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New USDA food safety department transcends national borders
by Kristin Gagnon on 8/4/04 for Meatingplace.com
U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elsa Murano on Tuesday announced the establishment of an organization designed to promote food safety throughout the Americas, according to a USDA news release.

The new cooperative, educational and research organization, the Food Safety Institute of the Americas (FSIA), will be based in Miami. USDA says this location will allow trans-continental experts to access each other quickly for program development. Murano said the FSIA plans to tap into a variety of existing academic, governmental and non-governmental organizations. The FSIA will utilize networks of universities and organizations within North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

"We want to bring people together and incorporate the best existing training and education programs available to promote efficiency and avoid duplication," Murano said. "By using existing expertise, we can place a greater emphasis on developing materials to fill gaps in food safety education and information." Food safety topics will be grouped into "colleges and departments" within the FSIA. Linda Swacina, the current deputy administrator of USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, will serve as the senior agency representative and federal coordinator of all FSIA activities. Swacina holds degrees in Spanish and Latin American studies and has traveled extensively throughout Central and South America on behalf of FSIS food safety programs in the past.

Chi-Chi's sues suppliers over
Hepatitis A

August 3, 2004
Associated Press
Joe Mandak
PITTSBURGH -- The Mexican restaurant chain Chi-Chi's is, according to this story, suing food wholesalers in an effort to get them to help pay for scores of hepatitis A-related lawsuits as it continues to settle its own lawsuits.
Chi-Chi's attorney David Ernst was cited as noting that Chi-Chi's has settled 134 of the more than 300 lawsuits filed by people sickened after eating at a Pennsylvania restaurant last fall in an outbreak, traced to green onions, that sickened 660 people and killed four, adding, "We have tried for months to get those companies to voluntarily step up to the plate and help the victims. They're refusing to do so and we're continuing to do so ... so we've had to sue them."
The story notes that some of victims required liver transplants, though none of the cases Chi-Chi's settled involved deaths or critical injuries.
Ernst wouldn't give a specific amount, but said Chi-Chi's has spent "seven figures" on settlements, which are being channeled through a court-approved mediation process.

Synthetic prion causes neurological disease in mice
July 29, 2004
NIH/National Institute on Aging
Scientists have produced a prion protein that can trigger the development of a neurological disorder in mice that is similar to "mad cow" disease, according to a new study supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), a part of the National Institutes of Health. The findings demonstrate that prions, an unusual class of infectious proteins, can make copies of themselves without the presence of viral DNA or RNA, damage brain tissue, and cause neurological diseases.
The work by Nobel Laureate Stanley B. Prusiner, M.D., and colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco, and Heinrich-Heine Universitat in Germany, appears in the July 30, 2004, issue of Science. For the study, Dr. Prusiner and his colleagues produced prion protein fragments in bacteria, folded them into larger protein structures called amyloid fibrils, and then injected them into the brains of susceptible mice. The mice began exhibiting symptoms of disease in their central nervous systems between 380 and 660 days after they were given the synthetic prion proteins. The amyloid form of the prion protein, which is thought to cause prion disease, was also found in the brains of the diseased mice. The researchers then administered brain extracts from these animals to another group of mice, which subsequently developed similar symptoms 90 to 150 days later. The disorder seems to be distinct from that caused by other known strains of prions, suggesting that the synthetic prion didn't merely activate a pre-existing prion in these mice and that the synthesized prion protein itself is sufficient to make infectious and disease-causing prions.
Prusiner received the 1997 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his discovery of prions. Unlike viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites, prions contain no DNA or RNA. Instead, they are a type of protein normally found within cells in humans and other organisms. In some cases, the structure of prions can change into a disease-causing form. These abnormal proteins appear to convert other, normal prions to the abnormal shape. Many scientists now believe this conversion process leads to several dementing diseases in humans, including Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Similar diseases in animals include bovine spongiform encephalopathy ("mad cow" disease) in cattle and scrapie in sheep.
Abnormal, misfolded proteins contribute to other age-related neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, and so these new findings may provide insights into the cause and possible prevention of other brain disorders.

Targeting E. Coli Bacteria at Their Source
By Luis Pons
August 4, 2004
Agricultural Research Service scientists and colleagues are looking inside the cow in order to spot--and to stop-- bacteria that cause a particularly nasty E. coli-related disease.

Microbiologist Evelyn Dean-Nystrom and veterinary medical officer William Stoffregen of the ARS National Animal Disease Center (NADC) in Ames, Iowa, are pinpointing where microbes called enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157:H7 lurk in calves.

Also, Nystrom is helping researchers at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., develop and test an oral vaccine that eliminates these bacteria from cattle.

E. coli O157:H7 is the most common infectious cause of bloody diarrhea in people in the United States. Hemolytic uremic syndrome, a potential consequence of its infection, is the primary cause of acute kidney failure in U.S. children.

Undercooked or raw ground beef has been implicated in many E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks in humans. However, the causative bacteria have almost no discernable effect in cattle, making them hard to detect there.

Nystrom and Stoffregen found that, in addition to intestines, calves' gall bladders may be a good place to check whether an E. coli O157:H7 infection has taken place. This finding indicates that including gall bladders in samples cultured for E. coli O157:H7 may help identify infected cattle at slaughter.

The oral vaccine, developed at the Bethesda university by graduate student Nicole A. Judge, uses intimin, a protein on the outer membrane of the O157:H7 strain that the E. coli bacteria need for attaching themselves to intestinal tissue. Nystrom assisted with development of the vaccine--supervised by microbiologist and department chair Alison O'Brien--early on, by showing that calves injected with purified bacterial intimin would develop antibodies against it.

Nystrom works in NADC's Preharvest Food Safety and Enteric Diseases Research Unit, while Stoffregen works in the center's Bacterial Diseases of Livestock Research Unit.

Read more about the research in the August issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.

Fresh produce causing salmonella outbreak
August 2, 2004
Associated Press
Joe Mandak
PITTSBURGH -- Jerri Reges, a 39-year-old mother of two was cited as saying she suffered severe stomach cramps after eating a hoagie at a convenience store July 5, becoming one of more than 300 people sickened in a recent salmonella outbreak that has hit five states. Roma tomatoes are believed to be the cause.
The story says it's the latest high-profile scare involving fresh produce, which experts say is the new frontier in foodborne disease prevention. In this round no one has died, in contrast to last year's hepatitis outbreak that killed four people and made hundreds sick. Green onions from Mexico were blamed.
Tainted fresh foods pose more concerns than others because fruits and vegetables are often eaten raw or lightly cooked. That means salmonella, cyclospora, shigella, E. coli and other pathogens often aren't killed before eating, and they generally can't be removed by washing.
The most common of these cause diarrhea and cramps and are not fatal. The germs are often spread from the unwashed hands of food workers.
The story notes that international and federal laws don't allow the United States to set tougher safety rules for imported produce than for domestic products. Though the Food and Drug Administration tightened seafood and juice regulations after outbreaks in the late 1990s, officials are still studying whether to tighten fruit and vegetable standards.
Nancy Donley, president of Safe Tables Our Priority. The Burlington, Vt.-based group was formed by the parents of children who died or were seriously ill after a 1993 E. coli outbreak traced to undercooked hamburgers, was quoted as saying, "It's really discouraging that it takes somebody to die to get anybody to do something."
Devon Zagory, senior vice president of Davis Fresh Technologies LLC of Redding, Calif., a food safety consulting firm, was cited as saying the fruit and vegetable industry, alarmed by the outbreaks, is already policing itself, and that most supermarket chains, for example, make growers and suppliers use food safety programs that must be audited by third-parties like Zagory's company.
And when questions arise about unsafe imports, the FDA can simply ban products it can't otherwise regulate.

Nymox develops treatment of deadly E. coli food contamination; Nymox NXC-4720 E. coli product in late stage development
August 3, 2004
From a press release
Nymox (NASDAQ:NYMX) has developed its proprietary NXC-4720 product to address the problem of E. coli O157:H7 contamination at the stage of meat production. The warm summer weather has drawn wider attention to the serious public health problems caused by E. coli O157 contamination of meat and other food and drink products. There are many reports of summer campers and other consumers becoming ill as a result of eating food contaminated with the potentially deadly bacteria. NXC-4720 has reached significant milestones in product development and has been validated in independent tests. The Company is involved in ongoing strategic validation studies.
"E. coli O157:H7 contamination of food and drink products and of water supplies is widely recognized as a serious problem both for public health and for the food industry," said Dr. Michael Munzar, Medical Director of Nymox. "Studies of Nymox's NXC-4720 product have shown excellent results. NXC-4720 shows real promise for this serious health care concern for both consumers and industry."
E. coli O157:H7 bacterial contamination is a major public health problem throughout the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in the United States alone, 73,000 human cases occur every year as a result of E. coli O157 contamination of food and drink products and of water supplies. This type of E. coli infection can cause severe bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps and can lead to kidney failure, particularly in young children and in the elderly, with often serious long term and sometimes fatal results.
One United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) study estimated the direct and indirect costs of foodborne E. coli O157 infections at over $650 million per year. In 2002 alone, over 23 million pounds of meat were recalled in the U.S. because of possible E. coli contamination, affecting all sectors of the meat industry from large meat processors to local supermarkets and many consumers. On average, Americans consume over 65 pounds of beef per person per year.

Guidance Levels for Radionuclides in Domestic and Imported Foods

USDA and Michigan State University Join Forces To Promote Food Thermometer Use In Michigan
Susan Conley (202) 549-7075
Autumn Canaday (202) 720-9113

WASHINGTON, August 2, 2004 ? The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the state of Michigan are joining forces to promote food thermometer usage when preparing meat and poultry to prevent foodborne illness with an innovative campaign called, "Is it DONE yet?"

Michigan State University's National Food Safety & Toxicology Center, the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition and its Extension service are partnering with USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on a project to increase consumers' use of food thermometers, thereby preventing dangerous foodborne illnesses. The results of the program will help shape FSIS' national approach to future consumer food safety promotions as well as thermometer usage.

USDA's Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elsa Murano kicked off the "Is it DONE yet?" campaign today at the Public Museum of Grand Rapids.

"'Is It Done Yet?' is a consumer-government partnership," said Dr. Murano. "USDA is working aggressively to continue progress in preventing illness and protecting public health. Consumer awareness of basic food safety principles - especially using a food thermometer for checking meat, poultry and seafood as it cooks - can reduce the number of foodborne illnesses significantly."

The use of a food thermometer is essential to ensure that meat and poultry have been cooked sufficiently to eliminate harmful pathogens. FSIS reports that, in the case of hamburgers, even if they are brown in the middle, one in four burgers is still not safely "done yet." A food thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the hamburger can indicate if the patty has reached the safe internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This is optimal for killing the dangerous pathogen E. coli O157:H7.

"There are some basic steps that consumers can take to protect themselves, their families and their friends," says Trent Wakenight, MSU's campaign organizer. "We are very fortunate to have formed a partnership with FSIS that aims to increase food thermometer use. A large number of the estimated 76 million cases of foodborne illness per year are preventable."

Using a food thermometer to check when meat or poultry is done also ensures proper cooking lengths in order to provide peak taste and prevent overcooking.

For this campaign, USDA created a special Web site, "IsItDoneYet.gov" with information and food safety guidelines for the use of food thermometers.

FSIS' Food Safety Mobile, a 35-foot recreational vehicle decorated with food safety characters and equipped to spread the message of food safety, will be featured at campaign stops in Kent, Ingham and Washtenaw counties from August 2nd through August 15th. Interactive games, cooking demonstrations and food safety information will also be featured.

For more information about food thermometer use, visit: www.IsItDoneYet.gov. For more information in English and Spanish, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or TTY: 1-800-256-7072. The year-round hotline can be called Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST. An extensive selection of timely food safety messages also is available at the same number 24 hours a day. Information can be accessed on the FSIS Web site at http://www.fsis.usda.gov. E-mail inquiries can be directed to mphotline.fsis@usda.gov.

BSE Test Results
Guidance Levels for Radionuclides in Domestic and Imported Foods
FSIS Establishes New Institute to Promote Food Safety Education, Information, Communication

USDA and Michigan State University Join Forces To Promote Food Thermometer Use
Public Meeting Announced to Address Codex Meeting on Processed Fruits and Vegetables
Additional Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) Surveillance Sampling Q and A
Acting FDA Commissioner Outlines Priorities for Next Six Months
FDA Analyses Finds Ground Castor Beans - Not Purified Ricin -- in Two Tampered Baby Food
Enjoying Homemade Ice Cream without the Risk of Salmonella Infection

Current Outbreaks
08/04. Food poisoning - Russia (Tula) (02): Shigellosis, request fo
08/04. Salmonellosis, foodborne - Russia (W. Siberia): Request for
08/03. High-tech hunt for culprit in salmonella outbreak: DNA 'fing
08/03. Outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 associated with bathing at a pub
08/02. Smoked chicken causes illnesses, death in Russian republic
08/02. E. coli investigation in Fed's control now; CFIA looks into
08/01. Food poisoning - Kyrgyzstan (Jalalabad): Request for informa
08/01. Worst of outbreak seems over: One boy remains in hospital, b
07/31. Fresh produce causing salmonella outbreak
07/31. E. coli O157:H7: Quebec
07/31. E. coli O157:H7: Ontario
07/30. BBA--Yankees-Parasite
07/30. Probe looks for source of E. coli: Source of outbreak still
07/29. Quebec links Alberta beef to 3 E. coli cases
07/29. Cases in Sheetz outbreak jump to 316
07/28. Illness hits Yellowstone visitors, workers
07/28. E. coli strikes camp in Northern Ontario

Current New Methods
08/04. Nymox develops treatment of deadly E. coli food contaminatio
08/03. Warnex receives U.S. validations for Genevision(TM) Listeria
08/02. Devices installed to fight legionella at hospitals
08/01. Frost & Sullivan Honors GRAY*STAR, Inc. with 2004 Product In
07/30. Abbott Introduces Fully Automated Hepatitis A Test
07/28. Anaerobic Storage of Water Testing Plates for the Enumeration of Clostridium spp.
07/27. Municipalities on surface water step up water treatment syst

Current Food Safety Informaiton
08/04. New USDA food safety department transcends national borders
08/04. Alberta's BSE program worked as intended, auditor says
08/04. International food laws distance education certificate progr
08/04. International Food Laws: Distance Education Certificate Prog
08/04. New regulations for inspection of meat coming

08/03. South Korean government announces new policies for meat indu
08/03. FDA finalizing new BSE rules
08/03. Some fox! ... Some fox hound!
08/03. Promoting food thermometer use
08/03. Chi-Chi's sues suppliers over Hepatitis A
08/03. The salmonella special

08/02. FAO/WHO continue work on pathogens in powdered infant formul
08/02. FAO/WHO Risk Assessment on Listeria monocytogenes in ready-t
08/02. Announcement - Distance learning risk analysis training oppo -
08/02. Food poisoning advice
08/02. Authorities investigate needle found in food

08/01. Delays slowed probe of baby food
08/01. CDC pushing for cleaner swimming pools
08/01. Man won't answer questions about baby food
08/01. Risk assessment and antimicrobial resistance: Past, present
08/01. Food Standards news
08/01. Invitation to workshops on nutrition, health and related cla
08/01. Food Irradiation Education Activities
08/01. Knowledge of food irradiation lacking in commercial buyers,
08/01. 200 schools this fall will serve irradiated meat for lunch
08/01. Quotable Quotes

07/31. Study Lends Support To Mad Cow Theory
07/31. New board member appointed to FSAI
07/31. USDA mum on renewed call for voluntary BSE testing
07/31. Irish Food Safety Authority produces comprehensive informati
07/31. Synthetic prion causes neurological disease in mice
07/31. Prion finding offers insight into spontaneous protein diseas
07/31. Media Advisory - Food Court passes health inspection
07/31. USDA blames Canada for burger recall
07/31. LCBO lab conducts 368,000 tests to help ensure product quali
07/31. Three-nation recall over contaminated corn

07/30. Chinese food court to reopen; Six eateries shut down for fil
07/30. 14 restaurants cited for health violations: Hong Kong Chines
07/30. New advice on listeria and food
07/30. FBI: baby food in Calif. contained poison
07/30. Beef import compromise?
07/30. Inconclusive test result should not cause consumer concern
07/30. Food quality and safety - call for specific support actions
07/30. Quality cooperation
07/30. Give food safety job to Basrur
07/30. Japan asks qualifications of food handlers

07/29. Danger lurks from farm to fork: Inspection process questione
07/29. Toxic teflon chemical found in blood of people from Asia, th
07/29. Agency advises against eating hijiki seaweed
07/29. B.C. sets new standards for meat inspection

07/28. Seniors at greater risk of foodborne illness
07/28. Irradiated food for thought
07/28. Food safety experts cannot concede that organic is safer tha
07/28. Targeting E. Coli Bacteria at Their Source
07/28. New American National Cattlewomen(ANCW) food irradiation brochure

Current Recall Information