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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