Tag Archive: Pittsburgh

Teen Held on 26 Counts in High School Bloodbath

A 16-year-old Pennsylvania boy was charged Wednesday evening with two dozen felony counts after 20 students and a security guard were stabbed or slashed at a suburban Pittsburgh high school.

The boy, identified as Alex Hribal, a sophomore at Franklin Senior Regional High School in Murrysville, was held without bail on four counts of attempted homicide, 21 counts of aggravated assault and a misdemeanor count of carrying a prohibited weapon.

At least four people remained in intensive care with life-threatening injuries after the rampage Wednesday morning at Franklin Senior Regional High School in the town of Murrysville.

Hribal was remanded to juvenile detention pending a preliminary hearing April 30 in Westmoreland County Magisterial Court.

Prosecutors told Judge Charles R. Conway that Hribal “randomly and indiscriminately” wielded his knives in a hallway at the school and indicated that “he wanted to die.”

They said it was unclear whether he was competent to stand trial.

Attorneys for Hribal — who sat head-down in court in a hospital gown, bearing numerous bandages and stitches with his hands and feet shackled — asked for a psychiatric evaluation.

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Image:Parents and students embrace along School Road near Franklin Regional High School after more than a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding suspect at the school

Sean Stipp / Tribune Review via AP

School Stabbing Spree

School Stabbing Spree: 20 Hurt in Pittsburgh-Area Bloodbath

A student flashing two knives went on a stabbing rampage through the classrooms and halls of a high school outside Pittsburgh on Wednesday morning, authorities said. At least 19 students and a security guard were hurt, some with life-threatening injuries.

The suspect, a 16-year-old sophomore, was in custody and being questioned by police, authorities said. His motive was unclear, said Dan Stevens, a Westmoreland County emergency management spokesman.

The first photo of the suspect emerged several hours after the mayhem. NBC News is blurring the face of the teen in the photo, from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, because of his age. He had not been charged or identified.

Guy Wathen / Tribune-Review
A suspect in the Franklin Regional High School stabbings leaves the Murrysville Police Station on Wednesday. Image blurred to protect identity.

The student was “flashing two knives around” as he moved through the classrooms and a first-floor hallway, said Thomas Seefeld, the Murrysville police chief. A principal tackled the stabber, he said. The security guard suffered a stomach wound.

The attack happened at Franklin Regional High School, in the suburb of Murrysville, just after doors opened for the day. A student described panic in the halls.

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Teen stabs 22 at Pittsburgh-area high school

By Associated Press

MURRYSVILLE, Pa. (AP) — Flailing away with two kitchen knives, a 16-year-old boy with a “blank expression” stabbed and slashed 21 students and a security guard in the crowded halls of his suburban Pittsburgh high school Wednesday before an assistant principal tackled him.

At least five students were critically wounded, including a boy whose liver was pierced by a knife thrust that narrowly missed his heart and aorta, doctors said.

The rampage — which came after decades in which U.S. schools geared much of their emergency planning toward mass shootings, not stabbings — set off a screaming stampede, left blood on the floor and walls, and brought teachers rushing to help the victims.

A man and woman walk away from Franklin Regional High School after more then a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding suspect at the school on Wedne...

A man and woman walk away from Franklin Regional High School after more then a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding suspect at the school on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Murrysville, Pa., near Pittsburgh. The suspect, a male student, was taken into custody and is being questioned. (AP Photo/Tribune Review, Brian F. Henry) PITTSBURGH OUT

Police shed little light on the motive.

The suspect, Alex Hribal, was taken into custody and treated for a minor hand wound, then was brought into court in shackles and a hospital gown and charged with four counts of attempted homicide and 21 counts of aggravated assault. Authorities said he would be prosecuted as an adult.

The attack unfolded in the morning just minutes before the start of classes at 1,200-student Franklin Regional High School, in an upper-middle-class area 15 miles east of Pittsburgh. It was over in about five minutes, during which the boy ran wildly down about 200 feet of hallway, slashing away with knives about 8 to 10 inches long, police said.

Nate Moore, 15, said he saw the boy tackle and stab a freshman. He said he going to try to break it up when the boy got up and slashed his face, opening a wound that required 11 stitches.

“It was really fast. It felt like he hit me with a wet rag because I felt the blood splash on my face. It spurted up on my forehead,” he said.

The attacker “had the same expression on his face that he has every day, which was the freakiest part,” Moore said. “He wasn’t saying anything. He didn’t have any anger on his face. It was just a blank expression.”

Assistant Principal Sam King finally tackled the boy and disarmed him, and a Murrysville police officer who is regularly assigned to the school handcuffed him, police said.

Doctors said they expect all the victims to survive, despite deep abdominal puncture wounds in some cases.

King’s son told The Associated Press that his father was treated at a hospital, though authorities have said he did not suffer any knife wounds.

“He says he’s OK. He’s a tough cookie and sometimes hides things, but I believe he’s OK,” Zack King said. He added: “I’m proud of him.”

“There are a number of heroes in this day. Many of them are students,” Gov. Tom Corbett said in a visit to the stricken town. “Students who stayed with their friends and didn’t leave their friends.”

He also commended cafeteria workers, teachers and teacher’s aides who put themselves at risk to help during the attack.

As for what set off the attack, Murrysville Police Chief Thomas Seefeld said investigators were looking into reports of a threatening phone call between the suspect and another student the night before. Seefeld didn’t specify whether the suspect received or made the call.

The FBI joined the investigation and went to the boy’s house, where authorities said they planned to confiscate and search his computer.

While several bloody stabbing rampages at schools in China have made headlines in the past few years, schools in the U.S. have concentrated their emergency preparations on shooting rampages.

Nevertheless, there have been at least two major stabbing attacks at U.S. schools over the past year, one at a community college in Texas last April that wounded at least 14 people, and another, also in Texas, that killed a 17-year-old student and injured three others at a high school in September.

On Wednesday, Mia Meixner, 16, said the rampage touched off a “stampede of kids” yelling, “Run! Get out of here! Someone has a knife!”

The boy had a “blank look,” she said. “He was just kind of looking like he always does, not smiling, not scowling or frowning.”

Meixner and Moore called the attacker a shy boy who largely kept to himself, but they said he was not an outcast and they had no reason to think he might be violent.

“He was never mean to anyone, and I never saw people be mean to him,” Meixner said. “I never saw him with a particular group of friends.”

Michael Float, 18, said he had just gotten to school when he saw “blood all over the floor” and smeared on the wall near the main entrance. Then he saw a wounded student.

“He had his shirt pulled up and he was screaming, ‘Help! Help!'” Float said. “He had a stab wound right at the top right of his stomach, blood pouring down.”

Float said he saw a teacher applying pressure to the wound of another student.

The security guard was wounded after intervening early in the melee, police said. He was treated and released.

About five minutes elapsed between the time the campus police officer summoned help over the radio at 7:13 a.m. and the boy was disarmed, the police chief said.

Someone, possibly a student, pulled a fire alarm during the attack, Seefeld said. Although that created chaos, the police chief said, it emptied out the school more quickly, and “that was a good thing that that was done.”

Also, a girl with “an amazing amount of composure” applied pressure to a schoolmate’s wounds and probably kept the victim from bleeding to death, said Dr. Mark Rubino at Forbes Regional Medical Center.

Public safety and school officials said an emergency plan worked as well as could be expected. The district conducted an emergency exercise three months ago and a full-scale drill about a year ago.

“We haven’t lost a life, and I think that’s what we have to keep in mind,” said county public safety spokesman Dan Stevens.


Associated Press writers Mike Rubinkam in Allentown and Jesse Washington in Murrysville, Pa., and AP news researchers Judith Ausuebel and Barbara Sambriski contributed to this report.

A police officer guards the entrance Heritage Elementary School as students are dismissed after more than a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding s...

A police officer guards the entrance Heritage Elementary School as students are dismissed after more than a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding suspect at nearby Franklin Regional High School on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Murrysville, Pa., near Pittsburgh. The suspect, a male student, was taken into custody and is being questioned. (AP Photo/Tribune Review, Sean Stipp) PITTSBURGH OUT

Students walk past a row of buses as they leave the campus of the Franklin Regional School District after more then a dozen students were stabbed by a knife ...

Students walk past a row of buses as they leave the campus of the Franklin Regional School District after more then a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding suspect at nearby Franklin Regional High School on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Murrysville, Pa., near Pittsburgh. The suspect, a male student, was taken into custody and is being questioned. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Students are escorted from the campus of the Franklin Regional School District after more then a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding suspect at n...

Students are escorted from the campus of the Franklin Regional School District after more then a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding suspect at nearby Franklin Regional High School on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Murrysville, Pa., near Pittsburgh. The suspect, a male student, was taken into custody and is being questioned. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Westmoreland County emergency management spokesman Dan Stevens, left, looks on as Franklin Regional School District Superintendent Gennaro Piraino pauses whi...

Westmoreland County emergency management spokesman Dan Stevens, left, looks on as Franklin Regional School District Superintendent Gennaro Piraino pauses while addressing the media during a news conference outside of Franklin Regional High School on Wednesday, April 9, 2014.on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Murrysville, Pa., near Pittsburgh. More than a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding suspect at the school. The suspect, a male student, was taken into custody and is being questioned. (AP Photo/Tribune Review, Brian F. Henry) PITTSBURGH OUT

A parent holds hands with a Franklin Regional High School while picking up the student after more than a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding susp...

A parent holds hands with a Franklin Regional High School while picking up the student after more than a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding suspect at the school on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Murrysville, Pa., near Pittsburgh. The suspect, a male student, was taken into custody and is being questioned. (AP Photo/Tribune Review, Sean Stipp) PITTSBURGH OUT

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A Drexel University sophomore who died Monday was infected with the same strain of meningococcal bacteria that prompted emergency vaccination clinics at two U.S. universities in recent months.

Image: Stephanie Ross Courtesy of Ross family
Drexel University student Stephanie Ross died suddenly Monday from a meningococcal infection caused by the B strain of bacteria not covered by vaccines available in the U.S.

Stephanie Ross’ bloodstream infection, called meningococcemia, was caused by the B strain of the bacteria, Pennsylvania state health officials confirmed Thursday. That strain is not covered by the meningitis vaccine available in the U.S. — and required for students in campus housing at Drexel — to protect college students and others against the potentially deadly infection.

The mechanical engineering major from Pittsburgh was discovered unresponsive by housemates at her sorority Monday and rushed to a local hospital, where she died.

Outbreaks of meningitis B at Princeton University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, prompted federal health officials to seek special permission to use Bexsero, an imported vaccine not approved in the U.S. that covers that strain.

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Earth Watch Report  –  Hazmat


03.01.2013 HAZMAT USA State of Pennsylvania, Glassport Damage level

HAZMAT in USA on Thursday, 03 January, 2013 at 08:20 (08:20 AM) UTC.

Authorities say a chlorine leak forced the evacuation of a sewage treatment plant in suburban Pittsburgh. Officials say the leak at the facility in Glassport occurred Wednesday afternoon when plant workers had problems changing a chlorine tank. Glassport borough manager John DeSue says the leak was quickly contained and the building was ventilated. No injuries were reported. The state Department of Environmental Protection said one person was evaluated by paramedics


Earth Watch Report


Today Biological Hazard USA State of Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh [VA Pittsburgh Healthcare Systems University Drive Campus] Damage level Details


Biological Hazard in USA on Saturday, 17 November, 2012 at 10:55 (10:55 AM) UTC.

Four patients at VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System’s University Drive Campus in Oakland this week developed pneumonia caused by Legionnaires’ disease, and more might have been exposed to the potentially deadly bacteria, officials said on Friday. The source of the infection was traced to the hospital’s water distribution system, prompting workers to change the way the system is disinfected. The four Legionnaires’ patients, whose identities cannot be released by hospital officials according to federal law, were successfully treated with “good outcomes” and have been released from the hospital, said Dave Cowgill, spokesman for VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. Cowgill wrote in an email that the restrictions on water use started Friday and would remain in effect until administrators are sure the bacteria is gone. Workers distributed bottled water to be used by patients and visitors. An internal memo to medical staff from infection control chief Robert Muder obtained by the Tribune-Review asked physicians to monitor other patients for hospital-acquired Legionnaires’ infections because the incubation period can be as long as 14 days.In the memo, Muder asked doctors to treat any other patients determined to be affected with a “timely administration of antibiotics” and to report all new diagnoses of pneumonia to the infectious disease department within 30 days. He could not be reached for comment. The hospital conducted an investigation with the help of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and found an elevated concentration of the bacteria called Legionella, which tends to survive in the moist air-conditioning systems of large buildings and within waterlines and storage systems that get irregular or little use. Water fountains inside the hospital on Friday were covered with signs: “Due to a water line problem, this fountain is out of service.” Employees said they were told not to drink the water or use the ice machine. Most people exposed to the Legionella bacteria do not become ill. Elderly people, smokers and individuals with chronic lung disease or weakened immune systems are more vulnerable.
Biohazard name: Legionnaires disease
Biohazard level: 4/4 Hazardous
Biohazard desc.: Viruses and bacteria that cause severe to fatal disease in humans, and for which vaccines or other treatments are not available, such as Bolivian and Argentine hemorrhagic fevers, H5N1(bird flu), Dengue hemorrhagic fever, Marburg virus, Ebola virus, hantaviruses, Lassa fever, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, and other hemorrhagic or unidentified diseases. When dealing with biological hazards at this level the use of a Hazmat suit and a self-contained oxygen supply is mandatory. The entrance and exit of a Level Four biolab will contain multiple showers, a vacuum room, an ultraviolet light room, autonomous detection system, and other safety precautions designed to destroy all traces of the biohazard. Multiple airlocks are employed and are electronically secured to prevent both doors opening at the same time. All air and water service going to and coming from a Biosafety Level 4 (P4) lab will undergo similar decontamination procedures to eliminate the possibility of an accidental release.
Status: confirmed


Food Safety

Two Newborns Sickened with Salmonella at CA Hospital

SickBabyMain.jpgOver the past three weeks, two newborn girls have contracted Salmonella infections at a Central California hospital.

Authorities are investigating how the infants, treated at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto, were exposed to the bacteria.
“We don’t have an answer yet,” said Dr. John Walker of the Stanislaus County’s Public Health Services. “However, there has been intense investigation.”

More Victims in Live Poultry Salmonella Outbreak

DucklingsMain.jpgThree strains of Salmonella linked to baby chicks and ducklings have sickened 144 people in 26 states, up from the 123 people in 25 states reported in a June 11 outbreak update.

The three types of bacteria – Salmonella Infantis, Salmonella Newport and Salmonella Lille –  have been traced to baby poultry from the Mt. Healthy Hatchery in Ohio, which sells chicks and ducklings through mail orders, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of people sickened in each state is as follows: Alabama (4), Arizona (1), Delaware (1), Georgia (5), Illinois (1), Indiana (3), Kansas (1), Kentucky (5), Louisiana (1), Maine (4), Maryland (1), Massachusetts (2), Michigan (2), Nebraska (1), New Jersey (1), New York (16), North Carolina (14), Ohio (37), Pennsylvania (11), Rhode Island (1), South Carolina (1), Tennessee (11), Texas (2), Vermont (1), Virginia (10) and West Virginia (7).

61 Now Ill in Ohio E. coli Outbreak at Picnic

At least 61 people are now ill with E. coli O157:H7 linked to a picnic held by Neff’s Lawn Care in Germantown, Ohio, according to the Dayton & Montgomery County Health Department.

Of those sickened, 11 have been hospitalized and 11 have tested positive for the same strain of E. coli, said Bill Wharton, spokesman for the health department.
The cause of the outbreak remains unknown as health officials continue their investigation. Between 200 and 300 people attended the event, and the health department suspects more individuals may report illnesses.
Those who attended the event and fell ill are encouraged to contact the health department at 937-225-4460.

E. coli Cases in CA Now Linked to New Brunswick Outbreak


Back in late April, at least 18 people fell ill with E. coli O157:H7 infections after eating at Jungle Jim’s restaurant in Miramichi, New Brunswick. Two months later, when Canadian health officials finally linked the illnesses to romaine lettuce served at the restaurant, they also announced that matching infections had cropped up in both California and Quebec.
But that was all the information they provided, and it prompted a number of questions about the California connection: Did Californians travel to New Brunswick and eat at Jungle Jim’s, or did the infections occur in California? Were they infected near late April? Did the E. coli strains match genetically? Did they eat romaine lettuce?
For more than a week, no one would say. But on Thursday, the California Department of Public Health provided Food Safety News with some answers.
The California infections occurred in California — none of the people sickened had been traveling to Canada. The state health department spokesman would not say how many Californians were involved in the outbreak.
However, their infections occurred in April, near the time of the New Brunswick outbreak. The official said the cases share “common food item consumption” and that the strains implicated in California and Canada were indistinguishable from one another when analyzed through pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE).
In short, the evidence strongly suggests that Californians and Canadians were separately infected with the same strain of E. coli O157:H7 after contact with the same batch of romaine lettuce. The majority of romaine lettuce grown between April and October comes from California, and this lettuce may have come from packages that intermingled product from multiple farms.

Girl In Critical Condition with E. coli HUS Linked to Neff’s Lawn Care Picnic

Bill Wharton with the Dayton & Montgomery County Health Department told Food Poisoning Bulletin that a 4-year-old girl is hospitalized in critical condition with hemolytic uremic syndrome, a complication of an E. coli 0157:H7 infection contracted at the Neff’s Lawn Care picnic in Germantown Ohio on July 3. Her condition was downgraded to critical on July 12, 2012.

So far, 62 people have been sickened in this outbreak and 13 people have been hospitalized. Public health officials have not determined the source of the bacteria. Mr. Wharton said, “there was very little, if any, food left over from the picnic.” And many people attending the picnic brought their own foods to the event, complicating matters further.

Get E. coli-HUS help here.

The health department is continuing to interview those who are ill and those who prepared the food consumed at the picnic. The investigators are also looking at food handling, storage practices, potential for cross-contamination, and food temperature controls.

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Rocky Ford Cantaloupes Are Back On Sale In Colorado

Rocky Ford cantaloupes were not exactly rolled out as planned on Friday, July 13 for their first sales following last year’s deadly Listeria outbreak.
Instead, the new Rocky Ford Growers Association (RFGA) opted to give away 450 pounds of the cantaloupe during the previous weekend at the popular Cherry Creek Arts Festival. People lined up ten deep to get their hands on the first Rocky Fords of the season.
Friday was the first day Rocky Ford cantaloupes were supposed to be available at some King Soopers stores, which make up about 35 percent of the grocery business in Colorado. Whole Foods, Wal-Mart and Safeway stores won’t get their first Rocky Ford cantaloupes until next Friday, July 20.


June’s hot weather moved this season’s harvest forward by a couple of weeks and the crop is much smaller than a year ago because growers planted fewer acres with cantaloupe.
Growers say the hot days and cool nights experienced in the growing area along the Arkansas River produce a melon with the high sugar content that is favored by consumers.
Last year, Rocky Ford cantaloupes were pulled from the shelves on September 5 because the melons were linked to a 28-state Listeria outbreak that killed as many as 37 people and sickened at least 146.
It was the most deadly U.S. foodborne illness outbreak in a century.
The actual source of the outbreak proved to be Jensen Farms, a cantaloupe grower on the Colorado/Kansas border. While the company’s farm is located about 90 miles away from the historic Rocky Ford growing areas, Jensen still marketed its cantaloupes under the “Rocky Ford” label in 24 states.

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Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Minnesota Denny’s

SalmonellaBlueBugsMain.jpgThree people were hospitalized with Salmonella Montevideo infections after eating at Denny’s in Rochester, MN. One more case has not been confirmed but is thought to be part of the outbreak.

The three patrons became ill between July 2 and July 7 after eating at the same Rochester Denny’s between June 27 and July 5. Officials at Olmsted County Health Services are looking into how the bacteria might have entered the restaurant, and suspect that it was being carried by a customer or employee.
The restaurant has been fully cooperative throughout the investigation, taking all measures recommended by health officials. County and state health departments have discarded potentially contaminated foods, sanitized all food preparation surfaces, enforced glove use among all employees and excluded all ill or recently ill workers.

Oyster Bay Shellfish Harvest Suspended After 8 Fall Ill

Shellfish harvesting in areas in Oyster Bay, New York has been suspended after 8 people who ate shellfish from that area were sickened with Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections.

Approximately 1,980 acres on the north shore of Oyster Bay have been closed until environmental samples reveal that the danger of Vibrio contamination has passed, announced the New York Department of Environmental Conservation Friday.

The New York State Department of Health reported that 3 residents of Nassau County – where Oyster Bay is located – and 5 people from 3 other states became ill after eating raw or partially cooked shellfish from Oyster Bay Harbor.
Laboratory analysis has confirmed that the infections were caused by the Vibrio bacteria, a naturally-occuring organism that thrives in warm marine water environments.
Symptoms of Vibrio infection usually occur around 24 hours after ingesting the bacteria, and include diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever and chills. Symptoms usually resolve within a week. Illness may be more severe in those with compromised immune symptoms or preexisting chronic diseases.

Man’s Death May Be Linked to Last Year’s Listeria Outbreak

PulseNet’s genetic fingerprint may link Montana death to Listeria-tainted cantaloupe outbreak

twowholecantaloupe-406.jpgLast fall’s outbreak of Listeria traced to cantaloupes from Jensen Farms in Colorado grew into one of the deadliest in U.S. history, causing at least 146 illnesses and 32 deaths. But as with any outbreak, health officials can never say for certain that the contaminated product did not sicken, or even kill, more than those counted.

Now, just as Colorado cantaloupes return to store shelves for the new growing season, the foodborne pathogen tracking network known as PulseNet may have connected the cantaloupe outbreak to a listeriosis death in Montana.

The connection was made when PulseNet discovered that a clinical sample of Listeria from a 75-year-old Bozeman, Montana man who died in January was indistinguishable from a rare genetic fingerprint of Listeria found on a cantaloupe from an outbreak victim’s home. PulseNet compares pathogen samples across the U.S. using a DNA mapping technique called pulsed field gel electrophoresis, or PFGE.

Benjamin Silk, Ph.D., epidemiologist for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told Food Safety News that the Bozeman victim was now considered part of the outbreak, bringing the official case count to 147 people in 28 states. The CDC has stopped short of attributing the man’s death to the outbreak until health officials in Montana complete an investigation into his infection and other health complications.
“The high number of deaths associated with this outbreak have caused them to be a focal point, but it’s hard to say whether an infection caused death when it happens weeks or months after infection, especially in elderly victims,” Silk said. “The medical risk factors that lead to susceptibility for Listeria infection can also independently be linked to risk of death.”
Either way, Silk said the CDC is certain that the man suffered a Listeria infection from eating Jensen Farms cantaloupes months prior to his death. One other case in Montana has been known since early in the outbreak investigation.

The Montana death had not been linked to the cantaloupe outbreak before now because the victim’s specific Listeria infection was not associated with PFGE pattern combinations from any other outbreak victims, food samples or samples found at Jensen Farms. Following months of investigation, health officials and the public were under the impression that Jensen Farms’ cantaloupes had transmitted four different PFGE combinations of Listeria to victims, and his combination was not one of those.

Wyoming To Loosen Raw Milk Rules, Just A Bit

Proposed changes to the Wyoming Food Safety Rules put the Cowboy State no closer to allowing commercial sales of raw milk, leaving advocates for retail sales disappointed.
Wyoming is one of 20 states that bans the commercial sale of raw milk. That position is not changing, according to the state’s Department of Agriculture. Current law even bans farm families from drinking their own raw milk, but it’s never been enforced that way.
So the proposed rule is being clarified to allow producers who are the sole owners of animals to serve raw milk in their home to family members, non-paying guests, and farm and ranch employees.

raw milkpic.jpg

That clarification is included in revisions to the Wyoming Food Safety Rules that the department proposed last May, which are subject to a public comment period and hearing.  At a forum in Casper last week, raw milk advocates showed up to push for retail sales of raw milk as permitted in California.
A veteran of the legislative tussles over raw milk sales, state Rep. Sue Wallis (R-Recluse) sought a more simple and specific change in the rule’s language. She proposed removing the word “sole” from the ownership requirement.
Wallis, first elected to the Wyoming House in 2006, is currently seeking election to her fourth term.
The Casper Star Tribune quoted Wallis as saying, “Because people want fresh milk today, the only way they can get it is to make a deal with somebody who has the capacity to keep a cow.”
Wallis participates in a cow share agreement with someone who cares for the animal and delivers milk to her family ranch on the Bitter Creek in Wyoming’s northern Campbell County.  The department promised to have her suggestion reviewed by the Wyoming attorney general.

Oregon Takes Off the Gloves

Last year, health officials in Oregon announced they would adopt the 2009 FDA Retail Food Code, which governs safety regulations about food workers. But last week, officials said that the Oregon Public Health Division Foodborne Illness Prevention Program will not adopt the “No Bare Hand Contact” section of the Code.

Requiring food workers to use gloves is controversial. In 1999, the FDA evaluated the risks of microbiological contamination of foods by food preparation workers in 81 foodborne illness outbreaks, and found that the majority of outbreaks were caused by transmission of the pathogen to the food by worker’s hands. In 66 of the outbreaks (82%), the food worker was the source of the infection. Seventy-five of the outbreaks involved food workers were infectious at the time of the outbreak.

In 14 out of 34 outbreaks where hand contact was the method of transmission, the implicated food worker was not wearing gloves. But the study found that when workers were wearing gloves, the gloves were used improperly. And that’s the issue that restaurateurs had with the new Oregon plan.
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USDA Releases First Results for Non-0157 STEC Tests in Beef Trim

On June 4, 2012, the USDA started required testing of beef trim for six non-0157 shiga toxin-producing E. coli bacteria, commonly known as STEC bacteria. Today they released the first report on this new testing system. Those six bacteria, which include E. coli 026, 045, 0103, 0111, 0121, and 0145, cause more than 100,000 illnesses in the United States every year.

Out of 110 analyses of raw ground beef in federal plants, three tested positive for the pathogens. Testing revealed the presence of E. coli 0145 in one sample, E. coli 0103 in 1 sample, and E. coli 045 in one sample. A follow-up RGBC positive test result was obtained for the E. coli 0103 bacteria. Testing also revealed the presence of E. coli 0157:H7 in four samples out of 115.

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USDA Decides to Spare Produce Testing Program This Year

lettucerow406.jpgAfter an uptick in press coverage on the impending shutdown of the Microbiological Data Program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has decided to keep the produce testing program running, at least through the end of the year.

As Food Safety News reported last week, if the program were to shut down, as it was slated to at the end of this month, public testing for pathogens such as E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella on commodities like tomatoes, lettuce and cantaloupes would drop by 80 percent.

“While the Microbiological Data Program does not align with USDA’s core mission, the department will continue its work with state partners using existing agreements to conduct sampling and testing through this program through the end of the year,” a spokesman told Food Safety News late Monday night.

The Obama administration did not request funding for the little-known $4.5 million program in its fiscal year 2013 budget request, arguing that the food safety program did not belong under the Agricultural Marketing Service, where it is currently housed, and Congress has so far not included the program in appropriations bills. (AMS did not respond to a question late Monday about why the Pesticide Data Program, also a food safety program, was not being targeted for elimination in the budget).

State officials who work in MDP labs, which pull produce samples in 11 states, had not been given formal notice about the future of the program as of last week, but some told Food Safety News they had been informed that regular MDP sampling would cease at the end of July. The FDA has not announced any plans to increase produce testing if MDP is cut.

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U.S. Third In Food Safety After Israel and France

Safety is almost an asterisk in the Global Food Security Index, recently released by DuPont and the Economist Intelligence Unit.
In an overall assessment of the affordability, availability and quality of food, the United States emerges as No. 1 overall, but America was bested by Israel and France in the “quality” category, where food safety was part of the score.
No surprises that the U.S., with the largest economy and most productive agricultural sector, is the most food secure country on the planet. Losing the Gold and Silver metals on quality and food safety to Israel and France is a little harder to explain.


In the data set for food safety, the U.S. got 99.3 percent while Israel and France both earned a 100 percent score. The composite is supposed to measure “the enabling environment for food safety.”
The food safety composite was one of about 16 data sets used to create the Global Food Security Index, which covers 105 countries. The U.S., Denmark and Norway topped the overall rankings, in that order.
Commissioned by DuPont, a developer of genetically modified crops, and produced by the data-crunchers at the Economist Intelligence Unit, the new food security index offers a way to compare countries around the globe.
“We’ve always known that what get measured, gets done,” said Ellen Kullman, DuPont’s chairman and chief executive officer.
“As we talked to governments, NGOs, and farmer organizations around the world, we’ve come to realize that while we share a common goal of food security, we do not share a common language,” she said.  “To truly address the root cause of hunger, we must have a common path forward to tackle such pressing issues as food affordability, availability, quality and safety.

Mandatory Pig Traceability Coming Soon to Canada

Traceability is soon going to be a requirement for pigs raised for slaughter in Canada.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has written new regulations designed to require pork producers to identify all farmed pigs and farmed wild boars using approved methods and to record and report all movements of pigs from birth or import to slaughter or export.


CFIA says new requirements “strengthening Canada’s livestock sector”  will protect Canada’s swine herd, and help reopen export markets in the event of an animal disease outbreak.
The Government of Canada said mandatory traceability for pigs is being required only after consultations with the swine industry, provinces and territories and other stakeholders.
Canada already has mandatory identification systems in place for cattle, bison, and sheep.



Whole Foods in Pittsburgh Recalls Jean Perrin Edel de Cleron Cheese

The Allegheny County Health Department and Whole Foods Market in Pittsburgh are recalling Jean Perrin Edel de Cleron cheese sold at the East Liberty Whole Foods store for possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination. The recalled cheese was packaged in clear plastic wrap with a Whole Foods Market scale label and a code beginning with 293351. The cheese was sold at the store between May 20, 2012 and July 3, 2012.

One person has become ill after eating this product. Anyone who has purchased this cheese should not eat it. Contact the Allegheny County Health Department at 412-687-ACHD if you still have this product in your home so it can be tested for the bacteria.

Read Full Article Here

Corn Chowder Recalled, May Contain Foreign Material

An Indiana firm is recalling 94,850 pounds of corn chowder soup varieties because they may contain foreign materials.

The company – Morgan Foods, Inc. of Austin, IN – issued a voluntary recall of 4 types of corn chowders after receiving complaints from two customers who said they found pieces of a marker pen in the product.
The soups were sold in 18.8 ounce cans, and include the following varieties:

PMI Nutrition Expands Recall of Aquamax, Mazuri, and LabDiet Products

PMI Nutrition International is recalling AquaMax™ feed products for fish for the potential of elevated vitamin D levels. And the company is expanding its recall to include additional varieties of Mazuri® and LabDiet® feed products for the same problem.

You can see the extensive list of products, along with item number, full product description, package sizes, and lot codes at the FDA site. The products include food for guinea pigs, monkeys, rodents, frogs, leaf eaters, waterfowl, game birds, flamingos, cranes, wolves, moose, zebras, mice, parrots, insectivores, crocodiles, bears, turtles, and ornamental fish.  You can also see all of the product labels at the FDA site.

If you have purchased any of these products, return them to the place of purchase for a refund. For questions or more information, call Customer Service at 1-855-863-0421, extension 224, Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm EDT.


Articles of Interest

200 Ill With Norovirus Infections After Swimming in WI Lake

LakeWazeeMain.jpgAt least 200 people contracted Norovirus infections after swimming in a Wisconsin lake on the Fourth of July. One child who also swam in the lake was hospitalized.

The Jackson County Health Department, along with the county’s Forestry and Parks division, began an investigation into the outbreak on Monday July 9 after being notified that many people who had been swimming in Lake Wazee the previous week were experiencing vomiting, diarrhea, headache, nausea, fever and body aches, all symptoms of a Norovirus infection.

Read Full Article Here

Food Quality: An Issue As Important As Safety

Food safety is important, but it is not the only consideration when choosing foods.
For example, for people in the U.S., the aversion to dog meat and horse meat is more a cultural matter than a safety issue. For Jews and Muslims, the aversion to pork might have begun as a safety issue historically, but now it is more a religious and cultural matter. Some people shun genetically modified foods because they fear such foods would be unsafe to eat, and some shun them for other reasons, such as their environmental or economic impacts. Some people prefer eggs from free range chickens not because it makes a big difference in the quality of the eggs, but because of their concerns about animal cruelty. Foie gras was banned in California because of concerns about animal cruelty, not food safety. Pink slime may be viewed as disgusting even if it is safe to eat. Some people might wish to avoid certain foods because they are farmed or manufactured in ways that harm the environment. No one has argued that whale meat or turtle meat is unsafe. Shark fin soup is not unsafe. Products might be shunned because they are produced under onerous conditions for workers. Some people think particular foods should be controlled because they increase the likelihood of becoming overweight.
Snack manufacturers argue that there are no bad foods, only bad diets. What should regulatory agencies do about that, especially when many people do have bad diets?
A clear distinction should be drawn between unsafe products and unsafe practices. If infants are fed with tea or cola, perhaps along with breast milk or infant formula, they might not get sick immediately, but they may experience health consequences in the future. What about the case in which, to save money, one grandmother diluted the infant formula by half, because, she said, the baby wouldn’t know the difference? Here it is not the products but the practices that are unsafe. Where does one draw the line between safety concerns in the traditional sense, i.e. pathogen contamination, and other food-related concerns?
Agencies with responsibilities for food regulation should be explicit about what is within the scope of their work, and what is excluded. They should explain how they do their work, and be plain about its limitations. This is important because non-specialists don’t make sharp distinctions between questions such as “is it safe for you?” and “is it good for you?” Many people take approval of a product by an official-sounding agency as an endorsement of that product. The manufacturers take advantage of this. They know that if they claim something has been approved by an agency, many customers will think that means it is good for you, or has other virtues. On close examination we might see that approval is actually based on little more than the manufacturers submitting the proper forms, with the agency making no independent assessment of any kind.
If the national food regulatory agency’s mandate is to look only at safety in the narrow sense of worrying about immediate harm to users, which agencies would attend to other considerations that might be important?
To illustrate, there is good evidence that long chain fatty acids in the diets of pregnant women and infants affect the child’s development, not only physically but also intellectually. Ocean fish and beef from grass-fed cows have good fatty acids in them. However, some industrially produced meats – cultured fish fed mainly with grains and cows fed with grains rather than grass – are not as rich in these crucial fatty acids. How should factors that affect consumers’ long-term intellectual development be addressed? Which government food agencies should look after them?
If infant formula manufacturers make bogus claims that synthetic fatty acids added to infant formula make important contributions to infants’ development, who will call on them to account for these claims? If these are not safety issues, what should we name them?

Biotech Riders in Proposed Farm Bill Stir Controversy

It was a battle over agricultural biotechnology that didn’t happen — at least not in the House Agriculture Committee’s July 11 markup of its version of the proposed new Farm Bill.
After a long day of discussing, and then voting on, more than 100 proposed amendments, the wearied-looking legislators finished the markup without addressing some controversial biotech riders tucked into Title X: Horticulture.
But that doesn’t mean heated debate over these riders won’t flare up as the Farm Bill makes its hopeful way toward approval in September.
Critics of agricultural biotechnology say that genetically engineered crops can be harmful to human health and to the environment. They point to warnings from an array of scientists that the artificial insertion of genetic material into plants could cause significant problems such as an increase in the levels of known toxicants in food, the introduction of new toxicants or new allergies, and the reduction of the nutritional value of food.


On the other side of the health divide, the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates recently reaffirmed its support of biotechnology in the production of safe, nutritious food. AMA also pointed to the continuing validity of federal regulation, saying that food produced through biotechnology poses no more risk than food produced in conventional ways.
In an effort to boost the public’s understanding of this new way of producing food, the International Food Information Council Foundation has released five videos featuring leading physicians in the fields of pediatrics, food allery and obstetrics who answer frequently asked questions about food biotechnology.
In 1992, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration established a policy declaring that there is no substantial or material difference between genetically engineered foods and foods that haven’t been genetically engineered.
Even so, many consumers are wary, if not downright opposed, to this new technology.
In a July 12 press release, the Center for Food Safety vowed to continue its strong opposition to the bill’s attachments, describing them as “irresponsible and unnecessary changes to USDA regulations” that would severely weaken the agency’s oversight of genetically engineered crops, and thus “fundamentally erode science-based review.”
Remaining optimistic, the Center expects the riders to be eliminated on the House floor when the full House considers the draft version of the Farm Bill, or when the House and Senate bills go to conference.
On the other side of the biotech fence, Karen Batra, spokesperson for Biotechnology Industry Organization, BIO, told Food Safety News that the organization doesn’t want to speculate on how Congress will vote on a final package, “but we are pleased with the bipartisan support shown in the committee for clarifying the US regulatory system for ag biotech.”
The fact that the provisions remain in the proposed bill is good news, she said, because they offer common-sense modifications that would benefit an approval system that has become “duplicative, unpredictable and costly.”
Summary of the Riders
According to the summary of the proposed bill, the biotechnology provisions in Title 10 reiterate that the USDA is authorized to regulate the introduction and cultivation of products of biotechnology if the products pose a plant pest risk.
When a petition for deregulation of a biotech variety is received, a comprehensive plant pest risk assessment is conducted. Once it is determined that the product poses no plant pest risk, the authority to regulate the product under the Plant Protection Act ceases and a final decision is made to deregulate the product.
Recent petitions for deregulation have taken several years, though the actual review takes only weeks, and USDA regulation provides for a maximum limit of 180 days.
The current framework of the Plant Protection Act, which is intended to ensure the safety of biotechnology crop reviews, has been impeded by numerous procedural lawsuits. Many of these lawsuits have been proven to include frivolous claims and have been based on extraneous statutes that conflict with USDA’s statutory mandate to regulate based on plant pest risk.
These challenges have strained the limited resources of the USDA, imposed millions of dollars in unnecessary costs on taxpayers and hundreds of millions of dollars in lost opportunity costs on our national economy, and endangered the United States’ leadership role in this new and beneficial field of science.
Agricultural biotechnology is an evolutionary technology with revolutionary potential to feed an ever-increasing world population, while enhancing environmental stewardship.
In conclusion, says the summary, the provisions “will ensure that the transparent, comprehensive and scientifically-based review of these products occurs in a timeframe that facilitates continued innovation and adaptation of new tools to meet the challenges of food security.”

House Farm Bill Future Uncertain

Legislation keeps catfish inspection, seeks recall insurance study

After the House Agriculture Committee completed markup and cleared its version of the farm bill late into the night on Wednesday, Speaker of the House John Boehner on Thursday told reporters that he has not made any decisions about the bill coming to the floor.

“I think Chairman [Frank Lucas (R-OK)] and the committee have done an awful lot of good work. No decisions about coming to the floor,” Boehner told reporters during a press conference. He also said he had some reservations about provisions in the bill, citing what he called “a Society-style dairy program” as an example.

The lack of a timeline is worrying for agricultural interests as current farm bill expires September 30 and there are only a handful of working days left before August recess. Politico reported late Thursday that the bill is one “republican leaders seem to want nothing to do with” and unlikely to see a floor vote — a decision that would infuriate both sides of the aisle and likely force Congress to vote on an extension of current policy.

The House version of the bill, which cleared the ag committee by a 35-11 vote, cuts $16.5 billion from food stamps, roughly $12 billion more the Senate version of the bill that cleared the upper chamber last month. While both bills eliminate direct payments — which have become increasingly controversial as both farm income and deficits soar — the House bill added a new price support system and new insurance for rice and peanut farmers who found the Senate’s safety net lacking.

Genome Sequencing of 100,000 Foodborne Pathogens Underway

New database will speed up outbreak investigations


Over the past three years, scientists at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have conducted whole genome sequencing on over hundreds of foodborne pathogens to get a detailed map of their DNA. Now, with the help of university researchers and a private company, they’re expanding that figure to 100,000.
The initiative, aptly titled “The 100K Genome Project,” is a private-public collaboration between FDA, the University of California Davis and Agilent, a testing technology company.
By developing this new database, FDA hopes to help health officials cut down on the time it takes to identify the source of an outbreak.
Right now, investigators are able to identify clusters of illnesses by uploading pathogens isolated from different individuals to the government-maintained PulseNet database. But the information in PulseNet can only tell which cases are related. It does not provide the genetic details needed to figure out what food the bug is coming from.
For that, investigators must question victims to see whether they ate a common food in the days preceding their illnesses.
“Humans tend to move around a lot and they don’t have a good memory of what they ate, so getting good information from humans is really hard,” explains Steven Musser, Director of the Office of Regulatory Science at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
Musser, who is working on the genome sequencing project, says this new database will supplement PulseNet by providing high-resolution data, such as where an organism was found, whether it is resistant to any antibiotics and perhaps even the food on which it was found.
“In terms of resolution it would be sort of like looking at the stars with the Hubble space telescope versus looking at them with binoculars,” he explained in an interview with Food Safety News.
This new database will be comprised mostly of genetic information on pathogens isolated from food, he says, so if a human isolate is uploaded and matches a pathogen already in the database, investigators will know what region, or even business, the matching food sample came from.

Publisher’s Platform: President Obama, Tell Your Kids Not To Eat Their Fruits and Veggies After August 1st!

Food safety program started by Bush to be killed by Obama at end of July

Sign Petition to Save the Program.President Obama, you probably do not remember my three daughters: Morgan, Olivia and Sydney, hanging out with Sasha and Malia and Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers backstage before one of the inaugural parties, but $50,000 out of my pocket does. As you might remember, I went all in for your 2008 campaign, and judging by the calls and emails that I get on a daily basis from your campaign, you want me to do it again.
Within a few months of taking office, you came face to face with what I have seen for decades – another multi-state foodborne illness outbreak. The now infamous Peanut Corporation of America Salmonella tragedy sickened several hundred throughout the United States and killed nine. I thought you got it when you were quoted as saying:
“That’s what Sasha eats for lunch probably three times a week. And you know, I don’t wanna have to worry about whether she’s gonna get sick as a consequence to having her lunch.”
True, that outbreak – and several others in proceeding years – prompted Congressional action on the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) – that you very, very quietly signed into law.  However, the law still remains unfunded and many of the food safety rules remain hidden away in the your White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).


And, now because of industry pressure, your administration wants to kill the $4.5M budget for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Microbiological Data Program (MDP).  Ironically, to this long-time democratic supporter, the program was launched under President Bush’s 2001 Food Safety Initiative, and until the end of July tested about 15,000 samples of fruits and vegetables each year, far more than any other federal or state program.
Here is how MDP works: Public health officials pull samples of tomatoes (cherry, round, roma), cantaloupe, lettuce (leaf, romaine, cut, and pre-washed), celery, parsley, cilantro, spinach (bunched and bagged and pre-washed), hot peppers, sprouts (alfalfa and clover), onions (bulb and green), and yes, even Sasha’s peanut butter, and test for pathogens that can kill your kids and mine.
The samples are collected from distribution centers in 11 states that represent about 50 percent of the United States population. Any isolated pathogens are sent for pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) testing and the resulting genetic pattern is uploaded to the Centers for Disease Control PulseNet database so that it can be matched against human isolates or outbreak patterns. MDP also tests all isolates for antimicrobial resistance and contributes data to the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring (NARMS) database.
From 2009 to 2012, MDP found Salmonella 100 times, E. coli O157:H7 twice and Listeria monocytogenes 8 times. Over the same time period, the program sparked 23 Salmonella recalls, two E. coli O157:H7 recalls and five Listeria recalls.  Of the pathogens the program identified during that time, 39 Salmonella isolates were matched to human illnesses – as were the two E. coli O157:H7 and all eight Listeria isolates.


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