Food Safety

Genetic engineering: The world’s greatest scam?

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Genetic engineering is a threat to food security, especially in a changing climate. The introduction of genetically manipulated organisms by choice or by accident grossly undermines sustainable agriculture and in so doing, severely limits the choice of food we can eat.

Once GE plants are released into the environment, they are out of control. If anything goes wrong – they are impossible to recall.

GE contamination threatens biodiversity respected as the global heritage of humankind, and one of our world’s fundamental keys to survival.

Health Officials Warn of Vibrio Bacteria in Some Massachusetts Oysters

  By massachusetts

Massachusetts health officials are warning that oysters harvested from Cape Cod Bay may be contaminated with Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a bacteria that causes about 4,500 cases of foodborne illness every year.

That area has tidal flats with shallow water that can become very warm during the day. In just the right conditions of warm temperatures and the water’s salt content, the bacteria grows very quickly  in the shellfish. Then when those oysters are eaten raw or undercooked, the bacteria can make people sick.

The illness is characterized by watery diarrhea, cramping, nausea, fever, chills, and vomiting. Most people recover within a few days, but some people, especially those in high risk groups, can become seriously ill. Last year, five people became very ill with V. parahaemolyticus poisoning.

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FDA: Safety Violations at India Plant Linked to Tuna Salmonella Outbreak

As the case count continues to rise in the nationwide Salmonella outbreak linked to raw tuna, an inspection by U.S. health officials has revealed unsanitary conditions at the India facility that produced the implicated tuna product.


On April 19, about a week after authorities announced that a ground yellowfin tuna product  imported by Moon Marine USA Corporation was the likely source of the Salmonella bacteria that had sickened 116 people, health inspectors began a 6 day review of the plant where the tuna – called Nakaochi Scrape –  was processed. The resulting report – issued by FDA’s Department of Health and Human Services –  details a series of 10 sanitation slip-ups.
Of the offences, four were violations of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) guidelines, which all foreign producers must comply with in order to export seafood to the United States.  A HACCP plan identifies all points in the processing where contamination could occur and outlines steps to prevent pathogens from entering food.
In this case, inspectors noted that Moon Fishery – from which Moon Marine Co. sources its tuna – was missing the following steps from its plan:

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USDA Switching to New Plant Data Inspection System

Long in the making, the start-up date for USDA’s new Public Health Information System (PHIS) is now just two weeks away on May 29.  It will replace the Performance Based Inspection System at all regulated USDA establishments and for all meat and poultry imports and exports.
Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, USDA under secretary for food safety, has hailed the coming of PHIS as a method of “arming our inspectors with a powerful tool, on the ground, to carry out USDA’s food safety mission more effectively.”


Hagen says the new single database designed to gather, collate and use all data collected by the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s (FSIS’s) entire inspection regime is not just a change out in the IT system, but an entirely new inspection infrastructure.
That new infrastructure includes more discretion for FSIS inspectors as they go about their daily work. The old Performance Based Inspection System apparently spit out a list of “scheduled” tasks for inspectors to accomplish each day.

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FSN Video: Smiling Hara Tempeh Salmonella Outbreak

by James Andrews

Smiling Hara Tempeh Salmonella Outbreak – Food Safety News Consumer Alert


63 people in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and New York have fallen ill from a rare strain of Salmonella linked to spore culture used to make unpasteurized tempeh by North Carolina food producer Smiling Hara.

The outbreak strain, Salmonella Paratyphi B, causes less severe but more contagious infections than common types of Salmonella, and it can lead to Typhoid fever in some of those it infects.

According to the Asheville Citizen-Times, Smiling Hara purchased the contaminated spore culture from Tempeh Online, a Maryland-based Company that has since taken down its web page and deleted all but one of its Twitter posts.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is working with state health officials to determine whether or not Tempeh Online’s contaminated culture might have been used by any other producers.

Smiling Hara has recalled all of its tempeh made between January 11 and April 11 with best-by dates of July 11 through October 25. The company promotes the probiotic traits of unpasteurized tempeh but says it has considered pasteurizing its product to avoid future outbreaks.

Always cook unpasteurized tempeh before eating it. If you have recently eaten tempeh and experienced fever, nausea, vomiting or abdominal cramps, please contact your health care provider.

GMO Labeling on California Ballot This Fall

The Right-to-Know campaign has obtained more than enough signatures on its GMO labeling petition to appear on the California ballot this fall. The petition will require GMO labeling on foods in California.

The measure would require food manufacturers to identify genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that are in any food sold in California. This may lead to nation-wide labeling so manufacturers don’t have to print two labels on the same product.

When California added the caramel coloring 4-MI to its list of carcinogens under Proposition 65 in 2009, the manufacturer of that product agreed to change it to meet California’s standards.

Food Poisoning Bulletin asked Stacy Malkan, Media Director for the California Right-to-Know 2012 ballot initiative, about this issue. She said, “consumers have a right to know what’s in the food we buy and eat and feed our children, just as we have the right to know how many calories are in our food, or whether food comes from other countries like Mexico or China.

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Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS)

The E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak linked to raw milk produced by Foundation Farm in Oregon has sickened at least 19 people. Fifteen of those victims are children; four of those children have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome.

According to the FDA’s Bad Bug Book, it can take just 10 cells of E. coli bacteria to make someone sick. Dr. Heidi Kassenborg of the Minnesota Department of Health told us that bacteria aren’t evenly distributed in milk fluids, so milk samples withdrawn for testing may not contain any bacteria, when there actually is bacteria in the product.

Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is a severe complication of an infection of Shiga-toxin producing E. coli, usually E. coli O157. The toxins damage red blood cells, which creates small clots that clog the filtering system in the kidneys, causing HUS. The kidneys always suffer some injury in this condition.

HUS is characterized by hemolytic anemia (too few red blood cells), thrombocytopenia (too few blood platelets), and kidney failure. Complications of HUS include the following:

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HUS from an E. coli infection: 10 Things You Need to Know

E. coli Infections Can Cause HUSAn unnamed restaurant in Spartanburg, South Carolina is the suspected source of an outbreak of shiga toxin-producing E. coli. At least eleven people are ill. Of that group, two people have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome.

Adam Myrick, Public Information Officer of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, told Food Poisoning Bulletin that he was not aware of any hospitalizations in the outbreak. He also said that the department does not discuss individual cases. All he would say about the restaurant is that it is a Mexican restaurant in the Spartanburg area, although there have been calls for the restaurant to be identified.

Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is a severe complication of a Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli (generally E. coli O157) infection. It is characterized by hemolytic anemia, thrombocytopenia, and kidney failure, and most HUS victims suffer a host of other medical problems. E. coli-HUS is the most common cause of acute renal failure among young children (5 years and less) in the United States.

These are 10 things you should know if your child has an E. coli infection or has been diagnosed with HUS:

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‘Supermoms against Superbugs’ Take Their Message to Washington

Thirty enthusiastic moms from across the United States gathered in Washington Tuesday to lobby for greater limits on antibiotics used in food animal production.

Organized by the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming and the American Academy of Pediatrics, the “Supermoms against Superbugs” event included more than 50 meetings with House and Senate staff, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the White House Domestic Policy Council.

Each mother had a different story, a different reason for becoming an advocate. Some were chefs worried about quality and health, others pediatricians concerned about untreatable infections, but for many of the moms their activism began when a child or family member was  sickened or killed by antibiotic-resistant pathogens.

ruby&melissa.jpgFor Melissa Lee, it began when her nine-month-old baby Ruby contracted antibiotic-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg from meatballs made with ground turkey. It was the first time Ruby had tried turkey. “The first and the last,” said Lee.

Ruby was hospitalized for a week and then required an IV of antibiotics for another week at home. She was part of a nationwide outbreak that sparked the largest Class I meat recall in history. Contaminated ground turkey from a single Cargill plant in Arkansas was linked to the illnesses.

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CDC’s Mahon Sees Progress in Curbing Listeria After Deadly Outbreak

Multiple tools to find and track Listeria are proving successful, even though the rare pathogen was responsible last year for the most deadly outbreak of foodborne illness in decades.


Dr. Barbara Mahon from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tuesday opened the 40th Annual Rocky Mountain Food Safety Conference in Golden, CO by putting last year’s deadly Listeria outbreak into some context, describing new efforts to control the strange bacteria.
Mahon said Listeria is a highly virulent pathogen that annually causes 1,600 illnesses and 260 deaths. Last year’s Listeria outbreak traced back to Colorado-grown cantaloupe caused 146 illnesses and at least 32 deaths.
Listeria’s threat is best illustrated by the fact that it accounts for less than one percent of all foodborne illnesses, but causes almost 20 percent of all food illness deaths. Killing Listeria, however, is not easy. The bacteria continue to thrive when refrigerated.
Finding Listeria on whole cantaloupes was new. The dangerous foodborne bacterium is usually associated with hot dogs, deli meats and soft, Mexican-style cheeses.
Mahon said the 95 percent hospitalization rate from listeriosis, and its fatality rate of at least 16 percent, makes it a very dangerous illness for the populations it impacts the most. Those include pregnant women, newborn infants and the elderly or anyone with a compromised immune system.
CDC’s “wake up call” for Listeria came in 1985 with an outbreak in Los Angles County, CA caused by Mexican cheese that involved mostly pregnant Hispanic women, Mahon said.   Before the epidemic was stemmed, there were 28 deaths and 20 stillbirths.
Mahon said four surveillance tools set up in the years that followed – FoodNet, PulseNet, Listeria Initiative, and the Food Disease Outbreak Surveillance System or FDOSS – have combined to improve the Listeria outlook.

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New Brunswick E. Coli Outbreak Linked to Jungle Jim’s Eatery

Public health officials investigating an E. coli outbreak in the Canadian province of New Brunswick named Jungle Jim’s Eatery as the likely common link on Tuesday, according to CBC News.


The province’s health department confirmed 13 people infected with E. coli O157:H7, while another 11 suspected cases are likely linked to the same outbreak.

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Cargill Recalls Some Animal Feed Products

Cargill Animal Nutrition announced a voluntary recall of some regional poultry and calf feed, and some whole and cracked corn products because of high levels of aflatoxin. Aflatoxin is a mold that grows on grain that was stressed while it was growing. Exposure to high levels of aflatoxin can cause liver failure.

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Articles of Interest

Preliminary FDA Inspection Report Cites Flaws at Diamond Pet Foods Plant

Diamond Pet Foods, the company behind a massive recall of dry dog food due to Salmonella contamination that has sickened at least 16 people, was not taking “all reasonable precautions” to ensure the safety of its product, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspection report.


The Form 483 report, posted by the FDA late Tuesday afternoon, was the result of a week-long inspection that began April 12 after an outbreak of human Salmonella Infantis infection was traced to contaminated pet food manufactured at the Diamond Pet Foods plant in Gaston, S.C.
The report states that Diamond was using cardboard and duct tape on some of its equipment and that there were damaged paddles on the conveyor. The inspectors also noted that some surfaces at the facility were encrusted with food residues.
FDA inspectors specifically listed these four observations:

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Russia Questions Dutch Vegetable Safety

by Staff Writers
Moscow (RIA Novosti)

illustration only

Russia’s food safety chief Gennady Onishchenko raised doubts on Monday over the safety of vegetables imported from the Netherlands, which he said had been experimenting with mutations of the avian flu virus.

“The Netherlands is engaged in an activity banned by international conventions. It alters properties, in particular, the properties of bird flu viruses, increasing their virulence compared with natural strains,” he said.

“Being aware of this process, we believe we must understand why this is being done and how much this threatens Russia’s national security, Onishchenko said.

Onishchenko has repeatedly claimed the European Union has failed to identify the causes of a highly pathogenic E.coli intestinal virus that claimed several lives in Europe last summer and prompted Russia to restrict vegetable imports from the EU.

Source: RIA Novosti

Related Links
Daily Russian News
Farming Today – Suppliers and Technology

Raw Milk Rally In Minneapolis

May 14, 2012 By

About 80 people gathered outside the Hennepin County courthouse in Minneapolis on May 14 to show their support for Alvin Schlangen, a farmer from Freeport, Minnesota who faces trial on six counts of food safety violations, some of which stem from delivering raw milk to members of a food club.

Laws governing the sale of raw, or unpasteurized, milk vary from state to state. In Minnesota, farmers can sell raw milk to customers, but “only if the transaction takes place on the farm and only if the sales occur occasionally,” said Mike Schommer, Communications Director for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA). Minnesota does not require farmers who sell raw milk directly to customers to have a permit and therefore does test raw milk sold in these situations for pathogens.

The charges against Schlangen, who is an organic egg farmer and does not produce raw milk on his farm, include one count of selling raw milk, another for distributing food without a food handler’s license and one count for failing to maintain temperature requirements. His trial, which was scheduled for 9 a.m. today was pushed back until tomorrow.

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FDA Warning Letter to Moon Fishery

May 14, 2012 By

On April 19, 2012 through April 24, 2012 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspected Moon Fishery in India, the facility that produced the recalled Nakaochi Scrape raw tuna linked to the large Salmonella Bareilly and Salmonella Nchanga outbreak in the U.S. The same company issued a recall of raw Grade AA and AAA tuna strips, intended for sushi, last week.

As a result of that inspection, the FDA issued a warning letter to the company detailing the violations of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan that every food facility is required to develop and follow. Parts of the letter were redacted.

In the letter, the agency states that the facility’s HACCP plan doesn’t include the critical control points (CCP) necessary for the hazards identified for the products they produce.

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Students Serve Antibiotic-Free Chicken Lunch on Capitol Hill

Healthy food advocates took to Capitol Hill last week to show lawmakers and their staff that school food can be cooked from scratch, healthy and antibiotic-free — without spending a lot of money.

cookingupchange.jpgSix high school students from the Chicago Vocational Career Academy (CVCA), who competed in the Healthy Schools Campaign’s Cooking up Change, whipped up oven-“fried” chicken, raised without antibiotics, greens, cabbage, and sweet potato salad, a meal that cost around $1 per serving and meets school lunch nutritional guidelines.

Their food was served to those attending a policy briefing on the House side and was added to the Congressional cafeteria menu last Thursday.

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