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E. coli Outbreak Caused $77M In Spinach Losses
June 20, 2007
Source of Article:
SALINAS, Calif. -- The newly released Monterey County agricultural report said spinach profits are way down. According to the report, the leafy greens took the worst hit with a $77 million loss, KSBW Action News reported. The more than 40 percent drop doesn't take into account the spinach thrown out or not planted after September's deadly E. coli outbreak. Overall, the Monterey County agricultural industry was worth $3.5 billion last year -- that is a 4 percent gain from the year before. Industry leaders said their focus is on food safety after three people died and more than 200 were sickened from last fall's outbreak. Spinach is currently in harvest, and some growers said they are planting fewer crops this year.

Bullfrogs May Serve as Hosts for E. coli O157:H7
Source of Article:
Science Daily For the first time researchers have identified American bullfrogs as potentially suitable hosts for E. coli O157:H7, a common source of food-borne illness. Escherichia coli O157:H7 is a major food safety concern worldwide. Cattle are known reservoirs of the bacterium and researchers are now suggesting transmission to aquatic vertebrates, such as amphibians, occurs when infected cattle defecate in water sources. Infected tadpoles could then shed the pathogen and infect cattle drinking the contaminated water as well as vegetables if the water is used for irrigation. In the study researchers orally inoculated American bullfrog tadpoles and metamorphs with E. coli O157:H7 and tested for infection after 14 days. Tadpoles, which were housed in flowthrough aquaria, did not become infected, however 54% of metamorphs tested positive after being housed in stagnant aquaria. "Our results suggest that American bullfrog metamorphs could function as a 'spill-over' reservoir for E. coli O157:H7 and thus contribute to its persistence in aquatic environments," say the researchers. "Further, given that metamorphs are capable of dispersal, they may have a role in the epidemiology of this pathogen."
They report their findings in the June 2007 issue of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. (M.J. Gray, S. Rajeev, D.L. Miller, A.C. Schmutzer, E.C. Burton, E.D. Rogers, G.J. Hickling. 2007. Preliminary evidence that American bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana) are suitable hosts for Escherichia coli O157:H7. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 73. 12: 4066-4068). Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by American Society for Microbiology.

Food allergy on rise - but doctors fear fear itself
Julie Robotham Medical Editor
June 23, 2007

Source of Article:
ABOUT 30,000 Australians now carry an EpiPen, an adrenalin shot for use in the event of a severe food allergy attack, according to new figures that some doctors believe point to an epidemic of unwarranted anxiety.
Statistics from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme show 35,657 of the devices were ordered last year, up from 21,482 in 2004. More than 4600 scripts were issued this March alone, the highest monthly number yet, amid rising concern about the potential for anaphylaxis - a sudden and potentially fatal allergic reaction that is most commonly associated with peanuts. Andrew Kemp, professor of pediatric allergy and clinical immunology at the Children's Hospital at Westmead, said food allergies themselves were on the rise, but EpiPen use appeared to be growing faster.
Publicity about fatal cases of anaphylactic shock, such as that of the Sydney schoolboy Hamidur Rahman, who died after being dared to eat peanut butter at a school camp, had raised awareness, Professor Kemp said.
But despite professional guidelines, it was not always clear who should carry an EpiPen, and parents' anxiety levels needed to be taken into account.
Ray Mullins, a Canberra allergy specialist, said research had shown severe food allergies were comparable to being dependent on insulin for diabetes, in terms of impact on the ability to live a normal life.

Associate Professor Mullins said allergy was "almost easier to manage if they've had a severe reaction". In these circumstances any doctor would prescribe EpiPen, but for more marginal cases it was less clear whether the device was valuable. "It depends on how nervous the doctor is, how nervous the parents are."

Skin reaction tests, in which doctors measure the reaction to an allergen placed on a scratch, predicted the likelihood that a person would react to that substance, though not how severely. If more people were being tested for allergies it was likely a greater number of less severe cases would be diagnosed. "The person may become wedded to the diagnosis of being allergic."

Guidelines from the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy say EpiPen should only be prescribed if a person has had an anaphylactic reaction, or has had a less severe allergic reaction and also has asthma or heart disease. Specific allergies - to nuts or bee stings, either of which are more often fatal - could also be a reason for prescribing EpiPen.

But Rob Loblay, the director of the allergy unit at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, said having an EpiPen could be "a liberating experience for many families, to be able to take their kids out socially, anywhere".

Dr Loblay said a minority - perhaps one in 20 - carried an EpiPen for an allergy they had outgrown. But anaphylaxis, in which the face and throat can swell dramatically, was so frightening that it was understandable some people remained fearful and traumatised. "I'm more concerned about under-prescribing than over-prescribing," he said.

Researchers Take Aim at Pathogen¡¯s Antibiotic Resistance
Source of Article:
IOWA - Some samples of the pathogen Campylobacter coli showed resistance to antibiotics that were intended to protect swine from diseases, tests performed at Iowa State University revealed. There¡¯s more to be learned about the situation, which is keeping Qijing Zhang¡¯s research team busy this year. The project is a collaborative effort between Zhang, an ISU associate professor of veterinary microbiology, and Irene
Wesley, a research microbiologist at the National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa. Zhang and Wesley are pursuing the research for the Food Safety Consortium. The matter of antibiotic resistance is a major one in scientific research these days. Zhang said although Campylobacter coli itself isn¡¯t the main food safety concern, it could serve as reservoir of resistance for C. jejuni, a major foodborne pathogen in the U.S. and other countries.
¡°In terms of foodborne diseases in humans, Campylobacter jejuni is the predominant species,¡± Zhang said. ¡°Campylobacter coli causes some problems, but not as significant as Campylobacter jejuni. Also, pork meat is not a main source of human Campylobacter infection.¡±
So, the reason for concern is that Campylobacter in swine can be transmitted to other farm animals, where greater potential for infection of humans can begin. ¡°Antibiotic resistance in swine is relevant to food safety, but in a different way,¡± Zhang explained. ¡°It¡¯s not like Campylobacter in poultry that can contaminate a bird or carcass.¡±
Zhang¡¯s early results showed that Campylobacter coli was not resistant to the antibiotic ciprofloxacin (a fluoroquinolone), but he noted that was likely because ciprofloxacin is not used in U.S. swine production. Tests also showed that 56 percent of the Campylobacter coli isolates were resistant to the antibiotic doxycycline and 39 percent were resistant to erythromycin, another antibiotic. Fluoroquinolones and erythromycin are used in treating human Campylobacter infections.
* "Campylobacter in swine can be transmitted to other farm animals, where greater potential for infection of humans can begin."
¡°That¡¯s why we need to put a lot of attention on ciprofloxacin and erythromycin,¡± Zhang said, ¡°because these two classes of antibiotics are key weapons for treatment of people with Campylobacter infections.¡± As the swine grow up and work their way through the production process, it might be expected that rates of resistance to antibiotics would increase along the way. But Zhang¡¯s research didn¡¯t show that on the one farm that had been researched. More farms are to be examined at which different stages of the production process will continue to be monitored. He wonders if the antibiotic resistance shows up randomly or if it increases over time. ¡°We¡¯d assume that when you put the pigs in the nursery and eventually the finishing stages, they will probably get more exposed with antibiotics and that selection procedure would promote more resistance,¡± he said. ¡°But so far we have not seen a progressive increase. That¡¯s something we¡¯re trying to figure out to see if it happens all the time or if it happened just on this farm.¡±
Zhang also seeks to determine if there is a correlation between antibiotic usage rates and resistance to antibiotics. The research hasn¡¯t verified that yet among the swine.
Zhang¡¯s long-term goal, through studying the ecology of antibiotic resistance, is to develop practical management measures that might help farmers reduce pathogens¡¯ resistance to antibiotics.
¡°We¡¯re going to get some science-based data and hopefully that can be used for design of intervention strategies or modifying practices in the future,¡± he said. ¡°At this point we still have lots of questions to be answered. We¡¯re also trying to develop a rapid testing technique to detect antibiotic-resistant pathogens not only in life animals but in processed meat.¡± ThePoultrySite News Desk

NSF Now Offers Expanded Melamine Testing Services in China
Testing Ensures Confidence that Products are Melamine-free

June 21, 2007 Source of Article:
ANN ARBOR, Mich.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--NSF International today announced a new testing service for suppliers in the food industry to detect the presence of melamine, an industrial chemical used in plastics that was recently found in pet food products.

Melamine is frequently used in product materials and synthetic fibers, clothing, inks and plastic food containers. The chemical was added to wheat gluten and rice protein exported from China to increase protein levels in animal feeds. China has since banned its exporters from using the chemical as an additive in feeds.

NSF, an independent testing laboratory, is expanding its melamine testing capabilities following the widespread pet food contamination and the ensuing product recall. The resulting melamine contamination has generated an increased demand by pet food manufacturers who are seeking accredited laboratories that test for melamine presence.

To meet international commerce needs in China, NSF has an accredited testing laboratory in Shanghai that will conduct the testing and local auditors that will inspect the facilities to screen for melamine and other toxins. This process will ensure that products and raw materials exported overseas can be evaluated prior to being exported.

¡°It is the processors legal responsibility to ensure that all ingredients used in their products are safe, and our goal is to help these companies fulfill this commitment while also protecting the public,¡± said Tom Chestnut, vice president, NSF Supply Chain Food Safety and Quality Programs. ¡°With a network of fully- accredited laboratories, NSF can evaluate a wide range of products and raw materials to protect against melamine adulteration, and by conducting the tests before products are exported from China, we can help to ensure that the supply chain is not interrupted.¡±

NSF¡¯s melamine testing capabilities include laboratory analysis of processed foods, animal feeds, wheat gluten, rice protein concentrate and corn gluten. NSF uses FDA analytical methods for melamine testing, screening and quantitative analysis using chromatographic techniques, including analysis using Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) or High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC).

In addition to melamine, NSF can also test for heavy metals, pesticides, antibiotics, microbiologicals and diethylene glycol (DEG). For more information on these testing services, please visit or contact Kurt Kneen, Ph.D., director, NSF¡¯s Chemistry Laboratory, at or 734-827-6874.

About NSF International: NSF International, an independent, not-for-profit organization, helps protect you by certifying products and writing standards for food, water and consumer goods ( Founded in 1944, NSF is committed to protecting public health and safety worldwide. NSF is a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Food and Water Safety and Indoor Environment. Additional services include safety audits for the food and water industries, management systems registrations delivered through NSF International Strategic Registrations, organic certification provided by Quality Assurance International and education through the NSF Center for Public Health Education.

NSF International
Greta Houlahan, 800-NSF-MARK Ext: 5723

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

Health Officials Controlling Outbreak of Shigella
Posted By: Tom Mckee

Source of Article:
Tri-State health officials say they've experienced an outbreak of shigella in the past few months, but that they've got the illness under control. Shigella is a bacteria that causes an infectious disease whose symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever ? especially in young children. Dr. Larry Holditch, medical director of the Cincinnati Health Department, said the normal number of cases is about 10 per month in the City of Cincinnati, and another 10 in the region. "Over the past two months we've had about 60 cases in the city and 100 to 120 in the region," Dr. Holditch said.
The number of shigella cases normally increases as summer begins, but Dr. Holditch says a lot of the outbreak is tied to day care centers where there are lots of children in diapers and many people in closed space.
"It's a very communicable disease," said Dr. Holditch. "It's easily spread from person-to-person, especially where there are small children. Dr. Holditch said cases aren't concentrated in any one area. Instead, they're distributed over the entire region.
The Cincinnati Health Department has contacted pediatricians about the outbreak and sent letters to day care operators reminding them to be diligent about cleaning and disinfecting their environment. The Hamilton County General Health District mailed educational letters on June 18 to day care operators reminding them of good health practices to follow.
Shigella is normally treated with antibiotics and gradually subsides in about five days.
There's one key way to prevent the spread of the disease, according to Dr. Holditch.
"Very good hand washing," he said, "especially after changing diapers of small children, going to the bathroom yourself or before preparing any food or drink."
The Hamilton County health department letter reminds day care operators that Ohio law prohibits children and employees with diarrhea from attending the center.

The letter also contains the following tips:
A child with diarrhea should be referred to a doctor
Ask parents about any recent history of diarrhea prior to accepting all new children
Use good diaper changing practices including changing them in a designated area and washing the area after all diaper changes
Clean surfaces and toys with disinfectant and/or sanitizer
Wipe countertops, tables and chairs before with soap and water before preparing or eating food. Follow with a bleach and water rinse
Dr. Holditch says the situation is under control, despite the increased number of cases.
"This is really small potatoes next to the outbreak we had several years ago when we had 1,900 cases," he said. "However, we are taking this seriously."

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

June 21, 2007

Source of Article:

E. coli bacteria that have developed resistance to antibiotics will probably still be around even if we stop using antibiotics, as these strains have the same good chance as other bacteria of continuing to colonise the gut, according to a thesis at the Sahlgrenska Academy. E. coli bacteria are found naturally in large quantities in our intestines. These bacteria do not normally cause disease, but there are several strains that can result in diarrhoea. In serious cases, they can also cause peritonitis and septicaemia. The faeces of 128 Swedish infants were analysed in the studies underlying the thesis. The results show that 21% of E. coli strains in these infants¡¯ gut flora were resistant to at least one type of antibiotic. Even children who had never been given antibiotics had resistant bacterial strains in their intestines. ¡°This is a growing problem, and it¡¯s serious even when ordinary harmless bacteria develop resistance, as these genes can be transferred to more harmful bacteria,¡± says microbiologist Nahid Karami. Many had thought that resistant bacteria would disappear if the use of antibiotics were to be reduced, but the thesis shows that E. coli strains carrying resistance genes are just as good at colonising the gut for long periods as sensitive strains. ¡±Our research suggests that there¡¯s little cost to the bacteria from carrying a resistance gene, and this presumably means that this resistance will be retained for a long time by the bacteria in our gut flora even if we stop using antibiotics,¡± says Karami.

Bacteria have a natural ability to absorb and transfer resistance genes to other bacteria. The study discovered two cases of such transfers between E. coli strains found simultaneously in a child¡¯s intestines. The first was in an infant who was treated with penicillin, and the second in an infant who was not treated with antibiotics. ¡°Our results suggest that the transfer of resistance genes in the gut flora may be very common, which makes the resistance issue much more serious, as genes can easily be transferred from bacteria in the normal flora to more harmful bacteria,¡± says Karami.

E. coli won't result in charges
Outbreak prompts new rules, more strict inspections
The Associated Press June 22, 2007

Source of Article:
Salinas Valley companies won't face criminal charges in last year's nationwide E. coli outbreak linked to local-grown fresh spinach, the U.S. Attorney in San Francisco said Thursday. Federal prosecutors have decided such charges aren't warranted, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced. FBI agents raided two Central Coast produce processing plants and several farms for evidence of environmental and food-safety violations in September, following the outbreak that led to the deaths of three people and sickened about 200 others. "We're pleased with the outcome of this investigation," said Samantha Cabaluna, director of communications for Earthbound Farm and Natural Selection Foods, which processed the E. coli-contaminated spinach grown in San Benito County.
"We want to thank the government for their professionalism throughout the past several months," Cabaluna said. "We believe that the decision of the U.S. Attorney to close this investigation was the right move." The investigation did not find that growers or processors had deliberately broke the law or were negligent in preventing tainted foods from entering the marketplace, said U.S. Attorney Scott Schools. Authorities had searched plants in October run by Growers Express LLC in Salinas and Natural Selection Foods LLC in San Juan Bautista, as well as farms in Santa Clara, Monterey and San Benito counties.

FBI and Federal Department of Agriculture agents spent 11 hours searching both companies' facilities, sifting through records for evidence of a paper trail indicating spinach handlers skirted proper food-handling procedures. Federal officials warned consumers not to eat bagged or bunched spinach for two weeks last September after dozens of people in 26 states fell ill. Investigators eventually determined that all the illnesses came from bags of Dole baby spinach packaged in August by Natural Selection Foods. Consumer confidence in spinach and prewashed, bagged produce fell dramatically after the outbreak. Fallout included a $77 million loss in the value of Monterey County spinach, according to the 2006 Monterey County Crop Report, and a $10.5 million drop in the value of bagged salads.

Health inspectors eventually traced the bacterial outbreak to an E. coli strain found in cattle or wild pig feces near the San Benito County fields of Mission Organics, which grew spinach for Natural Selection. The incident prompted stricter monitoring procedures by growers and processors and stepped-up inspections by state health officials. The companies blamed for the outbreak, meanwhile, still face civil lawsuits filed by people who claim they got sick after eating contaminated spinach. Salinas Californian staff writer Dawn Withers contributed to this report.

Charm Sciences is pleased to announce four new commodities approved for official testing of Zearalenone in the U.S national grain inspection system.

Charm Sciences ROSA ¢ç Zearalenone (Quantitative) test has received approval for screening 4 commodities from the United States Department of Agriculture¡¯s (USDA) Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA). In addition to corn, the ROSA Zearalenone test is now approved for sorghum, milled rice, wheat, and distillers dried grains with solubles.

The ROSA Zearalanone test is the only test to be approved for official testing of Zearalenone in the U.S national grain inspection system. An official Certificate of Conformance from USDA/GIPSA (Certificate No. FGIS 2007-102.1 Addendum) declares that the test ¡°kit met the accuracy specifications for the listed commodities spiked at 250 and 1000 ppb.¡± In addition, the ¡°30 ppb limit of detection was also met for all listed commodities.¡±

Charm¡¯s ROSA (Rapid One Step Assay) Zearalenone test procedure includes a sample extraction and 10 minute incubation. A test strip is then inserted into a digital ROSA-M strip reader. Quantitative results are displayed and recorded on the reader (with automatic printing and download options).

Other ROSA tests include the 3 minute Aflatoxin P/N, the 3 minute DON P/N, the 10 minute ROSA Aflatoxin Quantitative, which have already received approval from USDA GIPSA. A 10 minute quantitative test for DON and fumonisin were recently added to the ROSA mycotoxin family. All ROSA mycotoxin tests can be run on the same equipment.

Zearalenone can appear in pre-harvest corn, wheat, rice or maize by several species of Fusarium, e.g., F. graminearum. Swine are particularly susceptible to the presence of Zearalenone in feedstuffs as it is an estrogenic mycotoxin, which can cause infertility, or other breeding problems.

About Charm Sciences, Inc
Charm Sciences, Inc., a world-renowned manufacturer of food safety monitoring tests and equipment was founded in 1978. The Company continually develops innovative, reliable testing methods. Charm Sciences corporate offices are in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Along with a full line of food safety products and solutions, Charm Sciences provides award-winning product support and technical assistance.


Charm Sciences, Inc
Telephone: +1.978.687.9200

Test kit makes melamine detection easier
// 18 jun 2007

Source of Article:
A new food contaminant testing method for melamine and cyanuric acid decreases the time it takes to get accurate results for meats, its developer claims. Applied Biosystems and MDS Sciex have jointly released a testing kit, which they claim will help laboratories and food manufacturers improve safety. Reducing time to test for contaminants could reduce delays in shipments waiting on results and improve recall effectiveness if products have already left the plant.
Reduced to 6 minutes
The method is based on liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC/MS). It reduces testing time to less than six minutes from the 30 minutes required by current systems, the companies claim. "The new method is the first commercially available method to test for both contaminants simultaneously with this advanced technology," they stated.

Pet food
Melamine was found to have contaminated pet food in North America this year and by extension animal feed. The scare led to concerns over ingredients sourced from China and increased testing of those products both for human and animal consumption.

Drexel Researcher Develops Sensor to Test for E. coli in 10 Minutes
Source of Article:
The latest outbreak of E. coli cases ? now in 12 Western states and involving 6 million pounds of fresh and frozen meat ? shows a need for better detection in food processing exists.
Dr. Raj Mutharasan, a professor of chemical engineering at Drexel University, has developed over the past five years sensor technology that can test for E. coli bacteria in just 10 minutes. He is working with a company that has licensed Drexel¡¯s technology to commercialize the device and expects it to be in the hands of food-safety experts soon.
The sensor could also have wide applications in medical diagnostic testing (prostate cancer) and monitoring for biothreat agents (anthrax). In medical testing, the sensor can be used to analyze the four most widely tested fluids: blood, urine, sputum and spinal fluid.
The standard detection process of E. coli bacteria in food processing requires about 24 hours and involves a trip to a laboratory. Mutharasan¡¯s sensor can be contained in a handheld device that is accurate and easy to use.
No direct test for minute amounts of proteins exists on the market. A study published in the April 1, 2007, issue of Analytical Chemistry using Mutharasan¡¯s sensor detected E. coli in ground beef at some of the lowest concentrations ever reported.
Unlike salmonella, for example, no Food and Drug Admistration requirement to test food for E. coli exists. Requirements are in place, however, to ensure proper food-manufacturing practices are met to help avoid contamination, says Dr. Stanley Segall, Drexel professor emeritus of food science and nutrition.
E. coli outbreaks have increased in recent years because reporting systems have been more efficient and effective and food production has become more centralized, with distribution spanning the country in rapid time frames, Segall says.
The near-prototype sensor Mutharasan has developed contains a sensitivity of four cells per milliliter of solution. The sensor uses E. coli antibodies to detect the bacteria in a way similar to how our bodies work. Those antibodies are affixed to a narrow sliver of glass. A ceramic layer, attached to the other end of the glass, generates voltage in response to applied mechanical stress.
The sensor affixed with antibodies against E. coli can detect as low as four cells per milliliter of solution. A voltage is applied to a ceramic layer, causing it to expand and contract, vibrating the glass sliver. The sensor detects changes in the glass sliver¡¯s resonate frequency (the point where vibration is the greatest) and determines the presence and concentration of E. coli bacteria.
Because the same principles of resonate frequency apply, the sensor can test liquid and solid samples. The sensor can be equipped with a range of antibodies to detect many pathogens or it can be homozygous with a single antibody, enabling the sensor to detect even the smallest amounts of the harmful bacteria.
Source: Drexel University

PARC developed dates dryer to minimize post harvest losses

Source of Article:
The Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) has designed and developed a solar-cum-gas fired date's dryer to minimize post harvest losses of the fruit. According to a statement of the PARC, the Dates are the third most important fruit of Pakistan and these are grown on an area of about 78,000 hactres with an annual production of 625,000 tons. The Sun drying of dates is the common practice prevalent in Pakistan.
The sun-dried dates have short shelf life and may not be free from
contamination and aflatoxin. Hence, these dates are unhygienic from health point of view and pose difficulty in their marketing internationally. About 22% of the total dates produced in the country are wasted every year due to unavailability of proper drying/processing and storage facilities. The to dry/process dates on scientific grounds, the scientists/engineers of Farm Machinery Institute, National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC), and Islamabad have designed and developed a solar-cum-gas fired date's dryer.
The dryer consists of eight flat-plate solar collectors, a drying chamber, an axial flow fan and a gas burner for supplement source of heat.
The scientists at NARC evaluated this dryer at Mitra Abad, Dhaki, D.I. Khan.
Experimental results indicated that the dryer is capable to dry/process about 540 kg of fresh dates within five days.
Seasonal drying capacity of the dryer is about 4 tons.
The financial analysis revealed that one may earn about Rs.72,000 per season by adopting this technology. It is a small scale on-farm dates drying technology and is well suited to produce quality dates in order to present them into international market. To commercialize this technology, PARC has signed an agreement with a local farm machinery manufacturer for speedy transfer of this technology among the date growers. The date growers/processors are encouraged to use this technology for proper drying/processing of their produce. The information about the availability and use of solar-cum-gas fired dates drying can be obtained from Farm Machinery Institute, NARC, Park Road, Islamabad.

FDA Releases New Software Tool to Help Keep Food Facilities Safe from Attack
Latest Effort in Strengthening U.S. Food Defense

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today released a new tool to help growers, packers, processors, manufacturers, warehousers, transporters, and retailers in the food industry determine the vulnerability of individual food facilities to biological, chemical, or radiological attack. The software program, called the CARVER + Shock Software Tool, is a science-based prevention strategy to safeguard the food supply. This tool is an example of the type of approach currently being developed as part of a broader food protection strategy currently under development by FDA. "FDA's goal in developing the CARVER + Shock software is to maximize protection of the American food supply," said FDA Assistant Commissioner for Food Protection David Acheson, M.D. "The relative risk-ranking methodology used by the CARVER + Shock software tool has been designed to assist facility operators in identifying potential vulnerabilities and assist in providing preventive measures to increase the defense of products and operations."CARVER + Shock was developed by FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, in collaboration with Sandia National Laboratories, the Institute of Food Technologists, U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service, National Center for Food Protection and Defense, State representatives, and private industry representatives.

The name of the risk assessment software is derived from the acronym CARVER, which refers to six attributes used to evaluate targets for attack.

Criticality: What impact would an attack have on public health and the economy?
Accessibility: How easily can a terrorist access a target?
Recuperability: How well could a system recover from an attack?
Vulnerability: How easily could an attack be accomplished?
Effect: What would be the direct loss from an attack, as measured by loss in production?
Recognizability: How easily could a terrorist identify a target?
The CARVER tool also evaluates a seventh attribute?the psychological impacts of an attack or "shock" attributes of a target. For example, the psychological impact tends to be greater when a large number of deaths is involved or if the target has historical or cultural significance.

CARVER + Shock is the latest in a series of food defense efforts by FDA following the terrorist attacks of September 2001. Since then, FDA has worked closely with its partners in federal, state and local government, and with the food industry to assess existing food defense measures and augment them for improved protection.

One such effort, the Strategic Partnership Program Agroterrorism Initiative, helps identify sector-specific vulnerabilities, determine research gaps and needs, and increase coordination between the federal government and industry stakeholders.

In 2006, FDA launched the ALERT Initiative, designed to raise industry awareness of food defense and preparedness issues. CARVER + Shock builds on ALERT, and allows a more formal and detailed food defense assessment.

To see a consumer article called CARVER + Shock: Enhancing Food Defense, visit

CFSAN FY 2007 Report to Stakeholders
CFSAN FY 2007 Report to Stakeholders

Tomato Safety Initiative by FDA

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will begin a Tomato Safety Initiative in the Summer of 2007. The Initiative is a collaborative effort between FDA and the state health and agriculture departments in Virginia and Florida, in cooperation with several universities and members of the produce industry.

FDA developed the Tomato Safety Initiative in response to recurring Salmonella outbreaks associated with fresh and fresh-cut tomatoes. The Initiative is part of a risk-based strategy to reduce foodborne illness by focusing food safety efforts on specific products, practices, and growing areas that have been found to be problematic in the past. The Tomato Safety Initiative is modeled after the Leafy Greens Safety Initiative that was initiated in August 2006, in collaboration with the State of California's Department of Health Services and Department of Food and Agriculture. This new initiative is fully consistent with the 2004 FDA Produce Safety Action Plan goal of minimizing the incidence of foodborne illness associated with the consumption of fresh produce.

Most tomato-associated outbreaks over the past ten years have been traced to product originating from the Eastern shore of Virginia and from Florida; however outbreaks have also been traced to Georgia, South Carolina, Ohio, and California. Accordingly, FDA, in cooperation with Virginia's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, will begin the Initiative in July of this year, by visiting Virginia based tomato farms and packing facilities to assess their food safety practices and to what degree they implement Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs). Assessment of a variety of environmental factors including irrigation water, wells, procedures for mixing chemicals, drought and flooding events, and animal proximity to growing fields will also be conducted during the farm and packing facility visits. Later in the year, a similar effort will be conducted in Florida coinciding with the production and harvesting season there. Other components of the Initiative include continuing outreach with the industry at all points in the supply chain, facilitating and promoting research on tomato safety, and working with federal, state and local public health officials in disease detection and outbreak response.

By identifying practices or conditions that potentially lead to product contamination, FDA can further improve guidance and policy intended to minimize future outbreaks as well as ascertain future produce safety research, education, and outreach needs. The findings of the Initiative will be publicly shared upon completion of the effort, allowing the states and industry members to maximize their food safety efforts as well.

FDA Implementing Initiative to Reduce Tomato-Related Foodborne
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will begin a multi-year Tomato Safety Initiative to reduce the incidence of tomato-related foodborne illness in the United States.

"Produce is an important part of a healthy diet and FDA wants to improve its safety by better understanding the causes of foodborne illness and by promoting more effective methods of safe food production, delivery, and preparation," said Robert Brackett, Ph.D., director of FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. "This initiative is part of a strategy to reduce foodborne illness by focusing food safety assessments on specific products, practices, and growing areas that have been found to be problematic in the past."

The initiative, part of FDA's Produce Safety Action Plan, is a collaborative effort between FDA and state health and agriculture departments in Florida and Virginia. Several universities and members of the produce industry also are part of the effort. It will begin during this year's growing season for Virginia in the summer and for Florida in the fall.

During the past decade, the consumption of fresh and fresh-cut tomatoes has been linked to 12 different outbreaks of foodborne illness in the United States. Those outbreaks include 1,840 confirmed cases of illness. The majority of these outbreaks have been traced to products from Florida and the eastern shore of Virginia; however, tomato-associated outbreaks also have been traced to tomatoes from California, Georgia, Ohio, and South Carolina. The effort will include identifying practices or conditions that potentially lead to product contamination, which will allow FDA to continue to improve its guidance and policy on tomato safety. The initiative will evaluate the need for additional produce safety research, education, and outreach.

Other components of the initiative include:

continuing outreach with the industry at all points in the supply chain,
facilitating and promoting research on tomato safety,
communicating early and often in the event of an outbreak, and
continuing to build and strengthen collaborative relationships with federal, state and local public health officials in disease prevention, detection, and outbreak response.
FDA investigators in coordination with their respective state counterparts will visit tomato farms and packing facilities in Florida and Virginia to assess food safety practices and use of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs). During their visits, officials will also evaluate a variety of environmental factors including irrigation water, wells, procedures for mixing chemicals, drought and flooding events, and animal proximity to growing fields.


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