook meatpackers using chemicals to improve the appearance and smell of expired meat. Read more HERE and HERE.

The high cost of contamination: The recalls just keep coming—and these two conceivably could be intentional sabotage. First, a company in the United Kingdom, Lotus Bakeries, is recalling a batch of more than 90,000 glass jars of Lotus Biscoff Crunchy Biscuit Spread because they might contain small metal particles. The product was sold in supermarkets, convenience stores and wholesale outlets across the UK and Europe. Second, King’s Command Foods LLC, based in Kent, Wash., is recalling more than 63,000 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with extraneous materials, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has announced. The scope of this recall expansion now includes 37,114 pounds of ready-to-eat beef products associated with extraneous material contamination. Read more HERE and HERE 

Thyme contaminated with high levels of lead: This one is a bit more mysterious. Aroma Imports Inc. of Dearborn Heights, Mich., is recalling 450 g and 4.5 kg packages of Nabelsi-brand thyme because the products have the potential to contain excessive levels of lead. The recall was initiated after it was discovered that product contained high levels of lead (422 PPM) based on sampling by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Illinois Department of Public Health, Environmental Health Protection. Based on the product’s 30 g serving size, the calculated lead result is 12,660 µg per serving, which dramatically exceeds the daily limit guidelines of 6 µg per day for children, the 25 µg per day for pregnant women, and the 75 µg per day for other adults. There have been two cases of high blood levels of lead associated with this product to date, both in Illinois. There is no word on the source of the lead or where the thyme was imported from. READ MORE

Valley Milk faces further sanctions: Additional U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enforcement against Valley Milk Products LLC was taken last week. In civil action, the government and Valley Milk Products LLC entered into a consent decree of condemnation, and U.S. District Court for the Western Division of Virginia issued an order for a permanent injunction against any distribution of adulterated milk powder products. Earlier government action permitted the seizure and condemnation of powdered projects from the Valley Milk facility at Strasburg, Va. Valley Milk Productions LLC is a manufacturer of Grade A and non-Grade A milk product, including milk powder products, condensed milk, and butter. FDA found Salmonella meleagridis in the Strasburg facility in 2016, 2013, 2011 and 2010. The discovery last year led to recalls by Valley Milk and others using their milk products as ingredients. READ MORE

MISCELLANEOUS

UK’s food crimes unit is ‘reaching out’: The United Kingdom’s National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) is doing a bit of outreach this year. The two-year old unit for busting food crimes is inviting people to fill out public surveys and then maybe consider filling out an intelligence report about “any suspicions or information about food crime/fraud…” In the UK, food crimes are said to involve dishonesty at any stage of production or supply of food, drink or animal feed. It is seen as more complex than food safety mishaps. Further food crimes are seriously harmful to consumers, businesses, and the general public. READ MORE

Trump budget probably won’t touch food safety efforts: Food Safety News reports that food safety will likely be untouched by President Trump’s proposal to shift $54 billion to defense from domestic programs. The “America First” document released by the White House in fact claims the President’s 2018 Budget “Safeguards the Nation’s supply of meat, poultry, and egg products by fully funding the Food Safety and Inspection Service, which employs more than 8,000 in-plant and other frontline personnel who protect public health in approximately 6,400 federally inspected slaughter and processing establishments nationwide.” READ MORE

More chemical weapons in Iraq: ISIS continues to show its willingness to use chemical weapons, as a report from vice.com illustrates. An acrid smell still hangs in the air in parts of Taza, and its narrow streets are unusually quiet. Early in March, Islamic State militants fired more than 40 rockets carrying chemical warheads at this northern Iraqi town of mud-wall compounds and dusty date palms, according to district head Hussein Adil, killing a young child and wounding over 800 civilians. After the attack, which may have been carried out with a mixture of chlorine and mustard gas, nearly half of the town’s 30 000 residents, mostly ethnic Turkmen Shiites, fled in terror. Chemical warfare has made an ugly return to Iraq. The Islamic State group has carried out several similar attacks on Kurdish Peshmerga militia, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) but the attack was significant for the large number of civilians targeted. READ MORE

Is this how you make a terrorist? The Washington Post reports that for a large, nearly invisible populace of new arrivals in Afghanistan, the welcome has been grudging, the work scarce and the terrain as barren as the moon. They are natives of the region, but they have been away for years, living as undocumented war refugees in Pakistan. About 260,000 such returnees have arrived in the past 15 months, pushed out by Pakistani authorities and encouraged to return by the Afghan government, but lacking official status in either country. In many ways, they are misfits and intruders in their homeland — nomads allocated bits of rocky ground to pitch tents and build cinder-block huts; surplus laborers in a market crowded with men who have fled insurgent fighting nearby; half-forgotten relatives trying to squeeze back into villages where no one has room to take them in. READ MORE