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Portable nano and micro sensors developed for food safety
By Ahmed ElAmin
Source of Article:
22/02/2006 - An EU-funded research project has developed micro and nanotechnology portable devices to detect toxins, pathogens and chemicals in foodstuffs on the spot. The development means food samples would no longer have to be sent to a laboratory for tests ? a comparatively lengthy and costly procedure but could be analysed for safety and quality at the farm, slaughter house, during transport, or in a processing or packaging plant, the project's researchers say.Currently the detection of bacteria or pesticides in different foodstuffs is only possible by sending samples to a laboratory and waiting hours or days for the results. A portable device would not only accelerate the testing procedure, but would allow more tests to be carried out on more produce samples, increasing the overall safety of the food.

The Good Foods project aims to achieve full safety and quality assurance along the complete food chain stated Carles Cane, the coordinator of the project at the National Microelectronics Centre in Spain. The project is developing tiny biomechanical and microelectronic sensors that can be used to screen for virtually any pathogen or toxin in any produce. The project partners are focusing their research on quality and safety analysis for dairy goods, fruit and wine. The scientists are developing a device based on a fluorescent optical biosensor that measures the reaction of a probe coated with antibodies when it comes into contact with antibiotics present in milk or other dairy products.Though the use of antibiotics as growth enhancers is prohibited in dairy cattle in Europe, farmers are permitted to use them in treating ailments affecting individual animals. The antibiotics can enter the milk and could prove harmful to consumers by creating cumulative resistance to antibiotic treatments. The threat is particularly harmful of the contaminated milk ends up in baby food.

Currently producers check milk for antibiotic residues using a non-reusable litmus paper testing kit. An electronic device of the kind being developed by GoodFood would make the tests faster, cheaper and more accurate, the researchers stated in a press release yesterday. Cost benefits and accuracy would also result if a microelectronic device is used to detect pathogens such as salmonella and listeria bacteria in milk, cheese and other dairy products, they stated. The partners in the project are also developing a device using DNA biochips to detect pathogens - a technique that could also be applied to determine the presence of different kinds of harmful bacteria in meat or fish, or fungi affecting fruit. They also plant to develop other sensors based on an immunodiagnostic microarray that can be used to identify pesticides on fruit and vegetables. Sensors could be used to measure the quantity of oxygen and ethylene ? a gas produced by fruit as it ripens - in fridges where unripe fruit is stored for months until it is ready to go on sale. The faster in-house testing would give suppliers greater control over how well the produce is being maintained. Sensors could also be used to measure environmental and climatic conditions at the farm. The additional information would give farmers more control over the quality of their crops, especially when the sensors are connected wirelessly to an analysis system. Such sensors and other systems developed by the project are being tested this year at a vineyard near Florence in Italy. GoodFood sensors will be used to monitor grapes due to be harvested next September. ¡°Wine making is a precise art and a difference of a few days in when the grapes are picked can make a huge difference in the quality of the wine,¡± Cane stated.

Food Safety Technologies Applicable for Small and Very Small Plants - FY 2003

FDA responds to tomato lycopene objections

Kroger nixes carbon monoxide packaging
by Pete Hisey on 2/28/2006 for
Cincinnati-based retailer Kroger Co. has stopped stocking ground beef products packaged with low-oxygen, modified atmosphere packaging containing carbon monoxide.
The chain said it was acting because of the "ambiguous" nature of information about the safety of meat product packaged with CO, which extends the "bloom," or red color, of the meat while eliminating the oxygen found in most MAP packaging, A spokeswoman for Fred Meyer, a Kroger division, said the company felt it "didn't have enough information to feel like it had to be in our meat," according to a report in the Oregonian.

Kroger is mainly supplied by Tyson Foods.
The main issue surrounding the CO controversy, which has resulted in high-profile articles in national newspapers such as the Washington Post and syndicate services, is that the CO content, which is about 0.4 percent of the atmosphere, with carbon dioxide and nitrogen making up the bulk of the atmosphere, may keep meat bright red and fresh-looking long after the meat has spoiled or degraded. Proponents of CO respond that the process not only provides a bright red color, but the carbon dioxide content retards the growth of pathogens. However, once meat spoils, it will still develop a telltale odor and sliminess typical of spoiled meat. Cargill Meat Solutions, which has patents pending on its process, contends that CO packaging produces a safer product that will last far longer in the consumer's refrigerator. Opponents contend that consumers look at color of meat first and foremost in judging its freshness, and therefore, CO packaging could result in Americans eating beef that has been allowed to exceed allowable temperatures, leading to pathogen buildup. The solution may be packaging that alerts the consumer if the cold chain has been violated, as well as clear "use-by" dates on the front of the package. Several firms in the food industry are developing such temperature-sensitive packaging, although Scott Eilert, Cargill's vice president for meat technology development, recently told Meatingplace that the company has yet to find products that are effective or cost-effective.

Enzyme offers clue to peanut fatalities
February 28, 2006
Globe and Mail
Carolyn Abraham
Peter Vadas, director of allergy and clinical immunology at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, along with an international research team, has, according to this story, found that nine people who died of peanut allergies had a significantly lower level of a particular enzyme in their blood. At normal levels, the enzyme breaks down the chemical that causes bronchial spasms, and blood pressure drops during an allergic reaction.
The nine who died also showed the expected high levels of the IgE antibodies that are activated in response to an allergen.
Dr. Vadas was quoted as saying, "To be at risk for fatal peanut anaphylaxis, I think that people need to have [these] two factors come together. This is clearly not the only reason that a person may be at risk for fatal peanut anaphylaxis, but it is a . . . biochemical abnormality which may allow us to identify at least one subset of patients at risk."
This dual biochemical profile was not found in the blood of any other adults and children who had died from a range of different causes, from drowning to sudden infant death syndrome, and allergic reactions to substances other than peanuts.
"If it's borne out, then there is a way of stratifying individuals," said Dr. Vadas, who is preparing the finding for publication. "If there are expensive therapies coming, you would know who should get it first. . . . My ultimate goal would be to find a drug that targets this enzyme."

Hygiene guide for businesses published
Monday 27 February 2006
The Food Standards Agency has published an updated guide for food businesses that explains the key requirements of new hygiene regulations that apply in the UK.

The booklet, 'Food hygiene a guide for businesses', also explains good practice in relation to food hygiene. It is aimed at restaurants, cafes and other catering businesses, as well as shops selling food. It complements food safety management packs produced by the Agency, including 'Safer food, better business'. The previous publications ¡®Food safety regulations¡¯ and 'Guide to food hygiene' have been replaced by the new booklet.
Businesses can order 'Food hygiene a guide for businesses' free of charge by calling 0845 606 0667 or emailing

Fruit bowl safety
February 28, 2006
New York Times
C. Claiborne Ray
Q. Tourists in regions where the water has disease-causing micro-organisms are told not to eat fruit unless they peel it themselves. If the irrigation water is contaminated, isn't the fruit permeated with it, peeled or unpeeled?
A. Terence Robinson, professor of horticultural sciences at Cornell, was cited as saying that if contaminated water is used to irrigate fruit crops, the organisms that cause diseases in humans do not gain entry into the plant or fruit and that both the fruit and the plant parts have a protective barrier in the form of wax and tough epidermal cells to prevent the microbes from being taken up through the root system. more information

February 2006
IFST: Current Hot Topics
The Institute of Food Science & Technology, through its Public Affairs and Technical & Legislative Committees, has authorised the following Information Statement, prepared by its Professional Food Micriobiology Group, dated February 2006.
Access the Full Text at
Mycotoxins occur widely in nature. There are several different types of these substances; all of them are produced by filamentous fungi. Organisms producing them can develop in foods at any stage in the food chain from the field to the plate. They can also enter the food chain by more indirect routes, for example, in milk from animals that have consumed contaminated material. Effective control requires a combination of good agricultural practice, carefully controlled storage and surveillance at every stage from field to plate. Developing economies are at particular risk from these contaminants as the (generally) moist, warm climates favour mould growth, while adequate control and good storage are difficult to achieve.
This Information Statement presents a general overview of the problem, representing a basis from which more detailed Information Statements on specific Mycotoxins will be developed.

FSIS Announces Initiative to Reduce Salmonella in Meat and Poultry

Retailers fined $16,000 for fish substitution scams (Australia)
February 27, 2006
Minister of Natural Resources Media Release (Australia)
Three fish retailers have been fined a total of $16,000 for misleading consumers by passing off cheaper fish, prawns and scallops as more expensive seafood, Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald said today.
Minister Macdonald said Food Authority inspectors uncovered the scams, which involved incorrect and deceptive labelling of prawns, fish and scallops (including king prawns, barramundi and Tasmanian scallops) as part of an on-going campaign.
The Minister said the fines send a clear message that misleading consumers through fish substitution and bogus labelling would not be tolerated.
¡°Customers have a right to know exactly what they¡¯re buying and we will continue to crack down on any type of scam that misleads people,¡± Minister Macdonald said.
¡°On-going surveillance shows most of the industry is doing the right thing, but anyone who thinks they can get away with misleading consumers should think again.¡±
In one case, Food Authority inspectors found cheap imported Vietnamese catfish (basa) being passed off as more expensive barramundi fillets in ¡°Costi Bros Seafoods¡± store at Roseland Shopping Centre.
Further tests by the Food Authority also showed that ¡°deep sea cod¡± fillets were shark while local ¡°king prawns¡± were vannamei prawns from Thailand.
In fining the proprietor $6000 and ordering he pay $3700 costs, Chief Industrial Magistrate Hart said the charges were ¡°serious¡± and that consumers had a right to know what they were buying.
In a separate unrelated case, ¡°The Seafood Factory Pty Ltd¡± near Newcastle, was fined $6500 and ordered to pay costs totalling $3200 after it repeatedly ignored Food Authority warnings to correctly label imported vannamei prawns, which were being sold as king prawns.
In a third case, Penrith Seafoods (Carlingford) Pty Ltd was fined $3,375 after Food Authority officers found Asian scallops being sold as more expensive Tasmanian scallops.
Minister Macdonald said anyone with information about alleged food substitution should call the Food Authority¡¯s hotline on 1300 552 406.
The crack-down on seafood scams mirrors recent campaigns DPI has conducted on Country of Origin labelling and meat substitution.

Packaging fresh meat
February 27, 2006
New York Times
J. Patrick Boyle, President and Chief Executive, American Meat Institute, Washington, writes to say that, "Which Cut Is Older? (It's a Trick Question)" (news article, Feb. 21) needlessly alarms consumers about a packaging system that the Food and Drug Administration has affirmed as safe three separate times.
The technology, similar to what other food manufacturers use to package many non-meat products, uses minute quantities of carbon monoxide.
The packaging provides distinct benefits for manufacturers, retailers and consumers. By maintaining the freshness and color of meat, the packaging prevents retailers from discarding safe products because of the unappealing and premature browning at the store.
The "sell by" or "use by" date that appears on most packages is there to help protect consumers from buying spoiled meat. When meat products go past their sell-by date, consumers will notice obvious indicators that the product is not safe to eat, including a bad odor, bulging packages and a slimy texture.

Job openings in Food Safety field

Restaurant health inspections online
February 24, 2006
Courier-Islander (Campbell River)
Residents of the Central and Northern parts of Vancouver Island can now, according to this story, check the results of health inspections of their favorite local eatery online.
In 2002 Victoria area inspections were the first to be viewed on line and now, with this roll out of the program, people across the Island have access to the findings of health inspections of all food service establishments plus other information about food safety.
The site includes an explanation of what environmental health inspectors are looking for when they inspect a restaurant, pub or cafeteria, and why a facility received a "low", "moderate" or "high" hazard rating. Summary findings of inspections for restaurants or food stores, dating back to January 1, 2005, are available for Central and North Island. Detailed inspection information and comments can be found beginning December 1, 2005.
Food facility inspection information can be accessed through the Medical Health Officer's website at:

Ohio Co. barred from selling over 4M egg
February 25, 2006
The Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Ohio Department of Agriculture was cited as saying that Ohio Fresh Eggs, one of the nation's largest egg producers was barred Friday from selling over 4 million eggs deemed unfit for human consumption after inspectors found the eggs at room temperature, in violation of health standards.
The story says that State law requires eggs to be stored under refrigeration in a controlled environment below 45 degrees.
A Licking County court issued an order prohibiting the sale of the eggs and the agriculture department will seek an injunction against the company on Tuesday.
Company spokesman Harry Palmer was cited as saying the eggs were not intended for retail sale but were being prepared for possible sale as animal feed, but that if the court rules the eggs must be destroyed, the company will comply.
Ohio Fresh Eggs bought the former Buckeye Egg Farm in February 2004 after that company's repeated run-ins with the state over environmental violations.

81 kids treated for food poisoning
February 25, 2006
The Jakarta Post
MATARAM, West Nusa Tenggara -- Eighty-one children between the ages of two and 12 in Dasan Cermen village, Mataram, were, according to this story, taken to the hospital Thursday night with food poisoning after attending a birthday party.
Sahidi, 30, the father of one of the victims, identified as Riska, said at Mataram General Hospital on Friday the children were given lunch boxes of rice, fried noodles, fried chicken and eggs at the party.
Sahidi said other children who attended the party displayed the same symptoms, and their parents took them to the local community health clinic. However, the clinic was unable to deal with so many patients, so the children were sent to the general hospital in Mataram.
Wawang Orijanto, deputy director of the hospital, confirmed the children were suffering from food poisoning.

Multistate outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium infections associated with eating ground beef --- United States, 2004
February 24, 2006
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)
Salmonella infections cause an estimated 1.4 million human illnesses and 400 deaths annually in the United States (1). Although the incidence of several other foodborne bacterial infections decreased substantially during 1996--2004, the incidence of Salmonella infections declined modestly (2). In September 2004, the New Mexico Department of Health received reports from the New Mexico Scientific Laboratory Division of eight Salmonella enterica serotype Typhimurium isolates that had indistinguishable pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns using XbaI and BlnI restriction enzymes. The patients were from three New Mexico counties and had onsets of illness during August 18--29. A review of PFGE patterns submitted to the National Molecular Subtyping Network for Foodborne Disease Surveillance (PulseNet) database for Salmonella revealed 31 indistinguishable patient isolates of S. Typhimurium from nine states (Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin) and the District of Columbia, with illness onset occurring during August 11--October 2, 2004. The S. Typhimurium isolates were susceptible to all antimicrobial agents tested. An investigation conducted by state health departments, CDC, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) identified ground beef purchased at a national chain of supermarkets as the source of S. Typhimurium infections. Traceback results indicated product originating from a common supplier; however, evaluators determined that plant practices conformed to FSIS production guidelines, and no product recalls were made. This report describes the investigation and underscores the risk for salmonellosis from contact with contaminated ground beef, despite regulatory directives to reduce Salmonella contamination in beef production. Reduced contamination and consumption of raw or undercooked meat and further education of the food service industry and consumers are critical to reducing foodborne salmonellosis. more information

Baby being treated for deadly infection
2/23/2006 5:26 PM
By: News 14 Carolina
Source of Article:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. A Charlotte newborn is recovering after coming down with a deadly infection she got from her mother eating contaminated cheese. Listeria was found in the baby¡¯s bloodstream shortly after birth. Doctors said the child¡¯s mother unknowingly transferred the illness to the girl at the time of delivery. The infection has been linked to contaminated cheese the mother ate while she was pregnant. The baby is being treated with antibiotics and is expected to make a full recovery. Listeriosis primarily affects pregnant women, newborns and adults with weakened immune systems.

DOH Investigates Salmonella Outbreak In Bentonville
Source of Article: 2/23/2006
The Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services is investigating an outbreak of Salmonellosis in Bentonville, Arkansas. To date, 89 people have reported illnesses.
There is a link to Sushi King Restaurant at 2501 Southeast 14th St. #3, Bentonville. The restaurant has voluntarily closed its doors. Upon first learning of the outbreak, the Department of Health division initiated a contact investigation of potentially ill workers and the general public and worked with the restaurant to determine the source of contamination. Salmonellosis is a bacterial infection that usually affects the intestines and occasionally the bloodstream. It is one of the more common causes of foodborne illness with several hundred cases occurring in Arkansas each year. Most cases occur in the summer months and are seen as single cases, clusters, or outbreaks. The bacteria are spread by eating or drinking contaminated food or water or by contact with infected people or animals. People exposed to the Salmonella bacteria may have diarrhea, cramping, fever, nausea, vomiting and headache. Some people may have very mild or no symptoms, but some infections can be quite serious, especially those persons with weakened immune systems such as the very young or elderly. The symptoms generally appear 12 to 36 hours after exposure. The last date of onset of symptoms in persons eating at the restaurant reported to the DOH was February 14th. This suggests that no further transmission has taken place since the DOH intervened. Anyone that has eaten at Sushi King, become ill and has not reported illness to the Division of Health is encouraged to do so. In 2005, 737 cases of Salmonellosis infection were reported to the Division of Health.

Novel oxygen test for foods in plastic packaging
By staff reporter
Source of Article:
28/02/2006 - A new test that realistically determines how much oxygen will pass through food and beverage packaging during a product¡¯s lifetime will enable producers to speed up and improve new product trials. The PET proof procedure, developed by German ingredients and solutions firm Wild, takes less than three weeks to simulate the effect of oxygen on a product in typical storage conditions for several months.
The test has been designed primarily to determine the influence of oxygen on non-alcoholic drinks in plastic packaging. But, Wild said the method could be suitable for all types of passive barrier packaging. The group has filed patent applications for PET proof in Europe, Japan and the US. The permeation of atmospheric oxygen through PET bottles is a critical factor because, aside from temperature and light, oxygen is a key factor in the aging process of foods and beverages. Oxygen permeation may also have an effect on the often complex ingredients make-up of products.

It is the first time an alternative stability and/or durability test for oxygen permeating PET bottles has been found to so-called ¡®real time testing' that monitors a product over its entire shelf-life, according to Wild. High innovation pressure, particularly in the soft drinks industry, has led to shorter product life cycles and the need to trial such products much faster. And, PET bottles are still predicted to dominate several drinks packaging markets over the next few years, despite soaring oil prices significantly raising the cost of plastic for producers. Wild said theoretical models for predicting the effect of gas on a product over its lifetime served only as a rough guide. And fast tests, which expose products to increased temperature, could not give an accurate, long-term picture, the firm added. It is important for food and beverage makers to predict as accurately as possible how their products will perform during storage and throughout their lifetime. This helps to prevent spoilage and maintain quality assurance, which can affect a company's reputation with consumers.