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Tainted spinach tied to cattle ranch

Los Angeles Times
Marla Cone and Rong-Gong Lin II
Paicines, CA -- Contaminated spinach that sickened hundreds of people and prompted an unprecedented nationwide recall last fall came from a cattle ranch east of Salinas, according to a report by state and federal investigators released Friday.
New and notable: Brad Sullivan, an attorney for Mission Organics, was cited as saying the report did not conclusively link the company with the E. coli, emphasizing that it was not found in the spinach field but on ranchland a mile away.
Sullivan stopped short of saying Mission Organics feels responsible for the outbreak, but said the company does feel "very concerned."
Sullivan said Mission Organics will not use its leased land in Paicines to grow more crops until the company and officials address the most likely sources of bacteria ? wildlife and water.
Bob Perkins, executive director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau, was quoted as saying, "it appears none of the regulatory agencies nor the farmers can say, 'Aha, this is the cause, and if we fix this, this won't happen again.' "
Natural Selection Foods was quoted as saying in a statement that the investigation was "careful and thorough" even though most people hoped for "a more decisive conclusion" about the cause. The company said it would like to see national standards for produce, adding, "What is certain is that E. coli O157:H7 and other pathogens are present in the environment, and research and regulation are urgently needed."
Natural Selection said it has begun a more extensive testing program at its plants and in fields. "We believe our salads are safer than ever before," the company said.
Dr. Kevin Reilly, deputy director of prevention services at the state health department, was quoted as saying, "What relative roles each of these played, we don't know for sure."
The spinach in the outbreak, sold under a Dole label, was grown in an organic way but was not labeled or certified organic.
Federal and state officials said their six-month investigation was the first time a pathogen was tracked from fork to field.
Dr. David Acheson, chief medical officer of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, was cited as saying it's critical for every farm and processor to follow national guidelines to minimize bacteria on produce, adding, "A relatively small plot can potentially be the source of a nationwide outbreak," and that more research is needed to "find out how these bugs get onto produce in the first place."
The FDA has asked produce growers and processors since 1998 to follow a long list of steps to minimize the danger of pathogens on fresh fruits and vegetables, including recommendations for water testing, worker hygiene, handling of manure and control of wild animals. Then, in 2004 and 2005, the FDA sent letters to growers of leafy greens expressing concern about outbreaks and again advising them to follow the guidelines. The guidelines, known as Good Agricultural Practices, are voluntary and no field inspections are conducted.

Spinach E. coli traced to San Benito County ranch, officials say
LA Times
Marla Cone
The contaminated spinach that sickened hundreds of people and led to an unprecedented nationwide recall last fall was, according to these stories, traced to a 50-acre field at a cattle ranch east of Salinas, according to a report by state and federal investigators released today.
The long-awaited findings of a joint federal and state investigation point to one bacteria-laden crop processed at one plant. Mission Organics is the only farm implicated by the investigators, and a Natural Selection Foods packaging plant in San Juan Bautista was the only processor implicated.
Three people, including a toddler, died in the outbreak, in which about 200 illnesses were reported in 26 states. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that about 4,000 people were sickened by the spinach, because probably only 5% of the illnesses were reported.
The spinach involved in the outbreak was grown on land owned by Paicines Ranch, a ranch of about 2,000 head of cattle in the town of Paicines, south of Hollister. It is primarily a beef cattle ranch with a small amount of cropland leased to Mission Organics.
The contamination probably occurred in the San Benito County field during or just before harvest, but it was likely spread by bagging and processing at the Natural Selection plant.
The most likely sources are water or wild pigs, according to the report by the California Department of Health Services and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's San Francisco District. Streams, which run through the ranch and carry manure from cattle, could have tainted the well water used for irrigation. The ranch also has a large population of feral pigs that could have spread feces, according to the report.
Genetic matches were found between E. coli in bagged spinach eaten by people who fell ill last August and September and E. coli detected in 21 samples of soil and feces on or near the ranch.
Michael Lynch, a medical officer who tracks food-borne illnesses at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was cted as saying that every year, one in every four Americans gets sick from food, and federal officials have "increasingly recognized a problem in fresh produce."
The story says that in the past decade, 72 outbreaks have been associated with fresh fruits and vegetables. Leafy greens have been held responsible for 22 outbreaks, followed by tomatoes and melons.

E. coli attorney favors federal oversight of produce industry
Land Line Magazine
Clarissa Kell-Holland
How long can the produce industry continue to dance around mandatory regulation?
That¡¯s the question famed E. coli attorney Bill Marler posed to Land Line Magazine when he responded to an article, ¡°Produce industry still missing the point with self-regulation,¡± posted on Land Line¡¯s daily Web news last week.
¡°To be honest with you, I never realized how wide of a swath has been impacted by the E. coli outbreak,¡± Marler told Land Line on March 16. ¡°I didn¡¯t even think of the impact on truckers.¡±
The story says that the E. coli outbreak in September 2006 piqued the interest of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, since many produce haulers were stuck with the financial and logistical responsibilities of disposing of potentially contaminated spinach. Some were not paid for their loads that weren¡¯t even part of the recall because no regulations are in place to protect truckers in situations where produce has been recalled.
Marler agrees with OOIDA leaders who say the FDA isn¡¯t doing enough to ensure consumer confidence in eating leafy greens, and that federal oversight is needed to protect public health, stating, "Without some uniform standards that are applicable to everybody and more rigorous oversight, this is going to happen again. It still kind of perplexes me when I go to these hearings and I listen to shippers and growers and hear them say they want a voluntary marketing agreement ? basically dancing around regulation. But, they never really articulate a clear reason why they don¡¯t want it. They are basically telling everybody publicly that they want it strictly enforced, but they want to enforce it themselves, and I think it¡¯s kind of gone past that. ¡¦ Until the produce industry realizes they must change their practices and stop dancing around regulation, I am going to continue to take money from them. All I have to do is prove their products make people sick.¡±

Senate committee approves bills to deter E. coli outbreaks
Associated Press (California)
SACRAMENTO -- The Senate Agriculture Committee was cited as approving three bills that would impose tougher standards on growers of spinach, lettuce, sprouts and similar crops. The story adds that the state would have more power to respond to outbreaks of food-borne disease and would establish a process to more quickly trace outbreaks to their source.
The California Farm Bureau Federation and Western Growers Association said the bills are unnecessary because the industry is adopting new safety standards on its own this year.
Western Growers Association Vice President Dave Puglia was cited as asying there can be no safety guarantees until consumers accept some sort of "kill step" such as irradiation, and that's necessary to sterilize a product that is grown outdoors and eaten raw, adding, "It's not a risk-free world. It's not a risk-free product."
Elisa Odabashian, director of the West Coast office of Consumers Union, was cited as telling senators that repeated outbreaks have shown that growers and processors cannot police themselves, adding, "Voluntary self-regulation by the leafy greens industry has been disastrous for consumer."

Spinach sales still struggling as a result of E. coli scare
LA Times
Jerry Hirsch
The spinach industry has yet, according to this story, to recover from last September's government warning not to eat bagged and fresh spinach because of suspected contamination by E. coli., even though that advisory lasted less then two weeks.
Dale Huss, vice president of production for Ocean Mist Farms, which grows spinach and other produce on 20,000 acres in California, Arizona and Mexico, was quoted as saying, "We are struggling to get back on our feet. We are at about 50% of our former demand."
Marty Ordman, a vice president at Dole Foods Co., the Westlake Village-based produce company, was cited as saying that sales of packaged spinach, once $240-million business industrywide, are off about 40%.
Perishables Group, a Chicago-based produce consulting firm, was cited as saying that the typical grocery store now sells about $183 of spinach weekly, a 54% decline from before the national recall that resulted from the Food and Drug Administration advisory.
That's because of shoppers like Don Warren, a retired real estate broker in Carpinteria. When he buys bagged spinach from his local Costco Wholesale Corp. store now, Warren cooks it.
"I was never a big fan of raw spinach and am even less so now," Warren said. "I like to make a big wilted spinach salad. I cook it up in an electric skillet and then add blue cheese. The high temperature would kill any E. coli."
William Hallman, director of the Food Policy Institute at Rutgers University, was cited as saying that last year's deadly outbreak has had a lasting impact on consumer attitudes toward spinach, and even other produce, stating, "This was a signal event. Even people who did not eat spinach before the recall changed their behavior. Some stopped buying bagged lettuce and others wash their produce more thoroughly."

Spinach growers get aid provision as food-safety-standards bill stalls
USA Today
Ken Dilanian
WASHINGTON -- Darryl Howard's mom, Betty, was among those who died after eating contaminated spinach last fall at her home in Washington state, he says.
He was stunned to learn last week that the emergency bill to fund the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina relief included $25 million to compensate spinach growers hurt when consumers stopped buying their products.
Backers of the spinach provision say it is designed to help innocent growers whose businesses took a hit even though their greens weren't contaminated. The insertion into an emergency war funding bill of $3.7 billion to benefit spinach growers, peanut farmers and others in agribusiness underscores a Washington truism: Some interests are more special than others.
The story says that agribusiness spent $84 million lobbying Congress and contributed $44.1 million to federal campaigns in 2005 and 2006, according to public records tallied by the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan organization that tracks spending by those seeking to influence federal policy.
While the spinach aid provision was placed in a must-pass spending bill that has been scheduled for a vote Friday in the House, legislation to toughen food safety standards is stalled. A bill to create an independent food safety agency, introduced in February by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., is pending in the Energy and Commerce, and Agriculture Committees, where similar DeLauro proposals have died for years.
The story says tha proponents say some level of subsidies are crucial to preserving domestic food production. Michael Doyle who directs the University of Georgia's Center for Food Safety, was quoted as saying, "If we want farmers to grow crops in the U.S., we're going to have to subsidize them."

JOB Openings
03/28. QA Scientist - Irvine, CA
03/28. Quality Assurance - Control Manager - Sacramento, CA
03/28. Quality Assurance Manager - McPherson, KS
03/28. Quality Control Supervisor - McDonough, GA
03/28. Specialist - Food Safety Division - Salt Lake City, UT
03/28. Quality Assurance Manager - BLOOMFIELD, CT
03/28. HACCP Coordinator - Conyers, GA
03/28. Quality Assurance Supervisor - Moore, OK
03/27. Technical Specialist - Produce Food Safety - Aptos, CA
03/27. Quality Assurance Technician - Relief - Tipton, CA
03/27. Quality Assurance Manager - Orrville, OH
03/27. QA Supervisor - Halifax, NC
03/26. QA Assistant Intern - West Chicago, IL
03/26. Quality Control/Product Development - Roy, WA
03/26. QC, QA, HACCP Supervisor - IA-Western/Sioux City
03/26. Regional QA/Sanitation Specialist - Metro NY/S. New England
03/26. Quality Control Assistant - St Louis, MO
03/26. Quality Assurance Auditor - NAPOLEON, OH

Salmonella found in roaster, cleaning supplies at ConAgra
March 22, 2007
Source of Article:
Sylvester- FDA investigators finally have some details on the location of that Salmonella outbreak that shut down the Sylvester ConAgra Foods plant five weeks ago. Thursday, ConAgra Foods blamed a $48 million loss this quarter on its recall of Peter Pan and Great Value Peanut Butter and there's still no timetable of when production will start back.
It's been five weeks since the lines at ConAgra Foods looked like this and it could be the end of May before production resumes. The clean up can begin now that the FDA has pin-pointed the cause.
"The two environmental positives that we did find were, one of them was in relation to the roaster and the other was on some cleaning equipment," said Dr. David Acheson.
Because it was found twice in the environment, the FDA investigators assume it's other places and recommend a complete cleanup. ConAgra is working with microbiologist on a plan to resume operations, but doesn't have an exact date.
"It's taking a look at how do we start up production? How do we get back up to inventory necessary to meet customer demand and bring it back to the shelves in a timely fashion?" questioned Stephanie Childs, ConAgra Spokeswoman.
While the company won't release specific answers to those questions they say employees continue the clean up effort.
"They are working on non-production related projects such as cleaning up, maintenance, training to ensure we are working in the best way possible," said Childs.
"The precise way to clean up is up to them to decide what the recommendation we make is pretty general and that is that the company needs to do a through clean up to ensure the absence of Salmonella in any future product that's produced in the facility, said Acheson.
FDA inspectors are gone from the plant now, but will return once the cleanup is complete to make sure there are no future problems.
The Centers for Disease Control stopped updating the number of reported Salmonella cases last week. The CDC reported 425 people in 44 states were sickened by the peanut butter. Twenty percent of those illnesses were serious enough to require hospitalization.

FDA Warns Again About Arsenic in Mineral Water
Five Brands Recalled Within Last Month
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is re-issuing its warning to consumers not to drink "Jermuk" brand mineral water due to the risk of exposure to arsenic, a toxic substance and a known cause of cancer in humans. The agency is providing this information again to consumers due to an expansion of the recall initiated by the products' importers and distributors. "Jermuk" water is imported from Armenia and distributed under different labels in California. Five brands of these products have been recalled since March 7.
The latest recall, which was initiated on March 16 by the product's distributor, Andreas Andreasyan DBA Arnaz & Nelli Co., North Hollywood, CA., is for "Jermuk Natural Mineral Water Fortified with Gas from the Spring". This product is additionally labeled as "Produced by Sam-Har Co. Republic of Armenia" and "Exclusive Distributor in USA: Arnaz & Nelli Inc., CA 91605".
Although arsenic is a well known human poison, there is little chance that someone would become seriously ill after consuming the recalled products over a brief period of time (days to weeks). However, it is likely that the person would experience nausea, abdominal pain and possibly vomiting, which are indicators of arsenic toxicity.
FDA has sampled the contents of 500 milliliter (mL) green glass and/or plastic bottles of all of these brands and found they contained 454-674 micrograms of arsenic per liter of water. FDA's standard of quality for bottled water allows no more than 10 micrograms per liter.
The agency is investigating whether other bottle sizes or types of packaging contain similarly tainted products, and will continue working to remove all such bottled water from the market.
There have been no illnesses reported at this time. Consumers who drank this water and have concerns are encouraged to contact their health care provider.
FDA may provide additional updates as more information becomes available.
The following products were recalled on March 7:
"Jermuk Original Sparkling Natural Mineral Water Fortified With Natural Gas From The Spring". The product is in glass bottles and is additionally labeled as "2006 Jermuk Mayr Gortsaran CJSC" and "Imported by: Zetlian Bakery Inc." The importer and distributor is Zetlian Bakery, Inc., Pico Rivera, CA.
"JERMUK,1951, NATURAL MINERAL WATER, JERMUK MAYR GORTSARAN CJSC." The product is in plastic bottles which are additionally labeled as "Imported by: Zetlian Bakery Inc." The importer and distributor is Zetlian Bakery, Inc., Pico Rivera, CA.
"Jermuk Sodium Calcium Bicarbonate and Sulphate Mineral Water". The product is additionally labeled as "Bottled by ARPI Plant, Republic of Armenia" and "Exclusive US importer and distributor: Importers Direct Wholesale Co., Los Angeles, CA". The product is being recalled by Importers Direct Wholesale Company, Los Angeles, CA.
"Jermuk, Natural Mineral Water Sparkling". The product, recalled on March 7 is additionally labeled as "Bottled by Jermuk Group CJSC" and "Sale Agent Kradjian Importing Co. Inc." in Glendale, CA. The product is being recalled by Kradjian Importing Company, Glendale, CA.

Hepatitis A scare for sushi diners
The Age (Australia)
NSW Health has, according to this story, issued a warning to patrons of a Sydney sushi outlet after an employee was diagnosed with Hepatitis A.
People who had eaten food from the Sushi From Xanadu outlet at Birkenhead Point shopping centre on March 11, 12, 17 and 18 could be affected and would require an injection to help prevent the disease, the health department said.
NSW Health's director of communicable diseases Dr Jeremy McAnulty was cited as saying the warning was only for people who had eaten food from the shop.
It did not apply to people who had only consumed drinks from the shop.

AMI speaks out to Congress about China's ban on U.S. beef
By Ann Bagel Storck on 3/28/2007 for
U.S. beef should no longer be banned from the Chinese market, and the Strategic Economic Dialogue meeting slated for mid-May should be used to negotiate and end to the embargo, said J. Patrick Boyle, president and CEO of the American Meat Institute.
Speaking before the Senate Finance Committee, Boyle noted that the United States is in accordance with internationally accepted scientific principles regarding food safety and animal health. A World Organization for Animal Health expert panel has recommended a "controlled risk" designation for the United States in terms of bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
China was the ninth largest market for U.S. beef in 2003, with sales in excess of $27 million, before the ban was put into place. "But the real value of this market is their rapidly growing middle class," Boyle noted. "The average Chinese consumer's largest expenditure is food." he said.
In 2006, China imported more than $575 million in pork and poultry products, a 55 percent increase over 2005 values. For 2007, China is already importing 121 percent more pork and poultry products by value than by this time last year.

Seafood poisoning on the rise
Associated Press
Experts were cited as estimating that up to 50,000 people worldwide suffer ciguatera poisoning each year, with more than 90 percent of cases unreported. Scientists say the risks are getting worse, because of damage that pollution and global warming are inflicting on the coral reefs where many fish species feed.
Dozens of popular fish types, including grouper and barracuda, live near reefs. They accumulate the toxic chemical in their bodies from eating smaller fish that graze on the poisonous algae. When oceans are warmed by the greenhouse effect and fouled by toxic runoff, coral reefs are damaged and poison algae thrives, scientists say.
Donald M. Anderson, director of the Coastal Ocean Institute at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, was quoted as saying, "Worldwide, we have a much bigger problem with toxins from algae in seafood than we had 20 or 30 years ago. We have more toxins, more species of algae producing the toxins and more areas affected around the world."
The story says that although risk of ciguatera has soared recently, the phenomenon is ancient. University of Hawaii professor Yoshitsugi Hokama was cited as saying that fish poisoning shows up in Homer¡¯s Odyssey and that Alexander the Great forbade his armies to eat fish for fear of being stricken.

More Pet Food Added To Recall List
Rhonda Erskine, Online Content Producer
Source of Article:
The FDA is expanding the recall to include all 95 dog and cat foods in the "cuts and gravy" style of brands by Menu foods. Animals are getting sick, some even dying after eating the food possibly contaminated with rat poisoning. But some pets may not show any symptoms.
Panic is setting in among pet owners, and veterinarians across the Bay area are flooded with calls with concerns about recalled pet food.
"Some people are almost frantic, almost panicky, wondering if their dog is going to be okay now that they've eaten this food," said vet assistant Larissa Blair.
A dog named Shadow had been eating pouches of the Iams product for years, but when owners Paul and Connie Mundy heard it could be contaminated, they pulled it immediately.
The tainted food is believed to cause kidney failure. Vet Care Village has already seen a cat and dog with kidney damage. The dog had to be euthanized.
"When it comes to food products, it's very scary," Veterinarian Dr. Gary Flicker said.
Symptoms include loss of appetite, lethargy, increased thirst and vomiting. While pets like Shadow aren't showing any signs of sickness, Dr. Flicker still recommends a series of tests.
"That's where the concern is, not to know and at this point in the recall even the health care professionals don't really know. We are not being given any more information than the general public is," he said.
The clinic is doing its best to squeeze in dozens of cats and dogs for blood and urine testing.
Damage is treatable if caught early, but the long-term effects are unknown. The Mundys can only hope shadow is among the lucky ones.
According to the manufacturer's website, Menu foods will reimburse pet owners for their vet bills, if their product is the cause of sickness or death.
Pet owners are advised to keep copies of all their vet records and receipts for pet food purchases and vet bills.
For more information from Menu Foods, click here:

The claim: You can disinfect a kitchen sponge in the microwave
New York Times
Anahad O¡¯Connor
For years, it has been said that people looking for an easy way to disinfect their soiled sponges, which can become remarkable germ magnets, can pop them in the microwave. The practice has become common. This story asks, is it effective?
In recent years, at least two studies have put the claim to the test, and both have confirmed it. The most recent, published in the December 2006 issue of The Journal of Environmental Health, found that microwaving kitchen sponges and other scrubbing pads for one to two minutes at full power could reduce levels of bacteria, including E. coli and other common causes of food-borne illness, by more than 99 percent.
The story says that to avoid fires or overheating, the authors of the 2006 study recommended that only damp sponges and those without metal be zapped. But some experts say the practice poses a safety hazard and should be discouraged. Some news accounts have described cases in which kitchen sponges caught fire while being cooked by microwave.
Other studies have found a safer alternative: soaking soiled sponges in diluted solutions of bleach, which is just as effective as heating. Then again, there is an even simpler option: tossing the sponge out and getting a new one.

Farm sues Taco Bell over being linked to E. coli outbreak
Friday March 23, 11:13 am ET
Source of Article:
The California farm that grew the green onions first linked to an E. coli outbreak at Taco Bell restaurants last year has sued the company for libel.
Boskovich Farms Inc., located in Oxnard, Calif., filed the lawsuit March 14 in Orange County Superior Court, alleging that Taco Bell, a unit of Louisville-based Yum Brands Inc. (NYSE: YUM - News) continued to associate the farm's product with the outbreak even after Yum determined the green onions were not the source of the E. coli, according to a report by Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, alleges that officials with Taco Bell knew by Dec. 11, and perhaps by Dec. 9, that tests by the Federal Food and Drug Administration confirmed the green onions were negative for E. coli.
In a news release Dec. 13, Taco Bell said that contaminated lettuce was most likely the source of the outbreak.
Yum Brands and Taco Bell officials were not immediately available for comment.
This is the latest in a string of lawsuits filed over the outbreak, which sickened more than 70 people in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Delaware. Most of the plaintiffs are people who fell ill from eating at Taco Bell stores.
The company has said that the E. coli outbreak cost it about $20 million because of lost sales and franchise and license fees, and increased marketing costs.
Irvine, Calif.-based Taco Bell operates about 5,700 stores in 14 countries and territories.
Published March 23, 2007 by Business First

Oregon pet food poisoning cases grow to 47
07:50 AM PDT on Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Associated Press and
Source of Article:
PORTLAND - Veterinarians on Monday reminded people to check their pet¡¯s food after the number of suspected poisoning cases grew to 47 in Oregon.
Emilio DeBess, state public health veterinarian said there were 13 deaths statewide possibly linked to the Menu Foods "cuts and gravy" recall. The cat Zoe, was the first confirmed death suffered from kidney failure.
The substance in the food was identified as aminopterin, a cancer drug that once was used to induce abortions in the United States and is still used to kill rats in some other countries.
Veterinarians have been cautious about attributing deaths to the food. Kidney failure is common among older cats. But DoveLewis veterinarians said Zoe's symptoms were so severe they were convinced the cause was a toxin such as that involved in the recall.
The food was off the shelves Monday and vets continued to go back and check casework on pets with kidney illnesses.

¡°It is important for pet owners to be vigilant about this,¡± Dr. Jacqui Neilson, president of Oregon Veterinary Medical Association. "The OVMA office has received a lot of calls from veterinarians concerned about the recall and the possibility that their patients might have eaten some of the tainted food. Acute renal failure can be fatal. Early diagnosis and treatment is essential."
The company designated two phone numbers that pet owners could call for information: (866) 463-6738 and (866) 895-2708.

More lab tests tie cheese, salmonella
Chicago Tribune (Illinois),1,7013497.story?coll=chi-newslocalnearwest-hed
KANE COUNTY -- Lab results received Monday by Kane County Health Department officials have, according to this story, strengthened their suspicions that contaminated Mexican-style cheese is the source of a yearlong salmonella outbreak that has hit especially hard in the county's Hispanic areas.
The story says that sophisticated tests on an unlabeled cheese seized last week from a grocery in Aurora indicate that the salmonella strain that it contained matches the pattern of the outbreak.
Claire Dobbins, the Health Department's director of preparedness and communicable diseases, was cited as saying the results make tainted cheese "a strong contender" as the source of contamination that has sickened at least 34 Kane residents with salmonella Newport since January 2006.

Plaintiffs amend peanut butter case filing in Rome
Rome News-Tribune (GA)
Some 32 consumers, including the parents of nine children who became seriously ill after eating peanut butter, have filed an amended class action complaint in Rome against the international food conglomerate ConAgra Foods, Inc., an attorney said.
The proposed class consists of all persons nationwide that contracted Salmonella Tennessee from eating ConAgra¡¯s contaminated peanut butter, which was manufactured and packaged in ConAgra¡¯s plant in Sylvester. "This case shows that the number of 425 persons made ill from eating Salmonella tainted peanut butter as reported by the Center for Diseases Control constitutes a gross underestimate," said Kathryn Barnett of the national plaintiffs¡¯ law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP. "We believe thousands of consumers have been made sick over the past two years."

Researchers develop new nut allergen test
By George Reynolds
Source of Article:
28/03/2007 - A research laboratory has developed new tests that enable food processors identify pine nuts and chestnuts in food, which could help protect consumers with allergies.
Food processors are becoming more concerned about nut contaminants in their products due to increasing regulations and the serious health risks exposure can induce in allergy sufferers.
With new regulations designed to protect sensitive consumers, a labelling error can result in costly product recalls and loss of consumer trust.
UK-based Reading Scientific Services (RSSL) claims its protein and DNA methods have been developed to detect trace amounts to a sensitivity of 100 parts per million.
Although pine nuts and chestnuts are not currently on the EU's list of allergens that must be labelled on products, they are known to likely affect people who suffer from other allergies.
People who are allergic to nuts are more likely to suffer allergic reactions to pine nuts, which are in fact seeds. Chestnuts contain allergens that can also be found in coconut, kiwi and mango and latex, which affect many people.
In the UK, the introduction of a voluntary allergen certification program is imminent. Funded by the nation's regulatory body - the Food Standards Agency (FSA) - and coordinated by an allergy support charity - The Anaphylaxis Campaign - the new guidelines are due to be launched later this year.
They involve comprehensive guidance for processes in manufacturing plants in order to minimise the risk of contamination or mislabelling.
Testing products will enable food processors to comply, which could lead to greater understanding of product ingredients by consumers, and therefore, increased brand trust.
Consultancy and training services for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles are available from RSSL to help companies prevent cross contamination.
RSSL stressed that testing alone does not guarantee products are allergen free, but plays an important role in HACCP practice and investigating complaints of suspected contamination.
These products and others will be under discussion at a meeting organised by RSSL in London on 5 June, 2007. "Managing the Challenge of Allergen Control" aims to assemble a team of industry experts to share perspectives for dealing with allergen risk, with contributions from retailers, manufacturers, consumer groups and medical professionals.
RSSL's allergen testing laboratory is on call 24/7 as part of RSSL Emergency Response Service.

Dipstick test kits for foodborne bacteria
Source of Article:
3/26/2007-Chemists at the University of South Carolina are developing a consumer test kit that people can use to quickly and accurately determine if food products are spoiled.
Outlined at the 233rd national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the new diagnostic test, which researchers describe as a disposable ¡°dipstick,¡± is capable of rapidly detecting the presence of chemicals formed by disease-causing bacteria. The researchers said that in preliminary studies, the test had a 90 percent accuracy rate.
The dipstick test is still in development but could be on store shelves in two to three years, said study leader John J. Lavigne, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the school¡¯s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
Lavigne envisions that consumers will be able to carry the dipsticks with them and use them anywhere, including homes and restaurants.
The new test relies on the detection of a class of chemicals called nonvolatile biogenic amines. These compounds are generated during the bacterial decay of food proteins and are an indirect measurement of the extent of food spoilage. Lavigne and his associates developed special polymers that change color in the presence of these biogenic amines. In lab studies, these polymer biosensors were tested against a variety of fish samples, including fresh salmon, fresh tuna, and canned tuna.

The polymers change color in the presence of increasing levels of these biogenic amines to indicate degrees of food spoilage. Specifically, the polymers changed from dark purple to yellow in the presence of badly spoiled fish, while the change was from dark purple to a reddish hue in the presence of mildly spoiled fish, he says. Depending on the degree of freshness identified, the consumer could then decide whether to eat the food or avoid it. To the consumer, the yellow color would clearly be an indication to avoid the fish, Lavigne says. The test is currently designed to be qualitative only and will not identify the specific pathogen present, he notes.
Although fish were used in this study, a similar approach can be applied to other foods, including other meats as well as fruits and vegetables. Although many fruits and vegetables contain lower protein levels than meats, preliminary studies indicated the dipsticks are capable of detecting even small amounts of protein decay caused by bacterial activity, Lavigne said. More detailed tests on these other food types are planned.
The researchers are working to improve the speed, sensitivity and accuracy of the new test. But Lavigne notes that no ¡®freshness¡¯ test will substitute for the importance of proper food safety, including optimal storage, cleaning and cooking. Funding for the study was provided by the University of South Carolina and Research Corporation, a private foundation that advances scientific research.

E-coli & Salmonella Crisis Prompts Solution
Monday March 19, 12:57 pm ET
Source of Article:
ANTIOCH, Calif., March 19 /PRNewswire/ -- E-coli and Salmonella crisis prompts Zonda Incorporated to introduce QuikAlert(TM), a valuable addition to its food safety product line. QuikAlert(TM) was designed as a first line of defense in detecting food borne pathogens directly from a food product before it is packaged or shipped. Typically, perishable food products are packaged and shipped before pathogen test results are available from the lab. QuikAlert(TM) can detect these potentially dangerous microorganisms in minutes versus hours or days.
QuikAlert(TM) is a fast and easy test to perform. A provided swab is used to sample a food product. After 20 minutes a fluid is added to the tip of the swab. After 2 minutes, a positive test will result in a purple color on the tip of the swab, indicating a presence of potentially dangerous microorganisms. This test will allow growers to check their crops and get results directly in the field before harvest.
QuikAlert(TM) detection of food borne pathogens protects the health of consumers and can save millions of dollars to food growers and food processing companies. QuikAlert(TM) is a screening tool that can deliver these desired results quickly.
Zonda will be featuring QuikAlert(TM) in the exhibition hall at the United Fresh Tech show in Palm Springs, April 27 -28.
About Zonda, Incorporated
Zonda Incorporated ( specializes in diagnostic tests that serve the medical, food safety, cosmetic, beverage, pharmaceutical, veterinary, and environmental sanitation testing markets. Zonda's product lines include innovative, rapid, self-contained in-vitro diagnostic tests for the detection of Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Yeast (Candida albicans) and Group A Strep. Each of Zonda's infectious disease tests are marketed as superior to their competition due to their comparable accuracy, ease of use, compact design, long shelf life at room temperature, rapid results, and cost effectiveness. Zonda also produces rapid diagnostic tests that detect bacterial contamination and other potential harmful micro-organisms on surfaces and directly from food products, thus eliminating expensive and lengthy lab time and costs. Zonda also produces confirmation tests for a wide variety of bacteria directly from a first growth plate.

Killing fungi softly, with ozone
New York Times
Michael Kanellos
Novazone, a Livermore, Calif.-based company has developed systems that kill fungi and other microorganisms on vegetables, fruit and in bottled drinks without altering appearance or taste using ozone, the three-atom molecule of pure oxygen.
The story says that ozone-disinfecting systems for keeping hot tubs or individual rooms clean have been around for several years. But by harnessing ozone for industrial applications, Novazone says it can help reduce the amount of chemicals food producers spray on their harvests, as well as take a big chunk of the $36 billion market for industrial pest killers.
Dave Cope, Novazone's CEO, was cited as saying the spinach recall of 2006, which happened because growers didn't adequately clean their products, underscores the potential market, adding, "If you use enough chlorine, you won't have E. coli in your spinach, but people want fresh, safe food. When you get really smart, you use natural processes. This is not some tree-hugger perspective."
Chances are, you've indirectly experienced the company's products. The makers of Dasani, Arrowhead and Aquafina have adopted Novazone's systems to kill the microbes in their bottled waters. One of the manufacturers even uses ozone to disinfect the bottle as well as the water.
A significant percentage of the California citrus crop as well as the produce coming from Chile and Mexico get "Novazoned" while in storage. Colgate-Palmolive and others also use it to purify contact lens solution, toothpaste and toilets.

Fiber-based light source promises improvements in food inspection
Optical Society of America (OSA)
A new light source based on fiber-optic technology promises to improve the inspection of food, produce, paper, currency, recyclables and other products. New research revealing this technology will be presented at the Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition/National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference (OFC/NFOEC), being held March 25-29 in Anaheim, Calif.
Currently, industrial processes for inspecting foodstuffs and other items often use "line-scan" cameras, which record images of objects one line at a time, just as fax machines scan documents on a line-by-line basis. Rapid electronic processors then detect whether there are any problems with the items and instruct mechanical actuators (such as air jets) to separate out unsatisfactory items. The problem is current line-scan cameras lack ideal light sources to image objects properly.
Now, Princeton Lightwave of Cranbury, N.J. and OFS Labs (a Somerset, N.J.-based division of Furukawa Electric) have introduced a fiber-optics-based solution, which they will describe in their OFC/NFOEC paper. In their design, a bright light source such as a laser sends light through an optical fiber. Along the length of the fiber is an ultraviolet-light-treated region called a "fiber grating." The grating deflects the light so that it exits perpendicularly to the length of the fiber as a long, expanding rectangle of light. This optical rectangle is then collimated by a cylindrical lens, such that the rectangle illuminates objects of interest at various distances from the source. The bright rectangle allows line scan cameras to sort products at higher speeds with improved accuracy.
The new fiber-based light source combines all the ideal features necessary for accurate and efficient scanning: uniform, intense illumination over a rectangular region; a directional beam that avoids wasting unused light by only illuminating the rectangle; and a "cool" source that does not heat up the objects to be imaged. Currently employed light sources such as tungsten halogen lamps or arrays of light-emitting diodes lack at least one of these features.
According to the researchers, this fiber-based device can be customized for a specific inspection application within 4 to 6 weeks, then manufactured for that application in 16 to 20 weeks.
Meeting Paper: G.E. Carver, K.S. Feder, P.S. Westbrook, "FBG Based Distributed Lighting for Sensing Applications," Presentation OThP1, Thursday, March 29, 3 p.m. PDT; longer paper available upon request from Colleen Morrison,

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

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