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FDA/USDA say low risk to humans from meat with melamine
Source of Article:
5/07/2007-According to the U.S. FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there is very low risk to human health from consuming meat from hogs and chickens known to have been fed animal feed supplemented with pet food scraps that contained melamine and melamine-related compounds, according to an assessment conducted by scientists from five federal agencies.
In the most extreme risk assessment scenario, when scientists assumed that all the solid food a person consumes in an entire day was contaminated with melamine at the levels observed in animals fed contaminated feed, the potential exposure was about 2,500 times lower than the dose considered safe. In other words, it was well below any level of public health concern.
The risk assessment is an important new science-based component of the continuing federal joint investigation into imported wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate from China that contained melamine and melamine-related compounds.
The risk assessment was conducted by scientists from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This team is now compiling a scientific assessment of the risk to animal health associated with ingestion of animal feed containing melamine and its compounds.
FDA and USDA are in the process of identifying a group of experts to convene a scientific advisory board that would be charged with reviewing the risk assessment. This group would also be asked to contribute to future scientific analysis related to the risk of melamine and its compounds to humans and animals.
In the course of the investigation, it was discovered that pet food was contaminated by wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate that contained melamine and its compounds. Subsequently, scraps of contaminated pet food that contained only low levels of melamine were distributed to farms in a limited number of states and added to the feed consumed by swine and poultry. These scraps constituted only a small percentage of the farm animal rations. In addition, melamine is known to be excreted in animal urine. When exposure levels are much higher, as was the case with cats and dogs, the melamine and its compounds appear to cause the formation of crystals in the kidney systems, resulting in kidney damage. There was no indication of kidney damage in hogs. Both hogs and chickens known to have been fed contaminated feed appear to be healthy.
This dilution factor was an important piece of data considered in the multi-agency science-based human risk analysis and helps to support the conclusion that there is very low risk to human health from eating meat from animals that were fed the contaminated product. This conclusion supports the decision announced on April 28 not to recall meat from animals that were fed the contaminated product.
Currently, swine and poultry on farms suspected of receiving contaminated feed are being held under state quarantine or voluntarily by the owners. In several cases, feed samples have tested negative for melamine and related compounds. These tests were conducted by federal laboratories or state laboratories using approved methods. It is assumed that because only small amounts of the contaminated feed were mixed with other rations, the melamine and related compounds were no longer detectable. USDA has concluded that, based on the human risk assessment and the inability to detect melamine in the feed samples, these animals no longer need to be quarantined or withheld from processing.
In other cases, feed samples have tested positive for melamine and related compounds; feed samples were not available; or feed samples have not yet been submitted for testing. These animals continue to be withheld from processing, but are not yet being culled, pending the results of the animal risk assessment. This assessment is expected to be completed within one week. At that time, USDA will determine whether these animals can be released for inspection and further processing.
USDA and FDA continue to conduct a full and comprehensive investigation. As additional information is confirmed, updates will be provided and decisions will be made using the best available science to protect the public's health.
To ensure no further contaminated products enter the U.S., the federal government will continue to monitor imported wheat and corn gluten as well as rice protein concentrate and isolates arriving from all countries destined for human and animal consumption. The FDA import alert for these products sourced from China remains in effect and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will continue laboratory testing of the products as they enter the U.S. The inspections are a precautionary measure to ensure the safety of products entering at U.S. ports of entry. There is no evidence to suggest products bound for the human food supply are contaminated.
For additional information about the pet food and contaminated feed investigation, go to or The human safety/risk assessment will be available online upon completion of an executive summary.

USDA clears 20 million chickens for market in melamine investigation
By Alicia Karapetian on 5/7/2007 for
The Department of Agriculture on Monday announced that some 20 million chickens that may have eaten feed contaminated with melamine held on farms in several states will be released to market. "In several cases, feed samples have tested negative for melamine and related compounds," USDA said in a news release. "It is assumed that because only small amounts of the contaminated feed were mixed with other rations, the melamine and related compounds were no longer detectable." Last week, USDA pointed to 38 farms in Indiana where some 3.1 million chickens may have eaten tainted feed in February, but were slaughtered and sent to market. Also, about 6,000 hogs in six states may have also eaten contaminated feed. A hold was placed on the 20 million birds late Friday as the melamine investigation continued. (See For the birds: Contaminated feed now found on chicken farms in Indiana, on, May 1, 2007.)
Other animals, including poultry and hogs, will be held where melamine was detected, or where testing has not yet been completed.
Ray Atkinson, spokesman for Pilgrim's Pride Corp., the nation's largest chicken processor, told that none of the remaining flocks being held are part of Pilgrim's Pride's operations. "At this time we have no reason to believe that any of the chickens raised under contract for Pilgrim's Pride have been fed any unapproved ingredients as part of their normal feed formulas," he said.
USDA has declined to release the names of specific companies and farms concerned in the investigation, but some processors were quick to point out that they are not involved.
Livingston, Calif.-based Foster Farms, the largest chicken processor on the West Coast, released a statement saying, "Foster Farms does not import any protein ingredients from China for its poultry feed." The company also said that there is no USDA hold on any of its chickens. South Fallsburg, N.Y.-based Murray's Chickens also announced that it does "not use imported feed or grains to feeds our chickens."
Scientists from USDA also said on Monday that there was low risk to humans who consumed meat from animals that had their diets supplemented with pet food containing melamine.
"USDA has concluded that, based on the human risk assessment and the inability to detect melamine from these samples, these animals no longer need to be quarantined or withheld from processing," the agency said.
Meantime, industry officials are working with the agencies to resolve the situation. "Our industry's highest concern is for the food safety of its products," Richard Lobb, spokesman for the National Chicken Council told "We will work with [the] government to ensure that all products sent to market are safe."

Melamine: The Next E. coli?
Source of Article:
May 8, 2007
You might know the word ¡°melamine,¡± but do you know what it means or how it affects the food supply you rely on? By Fred Minnick
The North American food supply has been contaminated?again. This time, it¡¯s not E. coli, Mad Cow, avian flu, or salmonella.
The most-recent headline grabber is the chemical melamine, an organic compound, which entered animal feeds and is part of the pet-food contamination that resulted in 150 brand and 5,300 product recalls.
On May 1, federal officials said at least 2.5 million broiler chickens from an Indiana producer were fed pet-food scraps contaminated with melamine and entered the food supply. They estimate between 2.5 million and 3 million ate the contaminated poultry. As of press time, no illnesses have been reported nor have there been reports of restaurant connections. But officials said hundreds of other producers might have sold an unknown number of contaminated poultry in recent months, which means there was a broader consumption of contaminated feed and food than had previously been acknowledged in the pet-food situation. Two weeks prior to the poultry announcement, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced swine had been contaminated with melamine, too, but said pork fed adulterated feeds will not be approved to enter the food supply.
The FDA determined that rice protein concentrate imported from China was contaminated with melamine and melamine-related compounds and was imported by Wilbur-Ellis, an importer and distributor of agricultural products. Although the company began importing product from China in August 2006, Wilbur-Ellis did not become aware of the contamination until April 2007. The FDA believes the rice protein was used in the production of pet food and a portion of the pet food was used to produce animal feed. An ongoing investigation is tracing products distributed since August 2006 by Wilbur-Ellis throughout the distribution chain. Last week, as part of its investigation, the FDA ordered all vegetable protein imports from China used in human and animal food detained.
But the agency is adamant that the chemical poses little threat to humans. John Groves, professor of chemistry at Princeton University, told the Associated Press that when tested in rats and mice, melamine has shown very low toxicity, meaning it is only harmful in extremely high doses. Groves said it has produced stones that resulted in bladder tumors in rats when they were fed a diet that was 10,000 parts per million, or 1 percent, melamine.
¡°We do not believe there is any significant threat of human illness from this,¡± said David Acheson, the FDA chief medical officer, in a conference call with reporters on May 1.
The FDA and other governmental agencies are continuing to determine the threat level melamine poses.
But the agency is adamant that the chemical poses little threat to humans.¡± ¡°What the [restaurant] industry has to worry about is what statements are put out by health departments and secondarily, how many animals are going to be affected and held back from market, which could affect the price,¡± says Gary Karp, executive vice president for Technomic.
Operators are already experiencing an accelerated cost market because of the price of corn and feed grains. Karp says the melamine contamination might further limit the available supply of poultry and pork, too. ¡°At the same time, the health departments are trying to determine how the trace amounts [of melamine] will impact health,¡± Karp says. ¡°If this gets to be a much larger issue and much larger suppliers get affected, this could have a substantial effect on goods and availability.¡±
Smithfield Inc. said in a statement that it has not purchased or processed hogs from any farms quarantined by the FDA or USDA. The company also said that its suppliers have discovered no feed ingredients that have been identified by the FDA to contain the chemical melamine in their swine feeding systems. Representatives of Perdue and Tyson Foods said in letters to supermarkets that they do not use protein ingredients from China in their feeds.
Says Dr. Donna Garren, vice president of health and safety regulatory affairs, National Restaurant Association: ¡°Food safety is the number one priority for our nation¡¯s restaurants. We are in contact with the FDA and will continue to keep our members informed as updates become available.¡±


Farm milk may reduce asthma and allergy
By Stephen Daniells
Source of Article:
11/05/2007 - Regular consumption of unpasteurised farm milk may offer protection from range of allergies, but the researchers cautioned against drinking raw milk until more research is carried out. The researchers, led by Marco Waser from the University of Basel, stress that they do not know what components of the raw milk may be responsible for such effects, but they could be linked to the pathogenic and non-pathogenic microbe levels in the milk. From this point of view, the research appears to be in line with previous studies that have reported that probiotic bacteria may reduce the risk of certain allergies like eczema and asthma in infants. Many studies, both epidemiological and animal, have reported that disorder of the intestinal microflora is closely related to food allergy development, said the researchers, suggesting that the non-pathogenic content of farm milk could offer an interesting avenue of future study. "The results of this study indicate that all children drinking farm milk have a lower chance of developing asthma and hay fever," said Dr Waser. "However raw milk may contain pathogens such as salmonella or enterohaemorrhagic E coli and its consumption may have serious health risks.
"We need to develop a deeper understanding of why farm milk offers children this higher level or protection and investigate ways of making the product safer, while retaining these protective qualities," he added. "At the moment we can only speculate about why farm milk protects children against asthma and allergies. Perhaps it is because farm milk has different levels or compositions of pathogenic and non-pathogenic microbes to milk sold in shops."
The PARSIFAL study - Prevention of Allergy Risk factors for Sensitisation in Children related to Farming and Anthroposophic Lifestyle - looked at 14,893 farm children aged between five and 13 from rural and suburban communities in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. Parents were asked to complete detailed questionnaires about their child's consumption of milk, butter, yoghurt, eggs and fruit and vegetables and whether they were farm-produced or shop-bought. Questions were also asked about breastfeeding habits and any allergies or asthma problems affecting the child or their family. Blood tests to measure levels of the allergy specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) - the predominant antibody associated with an allergic response - were also carried out on about 4,000 children from across the five countries. Writing in the journal Clinical and Experimental Allergy, Waser and co-workers report that consumption of farm milk, whether boiled or not, was associated with a reduction in the occurrence of asthma by 26 per cent, hay fever by 33 per cent, and food allergy by 58 per cent. No effect was observed for eczema. "It is interesting that there was no difference in the farm milk results regardless of whether it was boiled before consumption. As boiling is likely to have been over-reported, this could indicate that pasteurisation is not as important as previously thought, as compounds other than microbes may offer a protective role," said Dr. Waser.
With previous research also showing a benefit from omega-3 fatty acids, future studies should include fatty acid profiles in addition to the microbial content, said the researchers.
"But despite our findings, we cannot recommend consumption of raw farm milk," he added. "A deepened understanding of the relevant 'protective' components of farm milk and a better insight into the biological mechanisms underlying the reported epidemiological observation are warranted as a basis for the development of a safe product for prevention," concluded the researchers. In an accompanying editorial, Michael Perkin from the University of London said the paper added to the body of evidence reporting the benefits of unpasteurised milk consumption. "The potential of identifying the underlying mechanism that yields a two-thirds reduction in sensitization must be worth pursuing. The key issue now is to determine what underlies this protective effect and whether it is possible to separate the protective from the potentially hazardous elements," he said.
According to the European Federation of Allergy and Airway Diseases Patients Association (EFA), over 30m europeans suffer from asthma, costing Europe ¢æ17.7bn ($23.8bn) every year. The cost due to lost productivity is estimated to be around ¢æ9.8bn ($13.2bn).
The American Lung Association stated that almost 20m Americans suffer from the condition - reported to be responsible for over 14m lost school days in children, while the annual economic cost of asthma is said to be over $16.1bn (¢æ11.9bn).
The work was supported by the European Union, the Swiss National Research Foundation, the Swiss-based Kuehne-Foundation and the Swedish Foundation for Health Care Science and Allergy Research.
Source: Clinical and Experimental Allergy
May 2007, Volume 37, Pages 661-670
"Inverse association of farm milk consumption with asthma and allergy in rural and suburban populations across Europe"
Authors: M. Waser, K.B. Michels, C. Bieli, H. Floistrup, G. Pershagen, E. von Mutius, M. Ege, J. Riedler, D. Schram-Bijkerk, B. Brunekreef, M. van Hage, R. Lauener, C. Braun-Fahrlander, the PARSIFAL Study team
Editorial: Clinical and Experimental Allergy
May 2007, Volume 37, Pages 627-630
"Unpasteurised milk: health or hazard ?"
Author: M.R. Perkin

Pet Food Poisoning Mystery May Be Solved
Finding Comes As Menu Foods Expands Its Recall And Senate OKs Regulation Of Pet Food Labels
WASHINGTON, May 3, 2007
Source of Article:
(CBS/AP) The mystery of how two chemicals that are considered non-toxic poisoned so many pets may have been solved, CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes reports.
The breakthrough was made at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. A week ago, scientist Perry Martos mixed together a few drops of melamine and cyanuric acid, the two unauthorized chemicals found in tainted pet food.
In less than a second, they formed a mass of crystals nearly identical to crystals found in the kidneys of sickened animals.
"If you can imagine an instantaneous kidney stone ? that's essentially the way I would perceive it," says Martos.
Dr. Kimberly May of the American Veterinary Medical Association says the discovery could end up saving the lives of animals that eat the tainted food, Cordes reports.
"It's very possible that the crystals that are formed may be dissolved by ... altering the medical treatment somehow, and that is being investigated," she said.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government reportedly has made one arrest in the contamination case. It's believed the chemicals were added deliberately as cheap substitute for real protein. In Washington, the Senate voted unanimously Thursday to standardize the nutrition labels on pet food and to fine pet food makers who don't report problems right away. These discoveries come as Menu Foods recalled yet another batch of its products. Menu Foods said the recall was due to possible cross-contamination between melamine-tainted products and other foods made in the same period.
The expansion includes cuts and gravy pet food, as well as other products that were not made with the contaminated wheat gluten supplied by ChemNutra Inc., but were manufactured during the period the chemical-laced gluten was used.
The company based its decision on study results that revealed cross-contamination, as well as one report from a customer.
The recall now includes additional pet food products in the United States, Canada and Europe. It also expands the date ranges of previously recalled products to match the period that melamine-tainted wheat gluten was used in manufacturing plants.
Menu estimates that the additional itemed added to the recall represent less than 5 percent of all products already recalled or withdrawn.
More than 100 brands of pet food have been recalled since March 16 because they were contaminated with melamine. An unknown number of dogs and cats have been sickened or died after eating chemical-laced pet food.
For a complete list of Menu's recalled products visit their Web site at Menu Foods:

Scientists support FDA's OK of food from clones
By Tom Johnston on 5/3/2007 for
More than 200 scientists have pledged support of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's preliminary approval of food from cloned animals. "We support and agree with the FDA's conclusion as stated in the science-based draft risk assessment that edible products from healthy cloned animals and progeny of cloned animals pose no additional food consumption risks relative to corresponding products from other animals," the scientists proclaimed in a sign-on document distributed by the Federation of Animal Science Societies. "This is one of the most rigorous food safety reviews ever conducted," FASS CEO Dr. Jerome Baker said in a press release. "The American people should be absolutely confident in the FDA's good work."
Among the scientists who signed the document were leading researcher Dr. Terry Etherton, a member of the National Academy of Sciences panel that evaluated the safety of food from cloned animals, and Dr. Ian Wilmut, one of the "fathers" of Dolly the Sheep.
FASS also ran an ad in Wednesday's Washington Post, in which Etherton says, "The scientific evidence is absolutely, robustly clear. There is no food safety risk from the meat or milk from clones, or from their conventionally bred offspring."
FDA rendered its initial OK of food from cloned animals in December. (See FDA: Cloned animal products are edible on, Dec. 29, 2006.)

Scientists Look to Vaccines in the War on E. Coli
(New York Times)
Shousun C. Szu, a scientist at the National Institutes of Health, says the best way to prevent people from being poisoned by deadly E. coli would be to vaccinate all infants against the bacteria. Graeme McRae, a Canadian biotechnology executive, says it would be more practical to inoculate cows instead. Vaccines for people and for cattle are just two approaches under development to prevent or treat food poisoning by the strain E. coli O157:H7. Right now, scientists can do little medically to fight the pathogen, which was responsible for two severe outbreaks last fall, one from contaminated bagged spinach and a second from tainted lettuce served in chain taco restaurants. The main approach has been to try to prevent contamination through careful handling, rigorous inspections and government regulation. Slaughterhouses have already sharply reduced contamination through practices like washing carcasses with hot water, steam or acids. Now the focus is on new procedures and regulations for the fresh-produce industry. Some researchers say medical approaches could eventually supplement food-processing measures. To pave the way, an advisory committee of the Food and Drug Administration met on April 12 to discuss how to run clinical trials of drugs to treat E. coli infections. On the animal side, a vaccine for cattle developed by Mr. McRae¡¯s company, Bioniche Life Sciences, was approved in December for distribution to veterinarians in Canada. Studies have shown that the vaccine can reduce but not eliminate the E. coli shed into manure. Not only does that make the cows cleaner as they go into the slaughterhouse, but it could also conceivably reduce the risk that the germ will spread from a feedlot to a nearby produce field though water or wild animals. Cows and their manure are considered the major sources of the pathogen.
¡°If we can reduce the likelihood that animals are going to carry the bacteria, then we might reduce over time what they put out into the environment,¡± said Guy Loneragan, a veterinary epidemiologist at West Texas A&M University, who has received financing from the beef industry. Other methods being tested include cattle antibiotics, an industrial chemical, bacterial-killing viruses and friendly bacteria to displace the evil ones.
One big potential barrier is that ranchers and feedlots may have little incentive to pay for such treatments, because they do not make the cows grow faster. Nor do they keep the cows healthy, because O157 does not sicken the cows that harbor it.
¡°The cattle industry is within pennies of making a profit or not,¡± said Carolyn Hovde Bohach, a professor of microbiology at the University of Idaho who is working on a different E. coli vaccine for cattle. ¡°Would it be their responsibility to protect vegetables?¡±
Efforts to develop drugs and vaccines for people also face barriers. Because outbreaks are rare and sporadic, for instance, it would be difficult to test such treatments in clinical trials.
It might be hard to diagnose the infection in time to intervene medically.
And any treatment would have to be very safe, because it would be given to children and because most people improve without any intervention.
E. coli O157:H7 causes 75,000 cases of infection and 61 deaths in the United States each year, according to a 1999 estimate by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted on its Web site. The actual number of confirmed cases has dropped since then, particularly in 2003 and 2004, but increased in 2005 and 2006, in part because of the outbreaks tied to spinach and lettuce. As few as 10 bacteria can make someone ill. The bacteria release one or two potent toxins that cause bloody diarrhea. In 15 percent of children younger than 10, and more rarely for adults, the infection causes hemolytic uremic syndrome, in which red blood cells are destroyed and the kidneys fail. In a small percentage of such cases, the syndrome proves fatal.
Dr. Phillip I. Tarr, an expert at Washington University in St. Louis, says treatment is difficult because the bloody diarrhea that signals infection may not occur until three to four days after ingestion of the bacteria. By then, a patient could be well on the way to kidney failure.
Antibiotics, the usual treatment for bacterial infection, only make things worse by killing the bacteria and releasing more of their toxin, Dr. Tarr said. He added that the sole treatment shown to reduce the severity of kidney problems was intravenous fluids.
Other scientists are trying. Thallion Pharmaceuticals of Montreal and Teijin Pharma of Japan have separately developed monoclonal antibodies that can latch on to the toxin molecules and neutralize them. Monoclonal antibodies, a synthetic version of the body¡¯s own infection fighters, are commonly used to treat cancer and other diseases. 5-1-07

Lunds and Byerly's E. coli Cases in Minnesota
Posted on May 8, 2007 by E. coli Attorney
Source of Article:
From a Press Release from the Minnesota State Department of Health:
E. coli O157:H7 cases linked to ground beef purchased at Lunds or Byerly¡¯s stores since mid-April - Product removed from store shelves; customers asked to return or destroy it
State health and agriculture officials are investigating seven cases of E. coli O157:H7 infection in Minnesota residents associated with eating ground beef purchased from Lunds or Byerly¡¯s stores since mid-April. Routine monitoring by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) found that the cases of illness were all caused by E. coli O157:H7 with the same DNA fingerprint. All of the cases had purchased the ground beef from one of four Lunds or Byerly¡¯s stores in the west metro area since April 12. The people became ill between April 21 and 28 after consuming the meat. The cases include two children and five adults. Three of the cases were hospitalized, but all have been discharged.
¡°The stores currently involved include Byerly¡¯s St. Louis Park, Byerly¡¯s Minnetonka, Byerly¡¯s Chanhassen and Lunds Edina. However, we can¡¯t be certain that meat from other stores is not involved, since all of the beef used for ground beef for Lunds and Byerly¡¯s stores comes from a single processing facility,¡± said Heidi Kassenborg, Acting Director of the Dairy and Food Inspection Division of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA).
Ground beef that was purchased after April 7 from a Lunds or Byerly¡¯s store, whether still in the refrigerator or freezer, should not be used, but should be discarded or returned to the store, officials said. As a precautionary measure, Lunds and Byerly¡¯s have voluntarily removed many varieties of ground beef from all of their stores and are cooperating fully with the investigation.
Lunds and Byerly¡¯s customers are urged to return or destroy fresh ground beef purchased at any of their stores since April 7, 2007. This includes ground beef purchased fresh then frozen at home. It includes fresh beef patties, fresh or frozen meatloaf and ground chili meat.

No danger from young cows infected with BSE, Japanese experts say
By Tom Johnston on 5/10/2007 for
Japanese experts have concluded that their tests failed to demonstrate that young cows infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy posed any danger to humans, according to what Kyodo News called "informed sources."
Representing Japan's Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, the team injected 11 mice with brain fluid extracted from two young BSE-infected cows in Japan and discovered that the rodents had not developed the disease up to 927 days after the injection, the sources said.
The 21- and 23-month-old cows were found to have been infected with BSE in 2003, prompting Tokyo to limit imports of U.S. beef to meat from cattle younger than 21 months old. With these results, Japanese officials apparently are bracing for pressure from the United States to raise the age limit to 30 months of age, a threshold already deemed safe by the World Organization for Animal Health and adopted by many nations.
Phil Seng, president and CEO of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, said in a press release that the finding could help in persuading Japan to ease its restrictions.
Meanwhile, some experts are skeptical about the testing method used by the ministry, saying there may not have been sufficient brain fluid used to cause infection.
"The test results fail to specify whether the prion that causes BSE was safe for the mice or whether the amount of brain fluid for injection was too limited," said Yasuhiro Yoshikawa, chairman of the Prion Expert Committee of Tokyo's Food Safety Commission.

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Tighter rules set on oyster harvests
May. 10, 2007
Source of Article:
UPDATED AT 8:47 A.M. Commercial oyster harvests will have stricter state controls this summer in hope of preventing outbreaks like the 113 cases of oyster-related bacterial illness reported in Washington last year. The Washington State Board of Health unanimously passed an emergency rule Wednesday setting maximum times that may elapse before oysters must be chilled after harvest, and imposing stringent monitoring of commercial oyster beds. The rule does not apply to oysters designated for cooking only.
State Department of Health officials proposed the rule after the bacterium Vibrio parahaemolyticus sickened a record number of people last summer with nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps, headache, fever and chills. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said about 300 cases of "vibriosis" linked to Pacific Northwest oysters were reported across the U.S. last year. Many more cases were likely not reported, health officials said. The new rule applies to 12 major growing areas and Hood Canal and will be in effect from June through September, when the bacteria thrive and invade oysters. After the summer, the board will study the rule¡¯s effects and consider making it permanent. It also will apply to any other area linked to an illness. Previously, state controls were based on guidelines set by the shellfish industry and approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration. The new state rule requires oyster producers to sample growing areas at least every two weeks for the bacteria and keep detailed records. Health authorities will immediately sample any area linked to an illness and, based on bacteria levels, could apply more stringent temperature controls or close the area. Two or more cases of illness also would automatically close the area.

Pregnant Women More Susceptible to Foodbourne Diseases
Compiled By Staff
May 10, 2007
Source of Article:
Pregnant women are about 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get food-borne diseases such as listeriosis and salmonellosis. And the results could be tragic: Both mother and unborn baby are at risk of serious illness, and the baby could die.
That's why researchers at Ohio State University and Colorado State University are developing a specialized food safety intervention program targeting pregnant women. And, thanks to a three-year, $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, they will be able to refine it and test its effectiveness.
"We've done all the groundwork, we have the basics for the educational materials," says Lydia Medeiros, a nationally recognized food safety expert and specialist with Ohio State University Extension. "But we need to find out if an intensive educational program is something that will help women stay healthy. In the end, we want to see a lower incidence of both listeriosis and salmonellosis among pregnant women as a result of participating in our curriculum."
Of the two illnesses, listeriosis is less common but poses more risk. Although only about 2,500 Americans are estimated to suffer from the illness each year, about 500 cases - one-fifth of those affected - are fatal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one-third of listeriosis cases occur in pregnant women, probably because hormonal changes during pregnancy affect the mother's immune system, leading to an increased susceptibility if exposed to the microorganism Listeria monocytogenes. Even if an exposed pregnant woman suffers no symptoms, the illness can be transmitted to the fetus, causing premature delivery, miscarriage, stillbirth, or other serious health problems for the newborn.
The CDC says that every year, about 40,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported in the United States, but the actual number of infections may be much greater because many mild forms of the illness go unreported. The center estimates that approximately 600 persons die each year with acute salmonellosis, with children, the elderly and the immunocompromised most at risk.

Regulators investigate China imports for melamine
By Ahmed ElAmin
Source of Article:
09/05/2007 - EU regulators are investigating whether the banned chemical melamine has made its way into Europe's food and feed supply chain from China.
The investigation should put EU processors on guard against potential contamination from ingredients sourced from China, which now finds itself in the spotlight over its food safety practices.
The regulators are responding to a request by the European Commission, made after the US Department of Agriculture reported last week that the contaminant had been found in pet food fed to hogs and chickens meant for human consumption. Hundreds of dogs and cats either died or suffered health problems as a result. The scare widened in the US after it was found to have entered the human food chain after pet food scrap was used as a feed supplement at a number of hog and chicken farms. The discovery led to the quarantine of hundreds of hogs and about 3m chickens in the US while inspectors checked them for health problems. US regulators have since said that the risk to human health was low and have said the animals can now be slaughtered for consumption.
Now regulators on this side of the Atlantic are keeping an eye out for the chemical to prevent similar food safety problems from happening here.
Melamine is an industrial chemical found in plastics. The US found that the chemical had been fraudulently added to wheat gluten and rice protein from China. The country has now banned its exporters from using the chemical as an additive to boost protein levels in feeds.
No evidence has turned up so far to indicate that it was ever used in ingredients meant for human consumption. In the UK the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said it is responding the the Commission request by co-ordinating a monitoring programme of imports to help ensure that products comply with the EU's feed and food law.
The FSA said it is also advising the feed and food industry to make the appropriate checks of their imported ingredients. The regulator noted that UK trade statistics indicate that only a small number of products entering the country is "low".
In the US, the FDA last week issued an import alert guidance, which singled out a number of wheat, rice, corn, soy and mung bean imports from China for regulatory attention.
The alert gave border control authorities the power to detain imports without first having to inspect them. Any increase in detention could mean some processors will find their ingredient imports are not available when they need them.

Food safety a growing concern for shoppers, FMI survey shows
By Ann Bagel Storck on 5/9/2007 for
Foodborne illness outbreaks are significantly changing consumer shopping behavior and attitudes, according to the Food Marketing Institute's "U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends, 2007" report. The number of consumers "completely" or "somewhat confident" in the safety of supermarket food declined from 82 percent in 2006 to 66 percent in 2007 ? the lowest point since 1989. Spinach (71 percent) topped the list of items consumers said they stopped buying, although beef (8 percent) also made the list. The survey was conducted in January 2007, when the outbreak linked to spinach headlined in the news.
The report also demonstrated that high fuel and home-heating costs are driving other changes in shopping. For example, 69 percent of those surveyed said they cook more and eat out less; 56 percent said they purchase more grocery store-brand items as opposed to national brand items; and 30 percent said they buy more canned, frozen or boxed foods as opposed to fresh food. Data for "U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends, 2007" was collected through surveys conducted by Harris Poll Online among a nationally representative sample of 2,307 U.S. shoppers. To participate in the survey, respondents were required to be a minimum of 15 years of age, hold primary or equal responsibility for food shopping and have shopped for groceries in the preceding two weeks.

BAX¢ç System Real-Time PCR Assay for Campylobacter Certified by AOAC-RI
source from:
A new BAX¢ç system assay from DuPont Qualicon that uses real-time PCR to detect Campylobacter has been certified as Performance Testedsm Method No. 040702 by the AOAC Research Institute in Gaithersburg, MD. Validation studies on enriched samples of ready-to-eat turkey and chicken carcass rinses compared BAX¢ç system performance to the ISO 10272-1:2006 culture method. AOAC-RI found that qualitative results with the BAX¢ç system demonstrated sensitivity that was equivalent to the reference method, with 99 percent specificity. The BAX¢ç system real-time PCR assay for Campylobacter, developed in alliance with Applied Biosystems, detects and differentiates three foodborne species of Campylobacter (C. jejuni, C. coli and C. lari) in the same sample. With less than 90 minutes processing time, the BAX¢ç system delivers next-day results on enriched samples.

"This new assay offers poultry customers a fast, sensitive and highly accurate method for detecting pathogenic Campylobacter" said Kevin Huttman, president of DuPont Qualicon. "Adding this AOAC certification to our portfolio of certified products provides even greater value to food businesses that choose the BAXA¢ç system as their preferred diagnostic method." Food processing companies around the world rely on the BAX¢ç system to detect pathogens or other organisms in raw ingredients, finished products and environmental samples. The automated system uses leading-edge technology, including polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays, tableted reagents and optimized media, to also detect Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli O157:H7, Enterobacter sakazakii and Staphylococcus aureus. With certifications and regulatory approvals in the Americas, Asia and Europe, the BAX¢ç system is recognized globally as the most advanced pathogen testing system available to food companies.

New test for bacteria in fruit juice
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5/10/2007-At the University of Missouri-Columbia, a food science professor has developed a rapid, reliable, and efficient technique to detect Alicyclobacillus, a bacterium that is not harmful to human health but does affect flavor and cause spoilage.
Collaborating with scientists in the United States and from around the world, Mengshi Lin, assistant professor of food science in the university's College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, has successfully used a new approach combining a DNA sequencing technique with mid-infrared spectroscopy to rapidly and accurately identify the bacterium. Alicyclobacillus is commonly found in apple, carrot, tomato, orange and pear juices, tropical fruit juices, and juice blends. A number of different tests are currently employed to find the bacterium, but some yield false negatives. This in turn can affect trade. Japan, for example, has a zero tolerance for this bacterium in imported juices, Lin said.
Identification is a challenge because spoilage can be difficult to distinguish visibly until test results are confirmed or after juice products have been opened and tasted by consumers. In addition to agitating taste buds, spoiled juice can affect consumer confidence.
Lin's technique identifies the organism quickly - in a matter of hours, unlike traditional culturing methods, which are time-consuming and require five to seven days to process. Lin said that testing time is critical for juice processing companies, which monitor for the bacteria during the processing and final product stage. He said the DNA technique in combination with infrared spectroscopy technique won't cause long delays in production.
Lin and his research team have tested the technique and published the results in a study, "Phylogenetic and spectroscopic analysis of Alicyclobacillus isolates by 16S rDNA sequencing and mid-infrared spectroscopy," which has been published in Sensing and Instrumentation for Food Quality and Safety.

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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