American Cheese conference, competition in Sacramento

Nearly 1,000 cheese industry members will converge on Sacramento this week for the American Cheese Society’s annual conference and competition.

The four-day conference, the first in California in more than 10 years, begins Tuesday at the Sacramento Convention Center. The winners of the cheese competition, billed as the largest of its kind in the nation, will be announced Thursday. Last year’s competition featured nearly 1,800 entries from more than 250 cheesemakers.

On Friday, the gathering’s “Festival of Cheese” will offer conference attendees and members of the public the chance to sample more than 1,700 competition cheeses, plus artisanal foods, from around the U.S. Tickets for the tasting are $60 each and available at http://festivalofcheese.brownpapertickets.com/.

UC Davis scientists to work with China on food safety

Scientists at UC Davis have signed a five-year agreement to collaborate with China on food safety.

The agreement, signed last week in China, brings together UC Davis and China’s Northwest Agricultural and Forestry University. The two schools will work together to propose solutions for current problems in food safety in China at every point along its food chain, and will seek to improve tracing of food products.

Among high-profile cases, Chinese meat supplier Shanghai Husi Food Co., which supplies meat to Starbucks, McDonald’s and Burger King in China, recently was shut down for mishandling meat and using it past its expiration date.

“In general, Chinese food traceability is an issue,” said UC Davis professor Zhongli Pan. “So, there is a need and desire to develop technology that can trace all the product — from production to table.”

Documentation of animal abuse challenged, goes to federal courts

The years-long fight between farm organizations and animal rights activists over laws prohibiting secretly filmed documentation of animal abuse is moving from state legislatures to federal courts as laws in Utah and Idaho face constitutional challenges.

Idaho’s 2014 law says unauthorized recording is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. Utah’s 2012 law makes it a crime to provide false information to gain access to a farm.

Both states now face separate but similarly worded lawsuits saying the measures violate federal statutes offering whistle-blower protections and free-speech guarantees.

Farm organizations and livestock producers say ag-gag laws are aimed at protecting their homes and businesses from intruders. But animal rights groups, free-speech activists and investigative journalists want to throw out the laws because they say the secrecy puts consumers at higher risk of food safety problems and animals at higher risk of abuse.

Press Democrat staff and wire reports. Submit items to robert.digitale@pressdemocrat.com