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First Cold Brew Coffee Recall

As I sit drinking my Jamaican Me Crazy morning coffee, I open the newest FDA recall announcement, and it is for Death Wish Coffee’s Death Wish Nitro Cold Brew. First, that’s an unfortunate name given that the recall is for the potential of botulism which is deadly. Putting that aside, I have been waiting for the first recall or outbreak of cold brew coffee. I have been telling anyone who listens that it is only a matter of time before there is a recall or outbreak. The business of food safety is secure.

The beauty of coffee is that it is made with hot water. Most of us have seen on TV or, in some cases, in person the harvesting, gathering, and shipping of coffee beans. The process is nasty. Mud, birds, and rodents are intimately involved in the process. The beans are roasted, but microbiologists like to say, “dirt in, dirt out.” Some of us don’t say “dirt.” After the beans are roasted, they are ground. Have you ever ground beans at the grocery store? I bet that piece of equipment never gets cleaned. What about at commercial roasters? How often does the equipment get cleaned? Or at your gas station/ convenience store? You get the picture.

Again, the beauty of coffee is that it is made with hot water. Folks, this is a needed kill step. FDA recently gave us Chapter 6 of the Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food: Draft Guidance for Industry in draft form. Chapter 6 is Use of Heat Treatments as a Process Control. Every food manufacturer should review this guidance.

This recall of coffee is of canned cold brew coffee. There was no kill step for Clostridium botulinum, and there is the potential for botulism. The company is faced with the fact that they cannot can cold brew coffee without destroying the flavor profile. Smart on their part is to announce that they have suspended the production of this product. It is also smart to work with a process authority like ConnectFood CEO Matthew Botos. There are nonthermal ways to approach the manufacture and packaging of cold brew coffee. That will cost upward of a million dollars, so profit margin needs to be high.

This is what we do at ConnectFood. We support; we educate. Right now though, I need more coffee.

Please comment on this blog post below. I love feedback! Still have questions? The ConnectFood website has free resources, and the folks at ConnectFood are here to help! Contact us.

Kathy Knutson, Ph.D., Lead Instructor for Preventive Controls for Human Food (PCHF), Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI), and trained in prevention of Intentional Adulteration (IA). She has food safety expertise in microbiology, hazard analysis, and risk assessment. As a recovering academic, she resides in Green Bay home-of-the-Packers, Wisconsin with her brilliant husband and two handsome sons. Learn more about her consulting services at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathyknutsonphd.


Hurricane Sandy and Food Trucks: The Wisdom of “Form Ever Follows Function”

As Louis Sullivan, a Chicago guy of the early 20th Century, could have warned us about the food and fuel issues of Sandy’s aftermath: “Form Ever Follows Function.”

Crisis has a way of focusing things down to the essential. In the case of the folks dealing with Sandy, the form of basics like food follows our functions—grocery stores (without food), gas stations (running out of gas), big electrical distortion systems (without wires to deliver power to homes or hospitals), and big public transportation systems (without tracks that can be energize). However, it could be different. We could scale the form of delivery of production of food to function better, given that it appears likely it will have to work in a period of profound climate extremes of simultaneous drought and flood.

On the food side what a difference a fleet of local food trucks with hot meals could make. In fact if you read this story, local food trucks are making a difference by using Twitter to coordinate delivery of hot food to Sandy victims: Food Trucks Heed Call Post Sandy

Of course, it’s not just about food trucks; it’s also about Urban Ag as a tool for helping in crisis. In the case of food, I’m fairly sure people who can’t get to the grocery store (and might not find food if they could) would welcome an urban chicken with an egg or an urban farmstead with a tilapia or a tomato. They’d probably appreciate it even more if they could walk or bike to such a place.

The form we deliver food in has to follow the essential function of feeding people by sustaining the food and ag system in a time of profound climate change. If the food or ag system collapses, then it’s kind of game over.

At least for this week, a low cost food truck with a hot meal down the block beats a global food chain that can’t deliver to a grocery store that couldn’t open without electricity.

The lesson we learned from Katrina was FEMA took days to deliver water, whereas Wal-Mart had trucks ready to move as soon as they could safely travel. So if you wanted drinking water, your chances were better in the Wal-Mart parking lot than the federal government site. And, the lesson from Sandy might be if you want a hot meal, be sure you can tweet a food truck near you.

Maybe we should do this in Illinois before it’s our turn.