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U.S. Signs Agreement with U.N. Agency on Protecting Food in the Americas
USDA-PAHO pact aims to promote trade of safe food

Source of Article: http://usinfo.state.gov/

By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has signed an agreement with a health agency of the United Nations to improve the protection of food in the Americas.

In a June 24 statement, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said its agreement with the USDA calls for improving protection in the Americas of the "food supply and animal agriculture from intentional and accidental introduction of harmful substances and exotic disease."

In addition, the agreement calls for promoting the trade of safe food in the Western Hemisphere, increasing interchanges of scientists and government food safety officials, and promoting the sharing of resources.

Also, the agreement says that by establishing the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) in January 2005, the Western Hemisphere will become the largest trading bloc in the world. The agreement says that along with the "effects of constant global movement," the new FTAA will result in the need for increased cooperation between PAHO and the USDA.

"The international exchange of people, food, animals, and agricultural products brings with it increased challenges to public health, animal health, and economic growth," the agreement says.

Other essential parts of the agreement, which takes effect immediately and covers a period of three years, include promoting greater participation of countries with small- and medium-sized economies in the international "standard-setting processes," and enhancing "program coordination" between USDA and PAHO.

Elsa Murano, USDA under secretary for food safety, said the June 24 signing of the agreement between her department and PAHO is an example of how the Bush administration is "devoted to improving public health through expanded trade of safe food across the globe."

Murano added that the agreement comes at a pivotal moment for USDA and PAHO.

"This is a very important first step for us," she said. "I look forward to working with PAHO to further enhance food safety in the Americas."

USDA Secretary Ann Veneman says the role of food safety is central to the future of free trade in the Americas and will require extensive cooperation among regional policymakers and organizations.

Veneman told PAHO officials in a 2003 speech that "as we seek to expand and maintain markets and the confidence of consumers in our own countries and worldwide, our challenge will be to address legitimate concerns, in areas such as food safety ... without erecting unnecessary barriers to trade."

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

First inconclusive test confirmed negative for BSE

by Ann Bagel on 7/1/04 for Meatingplace.com
Source of Article: www.meatingplace.com
The first inconclusive BSE test, announced Friday as part of the Agriculture Department's stepped-up screening program, came back negative upon confirmatory testing, USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced Wednesday afternoon.

Because the results were negative for BSE, APHIS did not release details about the carcass in question, such as what state it came from or its age. USDA said it would release more information about any animal that is confirmed positive for BSE.

The second inconclusive BSE test, announced late Tuesday, is still being analyzed by USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. Results are expected within four to seven days.

USDA officials have emphasized that inconclusive test results are a normal component of the sensitive screening tests. During a media briefing Wednesday, APHIS Deputy Administrator John Clifford would not speculate about the expected rate of false positives in the expanded surveillance program, but a statement released by the American Meat Institute noted that based on a similar testing program in Japan, 90 percent of samples that initially test inconclusive ultimately prove to be negative for BSE.

"The public and the markets need to realize that we're likely to hear more announcements about inconclusive results in the future and that it's in everybody's interest not to overreact," AMI President J. Patrick Boyle said in the statement. "Regardless of whether the final test result produces a positive or a negative for BSE, the bottom line is that the animal will never enter the human food supply."

Tuesday's announcement of the second inconclusive BSE test sent live cattle futures for August delivery down 2.125 cents a pound, closing at 85.75 cents at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

The market closed before USDA's announcement of a negative confirmation for the first inconclusive test.

Meatingplace.com editor Eric Hanson contributed to this report.

Fruit and vegetable contamination a hot topic
June 29, 2004
From a press release
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Fresh fruits and vegetables make up a critical part of the American diet; the U.S. Food & Drug Administration recommends we eat five to seven servings a day. And while Americans generally enjoy the safest food supply in the world, the FDA believes more can be done to combat the increased outbreaks of food borne contamination.
That's why the FDA is drafting a revised plan entitled "A Proposed Action Plan to Minimize Foodborne Illness Associated with Fresh Produce Consumption," and asking industry leaders to attend public meetings -- the first being held today -- to help attack the problem with their expertise, experience and proposed solutions.
The FDA's objectives are four-fold: 1) prevent contamination of fresh produce with pathogens, 2) minimize the public health impact when contamination of fresh produce occurs, 3) improve communication with producers, preparers and consumers and 4) facilitate and support research relevant to fresh produce.
Todd Wichmann, President and Founder of HealthPro Brands Inc., maker of FIT Fruit and Vegetable Wash, agrees something must be done. He addressed FDA representatives at today's meeting and proposed that they strongly recommend for consumers to use produce washes at home as a way to take personal control.
"The FDA recommends that we wash our hands with soap and water before eating, but nothing in the current produce safety guidelines says we should do the same with the fresh fruits and vegetables we eat," said Wichmann. "Produce is picked and handled by so many people in the distribution chain. Consumers are bringing produce into their homes and eating it raw most of the time; they need a way to ensure it is thoroughly cleaned. So if water alone isn't good enough for our personal hygiene, then common sense suggests that it's not good enough to wash our fresh produce, either."
Wichmann says that dish and hand soaps are not formulated for human consumption and should not be used to wash produce. He recommends consumers use a natural produce wash that has ingredients listed on the FDA's Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list. While he's not recommending new laws, Wichmann does believe consumer education and FDA recommendations have a strong impact on public behavior. "The public relies on the FDA for information and guidance. Their impact can change consumer habits and practices," Wichmann said.
According to the FDA, more than 50 percent of the produce Americans consume is imported and only three percent is FDA-inspected. A Colorado State University study found an average four people handle the apples and more than 20 handle the tomatoes before they are purchased. "Given those statistics, consumers can't be too careful when it comes to washing the fruits and vegetables they serve their families," Wichmann said.
The Clinton administration in 1997 announced its Food Safety Initiative, an effort to improve the nation's food supply, citing fresh produce as its main area of concern. With efforts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, further measures were taken in drafting a specific plan released in 1998 entitled "Initiative to Ensure the Safety of Imported and Domestic Fruits and Vegetables."
The plan helped to ensure the American public that the highest health and safety standards applied to all stages of the farm-to-table food chain, for both domestic and imported produce, and that the produce industry was being correctly guided on good agricultural and manufacturing practices. According to the government, federal guidelines from the 1998 plan have been well- received and widely-adopted, yet foodborne contamination outbreaks associated with fresh produce continue to occur.
The draft of the FDA's 2004 plan builds upon the experience and efforts of the early plan, but today the government believes that implementation of the revised plan lies in engaging and soliciting views of other government agencies, produce industry groups and the general public.
About FIT
FIT Fruit and Vegetable Wash is made from 100 percent all-natural ingredients that remove 98 percent more wax, residues, pesticides and chemical barriers from produce than by washing with water alone. The wax coatings and chemical treatments used on produce help preserve foods, but also lock residues to the surface of fruits and vegetables. These residues stick to crevices and folds of produce and are not always water soluble, so washing or soaking produce in all-natural FIT is the best solution to ensure that produce is ready to eat. FIT is a mixture of purified water, oleic acid and glycerol from olive oil, ethyl alcohol from corn, baking soda and distilled grapefruit oil. Importantly, all of FIT's ingredients are completely safe to use on food and are part of the FDA's GRAS list. FIT is available in a spray bottle or a soaker bottle to meet various produce-washing needs.
Find FIT
FIT can be purchased online at http://www.FitWash.com , or call 1-800-FIT-WASH, as well as in the produce department at local grocery stores. To find a store near you that carries FIT, visit http://www.FitWash.com and click on the "store locator" link.
FIT was originally developed by Procter & Gamble in 2000 and was exclusively licensed to HealthPro Brands Inc. in March 2003. FIT and its logo are trademarks used under license by HealthPro Brands, Inc., Cincinnati, OH, 45242. For more information about FIT, product availability and HealthPro Brands, Inc., visit http://www.FitWash.com .

USDA signs agreement to improve safety of traded food

by Eric Hanson on 6/25/04 for Meatingplace.com
Source of Article: www.meatingplace.com
To help shore up safety of meat and poultry products traded in the Western Hemisphere, the Agriculture Department entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Pan American Health Organization.The memorandum binds the signatories to a set of goals, which include:Increase the availability and facilitate the trade of safe food, particularly meat, poultry and egg products in the Western HemispherePromote greater participation of countries with small and medium-sized economies in the international standard-setting processes
Enhance program coordination to reduce redundancy among programs with common objectives, procedures and communications
Promote interaction between scientists and government food safety officials
Facilitate the coordination and sharing of resources between the participants necessary for program management, scientific investigation, standard-setting and to reach consensus on issues of common concern
USDA Under Secretary Elsa Murano and Pan American Health Organization Director Mirta Roses Periago signed the agreement.

Kiwifruit allergies hitting children: British tests


Source of Article: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/

British children as young as 4 months are developing life-threatening allergies to kiwifruit, causing them to vomit, wheeze and collapse, researchers say.

Scientists at Southampton University, commissioned by the Food Standards Agency, fed the fruit to almost 300 people of all ages, including many who had reported having other allergies, the Daily Telegraph reports.

They found that severe symptoms were significantly more likely to occur in young children, with 40 per cent experiencing acute problems. Generally, allergic adults and children react equally to foods such as milk and nuts.

Three-quarters of the children under 6 reacted on their first exposure to the fruit. One in five were sick, had breathing problems or collapsed.

Jane Lucas, a paediatrician and clinical research fellow at Southampton University, told the newspaper: "Children seem to be having a more severe reaction."

The team believes that the rise in cases may be because of greater consumption of the fruit and a general increase in the incidence of food allergies.

Dr Lucas told the Sunday Herald newspaper in Glasgow that her research showed young people to be most at risk.

"I noticed a huge rise in the number of children arriving at our allergy clinic with a kiwifruit allergy, and there was very little research being done in that area, which I hope our study starts to remedy," she said.

"As more people try kiwifruit and it becomes more available, the numbers of sufferers will rise.

"As with peanut allergies, there is no known treatment available at the moment."

Her case studies included a 4-month-old baby who had to be resuscitated after just a tiny taste of the fruit.

The magazine Allergy recently featured the story of Kristjan, 9, who almost died after eating kiwifruit.

He ate the fruit for the first time at age 5 and needed antihistamines to recover from severe swelling to his face.

On the second occasion he ate food that had come into contact with a knife used to cut a kiwifruit. He was rushed to hospital and treated with adrenalin.

Research has revealed that kiwifruit proteins have some chemical similarities to raw Malaysian rubber - used to make latex gloves, balloons and condoms - and those allergic to either kiwifruit or latex experience similar reactions.

Dr Ann Clarke, of the Latex Allergy Support Group, told the Sunday Herald: "Problems are on the increase ... around 1 per cent of the population are allergic to this protein, and there is really not enough awareness of the dangers."

The Southampton researchers studied 273 adults and children suspected of having a kiwifruit allergy, with 45 subjects undergoing testing.

One in five subjects suffered severe symptoms, including collapse, wheezing and vomiting.

Almost all (90 per cent) of the children under 6 in the study had an underlying condition such as hayfever, eczema or asthma, and 60 per cent reported having a peanut allergy.

Kiwifruit is increasingly popular in Britain. More than 1 million ($60 million) worth of the fruit - about 31,000 tonnes - is sold in the country each year.

Local High School Secretary Killed By Peanut Allergy

Yahoo! News Fri, Jul 02, 2004
Source of Article: http://news.yahoo.com/

A secretary at Andover High School died from a peanut allergy, according to the Oakland County Medical Examiner's report. Officials ruled that the death of Amy Topic, 34, was caused by an accidental ingestion of peanuts, The Daily Oakland Press reported. Topic, a mother and popular secretary at the school, died on May 29, according to the paper. Her husband, Andrew, an English teacher at Andover, died in September 2003 of a heart attack, the paper reported. The couple left behind a 3-year-old son. Topic knew that she was allergic to peanuts, but apparently did not know she had ingested peanuts or peanut products, a doctor told the paper. Her official cause of death is listed as an anaphylactic reaction.

More than 240 report being 'violently' ill
CBS 4 Denver
June 18, 2004
More than 240 people have, according to this story, contacted health officials in the past two days to complain they were sickened after eating at a Fort Collins restaurant, the Texas Roadhouse, part of a national chain based in Louisville, Ky.
The story says that the outbreak is so large that 10 Larimer County employees have been assigned to the investigation of what happened.
Health officials were cited as saying Thursday that the restaurant has been closed temporarily and the company has hired a private contractor to disinfect the restaurant.
People who ate at the popular steak house were cited as saying they experienced cramps, nausea, chills, diarrhea, vomiting and other symptoms within 48 hours of their meals. Some were treated at Poudre Valley Hospital, said Ann Watson, spokeswoman for the county health department.
Last year, the restaurant was rated "good" in food inspections. In 2002, it was declared "excellent," according to county records.
Ed Shemm, the county's assistant director of environmental health, was cited as saying the problems appear to involve people who ate at the restaurant Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Health investigators are asking people what they ate and when they ate it and have taken samples from people for testing. Based on interviews, officials say the virus appears to be a norovirus, which is fairly common and easily transmitted, Shemm said.

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