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Bushwick Daily: City Food Carts Will Start Having Letter Grades This December

By Jarrett Lyons, November 13

How often do you let the giant letter displayed in New York City restaurant windows dictate whether you’ll eat there? Soon, you’ll be able to take letter grades into account when you want a quick bite from a food cart or truck on the street.

“New Yorkers are known around the world for always being on the go – and New York is known around the world for the amazing diversity of its street food, ranging from halal hot dogs to curry in a hurry,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health in a recent press release.

The Assembly Member also outlined that though they should be celebrated, food carts should also meet uniform health standards, just like brick and mortar restaurants have to. 

The Health Department published their rules in the city record for the implementation of a letter grading program for mobile food vendors. Like the regulations used in restaurants since 2010, vendors will receive points for health code violations which will dictate whether there’s an “A,” “B” or “C” hanging on their cart or truck.

“Letter grades on food carts and trucks will help New Yorkers see how these businesses fared on their latest inspection, right when they want to place an order,” said Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “Just as diners appreciate letter grading in restaurants, we expect this program to be popular among customers.” 

All of New York City’s whopping 5,500 authorized food carts and trucks will be required to post their grade. The Health Department plans to attach location-sharing devices on each unit in order to keep track of when a vendor is due for inspection.

The project is estimated to take about two years to roll out, similar to the 2010 restaurant grade roll out. The department says this information will be protected and only accessible to their staff or a court order.

“I cannot imagine someone not looking for a restaurant’s letter grade from our city’s Health Department before deciding whether or not to patronize a restaurant. The letter grade has become absolutely essential as it relates to restaurants.” said Council Member Karen Koslowitz,a prime sponsor of the new law.

To prep for the roll-out, the Health Department will be hosting food safety education workshops for mobile food vendors. The classes will acclimate vendors to the grading program, a refresher of food handling and common food safety violations that are easily avoided. According to the department’s website, the schedule of Spring classes will be posted in early 2019.

“Yet, every day, countless numbers of people in New York purchase food from a street vendor without knowing to a general degree the cart’s compliance with the NYC Health Code,” said Council Member Koslowitz. “I believe that the customers who buy food from a street vendor deserve to have the same ability to make an informed decision as do patrons of restaurants.”

Bushwick Daily will continue to report on how this will potentially affect Bushwick’s many food vendors. 

WPIX 11: Health Department announces initiative to reduce sugar in food

By Kristine Garcia, October 19

NEW YORK — The Health Department announced Friday an initiative to reduce sugar in packaged foods and lowering salt in food supply.

The National Salt and Sugar Reduction Initiative (NSSRI) is a partnership of nearly 100 local, city and state health departments, associations and organizations across the country.

The NSSRI hopes to reduce the amount of sugar in packaged food 20 percent by 2025.

The initiative is calling for the amount of sugar in 13 different food and beverage categories to be lowered.

Categories include sweetened milk and milk substitutes, breakfast pastries, cakes, cookies, dry mixes, dairy-based and frozen desserts, sweet candies, chocolate candies, breakfast cereals, condiments, dessert syrups and toppings, yogurt, and sugary drinks.

Currently, about 68 percent of packaged foods and beverages purchased in the United States contain added sugar.

Added sugar intake is associated with risk of excess weight, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, stroke and heart disease.

“Excessive sugar consumption is a major factor in the obesity, diabetes and heart disease epidemics. This is a public health crisis, like smoking,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, Chair of the Assembly Health Committee.

“Working with manufacturers of prepared foods and beverages to lower sugar levels in their products is a sensible proactive step to improve public health.”

“Salt and sugar are silent killers,” said Assistant Speaker Felix W. Ortiz. “These food additives must be limited by the food industry and by consumers alike. I’ve been fighting against childhood and adult obesity for many years and welcome the city’s effort to create voluntary targets to reduce the amount of sugar and salt in food and beverage products. You can still enjoy food and drink without the unnecessary addition of health threatening ingredients.”

The average American consumes about 17 teaspoons of added sugars each day, which is above the recommended 12-teaspoon limit, according to the Health Department.

Times-Union: Salmonella alert issued for yellow Maradol papayas

Albany Times-Union

Twelve states including New York are suffering a salmonella outbreak linked to yellow Maradol papayas. Ten cases and one death have been reported in New York City. A total of 47 people were infected across several states. The New York City Health Department, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Food and Drug Administration say the infections have been associated with eating Caribena brand yellow Maradol papayas.

Maradols are sometimes called Mexican papayas because the majority of this type of the fruit is grown there.

Consumers are advised to throw out this brand and type of papayas rather than risk eating them. “Wash and sanitize counter tops as well as drawers or shelves in refrigerators where any papayas were stored,” New York State Assembly Committee on Health Chair Richard Gottfried said in a statement released today, Saturday.

Salmonella is not normally fatal. Most victims recover without treatment, according to the CDC. But small children, the elderly and those with weak immune systems are more at risk. The CDC says severe bouts are rare but require a doctor’s care and antibiotics.

NY Times – New York State Makes It Legal to Cry in Your Funeral Pie

By Sarah Maslin Nir, July 26

In the West, a homey casserole of slivered potatoes, sour cream and canned mushroom soup is so often served at wakes and memorials that it is commonly known as “funeral potatoes.” In Pennsylvania Dutch country, the go-to dish is a custard and raisin pastry called “funeral pie.”

Yet in New York State’s funeral homes, arcane rules had long forbidden food and drinks. But last week, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, signed a law permitting funeral parlors to serve light refreshments and nonalcoholic drinks, joining 46 other states where the bereaved have the option of crying into their potatoes and pie.

“Culturally, we use food as a socializing element in all sorts of circumstances,” said Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, a Democrat who represents Midtown Manhattan. Mr. Gottfried was a sponsor of the legislation along with State Senator Betty Little, a Republican who represents parts of northern New York. “To me, the notion that at a funeral you couldn’t get a cup of tea or something to eat to stave off hunger or maintain your blood-sugar level just doesn’t make sense,” he said.

Legislative Gazette: Fight over GMO labeling heats up

By Taylor Ricciardi, 3/15

Photo by Isabel Guerriera

The Capitol’s Million Dollar Staircase was abuzz on Tuesday, March 8 as a coalition of politicians, lobbyists and advocates called for labeling of genetically modified foods.

Close to 100 people rallied on the majestic staircase to fight for a bill (A.617-b/S.485-b) that would require companies to label their products containing genetically modified organisms.