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FDA Issues New Safety Guidelines For Fresh-Cut-Food Processors
By Amy Radishofski, Staff Reporter,
Manufacturing.Net - March 12, 2007

The FDA on Monday published a draft final guidance for processors of fresh-cut produce on how to minimize microbial food safety hazards.
Personnel health and hygiene, training, building and equipment, sanitation operations and fresh-cut produce production, processing controls and recommendations on record keeping and recalls will be covered by the new guide.
The guide advises processors to consider using food safety programs like the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system, designed to prevent, eliminate, or reduce levels of microbial, chemical and physical hazards in food production. It also recommends that safe practices by adopted by partners throughout a company¡¯s supply chain, from growers and packer to distributors and food service operators.

The document also incorporates comments on the FDA¡¯s March 2006 draft on manufacturing practices regulations. It will become final once the White House Office of Management and Budget completes and authorization step under the Paperwork Reduction Act.
¡°Ensuring the safety of the American food supply is one of this Agency¡¯s top priorities,¡± said Andrew C. von Eschenbach, MD, Commissioner of Food and Drugs. ¡°Americans are eating more fresh-cut produce, which we encourage as part of a healthy diet. But fresh-cut produce is one area in which we see food-borne illness occur. Offering clearer guidance to industry should aid in the reduction of health hazards that may be introduced or increased during the fresh-cut produce production process.¡±
In Madison, Wisconsin, on Monday the Agriculture, Rural Development and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Appropriations will have a hearing on improvements for food safety, focusing on the safety of fresh produce.
According to the FDA, the peeling, slicing, coring and trimming that fresh-cut produce goes through during processing can increase the risk of bacterial contamination and growth. Consumers can reduce the risk of illness by following safe handling practices like refrigeration and using clean hands, utensils and dishes for preparation.

Guidance for Industry
Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards of
Fresh-cut Fruits and Vegetables by FDA

Fast-food industry's vulnerable underbelly
After an E. coli outbreak led to steps to make meat safer, illness from the germ is linked increasingly to fresh produce.
By Jerry Hirsch
Times Staff Writer
Published March 11, 2007

The Klaus family has lived the fast-food industry's nightmare: people getting sick from E. coli. A few days after picking up a dinner of hamburgers and chicken nuggets at a Wendy's drive-in, the Salem, Ore., family received a call from county health inspectors inquiring whether they had eaten food from the chain.
JoAnn Klaus already knew something was wrong: Her 4-year-old son, Evan, was hospitalized with diarrhea and dehydration, and 23-month-old Scott had similar symptoms.
As the brothers received blood transfusions to save their lives, health inspectors scoured the local Wendy's looking for any source of the E. coli bacteria that had attacked the boys. They discovered that restaurant employees cleaned lettuce with equipment that was used to handle raw hamburger meat.
The boys are still paying the price for their meal. Now 11 and 8, Evan and Scott see a kidney specialist annually. Scott takes medication for high blood pressure, and doctors say he may develop kidney problems in adolescence.
Cases like this still haunt the fast-food industry. In the last few months, hundreds of diners have been sickened by E. coli transmitted through lettuce served by fast-food chains Taco Bell and Taco John's.
Without improvements in food handling, especially of produce, new outbreaks of E. coli and other food-borne diseases will shake the public's confidence in the fare served at restaurants, industry executives say.
"People might start to say they shouldn't eat anywhere," said Brian Dixon, vice president of marketing for Taco John's.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 52% of the 9,040 outbreaks of food-borne illness reported between 1998 and 2004, the latest year for which numbers are available, were linked to restaurants and other commercial food establishments.
Irvine-based Taco Bell, a division of Yum Brands Inc., sells more than $6 billion of tacos, chalupas and burritos annually through its 5,800 U.S. restaurants. Industry analysts believe the chain's sales plunged in the Northeast during the outbreak late last year. Yum, which also owns KFC and Pizza Hut, said Taco Bell's sales fell 5% in the fourth quarter of 2006, when the outbreak occurred, and that the incident cost the chain $20 million in operating profit.
The outbreak occurred at Taco Bells in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, but reverberated across the nation.
"If it happens on one coast the people on the other coast will know 10 minutes later," said Ted Taft, a food industry consultant with Meridian Consulting Group in Wilton, Conn.
E. coli has dogged the fast-food industry since 1992, when tainted hamburger meat served by the Jack in the Box chain killed three children and sickened 700 patrons.
Roni Rudolph Austin still bears the emotional scars of that outbreak. Her 6-year-old daughter, Lauren, died 10 days after eating a hamburger with contaminated meat from a Jack in the Box in Carlsbad, Calif.
"It upsets me that we are so many years past the point when Lauren died and we are still seeing this," Austin said.
"You can't protect your children from ignorance, but that's how E. coli gets out ? through people's ignorance in how to process foods," he said.
The incident sparked large-scale testing for E. coli, more stringent inspections and improved sanitation in slaughterhouses as well as other regulatory changes. Fast-food chains also reviewed their cooking techniques to make sure meat was heated to at least 160 degrees, the temperature that kills the pathogen.
Those measures, while changing the way many fast-food chains operate and reducing outbreaks from contaminated meat, did nothing to improve the safety of produce.
"Produce is the Achilles' heel of the restaurant industry," said Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, who was hired as a consultant by Taco Bell during the outbreak. "People eat it raw and the produce industry does not have a sure-fire treatment that kills harmful bacteria." Health officials say contaminated lettuce found its way from the California farms to the companies that chop and dice the greens that caused the Taco Bell and Taco John's outbreaks. Lettuce is used in 70% of Taco Bell's food items.

"This is a serious issue," Taco Bell spokesman Will Bortz said. "We need to identify where there are loopholes in the system and address how to fix them, both for Taco Bell and the industry."
Last month, the Department of Agriculture announced a new meat inspection policy that would increase scrutiny of processing plants with repeated safety violations and where the threat of E. coli is higher. Less-risky plants with better food-handling records would be inspected less often. Under this new system, hamburger processors would get more oversight.
In California, produce companies are developing a plan to enact safer farming and processing practices that would be subject to state inspection. But state lawmakers, and one national produce association, say more stringent regulation is needed to improve the safety of fresh produce.
David Theno, a food safety expert hired by Jack in the Box in 1993 to retool its procedures, said restaurant chains should be more aggressive in getting the produce industry to take action.

The first step is more testing of produce for pathogens, said Theno, now the company's senior vice president for quality and logistics.
"People will say it is too expensive or that it is not practical but the meat guys said the same things in 1993 and 1994 and eventually came around," he said.
Jack in the Box suppliers follow rigorous testing and employ stringent safety procedures for growing and processing produce, Theno said.
Farmers, for example, must fence their fields to prevent contamination from animal feces. They must provide bathroom facilities for workers near where produce is harvested. Bins used to hold vegetables are sanitized between uses.
By the time lettuce is shredded and mixed, a single contaminated head could taint a much larger shipment, Theno said.
Few companies have honed centralization of distribution and preparation better than Taco Bell.
Fifteen years ago, the chain turned its cooks into food assemblers. They no longer slice tomatoes or cook raw meat. Instead, vendors handle those tasks, and the processed food is shipped to the restaurants from a central distribution point. Workers reheat the meat and scoop it into taco shells and tortillas. They sprinkle pre-shredded lettuce and cheese over the top and throw in some pre-diced tomatoes.
The system has freed workers to focus on speed and given Taco Bell's offerings a consistency and predictability desired by consumers, Bortz said.
The strategy of pushing food preparation and cooking to vendors was hailed as fast-food industry innovation, allowing the chain to shrink the size of its kitchens and open mini-stores inside gas stations.
The rest of the fast-food restaurant industry has adopted many features of the Taco Bell system, speeding up the development of a sophisticated supply chain that quickly moves ingredients from farms and slaughterhouses into the mouths of millions of customers on a daily basis.
In some instances, Taco Bell's kitchen arrangement might prevent outbreaks from meat and poultry, which is cooked at the processor and then reheated at the restaurant. But it still leaves the chain vulnerable in its uncooked products ? cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro the items the FDA says are now the most common sources of E. coli.
Safety experts say fast-food chains need to push the produce industry to come up with treatments that do a better job of killing dangerous pathogens and to improve the way their prepared produce is packaged so that a surprise bacterial hitchhiker from the farm to the take-out window can't unleash a disaster.
"The question," said Carl Winter, director of the FoodSafe Program at UC Davis, "is not if another outbreak will occur, but rather when."

Tackling tainted food: A lot can go wrong -- at any step along the way
Diagnosing a foodborne illness is straightforward. Determining where and when the pathogen started may be more challenging.
By Victoria Stagg Elliott, AMNews staff. March 19, 2007.

Last fall, Dr. Samiya Razzaq, a pediatrician at Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock, witnessed the result of gaps in the nation's food safety controls. Three young children were sick enough to be transferred to her institution because of something they ate. Another 40 from the same day care center also were ill, although they did not have to be hospitalized.
"The whole food safety system is fragile," said Dr. Razzaq, who also teaches at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. "One little mistake from somewhere and it's a major epidemic."

The good news is that these patients recovered. But the cause of this illness cluster has not been confirmed, and Dr. Razzaq suspects it may have been part of the large national outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 reported in September 2006 and associated with raw, bagged, pre-washed spinach. At least 204 cases were confirmed across the country, including three deaths.
Foodborne illnesses have made headlines in the past six months with stories ranging from Salmonella-contaminated peanut butter to Clostridium botulinum-tainted baby food. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 76 million illnesses annually can be blamed on foodborne pathogens. And each year, 325,000 people are hospitalized; 5,000 do not survive.
Ironically, it is produce -- usually considered to be among the healthiest of foods -- that has been associated with much of the recent harm.
The latest report from the CDC's Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network says food-related illnesses have declined over the past decade, and many experts say the food supply is more safe than ever. But produce seems to be responsible for a growing percentage of these incidents, with bagged salad blamed most often. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, salads are the culprit in 28% of produce-related outbreaks.

76 million illnesses a year can be blamed on foodborne pathogens.
"We live in a microbial world. If something has crawled or slithered or flown over that field and defecated, there's really little we can do to decontaminate that piece of produce," said Sam Beattie, PhD, assistant professor in food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University in Ames.
To be fair, detection of recent widespread outbreaks in part can be attributed to improved public health technology and industry trace-back systems. The development of pulsed field gel electrophoresis means that bacteria can be distinguished at the DNA level, and the establishment of CDC's PulseNet just over a decade ago allows public health and food regulatory agency laboratories to match up these bacterial "fingerprints."
"A patient in Ohio, somebody else in Florida, someone else in Long Island might have gone unrecognized before," said Marguerite Neill, MD, associate professor of medicine at Brown Medical School and an infectious disease physician at Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island in Pawtucket.
But factors other than detection bias are probably at work, too, experts say. For instance, E. coli O157:H7, which was discovered only decades ago, has proven to be more virulent than many other pathogens. Washing will reduce its presence, but even nearly undetectable amounts are dangerous.
Changes in how food is produced and eaten also may play a role. Food is more likely to be mass-produced and distributed widely rather than being grown and eaten locally, making contamination during the production process a national, even international, problem. The most recent spinach outbreak hit people in 26 states and Canada.
"When your food came from the farm down the street, people got sick, but the number of people made ill was small," said Bennett Lorber, MD, Thomas M. Durant Professor of Medicine in the infectious diseases section at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. "Now we have immense food producers, producing incredible volumes of food, and it's distributed all over country. If there's a contamination problem, there's the potential for many, many people to be sick."
Consumers also are eating more produce, particularly if it has been cut and washed before being packaged. According to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, per capita consumption of fresh spinach in 1980 was less than half a pound per person. It increased to more than a pound and a half in 2003. Much of this growth is due to increases in sales of triple-washed, ready-to-eat bagged spinach.
While such products make it easier to eat these generally healthy foods, it also appears to present more possibilities for contamination as spinach makes its way from the farm to the dinner table.
"Not a controlled environment"
The leading candidate for last fall's spinach-related outbreak is feces from cattle at bordering ranches or from wild pigs who wandered through fields, but the irrigation water or the wash used in processing could have been tainted. The problem could have been fertilizer. Cutting the vegetable in the fields may make a ripe environment for bacteria to flourish. Those who picked, processed and packaged it may not have had good hygiene.
"A farm is outside. It's not a controlled environment," said Don Schaffner, PhD, a spokesman for the Institute of Food Technologists, an international nonprofit of 22,000 food scientists. "You can't control the rainfall. You can train people to wash their hands, but cows and pigs cannot be as easily trained. And heaven help us if the problem comes from birds."

325,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized with foodborne illnesses each year; 5,000 die.
Packaging may be conducive to bacterial growth, although this is unproven. The product may have been improperly stored in transport, the grocery store or the consumer's home.
Once the vegetable is out of the package, it could be mishandled. Although farming and processing issues are getting attention right now, consumer mishandling remains the most common cause of foodborne illness.
"Somebody makes some hamburgers. Then they use the same cutting board and cut up some spinach for spinach salad, and there's cross-contamination," said Jeffrey T. LeJeune, DVM, PhD, who teaches in the food animal health research program at Ohio State University.
While the actual reason for last fall's outbreak is unclear, government and industry stakeholders are taking action. In January, the large fresh-cut salad producer Fresh Express, whose products were not associated with the illness, said it would provide $2 million for research leading to strategies that would prevent E. coli contamination. Also, last month, more than 90% of companies in this industry signed the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement requiring signatories to follow guidelines governing irrigation water quality, purity and timing of fertilizer, harvesting equipment cleaning, and farm worker behavior.
"Food safety is a sacred trust between the people in our industry and the public," said Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers, an agriculture trade group in Irvine, Calif. "We take that responsibility extremely seriously."
Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration added spinach to its Lettuce Safety Initiative and will hold a public meeting this year on foodborne illness associated with greens. The agency also will consider if more guidance or regulation is necessary or if irradiation of these products should be allowed.
The USDA is funding research to assess the presence of E. coli to determine its sources and look for strategies to reduce it. The Government Accountability Office called transforming food safety a high-risk issue in January and wants the structure of the system, currently run by 15 federal agencies, to be reconsidered.
"There ought to be a government-wide approach to food safety," said Lisa Shames, GAO acting director of food and agriculture issues. "It's not that food is unsafe. It's just that the system is fragmented."

Can physicians do more?
Food safety issues also maintain a high profile among physician concerns. The American Medical Association published Diagnosis and Management of Foodborne Illnesses: A Primer for Physicians and Other Health Care Professionals, in conjunction with the American Nurses Assn., the CDC, the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service in April 2004.
But food safety experts want more. Those working in this area want physicians to step up testing to determine exactly what is causing a patient's illness to make outbreak detection easier. Knowing that can affect treatment decisions because, in the case of E. coli O157:H7, evidence suggests that antibiotic use can make things worse.
Consumer mishandling is the most common cause of foodborne illness.
"A lot of time physicians will tell people, 'Oh, it's food poisoning.' But they'll never order a stool culture," said Dr. Schaffner of the food technologists group. "I know physicians are limited by insurance, but it would really be wonderful for physicians to work with us more closely."
Physicians say this is not always practical. Millions may be affected by foodborne illness, but only a fraction are sick enough to see a doctor. Because there is no rapid in-office test, an even smaller percentage will still be sick when results come in.
For example, Richard Roberts, MD, a family physician in Belleville, Wis., treated a 70-year-old man in August 2006. The man had severe diarrhea and may have been a part of the spinach outbreak. He collected stool cultures, because the man's age put him at greater risk for severe illness. The test results came back days later as positive for E. coli O157:H7. By then, though, the man was well.
"The problem with getting cultures most of the time is that by the time you get the results back the person is better. Then you feel like you've wasted money," said Dr. Roberts, former president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. "You give me a test that I can do on the spot at a reasonable price and have the results here in the clinic. I'll do that."

Surprising antibiotic-resistant bacteria study results
Source of Article:
UNITED STATES: Curbing antibiotic use on poultry farms may do little to nothing to reduce rates of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, relays a new study.
A surprising finding by a team of University of Georgia scientists suggests that curbing the use of antibiotics on poultry farms will do little ? if anything ? to reduce rates of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that have the potential to threaten human health.
Dr. Margie Lee, professor in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, and her colleagues have found that chickens raised on antibiotic-free farms and even those raised under pristine laboratory conditions have high levels of bacteria that are resistant to common antibiotics. Her findings, published in the March issue of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, suggest that poultry come to the farm harboring resistant bacteria, possibly acquired as they were developing in their eggs.
¡°The resistances don¡¯t necessarily come from antibiotic use in the birds that we eat,¡± Lee said, ¡°so banning antibiotic use on the farm isn¡¯t going to help. You have to put in some work before that.¡±
Lee and her team sampled droppings from more than 140,000 birds under four different conditions: 1) commercial flocks that had been given antibiotics; 2) commercial flocks that had not been given antibiotics; 3) flocks raised in a lab that had been given antibiotics; and 4) flocks raised in a lab that had not been given antibiotics. The researchers examined levels of antibiotic resistance in normal intestinal bacteria that do not cause human illness and ? in a companion study published in May in the same journal ? also examined levels of drug resistant campylobacter bacteria, a common foodborne cause of diarrhea, cramping and abdominal pain.
They found that even birds raised in the pristine laboratory conditions had antibiotic resistance levels comparable to what were seen on farms that used antibiotics. Even when the levels were lower, Lee adds, they were still well above the reasonable comfort zone for antibiotic resistance ? roughly five to 10 percent. Seventy-three percent of the bacteria from one flock in the antibiotic-free commercial group were resistant to the drug oxytetracycline, for example, while 90 percent were resistant to the drug in a commercial flock that used antibiotics. Ninety-seven percent were resistant in the experimental flock that was given antibiotics, while forty-seven percent were resistant in the experimental group that was not given antibiotics. Strikingly, they even found bacteria resistant to streptomycin, a common human antibiotic that is rarely used in poultry and was not used on the farms the researchers studied.
For more information, visit

FDA should ban high mercury tuna from U.S. market, as Canada requires, according to advocates
from a press release
WASHINGTON -- Following reports that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) will not allow sales of high mercury canned tuna into the Canadian market, a mercury watchdog group is calling on the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to do the same.
"FDA's own testing indicates that some albacore canned tuna has very high mercury levels comparable to those found in Canada," said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project. "However, the agency has done nothing to prevent high mercury tuna from ending up in our children's sandwiches or our dinner plates." A recent national news report in Canada indicated that 8 out of 60 cans of albacore tuna exceeded the Government of Canada's guidelines of 0.5 parts per million for mercury. In a follow up review, CFIA determined that 5 of the 60 cans tested (8%) exceeded the standard of 0.5 ppm.
In response, the CFIA has contacted tuna importers to ensure that incoming shipments of canned albacore tuna are tested. CFIA is also reminding governments of the top exporting countries, including the U.S., and domestic Canadian importers of the importance of meeting Canadian requirements.
How much fish a person can eat before exceeding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) "virtual safe limit," called a reference dose (RfD), depends on body weight and mercury content of the fish. For example:
"According to recent testing, some light canned tuna also has high mercury levels that surpass 0.5 ppm mercury," said Bender. "Unfortunately, FDA has not followed up on this either. "
Like lead, mercury is a potent neurotoxin that especially threatens the brains and nervous systems of fetuses and young children. People are exposed to mercury largely through eating certain fish.
Those most at risk from methylmercury-contaminated food are babies and small children. The brains of babies in the uterus are the most vulnerable. The greatest risk is to young women, before or during pregnancy, eating fish containing high levels of methylmercury (eg shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and some types of tuna).
Coal-fired power plants, cement kilns, waste incinerators and other
industrial sources emit mercury into the environment.
On February 19, 2007, Health Canada issued new advice for pregnant women and children to limit consumption of canned albacore tuna.

Aflotoxins in foods, Codex April 2007
Codex Committee on Contaminants in Foods
Codex Committee on Contaminants in Foods will consider maximum levels for aflotoxins in various foods including hazelnuts, almonds and pistachios at its meeting 16 April 2007 to 20 April 2007 in Beijing, China. Agenda for the meeting may be downloaded from

All L.A. County food workers could face vaccinations: Officials consider moves to protect against more outbreaks of hepatitis A
LA Times

Jack Leonard and Rong-Gong Lin II
In response to a series of hepatitis A outbreaks at restaurants and catered events across L.A., county officials were cited as saying Tuesday they might require food-service workers in all 25,000 eateries to be vaccinated for the virus.
The story says that county supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to ask health officials to examine the costs and benefits of such a requirement, which also would extend to 300 catering companies and 270 wholesale producers.
Officials acknowledged that the vaccinations could be a massive undertaking ? possibly involving more than 100,000 workers ? but said they were trying protect the public health.
The story says that if county supervisors did approve mass vaccinations, Los Angeles County would join only a handful of municipalities across the nation that require hepatitis A shots containing antibodies for food workers, including Las Vegas and St. Louis.
Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding was quoted as saying, "Every time we have an exposure ¡¦ it causes a lot of public concern, and it's both expensive and disturbing to a lot of people. I want to be clear: The risk in those cases is quite low. It's an increased risk. But it's not like you'd expect 15% to 20% of patrons getting sick."
Dr. Ashok Jain, an emergency room physician at Los Angeles County USC Medical Center and an occupational and environmental medicine specialist, was cited as saying mandatory vaccinations could give restaurant owners a false sense of security.

Tea wash reduces pathogens in meat, say scientists
By Ahmed ElAmin
Source of Article:
08/03/2007 - Tea could be the wonder ingredient used as surface washes to improve the safety of ready-to-eat meats and vegetable.
Research completed for the US' Food Safety Consortium indicates that a scientific mixture of tea extracts can be used to reduce pathogenic bacteria in meats.
With increased consumer concerns about the amount of chemicals in their foods, processors are looking for more natural ways to protect their products from pathogens and other contaminants.
Daniel Fung, the Kansas State University food science professor who supervised the research, said the study used extracts from green tea, or Jasmine tea, mixed in some wildflower dark honey.
"Our results indicated that Jasmine tea with honey and green tea with honey had the highest antimicrobial activity," said Fung.
The tests were first conducted in a liquid medium and found that the tea extract and honey treatments caused significant reductions of Listeria monocytogenes and E. coli O157:H7 bacteria.
"That's not surprising," Fung said. "In liquid medium, it's easier for the compounds to interact with the organisms in liquid."
Fung's team moved on to food, which can be a more difficult medium when seeking to cause the type of reaction among the compounds that will inhibit pathogens.
The results were good, they said. Treating turkey breast slice with combinations of Jasmine tea extract and wildflower dark honey reduced Listeria monocytogenes by 10 to 20 percent.
Similar reductions of the pathogen were recorded when applied to hot dogs.
They found the most successful reductions in hot dogs were in those that had been commercially treated with sodium lactate, potassium lactate and sodium diacetate.
"In that type of hot dogs, it has much more suppressive effect than in some of the hot dogs without those compounds," Fung said. "There is a synergistic effect of the tea and honey along with those compounds with lactate already in the hot dog."
A beneficial side effects of the treatment is shelf life. Fung noted that the experiments showed the hot dogs were still showing reduced levels of pathogens 14 days after the application.
Fung said he will now examine possible applications of the mix as a surface wash for meat during processing. It could also be used as way to improve the safety of ready-to eat meats and vegetables, he said.
"We're thinking of using tea to wash carcasses because of its natural compounds," he said. ""If you can use tea or honey to wash carcasses instead of lactic acid, you can use a natural compound on the surface of meat."

Luna Innovations developing controls for bacteria in food: Viability kit and bacteriophage solutions announced at Food Safety Summit
Luna Innovations
ROANOKE, Va -- Luna Innovations Incorporated announced today at the 2007 Food Safety & Security Summit in Washington, DC, two products that are under development to provide an integrated approach to the management of bacterial contamination in food: a rapid bacterial viability kit to assess decontamination efficiency and to evaluate the cleanliness of surfaces, and what is anticipated to be the first in a family of bacteriophage products.
Luna¡¯s rapid bacterial viability kit is specifically designed to assess the presence of bacteria to determine the effectiveness of a decontamination routine used to clean surfaces in the food processing and manufacturing industry. The kit is intended to be a faster solution than standard culture methods, giving food manufacturers more timely information about their decontamination processes.
Luna¡¯s initial bacteriophage product candidate is targeted to destroy Listeria monocytogenes, a common foodborne pathogen responsible for the disease Listeriosis. According to the Center for Disease Control, about 20% of the people in the United States who become seriously ill with Listeriosis each year die. Luna¡¯s approach is to use a variety of phage types, creating a broad killing agent, to improve the safety of food. The mixture is being designed to be added in line with current food production and manufacturing processes or sprayed on food surfaces to reduce L. monocytogenes contamination. Luna¡¯s phage product candidate is all natural and does not contain preservatives or potentially-allergenic substances. The phage also does not alter the taste, odor, or color of foods.
"The products currently under development at Luna are aimed at providing a safe solution for the control of deadly microorganisms in meat, fruits and vegetables,¡± said Dr. Richard Obiso, Director of Life Sciences at Luna Innovations.

Are you at risk of illness when eating raw oysters?
Beaufort Gazette (SC)
Bob Guinn
About 20 million Americans eat raw oysters. However, for some people, eating raw oysters can cause serious illness or even death. What causes this? How do you know if you are at risk? What can you do about it?
Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium that occurs naturally in warm marine waters. V. vulnificus infections are transmitted to humans either through open wounds in contact with sea water or by eating certain improperly cooked or raw shellfish. V. vulnificus is most likely to be present during the warm months.
In the state, shellfish harvesting (both commercial and recreational) is generally not permitted between April and October. However, the harvest season will vary depending on environmental conditions.
While not a threat to most healthy people, V. vulnificus can cause sudden chills, fever, nausea, vomiting, blood poisoning and death within two days in people with certain medical conditions. Forty percent of V. vulnificus infections contracted from raw oyster consumption are fatal. The bacteria are not a result of pollution. So, although oysters should always be obtained from reputable sources, eating oysters from "clean" waters or in reputable restaurants with high turnover does not provide protection. Eating raw oysters with hot sauce or while drinking alcohol does not kill the bacteria, either.
All individuals who eat foods contaminated with this organism are susceptible to gastroenteritis, which usually develops within 16 hours of eating the contaminated food. However, certain health conditions put you at risk for serious illness or death. Some of these conditions have no signs or symptoms, so you may not know you are at risk. If you are an older adult, you also may be at increased risk because older people more often have these risk conditions than younger people. Check with your doctor if you are unsure of being at risk.
These high-risk conditions include:
# Liver disease, either from excessive alcohol intake, viral hepatitis or other causes;
# Hemochromatosis, an iron disorder;
# Diabetes;
# Stomach problems, including previous stomach surgery and low stomach acid (for example, from antacid use);
# Cancer;
# Immune disorders, including HIV infection; and
# Long-term steroid use (as for asthma and arthritis).
If you know you are, or think you are, in any of these categories, you should not eat raw oysters.
The chances for you being at risk are rare. No major outbreaks of illness have been attributed to this organism.
Sporadic cases have occurred within South Carolina, becoming more prevalent during the warmer months. However, to date no fatalities have been related to eating oysters harvested in state waters.
Extensive federal and state regulatory programs monitor the production and marketing of raw shellfish to assure product safety. Most healthy individuals are not troubled by V. vulnificus infections from water or food.
Thus, the V. vulnificus problem
is primarily restricted to individuals in the risk categories. These individuals are advised not to eat
raw shellfish.
Bob Guinn is Beaufort County Clemson
Extension home economics and community development agent. Content was provided by Clemson University's Home and Garden Information Center.

USDA plans risk-based meat inspection system
Lisa Schnirring
Federal officials recently proposed a timetable to begin implementing a new meat and poultry inspection system designed to reduce foodborne illnesses by focusing more attention on high-risk facilities and those with poor safety records.
The US Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has been exploring "risk-based inspection" since 2000. On Feb 22, Richard Raymond, USDA undersecretary for food safety, proposed to implement the new inspection system in April at 30 locations, and possibly to expand it to 150 locations by the end of 2007, according to an FSIS press release.
The proposed system is seen as the biggest change in the USDA's food inspection program since 1996, when the Hazard Analysis and Critical Point Systems (HACCP) rule made food processors responsible for systematically assessing, preventing, and controlling food safety hazards.
Assessing each facility's food safety record and the relative risk of what is produced will allow the FSIS to better allocate its inspection resources to the processors that need them most, while continuing daily inspections at all facilities, the FSIS said in the press release. A processor's food safety performance will be based on information federal inspectors regularly collect at the plants, such as health infractions and microbiologic test results.
"To continue to prevent foodborne illness, we have to improve our prevention capabilities, not just respond quickly after an outbreak occurs," Raymond said in the press release. "What will change is we will no longer be treating every plant like every other plant in terms of its adverse public health potential."
In a separate statement, Raymond asserted that risk-based inspection "will not reduce the number of inspectors nor will it save any money."
He said the FSIS is rolling out the new inspection program gradually so that it can be evaluated and revised as needed before it is expanded nationwide.
Industry and consumer groups have expressed concerns about the new approach. The American Meat Institute (AMI) in a Feb 22 statement said it supports the concept of risk-based inspections, but maintained that the USDA is launching the plan prematurely.
J. Patrick Boyle, AMI's president and chief executive officer, said the USDA should slow the process down, seek additional input, and make participation voluntary. "This rush to launch a potentially worthwhile prototype may become a needless public relations and political distraction," he said.
According to documents posted on the FSIS Web site, the agency held a 2-day stakeholder meeting in October 2006 to solicit input on the proposed risk-based inspection policy.
The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) sharply criticized the USDA plan in a Feb 22 statement. Although risk-based system for meat inspection is a worthy goal, the USDA has neither "meaningful scientific data" to rank product risk nor an unbiased system for determining facility risk, the group said. The CFA accused the Bush administration of laying the groundwork for cutting meat inspection costs and thereby increasing Americans' risk of illness and death from foodborne pathogens.
Foodborne disease expert Craig Hedberg, PhD, noted that some groups, including the Government Accountability Office (GAO), have advocated a single federal agency to oversee food safety. He told CIDRAP News that the USDA's move toward a more periodic, risk-based inspection system that puts the food safety burden on producers is similar to the model used by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which oversees produce.
"This is probably a necessary condition to change the culture of the USDA toward that of the FDA," said Hedberg, an associate professor of environmental and occupational health at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. "This is one more attempt to make that happen."
Ideally, meat inspectors at processing plants determine if products are handled properly and then intervene if they need to, Hedberg said. "But it doesn't actually work out that way," because, while the physical presence of an inspector should give a certain measure of assurance, foodborne pathogens can't be seen, touched, or smelled, he said. "You have to have different strategies to deal with that."
"Industries need more authority to police their own, and I think that's a good thing," Hedberg said.

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

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