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exposed to E. coli
Fresno Co. investigates three parties that had food from 'common supplier.
'By Barbara Anderson / The Fresno Bee
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
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
"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
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
In addition to the purchased food, Casagrande said, people prepared other
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,"
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.
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
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
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
claims against McDonald's dismissed
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
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
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
The companies have stopped adding melamine to the feed products, the agency
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.
Eating Food Safety Tips - From FDA
Fight Against Food Borne Illness: bioMerieux TEMPO¢ç System Selected for
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,
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
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
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,
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.firstname.lastname@example.org.
For additional meeting information, go to http://www.fsis.usda.gov/news_&_events/Meetings_&_Events/index.asp
Safety and Quality Job Information
Food Safety and Quality Job Information
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
rise by 80% - UK
Wednesday May 30, 2007
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
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.
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
"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.
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
"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
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.
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
¡°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,¡±
¡°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,¡±
ThePoultrySite News Desk
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.
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
¡°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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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