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4/10
2007
ISSUE:252

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Peanut Butter CSI Sylvester
Posted on April 9, 2007 by Bill Marler

The Associated Press out of Atlanta broke our visit to the ConAgra Peanut Butter plant in Sylvester, Georgia
Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/
ConAgra's Leaking Roof/Marlerblog
Lawyers and investigators visit south Ga. peanut butter plant
An army of plaintiffs' lawyers and investigators is inspecting the south Georgia peanut butter plant linked to a salmonella outbreak that has sickened more than 400 people nationwide. A team of attorneys, engineers, photographers, mapping specialists and videographers on Monday scouted the ConAgra Foods Inc. plant in Sylvester, Ga., that produced the Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter recalled in February after the outbreak. The inspectors are also taking a look at the machinery throughout the plant, said Bill Marler, an attorney with Seattle's Marler Clark and one of several trial lawyers who organized the trip. "When you do have a factory that's manufacturing this much product, there's some small glitch in the system and it gets amplified," said Marler, whose firm is representing more than 5,000 clients. "Hopefully what we look at here gives us a feel for how the contamination likely appeared." The team of inspectors was organized by a handful of law firms that represent the bulk of the cases against ConAgra, but Marler estimates more than 250 law firms may eventually file a claim. Marler, who marveled at the plant's size, said he was determined to figure out whether the outbreak spread beyond the problems ConAgra has already revealed.
"It's a big CSI puzzle," he said. "That's really what it all comes down to."

ConAgra foods announces renovation of peanut butter plant and enhanced safety measures
09.apr.07
from a press release
ConAgra Foods, Inc. announced the measures it will take to reopen its Sylvester, Ga., plant, where its recalled peanut butter products were produced. The company also announced it is taking the following measures to continuously improve safety standards for all of its food products:
Appointing a recognized and well-respected food safety expert to a leadership position, which will consolidate responsibility for existing and future companywide oversight of food safety initiatives and systems in a single position; and,
Forming a food safety advisory committee composed of leading independent experts, uniquely positioned in the industry to help shape the company's efforts.
ConAgra Foods will take a number of steps to ensure that its peanut butter product returns to store shelves as quickly as possible. The company plans to reopen its Sylvester, Ga., facility in August after it thoroughly addresses all possible causes of the Salmonella outbreak. The company will also take this time to implement significant changes in the plant, including installing new, state-of-the-art machinery, technology and designs throughout the plant. While these plantwide upgrades are being put in place, the company will partner with a third-party, co-manufacturing facility that meets all standards for producing safe and quality products. ConAgra Foods will begin shipping Peter Pan Peanut Butter to retailers this summer.
After an epidemiological study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed a possible link between ConAgra Foods' peanut butter and Salmonella, the company immediately initiated a recall from the market of 100 percent of its peanut butter products manufactured at its Sylvester, Ga., facility. An investigation into the possible cause of any contamination also was conducted, and the company believes that moisture inadvertently entered the production process and allowed the growth of low levels of dormant Salmonella in the environment that were likely present from raw peanuts or peanut dust.
"We are truly sorry for any harm that our peanut butter products caused and intend to resolve claims related to peanut butter fairly and expeditiously," said Gary Rodkin, ConAgra Foods' chief executive officer, in a prepared statement. "We will make significant investment in and changes to the manufacturing environment to ensure this situation does not occur again. We are committed to the highest possible standards of food safety throughout our operations and believe the measures we are outlining today will clearly strengthen that foundation."
As part of its commitment to enhance consumer safety and health, ConAgra Foods has established a leadership position, vice president of global food safety, to bring additional focus and leadership to developing and implementing programs that continuously improve product safety and design. The company has hired Paul A. Hall, a leading expert with more than 30 years of experience in microbiology, food safety and food quality, to fill this position. Hall joins ConAgra Foods from Matrix MicroScience, Inc., a leading producer of technology for the rapid concentration, capture and detection of foodborne pathogens, including Salmonella. Previously, he held product safety and quality-related positions of increasing responsibility at Kraft Foods.
Hall stated, "I am looking forward to helping ConAgra Foods become the recognized industry leader in food safety."
ConAgra Foods also has created a food safety advisory committee composed of leading, third-party experts in food safety who will provide guidance to the company as part of its ongoing work with government agencies, research institutions and scientists in the areas of food production and testing. The committee will assist the company in its plans to fund basic research involving the detection, control and elimination of foodborne pathogens. The committee will be chaired by Dr. Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia and one of the foremost authorities on foodborne pathogens in the world. The company is currently working with Dr. Doyle to identify other members of the Committee.
"I'm very excited to lead and help build ConAgra Foods' Food Safety Advisory Committee," said Dr. Doyle. "It gives the food safety community a unique opportunity to directly influence and enhance the food safety practices of a leading company."
Rodkin concluded, "There is nothing more important to ConAgra Foods than the safety, quality and wholesomeness of our products. In creating this Food Safety Advisory Committee, we will be able to benefit from the committee members' expertise to take all reasonable steps to minimize the risks of foodborne illnesses."
ConAgra Foods, Inc. (NYSE:CAG) is one of North America's leading packaged food companies, serving grocery retailers, as well as restaurants and other foodservice establishments. Popular ConAgra Foods consumer brands include: Banquet, Chef Boyardee, Egg Beaters, Healthy Choice, Hebrew National, Hunt's, Marie Callender's, Orville Redenbacher's, PAM and many others. For more information, please visit us at www.conagrafoods.com.

ConAgra denies claims in peanut butter lawsuit
30.mar.07
Rome News-Tribune
Mike Gellatly
http://news.mywebpal.com/partners/680/public/news795040.html
Peanut butter producer ConAgra has denied all allegations made against it in a federal lawsuit seeking more than $5 million in damages because of alleged salmonella poisoning. The lawsuit and the corporation¡¯s response have been filed in U.S. District Court in Rome.
Plaintiffs charge that the Delaware-based company distributed contaminated peanut butter that caused hundreds of consumers in more than 40 states to contract the illness and many to be hospitalized.
The Food and Drug Administration in February warned consumers about salmonella detected in peanut butter under the Peter Pan and Great Value labels made at the corporation¡¯s plant in Sylvester.
In its response to the civil suit, ConAgra denies the allegations of negligence, denies that the more than two-dozen plaintiffs are entitled to damages and, furthermore denies that the suit should move forward as a ¡°class action.¡±

Orange County health officials confirm 14th E. Coli case
10.apr.07
Modesto Bee (California)
http://www.modbee.com/state_wire/story/13472189p-14082556c.html
SANTA ANA, Calif. -- Orange County health officials were cited as saying Monday that a new case of E. coli infection linked to a Souplantation restaurant has been identified, bringing to 14 the total number of people who have tested positive.
Orange County Health Care Agency spokesman Howard Sutter was cited as saying that the new case, involving an adult customer who was not hospitalized, was reported late Sunday.
Three adults and 10 children infected with E. coli had eaten at the Souplantation in Lake Forest between March 23 or March 25.

E. coli, Salmonella and Buffet Salad Bars - UPDATE
Posted on April 4, 2007 by Food Poisoning Attorney
Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/
Since the news first broke of E. coli liinesses tied to the Souplantation, we have recevived several calls from folks who beleive that they have been sickened. We are investigating those claims.
When I first heard about an E. coli outbreak tied to Souplantion, I must admit I was not too surprised - foodborne illness outbreaks certainly have been tied to buffets and salad bars over the years. A few cases we have done:

E. coli
China Buffet
Finley School District
Gold Coast Produce
King Garden
Olive Garden
Sizzler

Salmonella
Brook-Lea Country Club
Chili's
Golden Corral
Linh's Bakery
Old South Restaurant
Western Sizzlin'
Wyndham Anatole Hotel

Nancy Luna and Blythe Bernard of the Orange County Register are continuing to follow the E. coli outbreak tied to the Souplantation. No new cases yet reported in E Coli outbreak - But local health officials aren't ruling out possibility of finding more victims. Orange County health authorities confirmed that the diners tested positive for E. coli O157:H7, the same deadly strain that recently sickened hundreds of consumers in a string of outbreaks around the country. Orange County Health Care Agency officials said Tuesday that all seven customers so far identified as having E Coli ate at the Towne Center Drive restaurant on March 23 or March 24. Though the investigation is ongoing, the outbreak is expected to be one of the largest ever in Orange County. The seven people who contracted food poisoning are recovering, local health authorities said today. The group includes six children and a person in his or her 70s. Three of the ill people had to be hospitalized.

FDA extends comments on safety of cloned animals
April 4 , 2007
Source of Article: http://www.ift.org/cms/?pid=1000363
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has extended until May 3 the deadline for public comments on its ruling that milk and meat from some cloned animals are safe to eat. The previous deadline was April 2.
FDA is extending the period to allow interested persons additional time to submit comments. For more, see www.fda.gov/OHRMS/DOCKETS/98fr/E7-6170.htm.

FDA proposes rule to change irradiated food labels
By Ann Bagel Storck on 4/4/2007 for Meatingplace.com
The Food and Drug Administration has proposed changes to its rules about labeling irradiated foods. The proposed rule would require irradiated food to be labeled only when irradiation causes a "material change" in the product, such as a change in the taste, texture, smell or shelf life. The proposal also would allow the term "pasteurized" to be used to describe irradiated food if processors can show FDA that the irradiation process meets the criteria for the use of "pasteurized" outlined in the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Companies would be able to petition the agency to use terms other than "irradiated" as well.

Food Safety/Quality Job Information, Click here

Senate panel to question FDA response to tainted pet food
Sen. Durbin says the agency should be able to order a recall rather than rely on companies to do so voluntarily.
By Chuck Neubauer, Times Staff Writer
April 8, 2007
Source of Article: http://www.latimes.com/
WASHINGTON Seeking ways to ensure that pet food is safe, a Senate subcommittee plans to question Food and Drug Administration officials as soon as Thursday about their response to the contamination that has killed pets and led to the recall of more than 100 brands.
On Saturday, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), a leading advocate of improving food safety, criticized the federal inspection process for both human and pet food. "The system is broken-down," he said.
Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, called for the hearing last week. He said he would like to see the FDA set national standards and inspection rules for pet food manufacturing facilities.
"The FDA is like a fire department that is only called after the house has burned," Durbin said in a telephone interview.
He also said he would like to see federal law changed to allow the FDA to order a recall of food intended for human or pet consumption rather than rely on companies to do it voluntarily.
The agriculture appropriations subcommittee plans to schedule a hearing for Thursday or sometime next week. Durbin said he expects to hear from FDA Commissioner Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach, veterinarians and representatives of the pet food industry.
The pet food recall, one of the largest in U.S. history, began March 16 when Menu Foods recalled selected "cuts and gravy" products made in its Emporia, Kan., facility in response to reports of kidney failures in cats and dogs. The company has recalled products manufactured from Nov. 8, 2006, to March 6. Officials with Menu Foods could not be reached Saturday.
Several other companies have also issued recalls.
The FDA has confirmed about 15 animal deaths from poisoning ? although the number could be much higher. The agency has received more than 12,000 reports of illnesses in the three weeks since the recall ? more than twice the number they normally receive in a year.
The recalled pet food was contaminated with melamine, a chemical used to make plastic products, which was found in wheat gluten, an ingredient used to thicken food, the FDA has concluded. The FDA said the tainted wheat gluten had been imported from one company in China.
The FDA said melamine has been found in the kidneys and urine of cats who died and "should not be in pet food at any level." The agency, however, is still investigating whether the chemical killed the animals.
In announcing the Senate hearing last week, Durbin called the pet food inspection system "deeply flawed" and criticized the FDA's response as "tragically slow." He said he hoped to learn when the FDA learned of the contamination and who is inspecting pet food plants.
"What we see here is an indication of problems across the board with food safety ? both human and pet," Durbin said Saturday. "There are too many agencies, too many laws, too many committee chairmen and too many special interest groups, which results in a piecemeal and splintered approach to food safety."
FDA officials could not be reached for comment Saturday.
Durbin said the Kansas facility where many of the products were made had never been inspected by the FDA. "I would be shocked if they inspected any pet facility," he said.
The FDA has "the ultimate responsibility for the safety of pet food," Durbin said, but leaves inspections of facilities to the states. He said he was told that Kansas had never inspected the facility. Durbin wants the FDA to work with the states to establish a standardized set of regulations and inspection requirements for pet food facilities. "Each state has it own rules and standards," he said.
He also said the FDA should take steps to enact rules so that companies that delay reporting problems could face fines.
He said Menu Foods first noticed a potential problem Feb. 20 with dogs getting sick, but waited until March 15 to contact the FDA.
"Three weeks in inexcusable," he said. "There is no requirement to report it on a timely basis."
Officials with Menu Foods have said that they acted promptly to recall the pet food after receiving just a few reports of illness and before the cause was identified, saving the lives of many pets.

Bronx Market Recalls Deli Products After Inspectors Find Listeria
Apr 6, 2007
Source of Article: http://www.ny1.com/ny1/content/index.jsp?stid=1&aid=68449
A Bronx supermarket recalled all of its ready-to-eat deli foods Thursday after inspectors found a potentially deadly form of bacteria.
Listeria was found at Exito Supermarket, located at 2300 Randall Avenue.
The bacteria can cause fatal infections in young children, elderly, and others with weakened immune systems.
The source of the contamination has not been found.
In the meantime, deli operations at the store have been closed.
Anyone with questions is asked to call the supermarket at 718-792-0068.

Mad Cow: Is America Next?
Tuesday April 10, 10:45 am ET
Source of Article: http://biz.yahoo.com/iw/070410/0236696.html
WHEAT RIDGE, CO--(MARKET WIRE)--Apr 10, 2007 -- GeneThera, Inc. (OTC BB:GTHA.OB - News).
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced in March it was reducing its national Mad Cow testing and tracking programs by 90 percent. The USDA will reduce its cattle-testing level to 40,000 cattle per year down from an average of about 360,000 cattle. The reduced testing level will cost $8 million a year. USDA said it will focus on the "most at-risk animals" that show demonstrated signs of the disease.
The decision on whether to cut back on tests was made after experts reviewed a draft analysis of data on almost 700,000 animals screened since June 2004. During that same time span, the United States slaughtered approximately 100 million cattle.
Currently, the U.S. government tests only 1 percent of the roughly 100,000 cattle slaughtered daily while the USDA's revised plan calls for testing only 0.11 percent. Many European countries and Japan are testing all slaughtered cattle. Additionally, the agency has backed off plans for a mandatory animal-tracking system, which can help identify the source of an infection and other animals at risk, and now says the program will be voluntary.
Commenting on the news, Dr. Tony Milici Chairman & CEO of GeneThera noted, "The USDA decision to greatly reduce testing for Mad Cow Disease is a matter of great concern. Despite the USDA reassuring statements about the safety of the US beef, it is far from clear, at the present time, what is the real impact of Mad Cow Disease on the cattle population in this country. Several issues also exist about the accuracy of the technology that has been used to test for Mad Cow Disease. Present techniques may not be able to detect the presence of the disease in all infected animals especially in the early stages of infection."
USDA's inspector general has criticized the USDA's testing program, saying it could have missed the highest-risk animals. The expanded system was voluntary, so it might not have captured a representative sample of the nation's herd. "It's as though the USDA was designing a 'don't look, don't find' system," said Michael Hansen, staff scientist for Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports. Consumers Union thinks 100 percent of livestock should be tested. "If you do testing of 100 percent of your animals, any ones that test positive never go into the food chain," said Michael Hansen. The agriculture secretary responded by saying that the people who are saying 100 percent testing "somehow solves the problem really are misleading you. Consumers should feel better than ever about the meat that they are buying."
However, the USDA's testing program is not random. The program is voluntary and beef processors are paid to bring in test samples. Since a diseased sample would result in serious ramifications for the slaughterhouse, there is an incentive to pick samples from healthier-looking cattle.
In a letter to the FDA, McDonald's Corporation (owner of the fast food chain) "...caution[ed] against using the 18 month enhanced surveillance as a justification to relax or impede further actions. While this surveillance indicates an epidemic is not underway, it does not clear the US cattle herd from infection." McDonald's further stated, "[c]oncerning [Mad Cow], the most effective way to insure [the highest level of safety is] to create a system that processes cattle that are not exposed to the disease. ...The exemptions in the current ban as well as in the newly proposed rule make this difficult if not impossible, as there are still legal avenues for ruminants to consume potentially contaminated ruminant protein." McDonald's further stated that according to "the FDA's own statement ... tissues which are known to have infectivity (such as distal ileum, DRGs, etc) would cumulatively amount to approximately 10% of the infectivity in an infected animal. Leaving approximately 10% of the infectious tissues in the system is not good enough. The proposed rule still allows the possibility for cattle to be exposed to Mad Cow.
Furthermore, the USDA inspector general found that government inspectors sometimes allowed cattle that couldn't walk (a potential sign of Mad Cow disease) to be slaughtered, contrary to department rules aimed at preventing Mad Cow disease. The report said that at two of 12 slaughter plants reviewed, 29 non-ambulatory cattle were slaughtered in a 10-month period. The report also stated that when field scientists recommended re-testing of a cow suspected of having Mad Cow disease last year, they were overruled by USDA officials who feared a positive finding might undermine confidence in the testing program. Auditors from the inspector general's office intervened, and the specimen was sent to England for retesting. It produced the second confirmed case of Mad Cow disease in the nation. Source: GeneThera, Inc

Vegetable growers aim to boost buyer confidence
10.apr.07
MSNBC News
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18029429/
SALINAS, Calif. -- According to this story, a total of 72 our of the 98 California vegetable handlers have voluntarily signed a marketing agreement, which offers a pledge to follow a set of new guideless.
The story notes that local handlers will meet Tuesday with the state to go over how the agreement works before inspections begin in the spring.
Once they do begin, any leafy green bearing the seal denotes safe handling, shipment and sale. The guidelines also keep tabs on all systems and prove more thorough inspections.

Raw milk still unsettled
09.apr.07
M.Live (Michigan)
Jo Collins Mathis
http://www.mlive.com/
Richard Hebron, who provides raw milk and other dairy products to members of the Family Farms' Cooperative and has been the subject of an investigation that led state authorities to confiscate a load of Hebron's groceries en route to Ann Arbor, was cited as saying that complying with a list of requests made by the state Department of Agriculture would put him out of business, adding, "We're eager to get this behind us. But the wheels of justice turn slowly."
The story says that in the meantime, members of the co-op pick up their farm-fresh groceries from 11 a.m. to noon every Friday at the Great Oak Cohousing complex in Scio Township.
Barbara Frank of Livonia was cited as saying she thinks nothing of driving 60 miles round-trip to pick up the creamy raw milk she credits with helping to keep her family healthy, adding, "There's so much goodness here. They better not take this away from us. Just try it."
The story explains that on Oct. 13, state police troopers took $7,000 worth of raw milk and other dairy products from Hebron's truck under a search warrant obtained by the MDA. Officials also searched his home in Vandalia and took his computer, business records and food.
Except for a few coolers, Hebron says the government has yet to return his property, valued at $20,000.
The months-long sting operation started after an Ann Arbor woman and co-op member called the health department about an illness in her family. She insisted the raw milk her family drank was not the culprit, but an undercover agricultural investigator was assigned to join the Family Farms' Cooperative.
Hebron says the MDA wants him to be classified as a retailer rather than a co-op because the products he delivers are not solely from his farm. But he says that change would wipe out his poultry business because there is no inspection processing center in his area.
The MDA also wants him to comply with the Food Safety and Quality Act of 2001, a lengthy list of regulations, Hebron said.
Michigan law prohibits the sale of raw unpasteurized milk, but it's legal for people who own their own dairy cows to drink the milk. So co-op members own shares of the cow herd, and Hebron says he acts as merely a delivery agent, charging a boarding and transfer fee of $6.25 per gallon.

FDA extends mad-cow testing at WSU lab
By The Associated Press
Thursday, April 5, 2007 Source of Article: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/
PULLMAN ? The only mad-cow testing laboratory in the Pacific Northwest will remain open for six more months, but officials insisted Wednesday it wasn't because of increased fears of the chronic brain-wasting disease in the region.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) contract for testing at Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine expired March 1 as part of the agency's efforts to scale back monitoring for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad-cow disease.
The USDA has extended the contract through Sept. 30, with the option for further extensions, WSU officials said Wednesday. "Reports circulated in the media a few months ago that stated the WSU laboratory was shutting down," said Terry McElwain, executive director of the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at WSU. "The USDA was simply scaling back the amount of testing being done but was intent on maintaining the capacity and ability to ramp up BSE testing in a moment's notice."
The contract extension is not the result of increased BSE fears in Northwest herds, he said.
"There is no increased concern or suspicion for BSE in the U.S. at this time, and the testing we're doing is part of the USDA's routine surveillance that protects animal health and our food supply," McElwain said.
The WSU lab was opened after the nation's first mad-cow case, in the Yakima Valley in December 2003, prompted some new safeguards. Since then, it has processed more than 46,000 samples sent from slaughterhouses in five Northwest states.
It takes fewer than eight hours to test for BSE at the lab, which has the capacity to test several hundred samples a day. The USDA announced in March it was reducing its costly national BSE testing and tracking programs by 90 percent. Of 759,000 animals tested, only two other infected cows were found after the initial mad-cow scare, proving the disease is extremely rare, the USDA said. Mad-cow disease is a chronic, degenerative disease of the brain and spinal cord in cattle. Cattle can get the disease through contaminated meat and bone meal fed to the animal as a protein source. It is thought that people who eat infected beef can contract the human variant of the disease, which also occurs spontaneously.
Mad-cow disease has infected more than 180,000 cattle worldwide since it was first discovered in Great Britain in 1986. At least 180 people worldwide have died after eating meat infected with mad-cow disease in the past two decades. Symptoms can take years to develop.

Foodborne illness research center forms
Source of Article: http://www.meatnews.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=Article&artNum=14570
UNITED STATES: A non-profit dedicated to preventing foodborne disease through research, education and advocacy has been formed.
The Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention (CFI) has been formed to prevent foodborne disease through research, education and advocacy.
The non-profit was formed by Barbara Kowalcyk and Patricia Buck, a mother-daughter set of advocates. They became active volunteers for food safety after the death of Kevin Kowalcyk, the two-year-old son of Barbara and Michael Kowalcyk, in 2001 from complications due to an E. coli O157:H7 infection.
Kowalcyk, former president of Safe Tables Our Priority (S.T.O.P.), will serve as director of food safety for CFI. She said in a news release, ¡°CFI was founded to help America find innovative, science-based solutions for the food challenges of the 21st century.¡± ¡°Food safety needs to become a top priority for America. I hope that CFI will generate new ways of engaging people, particularly those who provide food to vulnerable populations, in learning more about food safety issues and safe food handling practices,¡± Buck, the group¡¯s executive director, said in the same release.

Leafy greens board adopts safety measures
04.apr.07
California Farm Bureau Federation
Kate Campbell
http://www.cfbf.com/agalert/AgAlertStory.cfm?ID=789&ck=68053AF2923E00204C3CA7C6A3150CF7
With the April 1 deadline for start-up looming, the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement Board settled a number of important issues last Friday during its meeting in Woodland. The board voted to set the per-box assessment for handlers, accepted enhanced food safety practices for growers and nominated former state Assemblymember Barbara Matthews of Tracy to serve on the board as its public member.
There are still important measures the board will need to approve in coming weeks. For example, it has not finalized the details for use of the certification mark that indicates that leafy greens bearing the mark have been grown and processed in compliance with the food safety practices. The board also plans to hire a director to oversee board operations in the future.
"We're seeing substantial steps being taken to get the marketing agreement up and running," said board chairman Joe Pezzini, who is vice president for operations at Ocean Mist Farms in Castroville. "We've set the assessment rate, which gives us a budget, and the metrics for growers have been accepted. These are the basis for the verification program. It's what we will be held to."
The per-carton assessment was set at 2 cents, conservatively yielding an estimated first-year operating budget of about $4.6 million. Most of this money will go toward the cost of government inspections and verifications. Experts told the board's technical subcommittee those costs could range from $2 million to as much as $5 million.
Addressing the concern that leafy greens vegetable growers might not be fully aware of the enhanced food safety practicesalso known as "good agricultural practices" or "metrics" Pezzini said, "My gut feeling is that growers are aware and have a good idea of how any measures not currently being followed will be incorporated into their daily field operations.
"In our operation, acceptance of the metrics won't have a big impact. We've already been implementing the measures. But there are some areas we'll be looking at more closely."
Rayne Thompson, California Farm Bureau Federation director of international trade and plant health, said, "The recent decisions by the board show it's serious about moving forward quickly. No other alternative for a food safety program of this nature has proved to be as fast in coming together as this one.
"They've made some of their most difficult decisions in recent weeks, but there is still work to do and we will need to continue looking at the program to constantly improve on it," Thompson said.
Prior to the meeting of the full board, the technical committee heard comments from U.S. Department of Agriculture and California Department of Food and Agriculture representatives on the costs and mechanics of inspection and verification programs.
Those representing government told the board they anticipate needing about 11 auditors. Additional personnel may be required to do field inspections and technical reviews. There will also be one-time startup costs in Salinas, where auditors would be based and where there currently is no government inspection office.
Hank Giclas, Western Growers vice president for science and technology, told the committee that there has been a good deal of progress on refining the food safety practices, but there are still points to finalize. He said, however, as designed, all inspections will begin with handlers and then extend into the field.
As conceived, handlers will be required to have complete, up-to-date information on their leafy greens suppliers. They will maintain a complete compliance manual and their written compliance plan will be inspected prior to certification to use the mark.
"What we're looking for is every time an inspector visits and requests backup documents those documents are there," Giclas said. "The inspections will be used to establish frequency of inspection based on what inspectors find. Growers will be responsible for managing their fields against the guidelines."
He said all leafy greens fields planted after April 1 and going to a handler certified under the marketing agreement will be subject to unannounced inspections and audits. Currently handlers representing more than 90 percent of the leafy greens grown in California have agreed to be bound by the marketing agreement.
If a grower supplied produce to several different handlers, that grower will only be audited once. And, over time, more streamlined recordkeeping and stricter adherence to the food safety practices may make the inspection and verification process go faster, which will also make it less expensive.
USDA is reviewing the practices this week to ensure that measures are verifiable and auditable. One important detail still being worked out is establishing levels of compliancewhat constitutes major and minor compliance points.
The food safety practices are viewed as minimum criteria for growers who supply greens to participating handlers. The measures will evolve as science and technology reveal better safeguards.
Farming practices addressed in the document include irrigation, fertilization, proximity to livestock, wildlife access and worker hygiene. Post-harvest practices, including cooling, processing and shipping, are also included.
Giclas said the way the inspection program is envisioned, every ranch or field or block producing leafy greens in California will be inspected and audited at least once during the growing season.
While the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement board was meeting Friday the Food and Drug Administration and California Department of Health Services released a joint report on the extensive investigation into the causes of the E.coli O157:H7 outbreak in spinach last fall. The contamination resulted in 205 confirmed illnesses and three deaths.
Because the contamination occurred before the investigation started, and because of the many ways E.coli O157:H7 can be transferredincluding animals, humans and waterthe precise way the bacteria spread to the spinach remains unknown.
"The probe was a notable effort by federal, state and local officials," said Robert Brackett, director of the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. "It yielded valuable information we can use to determine how best to reduce the likelihood of similar outbreaks."
He said that by using the product codes on the spinach bags, and employing DNA fingerprinting on the bacteria from the bags, investigators matched environmental samples of E.coli from one field to the strain that had caused the outbreak.
Potential environmental risk factors for presence of E.coli at or near the field included the presence of wild pigs, the proximity of irrigation wells used to grow produce for ready-to-eat packaging, and surface waterways exposed to feces from cattle and wildlife.
Recently, FDA issued a draft final guidance document called "Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards of Fresh-cut Fruits and Vegetables." The guide recommends measures to prevent microbial contamination during the processing of fresh-cut produce.
Also last week, the agency explored safety issues for fresh produce at a public hearing held in Oakland, and it plans to hold a similar hearing on April 13 in Maryland. The goal of both events is to solicit and share information about the recent outbreaks and measures the agency could adopt to advance the safety of fresh produce.
More information on the Leafy Greens Handler Marketing Agreement is available at www.cdfa.ca.gov/mkt/mkt. The California Farm Bureau Federation Web site has the accepted version of the enhanced food safety practices at www.cfbf.com/leafygreens.
(Kate Campbell is a reporter for Ag Alert. She may be contacted at kcampbell@cfbf.com.)
Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.

UW-RF 27th annual food microbiology symposium & workshop
09.apr.07
University of Wisconsin
Department of Animal and Food Science
http://www.uwrf.edu/food-science/foodmicrosymposium/Foodmicro.html
¡°Current Concepts in Foodborne Pathogens and Rapid and Automated Methods
in Food Microbiology.¡±
When: October 21 ? October 24, 2007
Where: University of Wisconsin-River Falls
For More Information Contact: University of Wisconsin-River Falls Animal
and Food Science Department 715.425.3704.
Website: http://www.uwrf.edu/food-science, click on the link to our
Workshops, then the link to the Food Microbiology Symposium.
Email: foodmicro@uwrf.edu c/o Laura Walsh regarding questions other than
marketing
The Technical program consists of lecture/discussions on food-borne
pathogens, toxins, safety, quality, and shelf-life issues by speakers from
academia, industry, and regulatory agencies. Presentations will also be
given by representatives of carious companies involved in developing and
marketing rapid and automated methods for microbiological analysis of
food, water, and the environment.

Del Monte Pet Products Modifies Voluntary Recall List
FDA Issues Health Hazard Alert for Pet Chews Due to Contamination with Salmonella

New Norovirus Strain
8:32 PM Apr 2, 2007
Knoxville (WVLT) - A new strain of norovirus is hitting some communities hard.
Source of Article: http://www.volunteertv.com/news/headlines/6837892.html
Norovirus is a very common virus, but a new strain is stronger, longer lasting and more contagious.
Major outbreaks have been reported nationwide this season, overwhelming nursing homes, colleges, prisons, elementary schools and cruise ships.
The CDC says at least 60 percent of the outbreaks last winter were of the new strain.
"The viruses simply get stronger in their ability to pass from person to person, and perhaps here that is what's happening," said Dr. Randy Pardue from Family Medicine.
The symptoms of norovirus are similar to that of a stomach virus. The CDC is trying to explain the surge in norovirus, not only in the U.S., but worldwide. It will issue a report with more details on this latest strain in the next few weeks.

New & Blue CM-MP Technology Extended to Include Staph aureus Latex Kit from Pro-Lab
source from: rapidmicrobiology.com
Although most Staphylococcus species are common inhabitants of the skin and mucous membranes, certain species have been found frequently as etiological agents of a variety of human and animal infections. Superficial supportive infections caused by S. aureus are the most common human staphylococcal infections. Food poisoning and toxic shock syndrome also have been attributed to infection with S. aureus. The coagulase tube test was previously the most widely test used for the identification of S. aureus, however, false positives have led to criticism of this method. Essers and Radebold described a rapid slide agglutination test which has been shown to be a reliable method for identification of S.aureus in the routine bacteriological laboratory.
Latex agglutination reagents used for detection of antigens or antibody have traditionally been prepared by physical adsorption of biological molecules to the surface of plain polystyrene (PS) micro-particles [1]. Although perfectly acceptable latex reagents are created with this methodology, reagent stability and reactivity may be enhanced by covalent attachment of antigens and antibody to functionalized micro-particles. For example, Ortega-Vinuesa et al. [2] observed that covalent attachment of IgG resulted in improved immunodetection of C-reactive protein and storage characteristics relative to passive adsorption. The authors speculated this may have been due to more favorable orientation of the IgG on the surface of sensitized microparticles.
Numerous approaches have been developed for covalent attachment of biological molecules to micro-particles [1]; however, the most common employs carboxylate-modified microparticles (CM-MP) and chemical cross-linking agents.
Prolex¢â Latex
Agglutination Systems are based on CM-MP and this represents a significant improvement over the traditional latex kits in terms of product performance characteristics, giving faster, clearer and more specific reactions.
The Prolex¢â Staph Latex Kit utilizes blue carboxylate-modified microparticles (CM-MP) which have been sensitized with fibrinogen and IgG. When Staphylococcal colonies which possess clumping factor and / or protein A are mixed with the latex reagent, the latex particles agglutinate strongly within 20 seconds.

Features
As little as one colony required from primary culture
Enhanced results with blue carboxylate-modified micro-particles (CM-MP)
Detects both Coagulase and Protein A
Definitive results obtained within 20 seconds
Contains negative control
Available in 2 convenient sizes, 100 tests and 300 tests
Includes unique agglutination card design
References
[1] Molina-Bolivar, J.A. and Galisteo-Gonzalez, F. (2005) Comprehensive Review - Latex Immunagglutination Assays. Journal of Macromolecular Science, Part C: Polymer Reviews 45, 59-98.
[2] Ortega-Vinuesa, J.L., Bastos-Gonzalez, D. and Hidalgo-Alvarez, R.
(1996) Effect of Storage Time on the Immunoreactivity of IgG Physically Adsorbed or Chemically Bound to Latex Beads. J Colloid Interface Sci 184, 331-334.

LITMUS and FDA collaboration leads to global food safety breakthrough
04.apr.07
from a press release
LITMUS, LLC, a leading global technology innovations company, announces today a breakthrough which will dramatically improve current testing methods to detect food borne pathogens such as Salmonella, Listeria, Campylobacter, and E.coli. This advancement in bacterial pathogen-testing technology provides growers, producers and processors quicker and more accurate results, thereby reducing the risk of contaminated foods reaching consumers. The new procedures are the result of a two-year collaboration between LITMUS and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)¡¯s National Center for Toxicological Research.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that unsafe foods cause as many as 76 million illnesses in the U.S. annually. While the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that the national costs associated with food borne illness could be as much as US$37 billion annually.
CEO and founder of LITMUS, Mark Diggs, said: ¡°One of the key issues in protecting the public from bacterial outbreaks is being able to quickly and accurately detect bacterial pathogens before they hit the grocery shelves. This is no simple matter and the available testing methods simply take too long.¡±
LITMUS Scientist, Dr. Dwight Miller said: ¡°Our progress over the last two years has been remarkable. These new methods are unlike any currently available and they yield more accurate results in just minutes versus days.¡±
Currently, most food products are tested by ¡°culturing¡± samples to see if any bacterial pathogens are present. The results must then be assessed by a microbiologist or expert lab technician. The entire process typically takes two to three days which is a substantial delay for perishable products like meats and fresh produce waiting to enter the supply chain.
The new method eliminates the lengthy process of growing cultures and waiting on lab analysis. The LITMUS RAPID-B methods bypass the culturing and expert identification phase by directly detecting and identifying individual bacteria in one step and provide results in less than 15 minutes.

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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