11/30
2006
ISSUE:236

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FDA investigates second Salmonella outbreak tied to tomatoes
28.nov.06
The Produce News
Joan Murphy
http://www.theproducenews.com/storydetail.cfm?ID=6485
WASHINGTON -- The Food & Drug Administration is now, according to this story, investigating two tomato-related outbreaks, with the latest blamed for nearly 100 illnesses in 19 states.
Dave Daigle, a spokesman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, was quoted as saying, "It's been a busy year," referring to the earlier tomato outbreak and the California spinach investigation.
CDC was cited as saying that 98 people in 19 states located mainly in the eastern portion of the United States have been infected with Salmonella Newport (Hey, CFIA, any in Canada? -- dp). Cases from this outbreak surfaced in June and ended Oct. 20, leading federal health officials to focus on tomatoes eaten in restaurants and served in most cases during the early fall months.
While the outbreak appears over, health officials are continuing surveillance and FDA is conducting a traceback of tomato suppliers to discover the cause. FDA was already tracing tomatoes involved in another outbreak involving 183 people in 21 states. Federal authorities said that fresh tomatoes contaminated with Salmonella typhimurium served in restaurants were the likely cause of that outbreak.
Amy Philpott, vice president of marketing and industry relations for the United Fresh Produce Association in Washington, was quoted as saying, "Two outbreaks at the same time is most likely an unfortunate coincidence. There are no common links between the two outbreaks reported at this time, and there are different serotypes of Salmonella involved in each outbreak. ¡¦ FDA has determined that both outbreaks are over and now traceback investigations are in progress in both cases."
Bill Marler, an attorney with Seattle-based Marler Clark, was cited as saying that the tomato industry should be more vigilant to prevent contamination on the farm, since it is virtually impossible to clean the fruit once it's been contaminated.
Mr. Marler has settled 149 cases from the 2004 Sheetz Salmonella outbreak tied to Roma tomatoes and is representing 93 victims in the more recent E. coli outbreak traced to contaminated spinach. Since the spinach contamination, the trial attorney said that he has been in high demand for speaking engagements around the country on the topic of produce safety.
Salmonella can enter tomato plants through roots or flowers and can enter the fruit through small cracks, according to CDC. It is still unknown whether Salmonella can travel from roots to the fruits or if seeds can contaminate generations of tomato plants.
Salmonella newport has been linked to other outbreaks in the past. More than 500 people became sick during August and September 2002 after eating tomatoes contaminated with Salmonella newport, and investigators traced back the tomatoes to a tomato packing facility in the mid-Atlantic region. Inspections of that packing facility revealed numerous violations of Good Agricultural Practices and Good Manufacturing Practices, said FDA.

Food poisoning is Russian roulette in U.S.
By THOMAS HARGROVE, Scripps Howard News Service
November 26, 2006
Source of Article: http://www.knoxnews.com/
More than 50,000 people got sick or died from something they ate in a hidden epidemic that went undiagnosed by the nation's public health departments during a five-year period.
Americans play a sort of food-poisoning Russian roulette depending on where they live, an investigation by Scripps Howard News Service found. Slovenly restaurants, disease-infested food-processing plants and other sources of infectious illness go undetected all over the country, but much more frequently in some states than others.
Scripps studied 6,374 food-related disease outbreaks reported by every state to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from Jan. 1, 2000, through Dec. 31, 2004. The causes of nearly two-thirds of the outbreaks in that period were officially listed as "unknown."
The findings translate into an alarming potential for tragedy. If health officials are unable to connect illness to food, victims who might eat from the same poisoned source cannot be warned. If food is known as the culprit but the specific disease lurking within is not diagnosed, the victims may get even sicker or die without proper treatment.
The poor track record of so many state labs also raises chilling questions about their ability to spot or deal with a food-borne terrorist attack.
Families of children who got sick during the five-year period in the study tell heart-rending stories of heroic efforts they made to convince the medical establishment they were victims of food illness.
"My daughter's death would have been listed just as a 'stroke' and swept under the rug," said Todd Nelson, a Continental Airlines pilot and father of a 19-month-old girl who died of E. coli. "But I wanted to know what my daughter really died of. And I wanted somebody to blame."

CDC issues alert on queso fresco
28.nov.06
San Antonio Express - San Antonio, TX
Nicole Foy
http://www.mysanantonio.com/
Health officials are renewing warnings that the popular Hispanic cheeses like queso blanco, panela and queso fresco made from raw milk can seriously sicken people and even cause death.
A new scientific report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that imports of unpasteurized cheeses from Mexico continue despite frequent health warnings about consuming the products.
It also noted that public health outreach into largely Hispanic communities about the risks can help remind people to choose the pasteurized types instead.
Dr. Stephen Waterman, a CDC medical epidemiologist based in California, was cited as investigating recent food-borne-disease outbreaks linked to unpasteurized queso fresco sold and consumed in that state's San Diego and Imperial counties, near the U.S-Mexico border and presented his findings this month at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene annual meeting in Atlanta.
Waterman was cited as saying the outbreaks, occurring between 2004 and 2005, involved about 200 cases on both sides of the border in which people contracted disease from bacteria in the raw milk cheeses. Salmonella in queso fresco was the primary culprit, but other bacteria such as brucella, listeria and tuberculosis-causing mycobacterium bovis also were implicated.
Waterman was quoted as saying, "Queso fresco is a very popular food product. The raw product actually tastes better it's richer and tastier. ... But the message is to eat the pasteurized product if you want to be safe."
Because they are more susceptible to contracting serious disease, pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems should be particularly careful not to consume unpasteurized milk products, he said. Infections in pregnant woman can result in listeriosis, which can affect the growing fetus and eventually cause stillbirth or premature delivery.
An H-E-B spokeswoman confirmed that all cheese sold in its stores is pasteurized and meets food safety standards.
In the past, San Antonio food safety officers occasionally have found unsafe homemade queso fresco and other cheeses being sold illegally by vendors from the backs of trucks or in flea markets.

The raw milk debate
29.nov.06
Owen Sound Sun Times (ON)
Paul Hallman, Chairman, Grey Bruce Landowners Association, writes to say thanks for Brae Surgeoner and Hazel Lynn for their researched and comprehensive contributions in your recent editorial section.
Together, indeed individually, the two pieces outline the risks associated with raw milk. If true, they detail the safety and nutritional value of pasteurized milk.
Yet Hallman hasn¡¯t read anything to conclude that any risks associated with raw milk trump an individual's right to choose.
The members of Michael Schmidt's farm have researched and concluded that they require or prefer raw milk against reviewing all opposing arguments.
If they were acting above the law, why didn't the government respond to Michael's invitations to review the situation? And why the use of the MNR battle division? It appeared to be overkill.
I drink red wine, sometimes more then the one glass per day. On the other hand, I take whole grains and fruit for breakfast. Yet I'll have coffee, then later a salad, then a little trans fat. And I enjoy the occasional tobacco product. Some choices come with health risks, others with benefits. I weigh and assume them.
Driving, working, sports, recreation, socializing, in short living, has risks, some immediately serious or fatal. Life is raw, not pasteurized. Imagine life if it were any other way.
I greatly appreciate Surgeoner's statement "Adults, do whatever you think works ..." The critical word in that statement is think (left out the don't inflict it on your kids part -- dp)
As a species we live or die by our minds. The ability to acquire information, reason and form conclusions sets us apart and defines us as human. We have no other faculty of survival. In destroying our minds we undermine our existence.
One destroyer of minds is the use of force to compel citizens to act against their conclusions. If the state does everyone's thinking for them, we will have a homogenized society. Minds as such will cease to exist. Following that, the world we work to understand for our benefit will in turn bewilder us and the result will be a return to the primitive.
The government's proper function is the use of force to prevent and punish those who choose or act to harm others. Other than that, the domain of choice is hands off for the state.
Regardless of which side of the raw milk debate you stand on, the membership of Michael Schmidt's farm have done nothing to harm others. They have made personal choices affecting their personal lives. They assume all risks.
Education, information and promotion are acceptable tools in a case such as this.
There is no moral justification to force them to stop, even if done in the name of their own good.
To be sure, it is beyond possibility to use force - to use the state - against its citizens for their own good.

Gordon Hume of Meaford, Ont., writes that in the debate about selling unpasteurized milk, one significant item seems to have been neglected.
Children (and adults) are at risk of serious illness from drinking raw milk.
I know because as a child I was sick for 10 months with undulant fever, which doctors told me can only come from two sources - either unpasteurized milk or raw fish.
We never ate raw fish. In cows, it emanates from the disease brucellosis and in cows it can cause abortions.
Even though no such cattle were found on our family farm or my uncle's farm, I still caught the disease.
As a result, I ended up in Sick Children's Hospital in Toronto where I was eventually diagnosed and treated.
I suffered some side effects for several years, but finally recovered. Doctors and veterinarians are now aware of this disease, but I have not seen it mentioned in any of the articles or letters to the papers.
Parents especially need to be aware of this risk to their children, even if the cows test free of brucellosis.
I fully support those who say that raw milk should not be available to the public.

Kim White of Chatsworth, Ont., writes that pasteurization does not destroy all of the vitamins in milk, but it does denature fragile milk proteins and it does destroy enzymes, beneficial bacteria and a special fat-soluble catalyst that promotes optimum mineral assimilation.
It is associated with increased tooth decay, allergies, growth problems in children, osteoporosis, heart disease and arthritis.
Let's not forget that the number of deaths today from drinking raw milk is quite small (mostly because of modern sanitation and treatments) and that the illnesses that do occur are much more likely in those with already compromised immune systems (such as those taking certain prescription or non-prescription drugs, or those with complications from mercury dental amalgams that have been put in our mouths for years, which they still will not admit to having poisoned us with).
Would not the same individuals need to be concerned about infection from any number of different sources?
And don't forget that pasteurization does not always kill pathogens. One particular resistant germ infects most confinement cows and has been linked to Crohn's disease.
Meanwhile, raw milk from pasture-fed cows has many health- promoting benefits, such as lots of "good" fatty acids which stimulate the immune system and protect against disease.
By Dr. Lynn's own records, there have been no illnesses reported that have been linked to Michael Schmidt's farm in the many years that he and others have been drinking his milk. Why?
He invited our health officials to become involved and learn, but instead we still have the same old situation of poor quality (hazardous, actually) commercial milk and others producing raw milk using improper methods with a greater chance of making themselves, or others, sick.
Legalizing the sale of raw milk that is properly produced and allowing smaller farms to sell directly to consumers would, however, cut into the market of the "big guys."

Food Safety Job Information
Food Safety Job Information


1st International Conference for Food Safety and Quality. Organized by FoodHACCP.com.
November 7-8, 2006, San Francisco CA. Group Picture

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Water bug blamed on technology shortage
28.nov.06
Western Mail (Wales)
Darren Devine
http://icwales.icnetwork.co.uk/
An expert report published today was cited as concluding that cyptosporidium entered the water supply of 70,000 homes because treatment procedures were not sufficient, and up to 231 people were struck down by the potentially deadly, contaminated water.
Cutting-edge ultra violet technology has been introduced at the Cwellyn water treatment works, in North Wales, to prevent a further outbreak of.
But Welsh Water yesterday admitted this technology is only in place at two of its 91 treatment centres across Wales - the other being in Bridgend.
Today's report, compiled by among others the National Public Health Service (NPHS), was cited as saying the bug resulted from human sewage that found its way into the Llyn Cwellyn reservoir used to supply drinking water.
The 184-page report concludes, "Conventional sewage treatment systems alone, when located in the catchment area of reservoirs, cannot be relied upon to prevent the water supply from being contaminated by cryptosporidium that may be found in human faeces."
The authors state, "It would seem likely that one or more people in the catchment area of Llyn Cwellyn had cryptosporidiosis before the main outbreak. Although they would have been ill with diarrhoea, they would probably not have known that this was due to cryptosporidium."
Thirty-one of the bug's victims, from Anglesey and Gwynedd, have instructed lawyers to take water company bosses to court and force them to pay up for the distress caused.

Peanut gene breakthrough may lead to allergen free nuts
By Stephen Daniells
Source of Article: http://www.foodnavigator.com/
29/11/2006 - Scientists have identified a new gene in peanuts that codes for a protein with no apparent allergic effects, research that opens up the possibility of allergen-free GM nuts.
The identification of the new gene, called ara h 3-im, by researchers from the University of Florida offers some hope for estimated 2.5 million people in Europe and the US now vulnerable to the food allergy.
"If it is true that Ara h 3-im has lower allergenic properties than other Ara h 3 proteins, this study may provide the information necessary to produce a hypoallergenic peanut through silencing of the major allergens and selecting for the reduced allergenic polypeptides via mutational breeding and/or genetic engineering," wrote authors I-H Kang and M. Gallo.
While it is too early to tell if such a peanut will be available for the food industry in the foreseeable future, escalating incidences of food allergies in Europe and the desire to avoid potentially harmful consumer confusion underpinned changes to the Labelling Directive 2000/13/EC due to enter into force this month that essentially flag up to the consumer possible allergens in a food product.
The amendment heralds the mandatory inclusion on food labels of the most common food allergen ingredients and their derivatives: cereals containing gluten, fish, crustaceans, egg, peanut, soy, milk and dairy products including lactose, nuts, celery, mustard, sesame seed, and sulphites.
There is no current cure for food allergy and vigilance by an allergic individual is the only way to prevent a reaction but a peanut allergy can be so severe that only very tiny amounts can be enough to trigger a response.
"Although about 20 peanut allergens have been reported, Ara h 1, Ara h 2 and Ara h 3 are classified as important major allergens which are recognized by more than 50 per cent of peanut allergic patients," explained the researchers.
"Ara h 1 and Ara h 2 are recognized by 70 to 90 per cent of patients with peanut allergy, and Ara h 3 is recognized by serum immunoglobulin E from approximately 44 to 54 per cent of different patient populations with a history of peanut sensitivity," they said.
The new research, published in the journal Plant Science, reports that a previously unidentified complementary/cloned DNA (cDNA) produces a protein with potentially reduced allergenicity.
The researchers report that Ara h 3-ims novel N-terminal sequence is different and distinct from the other allergens. This changes the proteins ability to bind to immunoglobulin E (IgE), an antibody that is capable of initiating powerful immune responses.
Using a technique called immunoblotting the researchers report that these distinct differences were translated into the Ara h 3-im polypeptide not being recognized by IgE, isolated from blood taken from peanut sensitive patients.
This opens up the opportunity to genetically modify or breed mutationally a peanut with the allergen Ara h 3 replaced by the non-allergen Ara h 3-im.
"Initial results indicate that Ara h 3-im has potentially lower allergenic properties than previously characterized peanut allergens which may aid in the production of a hypoallergenic peanut," concluded the researchers.
Significant further research is needed, but one of the main challenges to the continued development of this technique will be consumer acceptance, particularly in Europe, and most notably in the UK, if the research follows the genetically modified route.
Source: Plant Science
Article in press published on-line ahead of print. doi:10.1016/j.plantsci.2006.09.014
Cloning and characterization of a novel peanut allergen Ara h 3 isoform displaying potentially decreased allergenicity
Authors: I.-H. Kang and M. Gallo

Extensive Range for Enteric Pathogens Available from Oxoid
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Diarrhoeal disease can be caused by a wide range of pathogens, including bacteria, parasites and viruses.
The ProSpecT¢ç range is able to detect antigens produced by some of the most significant of these pathogens, such as:
Campylobacter
Clostridium difficile (Toxin A and B)
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Astrovirus
Cryptosporidium
Giardia
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By allowing faecal specimens to be tested directly, without the need for culture or enrichment, the ProSpecT¢ç range saves valuable time in identifying the cause of enteric disease. The simple and convenient procedure can be completed within 2 hours and with almost 100% accuracy when compared to routine stool culture methods. Furthermore, since the tests detect antigen or toxin produced by the organisms, they are not dependent on the shedding of live organisms or on their growth.
The assays use the same procedure and share many common reagents (supplied in ready-to-use dropper bottles), allowing several strips for different pathogens to be set up and run simultaneously. All incubations are at room temperature and results can be read easily - visually or spectrophotometrically. For further information about the ProSpecT¢ç range please speak to your local Oxoid representative or contact Val Kane, using the contact details at the top of this page.

Hepatitis A immunization is a good idea - even if you never leave town
29.nov.06
from a press release

TORONTO - Hepatitis A is often considered to be a 'traveller's disease.' In the wake of the recent hepatitis outbreak in west-end Toronto however, the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) is reminding the public that both hepatitis A and B can be prevented by vaccine. The CLF sees immunization against these serious forms of liver disease as something everyone should consider.
"Many people do consider getting immunized for hepatitis A and B if they're planning a trip," says Billie Potkonjak, Director of Health Promotion and Patient Services for the Canadian Liver Foundation. "It is important however to recognize the risks for contracting these potentially serious and highly infectious diseases right here at home." In fact, it is estimated that only 16 per cent of hepatitis A cases in Canada are directly related to travel(1).
Hepatitis A varies in severity from a mild illness that can last a few weeks, to a severely disabling disease that can last for several months(2). While death from hepatitis A is rare(3), severity increases with age(4), and approximately 25 per cent of adult cases require hospitalization(5).
Hepatitis A in Canada
People born in Canada do not have a natural defense against hepatitis A, and are susceptible to acquiring this infection through contaminated food or beverages, and through direct contact with someone who is infected with the disease.
It is important to understand that children may not show symptoms when they have hepatitis A. As such, it is possible for children to pass the infection on to their parents, daycare staff, teachers and other children without ever knowing that they have the virus. In fact, it is estimated that fifty per cent of people who contract hepatitis A do not know how they caught the disease.(6)
As hepatitis A can be prevented by vaccine, the Canadian Liver Foundation encourages everyone to consider immunization as a precaution against this liver disease. Anyone who already has a chronic liver disease such as hepatitis B or C should be immunized. Besides immunization, it is also important to continually practice good hygiene, including frequent hand-washing, to reduce the spread of hepatitis A.

Salmonella water still on sale (Spain)
30.nov.06
News Canarias (Spain)
http://www.newscanarias.net/
The company that produces the Brenalta brand of bottled water faces a massive fine from the Canarian government for not withdrawing all the bottles from sales outlets.
The Department of Health confirmed yesterday that it had launched an enquiry into reports that several supermarkets in Lanzarote and Gran Canaria were still selling the popular brand, despite last week's order to clear the shelves. The instruction was given after tests showed that many bottles contained salmonella. The firm's bottling plant was closed by government order also while further tests are carried out.

Edible coatings kill food-borne microbes
29.nov.06
Reuters
NEW YORK - A team of chemists at the University of Lleida in Spain and at the US Department of Agriculture in Albany, California were cited as reporting in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry that edible coatings containing oils from oregano and other sources can destroy foodborne microbes, enhancing the safety and shelf life of fresh food.
USDA's Dr. Tara H. McHugh was cited as telling Reuters Health that essential oils of some plants act as food preservatives and are safe to eat, adding, "We have made films without antimicrobial activity from many different fruits and vegetables, and found that natural essential oils can easily be incorporated, which improves the overall quality of the film."
For their current study, reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the investigators prepared apple-based films. They then tested the antimicrobial activity of essential oils of oregano, lemongrass, and cinnamon, by measuring their ability to destroy Escherichia coli O157:H7, a microbe that causes food poisoning.
The oil of oregano was the most potent. At a concentration of 0.1 percent, oregano oil was effective after just 3 minutes when added to the film-forming solution. In contrast, 5-fold higher concentrations of lemongrass and cinnamon were required to achieve the same antibacterial activity.
McHugh was cited as comparing their films to fruit wraps that are sold in supermarkets, adding, "Our films are much thinner so that they are more flexible, and dryer, so they're not sticky (like fruit wraps). Our products also have at least 85 percent fruit or vegetable content. This is a beginning of a 3-year research project funded by the USDA. We will be screening herbal oils and extracts from products containing polyphenolics, like teas, grapes, and plums, which are known to have antimicrobial activity on their own."
They will also measure the bactericidal activity of the plant-derived compounds against other bacteria, including Salmonella, Listeria, and Bacillus cereus, and evaluate films in real-world conditions, when they are applied to fresh cut fruit, vegetables and meat.

Unpasteurized milk poses great health risk
29.nov.06
from a press release
Dr. David Williams, Dr. Karim Kurji and Dr. Hazel Lynn
TORONTO -- As you may have read or heard, the selling of raw or unpasteurized milk has been in the news recently. Different viewpoints have been reported leaving many to wonder about the health dangers surrounding raw milk.Make no mistake about it - drinking unpasteurized milk is not good for you. It can lead to mild illnesses, long-lasting serious diseases, and even death. This is because disease-causing bacteria found in raw milk include E. coli O157, the same bacteria found in the water that caused the deadly outbreak in Walkerton.
People who drink unpasteurized milk can suffer from severe diarrhea, stomach cramps or abdominal pain, vomiting, fever, weakness and chills. Certain people - such as young children, the elderly, people who are ill, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems - are especially vulnerable to becoming seriously ill.
What makes drinking raw milk even more dangerous is that these bacteria (which also include Salmonella and Campylobacter) can infect other people who haven't even consumed this unsafe product. The infection can be passed on from person-to-person by hand-to-mouth contact.
There is a long list of reports of what happens when people drink unpasteurized milk, including:
four cases of E. coli O157 linked to raw milk sold from unmarked trucks in Ontario in April 2005
twenty-three cases of Campylobacter from an organic dairy farm in Wisconsin in December 2001
five children with E. coli O157 at a co-operative farm in Nanaimo, B.C. in August 2001.
Two of these children developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, which is a serious complication that can lead to kidney failure.
It's because of these serious and sometimes fatal consequences that it is illegal to sell, offer to sell, deliver or distribute raw milk. Anyone who is aware of this happening should report it to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food's complaint line at 1-888-466-2372 (ext. 64391).

AMI disputes call for CO2 ban
29.nov.06
Meat Processing
Meat News
http://meatnews.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=Article&artNum=13161
UNITED STATES: The American Meat Institute (AMI) says carbon monoxide is safe for use in fresh meat packaging.
Kalamazoo, Mich.-based Kalsec, Inc. is calling on Congress to ban the use of carbon monoxide in fresh meat packaging if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) fail to stop the practice.
Kalsec makes spices, herbs, colorings and extracts that the company claims ¡°make food and beverage look and taste better, longer.¡±
"Despite Kalsec's Citizen Petition urging FDA to put an immediate stop to the unlawful use of carbon monoxide in fresh meat, continuing agency inaction means that carbon monoxide-treated meat still is being sold to consumers under conditions that can mask spoilage. Since the product labeling does not tell consumers whether the red appearance of the meat results from the use of carbon monoxide, consumers may be purchasing such meat unknowingly," said Don Berdahl, Chief Scientist for Kalsec. "The FDA and USDA each have the authority and information necessary to put a stop to this practice now. The Kalsec petition has been pending for more than 12 months. If the federal agencies fail to act, the new Congress should step in and exercise its oversight authority on behalf of consumers."
Berdahl commented after Kalsec filed its fourth submission in just over a year with the FDA and the USDA. The submission, filed last week, asks that the agencies use their authorities to disallow this practice, once and for all.
Kalsec says, ¡°It is precisely because of the potential for carbon monoxide to mask the appearance of aging or spoilage and promote consumer deception that FDA regulations expressly prohibit the use of carbon monoxide-containing gas in ¡®fresh meat products¡¯. Additionally, USDA regulations prohibit the introduction of ingredients in fresh meat that function to conceal damage or inferiority, or give the appearance that the product is of better or greater value than it is.¡±
The filing goes on to refute claims of carbon monoxide proponents that fail to cite supportive laws or objective, peer-reviewed science in propagating a process that colors fresh meat and puts consumers at risk of deception.
AMI¡¯s Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Professional Development, Janet Riley, said in a statement from the group, ¡°The FDA and USDA have reviewed this packaging system on several occasions and accepted it as safe and not deceptive.¡± Riley went on to say, ¡°When it comes to food and packaging, we should look to our nation¡¯s food safety agencies to determine what is appropriate for the consumer. Turning to Congress for political action when the science doesn¡¯t suit your purposes is inappropriate. They need to cease this baseless attack on a competing technology.¡±

USDA revives efforts to import older Canadian cattle
by John Gregerson on 11/29/2006 for Meatingplace.com
USDA indicated Monday that it has completed a new risk assessment on older Canadian cattle and that it once again is seeking to allow Canadian cattle and beef 30 months of age and older into the U.S. food chain.
The risk assessment was sent last week to the White House's Office of Management and Budget with little fanfare. OMB indicated it received the proposal on Nov. 24.
An earlier initiative to resume imports of older animals derailed when a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy was discovered in a 4-year-old Canadian animal last July, well after Canada implemented a ban on ruminant-to-ruminant feed ? one of the primary vectors of BSE transmission in 1997. The case cast doubt on the effectiveness of Canada's cattle feed restrictions.
Canada then reported its eighth case of BSE in August.
Meanwhile, the country remains classified as a minimal risk for introducing BSE into the United States.

Food firms unaware of contamination risk
By Chris Mercer
Source of Article: http://www.nutraingredients.com/
29/11/2006 - Many food and drink firms in the UK remain unaware of the need to insure themselves against accidental or malicious contamination of their products.
Only 10-12 per cent of companies in the UK food and drink sector have specific ¡®contaminated product insurance' for their brands, according to Jeremy Moore, a leading risk assessment specialist working for risk consulting practice, Marsh.
His comments follow discussions between Britain's Food Standards Agency, industry and security representatives on how to prevent and manage deliberate contamination of the UK food supply. An industry source present at the recent FSA meeting told this publication: ¡°In the past the relationship between the food industry and the security services has not been very close. The thinking now is that we have to have this dialogue.¡±
Contaminated product insurance could be a way of helping food firms deal with the costs and fallout from an incident like this, or simply from a production error.
Moore said the public had shown themselves reasonably forgiving in the event of malicious contamination, as long as the incident had been dealt with effectively.
¡°Contaminated product insurance is a fairly niche product. Smaller producers tend not to know anything about it,¡± he told BeverageDaily.com. Some believed liability policy would be enough, he added.
¡°But this only covers direct costs of the recall. Contaminated product insurance can also cover brand rehabilitation costs, consultancy used to minimise impact and even third party liability.¡±
Prices have fallen in the market as the sector has become more competitive, making contaminated product insurance affordable for more firms. There are now five players offering contaminated product packages in the UK, with two entering only recently.
Minimum premiums appear to vary, and may range from around ¡Ì2,000 to ¡Ì20,000 according to different estimates.
A lot of larger companies look to build up funds to cover themselves when a problem occurs.
But this may not be enough to protect the reputation of their brands if an incident is not handled in the right way, according to Moore, who believes risk management experts like himself should be used more when a crisis occurs.
¡°Everyone else on the recall team will be defensive,¡± he said, adding this could make it difficult to make rational decisions in the interest of preserving customer loyalty.
He highlighted Perrier spring water's recall over benzene in drinks in 1990 as an example of the need to deal with a problem quickly, openly and effectively. ¡°I would have told them they would be much better being completely up-front with the general public when the first discovery [of benzene] was made.¡±
Perrier's sales have never recovered from the incident in North America.
Moore drew parallels with the salmonella scare that blew up around Cadbury chocolate in the UK this year. The company found salmonella in some products, due to a leaking waste pipe, but failed to recall for several weeks ? in which time 37 people were thought to have fallen ill from eating its chocolate.
Costs from the fiasco were put at ¡Ì20m. It remains unclear how much senior management knew and when, but Moore said Cadbury could have drastically reduced costs and harm to its brand by dealing with the issue when it first arose.
¡°They may have lost a day of production, but in the knowledge that anything produced beyond that carried zero risk.¡±

Seminar modifies the debate on genetics and the food supply
By Janet Helm
Special to the Tribune
Published November 29, 2006
Source of Article: http://www.chicagotribune.com/
Nothing about food stirs up a debate quite like biotechnology. The thought of tinkering with genes in plants or animals hits a nerve for some folks, who are either frightened or morally opposed to genetically modified, or GM, foods (dubbed "Frankenfoods" by critics).
Proponents praise the potential of biotechnology to practically save the world--helping to increase the food supply, address hunger and malnutrition in developing countries, and reduce our reliance on pesticides.
Rarely is the topic discussed without intense emotion. That's why the Illinois Humanities Council is hosting statewide "conversations" on genetics and food, bringing together an ethicist, geneticist and food historian to objectively examine the issue from various perspectives.
"We wanted to strip away the typical pro and con debate and take a look at genetics through the lens of the humanities," said Dimitra Tasiouras, director of programs and partnerships for the council, which held a public forum Oct. 28 at the Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago titled "Future Perfect: Conversations on the Meaning of the Genetics Revolution."
A lack of public engagement has been part of the reason behind the current mistrust of GM foods, according to panelist Vivian Weil, a professor of ethics at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. She said the public often sees a risk attached to a new technology if they think scientists are moving too fast and they feel uninformed or "out of the loop."
Jocelyn Malamy, associate professor in the department of molecular genetics and cell biology at the University of Chicago, believes people are jumbling up a lot of food-related issues--including organic vs. non-organic and sustainable agriculture--and erroneously putting them under the biotechnology umbrella.
Malamy said it is impossible to fully condemn or embrace genetically modified foods because they are not all created equal. Biotechnology is a "process" and not an entire category of foods, she explained. Each GM plant needs to be evaluated individually.
Currently, the only two types of GM products on the market include "Round-up Ready" plants bred to be herbicide resistant and "Bt" plants that contain a gene taken from a bacterium that provides a built-in defense against harmful insects, which can reduce pesticide use.
This technology has primarily been limited to soybeans, corn, canola and cotton. Malamy believes adequate testing of these existing products should quell safety concerns. Other prototypes in the works include nutrient-enhanced rice, drought-resistant plants and higher-yielding plants that require less fertilizer.

Bruce Kraig, president of the Culinary Historians of Chicago, noted that farmers have long modified the genetic makeup of crops through selective breeding. Biotechnology is an evolution of traditional crop breeding that allows the transfer of a single gene instead of mixing thousands of genes when two plants are crossed.
A misunderstanding about the science is at the core of the mistrust, said Malamy. She said it's important to ask questions about adequate safety testing, government oversight, labeling and other issues. But she hopes confusion does not prevent the public from accepting the "idea" of biotechnology. She believes multiple benefits can be derived from the science.
But judging from the strong opinions voiced by some agitated audience members, that acceptance may take some time.