Tag Archive: Shigella


Food Safety

Montana Says Listeria Outbreak Victim’s Death Was Due to His Infection

CantaloupeSliceRemovedMain.jpgThe unofficial death count of last year’s Listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupes rose from 32 to 33 Wednesday as the Montana Department of Health confirmed that the death of an outbreak victim there was a result of his Listeria infection.

The victim, a 75-year-old Bozeman, Montana man who died in January, was only recently recognized as a victim of the outbreak. Food Safety News reported about the possible link. The connection was first made when PulseNet discovered that a clinical sample of Listeria from the man’s stool 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.

Earlier this month, CDC added the Montana man to the outbreak victims count, bringing the total to 147, but has not yet included him in the death count. One other case in Montana has been linked to the outbreak.

“We finished the investigation July 18 and the CDC is adding him to the death toll,” Job Ebelt, a spokesman for the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services told The Packer. However, CDC told Food Safety News that it has not yet officially counted the man’s death as one of those that resulted from outbreak, and is currently only counting him as a victim.

“We’re saying at least 30 deaths and one miscarriage,” confirmed Lola Russel, a spokeswoman for the CDC. “The death count is something that’s based on us reviewing death certificates, and that’s a process. Just because a state counts it does not mean we’re increasing that number right then,” she said.

Sprouts Remain An Unsolved Pathogen Problem

Outbreaks linked to sprouted seeds continue to crop up

PROVIDENCE — For all its efforts in the last 15 years or so, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t really moved the meter that much when it comes to improving the safety of raw and lightly cooked sprouts that Americans increasingly like to eat.
Sprouts were given special attention Wednesday at the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) meeting this week in Rhode Island.

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From 1990 until midway through 2011, there were at least 46 major outbreaks involving sprouts, said FDA’s Tong-Jen (T-J) Fu. The problem is that the conditions seeds need to grow sprouts are also ideal for growing pathogens.
Many of those outbreaks have occurred since 1999, the year FDA issued its non-binding “guidance” document to help sprout growers.  “Implementation has been an issue,” explains Fu.
Fixing the problem that good sprouting conditions are also good for growing pathogens isn’t easy.
“Whatever is good for growing the seeds is good for microbial growth,” says Mansour Samadpour, who runs a commercial food lab in Lake Forest Park, WA.
Fu says Salmonella growth is the most common contaminant for sprouts, but E. coli O157:H7 and Listeria are also known to taint sprouting seeds. In the sprouting process, seeds are often found to be the exact cause of outbreaks.
Fu also notes that people often take the seeds home for “home sprouting,” which she says could add to the risks.
On multiple occasions since 1999, FDA has also issued public warnings about sprouts, starting out with a notice warning about alfalfa sprouts. It was then amended to include a public health warning about all sprouts.
FDA’s Michelle Smith said the agency was originally concerned about raw sprouts, but has since changed that part of the warning to include “raw and lightly cooked” sprouts.

USDA Looking at Antibiotics Claims on Meat Labels

Amid growing consumer awareness about antibiotics used to raise food animals, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is taking a look at some of the claims made on meat packages, including “antibiotic free.”

ABXLABELS.jpgIn a letter responding to concerns raised by Consumers Union, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said FSIS has developed updated guidance material on labels that it will send to meat companies and the agency plans to investigate unapproved label claims.

“Under FSIS guidelines, when producers/companies request to make the marketing claim “raised without antibiotics” on their labels, we inform them that this means “no antibiotics in their feed water or injection including no ionophores” during the animal’s life,” said Vilsack.

CU sent a letter to USDA in June asking that the department look into three unapproved label claims that the group found on meat packages: antibiotic free, no antibiotic growth promotants, and no antibiotic residues. In a recent shopping survey, CU found more than 20 different antibiotic-related claims on meat packages (see the group’s list to the left).

CU points out that these claims may confuse or mislead consumers.

Multistate Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Raw Tuna Grows to 425

spicy-tuna-sushi-406.jpgSalmonella from a recalled raw tuna product served in sushi and known as Nakaochi scrape has now sickened at least 425 individuals in 28 states and the District of Columbia. Of those ill, 55 have been hospitalized.

In its final outbreak update, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that the outbreak appears to be over, though additional cases may surface in the next several months if unaware food establishments continue serving the product, which is sold frozen and has a long shelf-life.
The victims of the tuna scrape outbreak were infected with one of two Salmonella strains. In total, 410 fell ill with Salmonella Bareilly, while Salmonella Nchanga sickened 15.
The recalled Nakaochi scrape was produced by Moon Marine USA Corporation. Retailers carrying the product are asked not to serve it.
The outbreak’s epidemiological curve, featured below, shows that a significant number of victims acquired their infections after the April 13 tuna scrape recall, suggesting food establishments continued to serve it for some time.
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Case Count Rises in Upstate New York Shigella Outbreak

ShigellaMain.jpgThe number of individuals sickened in a Shigella outbreak in Upstate New York has risen from 45 – at last report – to 69, while the source of the bacteria remains unclear.

The outbreak is affecting residents of Onondaga County, located in the central northern New York. The county’s health department announced the increase in cases Friday. Health officials there are still not sure what is causing the outbreak.
Shigella infection, or shigellosis is characterized by fever, stomach cramps and diarrhea that can be painful and contain blood or mucous. Symptoms usually appear 1 to 3 days after exposure and resolve in about a week.
If you think you may have contracted shigellosis, contact your healthcare provider.
For more information on this outbreak, see Food Safety News’ previous reports:

Paralytic Shellfish Poison Closes Recreational Harvest In Puget Sound

The Washington State Department of Health (WDH) has closed recreational shellfish harvesting in six counties near Puget Sound after dangerous levels of the biotoxin Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) were discovered. Commercially harvested shellfish are not included in the closure and should be safe to eat, according to public health authorities.

The six counties affected by the recreational shellfish harvest closure are in the central and southern areas of the sound. They are: Jefferson, Island, Snohomish, Kitsap, King and Pierce counties. Warning signs have been posted at beaches in these areas.

Shellfish included in the closure are: clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, geoduck, and other mollusks. Crab is not included in the closure, but “crab butter,” the yellow goo that clings to the inside of the shell is.

 

 

Cases of Salmonella Montevideo from Live Poultry Rise to 76

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has counted an additional 10 cases of Salmonella Montevideo linked to live poultry since last month, bringing the new case count to 76 people across 22 states. Of those ill, 17 have been hospitalized.

The live birds originated at Estes Hatchery, a mail-order hatchery in Springfield, Missouri.

The number ill by state is as follows:
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Restaurant in E. coli Outbreak Gets Cover from OC Health

A locally owned single location restaurant in California’s Orange County is getting some valuable service from its local health department — keeping its name from being associated with an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak.
That secret involves romaine lettuce the unnamed restaurant served last April giving E. coli O157:H7 to nine of its customers, and causing the restaurant to voluntarily close for the investigation. The restaurant management was so cooperative that four months later, the Orange County (OC) Health Care Agency is still keeping the name of the restaurant a secret.
Deanne Thompson, public information officer for the OC Health Care Agency, says naming the restaurant now (it was not named then either) would “not serve a useful purpose.”
OC apparently wanted to keep the whole event secret, and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) went along.
At the time, OC Health put out nary a word about the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak and in a county where restaurant closures are an obsession; there was not a word about this one.   Thompson says it was not listed because the closure was voluntary.
OC Health — with more than 11,000 restaurants, food trucks and other food establishments under its regulation — currently lists 88 closures by its inspectors in the last 60 days.

Norovirus Outbreak Linked to Michigan Mexican Restaurant

At least 200 sickened

TummyAcheMain.jpgAt least 200 people fell ill last week with Norovirus infections connected to a Mexican restaurant in Michigan’s Ottowa County.

The Ottowa County Health Department began investigating the outbreak on Thursday of last week and by this week had linked the illnesses to Margarita’s Restaurant of Holland, MI, which was shut down after it was determined to be the outbreak source.
It is not clear whether victims included both customers and employees or only customers.
Norovirus is transmitted through the fecal-oral route. Food handlers who contract Norovirus should stay home from work 48-72 hours after symptoms end to prevent the spread of infection, says the Ottowa County Health Department.

Canada’s Raw Milk Laws Put to Test By Ontario Court of Appeal

Provincial public health and milk marketing regulations that have prevented the sale or distribution of raw milk in Canada for the past 80 years are about to be challenged in the Ontario Court of Appeal.
The often precedent-setting Ontario Court of Appeal, where same-sex marriage in Canada first got its stamp of approval, is second only to the Supreme Court of Canada. And the high federal court reviews only about 3 percent of Ontario Court of Appeal decisions.

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Conflicting and some say confused lower court cases over the fate of raw milk dairy farmer Michael Schmidt, who was first acquitted in 2010 and then convicted in 2011 for distributing raw milk through a cow-share successful appeal request. (Unlike the U.S., the prosecution in Canada can appeal when they lose).
Schmidt, who was sentenced on similar charges in 1994 when he was fined $3,500 and placed on probation for two years, was operating a cow share scheme for 150 families, who had paid $300 each for shares of 26 dairy cows.

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Recalls / Allergen Alerts

Cheeses, Dips and Spreads Recalled for Potential Listeria Contamination

A Colorado-based company is recalling a limited number of tapanades, cheeses and salsas because they may contain onions that were recalled last week due to potential contamination with Listeria.

Sartori Inspirations LLC issued the voluntary recall Thursday after Gills Onions of Oxnard, California recalled some of its diced yellow onions on July 18 because a sample had tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes. Sartori makes some of its products with these onions.
Those products – sold at some Whole Foods Market stores – include tapanades, smoked gouda, pimento cheese, spinach feta dip and a variety of salsas packaged in both 7 oz. clear plastic and 5 lb. white plastic tubs. The following is a list of the specific products subject to recall. Code information can be found on the side of each container.
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Undeclared Allergen in Chicken and Yam Pies Prompts Recall

Opinion

YamandChickenPies.jpgA California-based company is recalling approximately 79 pounds of chicken and yam pie products because they may have been made with a curry paste that contains shrimp, but shrimp  – a known allergen – is not listed as an ingredient.

Piccadilly Fine Foods of Santa Clara, CA issued a voluntary recall of the products Thursday after a label inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) revealed that the recipe for the pies had been temporarily changed, but that the ingredient change was not reflected on packaging.
Products subject to this recall include:

Chopped Onions with Possible Listeria Contamination Trigger More Recalls

choppedonions-406.jpgChopped yellow and white onions distributed by Gills Onions has triggered more recalls, as more food makers announced they were using the onions, which were first recalled on July 18 for possible Listeria contamination.

No illnesses have yet been reported in relation to these recalls.
1. Garden Fresh Foods, Inc. is recalling various ready-to-eat salads, slaw, salsa, bean and dip products under various brands and code dates. Products were distributed in AZ, CA, FL, IA, IL, IN, MA, MI, MN, MO, PA, TX, and WI.
2. Stop & Shop Supermarket Company LLC recalled its Calico Bean Salad sold in stores between July 18 and 26.
3. Spartan Stores, Inc. recalled its Three Bean Salad and 10 oz. Broccoli Stir Fry sold between July 13 and 26.
4. Publix Super Markets issued a recall of custom-made sub sandwiches that may have contained chopped onions connected to the recall, sold from July 7 through 26.

Stop & Shop Recalls Calico Bean Salad for Listeria

Northeast grocery chain Stop & Shop Supermarket Company LLC announced Friday that it removed Calico Bean Salad made by Costa Fruit & Produce from their stores due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination.

The salad was sold in stores’ salad bar, but the company said no illnesses have been reported.

The company is asking that customers who purchased the product between July 18, 2012 and July 26, 2012 discard any unused portions and bring their purchase receipt to Stop & Shop for a full refund.

BBQ Chicken Salad Recalled for Potential Listeria Contamination

A California company is recalling approximately 5,610 pounds of its barbecue chicken salad because the product contains diced onions that were recalled for potential Listeria contamination last week.

Huxtable’s Kitchen of Vernon, CA issued a voluntary recall of the BBQ chicken salads Friday after another company – Gill’s Onions – announced last week that a sample of its diced onions had tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes. Huxtable’s, which uses onions processed by Gill’s in its barbecue chicken salad, was notified of the potential contamination by a supplier and alerted USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the problem.
The Huxtable’s products subject to recall are sold in 14.5 ounce trays and labeled as “TRADER JOE’S BBQ CHICKEN SALAD” Friday.

Read Full Article Here

 

 

Potential Listeria Contamination Prompts Recall of Sausage Products

SausagesinPanMain.jpgA Mississippi firm is recalling approximately 314 pounds of sausage products because they may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

Enslin & Son Packing Company of Hattiesburg, MS, issued a voluntary recall of it’s “Cedar Grove Red Hots” Friday after the company received test results showing that the product had tested positive for Listeria. Product had already been shipped to retail establishments in Meridian and Philadelphia, MS when the company acquired the test results.

Read Full Article here

 

 

 

 

LSG Sky Chefs Latest to Recall Product With Onions Over Listeria Concerns

ChipotleChickWrapMain.jpgLSG Sky Chefs is recalling certain chicken wraps because they are made with diced onions that were recalled by another company last week after a sample of the onions tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

Orlando, Florida-based LSG issued a is voluntarily recalling about 735 pounds of ready-to-eat chipotle chicken wraps Friday after being notified of the onion recall issued by Gill’s Onions last week. LSG uses onions processed by Gill’s in the pico de gallo contained in its wraps.
This is the third recall of product made with Gill’s Onions since the initial recall was announced. Food Safety News reported on the other two in these notices:

Read Full Article Here

 

 

Burch Farms Cantaloupe Recalled for Possible Listeria Contamination

cantaloupedangling-406.jpgNorth Carolina’s Burch Farms and Hannaford Supermarkets on Saturday initiated a recall of 580 crates of whole Athena cantaloupes sent to New York due to possible contamination of Listeria monocytogenes.

The cantaloupes were shipped July 15. No illnesses have been linked to this outbreak.

The cantaloupes sport a red label that reads ‘Burch Farms’ and ‘Cantaloupe PLU 4319.’ Health officials are urging those who purchased the cantaloupes to dispose of them.

Last August, Listeria-contaminated Rocky Ford cantaloupes grown at Jensen Farms in Colorado caused one of the deadliest foodborne illness outbreaks in U.S. history, sickening at least 147 and killing 33. Jensen Farms filed for bankruptcy in May.

Read Full Article Here

 

 

Tyson Chunk Chicken Recalled for Undeclared Allergen

Tony Downs Foods Company of Minnesota is recalling 70,500 pounds of premium chunk chicken for mislabeling and an undeclared allergen. The products may actually contain “Beef with Gravy” that contains wheat, one of the major food allergens, that is not declared on the label.

The product is 12.5-ounce cans of “Tyson Premium Chunk Chicken.” The code date of “8965 248A 12139″ and “Best by May 18, 2015″ are ink-jetted on the bottom of each recalled can. Each label has the number “P-65″ inside the USDA mark of inspection. Correctly labeled cans are ink-jetted with the code “1392TDM4600″ and “P65″ beneath a “Use by May 18 2015″ date and are not part of this recall.

The chicken was produced on May 18, 2012 and distributed to retail establishments nationwide. There have been no reports of adverse reactions associated with the consumption of this product. If you have questions, call the Tyson Consumer Hotline at 866-328-3156.

 

 

San Francisco Herb and Natural Food Company Recalls Products

July 29, 2012 By

The San Francisco Herb and Natural Food Company is recalling 16 products for potential contamination of filth. There was a mouse infestation at the company’s Fremont warehouse. The products were sold mostly over the internet in the U.S. No illnesses have been reported in connection with the consumption of these products. For questions, call Dr. Fahimeh Niroomand at 510-770-1215 extension 115.

Each package weighs one pound. The Lot numbers are on a small, white rectangular sticker on the bottom half of the back of the package. The products recalled include:

Read Full Article Here

Colombian Style Cheese Recalled for Potential Staph Contamination

Same cheese recalled one week earlier for improper pasteurization

QuesitoMain.jpgA New York-based company is recalling a Colombian-style cheese product because it may be contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. The recall comes a week after the New York State Department of Agriculture (NYSDA) warned consumers not to eat this same cheese because it had not been properly pasteurized.

Tita Corp. of Glendale, NY issued a voluntary recall of its “Queso Colombiano, Colombian Style Cheese” Saturday after samples of the product were found to contain “high levels of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria,” according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The samples that tested positive for Staph bacteria were taken by an NYSDA Division of Milk Control and Dairy Services inspector on July 25, 2012, just 8 days after the Division had found that milk used to make this cheese had been improperly pasteurized, meaning that it’s possible for pathogens to survive in the product.

Read Full Article here

 

 

Publix Recalls Sub Sandwiches Made with Gills Onions

Publix Super Markets is recalling custom sub sandwiches made with recalled Gills Onions. The onions were recalled on July 19, 2012 for possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination. The recall includes any custom made sub sandwiches with sliced onions sold at the Publix Deli department from July 7, 2012 through July 26, 2012.

The onions were shipped to stores in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Publix stores in Florida are not included in this recall. No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with the sliced onions.

Read Full Article Here

 

 

Spartan Stores Recall Products Containing Gills Onions

In the ninth derivative recall so far, Spartan Stores is recalling two products that contain Gills Onions. The onions, which may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, were recalled on July 19, 2012.

The recalled products include Three Bean Salad sold at the deli, and 10-ounce Broccoli Stir Fry sold in the product department. There has been no “confirmation” of illnesses associated with the consumption of these products reported to Spartan Stores. If anyone has eaten these products and gotten sick, they should contact their healthcare provider.

Those products should be discarded or returned to the place of purchase for a full refund or replacement. If you have questions, you can contact Spartan Stores’ Consumer Affairs at 1-800-451-8500. You can also contact Gills Onions Customer Service at 1-888-220-0436.

Smoked Salmon Recalled for Botulism Potential

VaccumSmokedSalmonMain.jpgAn Alaskan company is recalling its smoked salmon products because they are labeled with improper instructions that could, if followed, lead to the product’s contamination with Clostridium botulinum bacteria.

Interior Alaska Fish Processors Inc., based in Fairbanks, AK, issued a voluntary recall of its “Santa’s Smokehouse” brand hot-smoked vacuum packed salmon products Tuesday because they bear a label indicating that they can be kept under refrigeration, when in fact they cannot, according to 2KTUU.com.
This misleading label implies that consumers may keep the fish in conditions that could in actuality allow for the growth of Clostridium botulinum, which produces botulinum toxins that attack the human nervous system, leading to paralysis.

Ken’s Foods Recalls Dressings and Sauces for Possible Listeria

Ken’s Foods Inc. is recalling some food service dressings and sauces that contain onions that are part of the Gills Onions recall. The onions may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Fresh Point processes the onions for Ken’s Foods; their supplier is Gills Onions.

The products recalled include these products. Ken’s Tartar Sauce in 4/1 gallon containers, with number KE0666 and MFG number 09/JUL/12. Ken’s Tartar Sauce in 100/1.5-ounce cups, with number KE0666A5 and EXP: 011313. Dickey’s BBQ Bean in 10/48-ounce pouches, with number DI2063 and USE BY date of 11MAR13. Golden Corral Tartar in 4/1 gallon containers, with number GD2517 and MFG: 17/JUL/12. Lee’s Cole Slaw in 14/40 ounce pouches, with number FQ2103 and MFG: 23JUL12. Fatz Tartar Sauce, in 4/1 gallon containers, with number FD0666 and MFG: 23/JUL/12.

Read Full Article here

 

 

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Articles of Interest

‘Current Controversies’ in Food Safety Produces Lively Debate

Truth be told, the lecture format of most of the symposia at the International Association for Food Protection annual meeting can get a little sleepy.
The meeting, which ended Wednesday, is not known for sharp sticks in the eye or put down quips. The one exception was the “current controversies” section that used a sort of modified college debate format to go through three food safety issues quickly with no apologies for any hard feelings.
There was one caveat. Not only were the views expressed by the debaters not necessarily representative of their organizations, they were not necessarily their own. Like good college debaters everywhere, they might have just ended up with that side or the argument.
The debaters, however, tried their best, since they wanted to sway the audience, which was polled electronically before and after both sides had their say and took questions.
The first topic was whether the pasteurization of all ground beef and ground poultry should be mandated. Speaking in favor was Kroger Company’s W. Payton Pruett; opposed was the American Meat Institute Foundation’s Betsy Booren.
Before the debate began, the audience split 71.4 opposed to the proposal, 28.6 in favor.

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Pruett started by saying that Kroger stores have been on the receiving end of about half of all the 68 recent recalls of ground meat products, and the time has come to just accept that sampling and testing cannot substitute for good kill step.
Just as we reached a point where it was appropriate for milk, juice, and eggs to go through pasteurization, Pruett said that time has now arrived for ground meat. He said pasteurization would cut down on recalls and reduce illnesses.
Booren said the $4.8 billion local food movement, small and very small meat businesses and anyone who values choice in a country with an abundance of food would be ill served by a pasteurization mandate.
In rebuttal, Pruett said his company’s stores have already removed choice from their customers by not selling raw milk.”What we sell in our stores is pasteurized milk,” he said.  “We’ve taken away that customer choice. This is a case of where we have to take control.”

That left an opening for Booren to question whether Pruett’s company is motivated by its concern for public health or its fear of possibilities litigation over the sale of raw milk with its potential for contamination.
In raising her concerns about how pasteurization might change the taste and texture of ground meat products, Booren brought up some of the early tests on radiated meat coming out with a “wet dog” smell.
In the end, the House remained unmoved with only about 2 percent moving to the pro-pasteurization side.
In just over 15 minutes, it was all over and two more debaters had stepped up to argue about whether Clostridium difficile colitis is a foodborne illness. C. diff is a species of gram-positive bacteria, most associated with diarrheal disease picked up in hospital settings.
Going at it over this one was Glenn Songer from Iowa State University at Ames and Brandi Limbago from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

CDC Releases Annual Foodborne Illness Data for 2011

E. coli O157 falling; Salmonella, Listeria and others remain steady

applesconveyorbelt-406.jpgThe number of Americans falling ill from foodborne pathogens remained steady or marginally worsened in the latter half of the 2000s, and 2011 turned out to show little difference, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which released its annual report of foodborne illness data for 2011 on Friday evening.

While the data showed a promising five-year decline of E. coli O157:H7 and Shigella infections since 2007, infection rates stagnated or slightly grew for a number of other notable bacteria, including Salmonella, Campylobacter and Listeria.

As a whole, the data have some food safety advocates reemphasizing the importance of implementing measures of the Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law by President Obama in January 2011 and designed to shift the focus of U.S. food safety from a reactive system to something more preventative. Many of the act’s central rules have blown past implementation deadlines, including new food import standards and domestic preventative control requirements.

According to the data, Salmonella, Campylobacter and Listeria continue to infect numbers well beyond goals set by the U.S. government for 2010:

For every 100,000 people, 16.5 fell ill with Salmonella in 2011 and 17.5 the year before, despite a goal to reduce that number to 6.8 by then. Similarly, Campylobacter infected 14.3 in 2011 (surpassing the 12.3-person goal), and 0.28 were sickened by Listeria (just above the 2010 goal of 0.24).

At the same time, however, E. coli O157 rates fell to 0.98, just below its goal of 1.0. That’s down from 1.20 in 2007, 1.69 in 2002 and 2.62 in 1996, the year the CDC first began compiling yearly reports on these pathogens.

USDA Supports Meatless-less Mondays

Agency backpedals on support following pressure from industry

by Gretchen Goetz | Jul 30, 2012

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For a brief period last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture got behind the international “Meatless Monday” campaign by calling on its employees to choose vegetarian options on Mondays.
“While a vegetarian diet could have a beneficial impact on a person’s health and the environment, many people are not ready to make that commitment. Because Meatless Monday involves only one day a week, it is a small change that could produce big results,” read the USDA’s internal newsletter “Greening Headquarters Update,” dated Monday, June 23.
The piece — which pointed out that animal agriculture is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and uses up large amounts of resources — was revoked Wednesday after the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) roundly condemned the agency’s anti-meat stance, calling it an “animal rights extremist campaign to ultimately end meat consumption.”
“This is truly an awakening statement by USDA, which strongly indicates that USDA does not understand the efforts being made in rural America to produce food and fiber for a growing global population in a very sustainable way,” said NCBA President J.D. Alexander in a statement Wednesday. “USDA was created to provide a platform to promote and sustain rural America in order to feed the world. This move by USDA should be condemned by anyone who believes agriculture is fundamental to sustaining life on this planet.”
Lawmakers from beef-producing states also criticized the agency’s Meatless Monday endorsement.
“I will eat more meat on Monday to compensate for stupid USDA recommendation abt [sic] a meatless Monday,” tweeted Senator Chuck Grassley Grassley (R-IA) Wednesday.
Grassley’s sentiments were echoed by representative Steve King (R), also of Iowa.
“USDA HQ meatless Mondays!!! At the Dept. Of Agriculture? Heresy! I’m not grazing there. I will have double rib-eye Mondays instead,” he tweeted.
By Wednesday afternoon, USDA’s press center had tweeted the following statement:
“USDA does not endorse Meatless Monday. Statement on USDA site posted w/o proper clearance. It has been removed.”
The announcement was greeted with approval by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

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“USDA did right by scrapping this statement and acknowledging the important role of America’s farm and ranch families in providing food for the world,” said NCBA in a statement later that day.
“USDA denouncing support of the Meatless Monday campaign is an important step in correcting misinformation about the safety and sustainability of U.S. beef production.”

Rawesome Foods Founder Arrested

dairycowcages-406.jpgIn the latest news in the ongoing raw-milk legal saga, 65-year-old James Stewart, founder of Rawesome Foods in Los Angeles County, California, was strong-armed on July 26 by a trio of tough-looking men in street clothes driving unmarked luxury cars who handcuffed him and then slammed him against the back of a car, pressing his face up against the window.

Rawesome Foods is a members-only co-op that specializes in unprocessed foods, including raw milk.

“Why are you treating me so horribly,” the visibly shaken Stewart asked, as someone videotaped what the trio repeatedly referred to as ‘an arrest.’

As he was led to the back seat of the car, Stewart, his voice breaking with emotion, told the person videotaping the scene, “They’re arresting me.”

From there, he was taken to the Ventura County Jail, where a court officer described him as a “flight risk” and refused to grant bail.

Turns out that the three men were members of a bond bailsman retrieval team, which in California have certain police powers, among them the ability to arrest people who have jumped bail. And it turns out that Stewart had, in fact, jumped bail, having failed to show up for two court appearances.

In one of cases, he was out on a $30,000 bail in Los Angeles County on charges of illegally selling raw milk. In the other, he was out of a $100,000 bail in Ventura County on charges of  illegally raising funds for Sharon Palmer’s Healthy Family Farms, according to an article in The Complete Patient.

Palmer supplies Rawesome Foods with raw goat milk and other dairy products from what is known as a ‘herdshare.’ Under a herdshare arrangement, the members don’t consider themselves as buying the milk since they own the animals. Palmer has no license to sell raw milk in California, a state which does allow retail sales of raw milk but which also has very strict laws governing raw-milk production and sales.

Adding another dimension to this drama, raw-milk dairy farmer Mark McAfee, owner of Organic Pastures, the largest raw-milk producer in the nation, was the person who put up $100,000 in personal collateral for the bond in Venice County. In doing so, he put his house on the line, knowing that if Stewart failed to make the necessary court appearances, he could lose his home.

In an interview with Food Safety News after Stewart’s July 26 arrest, McAfee said that he had contacted the bond company because Stewart had told him he wasn’t going to attend the hearings.

“He refused to do that,” McAfee said. “He said he’d go into hiding.”

Stewart told Natural News that McAfee was there at the arrest and watched him being taken away by the bail-bond trio.

McAfee confirmed that, saying that he was the one who found Stewart.

“I was the one who hired the bail agents to arrest James,” he said.

According to the Complete Patient article, the bail bond agents and McAfee tried to convince Stewart both the day before the arrest and the day of the arrest to turn himself in. But their pleas were in vain.

“I didn’t want to lose my house,” McAfee said, in explaining why he had contacted and worked with the bail bondsmen.

McAfee said Stewart had fired the highly qualified lawyer working on the case and opted instead to work with what McAfee described as a “non-lawyer type” from Las Vegas. He had apparently bought into the notion of the ‘sovereign man,’ which urges people to claim their ‘Common Law Inherent Rights’ and defend themselves against “all levels of abuse from Government and Statutes.”

Canada Kicks Off Genome Mapping of Listeria

Canada is kicking off a $600,000 project to map the genome of Listeria bacteria so that more rapid tests can be developed.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Genome Canada, and Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions are teaming up to help protect consumers from the serious foodborne illness.

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The 18-month research initiative is being funded with $250,000 each from Genome Canada and CFIA, and $100,000 from Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions.
Currently, it takes at least five days to confirm the presence of Listeria.  Genomic mapping could improve accuracy and cut the time it takes for both the government and industry to identify Listeria contamination.
In 2008, a Listeria outbreak caused by ready-to-eat meats produced by Maple Leaf Foods in Toronto killed 22 mostly elderly Canadians. The 40 percent fatality rate was among the highest ever experience in a foodborne illness outbreak anywhere in North America.

New Data on Antimicrobial Resistance a Mixed Bag

While some Salmonella and Campylobacter strains grew in resistance, others fell, finds NARMS

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The federal government has released its 2010 data on antibiotic resistance among Salmonella and Campylobacter in both food animals and humans. While some strains, such as Salmonella Heidelberg, became more resistant to certain drugs between 2009 and 2010, resistance among many serotypes has decreased or remained steady over the past few years.
The figures were published by the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS), housed at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. The program, which tracks trends in resistance among foodborne bacteria, was launched in 1996 as a collaborative effort between FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The 2010 findings varied widely from strain to strain and drug to drug, but a few trends emerged.
Resistance in Salmonella
Between 2009 and 2010, multidrug resistance – resistant to three or more antibiotics – dropped or stayed the same among most non-Typhoidal Salmonella, which are the second most common source of foodborne illness and the leading cause of hospitalization among foodborne pathogens. Overall, multidrug resistance in human isolates was at an all-time low since 1996.
The strain most commonly resistant to three or more drugs was Typhimurium (a non-Typhoidal serotype, contrary to what its name suggests); 44 percent of these isolates were multidrug resistant.
The two strains that grew in resistance between 2009 and 2010 were Salmonella Heidelberg and Salmonella Serotype I 4,[5],12:i:- (some serotypes are not named). The latter serotype has been discovered more and more frequently in humans and meat over the past 10 years, according to Dr. Patrick McDermott, Director of NARMS.
Interestingly, the presence of Salmonella Dublin in food animals has steadily increased since 1997, and this strain accounts for 55 percent of multidrug resistant Salmonella found in cattle at slaughter, which rose 6 percent between 2007 and 2009. The presence of Heidelberg in meat animals rose between 2009 and 2010.
Scientists also found that resistance to ceftriaxone – an antibiotic used to treat human Salmonella infections – was higher in 2010 among Salmonella Heidelberg isolates from both humans and poultry than it had been in 2009, with the exception of isolates from retail chicken breasts.
Ceftriaxone is a member of the cephalosporin class of antimicrobials, which the FDA limited for use in food animals in April of this year in order to “preserve the effectiveness of cephalosporin drugs for treating disease in humans.”
The action prohibits the “extra-label” use of these drugs, meaning that they may not be used at improper dosages or to prevent disease, and only those cephalosporins that are not intended for human or companion animal use may be used in food animals.
“Serotype Heidelberg is an important poultry-associated serotype where ceftriaxone resistance has gone up,” explains McDermott. “FDA will continue to monitor resistance in this serotype following implementation of the extralabel use prohibition.”
According to the NARMS data, ceftriaxone resistance among human strains rose from 8 percent in 2008 to 21 percent in 2009 and again to 24 percent in 2010. Among isolates from chickens at slaughter, resistance to the drug increased from 8.5 percent in 2008 to 18 percent in 2009 and then again to 32 percent in 2010. Resistance in isolates from retail ground turkey and turkeys at slaughter increased from 3.5 percent and 13 percent, respectively, in 2008 to 10 and 33 percent in 2009, and then rose to 24 and 36 percent in 2010.
Among isolates from retail chicken breast, resistance rose from 17 percent in 2008 to 32 percent in 2009 before declining to 24 percent in 2010.
The highest prevalence of ceftriaxone resistance among these meats was found among Typhimurium strains, 81 percent of which were resistant to the drug. Indeed ceftriaxone-resistant Typhumurium has increased in overall prevalence when isolated from chicken breasts, rising from 44 percent in 2007 to 61 percent in 2010.
A similar rise in ceftriaxone resistance was observed in samples taken from animals at slaughter. Resistance in isolates from cattle and turkeys was at its highest since 1997.
In total, the number of samples tested for Salmonella in 2010 included 2,474 samples from humans, 400 from retail meats and 1,073 from healthy food animals at slaughter.

China Sneaks its Chicken in on Man’s Best Friend

Since 2005, pet food imports from China have increased five-fold

by Tony Corbo | Aug 01, 2012
Opinion

The Chinese chicken saga continues…

On July 18, I attended a meeting at the USDA to get an update on the status of poultry exports to the U.S. from the People’s Republic of China. When I returned from the meeting, I saw an email alert from the Food and Drug Administration entitled, “Questions and Answers Regarding Chicken Jerky Treats from China.” The press statement detailed FDA’s investigation into complaints from dog owners who claimed their pets got sick from eating chicken jerky dog treats imported from China. The Chinese will stop at nothing to force its dubious chicken into the U.S. market to unsuspecting consumers, I thought. What an ironic example of how screwed up our food safety system really is.

The USDA has a fairly elaborate process to approve imported meat and poultry products for human consumption. If there are no major issues with the exporting country’s food safety system, it takes about two years between the time a country applies to USDA and publication of the final regulations approving its application. Unfortunately, such a system is not in place for other imported foods that are regulated by the FDA, including pet food.

Food & Water Watch has led a campaign to prevent China to export their poultry products for human consumption since 2005 when the Bush Administration supported regulation to allow China to export processed poultry products to the United States. China first asked the USDA for approval to export its poultry products to the U.S. in 2003. Even though 2004 USDA audits turned up unsanitary conditions in several Chinese poultry plants they visited, and there had been several outbreaks of H5N1 bird flu in Chinese poultry flocks that killed thousands of animals and some humans, the Bush Administration proceeded to propose the new regulation in November 2005 anyway.

Furthermore, the slaughter facilities in China did not meet USDA inspection requirements. So, the proposed regulation restricted any poultry exported to the U.S. to products where the raw poultry came from “approved sources.” At the time, the only “approved sources” were the U.S. or Canada, which meant that North American poultry slaughterhouses could ship their raw carcasses to China to be cooked and the finished products could then be shipped back to the U.S. in order for U.S consumers to “enjoy” them. As ridiculous as that sounds, the Bush Administration approved that rule in April 2006 over the objections of most of the people who commented on the proposed rule, including Food & Water Watch. When the rule was published, USDA estimated that approximately 2.5 million pounds of this exported processed poultry from China would be consumed annually.

Since no U.S. or Canadian poultry processing company stepped forward to take advantage of such a wonderful opportunity, the Chinese stepped up pressure on USDA to permit it to ship processed poultry originating in China directly into the U.S. Then, Congress intervened. Led by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the Congress in 2008 and 2009 explicitly prohibited USDA from spending any money to implement or propose any regulations that would permit China to export processed poultry products to the U.S. In response, China filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) arguing that the U.S. was treating its poultry products unfairly. Big U.S. agribusiness put pressure on the new Obama Administration in 2009 to have the congressional ban lifted because the Chinese had threatened retaliatory action on U.S. agricultural exports to China. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative began to lobby Congress to have the ban lifted. The 2010 spending bill for USDA lifted the ban and China eventually won its WTO case against the U.S.  Even though the Chinese prevailed, it meant that USDA had to restart its review process of the Chinese food safety system.

The Chinese have been less than cooperative in this new review by USDA. According to the verbal report I received from USDA officials on July 18, the Chinese government did not permit USDA inspectors back into their poultry processing facilities until December 2010. USDA inspectors, once again, found food safety deficiencies in those plants. The Chinese wrote to USDA in early 2012 that the deficiencies identified in 2010 audit had been corrected but have yet to schedule a time for USDA inspectors verify Chinese poultry facilities themselves. Why were the Chinese dragging their feet in completing the review process when they have made it such a big trade issue? The July 18 FDA alert on Chinese chicken jerky dog treats offered a major clue. I asked Food & Water Watch’s research department to dig into the volume of pet food imports from China and this is what the found:

Government Releases Food Safety Manual for Pregnant Women

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The two federal agencies in charge of food safety in the U.S. have jointly published a manual of advice for avoiding foodborne illness during pregnancy.
Pregnant women are at higher risk for severe illness from certain foodborne pathogens, including Listeria monocytogenes and Toxoplasma gondii, because hormonal changes render their immune systems more susceptible to infection. Listeria, Toxoplasma and other bugs can be dangerous or even fatal to both the mother and her unborn baby.
Food Safety for Pregnant Women” was released Wednesday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture along with updated versions of five pre-existing food safety booklets for other groups of people at risk for serious illness from food poisoning. These include guides for cancer patients, transplant recipients, people with HIV/AIDS, older adults and people with diabetes.

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[In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit, for research and/or educational purposes. This constitutes ‘FAIR USE’ of any such copyrighted material.]

Food Safety

 

 

E. coli Outbreak Sickens 10 in Germantown, Ohio

ecolifromusda-featured.jpgWhioTV has reported that at least 10 people have fallen ill with E. coli infections after eating at a picnic in Germantown, Ohio, according to the Dayton & Montgomery County Health Department. Approximately six people have been hospitalized, a health department spokesman said.

The exact source of the bacteria is unknown, and information on the strain has not been published. Further inquiries to the health department have not been returned as of press time.

Those ill attended a company picnic featuring 200 to 300 people. More attendees could have fallen ill who have not yet sought medical attention or been counted, the health department said.

Sixty-One Now Sickened with E. coli 0157 in Neff’s Lawn Care Picnic Outbreak

According to Bill Wharton, spokesman for the Dayton & Montgomery County Health Department in Ohio, 61 people have been sickened with E. coli 0157 after attending a picnic held by Neff’s Lawn Care in Germantown. Mr. Wharton said that 11 people have been hospitalized. Mr. Wharton said, “we aren’t releasing any information other than to say we’re investigating the outbreak.” The health department is interviewing picnic attendees and patients, looking at food sources, storage and handling practices, and cross-contamination potential.

Since 200 to 300 people attended the picnic, more cases may be reported. Doctors must report E. coli infections to public health officials. If you or anyone you know attended this picnic and have been sick, please call the Dayton & Montgomery County Health Department at 937-225-4460 to talk to a public health official.

Symptoms of E. coli infections include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea which is often bloody, a mild fever, and sometimes nausea and vomiting. E. coli 0157 infections cannot be treated with antibiotics, since that increases the risk that hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious complication, may occur.

 

Federal Egg Safety Rule Goes into Full Effect

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The government’s Egg Safety Rule, a set of requirements designed to prevent Salmonella contamination at laying facilities, became fully fledged Monday when it went into effect for medium-sized operations after previously applying only to large producers.
Since July of 2010, companies with over 50,000 laying hens have been required to comply with these standards – set forth by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2009 – but as of yesterday the rule now covers facilities with more than 3,000 and less than 50,000 hens.
These regulations do not apply to small producers – those with under 3,000 hens – or companies who sell directly to consumers. A separate guidance was issued for these facilities in 2010.
The rule requires all producers who don’t pasteurize in-shell egg products to test for Salmonella Enteriditis bacteria and to refrigerate eggs at 45 degrees F or less during storage and transportation, starting within 36 hours of when they are laid.
It also says that chicks and young hens may only be sourced from suppliers who monitor for Salmonella. Companies must implement biosecurity, rodent and pest control measures.
According to the rule, if Salmonella is found on eggs or in a laying facility, the eggs must be pasteurized or diverted for non-food use, and the facility must be sanitized.

Georgia Food Processors Get To Dance Around Law

Despite a tough new food safety law and more than a half million spent annually on inspections and lab work, Georgia is not achieving the food safety improvement at the state’s 740 food processing plants that its lawmakers seek.
Perhaps, some say, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black did not get the memo about how serious the Georgia Legislature is about not wanting a repeat of the poison peanut butter produced three years ago by a plant in Blakely, GA.
Black, a former president of the Georgia Agribusiness Council, was elected after the Peanut Corporation of America plant produced peanut butter and peanut paste contaminated with Salmonella, killing nine people and sickening hundreds of others nationwide.
Georgia lawmakers reacted to the outbreak by passing a law requiring the state’s food processors to conduct regular internal pathogen tests and report any positive results to the Department of Agriculture now led by Black.

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But in a performance audit released on June 29, the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts found that just seven positive results were reported during the first 30 months of the program.
As soon as the audit hit the street, Black said he was taking steps to revamp inspections and testing.
“To improve its overall effectiveness and efficiency,” the audit says, “the department should develop a risk-based inspection process.”

The inspection unit’s goal is to conduct a routine inspection of each processing facility every six months.

Study: Farmers Market Employees Rarely Wash Hands

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Employees serving ready-to-eat food at farmers markets may be putting consumers at risk by not washing their hands, according to a recent study from Purdue University.
Researchers observed 18 workers at different Indiana farmers markets and found that none used proper hand washing techniques when cooking or serving prepared foods to customers.
Out of the 900 transactions noted by researchers, 417 required hand washing according to state health code; however, only two attempts at hand washing were made. An “attempt” was defined as rinsing hands but not using soap or drying hands with a disposable towel, meaning that it did not constitute proper hand washing behavior.
“Compliance was practically non-existent,” note the study’s authors.
The study also found that the more tasks one employee had to perform, the more occasions arose where hand washing was needed (and missed). The authors suggest that if labor was divided among employees and each had a specific task, that risk would be minimized.
Adding employees will not help solve this problem, says the study, since those employees could still have different jobs to do.
Farmers markets are becoming an increasingly popular food source. In 1994 there were an estimated 1,755 farmers markets nationwide. By 2009 that number had grown to 5,274, and between 2009 and 2010 it increased by another 16 percent, putting the total at 6,132. The following year, over 1,000 more were established.

New Brunswick Affected By Another E. Coli Outbreak

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Health officials in the capital of the Canadian province of New Brunswick are trying to get ahead of an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 that has put two teenagers the hospital.
A total of four confirmed cases are being investigated in Fredericton. The source of the bacteria remains a mystery.
Victoria Boer, mother of one of the hospitalized teens, told CBC News that health officials are going through her daughter Micaella’s bank statements to figure out where she ate in the days before she fell ill with an E. coli infection.

Hazelnut Safety Improves in Wake of Outbreak and Recalls

Three years ago, hazelnuts started to build up a bad safety record. It began with a recall of 29,861 pounds of shelled nuts for potential Salmonella contamination at the end of 2009, followed by a smaller recall of 75 pounds in January of 2010. Later that year, an E. coli outbreak linked to in-shell filberts sickened 8 Midwesterners over the holiday season.
Before this time, no recorded outbreaks had been tied to U.S. hazelnuts.
This series of events forced domestic hazelnut producers – 99 percent of whom are situated in Oregon’s Willamette Valley – to re-examine growing and shelling processes with an eye to making a safer product.

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Since there are currently no industry-wide safety requirements for hazelnut production, individual producers wishing to improve product safety must make their own standards.
One company that has done this is Willamette Hazelnut Growers (formerly Willamette Filbert Growers), the company that recalled nearly 30,000 pounds of hazelnuts in the winter of 2009 after Salmonella was found on nuts processed by its shelling operation.
The recall was particularly large because the company shells not only its own hazelnuts but also those of other area growers who don’t have shelling equipment.
“The recall was a huge setback for the processing business,” explained Operations Manager Michael Severeid in an interview with Food Safety News. “We had to buy everything back at full price and pay our customers. We had to ship it back and pay for the labor of collecting all of the products. It was very expensive.”

Upstate New York Shigella Outbreak Expands to 45

Almost three weeks after health officials in Upstate New York announced they were investigating a Shigella outbreak affecting 25 people, the estimated victim count has grown to 45.

The outbreak is affecting residents of Onondaga County, which includes the city of Syracuse and is located in the northern central part of the state.
“There are currently 45 cases of Shigella,” reported the Onondaga County Health Department in a statement to Food Safety News. “This includes confirmed, probable, and what New York State Department of Health is considering suspect (cases). We continue to investigate each and every case for linkages but the source remains unknown.”
Shigella infection is characterized by fever, stomach cramps and diarrhea that can be painful and contain blood or mucous. Symptoms usually appear 1 to 3 days after exposure and resolve in about a week.
The Onondaga County Health Department is urging area residents to take the following precautions to avoid the spread of Shigella, which is transferred through food or water contaminated with fecal matter carrying the bacteria.

FDA Found Violations of Food Safety Rules on 40% of Egg Farms

Hard cooked eggsThe FDA has released a new report on egg farms it inspected in 2011. They found violations of egg safety rules used to prevent Salmonella contamination on 40% of the inspected farms, but only 3% of the issues were serious enough for the agency to take action.

Last year, the agency inspected 555 egg laying farms. On 14 of those farms, or 2.7%, inspectors found “egregious” problems that called for an official response, such as an FDA warning letter.  An additional 195 inspections, or 37.9%,  found “significant deficiencies” the agency thinks farmers should be able to correct by themselves.

The problems include the following: lack of a written Salmonella enteritidis prevention plan; failure to test for S. enteritidis during required time periods; failure to divert or test eggs after a positive environmental sample; failure to implement the S. enteritidis prevention plan, Failure to maintain required records; and failure to monitor conditions required for the plan implementation.

 

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Recalls

 

Frozen Desserts Recalled for Undeclared Milk

A California company is recalling various frozen dessert products because they contain a product derived from milk, a known allergen, but milk is not listed as an ingredient.

Arctic Zero, Inc. of Escondido, CA has issued a voluntary recall of 16 oz. pints and chocolate dipped dessert bars produced before February, 2012. The products were made with whey protein, which is made from milk, but milk was not declared as an ingredient on packaging.
Products subject to recall include the following.
Eight varieties sold in 16 oz. pints:
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Carl Rittberger Sr., Inc. Recalls 9,000 Pounds of Deli Items for Listeria Risk

bolognalist-iphone.jpgOhio-based Carl Rittberger Sr., Inc. has recalled roughly 9,000 pounds of fully-cooked deli items because of a possible contamination of Listeria monocytogenes. No illnesses have been reported.

The following products purchased by retailers between June 25 and July 6 have been recalled:
Spiced loaf, breakfast loaf, garlic bologna, German brand bologna, wieners, grillers, kielbasa, straight HB roll and natural casing wieners.
The bacteria was found during routine testing by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. The product that tested positive never left the plant.

Winn-Dixie Recalls Cheeseburger Skillet Dinner for Small Metal Fragments

Winn-Dixie is announcing a recall of their store brand Cheeseburger Macaroni Skillet Dinners because the package may contain small metal fragments. The recalled Winn-Dixie Cheeseburger Macaroni Skillet Dinner product is in a 5.8 ounce package with a UPC number of 2114018080 and a sell-by date of May 14, 2013.  The recalled products were sold in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

The product was shipped to stores on or after May 14, 2012. There have not been any reports received of any injuries associated with the consumption of this product.

 

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Cass-Clay Creamery Recalls Peppermint Bon Bon Ice Cream

Cass-Clay Creamery of North Dakota is recalling Hornbacher’s Peppermint Bon Bon ice cream for undeclared eggs, one of the major food allergens. The recalled Cass-Clay products include the following: Hornbacher’s Peppermint Bon Bon Light (Half gallon/1.89 liter), Schroeder Pepppermint Bon Bon (1.75 quart/1.65 liter) and SunnyBrook Peppermint Bon Bon Light (Half gallon/1.89 liter). The products were distributed in Iowa, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. All code dates are affected by the recall. No illnesses have been reported to date.

A flavoring containing egg yolks was used as an ingredient in the product. Return the products to the store where they were purchased for a full refund. For questions, call the Consumer Affairs line at 1-800-441-4269.

 

 

In Canada, Fresh Peas Recalled for Possible Listeria

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is recalling fresh shelled peas from Thomas Bros. Farm Market because they may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. The recalled fresh shelled peas were sold from Thomas Bros. Farm Market at 5856 Colonel Talbot Road in London Ontario on June 27, 2012. The packages do not have labels.

If you have purchased this product, do not eat it. If you have frozen the peas for later consumption, discard them. There have not been any reported illnesses associated with the consumption of this product. Food contaminated with dangerous bacteria may not look, taste, or smell spoiled. Listeria can cause listeriosis, which can cause symptoms of high fever, headache, neck stiffness, and nausea. Pregnant women may have very mild symptoms, but listeriosis can cause miscarriages and stillbirths. For questions, call the CFIA at 1-800-442-2342, or Thomas Bros. Farm Market at 519-671-8831.

 

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Allergens

 

NIH Study Finds Children With Allergies Have Frequent Reactions

A new study conducted at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, part of the Consortium of Food Allergy Research at the National Institute of Health (NIH), has found that young children with milk or egg allergies have reactions more often than expected.

The research team followed 512 infants, ages 3 to 15 months, for three years. The children in the study had a previous allergic reaction to milk or eggs, or were thought to be allergic to those foods based on positive skin tests. At the beginning of the study, caregivers were given strategies for avoiding milk and egg products, and written emergency plans with epinephrine prescriptions.

The study found that almost 72% of the children in the study had an allergic reaction over the three year period. More than half of the children had more than one reaction. Startlingly, allergenic foods were given to the children on purpose.

Scientists aren’t sure why a parent or caregiver would give a child an allergenic food. It may be that they want to see if the child has outgrown the allergy. The study found that half of the accidental reactions were from food given to the child by parents, stressing the importance of making sure all caregivers, including siblings, babysitters, and teachers are aware of the allergies.

 

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Articles of Interest

 

 

Mad Cow Disease Spreads in Nervous System Before Detection

Cows in the FieldA new study in the American Journal of Pathology has shown that bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as “mad cow” disease”, spreads in the autonomic nervous system (ANS) to the central nervous system (CNS) before it can be detected. Mad cow is a fatal disease in cattle that can be transmitted to humans who eat infected tissue. There isn’t much that scientists know about the spread of the BSE prion in its early incubation period. Other studies have reported that the autonomic nervous system was affected only after the central nervous system is infected.

The autonomic nervous system controls involuntary actions, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and the functions of major organs. It consists of the sympathetic ANS, the parasymphathetic ANS, and the enteric nervous system. The central nervous system is the part that controls your brain and makes up your consciousness; it consists of the brain and spinal cord. It usually takes five years from infection before the disease can be detected. But in the study, 56 calves were infected orally with BSE; samples were collected every four months for the next three and a half years. Scientists found the pathological prion (a misfolded protein that is not alive) in the gut and in the ANS but not in the CNS.

 

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USDA Budget Cut Could Slash 80 Percent of Produce Testing

The nation’s largest pathogen testing program may shut down this month

Public testing for pathogens like E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria on fresh produce will drop by more than 80 percent if a key U.S. Department of Agriculture testing program is eliminated, according to an analysis by Food Safety News.

The USDA’s Microbiological Data Program was zeroed out in the Obama administration’s 2013 budget request and Congress is not seeking funding for the $4.5 million program next year. It is rumored that MDP is set to close down at the end of this month, but the Agricultural Marketing Service, where MDP is housed, would not confirm the program’s status.

Elimination of the testing program has become a public health hot potato. Several media outlets, including the Chicago Tribune, the Associated Press, and the New York Times have weighed into the debate. The Times’ editorial board even called it “a tiny program that matters,” an unusually high profile appeal for an obscure program with a relatively small budget.

This “tiny” program was launched in 2001 simply to collect data about fresh produce contamination, but it now regularly sparks produce recalls when participating state labs find pathogens. Perhaps more importantly, the labs upload any positive test results to the Centers for Disease Control’s PulseNet, which helps public health officials link foodborne illness cases to food products. MDP is also the only federal program that tests for non-O157 E. coli strains like the one that caused the deadly, high profile sprout outbreak in Germany last year.

Both the Obama administration and the fresh produce industry have argued that AMS is the wrong agency to house the nation’s only robust microbiological surveillance program for produce because AMS is focused on marketing, not food safety. Some believe the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has jurisdiction over the safety of produce, would be better equipped to screen produce for harmful pathogens.

FDA gave Food Safety News an overview of its surveillance testing from 2009 to 2012. The agency pulls, on average, 80 percent fewer fresh produce samples for testing than MDP. It is not clear whether FDA plans to, or has the resources to ramp up testing to fill the void that would be left by eliminating MDP testing. FDA did not respond to questions about whether the agency would ramp up testing next year.

The data graphic below compares FDA and MDP produce testing. The FDA numbers include samples collected at ports where fresh produce is imported. As much as 50 to 60 percent of produce consumed in the United States is imported, depending on the season. The numbers below do not include testing FDA may do in the event of an outbreak, which can include product testing from outbreak victims or environmental testing from food facilities.

To view specific testing numbers, hold your cursor over the images. For 2012, the FDA testing numbers are through June 15 and the MDP numbers are projected through the end of July.

 

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International School for Food Protection: 21st Century’s Food Industry Classroom?

Opinion
The newly opened International School for Food Protection (ISFP) was developed to provide an environment different from traditional professional adult learning experiences.
A spokesman said, “The School management team recognizes that experienced food professionals are generally well-versed in their core scientific knowledge, academic education and work experiences. We want to build on their working food industry knowledge to strengthen the critical thinking, decision making and leadership skills that are essential to be an effective food industry professional.”
The ISFP uses Bloom’s taxonomy, a multi-tiered model of classifying thinking according to six cognitive levels of complexity, as the basis for its structured learning approach.
Throughout the years, these levels have often been depicted as a stairway climbing to a higher level of thought. The basic levels are knowledge, comprehension, and application. The highest levels are analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Bloom’s learning objectives are used to define how well a particular skill or competency is learned or mastered.
To meet the complex food safety challenges facing the food industry, the ISFP curriculum was developed to go well beyond current education and training standards. Introductory courses are designed to allow students to learn the complex interdependencies that characterize the global food supply environment.  That knowledge serves as a building block to move to more advanced levels of learning.
Successive courses introduce students to the higher order thinking skills: analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Upon completion of the courses, students should gain a mastery of critical thinking, decision-making and the essential skills necessary to be an effective leader in the globalized food protection environment.
The ISFP curriculum is influenced by science and technology to reflect the changes taking place in the food industry.  It encourages people to look at old problems in new ways in order to find unique solutions. Courses teach the newest science- and risk-based methods and implementing technologies to help food enterprises increase their competitive advantage across areas including food defense, food safety, asset management and protection, bio-safety, information technology, critical infrastructure protection, business intelligence, risk management and organizational transformation.

Jensen Farms Cantaloupe Listeria Cases Must Be Filed by September 14

Jensen Farms, the company that grew and shipped the cantaloupes that caused the large Listeria outbreak last summer has filed for bankruptcy. The United States Bankruptcy Court in Colorado has approved the motion, and a date has been set for filing of claims.

All people who assert a claim based on the outbreak of listeriosis must file it by 5:00 pm Eastern Time on or before September 14, 2012. It’s important that anyone who was affected by this outbreak file a claim to receive compensation for their injuries. The court is ordering that Jensen Farms make available $4 million in settlement money, from its insurance policy, insurers of the equipment the facility used, and from the third-party auditor who failed to discover contamination at the plant just before the outbreak occurred.

The company faces seven personal injury lawsuits and 12 wrongful death suits. That outbreak was one of the deadliest in U.S. history, killing at least 35 people and sicking 146 in 28 states before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared the outbreak over on December 8, 2011 and released its final report. The outbreak began on September 2, 2011, when the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment notified the CDC about seven patients who were sick with the same strain of Listeria bacteria.

 

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Individuals and Companies Should be Prosecuted for Foodborne Outbreaks

As one of the few food safety lawyers in America, I’m often asked whether I believe that America’s food supply is the safest in the world. The short answer is: “I have no idea” – and if you’re one of the thousands of Americans sickened each year by foodborne illness, it’s no comfort knowing that some countries have food less safe than the product that shut down your kidneys or killed your loved one.

The real questions about food safety have nothing to do with overweening national pride. In fact, there are only two questions that make any sense at all: “Can our food system be safer?” and “What steps have to be taken to make it so?”

Since no one honestly doubts that our food safety system can and should be better, let me focus on answering the second question (based on what I’ve learned litigating the failures of companies implicated in foodborne illness outbreaks). I will address these issues in the weeks to come but begin with a deficiency I find particularly galling – the failure to prosecute individuals and companies responsible for outbreaks.

If while driving a car, I go too fast, take my eyes off the road or drive while intoxicated, and someone ends up paralyzed or dead, I’m going to be prosecuted. And I should be. So why should a food producer that ignores accepted principles of food safety (or, worse, the company’s own food safety systems) not have to fear criminal prosecution when scores of Americans are sickened or killed by the company’s egregious conduct?

I can think of a number of recent outbreaks – the Peanut Corporation of America Salmonella outbreak, the Jensen Farms Rocky Ford cantaloupe Listeria outbreak and the Wright County egg Salmonella outbreak – that may have warranted criminal prosecution. Sadly, it appears that, short of declaring a company’s intent to sicken as many folks as possible, miscreant food producers have nothing to fear.

 

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California GMO Labeling Law Named Prop. 37

gmotomatoes-406.jpgCalifornia’s Office of the Secretary of State announced on Monday that the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, also known as the GMO labeling initiative, will appear on voter ballots as Proposition 37 for the November 6 elections.

If passed, Prop. 37 would make California the first state in the U.S. to require labeling of most foods made with genetically modified organisms — those given specific changes to their DNA through genetic engineering techniques.

Polls conducted by various organizations in recent years have found that roughly 90 percent of Californians support labeling for genetically engineered (GE) foods. But regardless of the polls, leaders of California’s GE labeling movement are still preparing for a fight on the road to election day.

“We certainly have huge support, but we’re not taking anything for granted. There’s a big effort to fight it and we’re worried about the money that will be put toward that effort,” California Right to Know campaign spokeswoman Stacy Malkan told Food Safety News.

GE labeling is already law in nearly 50 countries, including China, Japan and each European state. Alaska requires labeling of GE fish and shellfish, making it the only U.S. state with any type of GE labeling law.

Earlier this year, three-quarters of U.S. Senators rejected a federal GE labeling bill. Nearly 20 states have had similar bills turned down in congress in the past year.
Most major food corporations oppose GE labeling, citing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s requirement that GE ingredients be labeled if they’re determined to exhibit a difference in nutritional value or level of safety.

 

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FDA Takes Action Against WI Livestock Dealer for Drug Residues

In response to a permanent injunction filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a Wisconsin livestock company and its owner have entered into a consent decree of permanent injunction over alleged illegal drug residues in cows meant for human consumption.

According to the complaint filed, Dan Nolan Livestock LLC and its owner, Daniel W. Nolan of Bonduel, Wisc., did not maintain adequate animal treatment records concerning the drug treatment of food animals.

In a release on Tuesday, the FDA said its inspectors also found that the company and Nolan used “new animal drugs illegally, and did not adequately distinguish between medicated and non-medicated animals for sale for use as human food.”

U.S. District Judge William C. Griesbach of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin signed the consent decree on July 9, 2012.

“The FDA took the action because it is concerned about the sale of animals for human food that may contain levels of animal drugs and could have the potential for adverse effects on human health,” the agency said in a statement.

“Among other requirements, the company and Nolan must implement a system that identifies the source of each animal and whether the animal was medicated. The firm also must implement a drug inventory and accountability system and provide purchasers, receivers, and consignees with written statements describing how the animal was medicated, or stating that the animal was not medicated.”

“If the FDA finds that the defendants are not in compliance with the decree, the agency may require defendants to cease selling and delivering any food animals. Failure to obey the terms of the consent decree could also result in civil or criminal penalties.”

 

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Wisconsin Sizzlers Vindicated in State Supreme Court

After 12 long years, litigation stemming from one week in July 2000 when 150 customers of Sizzler Restaurants in Layton and Mayfair, Wisconsin were infected with E. coli O157:H7 and causing the death of three-year-old Brianna Kriefall is finally over.
Michael Martin, spokesman for Excel Corp, says the company is “relieved this litigation has concluded.” Excel was Sizzler’s meat supplier.

justicescales-iphone.jpgBut Sizzler’s lawyer, Fred L. Gordon, says it could have been over years ago if only

Excel would have stepped forward and accepted responsibility for the outbreak instead of digging in its corporate heels.
The irony is that Cargill-owned Excel could have saved millions by settling sooner, according to Gordon.
Gordon, the San Diego-based attorney for the two Sizzler franchises, has been representing restaurants implicated in outbreaks since the precedent-setting Jack-in-the-Box case.
After the 2000 Sizzler outbreak, plaintiffs’ lawyers filed lawsuits on behalf of the sickened customers, including a wrongful death suit on behalf of Brianna Kriefall. It would take until 2005 for all these cases to be settled, but Sizzler payed all plaintiffs’ medical bills over the year following the outbreak, which took a lot of pressure off of the victims.
In the wrongful death lawsuit, the Kriefall plaintiffs settled for $10.5 million, including $8.5 million from Excel and $2 million from Sizzler & E&B, Sizzler’s management company.
The other 138 plaintiffs were paid from a $3.5 million E&B insurance fund based on the severity of their injuries. Another $1 million went to the Kriefalls.
Money paid out to the victims, however, came ahead of the jury trial which assigned liability, so Excel wasn’t on or off the hook yet. Contaminated beef tips were only part of the story, as restaurant workers had allowed cross contamination with salad bar items including watermelon. Brianna Kriefall had eaten only watermelon.
It would be up to the jury to sort out how the businesses involved divided up the costs.

Research Linking Chicken to Bladder Infections Gets National Attention

There is growing evidence that there may be a link between bacteria on meat and antibiotic-resistant urinary tract infections in people — and that link is starting to get high profile media attention.

On Wednesday, ABC ran a segment featuring the latest research on both Good Morning America and World News with Diane Sawyer, programs with a combined daily viewership of more than 10 million. ABC called the research “compelling new evidence of a direct link between the pervasive, difficult-to-cure human disease and the antibiotic-fed chicken people buy at the grocery store.”

Canadian researchers recently published a study in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Emerging Infectious Diseases journal that found genetic similarities between E. coli from animals sampled at slaughterhouses and the E. coli that causes UTIs and suggested that chickens were the most likely reservoir for the bacteria. Most recently, some of the same researchers published a study in the journal of Foodborne Pathogens and Disease that found retail poultry meat had the highest levels of drug-resistant E. coli.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the second most common type of infection in the body, accounting for 8.1 million visits to health care providers in the United States each year and around $1-2 billion per year in health care costs. Around 85 percent of these infections are caused by extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli, or ExPEC, which doctors long assumed came from patient’s own intestines. New research, however, has been looking at outside sources as potentially part of the problem.

“What this new research shows is, we may in fact know where it’s coming from. It may be coming from antibiotics used in agriculture,” said Maryn McKenna, a reporter for the Food & Environment Reporting Network, which worked with ABC news on their investigation. McKenna, a leading infectious disease journalist and the author of Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA, penned an in depth piece for The Atlantic that also ran on Wednesday.

“The researchers contend that poultry — especially chicken, the low-cost, low-fat protein that Americans eat more than any other meat — is the bridge that allows resistant bacteria to move to humans, taking up residence in the body and sparking infections when conditions are right,” wrote McKenna. “Touching raw meat that contains the resistant bacteria, or coming into environmental contact with it — say, by eating lettuce that was cross-contaminated — are easy ways to become infected.”

SNAP Will Replace Food Lost in Disasters

Many who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) can be in real trouble when they lose food in a natural disaster. When the power goes out for more than four hours, perishable foods become unsafe to eat and must be tossed.

Food Poisoning Bulletin contacted the Food and Nutrition Service of the USDA and was told that anyone who lost food that was purchased with SNAP can request replacement coupons from their local human service office. Those requests are time-sensitive, so it’s important that recipients know about this program and act quickly. Foods that are eligible for SNAP benefits include breads, cereals, fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, poultry, dairy products, seeds for food and plants that produce food.

 

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[In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit, for research and/or educational purposes. This constitutes ‘FAIR USE’ of any such copyrighted material.]

Food Safety

 

 

Shigella Outbreak in Onondaga County, New York

Dr. Cynthia Morrow, Commissioner of Health for Onondaga County in New York state, announced on June 22, 2012 that there are 15 lab confirmed and 10 probable cases of shigellosis in that county. More cases are expected as the investigation continues.

“Shigellosis is an infectious disease called by a group of bacteria called Shigella,” she explained. “It is associated with consuming water or products contaminated with fecal matter. The incubation period is 1 – 3 days. Many people who are infected with Shigella develop fever, painful bloody or mucous diarrhea, and stomach cramps. Shigellosis usually resolves in 5 – 7 days. The disease is often worse in children and medical treatment is sometimes necessary in severe cases.”

 

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Shigella Outbreak in Onondaga County, New York Grows

Kathy Mogel, Program Coordinator of the Onondaga County Health Department told Food Poisoning Bulletin that there are 20 confirmed cases of Shigella in that county. There are news reports that there are as many as 34 cases, but we’re reporting what the Health Department tells us.

Ms. Mogel said that the age range of patients is from 2 to 84, with about 50% of the cases occurring in children under the age of 10. The Department believes that person to person transmission, also called secondary transmission, is a “significant factor” in the outbreak.

The Health Department is investigating the original source but has not pinpointed one as of June 27, 2012.

 

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CA Writes Food Safety Standards for Cantaloupes

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California cantaloupes will soon come with the assurance that they meet strict food safety standards, thanks to a mandatory statewide program that includes both announced and unannounced inspections and certification under government oversight.
The plan is for the program to begin this season, which lasts into the fall, but approval of an audit checklist by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is still forthcoming. The goal is to get that done as quickly as possible.
A historic move, this is the state’s first mandatory food safety program implemented by a commodity board. In designing this program – which covers each step of the melon production process from the field to the produce department – the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board collaborated with Western Growers; Trevor Suslow, food safety research specialist at the University of California-Davis Extension; and food safety scientists at Intertox, a risk management firm. The goal was to come up with a program tailored to FDA-approved food safety guidelines for growing, shipping and packing conditions in California.
The board approved the guidelines earlier this month.
A heavy hitter, California provides 70 percent of the cantaloupes sold in this country. During the state’s 5-month season, the industry typically packs and ships around 30 million cartons of cantaloupes. A carton contains 12 to 18 cantaloupes.
These guideline may appear to be a bold, new move on the part of the industry, but Stephen Patricio, chairman and CEO of Westside Produce – a grower, packer and shipper of cantaloupe and honeydew melons – told Food Safety News that this heavy push for food safety is actually a continuation of “business as usual.”
“California’s shippers and handlers have been following food safety standards guidance for the past 20 years,” he said. “It’s part of our culture. We’re proud of our record.”
Patricio says he likes the new program because it has the benefit of setting California cantaloupes apart from cantaloupes from other states and countries.
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“We’ve been meeting these standards with no means to distinguish ourselves,” he said. “Now we have the authority to mandate. This will give us government validation for what we’re doing.”
Auditors from the California Department of Food and Agriculture will be working under USDA authority.
Patricio describes the new program as “the right thing to do.”
“We want to be here long-term and to continue providing safe and healthy food for customers, as well as for our families and workers.”
Pointing to the 100 percent thumbs-up of the program by those voting, Patricio described that as “absolutely unprecedented.
The vote also included a thumbs-up to raising assessments from 1.2 cents per carton to 2 cents per carton to help pay for the program.
UC food safety researcher Suslow told Food Safety News that it’s always “a step forward to demonstrate through independent, objective, and standardized audits that an industry sector has the highest level of compliance with a continually evolving framework for food safety — in this case 100 percent.”
He also said that the review process is still ongoing, which means that the specifics of the final marketing order standards are not yet established.
A marketing order is a concerned group of of agricultural professionals or growers who band together to support their commodity and partner with their state’s agriculture department to make sure everything is done correctly. As such, it is a quasi state authority.
Like Patricio, John Gilstrap of Monfort Management, who manages the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board, told Food Safety News that the new program is great news for consumers.
“It will give them peace of mind about California cantaloupes,” he said. “They’ll know that they’ve been grown and handled under the safest conditions possible. It allows us to establish consumer confidence in a product. We hope it will set us apart, if and when a foodborne illness outbreak connected to cantaloupes grown somewhere else happens.”
Another plus, he said, is that “inspectors can shut a place down if they see health problems.”
He also described the program as the “gold standard” for other states, some of which are crafting similar programs.

CSPI Finds Varying Levels of Chemical 4-MI in Coke

Months after Coca-Cola reformulated its soda sold in California to reduce the level of chemical 4-methylimidazole (4-MI or 4-MEI) so that it would not need a carcinogen warning label, the company has not yet tweaked its formulation for other states and countries, new test results show.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest found that Coca-Cola sold abroad contains varying levels of the chemical, which is found in the caramel coloring used to make cola dark brown. The compound has shown to be carcinogenic in some animal studies and CSPI has petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban 4-MI from food products.

Coca-Cola from Brazil was found to contain 267 micrograms (mcg) of the carcinogen in a 12 ounce can. The same product from Kenya had 177 mcg per 12 ounces. Samples taken from Canada, the United Arab Emirates, Mexico and the United Kingdom ranged from 144 mcg to 160 mcg per 12 ounces.

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Since the state of California recently added 4-MI to its list of carcinogens that must be labeled if found at a certain level, Coca-Cola modified its process to circumvent adding a warning label. The company said at the time that it would eventually expand the use of low 4-MI caramel coloring across the United States and worldwide.

CSPI found just 4 mcg per 12 ounces in soda from the redwood state, but found 144 mcg per 12 ounces in the same product purchased in the District of Columbia. The California law requires food companies to label their product if it would lead to consumers consuming 30 mcg or more each day.

Tempeh Salmonella Case Highlights Illnesses that Fall through the Cracks

tempeh-406.jpgStopping at a café during a trip to Asheville, North Carolina with family this past March, Mary Ann Hurtado decided to order a veggie sandwich while everyone else chose something with meat. It was a choice she regularly made — she’s not a vegetarian by any means, but she does love vegetables.

But less than a week after eating this particular dish, Hurtado found herself lying on a hospital bed back home in Jacksonville, Florida. She had been so sick she couldn’t walk across the room. Her physician decided to connect her to a potassium I.V. drip — the most painful I.V. she’d felt in her life.

A registered nurse, Hurtado spent two nights in the hospital — the same one where she works — before being released with 10 days’ worth of antibiotics. It wasn’t until a week after she was discharged that she finally learned why she got sick: She had contracted a Salmonella infection, but at the time it was impossible to say where it came from.

As it turned out, Hurtado’s sandwich contained unpasteurized tempeh — a soy-based food — from an Asheville-based producer called Smiling Hara. More than a month after she ate her sandwich, Smiling Hara tempeh was identified as the source of a Salmonella Paratyphi B outbreak that had sickened at least 89 people in 5 states. The company had already issued a voluntary recall days earlier, following suspicion its tempeh might have been the source.

“The chills were just so bad – just miserable,” Hurtado said, speaking of her illness a day prior to her emergency room visit. “I was shaking so hard in the bed that I had to move to the couch so I wouldn’t wake up my husband.”

But while Hurtado became so ill that she required hospitalization and I.V. treatment, she is not included among the 89 victim case count and likely never will be. That’s because of technicalities surrounding the identification of her infection.

The bacterial isolate that confirmed her Salmonella infection was never serotyped, meaning that the specific strain was never identified and Hurtado’s infection will never be genetically linked to the strain found in samples of Smiling Hara’s tempeh. In short, she’s in a sort of classification limbo, neither officially confirmed as part of the outbreak nor confirmed to be excluded from it — and she’s likely not alone.

29 out of 30

Considering the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 29 out of 30 Salmonella infections go unreported, Hurtado is potentially one of thousands of people sickened by the tempeh outbreak who will never be counted, either because of epidemiological technicalities or — more often — they just didn’t seek medical attention.

In Hurtado’s case, she fell through the cracks of the outbreak investigation because of where she was hospitalized. While many state health departments — including North Carolina’s — try to identify all cases of foodborne pathogen infections, some states’ do not.

Florida is one that does not typically serotype. Tests that identify bacterial strains cost additional money, which some states choose not to spend. A spokesman for the Florida Department of Health told Food Safety News that the state typically only serotypes isolates “on identified need for enhanced surveillance or suspected outbreak investigation.”

If Hurtado had been hospitalized in North Carolina, she’d likely have a confirmed serotype and been included in the official case count, according to Hurtado’s attorney Bill Marler. Marler’s law firm, Marler Clark, specializes in foodborne illness litigation and underwrites Food Safety News.

Hurtado recently filed the first lawsuit against Smiling Hara and Tempeh Online, the retailer that sold Smiling Hara the Salmonella-contaminated spore culture used to make their tempeh.

Currently, the only states considered to have cases in this outbreak are North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Michigan. New York was originally thought to have a case, but that individual was placed under the banner of North Carolina because they attend college in Asheville.

When Hurtado’s county health department learned of her Salmonella infection, they uploaded her information to a statewide infection database. From there, the Florida Department of Health likely included Hurtado’s basic information in a generalized weekly report to the CDC.

The CDC often coordinates information between states involved in multistate outbreaks, including the Smiling Hara outbreak. But without any serotype information, Hurtado’s infection would not stand out as having any connection to an outbreak. In effect, it looked exactly like the numerous other isolated infections the CDC sees on a weekly basis.

“At this point, it’s not likely [Hurtado] will be considered anything other than another Florida Salmonella case,” said Dr. William Keene, senior epidemiologist for Oregon Public Health. Keene was not involved in the Smiling Hara outbreak investigation, but is considered one of the eminent epidemiologists in public health.

“She’s got the exposure. She was in the right place when the outbreak happened, but without her isolate being compared to the outbreak strain, you can’t really know [she was infected in the outbreak] for sure,” Keene added.

Castle Farms Granted Temporary Permit To Sell Raw Milk

Castle Farms, the farm in Irving, New York that earlier this month was ordered to stop selling raw milk after random testing by the New York State Department of Agriculture  (NYDA) produced a positive result of  E.coli 0157:H7, has been granted a temporary permit to sell raw milk while it undergoes further testing, according to the NYDA.

The temporary permit was granted after a subsequent test for pathogens was negative according to and NYDA official. At least two more negative tests will be required before the permanent permit is reinstated, the official said. In New York, all farms that sell raw milk must be permitted and are inspected monthly.

 

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Scotland Going Independent On Food Safety

It’s not really going down like the plot of “Braveheart,” but the coming 2014 on Scottish Independence is already having large ramifications on food safety regulation in the United Kingdom.
The Scottish Government is pulling out of the UK’s Food Standards Agency, opting instead to set up its own independent Scottish food standards body. The new Scottish agency will be responsible for food safety, food standards, nutrition, food labeling, and meat inspection.

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The independence move actually stems more from the 2010 decision by the UK Government to move food labeling and standards from FSA to UK’s Department of Health and Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and not necessarily in spirit of the planned 2014 Independence vote.
When that decision was announced, the Scottish Government asked Professor Jim Scudamore to conduct an independent review of its options including the stand-alone agency. The Scudamore panel took oral and written testimony from 40 stakeholders over several months, it published its report in April, calling for Scotland to go it alone.
“The changes in England removed significant capacity in the FSA’s nutrition and labeling functions for Scotland and needed to be addressed,” said Michael Matheson, Scotland’s health minister.
Matheson said the Scottish Government have accepted the Scudamore recommendations.” A new body will allow a Scottish approach to be taken to tackle poor diet and food-borne diseases and should support our food and drink industry in growing its strong, international reputation for safe, quality food.”

 

 

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Study: Salmonella’s pH Sensors Trigger Virulence

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Salmonella bacteria rely on internal pH sensors to initiate their virulent traits after sensing heightened acidity in their environment, according to a study conducted by researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine and the Yale Microbial Diversity Institute.
The findings, published in the June 14 issue of Nature, could someday lead to drugs that disrupt the bacteria’s ability to cause typhoid fever and foodborne illness in humans.
Here’s how the sensors work: When the bacterium senses a change into an acidic environment, it begins producing Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the “energy currency” for all living cells. This boost of ATP production creates a protein that in turn activates a number of characteristics within the bacterium, including characteristics related to survival and virulence.

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Recalls

 

 

Salmonella Prompts Organic Sprouts Recall

After routine sampling turned up Salmonella, Mountain Sprouts is recalling organic sprouts under the following names: 4 ounce zesty greens, 5 ounce sprout salad, 4 ounce clover, 2 pound clover, 4 ounce alfalfa/broccoli, 4 ounce alfalfa sprouts, as well as 1 and 2 pound alfalfa sprouts.

According to a company press release, the sprouts were distributed through retail stores and wholesalers in California.

The products come in a 4 or 5 ounce clear, plastic, clamshell container and a 1 or 2 pound ziplock bag with a sell by date from 6/17/12 to 7/6/12.

 

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Banner Mountain Sprouts Voluntarily Recalls Organic Sprouts Because of Possible Health Risks
Photos

Recalled 1lb Alfalfa Sprouts

Recalled 1lb Clover Sprouts

Recalled 2lb Alfalfa Sprouts

Recalled 4oz Alfafla Sprouts

Recalled 4oz Alfalfa Broccoli Sprouts

Recalled 4oz Clover Sprouts

Recalled 4oz Zesty Greens

Recalled 5oz Sprout Salad

 

 

 

Possible Listeria-Contaminated Queso Fresco in New York City

quesowarning-featured.jpgNew Yorkers were warned Friday to avoid “Queso Fresco, Fresh Cheese” products made by Mexicali Cheese Corp. in Woodhaven, New York due to a possible Listeria contamination.

The product is packaged in a “rigid” 14 oz. plastic tub that displays a plant number of 36-0128 and a code of 071512.
The product was packaged in containers bearing the following names: ‘Mexicali Queso Fresco Medicano,’ ‘Mexican Style Fresh Cheese’ and ‘Acatlan Queso Fresco, Fresh Cheese.’

Salmonella Risk Prompts Dietary Supplement Recall

cataplex.jpgStandard Process Inc. of Palmyra, Wisconsin is voluntarily recalling three dietary supplements due to potential Salmonella Contamination:

  • Cataplex ACP (Product numbers 0700 and 0750) Lot 114
  • Cataplex C (Product numbers 1650 and 1655) Lot 114
  • Pancreatophin PMG (Product number 6650) Lot 114

 

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Food Warnings

 

 

Alakanater Brand Tahina May Contain Salmonella

In Canada, the CFIA and Phoenicia Group Inc. are recalling Tahina (sesame seed paste) because it may be contaminated with Salmonella.

Product details:

  • Alkanater brand Tahina
  • 454 gram containers
  • UPC number 6 92551 00002 0
  • Lot code TT3N-280312
  • Codes PRO: 28/03/2012 AND EXP: 28/03/2014
  • Distributed in Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Quebec and may have been distributed nationally

No illnesses have been reported in association with the consumption of this product. For questions, call the Phoenicia Group Inc. at 514-389-6363 or the CFIA at 1-800-442-2342.

 

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Lettuce Caused New Brunswick E. coli Outbreak

romainelettuce2-406.jpgAn E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in New Brunswick, Canada that sickened at least 18 people in April has been linked to romaine lettuce, health officials announced Friday. Food Safety News covered this outbreak in May when it was linked to Jungle Jim’s Eatery, but the specific food responsible remained a mystery.

Ill persons ate at Jungle Jim’s Eatery in Miramichi between April 23 and 26. The lettuce was served in salads, wraps and hamburgers.

 

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Articles of Interest

 

 

Can Animals Make Us Sick? Yes.

Animal Health was the topic of a June 22 event on Capitol Hill called “From Fido to Food Safety: Roles, Responsibilities and Realities Veterinarians Face in Protecting Public Health,” that was hosted by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Animal Health Institute.

During his keynote address, USDA Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford, stated that zoonotic diseases, which are diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans, have accounted for 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases among humans over the last three decades.

Zoonotic diseases include diseases that can be contracted from contact with live animals such as rabies or Lyme’s disease and from animals used as a food sources such as Salmonella and E.coli.

 

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107 Treated for Gastrointestinal Illness at Notre Dame Sports Camp

At least 107 people have been treated for gastrointestinal illness in an unidentified outbreak linked to a University of Notre Dame sports camp, the university reported Wednesday afternoon.

The number of those treated rose after the university first reported that youth sports camp participants had fallen ill just hours earlier.

“Some 80 youth sports camp participants at the University of Notre Dame were treated today on campus and at local hospitals for a gastrointestinal illness. All have been successfully treated for symptoms that are typical of the stomach flu and short-lived,” said the university in a statement issued around noon on Wednesday. “The cause of the illness is unknown, though it may be related to food or a virus and was not associated with any physical activity. The University is working with the St. Joseph County Health Department in an effort to determine the cause.”

 

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FDA Clears Faster Blood Test for the Market

Listeria, MRSA, Streptococcus, and Enterococcus can all be identified much quicker by  the Verigene GP Blood  Culture Nuclear Acid Test (BC-GP), which got marketing approval from the U.S, Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The Verigene test is manufactured by Northbrook, IL-based Nanosphere.
FDA’s decision was based on the study of 1,642 patient blood samples obtained from incubated blood culture bottles that contained gram-positive bacteria.  The study included a comparison of BC-GP and traditional blood culture laboratory methods.

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The quicker Verigene test was consistent with traditional blood culture methods 93 percent of the time.

USDA Makes Progress on Alternatives To Antibiotics

USDA scientists at College Station, TX have discovered that providing sodium chlorate in the drinking water or feed of livestock will reduce the intestinal concentrations of bacteria harmful to humans.
The research is significant because it may lead to alternatives to antibiotics in animal agriculture now used to reduce or eliminate disease-causing pathogens.

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The findings by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Food and Feed Research Unit at College Station are being published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Animal Science.
The organic compounds could be used to check pathogen growth in pork and beef.
The researchers say sodium chlorate has been used in agricultural applications for over 100 years.
“To date, the body of literature suggests that chlorate salts are active against human pathogens such as Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7; that chlorate salts are very well tolerated by most species of animals; and that chlorate is metabolized in food and laboratory animals to a single, non-toxic metabolite,” the researchers wrote.  “Collectively, these results suggest that chlorate salts could be developed into a useful and safe feed or water additive for use in livestock.

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[In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit, for research and/or educational purposes. This constitutes ‘FAIR USE’ of any such copyrighted material.]