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Entries in Eggs (9)

Saturday
Mar162013

Toy-Filled Chocolate Eggs Legal in US

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(LEBANON, N.J.) -- Kinder Surprise eggs — the chocolate delicacy filled with a (surprise!) toy — have had a big impact on people’s lives. Consider the Winnipeg woman who nearly paid a $300 fine when she tried to cross the Canadian-U.S. border with one (the candy is illegal in the U.S., but more on that later).  Or the highly creative man who used one to propose to his girlfriend.

Or the New Jersey businessman who loved them so much he wanted to make sure future generations of American children could enjoy them as much as he does.

That would be Kevin Gass, the co-founder of Candy Treasure LLC, a Lebanon, N.J., candy company. About a week ago, Gass unrolled Choco Treasure, a Kinder-inspired chocolate egg with a toy inside. This is a big deal, because this type of  product hasn’t been legal in this country since 1938, when the Food and Drug Administration passed the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, which prohibits any “non-nutritive component” (for example, a toy) from being embedded in a confectionary product, as the Foodbeast reported.

Gass figured out a way to legalize his new product.

“This is the biggest kids’ candy in the world, and we think it tastes great. It’s fun, and we spent quite a bit of time to make it safer and also as much fun as the original,” Gass told ABC News, adding that he worked with the FDA and a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission certified lab to make sure the product was safe for children of all ages. To wit: Submerged inside each egg is a capsule that separates the two halves of the chocolate. The capsule also has ridges around the side, so even a young child can tell there’s something there.

Other than safety, one of Gass’s biggest challenges was finding a toy that would appeal to adults and kids alike, even though children are the target audience.

“Young kids love stickers. Adults don’t want stickers,” said Gass. So he and his team have come up with gizmos that offer something for everyone: A mini deck of cards–all 52 of them!  A tiny 3-D puzzle. A teensy little rubber squirty toy.

So far, the Choco Treasure, which costs between $1 and $1.49, can be found on the company website, at Target and SuperValu stores, and at Economy Candy, in Lower Manhattan.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jun052012

Egg Producer Knew of Salmonella Months Before Massive Recall

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The egg producer whose eggs were linked to a nationwide salmonella outbreak that sickened nearly 2,000 people was told that hens at its farms were contaminated four months before the salmonella outbreak led to the recall of 550 million eggs.

Documents unearthed in a lawsuit by California food cooperative NuCal Foods show that as of May 2010, Iowa State University's Veterinary Diagnostics Lab had told the Iowa egg companies owned by Jack DeCoster that salmonella had been found in dead chickens and manure at three DeCoster plants.

In addition to the civil suit, a federal grand jury in the Northern District of Iowa is investigating whether top DeCoster executives, including Jack DeCoster, continued to sell their products despite knowing they were unsafe. DeCoster, through his lawyers, has previously denied that he knowingly sold contaminated eggs.

The documents include reports sent from the Iowa State lab to a DeCoster manager on May 1 and May 11, in which an ISU scientist says salmonella had been found in three DeCoster plants and that 20 carcasses tested positive for salmonella, April emails that show 43 percent of DeCoster's hen houses were testing positive for salmonella, and a May 1 email in which the ISU scientist tells a colleague that salmonella is "almost certainly" present in DeCoster eggs.

The FDA contacted DeCoster's Wright County Egg company on Aug. 9, 2010 with notification that illnesses in three states had been linked to its eggs. Wright County initiated a recall within days, followed by a second DeCoster company, Hillandale Farms, a week later. A total of 550 million eggs were recalled from stores and from middlemen like NuCal.

Eggs from the DeCoster farms were ultimately linked by authorities to 1,939 confirmed cases of Salmonella Enteriditis, though the FDA estimates that tens of thousands of people were sickened. No deaths were reported as part of the salmonella outbreak.

According to a rule that went into effect in July 2010, egg producers who detect salmonella in their facilities must do further testing and destroy the salmonella or else make sure the eggs are not used for food. NuCal's lawsuit alleges that DeCoster continued to sell eggs after it was aware of the presence of salmonella, and seeks compensation for the eggs the cooperative had purchased.

DeCoster's attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.

Dr. Patrick Halbur, head of the ISU lab, said that the lab was not obligated to report the presence of salmonella to the government. "We report the results to the submitting veterinarian unless it is what we call a reportable disease," explained Halbur. "Salmonella has been around for a long, long time and is not on that list."

Halbur said the lab has no control over what the client does with the results of a salmonella test. "[W]hat we [do] is make ourselves available to assist them with solving the problem," said Halbur.

"The lab did the right thing," said Dr. David Acheson, former food safety chief at the FDA and now a health care consultant with Leavitt Partners. "They passed [the information] on to the egg company. The question is, what should the egg company have done? The egg company should have done something to prevent illness."

"If we give them the benefit of the doubt, and there's an element of naivete, they didn't realize there was a problem. Or they did know it was a problem and didn't act, which raises other questions," said Acheson. "It has to be one or the other."

Asked for comment on the status of the federal grand jury probe, spokesman Pete Deegan of the U.S Attorney's Office in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, said, "We are unable to confirm or deny the existence of criminal investigations, so we have no comment in response to your inquiry."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr162012

Kreider Farms Disputes Authenticity of Humane Society Video

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Pennsylvania egg producer featured in a recent ABC News report says undercover video released by the Humane Society and broadcast by ABC News that purports to show animal cruelty and unsanitary conditions at one of its facilities "could have been taped in any chicken house," and that new inspection reports show the company maintains high standards of cleanliness and animal welfare.

Last week, the Humane Society of the U.S. released video that it said had been shot in February and March by an undercover investigator at a Kreider Farms facility in Manheim, Pennsylvania. The footage, aired by ABC News on World News with Diane Sawyer, showed conditions that the HSUS characterized as "deplorable." The video shows dead birds left in cages with live birds, live birds trapped in cage wires and a floor thick with flies.

Unsanitary conditions in egg farms, especially a large insect or rodent population, can lead to a higher risk for a salmonella outbreak. ABC News has reported before on conditions at egg farms that can lead to public health concerns.

Kreider Farms, which supplies eggs for ShopRite grocery stores and other retailers in the Northeast, questioned the authenticity of the video, saying in a statement that "HSUS's video demonstrates no connection to Kreider Farms -- it could have been taped in any chicken house."

After ABC News provided Kreider Farms with pictures and video from the Humane Society showing workers wearing uniforms with a "Kreider Farms" logo, the company reaffirmed that it believed the video showed "no connection to Kreider Farms," and added: "HSUS's videos are designed to mislead viewers, and consumers should question how they are shot, edited and assembled. The still images and video footage of Kreider Farms workers, released by HSUS, provide no evidence of HSUS's allegations."

Ron Kreider, president and CEO of Kreider Farms, said the company produces a "high quality" and safe product. Kreider, whose family started the company in 1935, says what is depicted in the video is not representative of the company's mission. "Kreider Farms is one of the most highly respected, progressive egg companies in the U.S."

In statements to ABC News, Kreider Farms noted that the Manheim facility is one of its older facilities and that most of its egg production takes place in newer, modernized facilities.

A company spokesperson also pointed to three separate inspections conducted last week, after the company learned of the HSUS video and before the ABC News report aired, that indicate "zero evidence of any type of animal abuse or food safety concern."

Representatives of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture visited the facility on two occasions last week. In a letter to Ron Kreider dated Friday, state Agriculture Secretary George Greig said that a veterinarian for the department determined that sanitation, rodent and insect control were all above minimum standards under an industry program designed to reduce the risk of salmonella.

"All practices, procedures and conditions that our veterinarian observed were consistent with industry best practices pertaining to animal health and food-borne pathogen risk minimization," wrote Greig. "There was every indication of a high and consistent standard of flock health management in this facility."

Greig noted, however, that the department "does not have jurisdiction on animal welfare issues."

Two additional inspections -- by the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Center and by Penn State -- did not find any animal welfare issues, with one stating the Kreider hens "are being cared for in line with generally approved poultry practices."

Kreider Farms also says the company has never had an outbreak of salmonella at its facilities. A spokesperson for the Food and Drug Administration, which inspects egg farms, told ABC News that the Manheim facility was inspected in January and two of eight samples were positive for Salmonella enteritis, but that no enforcement action was taken since the company voluntarily depopulated and cleaned the facility. There was no indication that any eggs were contaminated.

Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection at the Humane Society, says the undercover video his groups investigator shot is "irrefutable" and that the Humane Society released both edited and unedited footage on its website. "[Both] clearly show inhumane conditions for animals at Kreider's factory farm in Manheim," Shapiro told ABC News.

Shapiro also said that even if Kreider is in compliance with approved practices, the Humane Society takes issue with those practices. "We're not alleging criminal wrongdoing," said Shapiro. "We're pointing out how cruel and inhumane the conditions for the animals are there. The real problem is the standard practices at the facility that are stipulated as in-use by all parties here."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr122012

Pennsylvania Egg Factory Accused of Animal Cruelty, Filth

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- An animal rights group claimed on Thursday that an undercover investigation has revealed "extreme animal abuse" and unsanitary conditions at a major regional egg supplier.

The Humane Society of the United States said in a statement its investigation into the Pennsylvania-based Kreider Farms facilities uncovered "injured and dead hens, including mummified bird carcasses" living inside the same cages as live hens who lay eggs for human consumption, as well as chickens who had their heads, legs or wings trapped in cage wires and feeding machinery.

Undercover video allegedly shot at Kreider Farms and provided by the Humane Society appears to show birds lying dead among the crowded cages of live chickens.

A previous investigation by ABC News into another egg-producing farm company, Sparboe Farms, revealed such unsanitary conditions that major customers, including McDonald's and Target, dropped Sparboe as their supplier.

The Humane Society said Kreider Farms, headquartered in southeast Pennsylvania, is home to close to seven million egg-laying hens.  On its website, Kreider Farms says that number is closer to five million and says the farms are dedicated to being "stewards of the land, operating clean, efficient and state-of-the-art facilities and creating a work environment of openness, honesty, trust, and personal satisfaction." 

The Humane Society estimates there are a total of 280 million egg-laying hens in the United States.

The family-owned company has been the recipient of the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association's Excellence in Food Safety award, according to its website.

Videos available on the website show what appear to be much cleaner conditions for the hens compared to the undercover footage and claim, contrary to the Humane Society report, that the chickens have plenty of room to stretch out in their cages.

A spokesperson for Kreider Farms did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this report, but the company's president, Ron Kreider, told The New York Times the Humane Society report was a "gross distortion of Kreider Farms."

"The reality of food processing can be off-putting to those not familiar with animal agriculture," Kreider told The Times.  "When dealing with millions of birds, there is always a small percentage of dead birds." 

UPDATE: Click here to read Kreider Farms' statement on the Humane Society's allegations.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec202011

Ryan Gosling, Other Celebs on McDonald's Egg Suppliers: I'm Hatin' It

Tim Boyle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Hollywood stars Ryan Gosling, Zooey Deschanel and Steve-O are urging McDonald's to improve animal welfare and do away with farming chickens in battery cages at their egg suppliers, saying of the practice, "I'm Hatin' It."

In a letter, which takes a swipe at McDonald's famous "I'm Lovin' It" tagline, the celebrities criticize McDonald's for receiving eggs from egg factory farms "that confine hens to most of their lives in cages," and call on the company to recognize its "moral responsibility" and switch to cage-free suppliers.

"On behalf of compassionate people everywhere, I implore you to help end the needless suffering of these animals by adopting strict and meaningful animal welfare policies worldwide, including the commitment to prohibit the purchase of eggs produced by hens who spend their miserable lives crammed into tiny wire cages," says the letter, which is addressed to McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner and is also signed by celebrities Alicia Silverstone and Maria Menounos. "While McDonald's brags about the 'billions and billions served,' millions of hens exploited for your restaurants are being grossly underserved."

The letter, dated Monday, follows an ABC News 20/20 report in November that showed undercover video shot by the animal rights group Mercy for Animals of one of McDonald's former largest egg suppliers, Sparboe Farms, that showed purportedly cruel conditions including hundreds of chickens packed into small battery cages, sometimes apparently living on top of the remains of other trampled birds.

McDonald's, which dropped Sparboe as a supplier after the ABC News report, said that Skinner had not yet received the letter, but the company has been looking into cage-free options already.

"McDonald's cares about how our food is sourced and we have a long history of action and commitment to improve the welfare of animals in our supply chain around the world," the company said in response to news reports on the letter. "In the United States, we are a founding member of the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply (CSES) and are participating in an unprecedented three-year study that compares traditional, cage-free, and enriched laying hen housing systems on a commercial scale. For our customers, that means we're working with scientists and suppliers to determine the most optimal hen housing method considering impacts on hen health [and] welfare, food safety, environment, and other important factors. As a result of the study, McDonald's USA is purchasing approximately 1 million eggs per month from each of the housing systems, including cage-free."

"Scott," the activist who shot the undercover video at Sparboe Farms, said that five to seven birds were kept in each small cage, with their beaks cut at an early stage so they wouldn't peck each other, and that each bird lived its life in an area smaller than a standard sheet of paper.

"There were [dead] birds that were left in the cages that were decomposing for weeks or months at a time," Scott said. "[They] had just been left there . . . in the battery cages with birds who were still alive and laying eggs for human consumption."

The videos also showed workers apparently breaking chicks' necks and swinging birds around by their necks. The investigation, according to Mercy for Animals executive director Nathan Runkle, "illustrates that McDonald's lacks the basic policies and oversight to prevent blatant animal abuse at its egg suppliers."

Battery cages are "the model of efficiency but they place an emphasis on profit over animal welfare," Runkle said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Dec012011

Animal Rights Group Accuses Sparboe Farms of False Advertising

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Sparboe Farms, the embattled egg producer featured in a scathing recent ABC News investigative report, has been accused of false advertising by the animal rights group that captured video of alleged animal abuse at the company's factory-style egg farms.

Mercy for Animals has filed a petition with the Federal Trade Commission, asking the agency to investigate allegedly false claims made by Sparboe. The rights group says while the nation's fifth largest egg producer says its hens receive "five essential freedoms" to ensure their welfare, the company doesn't actually provide those freedoms. The group says Sparboe is misleading consumers who buy its eggs.

On the Sparboe Farms website, the "Animal Care Code of Conduct" states that the company's hens won't suffer from hunger, thirst or pain. It also says that Sparboe hens have "freedom to express normal behavior" and "freedom from fear and distress."

In the FTC complaint, Mercy for Animals calls these claims "blatantly false" and points to the hidden camera video taken by an undercover operative in the company's egg farms over a three-month period. The video, which showed animal abuse and unsanitary conditions at facilities in three states, first aired as part of the ABC News investigation. After learning of the results of the ABC News investigation, major Sparboe customers, including McDonald's and Target, severed their ties with the egg producer.

Mercy for Animals says Sparboe has given consumers a false picture of the procedures at its egg farms, claiming Sparboe has "company-wide, top-down policies aimed at maximizing profits at the expense of the health and welfare of the hens and chickens."

Sparboe did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Mercy for Animals complaint.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov232011

Egg Producer Vows Improvement After ABC News Investigation

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Sparboe Farms, the embattled Iowa egg producer at the center of an ABC News investigation, has created a task force to investigate the company's operations, it was announced this week.

Calling it a "Sustainability Task Force," charged with "reviewing all current company practices in the areas of food safety, animal care and sustainability," Sparboe's president and owner, Beth Sparboe Schnell, announced the step in her first public statement since an ABC News report that exposed alleged animal abuse and unsanitary conditions at the nation's fifth-largest egg producer.

Sparboe Schnell says she decided to create the task force "so that we can make our company better." The members of the new task force will be made up of three Sparboe employees and three outside advisors. Sparboe Schnell says the company recently passed four third-party animal welfare audits, confirming the company is in compliance with policies.

Animal rights groups remain unconvinced that this step will be enough. Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the U.S., told ABC News, "Passing 'third-party audits' means little when the standards of that audit are anemic at best. Sparboe doesn't need a task force to understand what it needs to do."

Pacelle pointed out that Sparboe remains the sole major egg producer in the nation that has lobbied against a joint push by the egg industry's main trade group and the Humane Society to improve the welfare of egg-laying hens. The United Egg Producers and the Humane Society worked together on a bill to be introduced in Congress that would increase the amount of space allotted to each hen. Sparboe is not a member of UEP and opposes the new standard.

Sparboe Schnell, whose company was started in 1954 by her late father, says she was "shocked and deeply disturbed" when seeing hidden-camera video shot by an undercover operative for the animal rights group Mercy for Animals that exposed conditions inside Sparboe facilities. The video first aired on ABC News. Sparboe Schnell maintained that it was the "wrongful acts of a handful of bad actors" and that all employees involved have been fired. McDonald's, Target and other retailers announced that they would stop buying eggs from Sparboe after learning the results of the ABC News investigation.

"At Sparboe Farms, we expect our employees to provide the best care possible and follow our animal care code of conduct," Schnell said. "Acts depicted in the footage are totally unacceptable, inconsistent with our values as farmers, and violate our animal care policies and procedures."

Nathan Runkle of Mercy for Animals said that Sparboe is ignoring the bigger issue of keeping hens in so-called "barren" battery cages, which he says prevent the birds from engaging in basic animal behavior. "This isn't a case of a few rotten employees, this is a matter of Sparboe subjecting every hen in its care to a lifetime of intensive confinement and deprivation. Sparboe's true actions on animal care issues don't line up with their PR rhetoric."

Sparboe Schnell also addressed an FDA warning letter sent to the company last week that detailed serious concerns after inspection of Sparboe's facilities. "Our team will continue to work with the FDA to successfully address the remaining concerns," Sparboe said, adding that the company has never had a single egg test positive for salmonella.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov222011

Target Hunts for New Egg Supplier Following ABC News Investigation

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MINNEAPOLIS) -- In the wake of an ABC News investigation of its major egg supplier, Target is scrambling to find a new source of eggs, with shortages being reported at stores across the country just days before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Spokesperson Jessica Carlson says the nation's second-largest retailer is working quickly to find a new source for eggs at its SuperTarget outlets after dumping Sparboe Farms, but acknowledged the timing isn't ideal for customers.

"We know and recognize that this is an important shopping time for guests, so we are working diligently to get eggs back in our stores as quickly as we can," said Carlson. She said prices would be unaffected, and that, "a vast majority of our stores will have some eggs in stock by the end of this week."

ABC News first exposed animal abuse and unsanitary conditions at Sparboe Farms' egg-laying facilities in three states. After being shown hidden camera video shot by Mercy for Animals, as well as learning of an FDA warning letter sent to Sparboe regarding unsanitary conditions, McDonald's was the first of Sparboe's customers to dump the egg producer, followed quickly by Target, which said it had ended its relationship because of concerns about "unacceptable conditions." Since the investigation aired on 20/20, other grocery chains have followed suit, including Midwestern retailer Lunds and Byerly's.

SuperValu, which supplies more than 4,000 stores across the country, has also suspended Sparboe. Spokesman Mike Siemienas said the change affected mostly independent grocers, not the company-owned chain stores, and it doesn't expect any disruption in supply to customers.

ABC News has also learned that Albertsons stores in Colorado have dumped Sparboe, which supplied eggs under the store's brand. A spokesperson for Albertsons said it was concerned with the violations reported and will closely monitor any federal or state investigations.

But Hy-Vee, a grocery store chain based in Iowa, will continue to sell Sparboe eggs, according to spokeswoman Ruth Comer. Comer told ABC News the retailer is taking the allegations seriously and will be conducting its own investigation, including inspecting Sparboe's facilities firsthand.

Sparboe Farms produces hundreds of millions of eggs at its facilities in Iowa, Colorado and Minnesota. The company has said it was outraged by the video shot inside its facilities and has fired all employees responsible for the animal abuse caught on tape. A Sparboe spokesman would not say whether other major retailers had dropped the company, calling the information confidential and competitive.

Target has nearly 1,750 stores in 49 states, including 240 SuperTarget stores which sell groceries.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov182011

McDonald's Dumps McMuffin Egg Factory over Health Concerns

Tim Boyle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- McDonald's will be looking for a new source of eggs for many of its hugely popular Egg McMuffins.

The fast food company says it "will no longer accept" eggs from one of the country's biggest egg companies, Sparboe Farms.  The egg producer is the subject of an ABC News investigation to be broadcast Friday on 20/20 and World News with Diane Sawyer, and was cited Thursday by the Food and Drug Administration for "significant…and serious violations" in the production of eggs.

In one of the most forceful enforcement actions since last year's salmonella egg outbreak, the FDA issued a company-wide warning letter to Sparboe Farms, the country's fifth-largest egg producer.  Citing "serious" and "significant violations" at five different locations, the FDA noted at least 13 violations of the recently-enacted federal egg rule meant to prevent dangerous salmonella outbreaks.

"This is a warning that there is a systemic problem, not just at one barn or one location," said former FDA food safety chief David Acheson, now an industry consultant.

The ABC News broadcast will include undercover video taken over the summer inside Sparboe facilities in three states by an animal rights group, Mercy for Animals.  The footage appears to show unsanitary conditions and repeated acts of animal cruelty.

Until Friday, the Sparboe facility in Vincent, Iowa had produced all eggs used by McDonald's restaurants west of the Mississippi River.  In its statement, McDonald's said its decision to discontinue its relationship with Sparboe was based on concerns about "the management of Sparboe facilities."

"McDonald's expects all of our suppliers to meet our stringent requirements for delivering high quality food prepared in a humane and responsible manner," the company said in a statement released overnight to ABC News.

The Mercy for Animals activist who went undercover to record the video inside Sparboe told ABC News chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross, "I saw workers do horrendous things to birds, they were thrown, grabbed by the neck, they're slammed in and out of cages."

Nathan Runkle, the executive director of Mercy for Animals, said the video shows how health hazards can be linked to large-scale, low-cost egg producers, so-called "factory farms."

"They're the model of efficiency but they place an emphasis on profit over animal welfare," said Runkle, who says he and his members eat no animal products because of the animal cruelty they have seen.

Sparboe executives told Ross the employees seen on the tape abusing the chickens were all fired.

"We have a zero tolerance policy," said Ken Klippen, Sparboe's director of government relations.  "People who violate that policy, we take that very seriously."

On a one-hour guided tour of the Sparboe facility in Vincent, Iowa, the source of all McDonald's eggs for restaurants west of the Mississippi, Klippen told Ross the Sparboe's facilities are "state of the art.

Sparboe has never had a single egg or chicken detected with salmonella, said Klippen, who added "there was no cause for any enforcement action."

A 2010 salmonella outbreak in the U.S. affected more than 1,900 people and was traced to a different Iowa egg producer, Wright County Eggs.  More than a half-billion eggs had to be destroyed, and the episode produced a nationwide health scare over the safety of eggs.

Salmonella in eggs is easily killed when both the white and the yolk are cooked until they are hard.  Many of those sickened last year ate custard at a California catering hall that used eggs from Wright County Eggs.

Since that outbreak, federal authorities promised stepped-up inspections and enforcement, and FDA officials said this week's action against Sparboe Farms was part of that effort.

McDonald's says its customers should have no health concerns because all of it eggs are thoroughly cooked before being sold.

"This is not a food safety issue for our menu items," McDonald's said in its statement.  "We can assure our customers that eggs in our entire supply chain meet McDonald's high standards for quality and safety."

As to the allegations of animal cruelty, a spokesperson said the behavior seen on videos provided by 20/20 was "disturbing and completely unacceptable."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio