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Internet Journal of Food Safety

5/31
2007
ISSUE:258

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Six people exposed to E. coli
Fresno Co. investigates three parties that had food from 'common supplier.
'By Barbara Anderson / The Fresno Bee
05/30/07 04:19:22
Source of Article: http://www.fresnobee.com/263/story/50708.html
Fresno County health investigators are looking for the food source of an E. coli outbreak that sent six people to hospitals and likely sickened others.
Five people suspected of having E. coli were at a private party on May 19, said Fresno County Health Officer Ed Moreno.
Investigators are interviewing people who attended two other small, private gatherings held on that day, Moreno said at a Tuesday news conference.
All three parties included food "from one common supplier," Moreno said. But it's too early to know the source of the outbreak, he said.
"We've just scratched the surface in our investigation," said Tim Casagrande, director of environmental health.
Health officers also are investigating four suspected cases of E. coli that do not appear connected to the parties, Casagrande said.
A Saint Agnes Medical Center spokeswoman said doctors saw six patients with E. coli symptoms between Thursday and Sunday. Two of the six were admitted and one remained in the hospital Tuesday, she said.
Moreno said people began showing up at emergency departments on May 21 with cramping pain and bloody diarrhea. Hospital laboratories reported results of E. coli tests to the county Friday and Saturday.
Symptoms of E. coli typically surface in two to three days from exposure, but can take up to eight days to appear.
Hospital tests showed the patients -- from toddlers to older adults -- had a strain of E. coli O157, Moreno said. County health officials suspect the strain is E. coli O157:H7, a more virulent form, but results confirming it will not be available from the state laboratory for at least another week.
E. coli O157:H7 can cause severe illness, including kidney failure. The young and elderly are most at risk from complications from the infection.
The toxin is the same as linked to last year's national outbreak of contaminated spinach that caused 205 illnesses and three deaths in 26 states and Canada.
A number of food sources are under scrutiny as a possible source of the E. coli outbreak that sickened the people this past week. Casagrande said the ill people attended parties that included food from one company.
A meat product was common to the parties, Casagrande said.
Moreno said "our inspectors have inspected the Meat Market, but I cannot tell you details of what they found because that's still part of the investigation."
In addition to the purchased food, Casagrande said, people prepared other dishes.
Moreno said it does not appear at this time that there are retail food items threatening the health of county residents, and so no mandatory or voluntary recalls have been ordered.
"We don't feel the general public at this time is at risk," he said.
The way the food was prepared as well as the way it was stored also is being investigated, Casagrande said.
E. coli can live in the intestines of cattle, goats and sheep. Eating meat, especially ground beef that is undercooked, is a common source of infection, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Not including the six suspected cases from the past week, Fresno County has had six cases of E. coli cases thus far in 2007. Last year there were seven cases countywide. In 2005, 14 people became infected. Moreno said anyone with symptoms of abdominal cramping and bloody diarrhea should see a doctor or go to a hospital.

E. coli Outbreak in Fresno May Share Common Meat Vendor
By Dale Yurong
Source of Article: http://abclocal.go.com/kfsn/story?section=local&id=5349368
05/29/2007 - People began showing up at local hospitals last Tuesday with the symptoms of E. coli. The Fresno County Health Department has started its investigation into an E. coli outbreak. Five people have tested positive for E. coli, but health officials say that number may rise as lab results come in. Action News first told this story Monday night at eleven.
Leann Beck was one of six people admitted to the hospital to be treated for E. coli. She says she get sick days after a Clovis West graduation party where she had tri-tip.
The Fresno County Health Department says 20 cases have been reported. Dr. Ed Moreno, Fresno County Public Health Director, says, "There are actually several cases that are under investigation by public health staff. In particular, we have three private events that have come to our attention." Each occurred May 19th. "Among these three events, there was one common supplier of food, " says Dr.Moreno. Leann Beck says, "There was also a wedding and another graduation party and everybody narrowed it down to the meat. . .everybody was picking up their meat at the same time, at the Meat Market."
The grill at the popular Meat Market in north Fresno was shut down for about an hour while county health inspectors checked the facility. Tim Casagrande, Fresno County Environmental Health says, "Our staff's gonna be looking at essentially food handling, critical points, temperatures."
But Casagrande says it's much too early to identify the Meat Market as the source of the E. coli outbreak. He says, "Keep in mind too there could be coincidences that have occurred."
The county is still in the process of interviewing people who became ill. It still must await lab results before making any connections in this E. coli outbreak.
Another possibility is the contamination could have occurred during the handling and storing of the food after it was purchased. Dr. Moreno adds the county is looking into four other recent E. coli cases that are totally unrelated to the three private parties.

Clostridium botulinum genome sequenced
May 30, 2007

Source of Article: http://www.ift.org/cms/?pid=1000363
Researchers in the UK and Canada have reported that they have successfully sequenced the genome of Clostridium botulinum, a bacterium capable of producing a deadly toxin and a serious source of foodborne deaths.
For more, see the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute press release: http://www.sanger.ac.uk/Info/Press/2007/070523.shtml

The Science and Law of Tracking Foodborne Illness - Part 8
Posted on May 21, 2007 by Bill Marler
Case Study: Salmonella poisoning
Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/
In 2003, an Illinois health department received multiple reports that people had become ill after eating at Chili¡¯s Grill & Bar in Vernon Hills, Illinois. Investigators visited the restaurant, and soon learned that its dishwashing machine was broken and corroded; the tube that fed chlorine into the machine was plugged, preventing proper sanitization of dishes. They also found that food was not stored at proper temperatures, and those three employees, plus another manager, had called in sick that day. With evidence growing increasingly clear, investigators instructed employees on hand-washing procedures, and collected stool samples from the employees. They discovered 13 employees who had been allowed to work despite suffering from diarrhea and other symptoms. Under pressure, Chili¡¯s closed the restaurant.
But the problem was only beginning to emerge. People who had eaten at the restaurant recently were instructed to seek medical help if ill, and to report their illnesses to the health department. The health department was flooded with telephone complaints. One customer reported there had been no running water while she had been there for lunch ? information that management had not thought necessary to share with investigators.
Eventually, investigators identified over 300 individuals who had been sickened as a result of the outbreak. Of those, 141 customers and 28 employees tested positive for Salmonella, while 105 others were deemed probable cases. The health department concluded that infected employees had contaminated food with Salmonella as a result of poor sanitary practices and improper food handling.
Clearly, this entire outbreak could have been avoided by the most simple and obvious of sanitary practices. The company¡¯s shortcuts turned out to be extremely costly

3 allergen claims against McDonald's dismissed
Bloomberg News
Published May 31, 2007
Source of Article: http://www.chicagotribune.com/
McDonald's Corp. has won dismissal of three out of five claims in a lawsuit over allergens contained in french fries and hash browns. U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo in Chicago said the plaintiffs' complaint failed to give enough detail about an alleged scheme by the Oak Brook-based company to conceal the existence of gluten and dairy in its food products.
The ruling was a setback for plaintiffs, who claim they or their children were sickened by McDonald's products because the company gave false dietary information in ads and online. The group has 28 days to amend its complaint, Bucklo said in an order posted Wednesday.
The claims "allege that the potato products were advertised and marketed as milk-, wheat- and gluten-free, but no specific instances or locations of the advertisements are identified," Bucklo said. She allowed two claims on breach of warranty and unjust enrichment to proceed.
Lawyers for McDonald's asked the court to throw out the lawsuit in November, referring to the plaintiffs as a few "hypersensitive consumers with allergies."

Two U.S. Companies Recall Melamine-Tainted Feed
Finding Takes Heat Off China, Blamed for Thousands of Animal Deaths
May 31, 2007

Food Safety Source of Article: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/
China, it turns out, isn¡¯t the only country that spikes its feed products with the industrial chemical melamine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is alerting livestock and fish/shrimp feed manufacturers about a voluntary recall of U.S.-made products used in feed production because several have been found to contain melamine and related compounds.
The finding is likely to relieve some of the pressure on China, which has been roundly condemned for being lax, and even corrupt, in its food safety practices. Earlier this week, China's former food and drug safety chief was sentenced to death for what was termed "massive corruption."
The severe sentence was seen as a sign that the Chinese government wanted to make a strong statement about its determination to clean up shortcomings in its health and safety policies. The feed ingredients were made by Tembec BTLSR Inc. of Toledo, Ohio and Uniscope, Inc. of Johnstown, Colo. Both U.S. firms have instituted recalls of the tainted products.
Tembec, a contract manufacturer for Uniscope, makes AquaBond and Aqua-Tec II, which it distributes for Uniscope. Uniscope makes Xtra-Bond using ingredients supplied by Tembec. All of the products are binding agents that are used to make pelleted feed for cattle, sheep, and goats, or fish and shrimp.
The companies have confirmed that Tembec added melamine as part of the formulation of the products to improve the binding properties of pelleted feed. Melamine is not approved as an additive for animal or fish/shrimp feed.
The companies have stopped adding melamine to the feed products, the agency said.
Based on the levels of melamine and related compounds in the initial ingredients, FDA estimated the probable level of melamine and related compounds in livestock feed as less than 50 parts per million (ppm) based on the recommended mix rate of two to four pounds of binding agent per ton of livestock feed.
The estimated levels in fish and shrimp feed are less than 233 ppm and 465 ppm, respectively, of melamine and related compounds. The estimated levels of melamine and related compounds vary in the livestock feed and the fish and shrimp feed because of differing levels of melamine in the binding agents used for each type of feed.
FDA said it is advising feed manufacturers and others who mix their own feed not to use these products, and to contact the manufacturers. FDA advises feed manufacturers to recall finished feed that is made from AquaBond or Aqua-Tec II due to the estimated levels of melamine and related compounds in the finished products.
FDA believes that no recall is warranted of the finished feed made from Xtra-Bond based on the estimated levels of melamine and related compounds in the finished product and based on currently available data and information.
The estimated melamine levels in feed made with these binding agents are similar to the levels discussed in the interim safety/risk assessment of melamine and related compounds made available by FDA earlier this month.
In that assessment, federal scientists determined that, based on currently available data and information, the consumption of pork, chicken, domestic fish, and eggs from animals inadvertently fed animal feed contaminated with melamine and its analogues is very unlikely to pose a human health risk. FDA officials said the risk from the melamine is extremely small. The interim safety/risk assessment concludes that in the most extreme risk assessment scenario, when scientists assumed that all the solid food a person consumes in an entire day contained melamine and the melamine compound cyanuric acid in equal amounts, the potential exposure is about 250 times lower than the dose considered safe.
Translated to consumption levels, this means that a person weighing 132 pounds would have to eat more than 800 pounds per day of food containing melamine and its compounds to approach a level of consumption that would cause a health concern, the FDA said. While that may be true for humans, melamine in pet food products is suspected of killing or injuring thousands of dogs and cats. FDA is encouraging domestic feed suppliers to be vigilant in quality control in their supply chain and to monitor for any improper additives, including melamine and its analogs. The Tembec and Uniscope products also reportedly contain a urea formaldehyde resin-type ingredient, a raw ingredient used to make the binding agent in these products. FDA said it is investigating this use of the urea formaldehyde resin-type ingredient in the Tembec and Uniscope products, and will take appropriate regulatory action if warranted.

Outdoor Eating Food Safety Tips - From FDA

USDA Improves Fight Against Food Borne Illness: bioMerieux TEMPO¢ç System Selected for Produce Testing

05-29-2007 Source of Article: http://carolinanewswire.com/
Marcy l¡¯Etoile, France & DURHAM, N.C. ? The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is incorporating a new, state-of-the-art technology to advance its Microbiological Data Program (MDP) laboratories. The USDA-MDP has purchased nine TEMPO¢ç units from bioMerieux, a leading industrial microbiology and diagnostics company. TEMPO, the first and only automated food quality testing and enumerating system, will perform generic E. coli testing for fresh produce in all MDP participating State laboratories, nationwide.
TEMPO was introduced to U.S. customers in August 2006 at the International Association for Food Protection Annual Meeting and commercially launched in the U.S. in January 2007. The systems have been installed in all nine laboratories participating with the USDA-MDP. The program is funded through Cooperative Agreements between each state and the USDA. ¡°Food borne illness and food adulteration are major public health and economic concerns for the consumers and the industry,¡± said Alexandre Merieux, Corporate Vice President, bioMerieux Industry Business. ¡°bioMerieux developed TEMPO to specifically answer the need for better food safety and quality.¡±
MDP screens more than 11,000 samples of fresh fruit and vegetables annually. One of the most labor-intensive laboratory procedures is the Most Probable Number (MPN) test for detection and enumeration of E. coli. By automating this process, the MDP participating State Agriculture Laboratories can save on operational costs and dedicate more resources to testing pathogens of importance to public health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 73,000 cases of E.coli infection and 61 deaths occur in the United States every year. The United States Congress has challenged the food industry to prevent widespread outbreaks.

National Microbiological Advisory Committee to Hold Public Meetings
May 29, 2007 Source of Article: http://www.meatami.com/
The National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF) subcommittees will hold public meetings on June 4-8, 2007 in Washington, D.C.
The full committee will meet on June 4, from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m., and on June 8, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
The Subcommittee on Determination of Cooking Parameters for Safe Seafood for Consumers will meet on June 5, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The Subcommittee on Determination of the Most Appropriate Technologies for the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to Adopt in Performing Routine and Baseline Microbiological Analysis will meet on June 5 and 6, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The Subcommittee on Assessment of the Food Safety Importance of Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis will meet on June 6 and 7, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
All full committee meetings will be held in the conference room at the south end of the U.S. Department of Agriculture South Building cafeteria, 1400 Independence Ave, SW, Washington, D.C. All subcommittee meetings will be held in Room 369 of the Aerospace Building, 901 D St., SW, Washington, D.C.
Persons interested in making presentations, submitting technical papers or providing comments at the full committee meetings should contact Karen Thomas-Sharp at 202-690-6620 or at Karen.thomas-sharp@fsis.usda.gov.
For additional meeting information, go to http://www.fsis.usda.gov/news_&_events/Meetings_&_Events/index.asp .

Food Safety and Quality Job Information
Food Safety and Quality Job Information

FDA posts melamine safety/risk assessment
Source of Article: http://www.ift.org/news_bin/news/news_home.shtml
5/25/2007-The U.S. FDA has posted an interim melamine and analogues safety/risk assessment that describes the risk to human health associated with eating pork, chicken, fish and eggs from animals that had been inadvertently fed animal feed that may have been adulterated with melamine and its analogues.
FDA developed the safety/risk assessment in response to their ongoing investigation of contaminated vegetable protein products imported from China that were mislabeled as "wheat gluten" and "rice protein concentrate." Based on currently available data and information, the results of the safety/risk assessment indicate that the consumption of pork, chicken, domestic fish, and eggs from animals inadvertently fed animal feed contaminated with melamine and its analogues is very unlikely to pose a human health risk.

For more, see
Interim Melamine and Analogues Safety/Risk Assessment: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/melamra.html

Listeria cases rise by 80% - UK
Press Association
Wednesday May 30, 2007
SocietyGuardian.co.uk
Source of Article: http://society.guardian.co.uk/health/news/0,,2091343,00.html
Health experts are monitoring cases of listeria after a substantial rise in the number of people infected so far this year.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said 79 cases had been reported by week 21 - an 80% increase over the same period last year. Fifty-five (70%) of the 79 cases were among people aged 60 years and over and nine were in pregnant women - a particularly vulnerable group. Listeria in pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth and disorders in the child. Cases have been reported in all regions in England and in Wales, with most in London, the north-east and Wales, the HPA said.
Listeria is a rare but potentially deadly disease that mostly affects unborn children, young babies, those with poor immune systems and the elderly.
The latest figures reflect the highest reported incidence of listeria since surveillance began in 1990.
Most people become infected from eating affected foods, such as soft cheese, pate, unpasteurised milk, unwashed salad, cooked chicken and ready-cook meals that are not heated properly.
People who are fit and healthy will often suffer no symptoms from listeria. But others may have fever and muscle aches and, if it spreads to the central nervous system, headaches, stiff neck and convulsions.

Scientists develop bioactive paper
Source of Article: http://www.sciencedaily.com
HAMILTON, Ontario, May 29 (UPI) -- Canadian researchers have developed bioactive paper to detect and deactivate life-threatening bacteria and viruses, such as E.coli and salmonella.
Researchers from 10 Canadian universities, nine industrial partners, and federal and provincial government agencies formed a research consortium named the SENTINEL Bioactive Paper Network to develop low-cost and easy-to-use paper-based products with biologically active chemicals that can protect the public against increasing incidents of food-, water- and air-borne illnesses.
"What bioactive paper will offer are immediacy, portability and low-cost in detecting and repelling or deactivating harmful pathogens," said McMaster University Professor Robert Pelton, scientific director of SENTINEL. "Right now, it can take days or weeks to get samples to a lab, diagnose the problem and get the remedy into the field."
But George Rosenberg, managing director of SENTINEL said the development of bioactive paper also holds potential benefits for the paper products industry as well. "It provides our industrial partners with the opportunity to develop innovative, high value-added paper and packaging products" such as food wrappings and hospital masks, said Rosenberg.
Canada's Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council has provided $7.5 million in funding for the project through 2010.

Revolutionary System Automates Food Quality Testing
source from: www.rapidmicrobiology.com
bioMerieux Brings First Automated Food Quality Testing System to Market at a Crucial Time for the Food Industry
bioMerieux, Inc., has launched the first automated food quality testing system at a critical time for the food industry. TEMPO¢ç was introduced at the International Association for Food Protection Annual Meeting last year and is gaining popularity among leading U.S. food product manufacturers. Using a quality testing system like TEMPO provides peace of mind in light of recent serious food borne outbreaks. Recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveal that 76 million Americans get sick, more than 300,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 people die from food borne illnesses each year. The most commonly recognized food borne infections are those caused by bacteria, such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, and E. coli O157:H7. Many food producers are taking advantage of TEMPO to incorporate automated food quality testing into the routine quality control process.
"The recent food borne outbreaks of E.coli and salmonella illustrate the importance of food quality testing; for this reason we introduced TEMPO two months ahead of schedule in an effort to help our customers maintain the highest standards of hygiene testing for their labs and plants," said Herb Steward, Executive Vice President and General Manager, bioMerieux, Inc. "We are extremely pleased that many companies have selected TEMPO to ensure the highest level of quality control for their products."
TEMPO is the food industry's first automated quality indicator testing solution for food companies to help with testing their products as part of a routine quality control process. The TEMPO system tests for quality indicator organisms, which can help food companies and producers manage the overall hygiene of their equipment and facilities and serve as an indicator for spoilage in their products.
TEMPO automates testing for total viable counts, coliform counts, generic E. coli, and Enterobacteriaceae. If there is an unacceptable level of these organisms in a facility's food products, it can lead to a negative financial impact for them and health concerns for the consumer. TEMPO's automation helps to standardize numerous preparation steps, interpretation, and test results. TEMPO can dramatically improve workflow and enables the lab technician more time to focus on other activities, leading to labor savings.
The technology behind TEMPO is based on a classic, well-established microbiological method, called MPN (Most Probable Number). While this method has been in use for a number of years, it had been very labor intensive and required training and skill in order to perform it effectively. TEMPO takes this classic MPN method and miniaturizes and automates the testing process through the use of a small plastic card, media vial and testing system. The improved workflow allows the lab to better synchronize their production schedule and product release from inventory.

Probiotics Help Produce Safer, Healthier Chickens, Researchers Discover
Source of Article: http://www.thepoultrysite.com
GUELPH - Giving chickens probiotics ? dietary supplements that contain live beneficial bacteria ? stimulates their immune system and reduces the Salmonella bacteria in their gut by more than 99 per cent, a University of Guelph professor and an Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada food researcher have found.
¡°We looked at the immune-enhancing ability of the probiotic and, lo and behold, the probiotic actually seems to be quite an immune stimulator,¡± said Shayan Sharif, a pathobiology professor in the Ontario Veterinary College, who worked in collaboration with James Chambers of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Their research was recently published in Clinical and Vaccine Immunology. This means chickens treated with probiotics early in life are able to mount higher immune responses and, as a result, may be better protected against disease-causing microbes, said Sharif. ¡°After looking at the antibodies in the intestine and blood of the chickens, we found that the antibodies were more than twice as high in chickens treated with probiotics.
The researchers also looked at two kinds of Salmonella that are most prevalent in Canada and found that some probiotics reduce, to less than one per cent, the level of colonization of Salmonella in the chicken gut. The gut contents sometimes contaminate carcasses, depending on how the meat is processed, which puts consumers at risk of getting sick, said Sharif. ¡°Reducing Salmonella in the chickens¡¯ digestive tract could lead to more Salmonella-free chicken products on store shelves.¡±
In the studies, one-day-old chicks were treated with probiotics and one day later were given Salmonella bacteria. The immune status and Salmonella bacterial load in the chicks was examined at various intervals and the positive results surfaced quickly, said Sharif.
Sharif and Chambers¡¯ study looked at a repertoire of probiotics alone and in combination with prebiotics (food substances that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines). ¡°We also found that the combination of prebiotics and probiotics could reduce the existence of bad bacteria - those that are harmful for humans - in the chicken gut substantially,¡± said Sharif.
¡°There¡¯s a hope that probiotics could actually work as a replacement for antibiotics, or at least be used to work in a complementary fashion with antibiotics,¡± he said. Probiotics are available from veterinary pharmaceutical suppliers and are fairly inexpensive. The overuse of antibiotics in chickens is a concern that has already caused European countries to place restrictions on prophylactic antibiotic use within their poultry industry.
¡°If the same restrictions were enforced here, it would cause problems in the poultry industry, so it would be great if we could come up with a better system using probiotics to work hand-in-hand with antibiotics,¡± said Sharif.
ThePoultrySite News Desk

Food Safety Authority to stand alone
Tuesday, 29 May 2007, 1:46 pm
Ministers announce Food Safety Authority to stand alone
Source of Article: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0705/S00755.htm
Agriculture Minister Jim Anderton and the Minister of State Services, Annette King, today announced the separation of the New Zealand Food Safety Authority from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), thereby creating a new Public Service department administering Food Safety. The new department will be established on 1 July 2007.
"The new department, which will retain the name New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA), will continue to protect and promote public health and safety in relation to food and food-related products, and to develop economic opportunities by facilitating access to international markets for these products," Jim Anderton said.

Annette King said that at the time NZFSA was established in 2002, "It was accepted that MAF was New Zealand's only credible brand in international trade. Now, however, NZFSA is operating as a highly reputable agency and no longer needs to be attached to MAF to ensure its credibility in international trade.
"Separating the two agencies will result in more effective relationships for NZFSA and an agency with a clear focus on food safety issues for New Zealanders," Annette King said.
The new department will reflect the services and outputs of NZFSA as it currently operates, preserving the existing responsibilities, services and intersecting networks of both MAF and NZFSA.
"As part of the decision making process, officials from NZFSA and MAF made a significant and valuable contribution. The process was also informed by advice from Fonterra, the Meat Industry Association and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade," Annette King said. The State Services Commissioner, Mark Prebble, will appoint an acting Chief Executive, who will assume the responsibilities of the Chief Executive of NZFSA until a new CEO is appointed.

So, what are you really eating?
By Sally Barber, Cadillac News
Jeff Broddle | Cadillac News
Source of Article: http://www.cadillacnews.com/articles/2007/05/31/news/news01.txt
Tonight¡¯s dinner may have traveled more miles than you have in a lifetime.
From field to table, it is likely your meats and produce have a lengthy history. Before you lift your fork, consider that you are the final judge of your food¡¯s safety.
¡°The food system is very complex,¡± said Jerry Wojtala, Deputy Director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture Dairy Division. ¡°If you look from where it¡¯s grown, the animals raised, the processing plants, transportation, retail, restaurants and consumers ? all levels have input.¡± And something can happen at any step in the chain to impact food safety, he warned.
Foodborne illnesses are caused by ingesting foods or beverages contaminated by disease-causing microbes or pathogens. Poisonous chemicals or other harmful substances can also cause disease if in food.
Foods from around the globe make it to the dinner table in a variety of forms in a market directly driven by the American appetite.
¡°The food industry has responded to a year-round demand for products,¡± Wojtala said. ¡°In the past 20 years we have globalized the food supply¡±

Imports account for about 13 percent of the annual diet but only 1 percent are inspected, according to a report by the Organic Consumers Association and the U.S.Food and Drug Administration. Although FDA inspection of imports is limited, Wojtala said foods inspected are those most likely to cause illness, such as seafood. Inspection is one of several precautions. ¡°They do other things now,¡± Wojtala said. ¡°Foods must be registered and the FDA notified of any food coming in. It allows the FDA to target companies that have had trouble or types of food.¡± Other efforts to increase food safety include improved practices in field sanitation, the use of fertilizer, worker hygiene, international regulations and tracking. At local dairy farms, inspections, testing and tracking are daily routines. Milk is tested by the hauler and again by the processor, according to Amy Martin, co-owner of Gingrich Meadows Dairy Farm in LeRoy. In addition, federal inspectors conduct a random farm test annually. State inspectors come in twice yearly and the farm¡¯s milk cooperative inspects individual farms at least twice annually.

¡°I hate to see the milk inspectors come because they are so tough,¡± Martin said. ¡°If I have a burned out light bulb it¡¯s a point (deduction). They are very detailed.¡±
Gingrich Farm recently initiated voluntary measures to enhance their product safety.
¡°We recently put up a security system to monitor who comes and goes,¡± Martin said. ¡°It looks over our milk tanks. If anything happened, I could look back and know. It¡¯s being proactive.¡± At the retail level, other tracking and warning systems are in place. Records on imported foods must be kept for a full year at the store level, according to Al Blackburn, manager for Cadillac Meijer. Lot dates and supplier codes allow products to be traced to the producer if a problem arises. Temperature control is another vital element in preserving food safety during transportation and on the shelves, he said. Meijer refrigeration cases feature alarm systems which notify employees if case temperatures drop. Although most frequently set off when a customer leaves a cooler door open, it could signal the first set in a critical temperature violation, Blackburn said.
Any product recalls require immediate attention.
¡°In an urgent recall, the store manager is notified and we have 30 minutes to respond,¡± Blackburn said. This was the procedure during the massive spinach recall of 2006 and pet food recall last March. Once food leaves the store, its safety is in the hands of the consumer, the last link in the food chain. Without diligence on this level, consumers may place themselves and their family¡¯s at risk for illness. Blackburn noted studies show the majority of consumers are unaware of the temperature of their own refrigerator. Forty degrees is the recommended temperature, and it should be monitored, ¡°especially if you have kids going in and out of the refrigerator all the time,¡± he said. For more information on food safety, visit the Centers for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/foodborneinfections_g.htm.

Even vitamin additives coming from China
By PETER KOVACS, Special to The Washington Post
Published: Thursday, May. 10, 2007
Source of Article: http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/

Lost amid the anxiety surrounding the tainted U.S. pet food supply is this sobering reality: It¡¯s not just pet owners who should be worried. The uncontrolled distribution of low-quality imported food ingredients, mainly from China, poses a grave threat to public health worldwide. Essential ingredients, such as vitamins used in many packaged foods, arrive at U.S. ports from China and, as recent news reports have underscored, are shipped without inspection to food and beverage distributors and manufacturers.

Although they are used in relatively small quantities, these ingredients carry enormous risks for American consumers. One pound of tainted wheat gluten could, if undetected, contaminate as much as a thousand pounds of food.

Unlike imported beef, which is inspected at the point of processing by the U.S. Agriculture Department, few practical safeguards have been established to ensure the quality of food ingredients from China.

Often, U.S. officials don¡¯t know where or how such ingredients were produced. We know, however, that alarms have been raised about hygiene and labor standards at many Chinese manufacturing facilities.

In China, municipal water used in the manufacturing process is often contaminated with heavy metals, pesticides and other chemicals. Food ingredient production is particularly susceptible to environmental contamination.

Equally worrisome, U.S. officials often lack the capability to trace foreign-produced food ingredients to their source of manufacture.

In theory, the Bioterrorism Prevention Act of 2001 provides some measure of traceability. In practice, the act is ineffective and was not designed for this challenge. Its enforcement is also shrouded in secrecy by the Department of Homeland Security.

Even if Food and Drug Administration regulators wanted to crack down on products emanating from the riskiest foreign facilities, they couldn¡¯t, because they have no way of knowing which ingredients come from which plant. This is why officials have spent weeks searching for the original Chinese source of the contaminated wheat gluten that triggered the pet food crisis.

That it was pet food that got tainted ? and that relatively few pets were harmed ? is pure happenstance.

Earlier this spring, Europe narrowly averted disaster when a batch of vitamin A from China was found to be contaminated with Enterobacter sakazakii, which has been proved to cause infant deaths. Thankfully, the defective vitamin A had not yet been incorporated into infant formula. Next time we may not be so fortunate.

Currently, most of the world¡¯s vitamins are manufactured in China. Unable to compete, the last U.S. plant making vitamin C closed a year ago. One of Europe¡¯s largest citric acid plants shut last winter, and only one vitamin C manufacturer operates in the West.

Given China¡¯s cheap labor, artificially low prices and the unfair competitive climate it has foisted on the industry, few Western producers of food ingredients can survive much longer.

Western companies have had to invest heavily in Chinese facilities. These Western-owned plants follow strict standards and are generally better managed than their locally owned counterparts.

Nevertheless, 80 percent of the world¡¯s vitamin C is now manufactured in China ? much of it unregulated and some of it of questionable quality.

Europe is ahead of the United States in seeking greater accountability and traceability in food safety and importation. But even the European Union¡¯s ¡°rapid alert system¡± is imperfect. Additional action is required if the continent is to avoid catastrophes.

To protect consumers here, we must revise our regulatory approaches. The first option is to institute regulations, based on the European model, to ensure that all food ingredients are thoroughly traceable. We should impose strict liability on manufacturers that fail to enforce traceability standards.

A draconian alternative is to mount a program modeled on USDA beef inspection for all food ingredients coming into the country. This regimen would require a significant commitment of resources and intensive training for hundreds of inspectors.

Food safety is a bipartisan issue: Congress and the administration must work together and move aggressively to devise stricter standards.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, has deplored dangerous levels of lead in vitamin products originating in China. We must get to the bottom of this pressing public health issue, without self-defeating finger-pointing.

The United States is sitting on a powder keg with uncontrolled importation and the distribution of low-quality food ingredients. Before it explodes ? putting more animals and people at risk ? corrective steps must be taken.

Peter Kovacs was president of NutraSweet Kelco Co. from 1994 to 1997. He is a management consultant to many large food ingredient companies.


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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