A little bit of good news: Christian Palmaz used hoes, shovels and rakes to keep flames from his family’s 19th-century vineyard estate home on the flanks of Mt. St. George in eastern Napa County. But he didn’t have to worry about his vines. They’re green, very much alive, and a stark contrast to more than 500 acres of oak, manzanita and grassland charred by the Atlas fire as it tore across Palmaz’s property. As the Napa and Sonoma valleys struggle through days of a raging firestorm that has already claimed more than 30 lives, many vineyards in the nearly 100,000-acre burn areas appear to be emerging largely unscathed. READ MORE

THE FUTURE

A McVegan anyone? While the reception of Friday’s announcement that McDonald’s would be testing a McVegan burger in five of its Finland restaurants was received with predictable animosity (from McNugget enthusiasts and vegan activists alike), a vegan McDonald’s product could impact the planet in a big way. READ MORE

Facebook gets into food delivery: Facebook is going beyond restaurant discovery and right into food delivery. As of today, Facebook users across the country can order food for pick-up or delivery directly from a restaurant’s Facebook page or from Facebook’s Explore menu. Facebook’s new Order Food menu (within the Explore menu) is a master database of restaurants. Most also have Facebook pages; all of the restaurants listed already offer delivery via an app-based program. READ MORE

FOOD SAFETY

Are foodborne illnesses on the rise? Here’s an easy dieting trick: When you’re having cravings, head to foodsafetynews.com and scroll through the headlines. You’ll quickly lose your appetite. “Papaya Salmonella cases top 200; more farms implicated.” “Chicago BBQ restaurant closes amidst Salmonella outbreak.” “More Campylobacter cases in Seattle; poultry possible source.” Chicken wings, anyone? READ MORE

Plastic in shredded beef prompts recall: Following a consumer complaint about plastic in the product, J & B Sausage Co. Inc., doing business as J Bar B Foods in Waelder, Texas, Thursday recalled more than six tons of fully cooked shredded beef products, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The Fully Cooked Smoked Seasoned Shredded Beef with BBQ Sauce items, were produced under the H-E-B label on Sept. 16. READ MORE

Questions to ask about your food defense plan: In September, the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) was made aware of media reports stating terrorist networks were encouraging attacks on western supermarkets. In such situations, FMI works with the appropriate federal agencies regarding any threats or rumors of threats to shape our response. To assist our members, FMI hosted a food defense webinar with the Global Food Defense Institute to help food retailers evaluate their current food defense plans. During the webinar, Wheeler posed several important questions to consider when developing and/or evaluating your store’s food defense plan. READ MORE 

EMPLOYEE SAFETY

Restaurant manager accused of enslaving buffet cook: A white restaurant manager in South Carolina has been charged with  enslaving a black buffet cook for five years, according to a federal indictment unsealed this week. The cook, Christopher Smith, 39, alleges that he was forced to work up to seven days a week, often for 18 hours a day without breaks, brutally beaten and threatened repeatedly, according to a separate civil suit filed in the matter. READ MORE

MISCELLANEOUS

Unemployment benefits fall: The total number of laid-off workers receiving unemployment benefits fell to 1.89 million at the end of September, the Department of Labor reported Thursday, the lowest such mark in nearly 44 years. And new claims for unemployment benefits dropped 15,000 to 243,000 in the first full week of October, according to the agency, as the job market bounces back from hurricane damage even faster than forecasters expected. Low new jobless claims are a good sign. They indicate that layoffs are rare, and accordingly that job creation is strong. READ MORE