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Congress Committee Blasts USDA Over Mad Cow Handling

February 17, 2004
By Michelle Esteban
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A U.S. House Committee sent a blistering letter to the U.S. Agriculture Secretary Monday about how it handled our state's first case of mad cow disease.The congressional leaders demanded to know why the Agriculture Secretary has continued to insist that the Washington cow that tested positive for mad cow disease was a "downer" and could not walk, and that's why it tested the animal.But members of the House Government Reform committee say three witnesses insist the infected cow not only stood but walked the day it was slaughtered.In a sworn affidavit, David Louthan, an employee at Moses Lake Meats, Inc. Slaughter-house testified: "That cow was a walking cow."

Hauler Randy Hull testified, "The cow walked onto the hauling trailer." The slaughter-house's co-manager, Thomas Ellestad told congressional leaders: "Efforts to portray our plant as a downer plant could be considered a smokescreen."The letter, written by Virginia Republican Tom Davis and California Democrat Henry Waxman, says this new information challenges USDA policy that the only reason to test a cow is if it is a downer or shows symptoms of nerve damage.

"If this information is true," the Congressmen write, "it could have serious implications for both the adequacy of the national BSE surveillance system and the credibility of the USDA."The committee wants an investigation into the contradiction and thinks the surveillance program should be expanded.We could not reach the USDA for comment.

Ways To A Safe Kitchen
NEW YORK, Feb. 17, 2004
(CBS) In The Early Show's new "Safe and Sound" series, personal safety concerns will be addressed. On Tuesday morning, Dr. Philip Tierno Jr., director of clinical microbiology at New York University Medical Center and author of "The Secret Life of Germs," helped launch "Safe and Sound" with kitchen cleaning tips that will help put kitchens out of harm's way. He says if a kitchen isn't cleaned right, you may be doing more harm than good by spreading food-borne bacteria (or germs) that can make you and your family sick.
Dr. Tierno says the kitchen is the dirtiest place in the house. It's even dirtier than the bathroom because the kitchen is where the meats are prepared.Dirty kitchen sponges and dishrags are the primary culprits. Dr. Tierno says they are the most infectious source of bacteria in the home. Food-borne bacteria, such as E-coli and salmonella, hide in the pores of the sponge and resurface every time they are used. People unknowingly may get an upset stomach or diarrhea from the germs they were exposed to from a kitchen sponge.

According to a study sponsored by Brillo, in which Dr. Tierno was involved, the results showed that half of the people surveyed use the same sponge to wipe the cutting board, the counter and even the dishes.

Here are Dr. Tierno's tips for the kitchen safety:
Dishrags and Sponges: Let the sponge or dishrag completely dry. Bacteria cannot survive in a dry environment. To clean dishrags, soak them in a solution of bleach and water after each use or use an anti-bacterial soap.
Some think putting a sponge in a microwave cleans it, but Dr. Tierno says it won't work unless you put the sponge in water and then turn the microwave on. He says the microwave has dead spots, so you need the water to heat up and dissipate throughout the sponge. Garbage Pail: Dr. Tierno says the next dirtiest place in the kitchen is the garbage pail. When you pull out the garbage and replace it with a new liner, you can easily contaminate whatever surface the bottom of the bag touches. If the plastic bag has a hole in it and the contents, perhaps meat juices, leak into the bottom, use a disinfectant to clean it. If you pull the bag out and you don't see anything on the bottom, spray the garbage can with an aerosol disinfectant.

Butcher Block: For those who have wondered if a wood butcher block contains more germs in comparison to plastic boards that are used for food preparation, Dr. Tierno says wood is better. He said that it doesn't capture salmonella. If you slice a plastic board while slicing and dicing, the germs get trapped where the cuts are made. Dr. Tierno recommends using an antibacterial product to clean plastic. He recommends disinfecting the board periodically with one ounce of bleach and a quart of water.

Refrigerator: Throw out old food at least twice a month. Clean the refrigerator thoroughly with a disinfectant solution at least once a month. Use any type of detergent or antibacterial solution to clean it.

Mop: After mopping, let the mop soak in the water with disinfectant for 10 minutes. That's how long it takes to work.

Soda Cans: If you don't see any visible dirt, wash the can with water and wipe it. If it's really dirty, clean it thoroughly with soap and water or a waterless antibacterial gel.

Protect Pets: People often throw scraps to pets that they eat on the floor. Dr. Tierno says they can get sick by licking cleaning products that were used to clean the floor. In order to avoid this, rinse the floor with clean water.
Dr. Tierno says antibacterial products work, and it's not creating a super germ ?as some fear.
People and kitchens can never be too clean, says Dr. Tierno, because germs can never be eliminated.

Fisher acquires Oxoid
- 17/02/2004 - Oxoid, one of the leading manufacturers of culture media and diagnostic products for the food and drink industry, will be acquired by Fisher Scientific International.

UK-based microbiology specialist Oxoid was first acquired by PPM Ventures in 2000 following a secondary buyout from Cinven. But definitive agreements were reached this week for US-based Fisher Scientific International to acquire Oxoid for ?77.5 million (262.5m). Fisher Scientific is a $3.6 billion manufacturer and distributor of products to the scientific research, clinical laboratory and safety markets which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The company 10,000 employees located in approximately 145 countries.

Oxoid said that it would continue to operate as a distinct company within the Fisher group of companies and that the Oxoid brand would be retained. The company added that its main manufacturing and administration site would also remain in Basingstoke, UK and its existing network of subsidiaries in Europe, Australia, South America and Canada would be strengthened by Fisher capabilities in the US.

Ever the last few years we have invested in all of our manufacturing sites in the UK, Germany, Canada, Australia, made two acquisitions and expanded our sales infrastructure,?commented Mike Smith, CEO, Oxoid. ”Through our new parent, the programme of investment will continue and Oxoid will seek further opportunities for growth.

WA House passes mad cow bills
OLYMPIA - The state House passed several bills today aimed at fighting mad cow disease and reviving the struggling Washington beef industry. One bill would outlaw the transportation and delivery of live downer livestock -- animals too sick or weak to stand or walk.Another bill would offer tax breaks for companies that slaughter and process cows.
Other bills would trace livestock -- and strengthen the state Agriculture Department's authority to quarantine and treat sick animals.

FSIS food safety training schedule available online
Center for Learning page has been updated
February 12, 2004


The FSIS Center for Learning page has been updated to include a course schedule for Food Safety Regulatory Essentials training (FSRE), as of Feb. 11. The purpose of the training is to reinforce understanding of how to perform food safety duties; it is based on the recently issued FSIS Directive 5000.1, Revision 1, Verifying an Establishment's Food Safety System.

The courses offered are:
Raw products
(Ready to Eat) RTE/(Not ready to eat) NRTE products
Course descriptions are under development.

FSRE training is tailored to an inspector's assignment. All participants will receive both the foundation and customized training. The foundation training includes: the Rules of Practice; Sanitation Performance Standards; and Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures. The customized training includes: HACCP verification; Pathogen Reduction; and food safety sampling.

Course instructors include staff from the Center from Learning, the Technical Service Center, Field Operations headquarters, and the Office of Policy, Program and Employee Development headquarters.

The District Office schedules inspectors for training. To register, contact your district office; a listing is available at the Web site listed below.

For more information and to view the updated page,
go to http://www.fsis.usda.gov/ofo/hrds/SLAUGH/Courses/fsre.html

Cattle Slaughter Rules Yield Few Easy Answers
By Elizabeth Weise

Russell Smeed likes his cattle big.

He is a buyer for Masami Foods Inc., a beef and pork processor in Klamath Falls, Ore., that until recently sold its meat to the Japanese, who ?unlike lean-loving U.S. consumers ?like steak well-marbled. "Our beef are so big and fat, they're just rectangles," he says.

That all changed with the discovery in December of the first U.S. case of mad cow disease. Japan immediately stopped all imports of American beef, and Smeed's company is scrambling to find U.S. markets for its rich steaks.

But right now he's scrambling for something different: answers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is holding five workshops across the country to explain sweeping changes to the rules governing cattle slaughter and processing that were announced Dec. 30. Smeed and about 70 fellow meat producers turned out recently on a rainy Tacoma morning to get the scoop.

These aren't academic questions. As the people on the front lines of the nation's meat production system, they have to know how to comply with these rules. The answers they hear could spell the difference between profit and loss, success or bankruptcy.

It's the "no downer" rule that has people in the audience most worried. Downers are cattle that can't walk, and the changes include a ban on the slaughter of these animals. The Holstein dairy cow found to have mad cow was a downer; it had been crippled when giving birth.

Industry estimates put the number of cattle slaughtered in the USA each year at 35 million, of which 0.0005%, or 195,000, are downers.

These mostly small producers need to know exactly what USDA means by downer. Thousands of dollars are riding on the question for each of them.

For example, the Angus cattle destined for Japan are almost 30% heavier than cattle bred for the U.S. market. That means that when the cattle are up to their slaughter weight of 1,600 pounds, they get a little ungainly. Sometimes they slip and fall. If they can't get up, are they downers?

A fully fed Angus can be worth up to $1,200 when it walks into the slaughterhouse. That's a lot of meat and money to send to a landfill.

Kenneth Petersen, a USDA veterinarian, makes it clear that under USDA rules, cattle have to be able to rise and walk or they can't go into the food supply. Period.

Next, Fred McCain, the retired head of Crown Meat Company in University Place, ambles up to the microphones.

"Are there any studies?" he asks. "Say two animals are presented for slaughter and they both appear to be healthy, then one breaks a leg. Suddenly that particular animal is suddenly more susceptible to BSE. Are there studies for that?" Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, is the scientific name for mad cow disease.

Petersen has a hard job today. There's statistical likelihood and then there's the reality of telling someone that an animal is suddenly unfit for consumption because it slipped and tore a tendon.

Downers "may have gone down for the reason you think you know, but there may be some disease process that you don't know about," he says.

Then there comes a truly hard question, to hear and to answer. Americans like the meat and milk they get from cattle, but they don't particularly want to think about the details that make that meat and milk cheap and plentiful.

This question, from Greg Sherman, a USDA supervisor in Everett, is all about those details. "What about bob veal?" he asks.

Bob veal is a byproduct of the dairy industry. To get cows to produce milk, they have to be bred every year. Half of their offspring are male and are of no use to the dairies. About 15% of those surplus calves are slaughtered within days after birth and are called bob veal.

"These veal calves that come in that are one, two or three days old aren't able to walk due to weakness," Chernin asks. "Do we condemn them?"

Petersen takes the question. One reason they might not be able to walk ?beyond the obvious one that they're newborn ?is that they got cold on the truck ride.

If the calves can be warmed up enough so that they can walk, they can go to slaughter, he says.

If that doesn't do it, they'll be killed just the same, but they end up in lined landfill pits instead of on a dinner plate.

In the black and white of epidemiology, the line has got to be drawn somewhere. "Yes, they're non-ambulatory and yes, they're cattle, so they would be condemned," Petersen says finally. 2-9-04

Current Food Safety Informaiton
02/18. FSANZ seeks public comment on changes to Food Standards Code
02/18. FSIS BSE workshops
02/18. Alberta to lobby Washington
02/18. Disease threat played down: Mad cow strain poses no new risk
02/18. Mad cow case call into question safety of hamburger meat sup
02/18. Risk from soup bugs low, says expert
02/18. Regulators under stress: This is no time for further cuts
02/18. International affairs
02/18. International affairs
02/18. Mad cow 'truths' seem shaky as critics cast doubts on Harvar
02/18. Bad fish rap
02/18. Food Safety Training
02/18. End to GM ban imminent?
02/18. Congress Committee Blasts USDA Over Mad Cow Handling
02/18. Feds should heed call for more mad cow tests
02/18. Researchers Struggle With Mad-Cow Test
02/18. House Panel Questions USDA on Mad Cow
02/18. Mexican Officials Due in U.S. to Talk Beef
02/18. Two US lawmakers question official mad cow theory
02/18. More illness linked to BSE
02/18. Conflicting data on CWD in state
02/18. CWD continues to spread across Saskatchewan
02/18. Food-borne pathogen traced to lettuce
02/18. Canning safety: Cooperative Extension service offering press
02/18. Food Dangers
02/18. Steritech Offers Highly Calibrated Food Safety Audits
02/18. Thai Min:Japan Cos Satisfied With Thai Chicken Product Safet
02/18. Madison establishments receive food-safety awards

02/17. FDA Expands Mad Cow Disease Safeguards
02/17. Expert assesses mad cow risk
02/17. Staying Vigilant
02/17. 'Mad cow killer" seeks donations from Web site
02/17. Food quality needs funds to further FP6
02/17. Ireland to review safety of energy drinks
02/17. Mad cow strain shocks scientists
02/17. Researchers Dispute Finding Of Mad Cow Variant
02/17. Colas go bottled water way [India]
02/17. Shelf life of bottled water is open for debate
02/17. Report re-evaluates threat of chronic-wasting disease
02/17. Ways To A Safe Kitchen
02/17. Fisher acquires Oxoid
02/17. Standing Firm On US Beef Ban, Tokyo Wants A New Probe
02/17. Research In Italy Turns Up A New Form Of Mad Cow Disease
02/17. WSU seeks volunteers to advise on food safety

02/16. Mother praises allergy bill; Bill requires schools to adopt
02/16. Mad cow 'truths' doubted
02/16. New methods to improve food safety
02/16. Two More States AI Positive
02/16. Japan's beef bowls run out of meat -
02/16. Food quality needs funds to further FP6
02/16. Bugs in soup mix investigated; Federal authorities launch pr
02/16. A handful of nuts could cost people like little Abby her lif
02/16. Japan waiting for new proposals on mad cow safeguards, calls
02/16. Mad cow threat: How bad is it?
02/16. Out of an abundance of caution

02/15. WA House passes mad cow bills
02/15. Critics question findings of mad cow study
02/15. Cattle fat power plan approved -
02/15. Canada's Largest Beef Producing Province Selects Bio-Rad Rap
02/15. Dow AgroSciences forms alliance with Canada's top science bo
02/15. BC-Mad
02/15. Home fridge vs. store freezer -
02/15. Animals to blame for spread of humans' most deadly diseases

02/14. Program offered to educate food handlers
02/14. Federal panel recommends more testing for mad cow
02/14. Dangerous cow parts still enter food supply
02/14. Mettler eyes opening facility
02/14. Potlucks subject to food-safety laws
02/14. Food policy based on risk, not culture
02/14. Risk and food are on the same plate: World food safety exper

02/13. Some FDA Panelists Seek More Mad-Cow Testing
02/13. European Parliament vote backs European Centre for Disease P
02/13. Surveillance of foodborne infections and intoxications in Eu
02/13. Enterobacter Sakazakii and other microorganisms in powdered
02/13. Mad cow scare has consumers and industry looking at organic
02/13. Failure to wear hair nets is common York County, Pa., food s
02/13. UK/USA: Scientists set up food bacteria information database
02/13. Tim O'Malley addresses European Food Safety Authority
02/13. BIRD FLU: WHO eases fears that bird flu spreading among huma
02/13. LIVE FROM NMA: Mexico trade could resume in days
02/13. LIVE FROM NMA: Murano says USDA eyeing increased cooperation
02/13. Mexico to lift US beef ban
02/13. FSIS food safety training schedule available online
02/13. Panel studies mad-cow risk from blood transfusions
02/13. U.S.-Canada Sled Dog Race Dashes on Despite Mad Cow
02/13. Experts say USDA officials underestimate mad-cow risk
02/13. International review calls for more BSE testing in U.S.
02/13. Liberals take steps to safeguard water
02/13. U.S. beef talks to continue
02/13. FSAI 'Cooks Up' First Food Safety Induction Training
02/13. Food for Thought

02/12. School Accidentally Gets Cleaning Fluid In Milk Cartons
02/12. Cattle Slaughter Rules Yield Few Easy Answers
02/12. Food labelling - Community legislation
02/12. "EU will be better prepared for future epidemics" says Byrne
02/12. Meat inspection review to hold public meetings
02/12. FSAI ¡®cooks up¡¯ first food safety induction training
02/12. Impact of BSE on the organic meat industry
02/12. UK: Many organic foods contain traces of GM ingredients - st
02/12. Japan criticizes U.S. decision to end BSE investigation
02/12. Australian consumer turns back on GM ingredients
02/12. Europe establishes animal disease centre
02/12. Scotland and Wales veto GM go-ahead
02/12. Bill Would Make Food Labels Less Cryptic About Common Allerg
02/12. Spain: The Promised Land for GM Corn
02/12. Schroder's Reluctant Cabinet To Allow GMO Foods
02/12. Experts Disagree Over Mad Cow Risk
02/12. Mad cow warnings unheeded
02/12. Greek watchdog hounds dirty hotels, poor catering
02/12. Regulators want California health inspectors to monitor day-
02/12. Speller lashes out at the politics of BSE
02/12. Oystermen cite mad cow cases as evidence of unfair treatment
02/12. New innovations in meat processing
02/12. McHugh Joins Bipartisan Effort For National Animal ID Progra
02/12. Beef safety satisfies this Japanese official -
02/12. New alliance of FMI-National registry of food safety profess
02/12. Classes offered in food preservation
02/12. Discount Store Has Dangerous Food Shipping Practices
02/12. Ecolab Acquires Food Safety Products Provider
02/12. Willmar couple's homemade pickles prompt a tax bill
02/12. German teachers treated after eating doped cake

Current Recall Information

OPPD (Policy) What's New Page: Updated February 17, 2004
Q and A Regarding the Interim Final Rule on Registration of Food Facilities (Edition 3)

Domestic Outreach Meetings (March and April 2004)
Guidance for Industry: Questions and Answers Regarding Registration of Food Facilities (Edit. 3)
Final Rule Declaring Dietary Supplements Containing Ephedrine Alkaloids Adulterated
Food Safety Regulatory Essentials: Course Descriptions and Schedule page
Memorandum of Understanding Between the FDA and Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State U
FSIS Update of Recall Activities, February 9, 2004
BSE Update ? February 9, 2004
FINAL BSE Update ? Monday, February 9, 2004
U.S. Government Officials Provide Technical Briefing On The BSE Investigation
New Database Helps Monitor Food Pathogens

Current Outbreaks
02/18. 300 people fall ill on Carnival Cruise
02/18. Investigators Determine Cause Of Illness At Gund Arena
02/18. Intestinal Virus Keeping Local Doctors Busy
02/17. Chi-Chi's agreement awaited
02/17. Summer heat spoiling meals [Australia]
02/17. SA family pushes for poisoning settlement
02/16. Stars overcome food poisoning to win as Kiwis make a meal of
02/13. Food poison cases grow [China]

02/12. Gund Arena Illness Not Caused By Salmonella
02/12. State Health Officials Warn of Rise in Norovirus Cases
02/12. Oyster illness total rises to 14: Five patrons of one restau

Current New Methods
02/18. Rapid diarrhoea test developed
02/18. Freezing Process Seen as Emerging Food Safety Strategy
02/17. e-FoodSafety.com, Inc.'s Patent Pending 'Food Safe' Process
02/17. Virus-free farmed seafood
02/16. JAPAN: Scientists find safer way to keep farmed fish virus-free
02/16. Secrets of Food Safety Shared
02/16. UConn Scientists Developing Bacteria Detection Device
02/16. Five new MicroFoss Coliform applications approved by the AOAC
02/15. BC-Eggs-Traceability
02/14. EPA Approves Colitag E. coli Detection Technology For Public
02/13. Scientists examine possibility of BSE-resistant cattle
02/13. Robotics Help Test for Animal Diseases
02/13. Neenah water plant to cost $24M

300 people fall ill on Carnival Cruise
February 15, 2004
Associated Press
GALVESTON, Texas -- A Carnival Cruise Lines ship returned from a five-day cruise to Mexico on Saturday with, according to this story, more than 300 people sick with a gastrointestinal illness.
Carnival officials were cited as saying that preliminary tests show the outbreak might have been caused by a norovirus, which can be spread through contaminated food, contact with infected people or poor hygiene. It can be prevented by regular hand-washing.

EPA Approves Colitag E. coli Detection Technology For Public Drinking Water Safety


SANTA ROSA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Feb. 16, 2004--CPI International, a Santa Rosa, CA, based marketer and manufacturer of analytical and life science products, has received the Environmental Protection Agency's approval, published in the February 13th, 2004 Federal Register, for Colitag(TM), CPI's breakthrough method for testing public drinking water under the Total Coliform Rule.

In making the announcement, David Hejl, President/CEO of CPI, disclosed that this is the culminating event in the company's seven-year effort to provide an added level of safety in testing public drinking water. Private laboratories and municipal and state governmental authorities responsible for water testing can now protect the public with confidence via this testing product.

Colitag(TM) was developed in the early '90s by Dr. George Chang, Ph.D., a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. According to Dr. Chang, Colitag(TM) differs from earlier test methods approved by the EPA over the last ten years because it can identify E. coli that have been weakened but not killed by water treatments. "If the treatment isn't quite right, you end up with injured pathogens that still may be able to resuscitate in someone's body and cause critical sickness," states Chang. "Any time water treatment breaks down, you have a problem. We look for E. coli that escapes the sanitation process and survives." When advised that Colitag(TM) had received EPA approval, Dr. Chang responded, "Now the public will have the long awaited benefit of a definitive water testing product."

Colitag(TM) will go mostly to public agencies testing for E. coli in water systems, which include everything from drinking water and wastewater systems to public pools and beaches. The Colitag(TM) product will also be utilized by food and beverage manufacturers.

CPI International, owned by Unique Investment Corporation of Anaheim, CA, and headquartered in Santa Rosa, CA, has additional offices in the U.S., Japan and the Netherlands. In addition to Colitag(TM), CPI International manufactures analytical instrument components, high-purity standard solutions and reagents, and other analytical testing products for the environmental, petrochemical, pharmaceutical, biotechnology and semiconductor industries. Additional information on Colitag(TM) and other CPI products may be found at www.Colitag.com and www.CPIInternational.com.