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FDA to Conduct a 2005 Food Safety Survey
Public Comments on Information Collection are Requested
December 09, 2004

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

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services will be conducting a 2005 Food Safety Survey to collect information about consumers' food safety awareness, knowledge, concerns, and practices. FDA is now accepting public comments on the information collection activities until Feb. 1, 2005.

The survey will be conducted via telephone to a random, nationally representative sample of 4,000 adults in households. This survey will include an oversample of Hispanics with a minimum of 500 Hispanics sampled. Additionally, 200 initial non-respondents will be asked to participate in a short version of the survey to conduct a non-response analysis. Participation in the survey will be voluntary.

The focus of the survey will pertain to: food safety risk perception, perceived sources of food contamination, knowledge of particular microorganisms, food handling practices, consumption of raw foods from animals, and perceived foodborne illness and food allergy experience. New areas will include awareness of bovine spongiform encephalopathy and acrylamide, refrigeration practices, and updated questions on washing practices for fresh fruits and vegetables.

The majority of the survey questions are identical to those in the 2001 survey. However, it is expected that consumer knowledge and attitudes regarding food safety have changed due to consumer education campaigns and increased media attention to food safety issues.

FDA has requested that comments regarding the information collection for the survey should address the following: (1) Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of FDAs functions, including whether the information will have practical utility; (2) the accuracy of FDAs estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used; (3) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (4) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques, when appropriate, and other forms of information technology.

Electronic comments should be submitted to
http://www.fda.gov/dockets/ecomments . Written comments to:
Division of Dockets Management (HFA?305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, rm. 1061, Rockville, MD, 20852. Remember to include the docket number in comments.

Shared nightmare over the food supply
December 11, 2004
New York Times
Elizabeth Becker
WASHINGTON, Dec. 10 - When Tommy G. Thompson, the departing secretary of health and human services, used his farewell news conference last week to warn that terrorists could easily poison the nation's food supply, he was, according to this story, saying out loud what he and other experts have been warning since the attacks of Sept. 11.
The story says that in the three years since the Sept. 11 attacks, millions of pounds of ground beef suspected of contamination by the E. coli pathogen were shipped around the country, sold at countless grocery stores, and sickened several dozen people, and in another, millions of pounds of turkey potentially infected with the deadly listeria bacteria showed up at several delicatessens, nicely packaged as lunchmeat, and eight people died.
Last year, Mexican scallions tainted with hepatitis A were shipped across the border, chopped up and served raw in the salsa at a Chi-Chi's restaurant in Pennsylvania, killing three people.
The story says that all three of these examples were accidents, the result of poor sanitation and poor inspection in this country's slaughterhouses or at its borders, and all three were at different points in the long, often poorly regulated chain from field to dinner.
Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer group, was quoted as saying, "That's the scary part. Our systems are so bad that unless terrorists admit it, we could be poisoned and not know it was intentional."
The story explains that the only known instance of food bioterrorism in the United States occurred in 1984 and went unsolved for a year for just that reason. Members of a religious cult poisoned a salad bar in The Dalles, Ore., but did not leave a calling card or brag about their handiwork. The local authorities were suspicious, but the outbreak at 10 restaurants was investigated as a case of poor sanitation until the leader of the cult came forward and accused some of his members of the crime.
Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut who has made food safety one of her causes, was cited as saying Congress needed to demand more accountability of food companies and to spend a lot more money protecting the nation's food, adding, "Our country must not simply pay lip service to our bioterror defense, but recognize the threat facing America's food supply and our increasing food imports, and fully fund these needs."
Critics were cited as saying responsibility for the safety of food is divided between the Food and Drug Administration and the Agriculture Department, diluting the effectiveness of the laws on the books.
The United States lags far behind Europe in its ability to trace the source of food contamination, in part because Europe strengthened its procedures after suffering through mad cow disease in the 1990's. The story says that in some European countries, scanning machines at supermarkets not only register the price of a cut of beef but also flash a picture of the farm where a cow was raised.
The story adds that in the U.S., searching for the source of contaminated hamburger often takes weeks and that one batch of hamburger can contain meat from hundreds of cows raised in dozens of states and several countries.

Authorities killed healthy bull over mad-cow fears: Animal was the last living bovine link to the Alberta BSE case
December 11, 2004 The Vancouver Sun A6 Chad Skelton
The Vancouver Sun has, according to this story, learned that the Canadian federal government destroyed a healthy Manitoba bull that grew up on the same farm as the Alberta cow infected with mad cow disease because of fears the bull could later become ill and become the country's second case of the brain-wasting disease, and that after it was destroyed, it tested negative for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
An internal memo to the president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) from George Luterbach, the agency's animal-health network chief for Western Canada, written in October 2003 and obtained by The Sun under the Access to Information Act, was quoted as saying, "While this animal remains clinically normal, the impact of this animal found positive [with mad cow] at a later date would reflect negatively on Canada's reputation as a supplier of high-quality and safe beef and beef products."
In a telephone interview, Luterbach was cited as saying the Manitoba bull was destroyed primarily to protect food safety -- not to protect the beef industry from bad news, adding, "Rather than wait and somehow maybe lose track of this animal or have it enter the human food chain or the animal food chain ... we elected to, on a proactive basis, order this animal destroyed, pay compensation, and check it out."
David Westaway, a microbiologist with the University of Toronto's Centre for Neurodegenerative Disease, was quoted as saying, "If you decided for whatever reason that the animal was very likely to get the disease and then you killed it and analysed the brain tissues, [you] might miss an animal that was going to get sick but wasn't sick enough at the time it was slaughtered. The tests that are available are not very good."
Chris Clark, a British-trained expert on BSE at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon, was cited as saying the risk of an infected cow entering the food chain should outweigh any concerns about failing to identify an infected animal, adding, "The risk of not slaughtering the animal is that you may lose track of it. You want to get a hold of the animal and make sure it doesn't enter the animal food chain in any way."
The memo obtained by The Sun indicates the agency realized that the bull, while apparently healthy, could already have the disease, but it decided that it was better to discover a second case of BSE immediately than several years down the line.

What are dioxins? Why the concern?
12 Dec 2004

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

Dioxins' refers to a group of chemical compounds that share certain chemical structures and biological characteristics. Several hundred of these compounds exist and are members of three closely related families: the chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (CDDs), chlorinated dibenzofurans (CDFs) and certain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Sometimes the term dioxin is also used to refer to the most studied and one of the most toxic dioxins, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). CDDs and CDFs are not created intentionally, but are produced inadvertently by a number of human activities. Natural processes also produce CDDs and CDFs. PCBs are manufactured products, but they are no longer produced in the United States.

Dioxins are formed as a result of combustion processes such as commercial or municipal waste incineration and from burning fuels (like wood, coal or oil). The draft dioxin reassessment makes the finding that anthropogenic emissions dominate current releases in the United States, but acknowledges the need for more data on natural sources. Dioxins can also be formed when household trash is burned and as a result of natural processes such as forest fires. Chlorine bleaching of pulp and paper, certain types of chemical manufacturing and processing, and other industrial processes all can create small quantities of dioxins. Cigarette smoke also contains small amounts of dioxins.

Over the past decade, EPA and industry have worked together to dramatically reduce dioxin emissions. It is important to note that dioxin levels in the United States environment have been declining for the last 30 years due to reductions in manmade sources. However, dioxins break down so slowly that some of the dioxins from past releases will still be in the environment many years from now. Because dioxins are extremely persistent compounds, levels of dioxins still exist in the environment from both manmade and natural sources. A large part of the current exposures to dioxins in the United States is due to release of manmade dioxins that occurred in the past, even decades ago. Even if all human-generated dioxins could somehow be eliminated, low levels of naturally produced dioxins will remain, as will reservoirs. EPA is working with other parts of the government to look for ways to further reduce dioxin levels entering the environment and to reduce human exposure to them.

Why are people concerned about dioxins?

Studies have shown that exposure to dioxins at high enough doses may cause a number of adverse health effects. Because dioxins from natural and anthropogenic sources have been widely distributed in exist throughout the environment since the early 1900's (and before), almost every living creature, including humans, has been exposed to dioxins. (See G9) The health effects associated with dioxins depend on a variety of factors including: the level of exposure, when someone was exposed, and how long and how often. Because dioxins are so widespread, we all have some level of dioxins in our bodies.

The most common health effect in people exposed to large amounts of dioxin is chloracne. Such levels have typically been the result of accidents or significant contamination events. Chloracne is a severe skin disease with acne-like lesions that occur mainly on the face and upper body. Other effects of exposure to large amounts of dioxin include skin rashes, skin discoloration, excessive body hair, and possibly mild liver damage.

One of the main health effects in question for dioxins is the risk of cancer in adults. Several studies suggest that workers exposed to high levels of dioxins at their workplace over many years have an increased risk of cancer. Animal studies have also shown an increased risk of cancer from long-term exposure to dioxins.

Finally, based on data from animal studies, there is some concern that exposure to low levels of dioxins over long periods (or high level exposures at sensitive times) might result in reproductive or developmental effects.

What happens to dioxins when they enter the environment?

When released into the air, some dioxins may be transported long distances. Because of this, dioxins are found in most places in the world. When dioxins are released into water, they tend to settle into sediments where they can be further transported or ingested by fish and other aquatic organisms. Dioxins decompose very slowly in the environment and can be deposited on plants and taken up by animals and aquatic organisms. Dioxins may be concentrated in the food chain so that animals have higher concentrations than plants, water, soil, or sediments. Within animals, dioxins tend to accumulate in fat.

How might I be exposed to dioxins?

Most of the population has low-level exposure to dioxins. Although dioxin is an environmental contaminant, most dioxin exposure occurs through the diet, with over 95% coming through dietary intake of animal fats. Small amounts of exposure occur from breathing air containing trace amounts of dioxins on particles and in vapor form, from inadvertent ingestion of soil containing dioxins, and from absorption through the skin contacting air, soil, or water containing minute levels.

Do all dioxin compounds pose the same amount of danger?

No. Different dioxin compounds have different toxicities and dioxins are most often found in mixtures rather than as single compounds in the environment. The most toxic forms of dioxin are 2,3,7,8-TCDD and 1,2,3,7,8-PeCDD. Scientists use a shorthand method for comparing the toxicity of different types or mixtures of dioxins to the toxicity of 2,3,7,8- TCDD and 1,2,3,7,8-PeCDD. This method is called the "Toxicity Equivalence" or TEQ.

Have we made progress in reducing environmental dioxins?

Yes. Dioxin levels in the United States environment have been declining for the last 30 years due to reductions in manmade sources. In fact, as a result of the efforts of EPA, state governments and industry, known and quantifiable industrial emissions of dioxin in the United States have been reduced by more than 90% from 1987 levels. However, dioxins break down so slowly that some of the dioxins from past releases will still be in the environment many years from now. Dioxins that remain in the environment from past releases are sometimes called "reservoir sources" of dioxins. Because of natural processes, dioxin levels in the environment will never go to zero.

Based on recent measurements in a few states, it appears that levels in our bodies are going down too. We are continuing to monitor to see if these trends continue. Because of background occurrence of dioxin in the environment, the levels will probably never go to zero.

What is meant by "natural background" and "current background" for dioxins?

In addition to manmade sources, natural processes, such as brush and forest fires, produce dioxins. The term "natural background" for dioxins refers to the dioxins that are in the environment because of these natural processes. We do not know what the natural background level of dioxins is. The term "current background" refers to the level of dioxin in the environment today. Current background is primarily made up of dioxins from manmade sources.

What are the major sources of dioxins?

The amounts of dioxin released from various sources have changed significantly over time. Historically, commercial or municipal waste incineration, manufacture and use of certain herbicides and chlorine bleaching of pulp and paper resulted in the major releases of dioxins to air and water. Government regulatory actions along with voluntary industry actions have resulted in dramatic reductions in each of these sources, and they are no longer major contributors of dioxins to the environment in the United States. While the United States has taken action to control this type of emission, these sources of dioxin still occur in the world. Currently, the uncontrolled burning of residential waste is thought to be among the largest sources of dioxins to the environment in the United States. Source characterization is an ongoing effort, and if new major sources are identified, they will be factored into future inventories.

How long has dioxin exposure existed?

Dioxins have been around for a long time. There are natural sources for dioxins like brush and forest fires and volcanic eruptions, although natural sources contribute little to the current background dioxin levels. In the 1920's, as a consequence of industrialization, dioxin levels began increasing in the global environment. Declines in environmental levels began in the 1970's when dioxins were recognized as highly toxic chemicals and governments and industry took actions to prevent environmental pollution.

Why does the NAS review draft reassessment estimate of potential risk from dioxins differ from the 2000 draft?

EPA has been evaluating the health effects of environmental exposures to dioxins since 1980. The findings of the current draft are not significantly different from those of the 2000 draft. The NAS review draft differs from the 2000 SAB review draft in that it 1) reflects changes and clarifications made in response to the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB)'s comments and 2) reflects an expansion of the quantity and quality of dioxin data, as well as refinements in how to calculate dioxin risk. The current document has an expanded analysis of background exposure, which is intended to provide a more current estimate of background exposure from diet. It also has expanded analysis of data on whether dioxin's non-cancer effects might occur at or near doses to which we are exposed, and which provides for a more robust evaluation of non-cancer effects based on body burden.

What is EPA doing to control dioxin releases into the environment?

Over the last 20 years, EPA has aggressively looked for ways to reduce and control dioxins in all environmental media in the United States. Collectively, these actions have resulted in strict controls on all of the known and quantifiable major industrial sources of dioxin releases. As a result of EPA's efforts, along with efforts by state government and private industry, known and quantifiable industrial emissions in the United States have been reduced by more than 90% from 1987 levels. For example, municipal waste combustors are estimated to have emitted collectively nearly 18 pounds of dioxin toxic equivalents in 1987, but under EPA regulations, they are now expected to emit less than 1/2 ounce per year. Similarly, medical waste incinerators emitted about 5 pounds of dioxin equivalents in 1987, but under EPA regulations they now will be limited to about 1/4 ounce annual emissions. EPA has implemented similarly strict standards for other dioxin sources. Through expanded monitoring and research collaboration with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), EPA is also making progress in characterizing additional sources.

In response to the evolving scientific understanding of dioxin-like compounds, EPA plans to release a draft Agency-wide dioxin strategy. This draft strategy will be made available for public comment. In addition, federal agencies are already working together to coordinate federal activities related to dioxin. Further information regarding EPA efforts to reduce dioxin emissions and develop a comprehensive strategy can be found in the fact sheets available on the Internet at cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/cfm/http://cfpub2.epa.gov/ncea/cfm/recordisplay.cfm?deid=55264dioxin.cfm.

Should I (or can I) find out what my dioxin levels are?

We do not recommend dioxin testing. Tests for measuring dioxin levels in humans are not routinely available. Laboratories that offer dioxin testing generally are not certified for that testing (as is required for clinical laboratories doing medical testing). Furthermore, their detection levels may not be low enough to detect dioxin levels that occur in the general population.

How can I reduce my personal dioxin levels?

We recognize that individuals might be concerned about their potential dioxin exposure. Dioxins have existed in our environment for a long time. We all have some levels of dioxins in our bodies. Environmental dioxin has declined significantly since 1987 and recent measurements in a few states indicate that levels in our bodies are going down as well. Unfortunately, there are no safe and effective treatments to rid dioxins now in humans. Dioxins metabolize slowly (over years), but reduction of exposure reduces dioxin levels over time. The best way to reduce your personal dioxins level (and your risk from dioxins) is to reduce exposure and intake of dioxins.

Although dioxins are an environmental contaminant, exposure most often occurs through the food by consumption of animal fats. For most people, following existing Federal Dietary Guidelines will reduce fat consumption and, consequently, reduced dioxin exposure (see also G4). The dietary guidelines provide for moderate amounts of fats, which are part of a balanced diet. Eliminating all fats is not recommended. Overall, the best strategy for lowering the risk of dioxins while maintaining the benefits of a good diet is to follow the recommendations in the Federal Dietary Guidelines to choose fish, lean meat, poultry, and low or fat free (skim) dairy products and to increase consumption of fruits, vegetables and grain products. Lean meat includes meats that are naturally lower in fat, and meat where visible fat has been trimmed. For fish and poultry you can reduce fat by removing the skin. Reducing the amount of butter or lard used in the preparation of foods and cooking methods that reduce fat (such as oven broiling) will also lower the risk of exposure to dioxin. These strategies help lower the intake of saturated fats as well as reduce the risk of exposure to dioxin.

NFPA Applauds Nomination of Michael Leavitt As HHS Secretary

Source of Article: http://www.nfpa-food.org/content/newsroom/article.asp?id=226

(Washington, D.C.) ? In response to the nomination by President Bush of Michael Leavitt, currently Administrator of the Environment Protection Agency, as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Hunt Shipman, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs and Communications for the National Food Processors Association (NFPA), made the following comments:

NFPA applauds President Bush for nominating Michael Leavitt to this important position. Mr. Leavitt is well-qualified to lead HHS. He brings with him excellent credentials, not only as a current Cabinet member but also as a former Governor of Utah. He has been a strong and effective leader at EPA, and his extensive background in government will serve him well as he oversees HHS and its many activities.

NFPA has long had a strong relationship with HHS. In particular, we have worked closely with the Food and Drug Administration, which is part of HHS, on issues involving food science, food safety, food security, and nutrition. We look forward to continuing the cooperative efforts between the food industry and HHS on critical food-related issues.

Reporter easily passes food manager certification test

Published December 12. 2004 7:30AM
Staff Writer
Source of Article: http://www.starbanner.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20041212/NEWS/41211030/1001

There's a rule in writing that requires us to know about what we write. Well, it's more of a guideline, actually. But for journalists the practice sometimes is a luxury when we're required to report on this or that with little preparation, and even less expertise, going in. In many ways that was me when we began this weekly listing of restaurant inspections in our readership area. For several years I've been writing about dining, but from the patron's perspective. I was admittedly foggy about what goes on behind the swinging doors. To better understand what I was reporting, I was encouraged to take a food manager certification class and exam. I read the 200-plus page book at least twice. And the class I attended before the test was more of the same. With that, even though I'm mostly just an industry observer I passed the test with a 93 percent score, getting 74 of 80 questions correct.

The ServSafe curriculum, the one I took, is designed by the National Restaurant Association and administered by the University of Florida through the Marion County Extension Service office.It, like the other programs, meets the American National Standards Institute requirements for the training required by the Food Code, the Food and Drug Administration guide that serves as Florida's rules for food handling in restaurants. The ANSI-recognized programs are acceptable to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the state agency that enforces the Food Code. These programs deal strictly with the safe handling of food; how it tastes coming out of the kitchen doesn't factor in at all. Aspects deal not only with proper food temperatures, but simple things like hygiene, eliminating cross-contamination, the flow of food from receiving to leftovers, sanitation and pest control. I find already I approach food preparation differently in my own home kitchen. And inspection report comments make way more sense; the challenge now is to help readers better understand too. The various CFM programs is one step in the national quest to reduce the number of Americans who encounter a food-borne illness. That number stands at an estimated 76 million per year. "This is the one single thing that will keep your restaurant out of the newspaper, keep your patrons safe every shift you work," says Geoff Luebkemann, director of the DBPR's Division of Hotels and Restaurants ? whose safety and sanitation specialists inspect each Florida restaurant at least three times a year. The DBPR takes the training seriously.A restaurant caught without a CFM on duty when four or more employees are preparing food gets a violation. If there's no evidence that anyone on staff has current papers, the eatery receives a warning to get someone certified within a month.

Even before taking the class last month I respected the job restaurateurs do day in and day out. Now, that regard has ratcheted up a couple of notches, particularly for those who run houses that routinely receive few inspection violations.

It's not an easy job, making sure our food is tasty and safe.

Growing out of food allergies

Allergies to peanuts are common

Source of Article: http://www.wndu.com/news/mommo/122004/mommo_38922.php

Posted: 12/09/2004 03:52 pm

Food allergies affect up to 8% of children, which translates into about eight million kids living in fear that something they eat could kill them. Many kids outgrow their allergies, but never know it because they avoid those foods like the plague. Now a new approach takes the guesswork out and adds a little freedom for kids.

Twelve-year-old Sarah Buster was allergic to peanuts, eggs, dairy, banana's and the list goes on. But every year, the list gets shorter.

Doctors at Johns Hopkins say many food allergy tests are inaccurate. Instead of using allergy tests alone, they add food challenges to their patients.

They're giving when the level of allergy antibodies in the blood test show a child has a fifty-fifty chance of passing the challenge.

Dr. Wood says, It turns out that allergy tests for food allergies are inaccurate. It's really bad avoiding foods that you are not truly allergic to because we are talking about these major food items.

Sarah has passed more than 30 food challenges and is thrilled to have so many foods back in her diet.

It takes more than two hours to administer a food challenge. Doctors have to watch the child closely to determine if he or she has outgrown the allergy.

Arizona Firm Investigated in Botulism Case

Yahoo! News Fri, Dec 10, 2004

By ARTHUR H. ROTSTEIN, Associated Press Writer

Source of Article: http://news.yahoo.com/

TUCSON, Ariz. - Federal prosecutors and Food and Drug Administration (news - web sites) officials are investigating a company believed to have sold an unapproved knockoff of the anti-wrinkle shot Botox that paralyzed four people.

After a federal judge issued a warrant, agents searched the offices of Toxin Research International Inc. on Saturday, seizing computer equipment and other items to track down records about the sale, purchase, storage, shipment and marketing of Clostridium botulinum. In a sworn statement for the search warrant, FDA (news - web sites) special agent Susan Leeds said she believed TRI illegally shipped an unapproved botulism-based drug "into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud or mislead." She alleged TRI lied to the FDA by claiming it hadn't sold the substance to doctors using products on humans, or to those not involved in research. The FDA has approved the drug Botulinum Toxin Type A made by Allergan for some neck pain, eye movement spasms and wrinkle removal, under the names Botox and Botox Cosmetic. TRI claims its drug is for research purposes only; its Web site carries the disclaimer: "Not for Human Use." According to the search warrant affidavit, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (news - web sites) notified the FDA that a married couple were admitted Nov. 26 to a Palm Beach, Fla., medical center showing symptoms of botulism. Their doctor said Eric and Bonnie Kaplan had received "Botox" injections two days earlier at a Fort Lauderdale clinic from a man identified as Bach McComb ? a doctor of osteopathy whose medical license was suspended for allegedly prescribing "excessive amounts of controlled substances." The others apparently sickened were McComb and his girlfriend. They were hospitalized in Bayonne, N.J., the same day as the Kaplans. Botulism, a bacterial-caused, toxin-induced paralyzing disease, is fatal in about 10 percent of cases; it usually paralyzes victims from the head down for several months until affected nerve endings regrow.

The FDA inspected TRI in October after a Tennessee doctor filed a complaint claiming an alleged fraudulent scheme involving the sale of Botox, Leeds said. It refused to let the agency review its sale or shipping records then, she said.

Calls and e-mail to the company went unanswered Thursday. TRI's president and chief executive officer is listed as Chad Livdahl. No one answered the phone at a number listed for Livdahl.

Spokeswomen for the FDA and the U.S. attorney in Phoenix declined to comment. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Miami did not immediately return a call Thursday.

Human prion protein with valine 129 prevents expression of variant CJD phenotype
December 3, 2004
Science Volume 306 Issue 5702 p. 1793-1796
Jonathan D. F. Wadsworth, Emmanuel A. Asante, Melanie Desbruslais, Jacqueline M. Linehan, Susan Joiner, Ian Gowland, Julie Welch, Lisa Stone, Sarah E. Lloyd, Andrew F. Hill,* Sebastian Brandner, John Collinge
Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) is a unique and highly distinctive clinicopathological and molecular phenotype of human prion disease associated with infection with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)?like prions. Here, we found that generation of this phenotype in transgenic mice required expression of human prion protein (PrP) with methionine 129. Expression of human PrP with valine 129 resulted in a distinct phenotype and, remarkably, persistence of a barrier to transmission of BSE-derived prions on subpassage. Polymorphic residue 129 of human PrP dictated propagation of distinct prion strains after BSE prion infection. Thus, primary and secondary human infection with BSE-derived prions may result in sporadic CJD-like or novel phenotypes in addition to vCJD, depending on the genotype of the prion source and the recipient.
Medical Research Council (MRC) Prion Unit and Department of Neurodegenerative Disease, Institute of Neurology, University College London, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK.
Present address: Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Department of Pathology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia.
To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: j.collinge@prion.ucl.ac.uk

Center offers programs on protecting food supply

Source of Article: http://www.ift.org/news_bin/news/news_home.shtml

12/09/2004-The Early Responders Distance Learning Center at Saint Joseph University in Philadelphia, is developing new programs aimed at protecting America food supply from terror attacks through targeted distance education. The initiatives are funded by the FDA and the USDA. They focus on educational outreach to government workers and those who grow and distribute food--and represent a creative partnership between ERDLC and the Saint Joseph University Center for Food Marketing.
The Early Responders Distance Learning Center (ERDLC) of Saint Joseph's University was founded before 9/11. It was established in 1999, in anticipation of a then-growing terror threat, with the mission of providing accredited training for emergency responders to terrorist incidents. The center is committed to creating state-of-the-art distance learning content and delivery embedded in psychological science to aid and strengthen America emergency response community: http://erdlc.sju.edu/
In addition, ERDLC creates and administers Continuing Education Credits for mental health professionals through the American Psychological Association and the National Association for Social Workers.
ERDLC and the Saint Joseph University Center for Food Marketing http://cfm.sju.edu/ have recently been awarded a $750,000 contract from the USDA to develop online courses to help protect the nation's food supply from contamination and agro-terrorism.
A total of eight courses have been developed as part of the FDA contract including: global food system; food safety law; risk assessment; management and communication; and traceability. The USDA contract will result in the creation of six courses and two tabletop exercises.

State subpoenas 19 in botulism poisoning case

Posted December 9 2004, 11:50 AM EST

Source of Article: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/

TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist on Thursday issued 19 subpoenas as part of an investigation into botulism poisoning that may have been caused by an anti-wrinkle toxin provided by a Broward County-based provider.

In a prepared statement, Attorney General Charlie Crist said documents obtained through the subpoenas could help medical investigators determine the source of botulinum toxin found in four individuals while also helping the state determine whether violations of Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act have taken place.

Hopsitalized were chiropractor Eric Kaplan and wife Bonnie and clinic employees Bach McComb, a suspended physician, and his girlfriend, Alma "AJ" Hall, are at Bayonne, N.J., Medical Center.

The subpoenas were issued to Broward-based Advanced Integrated Medical Centers and related companies and individuals. Additional subpoenas were issued to four Arizona-based companies ? Z Spa, Inc.; Powderz, Inc.; Powderz Medical Apothecary; and Toxin Research International, Inc. ?and to the companies' registered agents, Chad Livdahl and Karim Zahra, of Tucson, Arizona.

State and federal authorities are trying to determine whether Advanced purchased botulinum toxin from Toxin Research International and then provided injections of this anti-wrinkle treatment to four individuals who have been hospitalized since Thanksgiving weekend, possibly as a result of the anti-wrinkle injections.

"At this point, health investigators are trying to determine how these four people became sick while the state of Florida is working to determine whether any of our laws were violated," Crist said in the release. "These subpoenas will help us get to the bottom of this sad episode."

The subpoenas request a variety of documents pertaining to the sale and distribution of the harmful botulinum toxin. The Attorney General's Office is seeking marketing materials, invoices, bank statements, shipping records, employee information, records of communication with the federal Food and Drug Administration, professional licensure documents, email messages and current orders for botulinum toxin that the companies might be processing.

Investigators have not conclusively determined the source of the botulinum toxin found in the four sick individuals, but reports indicate that all four received anti-wrinkle injections at the Broward County clinic run by Advanced Integrated Medical Centers.

Consumers Union launches food-safety Web site

by Pete Hisey on 12/8/04 for Meatingplace.com

Consumers Union, publishers of Consumers Reports, has launched http://www.NotInMyFood.org, a watchdog Web site aimed at the food industry.

Organizations overseeing the beef industry, particularly the Agriculture Department and the Food and Drug Administration, are the focus at launch, although Michael Hansen, a research biologist for Consumers Union, said that the site will address all aspects of food safety and regulation. The launch of the site coincides with a Consumer Reports' report on the meat industry titled, "You Are What They Eat."

The site calls for a four-point beef safety plan, including mandatory recalls of contaminated food, an end to "secrecy agreements" between USDA and individual states that keep the source of recalled beef secret, prompt enactment of rules to prohibit such substances as ruminant blood and poultry litter from animal feed and a sharp increase in the number of cattle tested each year for bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

According to Hansen, the site is aimed at creating a balance between informed criticism of USDA and the food industry and preventing consumer panic. "We want to tell them that there is a hierarchy of risk, from eating brains or spinal tissue at the top and boneless muscle cuts at the bottom, for instance," he said. The site recommends, for example, that consumers avoid high-risk organs, beef sausage and boxed hamburgers and seek out organic or grass-fed beef instead.

Hansen noted that while the Web is a valuable tool, consumers are faced with overwhelming amounts of information, much of it unreliable or demonstrably false. NotInMyFood is designed to offer consumers a trusted source for information, he said.

[Texas] Worst may be over for area schools; 206 cases of intestinal malady reported
By ANITA MILLER - News Editor
Posted: Tuesday, Dec 07, 2004 - 03:37:17 pm CST

Source of Article: http://www.sanmarcosrecord.com/articles/2004/12/07/news/news2.txt

Efforts to stem an increasing number of cases of the intestinal malady shigellosis in local public schools seem to have paid off, according to a county health official.

Kristy Phillips, coordinator for tuberculosis and communicable disease for the Hays County Personal Health Department, said new cases have trickled down to one or two a day, when at the peak of the outbreak there were "anywhere from five to 10" daily.

As of Thursday, Phillips said there have been a grand total of 206 cases of shigellosis, which is caused by the shigella bacteria which is spread by hand to mouth contact with fecal material.

Of those, 133 cases involved students in the San Marcos CISD, primarily elementary-school aged. Another 26 were in Hays CISD students and the remaining 47 "have been everything from adults to kids that aren't in school yet," Phillips said. "Pretty much all of them have been linked to a school-related case."

She said there have been a few cases at local daycares, but credited their stepped-up efforts to monitor handwashing and rigorously disinfect bathroom areas for keeping most young children healthy.

She noted that public schools and daycares adopted the stricter hygiene practices once the cases began to appear in late September and early October.

"They seemed to be able to get it controlled pretty quick."

Signs and symptoms of shigellosis include diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting and stomach cramps. It is easily controlled with antibiotics; however, infected persons can still spread the disease even after their symptoms have disappeared, and even after they have completed a course of antibiotics.

If untreated, the bacteria can remain in the intestinal tract for months. Shigellosis is rarely fatal in the United States, according to the Texas Department of Health; but it can be serious. Phillips said some local cases progressed to the point they had to be treated for dehydration due to the severe diarrhea.

Because the bacteria can stick around, infected children were barred from returning to class "until they have completed seven days of antibiotic treatment and/or have a negative stool culture."

She said one factor in the decrease of cases appears to have been the Thanksgiving holiday. Although the Centers for Disease Control says the incubation period can be anywhere from one to seven days, Phillips said it often appears in one to four days, so the long Thanksgiving holiday was sufficient to interrupt its spread.

"Anytime you can get a break and get those kids separated you aren't infecting those that haven't been infected yet." She said she "saw what she was hoping to" after the break. "After Christmas, I hope it will be gone."