says new Listeria rule has made a difference
Dec 3, 2004 (CIDRAP News) ? Most firms that produce ready-to-eat (RTE) meat and poultry products have taken specific steps to prevent Listeria contamination since new federal safety rules took effect last year, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced this week.
However, close to a quarter of firms that produce RTE products, such as hot dogs and deli meats, failed to comply with some aspect of the new Listeria rules in the first 9 months after they took effect, according to the report by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
The report says that FSIS has found Listeria contamination on about 1% or fewer of recent RTE product samples. However, it cites evidence from other sources that 3% to 5% of RTE meats from retail delicatessens?which are not regulated by the USDA?may harbor Listeria.
"Under the Listeria rule, ready-to-eat meat and poultry products are safer and public health is being better protected," Elsa Murano, USDA under secretary for food safety, said in a news release. "If progress continues at the current rate, we should achieve the Healthy People 2010 goal of lowering the incidence of listeriosis to 0.25 cases per 100,000 people."
Listeria monocytogenes can grow on refrigerated meat and cause serious illness in pregnant women, elderly people, and others with weak immune systems. Largely because of the risk of listeriosis, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says these groups should not eat hot dogs or deli meats unless they are reheated, nor should they eat refrigerated meat spreads, refrigerated smoked seafood unless cooked, or products containing unpasteurized milk.
The USDA began strengthening its Listeria rules for RTE meats in November 2002, after an outbreak in the Northeast involving at least 52 illness cases, seven deaths, and three miscarriages. That prompted the agency to require plants to start testing their surfaces and equipment for Listeria or else submit to increased testing by the FSIS. Previously the FSIS had tested RTE products but not plant equipment.
In October 2003 the FSIS added a requirement that firms take specific steps to prevent Listeria contamination of RTE foods. The rule says producers must choose one of three approaches: (1) using both a "post-lethality" (post-cooking) treatment, such as heating, and a chemical growth inhibitor; (2) using either a post-lethality treatment or a growth inhibitor; or (3) using sanitation only. Firms using sanitation only are supposed to get the most FSIS inspections and those using the first approach the fewest.
The new report was prepared by a 28-member FSIS team that was assigned to measure the effectiveness of all aspects of the Listeria regulations.
The team reports that more than 87% of the nearly 3,000 plants that produce RTE meats have adopted at least one Listeria-related measure since the regulations took effect in October 2003, according to the FSIS report. About 17% of the plants began using a post-lethality treatment to control Listeria, and 27% began using an antimicrobial agent or "other control process" in one or more of their RTE products.
Also, about 59% of the firms started testing for Listeria or similar organisms on food-contact surfaces after the rules took effect, the report says.
The document says that in the first 9 months under the new regulations, 76% of the plants had no "noncompliance records," or violation notices, while 24% had been notified of some type of violation. The report doesn't describe what kinds of violations were most common. About 51% of all RTE plants are classified as "very small," and these accounted for 56% of the Listeria-related rule violations.
Random testing of RTE products this year, including tests on the riskiest products, has shown Listeria on about 1% of samples or less, the report states. In general sampling, 3 of 345 samples collected in the first 5 months of this year tested positive for the pathogen. In testing of the highest-risk products over the same period, 11 of 1,349 samples tested positive.
The report suggests that retail delicatessens may be a soft spot in defenses against Listeria. "Evidence indicates that slicing and packaging of luncheon meats at retail deli counters presents a significant source of exposure to L. monocytogenes," it states. "Prevalence reported from these sources ranges from 3 to 5 percent in deli meat sliced at retail." But more studies are needed, because the samples that yielded the data were small, the report says. The data come from unpublished findings from New York State and one published study.
The USDA does not regulate retail delis, which are under the jurisdiction of the FDA and state and local health departments, according to FSIS officials. But the report recommends that the FSIS should increase comparisons of the levels of Listeria on RTE products at production plants and at retail delis.
The report also says that no firms have availed themselves of an option under the new rules to cite Listeria-control measures on their product labels. The provision was intended to give companies an incentive to install newer control technologies, with the idea that citing these measures on labels would confer a marketing advantage, FSIS spokesman Steven Cohen told CIDRAP News.
"This may be a way to differentiate their product from others," Cohen said. "It's a little early at this point to expect to see much of that. They would have to propose a label, and we'd evaluate it."
In other items, the report says most of the small and very small plants producing RTE products didn't receive or didn't know about the FSIS compliance guidelines for the Listeria regulations. Cohen said he was confident that all the firms were aware of the regulations, since inspectors meet weekly with plant managers, but there may not have been "100% penetration on all the supporting materials that were available."
The FSIS said it would accept comments on the report as well as on the Listeria rule itself until Jan 31, 2005. (See FSIS news release link below for details on how to submit comments.)
Dec 1 FSIS
Full FSIS report
Jun 6, 2003,
CIDRAP News story on announcement of interim final rule on Listeria
Nov 2002 CIDRAP
News story on requirement that plants test environmental surfaces for Listeria
CIDRAP News story
on recent FDA Listeria risk assessment
report: RTE products safer from listeria
According to a new report from FSIS, the rule has prompted establishments to strengthen their control procedures, increase testing and take additional steps to eliminate listeria.
the Effectiveness of the Listeria monocytogenes Interim Final Rule" was prepared
by a 28-member FSIS assessment team, which evaluated and measured the effectiveness
of the rule and made recommendations in areas including inspector training, product
sampling, retail food handling and communicating to small businesses. The report
found that many plants have made significant improvements such as adding antimicrobial
ingredients to their product formulations to inhibit listeria growth and installing
a post-processing treatment step to eliminate the pathogen. It also found that
facilities have either initiated or greatly increased their testing for listeria
or listeria-like organisms on plant surfaces that come in contact with products
Wegmans now offers frozen irradiated ground beef under the Huisken label."We believe that irradiation is an important addition in the food-safety chain. We're still strong believers of that program, and we hope to be able to offer irradiated, fresh ground beef again in the future," Kevin J. Magliato, vice president, meat merchandising, Wegmans Food Markets Inc. Sensory evaluation indicated that consumers could not differentiate between the two types of ground beef and had no preference for either. For both the initial and follow-up sensory tests, irradiated and non-irradiated cooked ground beef were perceived the same.
consumers on irradiation had the most significant impact on their views of food
irradiation. Groups that received irradiation education were more accepting of
the technology and more consumers positively changed their perceptions of irradiation.
Consumers not receiving education were skeptical, uninformed and had more negative
perceptions. Some were unaware of irradiation technology. Consumer study of irradiated
Dec 6, 7:00 PM ET
after the Japanese scientist Shiga who discovered it in 1897, Shigella is a type
of bacteria that infects the intestinal tract. Four different groups of Shigella
can affect humans, with some causing a mild illness and others a more severe one.
Because it doesn't take many Shigella bacteria to cause an infection, the illness spreads easily in families and child-care centers. The bacteria may also spread in water supplies where sanitation is poor. Shigella can be passed in the person's stool for about 4 weeks even after the obvious symptoms of illness have resolved (although antibiotic treatment can reduce the excretion of Shigella bacteria in the stool).
If you're caring for a family member who has diarrhea, wash your hands before touching other people and before handling food. (People with a diarrheal illness should not prepare food for others.) After someone with a Shigella infection uses a toilet, clean and disinfect the toilet before it's used by anyone else.
Diapers of a child infected with Shigella should be properly disposed of in a sealed garbage can, and the diaper area should be wiped with disinfectant after use. Young children (especially those still in diapers) with a Shigella infection, or with diarrhea of any cause, should not be in contact with uninfected children.
Proper handling, storage, and preparation of food is also important - cold foods should be kept cold and hot foods should be kept hot to prevent bacterial growth.
Once the diagnosis is made, some cases require no special treatment, but often antibiotics will be given to shorten the duration of the illness and to prevent the spread of Shigella bacteria to other people.
might be needed for children who become moderately or severely dehydrated or for
those with problems in organs other than the digestive tract. While in the hospital
they can be monitored and can receive necessary treatment such as intravenous
fluid therapy or antibiotics.
Source of Article: http://www.foodservicecentral.com/
YONKERS, N.Y. ?Providing consumers with timely information about food safety risks and giving them the tools to take action to effect change is the goal of www.NotInMyFood.org, a project and accompanying website launched today by Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports.
To an alarming degree, the federal agencies that are supposed to be our watchdogs bow to the pressures of the food industry, even when the end results clearly endanger public health,?said Reggie James, director of www.NotInMyFood.org.
In light of a mad cow scare in November ?in which an animal tested positive for infection twice before being cleared in a third test and the confirmed case earlier last December in the state of Washington, James said it is urgent for the Food and Drug Administration to act to keep the disease agent out of animal feed and for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to test more cows annually.
As part of the new campaign, Consumer Reports is making an investigative report titled “You are what they eat,?available in the free portion of its web site. The report raises concerns that the federal government isnt doing enough to protect the feed supply in the U.S. According to the article, regulatory loopholes are leaving consumers vulnerable to pathogens, drugs and contaminants consumed by the animals they eat.
Consumers Union is proposing a 4-point action plan to make beef safer for American consumers:
End secrecy agreements between USDA and individual states that keep the public in the dark about recalled beef.
Promptly enact rules prohibiting materials that may transmit mad cow disease.
the number of cows tested annually by USDA for mad cow disease.
government agencies have the authority to recall faulty products ranging from
toys to tires and impose penalties if products aren pulled off the market, when
it comes to our food supply, industry calls the shots,?James said.
FDA must immediately close loopholes in its rules on animal feed that could allow the disease to spread,?said Michael Hansen, Ph.D., a research biologist at Consumers Union and advisor to the www.NotinMyFood.org project. The agency has known for a while that cow blood and chicken coop floor waste could be vehicles for transmission of mad cow disease. It should act immediately to prohibit these substances as well as restaurant waste and pig and poultry slaughterhouse waste, in ruminant feed. USDA, Hansen noted, is testing less than 1% of the cows slaughtered each year, far less than the percentage tested in Japan and most of Europe. The USDA has tested 113,000 cows since it began a broader test program earlier this year, but more than 35 million cattle are slaughtered for food in the U.S. annually.
said that while the risk of buying infected meat may be low for any given piece
of steak, consumers who want to minimize their risk can:
charged with poisoning CHP officer
Source of Article: http://www.santamariatimes.com/articles/2004/12/07/news/local/news05.txt
A 16-year-old employee of a Taco Bell in Santa Maria stands accused of poisoning a California Highway Patrol officer by placing cleaning liquid in his burrito.
The boy, who is being prosecuted as an adult, faces felony charges of assault on a police officer with a deadly weapon and food tampering, said Lt. Larry Ralston of the Santa Maria Police Department.
California Highway Patrol Officer Martin Ledesma purchased the burrito Nov. 10 at a Taco Bell in the 1500 block of South Bradley Road, police said.
After taking several bites from the burrito, Ledesma felt a burning sensation in his mouth and detected a strange odor in the meal, Ralston said.
The officer contacted the restaurant after the incident, and the Santa Maria Police Department began its own investigation shortly after. Ledesma went to the hospital for an examination the day after the incident, but was not admitted for treatment, officials said.
After a police investigation, the Santa Maria High School student told detectives he put the product in the food as retaliation for a bad experience he had with a police officer that day, Ralston said. Police said the boy was not involved in a Nov. 10 fight at Santa Maria High School that ended with the arrest of three students.
He told police he knew the liquid could cause illness because he accidentally ingested several drops of the substance previously, Ralston said.
The boy was suspended from Taco Bell pending the outcome of the case, said company spokesperson Laurie Schalow, adding that the company is conducting its own investigation.
environment' for germ led to illnesses at Ohio McDonald's, report says
economics of food safety: The case of green onions and Hepatitis A outbreaks
Two veterinarians employed by Finland¡¯s National Food Agency are on trial, accused of switching cattle brain samples collected as part of the Finland's bovine spongiform encephalopathy testing program. The veterinarians worked at the Snellman slaughterhouse in Pietarsaari, Finland, in 2000. The veterinarians on trial worked at the Snellman plant in 2000. In 2003, National Food Agency suspended both of them on suspicion of wrongdoing.
The family-owned Snellman meat-processing firm is the only Finnish slaughterhouse with a license to export beef into the United States, according to a Finnish news report.
The report continued that the plant owners organized a briefing, at which Snellman workers were informed of the latest events. The processor emphasized that the company did not break any laws and the products were reliable and the internal supervision system worked. "The National Food Agency is responsible for actions of their staff,¡± the company¡¯s managing director Gerhard Snellman said. ¡°We have made provision for ensuring that the Agency will also answer for the possible loss of business and damage to our reputation because of this.¡±
"The European Union will not be taking any action in regard to the doctored BSE samples reported from Finland", Jaana Huso-Kallio, deputy director of the European Commission's consumer protection division, said. "Everything has been duly reported and now it is up to the Finnish authorities to resolve the matter.¡±
FDA issues regulations on food bioterror records
Source of Article: http://www.ift.org/news_bin/news/news_home.shtml
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today issued final regulations on the
establishment and maintenance of records to protect the U.S. human food and animal
feed supply in the event of credible threats of serious adverse health consequences
or death to humans or animals. FDA also issued draft guidance to FDA staff and
industry, which details the internal procedures the agency will follow before
requesting access to records. For more information, see the FDA Press Release
(http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/news/2004/NEW01143.html). The regulations will
be issued in the Dec. 9 issue of the Federal Register (http://www.fda.gov/OHRMS/DOCKETS/98fr/02n-0277-nfr0001.pdf).
More than 90 students miss school in Red Wing with stomach pains
RED WING, Minn. - School officials suspect it was just a nasty case of stomach flu that kept more than 90 Burnside Elementary School students home from school on Friday, but county and state health officials were called anyway. "Because many of the kids are back today it is likely that it was a 24- or 48-hour stomach flu," said Kris Klassen, the Red Wing School District nurse, on Monday. "We have no facts saying that the incident was food related," she said. "There is no reason for parents to be concerned." On Monday there were 18 absences, well below the norm. "We usually see more like 30 absent at Burnside, depending on the time of year," Klassen said. Most of the students complained of stomach aches and nausea Thursday night and Friday morning, she added. Parents kept them home. Whenever numerous students are absent, the state Health Department recommends an investigation. No other Red Wing public school reported excessive illnesses or absentees Friday. Andy Gehn, a fifth-grader at Burnside, stayed home Friday after spending the evening with severe stomach cramps. His mother, a registered nurse, believes a Thursday lunch of ham and cheese may be the culprit.
"His symptoms were indicative of food borne illness," said Deanne Gehn. "Once he finally got it out of his system, he was only weak from dehydration. It will be interesting to find out what it was." Information from: Red Wing Republican Eagle, http://www.republican-eagle.com
food for young children