Comprehensive News List
General Food Safety News/ Outbreak News/ Recall News/ New Methods News/
USDA/FDA
News/ On-Line Slides/ Job Information/ Training Network/
Internet Journal of Food Safety

1/22
2007
ISSUE:242

Sponsors
















Sponsorship Q/A

Click here
to go
Main Page

 

Click here
to go
List of Newsletters


To subscribe this Food Safety Newsletter,
Click here

 

On-Line Slides

Internet Journal of Food Saety

 

Job Openings

 

 

Is it safe to eat lettuce?
18.jan.07
Marshall Independent (Minnesota)
Cheryl Rude
http://marshallindependent.com/Columns/articles.asp?articleID=9123
According to this column, the most recent incident of contaminated lettuce and spinach has been traced back to a company in California that had experienced localized flooding. It is thought that some contaminated water washed up through the streams and rivers and contaminated the produce. In response to this problem, the company involved has said in a press release that it will now test all fresh greens that it processes for the disease before it enters any of their processing facilities.
We can take steps too, to assure safer food. The following tips are from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control):
1. If you are served undercooked meat at a restaurant, send it back for futher cooking. You should ask for a new bun and a clean plate, too.
2. Keep raw meat separate from ready-to-eat meat. Wash hands, counters, and utensils with hot soapy water after they touch raw meat. Never place cooked hamburgers or ground beef on the unwashed plate that held raw patties. Wash meat thermometers between tests of patties that require further cooking.
3. Drink only pasteurized milk, juice or cider.
4. Wash fruits and vegetables under running water, especially those that will not be cooked. Be aware that bacteria are sticky, so even thorough washing may not remove all contamination. Remove the outer leaves of leafy vegetables.
5. Everyone, especially children, should wash their hands carefully with soap after using the bathroom. The same is true for everyone changing diapers.



Laboratory-confirmed non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli - Connecticut

18.jan.07
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Documents
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) infection causes diarrhea that is often bloody and can result in potentially life-threatening hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) (1). Escherichia coli O157:H7 is the most common cause of STEC infection in the United States, producing 73,000 illnesses annually, according to the last estimate in 1999 (2). Unlike O157, however, little is known about the incidence of non-O157 strains. Because STEC other than O157 are not commonly identified, the incidence, trends, and epidemiology of non-O157 STEC are not well understood. To assess trends in Shiga toxin enzyme immunoassay (Stx EIA) testing by local clinical laboratories, the Connecticut Department of Public Health (CTDPH) analyzed results of confirmatory testing conducted in the state laboratory during 2000--2005. The findings indicated that a total of 403 STEC infections were reported by clinical laboratories in Connecticut, including 207 identified as STEC by Stx EIA testing alone, and that the use of Stx EIA increased from 2000 to 2005. Use of Stx EIA without prompt culture confirmation can delay or prevent serotyping and subtyping of isolates and detection of both O157 and non-O157 STEC outbreaks. Public health authorities in all states should ensure that clinical laboratories forward Stx EIA-positive specimens to the state laboratory for isolation and identification of STEC, as recommended by the Association of Public Health Laboratories* and CDC (3).
Clinical laboratories typically use sorbitol-MacConkey (SMAC) agar, a culture method, to identify STEC O157, which cannot ferment sorbitol and therefore forms colorless colonies. Like other intestinal flora, most non-O157 STEC strains ferment sorbitol and form pink colonies; therefore, SMAC agar cannot be used to readily differentiate between sorbitol-fermenting non-O157 STEC strains and other sorbitol-fermenting intestinal flora growing on the plate. Rapid diagnostic EIAs capable of detecting Stx in stool specimens or culture broths are commercially available and used increasingly by clinical laboratories. These nonculture methods are capable of detecting both O157 and non-O157 STEC strains; however, these methods should not be considered as substitutes for culture.
Clinical laboratories in Connecticut have been required to report culture- confirmed STEC O157 infections to state public health officials since 1992 and Stx EIA-positive infections since 2000 (4). During 2000--2005, the number of clinical laboratories in Connecticut conducting Stx EIA testing increased from four (11%) of 35 laboratories to 10 (31%) of 32 laboratories. Because not all Stx EIA tests at these laboratories are confirmed by culture, clinical laboratories performing Stx EIA without culture confirmation have been required to submit the enrichment broth from all Stx-positive stool specimens to the CTDPH state laboratory since 2000.
At the CTDPH state laboratory, Stx-positive broths are plated on SMAC agar and SMAC agar enriched with cefixime-tellurite (CT-SMAC). Sorbitol-negative colonies are screened for the O157 antigen using a latex agglutination test and, if positive, are tested for the H7 antigen. If the sorbitol-negative colonies are O157-negative, both sorbitol-positive and sorbitol-negative colonies are tested for Stx using EIA. In November 2002, the CTDPH state laboratory instituted the additional step of screening Stx-positive colonies for the six most common non-O157 STEC serogroups in the United States (O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, and O145), using commercial antisera. All non-O157 STEC isolates are forwarded to CDC for further characterization. To allow examination of the epidemiology of non-O157 STEC, in April 2004, CTDPH also began interviewing all patients with confirmed STEC cases using a standardized questionnaire that collects clinical and exposure information.
During 2000--2005, a total of 403 laboratory-confirmed STEC infections were reported in Connecticut. Of these, 196 (49%) were identified as STEC O157 at clinical laboratories using culture; the remaining 207 (51%) were identified as STEC at clinical laboratories using Stx EIA with no culture confirmation (Table). The percentage of STEC isolates identified initially by Stx EIA testing increased significantly (p [lesser than] 0.001) from 33% in 2000 to 59% in 2005. Similarly, the percentage of STEC O157 isolates identified as STEC initially by Stx EIA testing increased significantly (p [lesser than] 0.01) from 23% in 2000 to 40% in 2005. Among the Stx EIA-positive broths submitted to the CTDPH state laboratory, 82 (40%) yielded STEC O157 and 125 (60%) yielded non-O157 STEC. The percentage identified as non-O157 STEC has remained higher than 50% since 2001. Four serogroups accounted for 88 (70%) of the STEC non- O157 isolates: O103, 26 (21%) isolates; O111, 26 (21%) isolates; O26, 18 (14%) isolates; and O45, 18 (14%) isolates. The remaining 37 (30%) belonged to 15 other serogroups. During 2000--2005, the incidence of identified non-O157 STEC infections increased 50%, from 0.4 to 0.6 per 100,000 population.
Patients with non-O157 STEC infection were less likely than those with STEC O157 infection to have had bloody diarrhea (56% versus 90%, p [lesser than] 0. 001), have been hospitalized (12% versus 45%, p [lesser than] 0.001), have developed HUS (zero versus 9%, p [lesser than] 0.001), or have eaten at a restaurant in the 7 days preceding illness onset (59% versus 88%, p=0.01). No differences were found in the proportion of patients who had eaten ground beef, had contact with farm animals, or visited a petting zoo in the 7 days before illness onset.
Reported by: Q Phan, MPH, P Mshar, MPH, T Rabatsky-Ehr, MPH, C Welles, R Howard, MS, J Hadler, MD, Connecticut Dept of Public Health; S Hurd, MPH, P Clogher, MPH, R Marcus, MPH, Dept of Epidemiology and Public Health, Emerging Infections Program, Yale Univ School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut. L Demma, PhD, Div of Foodborne, Bacterial, and Mycotic Diseases, National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-Borne, and Enteric Diseases (proposed), CDC.
Editorial Note:
Non-O157 STEC infections represent a substantial portion of laboratory- confirmed STEC cases in Connecticut, consistent with findings from studies in other states (5,6). The number of clinical laboratories in Connecticut conducting Stx EIA testing has been increasing, thus the identified increase in the incidence of non-O157 STEC infections likely is a reflection of increased Stx EIA testing in the state and subsequent required submission of Stx-positive broths to the state laboratory for further characterization. However, because only 31% of clinical laboratories tested for non-O157 STEC in 2005, the number of detected cases likely represents the minimum annual incidence in Connecticut for that year.
Overall, infections caused by non-O157 STEC were less severe than those caused by STEC O157. However, the severity of disease caused by STEC is related to the virulence profile of the infecting strain, and some non-O157 serotypes cause illness as severe as that caused by STEC O157 (7,.
The sources of non-O157 STEC infections are not well described, although outbreak investigations indicate that some sources are similar to those of STEC O157 infections (9,10). Furthermore, the similar exposures of patients with STEC O157 and non-O157 STEC cases in Connecticut described in this report suggest that many of the routes of transmission are similar.
The findings in this report are subject to at least three limitations. First, most clinical laboratories in Connecticut do not conduct Stx EIA testing; 22 (69%) of 32 laboratories use culture methods. As a result, the true number of non-O157 STEC infections remains undefined. Second, lack of uniformity exists among clinical laboratories regarding types of stool specimens that are cultured for STEC O157 or tested for Stx. Some laboratories culture or test all stool specimens, others only bloody stools, and others only on physician request. Finally, the numbers of each non-O157 STEC serogroup were too small to permit serogroup-specific analysis of disease severity and epidemiology.
In Connecticut, Stx EIA testing increasingly is replacing direct culture for STEC O157 in clinical laboratories. Connecticut has taken steps to ensure that all STEC isolates are further characterized, which can enable evaluation of the incidence and epidemiology of non-O157 STEC. Clinical laboratories in all states should forward Stx EIA-positive specimens to the public health laboratory for confirmation and characterization by culture methods to rule out false-positive EIA results and ensure accurate STEC surveillance (3).
References
Besser RE, Griffin PM, Slutsker L. Escherichia coli O157:H7 gastroenteritis and the hemolytic uremic syndrome: an emerging infectious disease. Annu Rev Med 1999;50:355--67.
Mead PS, Slutsker L, Dietz V. Food-related illness and death in the United States. Emerg Infect Dis 1999;5:607--25.
CDC. Importance of culture confirmation of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli infection as illustrated by outbreaks of gastroenteritis---New York and North Carolina, 2005. MMWR 2006;55:1042--5.
Connecticut Department of Public Health. Reportable diseases and laboratory findings, 2000. Connecticut Epidemiologist 2000;20:4. Available at http://www.dph.state.ct.us/Publications/BCH/Infectious%20Diseases/vol20no1.pdf.
Fey PD, Wickert RS, Rupp ME, Safranek TJ, Hinrichs SH. Prevalence of non- O157:H7 Shiga-toxin-producing Escherichia coli in diarrheal stool samples from Nebraska. Emerg Infect Dis 2000;6:530--33.
Jelacic JK, Damrow T, Chen GS, et al. Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli in Montana: bacterial genotypes and clinical profiles. J Infect Dis 2003;188:719--29.
Ethelberg S, Olsen KE, Scheutz F, et al. Virulence factors for hemolytic uremic syndrome, Denmark. Emerg Infect Dis 2004;10:842--7.
Boerlin P, McEwen SA, Boerlin-Petzold F, Wilson JB, Johnson RP, Gyles CL. Associations between virulence factors of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli and disease in humans. J Clin Microbiol 1999;37: 497--503.
McCarthy TA, Barrett NL, Hadler JL, et al. Hemolytic-uremic syndrome and Escherichia coli O121 at a lake in Connecticut, 1999. Pediatrics 2001;108:E59.
Brooks JT, Sowers EG, Wells JG, et al. Non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli infections in the United States, 1983--2002. J Infect Dis 2005;192:1422--9.
Association of Public Health Laboratories. Guidelines for isolation and identification of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, 2006.
Available at http://www. aphl.org/programs/food_safety.

Cruise ship illness award slashed, $190M To $10M
18.jan.07
CBS 4 - Miami, FL
http://cbs4.com/topstories/local_story_018155216.html
NEW YORK - A judge has tossed out most of a $190 million dollar jury verdict ordering a company that makes water pumps to pay Miami-based Celebrity Cruise Lines. The case involves an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease on a cruise ship in 1994.
Calling the jury verdict "manifestly erroneous," U.S. Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV let stand $10.4 million awarded in May 2006 for expenses such as refunding passengers, housing and transporting crew members and decontaminating the ship, the Horizon.
But he tossed out $135 million awarded for lost value to the business and ordered a new trial on the jury's finding that Miami-based Celebrity should receive $47.6 million in lost profits.
The verdict impacted industrial manufacturer Pentair Inc., whose subsidiary Essef Corp. was sued by Celebrity, along with two other companies. Pentair acquired Essef in 1999.

Safe and Suitable Ingredients Used in the Production of Meat and Poultry Products - Revision 10 - USDA/FSIS

Raw deal over pure milk
19.jan.07
The Ottawa Sun
Tony van Dusen writes that Jacqueline Fennell has this simple plan to provide unpasteurized milk to consumers who come looking for it.
Going by the resulting uproar, you'd think Fennell was offering crack cocaine at her barn door.
Like others attempting to offer raw milk service in the western part of the province, Fennell is being harassed by the Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO) and cautioned by the regional health unit.
You see, under what some see as an antiquated Health Promotion and Protection Act, selling raw milk for human consumption is illegal in this province.
Compulsory pasteurization to kill bacteria dates back to 1938 before modern sanitary conditions and milk cooling systems in every dairy barn virtually eliminated hazardous contamination.
van Dusen says that the kingpins of DFO, the legislated, iron-fisted milk marketing board, know this better than anyone.
Yet, the board is playing the health hazard card to the hilt in attempting to block raw milk dealers operating outside its monopoly-protecting regulations.
Fennell and others understand that DFO is more interested in protecting its turf than in alerting consumers to real or contrived health issues. To circumvent regulations preventing selling milk outside the established marketing system, they're selling shares in their cows instead.

Public health unit gives farmer notice; She'll be charged if raw milk scheme goes ahead
18.jan.07
Brockville Recorder and Times
Nick Gardiner
Public health inspectors are ready to do their job if a Roebuck, Ontario, farmer proceeds with plans to open a raw milk co-operative, warns the local medical officer of health.
Dr. Anne Carter, MoH for the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit, was quoted as saying in an interview Wednesday with The Recorder and Times, that, "We intend to enforce the law."
Carter said the health unit is mandated under the Health Protection and Promotion Act "to enforce legislation that makes distribution or delivery of raw milk illegal."
Carter was further quoted as saying, "I think there has been a misconception in the media to some extent," and that proponents are wrong when they argue raw milk isn't a threat to human health because of improvements in technology or a farmer's ability to recognize when a cow is sick.
"There is no guarantee. A cow can seem perfectly fine and still be sick."
Bill Mitchell, assistant communications director with the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, was cited as saying the issue has gained a higher profile in the past year as people have become ill after drinking raw milk from co-ops in Barrie and Kitchener-Waterloo that were convicted for distributing the product.
He said the co-ops violate multiple pieces of legislation within the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food with the DFO concerned about legal questions over marketing and transporting the product.

EPA awards $5 million in safe drinking water grants
17.jan.07
Environmental Protection Agency documents
(Washington, D.C.) Today 10 universities received grants from EPA for research to develop better methods for detecting harmful organisms in drinking water, including viruses, bacteria and protozoa. The grants,
awarded through EPA's Science to Achieve Results (STAR) research grants program, are aimed at ensuring that the United States has the safest drinking water in the world.
"These five million dollars in grant money are an example of how EPA puts science to work to protect human health," said Dr. George Gray, EPA's assistant administrator for research and development.
Every year, there are cases of gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses in the United States associated with drinking water. EPA's sponsored research will result in faster and more sensitive tests for local drinking water facilities to use in
detecting pathogens. The sooner a contaminant is identified, the faster a facility can act to contain the problem, and thereby reduce any health risks to the public.
The grants were awarded to the following universities for research on:
*Tufts University, North Grafton, Mass., $600,000 - a rapid (less than four hours) method for detection of disease-causing organisms by drinking water facilities.
*University of Arizona, Tucson, Ariz., $466,817 - nanotechnology application for the rapid and economic concentration of GI viruses, parasites, and bacteria.
*Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, La Verne, Calif., $600, 000 - use of molecular biology to extract nucleic acids from waterborne organisms, allowing facilities to detect a broad range of potential disease-causing organisms
*Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., $600,000 - new method that can simultaneously detect 20 waterborne pathogens in source and drinking water.
*University of Washington, Seattle, Wash., $597,987 -- rapid, sensitive method to detect and measure known and emerging pathogens.
*Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Md., $600,000 - new method to improve measurement of viruses and protozoa in drinking water, that could replace the current reliance on bacterial indicators
only.
*University of California, Riverside, Calif., $600,000 - real-time method to detect and measure intestinal viruses in drinking water.
*Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pa., $566,714 - sensors that can detect pathogens such as Cryptosporidium without a concentration or filtration step.
*Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., $600,000 - real-time tool to determine whether drinking water contains bacterial contaminants.
*University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C., $600,000 - real-time tool to detect multiple classes of microbial pathogens.
More information on these drinking water grants
epa.gov/ncer/recipients/drinkingwater2005
The STAR research grants program
http://es.epa.gov/ncer/grants
More information about contaminants and potential health effects can be obtained by calling the EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline (1-800-426-4791).

Food Safety Related JOB OPENINGS
Food Safety Related JOB OPENINGS

FDA and States closer to identifying source of E. coli contamination associated with illnesses at Taco John's restaurants
07.jan.07
Food and Drug Administration
Michael Herndon
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today announced that it has moved closer to identifying the source of illness for the Taco John E. coli outbreak. FDA and the state of California, working in conjunction with state health officials in Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin, have DNA-matched the strain of E. coli O157:H7 bacteria associated with the outbreak with two environmental samples gathered from dairy farms near a lettuce growing area in California's Central Valley.
The investigation is ongoing, including obtaining additional samples, to determine if and how material from the dairy farms may have contaminated the lettuce growing area.
FDA has no indication that any lettuce currently on the market, including iceberg lettuce, is connected with any consumer illnesses. This outbreak is not connected to any previous outbreak.
The outbreak sickened approximately 81 individuals in November and December of 2006.
Illnesses were reported in Minnesota (33), Iowa (47), and Wisconsin (1). Twenty-six people were hospitalized, and two suffered hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious complication of E. coli O157:H7 infection that can cause permanent kidney damage and death. No deaths have been associated with the outbreak. No new cases of illness are being reported and the outbreak is now considered over.
Taco John's is headquartered in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and has franchises in more than 25 states; however, the outbreak was associated only with Taco John's restaurants located in Iowa and Minnesota.
Epidemiological studies by Minnesota and Iowa health officials had previously identified shredded iceberg lettuce served in the restaurants as the likely vehicle of transmission in the outbreak. FDA was able to focus on specific lettuce growing regions based on the traceback from records obtained from the lettuce processor. The recent DNA match provides a clue as to one possible source of the contamination for the lettuce, although others may exist. It has yet to be determined how the E. coli contaminated the lettuce.
The traceback investigation is ongoing and will hopefully yield further insight into how this contamination occurred.
In the wake of recent outbreaks of consumer illness connected with fresh produce, FDA will accelerate its efforts to address produce safety, including consideration of new regulations, if appropriate, to reduce risk of contamination by pathogens.
In the near future, FDA plans to announce public meetings specifically to involve all stakeholders in identifying and initiating measures that will improve the safety of fresh produce marketed in U.S. commerce.

Minnesotans file lawsuit over tainted Taco John's
17.jan.07
KARE11 (MN)
Associated Press
http://www.kare11.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=148145
An Albert Lea woman and her son were cited as filing a lawsuit Wednesday against Taco John's after they became ill after eating food tainted with E. coli from the restaurant last year.
Seattle-based William D. Marler has filed two other lawsuits on behalf of people who ate tainted food at Taco John's restaurants in Iowa and Minnesota, was cited as saying that at least 33 state residents became ill in November and December after eating at Taco John's restaurants.
Health officials have said contaminated California-grown lettuce was the possible source of the E. coli at the Cheyenne, Wyo.-based company.

In unprecedented move, Fresh Express to provide $2 million to fund study of E. coli O157:H7 pathogen in produce
17.jan.07
from a press release
SALINAS, Calif. -- Fresh Express, the No. 1 producer of value-added salads in North America and an industry leader in food safety, today announced that it will provide up to $2 million to fund rigorous and multidisciplinary research to help the fresh-cut produce industry prevent contamination by the deadly Escherichia coli 0157:H7 pathogen, which has caused numerous outbreaks over the past decade, including the recent occurrence related to fresh spinach. Although no Fresh Express product has ever been shown to have caused an outbreak of food-borne illness, the company is funding -- and, in a unique move, will share this research publicly -- in recognition of the benefits it may achieve for both the industry and consumers alike.
An independent scientific advisory panel comprised of six nationally recognized food safety experts from both federal and state food safety-related agencies and academia has been meeting on a nonpaid, voluntary basis since May 2006 to develop the most productive research priorities related to the source, mode of action and life cycle of E. coli 0157:H7 and the pathogenic contamination of lettuce and leafy greens. The panel is chaired by Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, Ph.D., M.P.H. and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota. In addition, the panel consists of Dr. Jeff Farrar, California Department of Health Services; Dr. Bob Buchanan, U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Dr. Robert Tauxe, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Dr. Bob Gravani, Cornell University; and Dr. Craig Hedberg, University of Minnesota.
"At Fresh Express, food safety has been and will always be our No. 1 priority in every phase of our operations," said Tanios Viviani, president of Fresh Express. "We have long been dedicated to food-safety innovation, and this research effort is part of that ongoing commitment. We are grateful to these leading experts for their generous contribution of time and expertise to guide this initiative."
Viviani continued, "We are hopeful that this research will yield new knowledge, practices and technologies that the entire fresh-cut produce industry can use to provide consumers with ready-to-eat produce that is consistently safe and healthy."
According to Dr. Osterholm, the group evaluated the existing body of knowledge relating to E. coli 0157:H7 contamination in fresh produce and collaborated on the most critical research gaps in fresh produce contamination ranging from growing and harvesting to cooling, transporting, processing and packaging.
"We systematically used our individual areas of expertise to scrutinize the entire supply chain and ultimately uncover the areas where we collectively agreed more research was necessary," said Dr. Osterholm. "From this process, the five critical research priorities began to emerge fairly consistently." The identified research priorities -- and those against which research proposals are being sought -- include:
Determine the potential for Escherichia coli O157:H7 to be internalized
into lettuce or spinach.
Identify new mitigation strategies and technologies to reduce the
potential for E. coli O157:H7 to contaminate leafy green produce.
Conduct field studies to identify sources, vehicles and factors that
affect the degree of contamination or extent of contamination of leafy
green produce by E. coli O157:H7.
Determine the ability of E. coli O157:H7 to multiply in the presence of
normal background flora following the harvest of produce such as lettuce
or spinach.
Determine the ability of E. coli O157:H7 to survive composting processes.
Funding is available immediately, and all proposals will be reviewed against guidelines established independently by this scientific advisory panel. To ensure the highest degree of integrity and value to each phase of the research initiative, the panel is empowered, without restriction by Fresh Express, to review proposals, make funding decisions and monitor and disseminate research results. Questions regarding proposal submission can be addressed to Dr. Osterholm at 612-626-6770 or at mto@umn.edu.
About Fresh Express
Fresh Express, a subsidiary of Chiquita Brands International, Inc. (NYSE: CQB - News), is a leader in fresh foods and is dedicated to providing consumers with healthy, convenient ready-to-eat spinach, salads, vegetables and fruits. With the invention of its special Keep Crisp¢ç Bag beginning in the early 1980s, Fresh Express pioneered the retail packaged salad category and was the first to make them available to grocery stores nationwide. More than 20 million consumers enjoy Fresh Express salads, spinach and greens every week. For more information, visit www.freshexpress.com.

FSIS regulatory education sessions
16.jan.07
Herd on the Hill
Edited by Jeremy Russell
Starting on Jan. 24, small and very small plant owners and operators will be able to join FSIS inspection personnel at regulatory education sessions promoting a uniform understanding of the regulations between inspectors and the inspected. FSIS is holding a series of regulatory education sessions across the nation from now until fall. The sessions will include a walk-through of a variety of topics, which may include HACCP, Sanitation performance Standards, Sanitation SOPs, Rules of Practice and Food Defense requirements. A complete list of dates locations is available online at
http://www.fsis.usda.gov/News_&_Events/outreach_sessions_svs_plants/index.asp.

EU States Agree Clone Food Plan
(foodnavigator.com)
By Chris Mercer
There will be no special measures to cover food products from cloned animals in the EU, member states have agreed, following news the offspring of a cloned cow was growing up in the UK.
Officials from the EU's 27 member states decided that milk and meat from cloned animals and their offspring should be considered in the same way as any other novel food.
The urgent talks took place at the European Commission's Novel Foods Working Group, after Europe was last week hauled into the cloned food debate because of news that the offspring of a cloned cow had been born on a UK farm.
¡°There will at some point have to be an evaluation by the European Food Safety Authority [on the issue of food from clones] but we are not expecting an imminent need for this,¡± Commission spokesperson Philip Tod told DairyReporter.com.
News of the UK cow, named Dundee Paradise, came less than two weeks after authorities in the US signaled they intended to approve milk and meat from clones for human consumption. ¡°We will continue to monitor developments, but we recognize this technology is only emerging now and we don't expect it to become widespread for some time,¡± said Tod. European dairy and farming groups have reacted cautiously to the prospect of food from clones and their offspring. ¡°There's no reason why there should be any risk in the milk, but we're going to have to work at this and find out what the public really thinks,¡± said Gwyn Jones, dairy board head for the UK National Farmers' Union.
Optimists speculate that animal cloning may one day be used to breed a new generation of cows resistant to diseases, able to convert food more efficiently and produce more milk.
But most in the European dairy industry believe the benefits are not yet proven and consumers are not ready to accept the products.
An indication may be drawn from the US, where a recent independent survey found 60 per cent of Americans would not knowingly eat food from cloned animals.
Recent articles in the UK mainstream media calling cloned animals ¡®farmyard freaks' is also reminiscent of the term ¡®Frankenstein foods', coined several years ago to describe genetically modified foods and blamed for helping to sway public opinion against them. 1-17-07

Prion protein in milk
20.dec.06
PLoS ONE. 2006; 1(1): e71
Nicola Franscini, Ahmed El Gedaily, Ulrich Matthey, Susanne Franitza, Man-Sun Sy, Alexander Burkle, Martin Groschup, Ueli Braun,
ABSTRACT
Background
Prions are known to cause transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) after accumulation in the central nervous system. There is increasing evidence that prions are also present in body fluids and that prion infection by blood transmission is possible.
The low concentration of the proteinaceous agent in body fluids and its long incubation time complicate epidemiologic analysis and estimation of spreading and thus the risk of human infection. This situation is particularly unsatisfactory for food and pharmaceutical industries, given the lack of sensitive tools for monitoring the infectious agent.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We have developed an adsorption matrix, Alicon PrioTrap¢ç, which binds with high affinity and specificity to prion proteins. Thus we were able to identify prion protein (PrPC)-the precursor of prions (PrPSc)-in milk from humans, cows, sheep, and goats. The absolute amount of PrPC differs between the species (from ¥ìg/l range in sheep to ng/l range in human milk). PrPC is also found in homogenised and pasteurised off-the-shelf milk, and even ultrahigh temperature treatment only partially diminishes endogenous PrPC concentration.
Conclusions/Significance
In view of a recent study showing evidence of prion replication occurring in the mammary gland of scrapie infected sheep suffering from mastitis, the appearance of PrPC in milk implies the possibility that milk of TSE-infected animals serves as source for PrPSc.

Schwarznegger earmarks millions to stop food-borne illnesses
By Rachel Courtland
Sentinel correspondent
Source of Article: http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2007/January/11/local/stories/03local.htm
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed budget, introduced Wednesday, includes an increase of $2.1 million to the state's food safety program, up from $1.7 million last year.
With the region still reeling from last year's E. coli outbreak, the possible funding boost is one of a number of new statewide efforts to improve food safety.
The governor's budget would more than double the amount of money dedicated to investigate illnesses and outbreaks caused by food-borne bacteria. The budget would also create several statewide food safety positions.
The state's food safety program is currently managed by the Department of Health Services. Beginning July 1, the newly created Department of Public Health would take over the task. The additional money would help fund future investigations of food-related illnesses, like last year's E. coli outbreak. A particular strain of the bacteria spread nationally, killing three people. More than 200 got sick, and several dozen had lasting kidney damage. A federal investigation traced the source to a spinach farm in San Benito County.
"I think it's a good beginning," said state Assemblywoman Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, reacting to news of governor's budget, "but I also believe we need to fully fund research that can find the source of contamination"
Caballero said preventing contamination is also an important part of food safety. Today, she will meet with a group of state environmental, water, food and agriculture officials to get an overview of their areas of jurisdiction.
Farm groups are also working on the problem.
"We're glad to see the governor proposing putting additional resources into the food safety program," said Dave Kranz of the California Farm Bureau Federation.
The federation of growers is one of several California farming associations working to create standards for a "seal of approval" for leafy green vegetables.
The state Department of Food and Agriculture will hold a hearing Friday at the Monterey County Fairgrounds on setting standards for handlers. A separate set of standards for growers also will be created.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of E. coli infections has gone down by as much as 30 percent in the past 10 years. Infections from uncooked meat have fallen significantly, but fresh vegetables, even if they have been washed, remain a potent source.
Although difficult to quantify, many growers think September's E. coli scare had a lasting impact on the industry. They hope improving safety will help business.
"It's going to take a while for the market to rebuild and for consumers to gain confidence," Kranz said. "This is part of the process"

72 cases of Salmonella infection found in Lowndes County
13.jan.07
The Valdosta Daily Times (Georgia)
Kelli Hernandez
http://www.valdostadailytimes.com/breakingnews/local_story_012165635.html
VALDOSTA ? A report filed by the Department of Human Resources Division of Public Health was cited as saying that on Sept. 13, Bob Manning from the Georgia Public Health Laboratory (GPHL) contacted the Notifiable Diseases Epidemiology Section (NDES) of the South Georgia Health District (SGHD) that the lab had received eight Salmonella Montevideo isolates from South Georgia Medical Center between Aug. 28 to Sept. 5.
On average, Lowndes County reports approximately five cases per year of Salmonella Montevideo infection. Due to the drastic increase in cases, an investigation was initiated to determine whether or not the cases represented an outbreak in the area and if a common source could be identified amongst the patients, according to the report.
A questionnaire was developed to evaluate sources of possible exposure including animal contact, water sources, grocery stores, restaurants and specific food, according to the report.
Following the investigation and interviewing patients infected, 72 cases of Salmonella Montevideo infections with indistinguishable patterns were reported with the onset of gastrointestinal illness between Aug. 21 and Nov. 15, and investigators were able to determine the outbreak strain, according to the report.
Of the 72 cases, 19 patients were hospitalized and no deaths were reported, according to the report.
Following interviews of 52 of the 72 patients, the investigation revealed that a common fast food restaurant in Valdosta was the source of the outbreak strain. Of those interviewed, 82 percent reported that they had most likely eaten at the restaurant in the seven days before symptoms began, and the risk of being infected rose 1.5 times for those who had eaten at the restaurant. (more information)

Infant Botulism - USA (Maryland)
12.jan.07
Press Release Ft. George S. Meade (MD), Ft Meade Army
Via Pro-MED Mail
http: //www.ftmeade.army.mil/pdf/news-release/NR_Botulism.pdf
Fort Meade officials say 2 cases of infant botulism have been reported in residents at the Army post since Oct 2006. Fort Meade spokesman Travis Edwards says one infant, who was diagnosed on 6 Oct 2006, has recovered. He says the 2nd, who was diagnosed late in December 2006, remains hospitalized at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Both infants were under the age of 6 months when they were diagnosed. Some 6000 people live on the installation. Lieutenant Colonel Sharon Cole-Wainwright, chief of preventative medicine at Fort Meade, says infant botulism is caused by ingesting [spores of the] Clostridium botulinum bacterium found naturally in soils and in some contaminated food products. Edwards says officials placed hay on a dirt lot at the base to reduce the spread of dust, and the installation commander went door-to-door handing out fact sheet about infant botulism.

Salmonella outbreak traced to restaurant meat slicer
17.jan.07
WALB News (Georgia)
http://www.walb.com/Global/story.asp?S=5951666&nav=5kZP
Valdosta -- The Lowndes County Health Department was cited as saying faulty equipment at a fast food restaurant was the cause of a Salmonella outbreak last fall.
The story says that 72 people in Lowndes County were infected with Salmonella bacteria between August 21st and November 15th, 2006. Forty-three of those cases were linked to the Arby's Restaurant on North Ashley Street in Valdosta.
It began in September when eight people checked into South Georgia Medical Center with Salmonella poisioning.
Geneine Johnson, District Epidemeologist, was quoted as saying, "That's more than we usually see in a weekend so that prompted us to start asking questions. Each week we were receiving more and more cases. ¡¦ Several possibilities came up. Some restaurants, some grocery stores and also it was thought it was in some private wells."
Their investigation led them to Arby's where they tested all the equipment including a brand new meat slicer.
Even though restaurant employees and health workers say the slicer was cleaned and sanitized several times a day, there was a problem.
"Of all the samples that piece of equipment came back positive for Salmonella," Johnson said.
They found the bacteria was harboring under a piece of plastic near the slicer blade cover. The plastic should have been covered with silicone, but it left the manufacturer without it.
Restaurant manager Kathy Cook confirmed it was the North Ashley Street Arby's that was the source of the contamination.
The owner quickly removed the slicer and any food that came in contact with it.
The health department is quick to point out that Arby's has always met health code standards and the faulty equipment was the problem.
The slicer manufacturer is asking all customers to inspect their blade covers to be sure it's properly sealed with silicone.

Top ten essential home kitchen tools that fight E. coli bacteria
15.jan.07
from a press release
Debra Holtzman, J.D., M.A.
http://www.expertclick.com/NewsReleaseWire/default.cfm?Action=ReleaseDetail&ID=15153
"Everyone is at risk for food-borne illness¡±, warns Debra Holtzman, an internationally recognized safety and health expert and author of the best-selling book, The Safe Baby: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Home Safety (Sentient Publications)
Debra Holtzman recommends using these top 10 essential kitchen tools, which are effective ways to prevent foodborne illness from bacteria, such as E. coli:
1. Produce scrub brush. Before eating any raw produce, it should be washed thoroughly under clean, running water. Use a scrub brush, if appropriate. Wash and scrub produce that has a rind, too, such as cantaloupe and pineapple. Why? Pathogens on the outside of the rind can contaminate the inside when you cut it and it won't necessarily be cooked to destroy the bacteria.
2. Large-dial oven safe or oven-probe food thermometers. It is used for testing whole poultry and roasts during cooking, and may be used for the duration of cooking. The thermometer should be inserted in the thickest part of the food and should not be touching bone, fat, or gristle. Whole chicken or turkey should reach a minimum temperature of 180¨¬ F. (measure in the thigh). Breast and roasts should reach a minimum temperature of 170¨¬F. (not quite up to date? -- dp)
3. Digital instant-read food thermometer for testing meat patties. This is for use toward the end of cooking time but before the food is expected to be "done." It should be inserted at least one-half inch into patties. If patties are thin, insert into side. Make sure it reads at least 160¨¬F. Color does not reliably indicate whether ground beef patties have been cooked to a temperature high enough to kill E coli 0157:H7, a potentially deadly bacteria.
Thermometers are inexpensive and easy to use; but make sure you follow the instructions and have the right kind for the job you're doing. Remember to wash the food thermometer between temperature measurements.
4 & 5. Appliance thermometers for refrigerator and freezer. Use an appliance thermometer to be sure the refrigerator is 40¡ÆF. or lower and the freezer is at 0¡ÆF. Make sure to check thermometers periodically.
6 & 7. Two cutting boards. One for cutting produce and other ready-to-eat foods and one for raw meat, poultry and fish. If the boards can be cleaned in the dishwasher, so much the better.
8. Paper Towels. Even if you're trying to limit the use of throwaway products, Debra Holtzman recommends that you consider using paper towels to clean up all kitchen surfaces, especially those touched by raw meat, poultry, or seafood juices. Harmful bacteria multiply quickly on kitchen towels, sponges, and cloths. If you choose to use cloth items, wash them often in the hot water cycle of your washing machine. If you choose to use sponges, discard them often.
9. Chlorine Bleach. When sanitizing your kitchen surfaces, (which should be done often) use a solution of 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach per quart of water.
Carefully follow manufacturer's instructions.
10. Soap Dispenser. Wash your hands, with soap and warm water, (and use a nail brush) for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food, beverages and utensils. Make sure to clean the counters, cutting boards and utensils thoroughly with hot, soapy water after use and before using them on another food.
Debra Holtzman is an award-winning parenting author. She has been featured on NBC¡¯s Today Show, CNBC, MSNBC and Discovery Health Channel. Her latest book, The Safe Baby: A Do-it-Yourself Guide to Home Safety (Sentient Publications) is in bookstores everywhere.
http://thesafetyexpert.com

Tainted food affects 300 million Chinese a year: report
15.jan.07
Agence France Presse
BEIJING -- The Asian Development Bank was cited as warning Monday in a report on its website that tainted food impacts at least 300 million Chinese people a year and could lead to a disease outbreak that exacts a huge social and economic toll, adding, "In recent years, China's actual food safety situation has not led one to be optimistic. The economic and social impact of the production of tainted foods is very large... diseases stemming from food can have a negative social impact and can even influence social stability."
The report said at least 300 million people in China were affected by diseases stemming from tainted food sources every year, but did not elaborate.
Such diseases cost an estimated 36 billion yuan (4.6 billion dollars) to 168 billion yuan a year, or between 0.2 percent and 0.9 percent of GDP in 2005, it said.
Food-related diseases pose a constant threat to consumers and if not addressed could lead to an outbreak with a bigger impact than the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic that struck China in 2002-2003, it said.
Such an outbreak and its knock-on effect on industries like tourism could pose a serious risk to high-profile events like the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
"If a large-scale epidemic linked to food explodes in China, the negative impact could be more serious, especially if one considers the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2010 Shanghai World Expo and the Guangzhou Asian .," the report said.
Tainted foodstuffs could also have a negative impact on China's food export industry, which earned 27.6 billion dollars in 2005, it added.
"China has no basic food safety law and no legal framework to develop a structure to ensure the safety of food," it said.
"The government needs to set up a food safety management interagency structure that is powerful and that places the health of the people and consumers in the top place."
China has nine ministries that independently implement a series of rules and regulations on food safety that are at times overlapping, confusing and contradictory, the report said.

Recall Information
01/11 Watercress products withdrawn from sale
01/10 UPDATED - Undeclared egg in PRESIDENT¡¯S CHOICE brand "PORK AND HAM PATE"- COGNAC
01/10 Recall Notification of Cooked Ham Products
01/09. Ho's Trading Inc. Recalls Home Special Health Soup Recipe (Dry Mix)
01/08. Colorado Firm Recalls Sausage Products For Possible Listeria Contamination
01/05. Tommy Irvin Alerts Georgians About Recalled Frankfurters
01/05. Tan Tan Tofu Issues Allergy Alert on Undeclared All Natural Peanuts in Panda Flavor soybean Juice
01/04. Wal-Mart Announces Voluntary Recall of Sam's Choice 'Nature Trail' Trail Mix
01/03. Louisiana Firm Recalls Head Cheese Products For Possible Listeria Contamination

Swab test reduces pathogen detection time, claims manufacturer
By staff reporter
Source of Article: http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/
19/01/2007 - A new test for perishable foods such as salads can detect pathogens within minutes, its manufacturer claims.
The presence in products of pathogens such as dangerous E coli, can spark off an expensive recall for a food company, which would also have to deal with damage to its brand and the subsequent loss of sales.
US-based Zonda said its release of QuikAlert was in response to growing demand for a quicker test from industry after the recent widespread Escherichia coli outbreak due to contaminated produce.
QuikAlert was designed as a screening tool that can detect food borne pathogens directly from a food product before it is packaged or shipped, the company said.
" Typically, perishable food products are packaged and shipped before pathogen test results are available," the company stated. "QuikAlert can detect these potentially dangerous microorganisms in minutes versus hours or days."
QuikAlert comes with a swab that is used to sample a food product. After 20 minutes, a reagent is added to the tip of the swab. After two minutes, a positive test will result in a purple colour on the tip of the swab, indicating a presence of potentially dangerous microorganisms.
"Quick detection of food borne pathogens protects the health of consumers and can potentially save millions of dollars to food growers and food processing companies," said Laurie Oleksiewicz, Zonda's president.

Oxoid AnaeroGen Compact System Improved
source from : Rapidmicrobiology.com

Oxoid has released an improved product in its Atmosphere Generation Systems (AGS) range. AnaeroGen¢â Compact now incorporates easy-to-use, self-seal "W-Zip" transparent pouches that are designed for the incubation of small numbers of microbiological culture plates. Use of these convenient gas-tight pouches allows microbial growth to be observed at any time without disturbance to the internal atmosphere, making them ideal for use by clinical or industrial laboratories engaged in the culture of slower-growing anaerobic organisms.
The new AnaeroGen W-Zip Compact product (order code AN0010W) comprises 10 AnaeroGen sachets and 10 W-Zip pouches.
"W-Zip pouches have an integral seal which makes closure easy¡±, says Fiona Macrae, clinical applications manager, Oxoid. "After inserting the AnaeroGen sachet, users simply need to pinch the seal together at one end and squeeze all the way across, making sure that there are no gaps. Once sealed, the pouches maintain the required conditions for anaerobic growth throughout the incubation period."
AnaeroGen reacts rapidly on contact with air to produce an atmosphere of <1% oxygen supplemented with carbon dioxide within 30 minutes, providing ideal conditions for growth of fastidious and obligate anaerobes. To safeguard the health of laboratory staff, this is accomplished without the use of hazardous chemicals. Also, there is no production of hydrogen within the pouch.
By maximising recovery and colony size, AnaeroGen facilitates the prompt identification of cultured anaerobic micro-organisms. In a clinical setting, this enables timely administration of appropriate therapies to aid patient recovery. In the food industry, it allows prompt remedial action to be taken following identification of organisms whose presence might potentially be the cause of product degradation or pose a threat to consumers¡¯ health.
For further information about the Oxoid Atmosphere Generation Systems range of products please contact Oxoid using the contact details at the top of this page.

Purdue researchers develop new technique to screen food
17.jan.07
Purdue University
http://www.insideindianabusiness.com/newsitem.asp?ID=21401
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. ? Researchers have shown that a new low-cost system to quickly identify bacteria by analyzing scattered laser light can accurately distinguish between different strains of E. coli, a potentially valuable way to screen the food supply.
The technique, which works by passing a laser beam through bacterial colonies growing on a nutrient medium, also promises to have future applications in medicine and homeland security, identifying dangerous organisms far more quickly and at much lower cost than conventional technologies, said E. Daniel Hirleman, a professor and William E. and Florence E. Perry Head of Purdue's School of Mechanical Engineering.
Laser light passing through and around the colony is redirected by the bacteria and produces a scattering pattern. This light-scatter pattern is recorded and analyzed to identify the types of bacteria growing in colonies.
"We have learned that slight genetic differences between strains of E. coli create subtle differences in the micro- and macrostructure of the respective colonies," Hirleman said. "Our scattering instrument, in effect, amplifies these slight differences to produce remarkably different scattering phenomena."
The light-scattering project was initiated by Hirleman, working with Arun K. Bhunia, a professor of food microbiology in the Department of Food Science, and other researchers, including J. Paul Robinson, a professor in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering.
Hirleman has specialized in research to develop new types of sensors that work by analyzing light scattering off objects for applications such as detecting impurities on silicon wafers in computer chip manufacturing and measuring the size and speed of burning fuel droplets in jet engines.
A major motivation for the bacteria-detection research is to reduce the time it takes to identify harmful organisms in food processing. The industry generally collects food samples or swabs, places them first in a nutrient broth and then on a plate coated with solid nutrient to allow the bacterial growth to reach detectable levels. E. coli bacterial cultures take about 18-24 hours to grow. Then, subsequent biochemical analyses and other time-consuming and expensive techniques, such as polymerase chain reaction, take four to seven days to complete the bacteria identification.
The light-scattering method works immediately after the colony is grown.
"Within a second after the colony is full grown we can identify by its scattering fingerprint a certain strain of E. coli, for example," Hirleman said. "Or we might see a new scattering fingerprint and only be able to say that something is growing on the same growth medium as E. coli. We've never seen it before, but there is something here. That means we are warned within seconds instead of days."
A mass-produced system based on the technology would consist of inexpensive, off-the-shelf hardware, such as computers, red lasers and low-resolution digital cameras available at consumer electronics stores, and likely would cost less than $10,000. Instruments used for conventional methods can exceed 10 times that cost, Hirleman said.
Another advantage is that the light-scattering fingerprints of bacteria can be added to a library for quick reference in future outbreaks of food-borne pathogens.
One conventional approach requires sophisticated methods to "label" the bacterium with antibodies that attach a fluorescent dye to the target.
"But that means you have to use a designer antibody specifically suited for the strain of E. coli in question," Hirleman said. "What if food is contaminated with, say, a new strain of E. coli? You won't see it because the label will not attach to it."
The light-scattering technique, however, would enable researchers to detect bacterial contaminants they were not specifically looking for, making it less likely to miss an unsuspected culprit.
"Our team has done experiments where we've spiked ground beef and spinach with known pathogens, found those but also found another bacterium that was not in our library," Hirleman said. "So then we went back to the colony and did further analyses to find out what it was."
The researchers have studied growth characteristics of bacterial colonies and the corresponding evolution of the scattering patterns for a wide variety of pathogens relevant to food safety, developing a mathematical model that predicts the light-scattering signatures for given pathogens.
"We have found that different strains generally have unique forward scattering fingerprints, and those fingerprints can be used for rapid detection and classification of the bacteria," Hirleman said. "The light-scattering method has high sensitivity and speed and shows great promise for identifying bacterial colonies of a wide range of organisms relevant to infectious disease, homeland security and food safety."
This research was supported through a cooperative agreement with the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Purdue's Center for Food Safety Engineering.
A provisional patent has been filed for the data-processing technique, and a full patent is pending on the underlying light-scattering technology.

1st International Conference for Food Safety and Quality (Nov. 7-8, 2006)
Major Topic: Current Detection Methods for Microbiological/Chemical Hazards for Food Safety/Quality

Program - Coming Soon !
2nd International Conference for Food Safety and Quality
(Nov. 6-7, 2007), South San Francisco Convention Center