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A look at the FDA's Produce Safety Action Plan

Associated Press

Source of Article: http://www.timesleader.com/

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration this summer introduced its Produce Safety Action Plan. The voluntary guidelines are meant to improve the safety of fresh fruits and vegetables from farms to America's dinner tables - and to improve government responses should foodborne outbreaks occur.

Though the guidelines are voluntary for U.S. firms, the FDA can ban imports from farms and suppliers that don't comply.

The action plan has four goals:

_To prevent contamination of fresh produce, with guidelines in areas from worker hygiene to irrigation water quality at farms.

_To minimize public health impact when a food poisoning outbreak occurs, through such means as more frequent inspections of food suppliers, packers and shippers.

_To improve communication with farmers, packers and others in the supply chain, as well as federal and state health officials - including by having foodborne outbreaks reported sooner to the FDA and other agencies.

_To improve ways to detect and prevent the contamination of fresh produce, through research and education.

'High levels' of bacteria found in bottled water
November 1, 2004
Megan Rauscher
NEW YORK - Dr. Rocus R. Klont from the University Medical Center Nijmegen was cited as telling a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Washington, DC. that bottled mineral water, generally considered purer than tap water, is often contaminated with bacteria and fungi.
The story says that to evaluate the risk of infection from bottled water, Klont, , and colleagues looked for bacterial and fungal contamination in 68 commercial mineral waters, one tap water, and one water sample from a natural well. The samples came from nine European and seven non-European countries.
Klont was quoted as telling Reuters Health that, "We found high levels of bacterial contamination in commercially bottled mineral water," and that overall, 40 percent of all samples showed evidence of contamination with either bacteria or fungi. Bacteria could be grown in lab cultures from 21 samples.
Klont was further quoted as saying, "These findings indicate that the general perception that bottled water is safe and clean is not true. The risk of disease to healthy individuals may be limited, but immunocompromised patients are generally more susceptible to infection and therefore might be at higher risk of becoming infected."

New WHO 5 keys strategy for safer food
October 29, 2004
Weekly Epidemiological Record (WER) Volume 79, 44
World Health Organization (WHO)
Each year, unsafe food makes at least 2 billion people ill worldwide, or about one third of the global population. Yet 5 simple prevention techniques could significantly reduce this burden of disease. On the occasion of the Second Global Forum of Food Safety Regulators, 1 WHO launched its 5 Keys Strategy ?a series of 5 simple actions which people can undertake at home or at work while preparing and consuming food. 2 These are: keep hands and cooking surfaces clean; separate raw and cooked food; cook food thoroughly; keep food stored at safe temperatures; and use safe water and raw ingredients. WHO has produced a basic training manual to ensure that Member States can use and disseminate effectively the information contained in the 5 Keys Strategy. It is meant for food safety professionals, teachers and interested organizations to use in training selected target groups (including food handlers and schoolchildren, for example). Field testing of Bring food safety home ?How to use the WHO 5keys to safer food is now starting around the world. Countries where field testing will occur include Argentina, Bolivia, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua in the Americas; and Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Nepal and Timor-Leste in South-East Asia. Even though the actions are applicable everywhere, WHO recognizes that the way food is prepared and the type of food which is eaten varies enormously across and within countries. The 5 Keys Strategy, consequently, does not set out prescriptions, and the implementing manual is a reflection of globally validated best practice, emphasizing 5main messages which Member States are encouraged to apply to local conditions. WHO regional offices are working to produce more specific versions of the 5 Keys Strategy and the manual. The five main messages are being translated into over 25 languages. While the global manual looks at the core messages, for example the WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia, based in New Delhi (India), has produced a version which emphasizes the best way to adapt these messages to the local situation, where many people cannot afford the detergents and soaps generally recommended in preventing the spread of foodborne diseases.

E. coli O157, petting zoo - USA (NC)
November 3, 2004
ProMED-mail post
Source: News14
E. coli suspected now in 27 NC cases
A command center has been opened to coordinate the investigation into an E. coli O157 outbreak, as the number of suspected cases in North Carolina rose to 27. Of that number, health officials say 18 cases are confirmed.
Officials say the strongest lead they have as to the source of the outbreak is a petting zoo at the NC State Fair. 14 of the cases have links to the state fair, and one is linked to the Cleveland County fair. But, health officials say they're still not entirely sure of the source.
[As has been emphasized in the past, aggressive hand washing is always required after children have visited a petting zoo. This moderator was a visitor to the North Carolina state fair this year [2004], along with his 18-month-old granddaughter, and can assure ProMED-mail readers that there was ample signage at the petting zoo emphasizing the need for hand washing, and, easily available materials to accomplish this important goal. My granddaughter has remained well despite a fair amount of time in the petting zoo. -

E. coli Outbreak Strikes at Least 24

Yahoo! News Thu, Nov 04, 2004

Source of Article: http://news.yahoo.com/
RALEIGH, N.C. - At least 24 people, most of them children, have been infected with E. coli bacteria (news - web sites), and the outbreak might be connected to a petting zoo that was at the State Fair, authorities said. Two of those stricken have developed a severe complication known as hemolytic-uremic syndrome, in which the number of blood platelets suddenly drops, red blood cells are destroyed and the kidneys shut down The syndrome can be life-threatening or cause permanent kidney damage. The number of confirmed cases of E. coli infections rose to 24, and nine more cases are suspected, officials at the state Department of Health and Human Services (news - web sites) said Wednesday. Health officials are awaiting genetic tests on some of the bacteria to see whether the cases are related. So far, the most common link among victims is that some visited the petting zoo exhibit at the State Fair last month. Of the 33 cases being examined, 15 have some link to the state fair, officials said. Eight people did not go to the fair, and investigators are awaiting information from the other 10. "If it does turn out to be a petting zoo, there are thousands of people who were exposed, and they are widespread," said Dr. Jeffrey Engel, state epidemiologist. "People came to visit from other states." The highly contagious E. coli bacterium commonly lives inside of animals and can be passed to humans by eating contaminated meat or through contact with manure, animals or contaminated surfaces. Hand-washing is the most effective means of avoiding infection, and the exhibit at the fair had hand-washing stations.


Source of Article: http://www.meatnews.com

A possible victim of CJD victim could have been infected 15 years ago.

If a suspected case of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in a man in Ireland is confirmed, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland believes he may have become infected 10-15 years ago from the consumption of contaminated beef products in Ireland.

The FSAI said that this timeframe would be the typical incubation period for the disease. The Authority stressed that bovine spongiform encephalopathy controls in place in Ireland since 1996, are very strict and there are layers of robust control measures to ensure maximum consumer protection in relation to BSE.

Dr. John O¡¯Brien, chief executive at FSAI said that the incidence of BSE in Ireland continues to decline in the cattle population, demonstrating that the controls introduced in 1996 and 1997 are working. There are fewer cases of BSE and the vast majority of current cases are in animals born before the introduction of these enhanced controls.

¡°The main consumer protection measure has been the removal of specified risk material from the human food chain,¡± he said. ¡°SRM are the parts of an animal most likely to contain BSE infectivity if that animal is incubating the disease. This SRM removal is supervised on a day to day basis by veterinary inspectors. We are confident that the controls in place are ensuring SRM removal and thus consumers are being protected. The FSAI and the Department of Agriculture and Food have been to the forefront in the EU with the most aggressive controls to protect both animals and humans from the BSE agent.¡±

He emphasized: ¡°The FSAI, DAF, and the other agencies involved in policing the food chain are working closely together to ensure full compliance and maximum consumer protection. In fact, one of the key factors for establishing the FSAI in 1996 was the BSE crisis. We base our decisions upon the best scientific data and knowledge, and develop inspection and audit controls to ensure maximum consumer protection in relation to meat and meat products. A rigorous policy of safeguards is now firmly established throughout the food chain.¡± O¡¯Brien said that the FSAI¡¯s BSE Scientific Sub-committee continuously reviews these controls and over the past five years has recommended additional control measures when appropriate.

¡°We believe that the controls are proving to be effective, but public confidence can only be maintained through continued vigilance and transparency. The FSAI will continue to be the over-arching watchdog and will sustain its independent audits of the current controls on an ongoing basis. We are confident that based on current controls, consumers of Irish beef are not being exposed to the BSE infective agent,¡± he said.

In Ireland, there is a sequence of controls for BSE along the food chain. The feeding of meat and bone meal is prohibited to all farm animals and there are stringent controls at rendering plants and feed mills. All cattle are examined by veterinary inspectors before slaughter at the abattoir and rapid BSE testing is carried out on all animals over 30 months of age. Veterinary inspectors, under service contract to the FSAI, ensure slaughtered cattle have had SRM removed. At boning plants, the carcasses are inspected again. In butcher shops, environmental health officers under contract to the FSAI inspect carcasses at this level. In addition, all butchers operating in Ireland are aware that it is illegal to sell meat products containing SRM.

Be careful with unpasturized juices, says FDA

Source of Article: http://www.foodqualitynews.com/news/news-ng.asp?n=55814-be-careful-with

02/11/2004 - Consumers were this week reminded of the dangers associated with drinking unpasteurized fruit and vegetable juices after a foodborne disease outbreak in New York was potentially linked to the consumption of unpasturized apple cider.

The FDA issued the warning after the New York State departments¡¯ of Health and Agriculture and Markets, and local health departments in northern New York suggested the recent foodborne disease outbreak could be due to the consumption of unpasteurized apple cider.
Under FDA regulations, most juice processors are required to use Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles to increase the protection of consumers from illness-causing microbes and other hazards in juices.

The FDA pointed out, however, that products that have not been treated to kill harmful bacteria, may be sold in bottles or by the glass in supermarkets, at farmers markets, at roadside stands or in some juice bars.

The government body noted that untreated products that are sold in bottles are generally displayed on ice or in refrigerated cases and are required to carry a warning label stating that the product, "may contain harmful bacteria that can cause serious illness in children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems".

Untreated, freshly squeezed beverages that are sold by the glass are not required to carry the warning label.

The FDA last month published the final 2004 Produce Safety Action Plan aimed at minimizing the number of foodborne illnesses that are contracted each year through the consumption of fresh produce.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that in the US each year, 76 million people become sick, more than 325,000 people are hospitalized, and 5,000 people die from foodborne illness, and believes that, in the 1990s, at least 12 percent of foodborne-outbreak-associated illnesses were linked to fresh produce.

Salmonella test method for poultry to Japan
November 2004
Oresund Food Excellence
The Swedish way to test salmonella has aroused great interest around the world. The US has recently adopted the Swedish method and now Japanese experts show their interest as well. In the Swedish method, the whole value added chain from egg production and chicken breeding to broiler production is controlled. The method enables consumers to buy poultry that is guaranteed to be free from salmonella.
Sweden has today the lowest occurrence of Salmonella in the world. "The increased interest for the Swedish model can be explained by a number of scandals in Japanese schools, where children got sick, from eating chicken. Now, demands on safe and traceable food have increased," says Martin Frid from Japan Offspring Fund.
"It is a great recognition, that our way of breeding broilers, arouse such a great interest in the whole world. Now we hope that the Swedish model shall be standard in the European Union," says Maria Donis, MD at Svensk F?el.
svensk f?el - www.svenskfagel.se

Cooking and prions
November 2, 2004
New York Times
C. Claiborne Ray
Q. Does cooking make harmless the abnormal protein in beef that causes the human form of mad cow disease called new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease? If not, why not?
A. Dr. Pierluigi Gambetti, director of the National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center at Case Western Reserve University, was cited as saying that very high temperatures can make the abnormal protein harmless, unfolding or denaturing it, but then the meat is inedible.
First, it is insoluble and resistant to digestion with enzymes, and second, it forms large aggregates that are hard to destroy.
Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were cited as describing the extreme measures needed to purify surgical instruments exposed to the nervous system tissue of a patient of variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob or related diseases.
The centers' guidelines say the instruments should be immersed in bleach or lye for half an hour to an hour and boiled at 121 degrees Centigrade (250 Fahrenheit) or more before routine sterilization. The abnormal prions are also resistant to purification by ultraviolet light or microwave radiation.


Source of Article: http://www.meatnews.com/

WHO launches new "Five Keys" strategy form food safety in Bangkok, Thailand.

Five simple measures could significantly reduce the global incidence of foodborne disease according to the World Health Organization.

WHO said that each year, unsafe food makes at least two billion people ill worldwide, or about one third of the global population. Simple prevention techniques could significantly reduce this burden of disease, which can cause serious illness or death.

Following a meeting in Bangkok, WHO has now launched its "Five Keys" strategy -- a series of five simple actions which people can undertake at home or at work while preparing and consuming food. These are: keep hands and cooking surfaces clean; separate raw and cooked food; cook food thoroughly; keep food stored at safe temperatures; and use safe water and raw ingredients.

"The burden of foodborne disease is enormous but much of this burden can be prevented through simple techniques,¡± Dr. Jorgen Schlundt, director of WHO's Food Safety Department, said. "The Five Keys strategy is complemented by a manual which helps individuals to adopt good food-handling practices: they show how people around the world, no matter where and how they live, can protect themselves from foodborne illness.¡±

WHO has produced a basic training manual to ensure that member states can use and disseminate effectively the information contained in the "Five Keys" strategy. It is meant for food safety professionals, teachers and other interested organizations to use in training selected target groups, including food handlers and schoolchildren.

Field testing of ¡°Bring Food Safety Home: How to Use the WHO Five Keys to Safer Food¡± is now starting around the world. Countries where field testing will occur include Argentina, Bolivia, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, and Nicaragua in the Americas and Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Nepal, and Timor Leste in southeast Asia.

Even though the actions are applicable everywhere, WHO recognizes that the way food is prepared and the type of food which is eaten varies enormously across and within countries. The WHO said the Five Keys strategy does not set out prescriptions, and the implementing manual is a reflection of globally validated best practice, emphasizing five main messages which member states are encouraged to apply to local conditions.

U. of I. finds solution to arsenic in wells

October 29, 2004

BY GARY WISBY Environment Reporter

Source of Article: http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/cst-nws-arsenic29.html

Arsenic in well water has triggered political battles in Washington and worry in Chicago's suburbs, where towns and individual residents tap underground sources for their drinking water.

Now University of Illinois researchers say it may be possible to defeat the toxic metal simply by siccing friendly bacteria on it.

When the scientists analyzed water from 21 wells, all fed by the Mahomet aquifer in central Illinois, they noticed that the more sulfate they found, the less arsenic there was.

Well-water bacteria that are harmless to humans but death on arsenic were responsible, said geology professor Craig Bethke, an author of a paper to be published next month in the journal Geology.

"They breathe in sulfate and breathe out sulfide," he said. The sulfide reacts with arsenic, causing it to settle out and never reach the surface.

Just add salts

That suggests owners of wells with unhealthy levels of arsenic can simply add sulfate, Bethke said. Sulfate salts are inexpensive, readily soluble and easy to find.

Brett Coleman, owner of a restaurant in northwest suburban Gilberts, could have used that news in 2000. That was when his well tested high for arsenic and he suddenly started selling more pop and bottled water.

The Kane County town put in a new water treatment plant, and Coleman capped his well. "If I get a glass of water in my tavern, it comes out of my [bar] gun, which is now city water," he said.

Bethke and the grad student he was supervising, Matt Kirk, found arsenic levels as high as 200 parts per billion in their survey. Nearly half the wells exceeded 10 ppb.

Private wells aren't regulated, so the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency doesn't know how many there are in the Chicago area. But spokeswoman Maggie Carson said she suspects "surprisingly large numbers."

In a last gasp from the Clinton administration in January 2000, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed slashing the federal limit for arsenic in well water from 50 parts per billion to 10 ppb.

Catching up with Clinton

But President Bush scrapped that plan, leaving 50 ppb in place pending further study. That brought screams from legislators including Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who said the health of 134,000 Illinoisans was endangered.

Arsenic at 50 ppb caused lung, bladder and skin cancer and other ailments, according to a 1999 National Academy of Sciences study.

Congress, and eventually Bush, did a turnaround and set the limit at 10 ppb, giving the states until January 2006 to comply.

New MicroLog Database Enhances Microbial Identification Capabilities of Environmental Laboratories

The MicroLog Filamentous Fungi database (for use with the MicroStation microbial identification system from Oxoid Limited) provides enhanced identification capabilities for environmental laboratories. It complements the existing MicroLog databases to provide accurate and reproducible identification of over 2000 species of bacteria, yeast and fungi.

The database was been developed in collaboration with two world-renowned mycologists, Dr John Bisset at Agriculture and Agri-Food, Canada and Dr Rob Samson at Centraalbureau Voor Schimmelcultures, the Netherlands. It was originally designed for the identification of sporulating fungal genera important in environmental monitoring, food spoilage and agriculture, and has now been extended to include clinically important strains.

Traditional methods for the identification of fungal species are often subjective and time-consuming. By simplifying and improving the identification and characterisation of filamentous fungi, the MicroStation system now provides accurate and reproducible results significantly faster than traditional methods (in days rather than weeks). The Filamentous Fungi database also includes a comprehensive library of microscopic and macroscopic digital photographs that can be reviewed automatically, allowing verification of identifications with morphological criteria.

MicroStation's microbial identification technology is based on patented carbon-source utilisation 'fingerprinting'. Following isolation on solid media (and, for bacterial cultures, Gram staining to determine the testing protocol) the organism is introduced to a wide variety of pre-selected carbon sources in the 96-well MicroPlate. Incubation of 4 hours or less then produces a characteristic biochemical pattern called a metabolic fingerprint. An accurate identification of the organism is then obtained by comparison with stored fingerprints in the MicroLog databases.

In addition to providing accurate identification of individual species, the MicroStation system is valuable in environmental analysis. The biochemical characterisation information contained in each MicroPlate is enormous as one plate collects carbon source utilization data for 95 different compounds. Bacterial communities can be analyzed using the MicroPlate technology. By applying PCA (Principal Component Analysis) to the MicroPlate data, changes or relationships between microbial communities can be tracked. For example, the system can be used to trace individual strains of bacteria from environmental sources to product contamination. It can also be used for fingerprinting and tracking microbes from a variety of environmental samples.