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FDA hearing fails to discover cause of E. coli outbreak in spinach
San Jose Mercury News
Brandon Bailey

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Despite an unprecedented investigation over the last six months, federal and state health officials were cited as saying Tuesday that it is unlikely they will ever pinpoint the exact cause of bacterial contamination that caused a nationwide outbreak of illness from tainted spinach last year.
The story says that the disclosure, just weeks before a final report on the investigation is expected to be released, came at a hearing where representatives from consumer groups and a national trade association for the produce industry called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to set mandatory rules to assure that fruit and vegetables are safe to eat.
FDA and state health officials, however, were cited as saying they favor voluntary guidelines and industry self-policing, including a set of standards that California growers are expected to adopt next week. The government officials said they would not rule out mandatory regulation in the future.
Dr. David Acheson, the chief medical officer for the FDA's food safety office, was cited as saying that growing and packing practices need to improve, but that another outbreak of food-borne illness will likely occur, stating, "We're never going to get to the point of zero risk. Is this likely to happen again? Yes."
Elisa Odabashian. The West Coast director of Consumers Union, was quoted as saying Tuesday that, "How many more deadly outbreaks must there be?"
James Gorny, a vice president for the United Fresh Produce Association, which represents large produce firms, praised the efforts undertaken so far by government and industry, but added that his group believes the only way to restore consumer confidence is for the federal government to set consistent standards and enforce them.
Acheson, however, echoed spokesmen for the Western Growers Association, who argue that devising regulations is a cumbersome process. Giclas argued that the industry can develop its own list of `best practices' and revise them quickly as scientific knowledge develops.
Acheson said the recent outbreaks related to tainted produce have focused government and industry on improving food safety, but he added it's important to have "100 percent compliance. As we've seen, you don't need a large area of land to produce enough produce to make lots of people sick."

Food safety linked to rules
FDA holds meeting to target new guidelines
The Salinas Californian
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Source of Article:
OAKLAND - A day full of detailed questions about food safety generated few answers, but yielded a comment by one U.S. Food and Drug Administration official that the fresh produce supply won't be safe until new guidelines are in place.
FDA officials convened their first meeting Tuesday at the Ronald Dellums Federal Building in Oakland to ask experts what they and the produce industry can do to prevent devastating outbreaks of food-borne illness, such as last summer's E. coli contamination of fresh spinach that killed at least three people and sickened more than 200 around the nation.
David Acheson, director of food safety in the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said produce safety will be compromised until new rules take effect.
Government regulation of the industry - which is now self-policing - is not out of the question, Acheson said. But before the FDA can devise regulations, he said, it first needs a better understanding of how pathogens contaminate produce.
"We're not just sitting in our offices hoping this will go away," Acheson said during a break in the meeting.
The daylong hearing centered on a review of nine-year-old guidelines for guaranteeing the safety of fresh and raw produce - as well as the limits of what experts and government scientists know about how pathogens contaminate produce.
'No simple solutions'
The six-member FDA panel asked questions that underscored just how little is understood about the behavior of bacteria such as E. coli O157:H7, the pathogen that somehow got into Central Coast spinach last August and caused the widespread outbreak.
The meeting was the first FDA has held on the subject and comes amid speculation the agency will soon release its final report on the spinach E. coli outbreak. Another public hearing will be held in Maryland next month to finish gathering food-safety-related information before officials decide what the FDA can do to minimize the risk of contaminated produce reaching consumers.
FDA officials are looking for answers on a complicated subject, said Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner Eric Lauritzen, who attended the hearing. The lack of regulations following the outbreak isn't a sign of inaction, Lauritzen said, but of the difficulty of making such rules when not much science exists to build from.
"What this makes obvious is this isn't a simple problem, and there are no simple solutions," he said. "There's a consensus we need more research, and this is helping to focus where those research efforts go."
The FDA hearing emphasized five issues related to food safety and what the agency needs to do to improve its 1998 guidelines: risk factors for food contamination, FDA guidance for food safety, trace-back capabilities that allow investigators and companies to find where produce came from, record-keeping and verification that growers and processors are following food-safety guidelines.

'Serious abdication of ... duty'
But the FDA is under pressure from consumer groups and the public to come up with some kind of action, fast. That's because of a steady increase in the number of produce-related outbreaks of E. coli, salmonella and other food-borne illnesses.
About 384 outbreaks linked to produce occurred in the six years between 1998 and 2004, about twice the 190 that happened in the 24 years from 1973 to 1997, according to information provided to the panel by Michael Lynch. Lynch is a doctor with the Foodborne and Diarrheal Disease Branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although the CDC's method of collecting outbreak information changed in 1998, contributing to a jump in the number of reported cases, Lynch said, outbreaks have definitely increased. Twenty-two outbreaks have been linked to California-grown leafy greens in the past 12 years, and at least nine of those were traced to Salinas Valley produce.
The federal government's failure to regulate the produce industry despite the increase in outbreaks is inexcusable and will mean more deaths from contaminated produce, said Elisa Odabashian, director of the West Coast office of Consumers Union, a nonprofit national watchdog group.
"This is a serious abdication of the government's duty to ensure a safe food supply and protect the public," Odabashian told the panel.
Unable to determine source
During the hearing, FDA officials heard 15-minute presentations from experts in academics, the private sector and other government agencies.
Investigators collected about 850 environmental samples - including soil and water - but could not pinpoint the source of contamination in the spinach E. coli outbreak, said Barbara Cassens, the FDA's San Francisco district director.
The agency found 21 positive genetic matches to the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 on a single cow pasture, she said, but did not release its location.
People involved in the investigation have said the pasture is located in San Benito County, near fields of spinach grown by Mission Organics.
Cassens said she believes the contamination most likely occurred when the spinach was harvested.
"There isn't one smoking gun or answer to this outbreak," she said.
Michelle Smith, a food safety expert with the FDA, said illness-causing bacteria and other athogens don't naturally occur on produce. The risk of produce contamination, Smith said, can be reduced by following established guidelines called "good agricultural practices" and "good manufacturing practices."
But scientists lack understanding of how bacteria and viruses move through the environment and persist around produce, she said.
"It may be difficult to identify the cause of contamination or the smoking gun," Smith said.
Risks: wildlife, water, hygiene
So far, the FDA and California Department of Health Services have been able to name several risks associated with contamination, such as the presence of wildlife, polluted water and inadequate worker hygiene, factors which have consistently come up in past food safety investigations, said Jeff Farrar, chief of the Food and Drug Branch of the California Department of Health Services.
A marketing agreement prescribing safe growing and handling practices, which growers and handlers voluntarily sign, is the best short-term means to curbing the risk of food-borne illness, Farrar said.
"It is the fastest way to make change this year," he said.
Written by produce trade groups such as Western Growers, the marketing agreement takes effect April 1. Growers who have signed up for the voluntary agreement so far produce 90 percent of California's leafy greens.
The agreement mandates that handlers comply with the latest best practices and buy leafy greens from growers who also follow the same rules.
But state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, a vocal critic of the marketing agreement who has three bills pending to mandate state food safety regulations for California growers, said the agreement's 90 percent coverage of California leafy greens volume will fail to make food safer.

FDA favors self-policing at hearing on food safety
'We're never going to get to the point of zero risk,' official says at Oakland hearing
By Brandon Bailey, MEDIANEWS STAFF
Article Last Updated: 03/21/2007
Source of Article:
OAKLAND Despite an unprecedented investigation during the last six months, federal and state health officials said Tuesday that it is unlikely they will ever pinpoint the exact cause of bacterial contamination that caused a nationwide outbreak of illness from tainted spinach last year.
The disclosure, just weeks before a final report on the investigation is expected to be released, came at a hearing where representatives from consumer groups and a national trade association for the produce industry called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to set mandatory rules to assure that fruit and vegetables are safe to eat.
FDA and state health officials, however, said they favor voluntary guidelines and industry self-policing, including a set of standards that California growers are expected to adopt next week. The government officials said they would not rule out mandatory regulation in the future.
Growing and packing practices need to improve, said Dr. David Acheson, the chief medical officer for the FDA's food safety office. But he also warned that another outbreak of food-borne illness likely will occur.
"We're never going to get to the point of zero risk," he told reporters during a break from the daylong hearing, convened by his agency to get public input on ways to improve food safety. "Is this likely to happen again. Yes."
Not solving the mystery makes it harder for farmers trying to prevent future outbreaks. Hank Giclas of the Western Growers Association said farmers would like to know how the contamination occurred so they can reduce the chance of its happening again.
The investigation by state and federal health officials led them to a single 50-acre field in San Benito County where spinach tainted with the deadly E. coli O157:H7 bacteria was grown last summer.
Investigators said the bacteria on the tainted spinach, which killed at least three people and sickened 200 more nationwide, genetically matched bacteria they found in samples of cow manure in a nearby pasture, as well as water in a nearby stream and at least one wild pig in the area.
This was the first time investigators have been able trace an outbreak of foodborne illness to a single field, but they couldn't determine exactly how the bacteria came into contact with the spinach.
The spinach in last fall's outbreak was processed by Natural Selection Food in San Juan Bautista and sold under the Dole label in supermarkets nationwide. Officials have said they would not name the farm where the spinach was grown until their report is released. An attorney representing dozens of people who became ill last fall has said in court papers that the suspect spinach was grown by a company called Mission Organics.
Critics complained Tuesday that the government has not done enough.
"How many more deadly outbreaks must there be." asked Elisa Odabashian. The West Coast director of Consumers Union said that the government has abdicated its responsibility by relying on the produce industry to police itself.
A spokesman for a major trade association also called on the FDA to impose mandatory rules for growers and packagers nationwide.
James Gorny, a vice president for the United Fresh Produce Association, which represents large produce firms, praised the efforts undertaken so far by government and industry. But he said his group believes the only way to restore consumer confidence is for the federal government to set consistent standards and enforce them.
Acheson, however, echoed spokesmen for the Western Growers Association, who argue that devising regulations is a cumbersome process. Giclas argued that the industry can develop its own list of "best practices" and revise them quickly as scientific knowledge develops.
Acheson said the recent outbreaks related to tainted produce have focused government and industry on improving food safety, but he added it's important to have "100 percent compliance."
As we've seen, you don't need a large area of land to produce enough produce to make lots of people sick."

JOB Openings
03/21. Quality Assurance Manager - Hawthorne, NJ
03/21. Sanitation Manager - Oxnard, CA
03/21. Quality Assurance Director - Soledad, CA
03/21. Sr Quality Assurance Speclst - Omaha, NE
03/21. Prin Quality Assurance Specialist - Atlanta, GA
03/21. MN-Cannon Falls-Food Microbiology Assistant
03/21. QA Manager - Murfreesboro, TN
03/21. Mgr, Food Quality Auditing and Compliance - MO-St. Louis
03/21. Mgr, Food Quality Auditing and Compliance - MO-St. Louis
03/21. Manager, Global Food Safety - MO-St. Louis
03/20. Associate Group Leader - QA - Buena Park, CA
03/20. MN-Cannon Falls-Food Microbiology Assistant
03/20. Quality Assurance Technicians - Northfield, MN
03/20. Supervisor Microbiology Lab - Sturgis, MI
03/20. Quality Assurance Manager - Wilmington, CA
03/20. Quality Assurance Supervisor - WI-Milwaukee;Pleasant Prairie
03/20. Quality Control/HACCP Manager - Selma, AL
03/20. Sanitation Manager - Arlington, TN
03/20. Manager, Safety & Quality Systems -CA-Glendale
03/20. QC Manager - Food - Thousand Oaks; Burbank, CA
03/20. Product Quality Tech Services Coord - Omaha, NE

List of specialised Committees and Task Forces - CCFA : Codex Committee on Food Additives
European Commission, Health and Consumer Protection
The complete document can be downloaded from:
Agenda Item 8: EC comments on the Proposed Draft Guidelines for the use of flavourings (CX/FA 07/39/12) ES and FR version available

Protein Found In Chickens May Help Protect Against Food-Borne Pathogens
Source of Article:
Science Daily Researchers from The Netherlands have identified a protein in the digestive tract of chickens that may serve as an antimicrobial agent against food-borne pathogens. They report their findings in the March 2007 issue of the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.
Food-borne pathogens, responsible for most cases of food poisoning in developed countries, are commonly affiliated with poultry products including chicken. Therapeutic doses of antibiotics in chicken feed have been administered since the 1950s, but are now discouraged due to increasing rates of antibiotic resistance.
In the study researchers tested for B-defensin gallinacin-6 (Gal-6) protein expression in chickens and explored antimicrobial activity against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria as well as yeast. Researchers observed high expression of Gal-6 in the esophagus and crop and moderate expression in the glandular stomach. Colony-counting tests showed strong bactericidal activity against Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, Clostridium perfringens, and Escherichia coli, all major food-borne pathogens. Fungicidal activity was also noted. In a kill-curve study results showed treatment with Gal-6 reduced C. perfringens survival within sixty minutes.
¡°In conclusion, to our knowledge, this is the first report of a chicken B-defensin highly expressed in the digestive tract and displaying strong bactericidal activity against food-borne pathogens.¡± say the researchers.
(A. van Dijk, E.J.A. Veldhuizen, S.I.C. Kalkhove, J.L.M. Tjeerdsma-van Bokhoven, R.A. Romijn, H.P. Haagsman. 2006. The B-defensin gallinacin-6 is expressed in the chicken digestive tract and has antimicrobial activity against food-borne pathogens. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, 51. 3: 912-922.)
Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by American Society for Microbiology.

FDA: 1 in 6 pets died in tests of recalled food
The Associated Press
Source of Article:

WASHINGTON As many as one in six animals died in tests of suspect dog and cat food by the manufacturer after complaints the products were poisoning pets around the country, the government said Monday.
A federal investigation is focusing on wheat gluten as the likely source of contamination that sparked a recall last Friday of 60 million cans and pouches of the suspect food, said Stephen Sundlof, the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) top veterinarian.
The ingredient, a protein source, is commonly used as filler. Wheat gluten itself wouldn't cause kidney failure, leading FDA investigators to suspect contamination by other substances, including heavy metals such as cadmium and lead or fungal toxins.
Agency investigators are looking at other ingredients as well. The moist pet food was made by Menu Foods, an Ontario, Canada-based company.
Menu Foods told the FDA it received the first complaints of kidney failure and deaths among cats and dogs from pet owners Feb. 20. It began new tests Feb. 27.
During those tests, the company fed its product to 40 to 50 dogs and cats, and seven of the animals the mix of species was not immediately known died, Sundlof said. The contamination appeared more deadly to cats than to dogs, he said.
The recall now covers dog food sold throughout North America under 51 brands and cat food sold under 40 brands, including Iams, Nutro and Eukanuba. The food was sold under both store and major brand labels at Wal-Mart, Kroger, Safeway and other large retailers.

Recalled products
A complete list of the recalled products along with product codes, descriptions and production dates was available from the Menu Foods Web site, The company also designated two phone numbers that pet owners could call for information: 866-463-6738 and 866-895-2708.
The FDA has yet to tally how many reports it has received of cats and dogs suffering kidney failure or death. The company has reported 10 deaths . nine cats and one dog.

"We are still trying to find out what the true picture is out there of animals. We're talking about 1 percent of the pet food [supply], and it's really just impossible to extrapolate at this point," Sundlof said.
Menu Foods spokeswoman Sarah Tuite said the company was "still trying to figure out the cause."
"We're testing and testing, but we can't identify the problem in the product," Tuite said.
Telephone information lines the company set up have been swamped by calls. Tuite said that the company has added more lines and operators to cope with the volume, and that callers who get a recording saying the line is out of order should try again, she added.
Other companies Nestle Purina PetCare, Procter & Gamble and Hill's Pet Nutrition said as a precaution they were voluntarily recalling some Menu Foods products.
The company became aware of a potential problem after it received an undisclosed number of owner complaints that dogs and cats were vomiting and suffering kidney failure after eating its products. Tuite said earlier that the recalled products were made using wheat gluten purchased from a new supplier, which has since been dropped.
The FDA hasn't confirmed the identity of that company, but its Web site suggests it supplies only animal-feed manufacturers, Sundlof said.
The new recall covers the company's "cuts and gravy" style food, which consists of chunks of meat in gravy, sold in cans and small foil pouches from Dec. 3 to March 6.
The company said it makes pet food for 17 of the top 20 North American retailers. It is also a contract manufacturer for the top branded pet-food companies.

Probiotics may protect against food poisoning
By Stephen Daniells

Source of Article:
3/20/2007 - Irish scientists report that a combination of five probiotic strains may reduce food poisoning by salmonella, if results of their pig study can be translated to humans.
"The administered probiotic bacteria improved both the clinical and microbiological outcome of Salmonella infection," wrote the researchers, led by Colin Hill from University College Cork. "These strains offer significant benefit for use in the food industry and may have potential in human applications."
According to the European Commission, salmonella induced food poisoning costs the UK economy alone around ¢æ1.5 billion each year, with 160,000 cases reported annually Europe-wide. About 1.4 million Americans are estimated to suffer annually from salmonella, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The new research divided 15 weaned pigs and fed them milk supplemented with a mixture of five Lactobacillus probiotic strains (two strains of Lactobacillus murinus and one strain each of Lactobacillus salivarius subsp. salivarius, Lactobacillus pentosus, and Pediococcus pentosaceous), or placebo (regular milk) for 30 days.
After six days of the probiotics, the pigs were given an oral dose of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium. The health and microbiology of the faeces were monitored for 23 days.
The pigs receiving probiotics showed reduced incidence, severity, and duration of diarrhoea as well as significantly lower numbers of Salmonella in faecal samples 15 days post-infection, reported the researchers in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
The probiotic milk group also gained more weight than the control pigs, they said.
Probiotic products containing 'friendly' bacteria are now well accepted by consumers in many European countries, with putative benefits highlighted for gut and immune health.
The benefits for gut health have been reported to be due to the probiotic bacteria adhering to the walls of the intestine, which inhibits the ability of the pathogenic Salmonella to stick and colonise the gut, thereby reducing the infection.
Further research is needed, particularly on whether similar positive results are obtainable in human subjects.
Source: Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Volume 73, Issue 6, Pages 1858-1863
"A five-strain probiotic combination reduces pathogen shedding and alleviates disease signs in pigs challenged with Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium."
Authors: P.G. Casey, G.E. Gardiner, G. Casey, B. Bradshaw, P.G. Lawlor, P.B. Lynch, F.C. Leonard, C. Stanton, R.P. Ross, G.F. Fitzgerald, C. Hill.

U.S. food imports outrun FDA resources
USA Today
Julie Schmit
NOGALES, Ariz -- Late in October, a truckload of cantaloupes was stopped as it crossed the Mexican border near here.
Food and Drug Administration inspectors took samples from some melons for routine food-safety tests, and importer Timco Worldwide distributed about 5,000 others to four states, Timco says.
Two weeks later, the FDA told Timco that its tests detected salmonella, a bacteria that can cause serious infections in young, frail and elderly people. Timco recalled the other melons within 24 hours in case they were contaminated, too. But it was too late, company officials say. All had been sold and presumably were consumed.
The story says that since then, five other U.S. companies have recalled more than 700,000 cantaloupes grown in Mexico and Costa Rica because FDA or company tests found salmonella. Fewer than half were recovered before being sold, the companies say.
The recalls got little media attention because no illnesses were linked to them, unlike the peanut butter, lettuce and fresh spinach recalls since last fall, which set off alarms about the safety of U.S.-produced food.
Yet the cantaloupe recalls reveal another vulnerability in the nation's food-safety defenses: Imports are escalating, but the FDA's ability to inspect them and police their safety isn't keeping up, say former FDA officials, government watchdogs and food-safety experts.
The FDA inspects about 1% of the imported foods it regulates, down from 8% in 1992 when imports were far less common.
In contrast, the United States Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for meat and poultry, inspected almost 16% of those imported foods in fiscal 2006. The story notes that FDA also doesn't require that exporting countries have safety systems equivalent to those in the USA. The USDA does that for countries that export meat and poultry, and the Government Accountability Office . the investigative arm of Congress . has said for at least a decade that the FDA should, too.
William Hubbard,a former FDA associate commissioner who retired in 2005, was quoted as saying, "The FDA has so few resources, all it can do is target high-risk things, give a pass to everything else and hope it is OK. The public probably has the perception ¡¦ that they're more protected than they really are."
Michael Doyle, head of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, was cited as saying that more food imports come from developing countries, where pesticide use is often higher than in the USA, water quality is often worse and workers may be less likely to be trained in food safety.
Benjamin England, a former FDA lawyer who works with foreign exporters, was quoted as saying, "There hasn't been a major food-borne illness outbreak from imports for several years, so it's off the radar. But everybody is realizing they cannot ignore this elephant forever."
But food-safety experts caution that most food-borne illnesses are never reported. Robert Tauxe, food-borne illness expert at the Centers for Disease Control and Preventio, was cited as saying that of those that are, many are never traced to a particular food nor is the source identified as domestic or foreign.
FDA officials admit that the agency's ability to catch problem imports is limited.
The story says that in the past two years, New York state, which claims one of the most aggressive state food-monitoring programs has coordinated 676 food recalls. Jessica Chittenden, spokeswoman for the New York state Department of Agriculture & Markets, was cited as saying that almost 80% involved imports that would have been stopped by the FDA at border points of entry had the problems been detected.
Chittenden was further cited as saying the most common violations New York found involved illegal or undeclared food coloring additives that may present health risks.
The story goes on to say that since 2003, importers have had to tell the FDA at least several hours ahead of time that food shipments were coming to U.S. ports of entry.
Robert Brackett, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, was cited as saying that helps the agency target inspections to certain products or operators, including those that have violated safety standards before.
Products or firms with records of problems may also be placed on "import alert." There are about 125 in effect for food. One, covering eel from China, was added last year after FDA tests found many contained a chemical toxic to humans that is banned by the U.S. for use in food-producing animals.
In a 2004 report, the GAO repeated concerns that the FDA oversight of imported seafood gave "insufficient protection to consumers."
The GAO has recommended the FDA be more like the USDA. By law, the USDA ensures that countries exporting meat and poultry to the USA have safety systems "equivalent" to the USA's. Only 37 countries can ship meat or poultry here.
Craig Wilson, assistant vice president of food safety at Costco Wholesale, a leading U.S. retailer, was cited as saying it sees no difference in product produced domestically or overseas, and that Costco requires all suppliers to follow the same standards, and that auditors it hires inspect most of the plants. Jeff Lyons, Costco's senior vice president for fresh foods, was quoted as saying, "In the absence of a good food-safety system run by the government, we supplement with our own."
Jim Lugg, food-safety chief at Fresh Express, the USA's largest maker of prepackaged salads, was cited as saying bringing foreign growers up to U.S. standards can be difficult. In 2004, it started importing iceberg lettuce from Mexico. "We've had to spend a lot of time teaching about food safety." A major concern is unregulated disposal of waste that may contaminate fields or water.
Sometimes, foreign food producers face tougher FDA oversight than do domestic ones.
That's the case with Mexican-grown cantaloupes, which were linked to salmonella outbreaks in 2000, 2001 and 2002 that sickened about 150 in the USA and led to two deaths. Since the outbreaks, the FDA has required that all Mexican cantaloupe producers prove their food-safety systems are good before they can ship melons to the USA without being subject to detention under import alerts.
Among other things, growers have to show that they use good water for irrigation, adequately clean equipment and train workers on good hygiene. In the USA, the FDA only recommends that growers follow good safety procedures.

Extension Connection: Peanut butter study reveals surprises
By ANGELA TREADAWAY / Guest Columnist
(Updated: Tuesday, March 13, 2007 11:07 AM CDT)
Source of Article:
Alabama Cooperative Extension System Food Safety experts Patti West and Jean Weese initially were shocked when they learned about the outbreak of salmonella in peanut butter. Peanut butter just didn¡¯t strike these two as an ideal environment for the bug. Why? Because ¡°bacteria just do not do well in the high-fat, low-moisture foods,¡± according to West. Further investigation, though, revealed some bigger and unsettling surprises.
For starters, the recent salmonella outbreak is not the first one associated with peanut butter. Yes, it is believed to be the first outbreak recorded in the United States, but a similar incident involving peanut butter occurred in Australia in 1996, affecting roughly 50 people.
If that wasn¡¯t surprising enough, West also learned that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration¡¯s Bad Bug Book, considered by many food safety specialists as the definitive source of information about foodborne pathogens, lists peanut butter as an ¡°associated¡± source of salmonella contamination, not a principal source, such as raw meats, poultry and eggs, but one in which bacteria conceivably could turn up.
In fact, there have been several recent and large outbreaks of salmonella associated with high-fat, reduced water foods such as peanut butter. Based on the findings of one study, published in the Journal of Food Protection in November 2006, researchers speculated that the unique makeup of peanut butter fat mixed with minimal amounts of water can provide adequate conditions for three different salmonella to survive, even despite the intense blasts of heat associated with pasteurization.
What this means is that peanut butter and similar types of food conceivably can provide microclimates that enable tiny amounts of bacteria to survive, West says. Like other mass outbreaks of foodborne illness, the incident undoubtedly will spark strengthened safeguards, Weese says. That¡¯s good news because in the end, it means that peanut butter a healthy staple of the American diet and a favorite of children will be even safer.

Would your home kitchen pass a food inspection?
16.mar.07 (Utah)
Ed Yeates
Would our home kitchens pass a food inspection? The Salt Lake Valley Health Department was cited as saying ¡®no' in most cases.
Salt Lake Valley Health Department Food Protection Supervisor Jeffrey Oaks, was quoted as saying, "We buy a package of hamburger or chicken and we just put it away quickly, and we know we want it cold, that's what I do. If that happens to be leaking juice and that trickles down through, there's a potential for contamination, bacterial contamination."
The story says that while we put eggs on a lower shelf, meats should go even lower, like in the bottom drawer. One thing that most people aren't aware of is that foods like rice, when cooked, actually begin to grow bacteria; a resilient one called Bacillus Cereus.
Jeffrey Oaks: "It's in what we call a spore form, a protective form where it can survive a cooking temperature, even a boiling temperature."
It's OK to eat it at that point. But if left out too long at room temperature, you're asking for trouble. And don't refrigerate large amounts of something like rice in one big pan.

Grieving woman urges FDA to increase produce safety
NBC News
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Leah Duckworth, a Bay area woman whose mother, 77-year-old mother, Marion Graff, died after eating E. coli tainted spinach, was cited as saying more needs to be done to make produce safe.
The story says that the Oakland woman shared her mother's story with NBC 11's Jodi Hernandez on the same day the Food and Drug Administration held its first public hearing about spinach safety.
The Wisconsin woman was one of three people who died from the E. coli outbreak, which was traced to California-grown spinach.
Democratic State Sen. Dean Florez was cited as saying he is pushing for tougher regulations, adding, "At some point you have to say, as we did in beef, you have to put a seal of approval on these types of produce. We do it for milk, we did it for beef, I don't understand why produce would be any different."
Duckworth was further quoted as saying, "I would like to go in a grocery store one day and not look at a bag of spinach and want to scream or cry. It does make me cry."

Health district warns day-care centers about Shigella: Alerts aimed at day-care centers
19.mar.07 (Ohio)
CINCINNATI -- Hamilton County health officials are warning day-care centers to make sure that children and employees wash their hands after a small number of shigella cases have been diagnosed.
Paula Smith, with the Hamilton County Health Department, said 24 cases of the bacterial infection have been diagnosed in the last six weeks.

Dairy Reopens After Salmonella Scare
State health inspectors said Monday that milk from Stump Acres Dairy
has tested clear of salmonella.
(The York Daily Record, PA)
Raw milk is on tap again at Stump Acres Dairy in North Codorus Township.
More than two weeks after a salmonella scare halted the sale of raw milk at the dairy, a state Department of Agriculture inspector on Monday gave owner Glendora Stump the go-ahead to resume sales of her most popular product.
Stump said she began selling the milk at 3 p.m. Monday.
During the state-ordered ban on her raw milk sales, Stump said she managed by selling other products such as eggs and cheese. But, she said, most of her customers come for the raw milk, which is not pasteurized or homogenized.
Stump said she's relieved that the ban is over.
"I felt really bad for the customers," she said.
On March 2, the state Department of Agriculture ordered milk sales at the dairy suspended until further notice. An advisory issued by the state Department of Health stated that samples of milk from the dairy and from consumers who patronized it tested positive for salmonella.
The advisory also warned anyone who had purchased milk from Stump Acres to discard it immediately.
Doctors are required to report any cases of salmonella they encounter, and that is how the state Department of Health became aware of the situation, a spokesman said.
The state based its investigation on two confirmed cases and one possible case of salmonella, none of which were severe enough to send the patients to the hospital.
Chris Ryder, a Department of Agriculture spokesman, said state inspectors never determined the source of the salmonella.
The department said Stump Acres was ready for reopening after the dairy's milk samples repeatedly tested clear of salmonella, and after an inspector looked the place over Monday.
Stump said the inspection was a rigid one that covered everything from sanitation to lighting.
Salmonella is a bacterial infection that affects the digestive tract and usually manifests itself in the form of severe diarrhea.
In rare cases, salmonella can be fatal, but it usually presents a danger only to pregnant women or people with weakened immune systems from other health problems.
Stump said the whole episode confused her, because she and her family regularly drink the milk from the dairy, and none of them had become sick. 3-20-07

Yersinia infection most likely from raw milk
Grey Bruce Health Unit
For the second time in less than a week a child in Grey Bruce was made seriously ill most likely related to the consumption of unpasteurized milk. A two year old was hospitalized suffering yersinia infection. The parents identified the child drank raw milk from the family farm. Yersinia is a serious gastro-intestinal infection that can lead to septicemia and acute arthritis.
¡°I advise farm families who are drinking raw milk to pasteurize the milk to avoid the needless illness that may occur, especially in children,¡± says Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hazel Lynn. ¡°These two recent cases clearly show unpasteurized milk is neither benign nor beneficial and can pose a serious health risk.¡±
Raw milk can be made safe by heating to a temperature 63 degrees Celsius for not less than 30 minutes or 72 degrees Celsius for not less than 16 seconds. This will not significantly alter vitamin or protein content of the milk.

Nanosensors develops E.coli and Salmonella biosensor
Sensors Magazine
From a press release
SANTA CLARA, CA -- NanoSensors Inc., a nanotechnology development company that is developing a biosensor to detect e.coli and salmonella, announced that it has received 85 disposable housing units and 10 data acquisition units from its third-party manufacturers. These units will be used for independent third-party testing.
As previously announced, the company's biosensor consists of two core functional parts: a disposable housing unit (Razor Blade), in which the actual sensor is mounted, and a separate, external data acquisition unit (Razor). Based on this design, the disposable housing unit transmits signals across electrical leads to the data acquisition unit, which accepts the output signal from the disposable housing unit and converts the signal to the appropriate format to display the results.
The company is functionalizing the sensors. Once this process is complete, the company will be able to finalize its testing program and initiate independent third-party testing of the biosensor product. The company intends to find a cross-section of potential customers that will test the product and provide feedback on the functionality.
The company has also begun evaluating the process parameters for the detection of salmonella using its licensed technology. Consistent with its marketing plan, the company is working on a development plan for modifying its biosensor to detect e.coli to introduce a biosensor device for the detection of salmonella in food and water, the need for which was recently evidenced by the recent outbreak of salmonella.
"We are extremely satisfied with the production of our first biosensor prototypes for use in third-party testing," stated Dr. Ted Wong, the company's Chief Executive Officer. "We are eager to now focus on the commencement of a test program to assist us in completing product development and effectively introducing it into the marketplace."

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