9/09/2002
Issue 18

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Interesting Food Safety News

Bad Meat
by Eric Schlosser http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20020916&c=2&s=schlosser
In a summer full of headlines about corporate misdeeds and irresponsibility, ConAgra's massive recall in July stands apart. The defective product wasn't fiber optic cable, energy futures or some esoteric financial instrument. It was bad meat--almost 19 million pounds of beef potentially contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, enough to supply a tainted burger to at least one-fourth of the US population. Unlike other prominent scandals, this one does not seem to involve any falsification of records, shredding of crucial documents or deliberate violation of the law. And that makes it all the more disturbing. The Bush Administration and its Republican allies in Congress have allowed the meatpacking industry to gain control of the nation's food safety system, much as the airline industry was given responsibility for airport security in the years leading up to the September 11 attacks. The deregulation of food safety makes about as much sense as the deregulation of air safety. Anyone who eats meat these days should be deeply concerned about what our meatpacking companies now have the freedom to sell. At the heart of the food safety debate is the issue of microbial testing. Consumer advocates argue that the federal government should be testing meat for dangerous pathogens and imposing tough penalties on companies that repeatedly fail those tests. The meatpacking industry, which has been battling new food safety measures for almost a century, strongly disagrees. In 1985 a panel appointed by the National Academy of Sciences warned that the nation's meat inspection system was obsolete. At the time USDA inspectors relied solely on visual and olfactory clues to detect tainted meat. After the Jack in the Box outbreak in 1993, the Clinton Administration announced that it would begin random testing for E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef. The meatpacking industry promptly sued the USDA in federal court to block such tests. E. coli O157:H7, the pathogen involved in both the Jack in the Box outbreak and the recent ConAgra recall, can cause severe illness or death, especially among children, the elderly and people who are immuno-suppressed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that about 73,000 Americans are sickened by E. coli O157:H7 every year. An additional 37,000 are sickened by other dangerous strains of E. coli also linked to ground beef. At a slaughterhouse these pathogens are spread when manure or stomach contents get splattered on the meat. The USDA won the 1993 lawsuit, began random testing for E. coli O157:H7 and introduced a "science-based" inspection system in 1996 that requires various microbial tests by meatpacking companies and by the government. The new system, however, has been so weakened by industry opposition and legal challenges that it now may be less effective than the old one. Under the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points plans that now regulate production at meatpacking plants, many food safety tasks have been shifted from USDA inspectors to company employees. In return for such concessions, the USDA gained the power to test for salmonella and to shut down plants that repeatedly failed those tests. Salmonella is spread primarily by fecal material, and its presence in ground beef suggests that other dangerous pathogens may be present as well. In November 1999, the USDA shut down a meatpacking plant for repeatedly failing salmonella tests. The Texas company operating the plant, Supreme Beef Processors, happened to be one of the leading suppliers of ground beef to the National School Lunch Program. With strong backing from the meatpacking industry, Supreme Beef sued the USDA, eventually won the lawsuit and succeeded this past December in overturning the USDA's salmonella limits. About 1.4 million Americans are sickened by salmonella every year, and the CDC has linked a nasty, antibiotic-resistant strain of the bug to ground beef. Nevertheless, it is now perfectly legal to sell ground beef that is thoroughly contaminated with salmonella--and sell it with the USDA's seal of approval. This summer's ConAgra recall raises questions not only about the nation's food safety rules but also about the USDA's competence to enforce them. The USDA conducts its random tests for E. coli O157:H7 at wholesale and retail locations, not at the gigantic slaughterhouses where the meat is usually contaminated. By the time the USDA discovers tainted meat, it's already being distributed. On June 17 and 19, USDA test results showed that beef shipped from the ConAgra slaughterhouse in Greeley, Colorado was contaminated. But the USDA failed to inform ConAgra for almost two weeks. Meanwhile, the bad meat continued to be sold at supermarkets, served at countless restaurants and grilled at outdoor barbecues nationwide. Although the packages said "Freeze or sell by 06 18 02," Safeway supermarkets in Colorado held a two-for-one sale of the questionable ConAgra meat from June 19 to June 25. Four days later the USDA informed ConAgra that it had distributed beef contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.ConAgra announced a "voluntary recall" of 354,200 pounds. Then health authorities noticed that people were getting severely ill, mainly small children in Colorado. A common symptom was vomiting and defecating blood. After consultations with the USDA, ConAgra expanded the voluntary recall on July 19 to include an additional 18.3 million pounds of beef processed at the Greeley plant between April 12 and July 11. About three dozen illnesses and one death have thus far been linked to ConAgra's meat. Based on previous E. coli outbreaks, perhaps twenty times that number of illnesses occurred without being properly diagnosed or reported. According to the most recent tally, less than one-tenth of the 18.6 million pounds of ConAgra's recalled meat has been recovered. The rest has most likely been eaten. Throughout the recall, USDA officials praised ConAgra for how well it had cooperated with the government, offering little criticism or explanation of how this company had managed to ship thousands of tons of potentially contaminated meat for months. The USDA also deflected criticism of its own role in the outbreak; a Montana wholesaler had warned the agency in February that beef shipped from ConAgra's plant in Greeley was tainted. Instead of imposing a tough penalty on ConAgra, the USDA often seemed eager to shift the blame and responsibility to consumers. "If people cooked their food correctly," said Elsa Murano, USDA under secretary for food safety, "a lot of outbreaks would not take place." Although ConAgra apparently violated no laws, its behavior made clear where the real power lies. The recall of its meat was entirely voluntary. In an age when defective Happy Meal toys can be swiftly ordered off the market at the slightest hint of a choking hazard, the government can neither demand the recall of potentially deadly meat nor impose civil fines on companies that sell it. ConAgra has refused to disclose publicly which restaurants, distributors and supermarkets got meat from Greeley; federal law does not require the company to do so. Colorado health officials did not receive a list showing where ConAgra's meat had been distributed until the first week of August--more than a month after the initial recall. Health officials in Utah and Oklahoma did not receive that information from ConAgra until the third week in August. "I know it's here," an Oklahoma public health official told the Denver Post at one point, referring to the recalled meat. "But without knowing where it went, there's not a whole lot we can do." In future recalls, ConAgra now promises to do a better job of sharing information with state health authorities--even though the law does not require the company to do so. ConAgra's meatpacking operations in Greeley are described at length in my book Fast Food Nation, and I've spent a great deal of time with workers there. For years they have complained about excessive line speeds. The same factors often responsible for injuries in a slaughterhouse can also lead to food safety problems. When workers work too fast, they tend to make mistakes, harming themselves or inadvertently contaminating the meat. America's food safety system has been expertly designed not to protect the public health but to protect the meatpacking industry from liability. The industry has received abundant help in this effort from the Republican Party, which for more than a decade has thwarted Congressional efforts to expand the USDA's food safety authority. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, during the 2000 presidential campaign meat and livestock interests gave about $23,000 to Al Gore and about $600,000 to George W. Bush. The money was well spent. Dale Moore, chief of staff for Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, was previously the chief lobbyist for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Elizabeth Johnson, one of Veneman's senior advisers, was previously the associate director for food policy at the NCBA. Mary Waters, USDA assistant secretary for Congressional relations, assumed the post after working as legislative counsel for ConAgra Foods. It would be an understatement to say that the Bush Administration has been friendly toward the big meatpackers. During Congressional testimony this past spring, Elsa Murano, USDA chief food safety advocate, argued that her agency does not need the power to order a recall of contaminated meat. Nor did it need, she said, any new authority to shut down ground beef plants because of salmonella contamination. The meatpacking companies don't want any of their customers to get sick. But they don't want to be held liable for illnesses either, or to spend more money on preventing outbreaks. The exemplary food safety system at Jack in the Box increases the cost of the fast food chain's ground beef by about one penny per pound. The other major hamburger chains also require that their suppliers provide meat largely free of dangerous pathogens--and that requirement has not yet driven the meatpacking industry into bankruptcy. Senator Tom Harkin has introduced two pieces of food safety legislation that would help fill some of the glaring gaps in the current system. The SAFER Meat, Poultry and Food Act of 2002 would give the USDA the authority to demand recalls of contaminated meat and impose civil fines on meatpacking companies. The Meat and Poultry Pathogen Reduction Act would place enforceable limits on the amounts of disease-causing bugs that meat can legally contain. Harkin's bills embody a good deal of common sense. Companies that produce clean meat should be allowed to sell it; those that produce dirty meat shouldn't. The Republican Party's alliance with the big meatpackers does not reflect widespread public support. The issue of food safety isn't like abortion or gun control, with passionate and fundamentally opposing views held by millions of American voters. When most people learn how the meatpacking industry operates, they're appalled. The outrage crosses party lines. Democrat or Republican, you still have to eat. None of the recently proposed reforms, however, would prove as important and effective as the creation of an independent food safety agency with tough enforcement powers. The USDA has a dual and conflicting mandate. It's supposed to promote the sale of American meat--and protect consumers from unsafe meat. As long as the USDA has that dual role, consumers must be extremely careful about where they purchase beef, how they handle it and how long they cook it. While many Americans fret about the risks of bioterrorism, a much more immediate threat comes from the all-American meal. Until fundamental changes are made in our food safety system, enjoying your hamburgers medium-rare will remain a form of high-risk behavior.

ADDITIONAL FOOD SAFETY TOOLS
September 5, 2002
USDA
http://www.foodsafety.gov/~fsg/f02tools.html
2002 Planning Guide For Food Safety Educators
Brochures
Fight BAC!?Four Simple Steps to Food Safety
English (also available in PDF)
Spanish (also available in PDF)
Chinese (available in PDF)
Thermy?Says: ³It's Safe to Bite When the Temperature Is Right?Brochure
English (also available in PDF)
Spanish (also available in PDF)
Fact Sheets/Information Sheets
Playing It Safe With Eggs Fact Sheet (also available in PDF)
Foodborne Illness‹What Consumers Need to Know Fact Sheet
English (also available in PDF)
Spanish
How to Handle Refrigerated Ready-To-Eat Foods and Avoid Listeriosis (also
available
in PDF)
Listeriosis and Pregnancy: What is Your Risk?
Safe Food Handling for a Healthy Pregnancy
English (also available in PDF)
Spanish (available in PDF)
Consumer Publications from USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service
Alphabetical Listing of Consumer Publications
Graphics
Fight BAC!?Logos and Graphics
(Compliments of the Partnership for Food Safety Education)
Thermy?Graphics
Video Clips
CLEAN (1:37)
http://www.ocav.usda.gov:8080/ramgen/fsis/clean.smi
COOK (1:15)
http://www.ocav.usda.gov:8080/ramgen/fsis/cook.smi
SEPARATE (:30)
http://www.ocav.usda.gov:8080/ramgen/fsis/spe.smi
CHILL (1:30)
http://www.ocav.usda.gov:8080/ramgen/fsis/chill.smi

FOOD SAFETY AUTHORITY REPORT AIMS TO REDUCE CAMPYLOBACTER FOOD POISONING
September 6, 2002
Food Safety Authority of Ireland Media Release
www.fsai.ie
The Microbiology Sub-committee of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland(FSAI),
today published the first detailed report in Ireland on ecommendations forthe control of the food poisoning bacteria Campylobacter in the food chain.Campylobacter is the most frequent cause of bacterial diarrhoea and farexceeds the more commonly known germs, Salmonella and E. coli O157 as a causeof human illness. While the incidence of Salmonella infections has steadilydeclined since 1998, Campylobacter is showing an upward trend and is contributing to the foodborne illness currently being experienced in Ireland. Control of Campylobacter Species in the Food Chain outlines 38 recommendations for industry and the government agencies to improve the control and monitoring of the incidence of this bacteria in Ireland. A full copy of the report Is available from the Food Safety Information Centre (1890 336677) or on www.fsai.ie.
In 1999, 2,085 people in Ireland were infected with Campylobacter, with 1,613 reported cases in 2000 - double that of salmonellosis cases. Only the severely ill cases present to the health service and are counted in the national figures compiled by the National Disease Surveillance Centre. So the reported cases represent only the tip of the iceberg and it is estimated That 90% of cases of Campylobacter go unreported. The FSAI report will provide the basis for the FSAI, other governmental agencies and the food industry to develop risk management strategies that are practical, sustainable and effective in the control of Campylobacter. According to Dr Patrick Wall, Chief Executive, FSAI Campylobacter may not be as familiar to consumers as E. coli O157 or Salmonella, but it is responsible for more foodborne illness. "This germ can be controlled by cleanliness at
all stages in the food chain and it is killed by cooking. It is
disappointing that so many people, a proportion of whom have to be admitted to hospital,arefalling ill with an easily preventable illness. Sequential risk reduction along the food chain from the farm to the kitchen can lessen its occurrence and this report outlines practical recommendations to assist in this reduction process," he said.
Campylobacter is a naturally occurring bacteria found in the intestinal
tract of livestock and poultry used for food production and can therefore be transmitted through a variety of foods of animal origin. The report studied existing knowledge on the prevalence of the bacteria. It suggests two broad approaches to reducing the opportunity for human infection by Campylobacter. Firstly, the elimination of Campylobacter occurring at animal level and the
prevention of contamination of fruit and vegetables during growing and harvesting and secondly, treatment of the end food product prior to consumption. The report highlights that Campylobacter infection is more common in males than females, especially in young children and young adults. The main symptoms of Campylobacter infections are acute gastroenteritis with diarrhoea and/or vomiting and can be severe and life threatening in vulnerable people.In 1999 and 2000 in Ireland, cases were highest in children aged 0-4 years,
followed by children in early adulthood. The high rate in young children is attributed in part to susceptibly on first exposure and to the low threshold for seeking medical care for infants. High incidences among young adults are attributed to poor food preparation skills.
Foods that have been associated with the infection are undercooked poultry and unpasteurised milk but any food can be implicated if hygiene standards are poor and cross contamination occurs during food preparation. Water can become contaminated resulting in human illness when the water is consumed or used in preparing food.
Campylobacter-free poultry cannot be produced under current production conditions and therefore the approaches to be taken are to reduce the incidence to the lowest level achievable in poultry and alert everyone in the food chain, including consumers, to the fact that poultry meat may carry this germ and needs to be handled hygienically and thoroughly cooked before eating.
"Campylobacter infection has serious economic and social impact in Ireland. It is vital that measures and recommendations are put in place by all stakeholders from farm through catering and the retail sector as well as theregulatory bodies to reduce the cases of Campylobacter infection in Ireland," concludes Dr Wall. "Consumers must play their role too to protect themselves.They should adhere to good general hygiene practices (i.e. washing hands after handling raw poultry) and should cook poultry thoroughly until there is no
pink meat and the juices run clear."


KEY RECOMMENDATIONS OF CONTROL OF CAMPYLOBACTER SPECIES IN THE FOOD CHAIN
Poultry farm managers/operators should comply to the highest possible degree with the bio-security measures detailed in the report.
During poultry production, the practice of thinning and point-selling should be avoided, where possible, by completely de-stocking the flock in each house at one time. The meat and poultry meat industries should develop and implement evidence based standard operating procedures, in order to prevent or minimise produce
contamination. -Food businesses should document and implement a food safety management system based on the principles of HACCP.
All staff involved in catering and food production generally, should be
appropriately trained in food safety to a level commensurate with their work activities.The Food Safety Authority of Ireland and the relevant official agencies should consider the establishment of monitoring and control strategies for Campylobacter in poultry meat production, processing and distribution. -There is a need for improved surveillance of human Campylobacteriosis and of Campylobacter spp. throughout the food chain. A national Campylobacter reference laboratory should be established. -Funding for research and development related to improved understanding and
control of Campylobacteriosis gets high priority.
Consumers should practise basic good hygiene when handling food and should cook high-risk raw foods thoroughly. The Food Safety Promotion Board should continue public awareness campaigns
which focus on general measures for safe food a handling and preparation. -The Food Safety Promotion Board should measure consumer attitudes to interventions such as irradiation of meat on an ongoing basis and stimulate dialogue between consumers and scientists in relation to the potential benefits of food irradiation and consumer concerns about perceived hazards. -The Food Safety Authority of Ireland should work with industry to ensure appropriate labelling of raw poultry and other meat products, in order to
advise food handlers and consumers that these products may contain harmful bacteria and must therefore be handled, stored and prepared according to the instructions provided. The Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development should put in place systems to monitor imports to ensure that the same standards that are
applied to domestically produced food are also applied to imported foods.

Food Safety Daily News
09/09. POLL - 87 PERCENT WORRIED OVER FOOD SAFETY
09/09. PROMOTING SHELLFISH SAFETY; BIOTOXIN MONITORING KEEPS SHELLF
09/09. Death stokes fears about 'mad elk' disease
09/09. Officials seek help in testing deer
09/09. 26 SCOTS BEACHES HIT BY BUG IN WATER
09/09. Listeria alert at Te Awamutu
09/09. Petting Zoos - E. coli Hotbed
09/09. Sept. 11: Food, water supplies protected
09/08. Health Department investigates E. coli case
09/08. Altered-Food Allergies
09/08. Food irradiation: is there a future in Europe?
09/07. Abattoirs warned over food bug
09/07. Food scares hit schools
09/07. Irish food tracking campaign
09/06. September is Time for Food Safety Lessons
09/06. ADDITIONAL FOOD SAFETY TOOLS
09/06. HEALTH DEPARTMENT HANDLING REPORTS OF FOOD POISONING IN P.E.
09/06. LOBLAWS CUSTOMER HAS HEPATITIS: JOINS LAWSUIT
09/06. FOOD SAFETY AUTHORITY REPORT AIMS TO REDUCE CAMPYLOBACTER
09/06. Japan To Incinerate 37 Cows After Mad Cow Disease Scare
09/06. NON-MEAT QUORN CRITICISED FOR MISLEADING CONSUMERS
09/06. KARAN BEEF GETS HACCP CERTIFICATION
09/06. 2003 IFT ANNUAL MEETING PRESENTATIONS DEADLINES
09/06. TEST YOUR FOOD SAFETY KNOWLEDGE
09/06. VICTORIA'S WORLD-FIRST FOOD SAFETY PLAN
09/06. MANILA LIFTS BAN ON IMPORT OF DANISH POWDERED MILK
09/06. RECALLED GLICO MILK FOUND TO CONTAIN E. COLI BACTERIA
09/06. China appeals to Japan to drop rules that threaten trade in
09/06. Restaurants safe, health official says
09/06. Bad Meat
09/06. Food safety industry poised for growth
09/06. Seymour-based egg producer wins $6 million federal
09/05. Stricter USDA Tests for Troubled ConAgra Plant
09/05. Milk Found to be Contaminated on Two Farms
09/05. PUBLIC MEETING: CONTROLLING FOREIGN MATERIALS IN A HACCP ENV
09/05. RECENT FSIS NOTICES: SUMMARIES BY OLSSON, FRANK & WEEDA
09/05. NMA COMMENTS
09/05. WHAT ODDS!
09/05. NEW RESEARCH ON CONSUMERS AND FOOD SAFETY CONCERNS
09/05. LOBLAWS HIT WITH $100M HEPATITIS SUIT: CUSTOMER BLAMES GROCE
09/05. FOOD-CONTAMINATION SCARES, EXECUTIVE DEPARTURES HIT DARDEN R
09/05. FOOD SAFETY ON THE FARM; PUBLIC TOURS THIS WEEKEND
09/05. FOUR BEEF CHECKOFF STUDIES ASSESS COMMUNITY RESPONSE TO IRR
09/04. DAIRY QUEEN IRRADIATED BURGERS GO STATEWIDE IN MINNESOTA
09/04. SPINAL CORD FOUND IN FOREIGN BEEF
09/04. Wasting disease confirmed here
09/04. Tainted, fresh beef were mixed, Minneapolis firm says
09/04. Use common-sense for handling, processing deer
09/04. Cadbury Nigeria faces labelling case
09/04. Becoming more hygienic
09/04. Thumbs up for meat alternative ingredient

PIONEERING MACHINE TO BEAT WATER BUGS
Source:
http://www.thisisbath.com
A bath company is aiming to beat the threat of water-born killer diseases such as Legionnaires' disease.A pioneering machine will be unveiled by the Gay Street-based Bio Antigen company next month.It has been predicted that extra droughts and floods caused by global warming and the increasing use of air-conditioning will make fertile breeding grounds for organisms such as e-coli, cryptosporidium, and legionella pneumophila.Scientists predict it will mean diseases such as Legionnaires' are likely to become more common.Yesterday, a 56-year-old grandmother was confirmed as the latest victim to die from the Barrow-inFurness outbreak that occurred earlier this month.But next month Bio Antigen will unveil a machine which is able to destroy bacteria without using chemicals or heat.Scientist Stephen Law, director of Bio Antigen, says he is confident the machine he will be marketing from mid-September will see an end to such outbreaks.The device has been pioneered in Germany for the past four years but only recently unveiled when researchers were confident of 100 per cent effectiveness.It has already been installed in hospitals around Germany but does not work like conventional methods of treating waterborne diseases such as chemicals and heat.Mr Law explained: "You can heat water to 65infinityC to kill bacteria but you end up with the problem of limescale which is a breeding ground for bacteria."Or you can use chemicals to treat it but with chemicals it's a bit like using chemotherapy to treat cancer - it's hit and miss. This system is working more with physics than chemistry."It uses two opposing forces. Centrifugal force, which is an explosive force which pushes things outwards, and centripetal force which is like a vacuum."When you overlay these on top of each other you get two forces which grow stronger until they meet and then there's an explosion. Anything organic is vaporised and totally destroyed into free floating atoms."The reaction doesn't remove all chemicals which means you get left with pure mineral water."All this occurs in a small cube of stainless steel which has no moving parts and, once installed needs no maintenance or upkeep."When I first heard about this it sounded like science fiction but then I found out about the people working on the project, " Mr Law added."I went to Germany to see it working and was amazed at how simple it was."I am an environmentalist but I believe in using technology to find ways of doing things better and cheaper than currently because very few businesses are interested unless there is a saving.This will be a revolution."Mr Law says the machine would cost ?,000 for a small office or ?0,000 for a campus the size of the Royal United Hospital but would need no more expenditure after that.

 

OUTBREAKS
09/09. OREGON'S LARGEST EVER E. COLI OUTBREAK TRACED TO LANE COUNTY

09/06. Salmonella strain very rare, CDCsays

09/06. Salmonella spreads person to person

09/05. OUTBREAK OF DIARRHEAL ILLNESS IN ATTENDEES AT A UKRAINIAN DA

09/05. Health Officials Track Source of Fatal Listeria

09/05. Listeria infection kills city man

09/04. Inmates moved after contamination scare

09/04. Health department says Norwalk virus hit team

09/04. Spaghetti sickens 50 students


Recall Summary
09/06. Consumer Alert: Undeclared Sulfites in Dried Dates
09/06. Eastwell Trading Has Recalled Dried Dates Sep 6
09/06. International Multifoods Has Recalled Pillsbury Chocolate Chip Muffin Mix Sep 6
09/05. Sliced Smoked Nova Salmon Pieces Recalled Due to Listeria Contamination
09/05. Pennsylvania Firm Has Recalled Sausage Products Sep 5
09/05. California Firm Has Recalled Prosciutto Hams Sep 5
09/05. Anhing Corporation Has Recalled Pickled Sour Bamboo Shoot Slices Sep 4
09/04. Romic Has Recalled Laima brand Greipfrutu Skelites (Grapefruit Candy) Sep 4
09/04. Recall Update: Miguel and Valentino Fig Cake Recall is Complete Sep 4
09/04. Recall Update: Penguin Juice Company Pure Fun brand Peach Mango Juice Recall
09/04. Recall Update: Hong Thai Foods PICKLED Sour bamboo shoot Recall is Complete Sep 4
09/04. California Firm Recalls Prosciutto Hams For Possible Listeria Contamination
09/04. Pennsylvania Firm Recalls Sausage Products For Possible Listeria Contamination

USDA/FDA NEWS
FSIS Constituent Update: August 30, 2002
Public Meeting To Address The Control Of Foreign Material Contaminants In A HACCP Environment
Technical Conference on Foreign Material Contaminants, Prerequisite Programs, and Validation
Positive E. coli Test Results, Updated August 29, 2002
Letter to Stakeholders: Announcing CAERS, the CFSAN Adverse Event Reporting System
Enterobacter sakazakii from Dehydrated Powdered Infant Formula, Updated August 2002

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NEW METHODS
Sanitized produce is good to go Prospects growing for FDA-approved process by Suntex
By DAVID KAPLAN

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