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California takes steps to ensure safety of leafy-green crops
With demands for greater regulation of food safety increasing, California took steps Wednesday toward oversight of the state's lettuce and spinach crops. A plan set forth by the California Department of Food and Agriculture calls mostly for self-regulation and inspection of the $1.6 billion business. One of the nation's largest produce-industry associations has said the move is little more than a "stopgap" effort and has called for federal regulators to step in.
Proposals to regulate the business with voluntary measures are not strong enough, said Maureen Marshall and Mark Miller, co-chairs of the United Fresh Produce Association, in a letter to members released Wednesday.
"These standards cannot depend upon marketing programs or voluntary certification," they wrote. Although regulations may not "be comfortable, we are convinced they are necessary to protect the future of our fresh-produce industry," they wrote.
Federal regulation "appears to be a step in the right direction," said Dr. David Acheson, chief medical officer at the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. "We look forward to working with United Fresh Produce." California lettuce was the source of two separate E. coli outbreaks that sickened more than 150 Taco Bell and Taco John's customers late last year. Bagged California spinach contaminated by the pathogen killed three people and sickened more than 200 in the fall.
Those incidents called into question the lack of mandated standards for growing produce in a state that supplies much of the nation's fruit and vegetables. The state agency said Wednesday that it was soliciting signatures from produce processors for what is called a marketing agreement.
Handlers who sign up commit to purchasing greens such as spinach, lettuce, endive and cabbage only from growers who will follow a still-to-be-determined set of farming regulations. An assessment of up to 5 cents per carton of produce would fund an inspection program to ensure compliance. Violators would be tossed from the marketing agreement and prohibited from using a state seal of approval that would adorn the labels of lettuce and spinach grown and processed according to the standards.
Tom Nassif, president of Western Growers, said California's effort to sign produce processors and shippers to a voluntary regulatory agreement was a way to quickly get some supervision over lettuce and spinach crops while the state and federal governments decide whether to enact stricter regulations.
"Federal regulations can take years," Nassif said. The state, however, doesn't consider its move a stopgap, said Steve Lyle, spokesman for the state Agriculture Department.
"We see it as a potential solution," Lyle said. California grows $1.5 billion worth of lettuce annually, or 75 percent of domestic production, according to the state. The state farms $115 million worth of fresh spinach, or about 68 percent of what is grown nationally.
Most of California's 135 leafy-green handlers are expected to sign the voluntary marketing agreement. The state has asked them to decide by Feb. 5. "We think this is a positive step to regain consumer confidence," said Joseph Pezzini, vice president of operations for Castroville, Calif.-based Ocean Mist Farms.
Others say the move is too little, too late. "We have already tried warnings and self-regulation, and we have had more outbreaks with lettuce and spinach than with any other food crop," state Sen. Dean Florez said.
Florez plans to introduce three bills next week that would require buffer zones to separate crops from feedlots and dairies, mandate bacterial testing programs for irrigation water and dictate the size and durability of fencing to keep wild and stray animals from the areas where vegetables grow.
The legislation calls for better tracking of produce from fields to retail shelves. It would allow the state Department of Health Services to condemn crops if farmers were caught violating rules and would increase proposed produce-inspection funding tenfold to about $20 million.

State Announces Start of California State Marketing Agreement for Food Safety

Official Start of Marketing Agreement Allows Handlers of Leafy Greens in California to Join Together to Ensure Stringent Food Safety Standards Throughout the State in Response to Food Safety Crisis
IRVINE, Calif., Jan. 24 /PRNewswire/ -- California Department of Food and Agriculture officials today announced the commencement of the California State Marketing Agreement to bolster food safety standards for the handling of fresh spinach and other leafy green commodities. The commencement of the Marketing Agreement marks a major milestone in the legal process to create state-enforced and administered regulations regarding food safety. The action is the first of a series of steps to be taken by the industry and the state in response to the food safety crisis which began with an outbreak of e. Coli in spinach in mid-September, 2006.
"The start of the Marketing Agreement marks the beginning the industry's delivery on a promise to do everything possible to restore the confidence of the nation in our products," said Tom Nassif, President and CEO of Western Growers. "Last year we made a commitment to declare war on food borne illnesses in the fresh produce industry. This is the opening salvo in that war. We have said that food safety is a sacred trust between the people in our industry and the public. We take that responsibility extremely seriously. This industry-funded initiative is part of our commitment to put our money where our mouth is and take positive action to raise the standards of food safety in this country. We hope the California Marketing Agreement will be a model for the nation and the world."
The Marketing Agreement is a legal document and state regulation by which handlers in California agree to accept product only from farmers who follow specific food safety procedures in the growing of leafy greens. "Our hope and expectation is that retail and food service buyers will agree to buy only from handlers covered by the Agreement," said Nassif. Commodities included in this agreement include all leafy greens such as spinach, lettuce, chard and several other types of leafy greens. The start of the Marketing Agreement means that handlers can now sign up to become part of this legal regulation. It also allows the California Department of Food and Agriculture to appoint an official Marketing Agreement Board. That board will consist of thirteen members and will be tasked with implementing the agreement. All elements of the agreement will be exercised under the authority of the State of California. Product which is certified by state authorized inspectors to be grown under the specific food safety Good Agricultural Practices will be designated by an official "mark" or seal.
"The Marketing Agreement is a giant step for our industry," said Nassif. "But this is also just a first step. We intend to follow this action with additional measures and regulations on the state and federal levels to protect the consuming public. Because our products are natural raw products grown outdoors, we know that we can never completely eliminate food borne illnesses. Our goal, however, is to make certain the risk is as minimal as possible. This Marketing Agreement, a state regulation, is a powerful tool to attain that goal."
Western Growers is an agriculture trade association whose members grow, pack and ship ninety percent of the fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in California and seventy five percent of those commodities in Arizona. This totals about half of the nation's fresh produce.

Government Food Safety System a Sham
source from:
A new federal program for livestock tracking will benefit big corporations, threaten small producers and do nothing to protect consumer health
Located south of the tiny town of Tarpley, Texas, Debbie Davis's Seco Valley Ranch is something of a model farm. On her 1,800-acre spread, Davis grazes 225 longhorn cattle, every one of which she closely monitors so that she can better manage the herd and its health. Davis' meat is prized in the supermarkets of Austin and San Antonio, where her grass-fed, pastured beef sells for a premium. In many ways, Davis is the very ideal of a local entrepreneur -- profitable and secure, succeeding on her own terms.
Which is why it angers Davis so much when she considers the government's plans to institute a "National Animal Identification System" that will give a 15-digit tracking number to every cow, chicken, pig, turkey, goat, sheep and horse in the United States to trace animals' every move from birth until slaughter. The federal government and large meat producers are promoting the ID system -- usually referred to by its acronym, "NAIS" -- as a way to better control animal disease outbreaks. But the plan has small and organic ranchers in an uproar. They complain that the animal tracking system will place an undue burden on their operations, giving the biggest meat producers additional economic advantages in an already highly consolidated industry.
"It really does feel like Big Brother," rancher Davis said in a recent interview. "The proposal is that I report every animal I have, every time an animal is born, every time an animal dies, and every time I move an animal from my property. ... There's a lot of expense for everyone. The ones who are going to get impacted are the little guys."
If you're a typical American consumer -- for whom meat usually means supermarket "pink in plastic wrap," not animals out on the range -- then why should you care? Because, say critics of the government's plan, the national livestock tracking system will do nothing to actually prevent animal sicknesses such as mad cow disease or avian flu. According to smaller farmers and sustainable agriculture advocates, the complicated and expensive government proposal is mostly a marketing gimmick. They say the program is simply a way for the largest food corporations to sell more products overseas without addressing some of the key weaknesses in the U.S. food system.
Since the first confirmed case of mad cow disease in 2003, U.S. beef producers have struggled to sell their products abroad. Pork producers fear that a similar market closure could one day hit them if there were an outbreak of, say, swine fever or hoof and mouth disease. The creation of an animal tracking ID system is largely intended, then, to give foreign importers some piece of mind by establishing a way to quickly trace back diseased animals to their source and quarantine that specific herd, while letting the rest of the industry go about business as usual. But the program conspicuously does nothing to address the root causes of livestock disease -- improper diet and a confinement system that encourages epidemics. Instead, say small producers, the proposed plan will simply drop unnecessary costs onto those farmers who are already using best practices.
"I believe big business is behind it," Davis said. "It's a way for the giant, monopoly beef industry to export more meat. The whole thing about tracking disease is a bunch of BS to brainwash the general public."
Essentially, taxpayers, ordinary meat-consumers and ranchers are poised to spend tens of millions of dollars on a scheme that will improve the bottom line of the meat packing corporations without improving the health of the animals from which they profit.
To date, much of the controversy surrounding the national animal tracking system has hinged on whether the program will be mandatory or voluntary for farmers. At first, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said that the program would be compulsory for all livestock. A year ago the USDA announced that it wanted all farmers and ranchers to register their premises. The next step was to implant radio tracking devices in all cattle and to assign tracking numbers to groups of hogs and chickens, which are usually raised by lot. By 2009, according to the plan, all livestock in the United States would be tagged, and a tracking database would be in place.
Then farmers and ranchers pushed back. They complained that the system was too complicated, too costly, and, essentially, unnecessary. Websites and email listserves opposing the ID system proliferated. Protest letters flooded the USDA offices. In Acres USA -- one of the most influential newsletters for the organic farming community -- one Texas rancher wrote: "It appears that the ... unstated reason behind [the program] is to get rid of those independent farmers, ranchers and homesteaders."
Confronted with this grassroots opposition, the USDA backpedaled. The agency now says that the animal tracking program will be voluntary.
"People can decide whether they want to participate and whether it fits their needs," Ben Kaczmarski, a spokesman for the USDA, told AlterNet. "We have decided to make the system voluntary at the federal level because of responses we were getting from producers and farmers."
Many farmers, however, remain worried. They point out that three states -- Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana -- are mandating some or all elements of the animal tracking system; a fourth, Texas, is on the verge of making similar legal requirements. Farmers opposed to the program say that the USDA is quietly -- but firmly -- urging states to make the plan mandatory by dangling extra federal funding as an incentive.
"The USDA is trying to get states to make it mandatory at the state level," Walter Jeffries, a Vermont hog farmer who is a leading anti-NAIS activist, wrote in a recent email. "Thus it is still aimed to be mandatory. Not good. ... NAIS is fundamentally designed to favor the large producers and burden the small producers. This is probably primarily by accident, but the effect will kill small producers and homesteaders off. Our country will lose the ability to produce food other than in the large factory farms."
Missouri farmer Doreen Hannes agrees. She says that while large producers can use their economies of scale to absorb the new regulations, the extra time demanded by the tracking will be unworkable for small farmers. She also worries that the cost of ID tags -- at least $3 per unit -- and scanners to read the tags will be prohibitively expensive for smaller operations.
"It's just going to add overhead, and add overhead, and add paperwork," Hannes said. "It will be like doing your taxes every week. They [small ranchers] aren't going to put up with this. They will just get out."
The result, Hannes says, will be more concentration in an industry already dominated by giant agribusiness corporations. For example, just four companies control 83 percent of the beef packing industry and 64 percent of the pork packing business, according to a William Heffernan, a researcher at the University of Missouri.
"If you eat, you need to be concerned about this program," Hannes said. "NAIS will bring about absolute consolidation of our meat supply. And these big corporations are pushing for it."
Indeed. The National Beef Cattlemen's Association and the National Pork Producers Council have been among the primary drivers of an animal tracking system. They say a livestock ID database is necessary to maintain access to profitable international markets that doubt the safety of the U.S. meat supply. The loss of several overseas markets after an outbreak of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, in 2003 still looms over the U.S. meat industry. When it comes to small farmers' complaints that the NAIS is all about maintaining a globalized food system that prioritizes exports over local food production, industry representatives and government officials essentially agree.
"Our trading partners will feel more confident if we have a system of rapid trace back, then we can keep our markets open," Dave Warner, a spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council, said. "You've seen what happened with the cattle industry with BSE. That happened in one cow, and Japan and South Korea closed their markets. It took them forever to deal with that."
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns has been even more explicit about how the program is driven by international trade concerns. "You don't ever want to put this massive economic system at risk," he told a gathering of meat industry executives in a speech last August. "I've been asked why we've been putting so much effort into the animal ID system. At its core, the system is a critical tool in safeguarding the health of agricultural animals from disease. When it comes to an outbreak, time is money."
But opponents of the plan point out that the tracking system does nothing to prevent animal disease. Rather, it's about controlling disease outbreaks after they've already occurred -- identifying and quarantining certain areas, while keeping the rest of the meat industry running. The tracking system, then, is a way for meat corporations to sell more beef, pork and chicken abroad, without really addressing the root causes of animal disease -- confinement, massive overcrowding, improper feeding, and poor care.
"ID systems only solve sort of the marketing problem," Bob Scowcroft, executive director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation said. "An ID system does not address the causes. What are the fundamental issues we need to address to solve the disease problems? They are feed, confinement, overuse of antibiotics."
As farmer and agrarian essayist Wendell Berry has said: In trying to solve one problem, the industrial food system often creates another. In this case, building a complex and costly system that will only add to farmers' burdens.
So what would be a simpler solution? Veterinarians agree that the best way to avoid animal diseases is to raise animals in ways that mimic their natural predilections -- give them fresh air and sunlight, plenty of space to roam, and food sources (like grass instead of corn, in the case of cattle) that the animals evolved to eat. That is, adopt the kinds of practices currently used by precisely those farmers who say they will be hurt most by the NAIS.
Consumers can help out by supporting local farmers and ranchers. When you go to the farmers market or locally owned butcher and buy meat raised by someone like Walter Jeffries or Doreen Hannes, you are helping promote a food system that is less prone to disease and disruption, and therefore more sustainable and secure. Not only does that allow shoppers to get closer to their farmers, but also to the animal they are about to eat.
"This can be market driven by the consumer," Texas rancher Debbie Davis said. "The consumer, by how he spends his dollars, can dictate that confined animal feeding practices are not sound. If you want to buy free range chicken and pay a dollar more a pound, you are voting with your dollars that this is a more sustainable way of agriculture, instead of putting a chicken in a cage."

Food Safety During and After Power Outages
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) Food Safety Program reminds consumers that winter storms and power outages mean that food safety issues require special attention.
Be Prepared:
Have a refrigerator thermometer.
Know where you can get dry ice.
Keep on hand a few days worth of ready-to-eat, shelf-stable or canned food that do not require cooking or cooling.
When the Power Goes Out:
Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.
The refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4-6 hours if it is unopened.
Refrigerated foods should be kept at 40F or below.
Once the Power is Restored:
If an appliance thermometer was kept in the unit, check the temperature when the power comes back on. If the thermometer reads 40F or below, the food is safe and may be kept refrigerated. It is safe to refreeze the food, but the quality and flavor of the food may be affected.
If a thermometer has not been kept in the unit, check each package of food to determine its safety. You can't rely on appearance or odor. If the food still contains ice crystals or is 40F or below, it is safe to refreeze or cook and use.
Refrigerated food should be safe as long as the power was out for no more than 4-6 hours. Keep the door closed as much as possible.
Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs or leftovers) that has been above 40F for two hours or more.
Remember: When in doubt, throw it out!

California proposes labeling for cloned food products
By Lorraine Heller
Legislation has been introduced in California to require the clear labeling of all products derived from cloned animals if these are approved for human consumption.
Introduced by San Francisco Senator Carole Migden, the proposed bill aims to provide California residents with the option to choose what they consume.
The move comes weeks after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued draft guidance on allowing meat and milk from cloned cows into the food chain. The regulator has opened a 90-day consultation period to gather feedback before deciding whether its proposals -including allowing cloned food to be sold with no special labeling - should become policy.
But according to Migden, if these products do reach supermarket shelves, consumers should at least be able to decide whether or not they want to buy them.
¡°Like the majority of Americans, I have concerns about why cloned cows should be a part of our food system. I've introduced SB 63 to require meat and dairy products from cloned animals to be clearly marked as such,¡± wrote Migden.
¡°After all, we label apricots, bananas and apples to show their place of origin; we label salmon as farm-raised or wild; the FDA requires irradiated food to be labeled. Requiring labels for dairy and meat products derived from cloned animals is the next reasonable step. Clear labeling will ensure consumers have a choice and know exactly what they are putting on the table for their families.¡±
Indeed, recent consumer opinion polls show that most Americans do not want the experimental foods.
A November 2006 poll conducted by the Food Information Council found that 58 per cent of Americans surveyed would be unlikely to buy meat or milk from cloned animals, even if supported by FDA safety endorsements. In the same poll, only 16 per cent of Americans had a favorable opinion of cloning.
And the food industry, too, is not without its share of concerns. At this stage, one of the main issues for the industry is a lack of definitive and forceful guidance from the FDA.
In October, the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) told that the group does not at this time support milk from cloned cows entering the marketplace until FDA determines that this is the same as milk from conventionally bred animals. And when this happens, the agency needs to be proactive and clearly and forcefully specify what claims are allowed, it said.
There is currently no regulation preventing cloned food from entering the nation's food supply. But the FDA has asked clone producers and livestock breeders to voluntarily refrain from introducing food products from clones or their offspring into the food supply until the agency endorses the findings of a National Academy of Science (NAS) report it commissioned in 2002 that declared cloned products safe for human consumption.
In its recent draft proposal, the agency said its assessment of the available scientific evidence shows no additional safety risks are posed by the technology. In the risk assessment section, however, FDA recommended that cloned sheep are not to be used for human food due to limited data available.
Last month, the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) urged the American public to campaign against the regulator's draft proposal. In October 2006, the group filed a legal petition with the FDA seeking a moratorium on foods produced from cloned animals. It was joined in its efforts by a coalition of consumer, environmental and animal welfare organizations. CFS called for the establishment of mandatory rules for the pre-market and environmental review of cloned foods. The petition also requested that the Department of Health and Human Services establish a federal review committee to advice FDA on the ethical issues.
¡°We intend to pursue our legal action to compel FDA to address the many unanswered questions around cloned food,¡± said the CFS.
California's current proposed bill, still in the early phases of the legislative process, would not go into effect until at least next January, if it is approved by all relevant committees.

FDA approves more meat additives
By Ahmed ElAmin
The federal food safety inspection unit has approved an additional batch of additives, antimicrobals and agents for use as processing aids directly on meat and poultry products.
The updated list adds more substances that can be used during meat and poultry processing operations, giving more options in the food safety arsenal available to processors. The new approvals were made since the list was last updated on 10 May 2006.
Increased food safety regulations and the cost of recalls due to contaminated foods are driving processors to search for better solutions to reduce pathogens in their plants.
Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) regulations define processing aids as substances -- such as an organic cleaning acid -- that are required during the manufacture or processing of a food and that are ordinarily removed from the final food. Although residuals might carry over to the final food, residuals must not have any health effect. Other additives may be used to provide a technical effect in the final food, such as the antioxidants BHA and BHT.
Naming the additive used is not required on the label. The FDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) classifies all such substances as acidifiers, anticoagulants, antimicrobials, antioxidants, binders, coloring agents, curing accelerators, denuding agents, film forming agents, flavoring agents, poultry scald agents, and packaging system agents.
A new addition to the range of antimicrobial agents is a blend of citric acid and sorbic acid in a 2 to 1 ratio. The mix has been approved for use in reducing the microbial load of purge trapped inside soaker pads in packages of raw whole muscle cuts of meat and poultry. It may be incorporated into soaker pads at a level not to exceed 1 to 3 grams per pad.
The FSIS has also approved the use of citric acid as an antimicrobial agent on separated beef heads and offal. It may be used at a 2.5 percent solution applied as a spray prior to chilling. Lactic acid has also been approved for use as a 2 to 2.8 percent solution applied to brushes in a washer cabinet system used to clean beef heads and tongues.
Lauramide arginine ethyl ester has been approved for use on ready-to-eat ground meat products, such as sausages, that permit the use of any safe and suitable antimicrobial agent. A residue maximum limit has been set at 200 ppm by weight of the finished product.
A 60 to 40 blend of sodium bicarbonate and citric acid has been approved for use in generating carbon dioxide in packages of raw whole muscle cuts of meat and poultry. The blend must be incorporated into soaker pads at a level not to exceed 0.5 to 2 grams per pad.
Trisodium phosphate has been approved as a component of phosphate blends, not to exceed 40 percent of the mix. It may be used to decrease the amount of cooked out juices in meat food products except where otherwise prohibited by the meat and poultry inspection regulations
For meat food products, processors are allowed to use 5 per cent of phosphate in pickle at a 10 percent pump level. It can also be used as 0.5 percent of phosphate in meat food product. Only clear solution may be injected into the meat food product. For poultry food products, the FSIS has approved its use as 0.5 percent of the total product.
The introduction of novel and value-added products and additive free foods is boosting the use of antimicrobials in almost all food processing segments, according to a report last year from Frost & Sullivan.
The analyss forecasts that US demand for antimicrobials -- chemicals used to wash equipment and foods to ensure they are free of food borne pathogens -- will reach $215.8m in 2012, from $161.7m in 2005.
The market segments demanding more and more antimicrobials include dairy, bakery, beverages, and meat processors.

Canadian research collaboration produces food safety vaccine against E coli 0157:H7
Belleville, ON - Biopharmaceutical company Bioniche Life Sciences says it is scaling up production of its cattle vaccine against E. coli 0157:H7 vaccine, in order to ensure sufficient supply to meet Canadian demand.
The vaccine, which received received authorization from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to distribute the E coli 0157:H7 cattle vaccine to Canadian veterinarians on December 22, was developed in collaboration with the University of British Columbia and the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO).
"This vaccine will ensure that Canadian cattle producers continue to provide a safe product for Canadian consumers," says Dr Lorne Babiuk, director of VIDO and Canada Research Chair in vaccinology and biotechnology in Saskatoon. "More importantly, the reduction of E coli shedding into the environment will have far-reaching consequences regarding environmental contamination. The recent outbreaks of E coli infection from consumption of vegetables is an example of additional benefits of such a vaccine. The key discovery to making this vaccine a reality was made by Dr Brett Finlay at the University of British Columbia, when he deciphered the mechanisms by which E coli attaches to and infects animals. Using this knowledge, it was possible to target the specific proteins of the bacterium for use in the vaccine."
"It is wonderful to see that this vaccine can be used to prevent the tragic food and waterborne outbreaks associated with this organism," says Dr Finlay, who is professor, Michael Smith Laboratories, University of British Columbia. "It is also a great feeling to see all the work that went into the basic discoveries being applied to a vaccine that should have real impact on Canadians' health."
The vaccine was one of the interventions referenced in an article in the journal, Nature (vol. 445, 4 January, 2007). The article, entitled "The dark side of E coli", discusses recent human health outbreaks caused by E coli 0157:H7 bacteria in food products. The article referenced the Bioniche vaccine as a "promising research lead that might help prevent future outbreaks."
"Our vaccine is the first product to be registered globally as a pre-harvest (pre-slaughter) intervention," said Graeme McRae, president & CEO of Bioniche. "It will be an important supplement to post-harvest (post-slaughter) interventions already implemented by the meatpacking industry."

Food Safety Related JOB OPENINGS
Food Safety Related JOB OPENINGS

E. coli concerns close swimming hole for summer
Thursday, January 25, 2007
By Rick Wilson
The Grand Rapids Press
GEORGETOWN TOWNSHIP -- A popular Jenison area swimming hole will likely be closed next summer as Georgetown Township and Ottawa County Health Department officials try to determine the source of E. coli contamination.
The Georgetown Township board this week voted to close access to Maplewood Lake until the source of contamination can be determined. The lake has had several closings in recent summers.
Concerns reached a peak last summer after the lake was closed for much of July and August because of dangerously elevated E. coli levels.
"Our concern is the health, safety and welfare of our residents," township Treasurer Dan Carlton said. "We're concerned about letting people know we believe it's unhealthy."
The Ottawa County Health Department said it detected levels in August of up to 1,205 parts E. coli per 100 milliliters of water.
The maximum safe standard is 300 parts per 100 milliliters, health officials said.
While township and Health Department officials are unsure about the contamination source, they believe failing septic systems along Thornwood and Beechwood drives northwest of the lake may be cause.
Adam London, environmental health director for the health department, is hesitant to blame septic systems.
He noted the 35-acre lake, surrounded by a park, is a natural drainage basin for very large area.
"It's possible, but we haven't seen any failing septic systems," London said. "It's a natural drainage basin for a very large area so it's likely a combination of three or four things."
The township owns about two thirds of the lake's frontage and a farmer owns the remaining lake access on the lake's west shore.
Officials believe the farm is not causing the contamination since elevated levels of E. coli have been found in a drainage ditch upstream from the farm.
Carlton said installing sewer in the area is an obvious long-term solution, though he added the township would like to see residents petition the township for sewer rather than have sewer service forced on them.
The closest sewer is on Briarwood, meaning that, if sewer was installed, homeowners between there and the lake under state law would have to hook up once their septic systems need replacing.
"Right now, it would be helpful to give people an alternative," Carlton said. "We still have to make a decision based on the health and welfare of our residents."

Raw or undercooked sprouts can carry salmonella, E. coli: Health Canada
Provided by: Canadian Press
Jan. 24, 2007
OTTAWA (CP) - Health Canada is reminding Canadians that raw or undercooked sprouts should not be eaten by children, the elderly or those with weakened immune systems.
While sprouts, including mung bean and alfalfa sprouts, are a popular low-calorie ingredient in many dishes, they may carry bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli, which can lead to serious illness, Health Canada warned in an advisory Wednesday. "Fresh produce can sometimes be contaminated with harmful bacteria while in the field or during storage or handling," the federal department said. "This is particularly a concern with sprouts. Many outbreaks of salmonella and E. coli infections have been linked to contaminated sprouts." The most recent outbreak in Canada occurred in fall 2005, when more than 648 cases of salmonella were reported in Ontario.
"Children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable to these bacteria and should not eat any raw sprouts at all," Health Canada said. "They should also avoid eating cooked sprouts unless they can be sure the sprouts have been thoroughly cooked."
Healthy adults should also take the following precautions to reduce their risk of exposure to sprout-borne bacteria:
-When purchasing sprouts, always select crisp ones that have been refrigerated and avoid those that appear dark or smell musty.
-Always use tongs or a glove to place sprouts in a plastic bag.
-When eating in a restaurant, always make sure sprouts are fully cooked.
Symptoms from salmonella infection usually occur 12 to 36 hours after eating contaminated food, while symptoms from E. coli O157:H7, a potentially deadly strain, can occur within two to 10 days. Symptoms can include vomiting, stomach cramps and fever. People who experience these symptoms should contact a doctor immediately. In extreme cases, E. coli O157:H7 can lead to acute kidney failure.
Health Canada recently issued a new policy on managing health risks associated with sprouted seeds and beans, which can be found on the Internet at:

Fresh Express Donates $2 Million To Fund E. Coli Prevention Research

Jimmy Moore
January 21, 2007
After last year's public relations nightmare following the media frenzy that ensued when the E. coli virus contaminated bagged spinach products in California killing over 100 and making thousands more sick all across the United States, the nation's top manufacturer of ready-to-eat salads has stepped forward to take the lead in trying to prevent something like this from happening again.
Fresh Express, a subsidiary of Chiquita Brands International, Inc., is the #1 seller of bagged salads in North America with more than 20 million customers eating their healthy spinach and other green leafy vegetable products every single week. Concerned about the long-term fallout of the spinach crisis in the Fall of 2006, they have made a rather unique and unprecedented move: a $2 million donation towards an independent scientific advisory panel looking into preventing the dangerous spread of E. coli to future spinach and other produce crops.
This is a bold initiative by Fresh Express considering none of their products have ever been shown to cause any food borne illnesses in company history. Even still, they are doing everything they can to regain the public's trust in the safety of their products, something their Food Safety Chief Jim Lugg assured me recently when I interviewed him about this subject.
The panel consists of six nationally recognized food safety experts from both the state and federal government levels who have been looking into the E. coli problems on a voluntary basis since May 2006 to determine why the contamination is happening. Their research is considered vital to the prevention of future outbreaks.
Chaired by Dr. Michael T. Osterholm from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, the panel also includes Dr. Jeff Farrar from the California Department of Health Services, Dr. Bob Buchanan from the FDA, Dr. Robert Tauxe from the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Bob Gravani from Cornell University, and Dr. Craig Hedberg also from The University of Minnesota.
This group of food safety experts has already uncovered five of the most critical research priorities for them to examine in the coming months, according to Dr. Osterholm.
"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," Dr. Osterholm explained.
These priorities include but are not limited to:
1. Determining how E. coli is internalized in lettuce or spinach.
2. Identifying ways to E. coli from spreading to green vegetables.
3. Conducting crop studies to assess the severity of the contamination.
4. Looking into how E. coli can multiply during the harvesting of produce.
5. Finding out if E. coli is able to survive the composting processes.
These and many other kinds of rigorous research initiatives are being conducted by Dr. Osterholm and his team this year to help the fresh-cut produce industry deal with this very serious and potentially costly problem. The results of their research findings will be made public to help educate the entire fresh produce industry as well as consumers about why this is happening.
No date has been set for the release of the panel's conclusions, but it is likely expected sometime in late 2007. The availability of the $2 million donated by Fresh Express is immediate and the panel has free reign to use the money as they see fit to conduct the research process in as independent and thorough manner as possible.
In the meantime, Fresh Express president Tanios Viviani says he is proud to be on the frontlines of the research looking into the E. coli problem which has the potential to completely destroy the industry completely should another outbreak hit as hard as it did in late 2006.
"At Fresh Express, food safety has been and will always be our No. 1 priority in every phase of our operations," he said. "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 added that he is confident the panel will offer plenty of "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."
The "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" blog will continue to follow this story in the coming months and report to you any further developments that you need to be aware of, especially when the panel's findings are released.

Food pathogen tests sold to major food processors
Strategic Diagnostics has sold its RapidChek Listeria and RapidChek Select for Salmonella test platforms to three major food processors with a combined annual value in excess of $800,000 per year
'Major food processors continue to embrace our methodologies as the preferred testing process to ensure the ongoing safety of their products and maintain consumer confidence,' commented Matt Knight, president and CEO of Strategic Diagnostics. 'Within this mature market, we continue to capture accounts with high-volume testing needs, demonstrating our ability to take market share from well established competitive methods and validating our technology. 'Our success is due to our ability to clearly demonstrate both the technical performance of our methods, and ultimately their superior cost in use'.
With the introduction of RapidChek Select for Salmonella in late August of 2006, SDI was, for the first time, able to offer state-of-the-art tests for the detection of all three regulated food pathogens in the USA.
In addition to the superior performance of each of the three methods, the company also sees its ability to offer all three tests, on the same platform, as contributing to broader industry adoption going forward.
The company believes it is well-positioned to increase its market share within the salmonella testing market, an industry currently estimated at $75 million annually

Lawsuit filed following salmonella outbreak at Arby's
B y Kelli Hernandez
The first of approximately a dozen lawsuits was filed in state court this week against Arby¡¯s Restaurant Group Inc. and Arby¡¯s LLC, following a salmonella outbreak in Lowndes County in August.
Also named as defendants in the suit are Beavers Inc., and Birg Inc., which own the franchise, Globe Food Equipment, which supplied the faulty meat slicer which was later discovered to be the source of the bacteria; AFA Service Corporation, the marketing and advertising leader for Arby¡¯s; ARCOP Inc.; and one unknown person, who supplied meat products to the restaurant; Farmer Brown¡¯s Produce Inc., which supplied produce for the restaurant and four other unknown persons.
The suit was filed on behalf of 42-year-old Frances Parks, who was hospitalized on Aug. 28 with salmonella poisoning, which led to a bacterimia infection in the bloodstream, two days after she had eaten at the restaurant.
Parks, who works the 11 p.m.-7a.m. shift as a nurse in Nashville, stopped by the newly opened Arby¡¯s on her way to work Aug. 25 and ordered a regular roast beef sandwich. She returned the next day and ordered four roast beef sandwiches, taking advantage of a special sale. As she was returning home from work on Aug. 28, Parks recalls feeling like she was coming down with a ¡°bug.¡±
Symptoms began with an achy feeling followed by nausea and chills. Soon, Parks¡¯ temperature rose to 101 degrees and she began vomiting, accompanied by diarrhea.
¡°The pain was indescribable,¡± Parks said. ¡°My body literally ached from by toes to my head. I couldn¡¯t stand to even be touched, and I stayed like that for a good 12 to 18 hours.¡±
Once Parks realized she was not experiencing any ordinary sickness, she called her husband home from work and the two left for the emergency room as her temperature rose to 104.4 degrees.
¡°Being a nurse, I knew this was wrong and it wasn¡¯t just a typical little bug I picked up from somewhere,¡± Parks said.
Twenty-four hours after being admitted to the hospital, Parks learned that what she thought was just a minor illness turned out to be salmonella poisoning, which led to a five-day hospital stay.
Parks went through three IV treatments in eight hours. The vomiting and diarrhea continued and worsened. After 48 hours, Parks was finally allowed to eat, but still could not eat any solid food for the next three weeks. Though she had no available vacation time, Parks was forced to take three weeks off of work.
¡°I had to be fever and diarrhea-free for a full 24 hours before I could return to work, and that did not occur for three weeks,¡± Parks explained. ¡°My digestive system is still messed up, and I definitely do not want to eat at any fast food restaurants now.¡±
The salmonella poisoning weakened Parks¡¯ digestive system and digestive tract while the infection in her blood weakened her immune system. The process of rebuilding a digestive system after salmonella poisoning can take up to six months, according to Parks.
Fortunately, Parks had family to help. Her husband took time off of work to stay with her in the hospital and her mother came up from Florida to help care for their 8-year-old child.
¡°It was horrible,¡± Parks said. ¡°I wouldn¡¯t wish that stuff on my worst enemy. It was like I thought I would just rather die than go through that stuff.¡±
The combination of weeks off of work, towering hospital bills, months of sickness and the lack of anyone taking responsibility led Parks to contact an attorney.

2nd International Conference for Food Safety and Quality
Nov. 6-7, 2007
South San Francisco Convention Center

Click here for more information

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