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Internet Journal of Food Safety

10/22
2007
ISSUE:276

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2nd International Conference for Food Safety and Quality
(Nov. 6-7, 2007), South San Francisco Convention Center

Early Registeration will be ended soon.

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

Topps E. coli Outbreak Spreads to Connecticut (2), Florida (1), Indiana (1), Maine (1), New Jersey (9), New York (13), Ohio (1), and Pennsylvania (12) - 40 sickened Posted on October 20, 2007 by Botulism Attorney
Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/

Multistate Outbreak of E. coli O157 Infections Linked to Topp's Brand Ground Beef Patties
Marler Blog
CDC reports as of 12 PM (ET) October 18, 2007, 40 cases of E. coli O157:H7 infection have been identified with PFGE patterns that match at least one of the patterns of E. coli strains found in Topp's brand frozen ground beef patties. Ill persons reside in 8 states [Connecticut (2), Florida (1), Indiana (1), Maine (1), New Jersey (9), New York (13), Ohio (1), and Pennsylvania (12)]. Twenty-nine (88%) of 33 patients with a detailed food history consumed ground beef. Seven illnesses have confirmed associations with recalled products because the strain isolated from the person was also isolated from the meat in their home. The first reported illness began on July 5, 2007, and the last began on September 24, 2007. Among thirty-two ill persons for whom hospitalization status is known, twenty (63%) were hospitalized. Two patients developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). We have filed two lawsuits against Topps. Given the number of ill persons, finding who supplied the product to Topps is becoming an important part of our investigation.

Recent salmonella case linked to recalled pot pies
By MISTY MAYNARD, Staff Writer
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Source of Article: http://www.maysville-online.com/
Yet another case of salmonella poisoning was reported to the Mason County Health Department Wednesday. The case came on the heels of an extensive investigation by the health department into the sources of several cases of salmonella and E. coli poisoning all reported since mid-July of this year.
The most recent case of salmonella poisoning has been linked to one of the Banquet pot pies recently recalled by ConAgra Foods Inc., according to Tim Stump, director of the health department. At least one of the previously reported cases also appears to have been related to the pot pie recall.
Stump said tracking down a source for salmonella or E. coli poisoning can be difficult, due to the time frame during which each can manifest itself.
Stump said it may take anywhere from six to 72 hours for the symptoms of salmonella poisoning to occur, and longer for E. coli poisoning, making the tracking of previous meals difficult.
Stump said people who become ill from food tend to attribute it to the last meal eaten, which is often not the case with either salmonella or E. coli.
The cases of salmonella poisoning, Stump said, were spread over the five-county Buffalo Trace area. Previously, regional cases were not reported to the Mason County Health Department, but the hiring of a regional epidemiologist made it easier to track those cases.
Stump said the number of cases does not appear to be atypical for the area for the time frame for which they were reported.
In addition to determining if there is a common link between the cases, each of the meal histories of the patients have been compared to previous recalls, though no definite source can be confirmed for every case.
Stump said anytime an item is recalled, the health department "always" checks with local stores to make sure the product has been taken from the shelves.
All of the salmonella cases and the most recent E. coli case were in adults. The adult with E. coli poisoning was hospitalized, but Stump said has been released and appears to be doing well.
Cases of E. coli poisoning from earlier this year were in children, and also resulted in hospitalization.
According to the Centers for Disease Control Web site, the best way to protect against salmonella or E. coli poisoning is to make sure produce which could be contaminated is thoroughly cleaned before consumption, and all meat products are cooked thoroughly.
In addition, hands should be washed regularly, including before handling food products, and between handling different food items.

FDA Commissioner Meets with Chinese Minister of Health and Other Senior Chinese Government Officials on Import Safety

Broken food chain
Oct. 22, 2007 12:00 AM

Source of Article: http://www.azcentral.com/
Recalled hamburger patties. Contaminated spinach. Tainted peanut butter.
The danger can be as close as the end of your fork.
Congress, the White House, industry groups and consumer advocates are all looking at ways to improve the nation's food-safety system.
That's not surprising.
But these efforts need to result in comprehensive changes, not piecemeal patches.
The current system lacks coordination, uniformity and authority. It is understaffed and focused too much on fixing problems instead of preventing them.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture monitors meat safety under a system that allows meat processors to design their own food safety plans. Many in the meat industry have strict guidelines and test meat for pathogens at various stages in the butchering process, but there is no federal requirement for such tests, according to the American Meat Institute.
USDA inspectors are monitoring compliance with these company-written plans, but the USDA cannot mandate changes in the plans, says Patty Lovera, assistant director of the Washington-based food-safety group, Food and Water Watch.
USDA inspectors are thinly spread. One inspector was assigned to the Topps Meat Co., which claimed to produce more hamburger patties than any other U.S. plant until it went out of business earlier this month. As you probably remember, Topps folded after the recall of about 22 million pounds of its meat.
The recall was not ordered by the USDA. The federal regulatory agency doesn't have the authority to order a recall. The company announced the recall 18 days after initial tests showed contamination with the potentially deadly E.coli bacteria.
The federal inspector assigned to Topps didn't find the E.coli contamination. That discovery was made after dozens of people became ill and the pathogen was traced to Topps.
One inspector may seem inadequate for a major producer of meat patties sold to stores, schools, hospitals and restaurants. But this is worse than it seems. The inspector who was assigned to Topps also had responsibility for inspecting four other plants.
This may lead you to agree with food-safety advocates who say the USDA is understaffed. But this, too, is worse than it seems. The USDA regulates about one-fifth of the nation's food supply, but it gets three-quarters of the food-inspection funding, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for the vast majority of food products consumed by Americans, gets the rest. FDA-regulated fresh produce and peanut butter have also been the subject of well-publicized recalls. The Center for Science in the Public Interest says foods regulated by the FDA have been responsible for a sharp increase in illnesses.
Both USDA and the FDA regulate imported foods, but the vast majority of those come under FDA authority. Imported foods are an increasing part of the American diet.
The needs of the agency are so acute that Grocery Manufacturers Association is calling for FDA to have more funding and authority, particularly in the area of imported foods.
The consequences of an inadequate regulatory framework can be severe for the industry, as well as the consumer. After all, Topps went out of business.
A number of bills in Congress are reactions to the recent food-safety problems, and a White House-appointed group is looking at the FDA's role in food imports.
These are encouraging, but largely reactive, approaches. What's needed is a broad and sustained effort to design a regulatory system that meets the needs of modern consumers and producers.

Five Minutes With Dr. James Marsden & That Nasty E. Coli Bug
10/19/2007
Source of Article: http://www.cattlenetwork.com/content.asp?ContentId=169729
Dr. James Marsden is one of the foremost experts on E. coli 0157:H7 and the steps necessary to eradicate it. He¡¯s Kansas State University¡¯s Regent¡¯s Distinguished Professor of Meat Science and serves as the Associate Director of the school¡¯s National Agriculture Biosecurity Center.
His research focus has been on the safety of meat products and methods to control the presence of E. coli O157:H7 in raw ground beef and other processed beef products. He¡¯s the Senior Science Advisor for the North American Meat Processors Association and has been involved in food safety training for the meat industry. Dr. Marsden is the author of numerous publications and book chapters on food safety and quality and is the recipient of awards for research and teaching.
What all this means is when E. coli reared it¡¯s nasty little head earlier this year, he got very busy. His knowledge and advice was critical to an industry that thought it had come close to whipping the problem. His phone rang off the hook. His email address came close to a melt down. It was an extremely serious problem and the industry came calling.
He was a regularly scheduled featured speaker at the North American Meat Processors Association Annual Convention last week. With the public impact created by the recall of millions of pounds of ground beef, though, his contribution to the program was greatly expanded. A special early morning discussion with Dr. Marsden was quickly added to the agenda and he came back later in the three day event to explain the impact of the USDA¡¯s NOTICE OF REASSESSMENT FOR E. COLI O157:H7 CONTROL AND COMPLETION OF A CHECKLIST FOR ALL BEEF OPERATIONS, a lengthy title that means if you¡¯re producing ground beef, your HACCP program will have to be revised right now.
How quickly? The checklist was issued on October 13 and the feds plan to come knocking on your door beginning October 26. It¡¯s amazing how fast the government can act when sufficient political pressure is applied, isn¡¯t it? And forget the science¡¦this is a politically motivated program. I grabbed Dr. Marsden immediately after his presentation at the NAMP Convention and asked him a few questions. A suggestion: If you produce or eat ground beef, read his responses very carefully. At the very least, it could save your business.

Q. Since E. coli O157:H7 was first identified as a serious health threat 14 years ago, the beef industry has been very successful in reducing the incidences of infected product. This summer, though, the industry has suffered what some call a serious setback with possibly the worst series of recalls in a very long time. What are the root causes behind the re-emergence of this problem?

A. The beef industry had made steady progress in addressing the problem of E. coli O157:H7 since the issue first emerged. The current crisis deals mainly with the increase in cases and outbreaks and the resulting recalls. The number of positive samples has remained relatively low as compared with the levels reported by USDA over the past several years. The reason that Industry, USDA and consumers are alarmed is because the trend toward fewer cases and outbreaks and the steady progress in levels seems to be reversing.

Part of the current problem may be related to the spikes in cases and outbreaks that have traditionally been reported during the summer months. Microbiological testing methods have improved and sampling frequency has increased and these may be affecting reported levels of E. coli O157:H7. However, no matter what the cause, this reversal has to be corrected and the problem has to be solved.

Q. With those causes in mind, what must be done to continue the successes of the past decade-and-a-half?

A. Several things can be done to put the industry back on track. The origins of the E. coli O157:H7 problem go back to animal production units, feedlots and the beef slaughter process. In the production area, improvements can be made by chlorinating drinking water for animals and making efforts to keep animals clean prior to and during shipment to slaughter facilities. In slaughter plants, validated interventions like thermal pasteurization should be universally applied.

Particular focus should be placed on carcass chilling to make sure that carcasses are always spaced and are efficiently chilled. Processors can also implement interventions and can avoid placing contaminated products into commerce by employing lot control programs and by increasing testing frequencies for E. coli O157:H7. Customers can further reduce risks by following safe handling procedures and assuring that ground beef is properly cooked.

Q. The USDA, of course, has become very interested in solving the problem as quickly as possible. What steps are they taking and what does the industry need to do to be ready to comply?

A. USDA has placed a major emphasis on the problem. Directives to inspectors were announced this week that will involve reviews of reassessments for HACCP plans, SSOP¡¯s and prerequisite programs. A draft check list has been developed which is designed to evaluate the food safety systems for all establishments that produce ground beef and processed beef products that pose a risk for E. coli O157:H7. Their objective is to assure that all plants have effective food safety systems in place to address this hazard.

Q. Many ranchers operate very small businesses, generally supplying grass fed beef to a localized and niche markets. What must they do to insure the safety of their product?

A. Good Manufacturing Practices should be applied by all cattle producers. I mentioned the need to assure that the drinking water for cattle is safe. It is important that animals are clean and healthy before they enter the food chain.

Q. Being more specific, what should be done at the ranch and the feed lot?

A. On the ranch systems should be in place to manage the general health of animals. In feedlots, efforts should be made to prevent cross contamination. The feedlot environment should also be kept as clean as possible.

Q. Let's move downstream. What can be done at the packer level?

A. Again, packers need to control contamination in the slaughter environment and to employ validated interventions. It is possible to steam or hot water pasteurize every carcass at the end of the slaughter process. A zero tolerance for physical defects already exists and is closely enforced by USDA. Again, carcass chilling is extremely important. Carcasses must be properly spaced to allow for efficient cooling. If they are spaced, temperatures can remain in the optimum growth range for bacteria for long periods of time. Post chill interventions are also useful in reducing microbial contamination.

Q. Is it possible to develop a unified 'gate-to-plate' program and what will it contribute to food safety?

A. The North American Meat Processors Association announced an initiative to develop a farm to table food safety system designed to reduce the risk of E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef and processed beef products. The answer to the question is definitely yes ? it is possible if all segment s of the industry continue to work together. The beef industry is committed to solving the problem.

Food Safety and Quality Related Job Openings
Laboratory Coordinator/QA Supervisor - Bar-S Foods Co Elk City, OK
Director, Quality Assurance / Food Safety - Bar-S Foods Co
Quality Assurance Manager/Auditor Mirab USA Taylor, MI
Quality Assurance Manager - Maglio & Company Glendale, WI
Quality Assurance Technician - Frozen Specialties, Inc. West Haven, CT
Manager, Food Safety Sara Lee Downer¡¯s Grove, IL
Quality Assurance Supervisor (night shift) - The Honickman Group - Baltimore, MD
Food Safety Specialist - America's Second Harvest - Chicago, IL
Food Safety and Quality Related Job Openings

Congressman wants answers from FSIS on Topps recall By Tom Johnston on 10/19/2007 for Meatingplace.com
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) penned a lengthy letter to USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service this week, demanding to know why it took so long for the agency to enact the Topps Meat Co. recall and what steps the agency is taking to improve its oversight.
"It is alarming that, following several years of reductions in the number of cases of E. coli infections, we are now witnessing a sharp rise in both the number of incidents requiring a recall and that a number of people infected by this harmful bacteria," Durbin wrote, addressing his letter to FSIS Under Secretary Dr. Richard Raymond.
Durbin noted there have been 16 recalls this year owing to E. coli O157:H7 concerns, totaling some 28 million pounds of beef. Nearly 22 million pounds of beef were recalled in the Topps case alone.
"This spike warrants additional attention," Durbin wrote.
Among a slew of questions included in the letter, Durbin asks that Raymond provide a detailed timeline of the Topps recall, indicate follow-up actions in terms of tracking down suppliers and divulge inspector staffing levels.
Durbin has long advocated consolidating the 15 separate federal branches currently charged with protecting the country's food supply, contending it would eliminate bureaucratic confusion. For example, the Food and Drug Administration oversees frozen cheese pizza while USDA presides over frozen pepperoni pizza.

Food Manufacturers' Seminar Series Focuses on Safety
ITAC Source of Article: http://www.marketwire.com/mw/release.do?id=782543
Food From New York
NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - October 18, 2007) - The Industrial and Technology Assistance Corporation (ITAC) announces a Friday morning seminar series, called "Best Practices for Food Manufacturers," held at the Artisan Baking Center in Long Island City at 36-46 37th Street. Topics include:

Friday, October 19 - Food Safety
Friday, October 26 - Food Defense
Friday, November 2 - Product Costing

The series includes presentations, demonstrations and hands-on exercises to guide food manufacturers through some of the more pressing issues of safeguarding their businesses with techniques and practices that large food conglomerates use to keep their companies operating smoothly and their products free from harm. The first two seminars will cover food safety and defense plans, an explanation of record keeping for HACCP and the Bioterrorism Act of 2002, using the CARVER + Shock tool to assess vulnerability. The final seminar will focus on product costing using techniques that include forecasting software.
Space is limited, register soon: Cost for the series is $100, $35 for single sessions. To register call Rose-Anne Angus at ITAC: 212-442-2990 or email her at rangus@itac.org or register online at www.itac.org.
Presenters Jerry & Nick Scavo of JSC Services have over 40 years combined experience in the baking industry, both in wholesale and retail, and currently assist baking companies with food safety, production management, reorganization and R & D.
ITAC www.itac.org is a citywide economic development organization that seeks to strengthen the economy of New York City by improving the performance of small to mid-size manufacturing and technology firms. ITAC is part of Food from New York www.foodfromnewyork.org, a NYC initiative of the New York Industrial Retention Network (NYIRN) www.nyirn.org aimed at strengthening the food manufacturing sector by retaining and expanding small and mid-size specialty food companies and jobs in the food sector. It provides a comprehensive set of programs to help food manufacturers, from start-ups to well-established businesses. Food from New York offers assistance in real estate and relocation, marketing, workforce development, energy and technology assistance.

Cargill manufactured, and Sam's Club sold, E. coli contaminated hamburger linked to 14 Illnesses in North Carolina, Minnesota, Tennessee and Wisconsin - 3 still hospitalized, 2 in critical condition
Posted on October 20, 2007 by Botulism Lawyer Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/
It was much easier to track the illnesses caused by Topps E. coli contaminated hamburger as there is a report on-line on the CDC website and the 21,000,000 pounds of hamburger recalled. No such luck with being able to see the same on the Cargill recall. Remember, Cargill recalled nearly 1,000,000 pounds of E. coli infected hamburger. A search through Health Department websites and news, has shown at least 13 people ill, and probably 14, 3 still hospitalized - 2 still in critical condition.

This is what I have been able to find:
North Carolina Department of Health reports 2 ill.
Minnesota Department of Health reports 4 ill (likely 5).
We represent 3 of those children and have filed suit on behalf of 2 with number 3 coming this week while I am in Minnesota mediating the Dole spinach E. coli cases and Lunds and Byerly's. We had asked that Cargill help all victims who have incurred medical expenses. It has been silent. According to the St. Cloud Times, Stephanie Smith, 20, remains in critical condition as of last Sunday morning at St. Mary¡¯s Hospital after contracting what appears to be a critical case of E. coli poisoning.

Tennessee Department of Health reports 3 ill.
According to the Knoxville Sentinel, 4-year-old John McDonald, who contracted E. coli linked to Cargill is in serious condition in UT¡¯s pediatric intensive care unit. Surgeons removed part of the boy¡¯s colon and lower bowel Tuesday night.

Wisconsin Department of Health reports 4 ill.
Heck, Cargill even poisons people from its own state - go figure. But then again, this is not the first time Cargill has had E. coli problems.

FDA Failed to Follow Up on 2004 Peanut Butter Contamination
Inspector visited ConAgra plant but agency dropped the ball
At least four deaths blamed on subsequent Salmonella outbreak
By Joseph S. Enoch ConsumerAffairs.Com
October 19, 2007 Source of Article: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/
The Salmonella peanut butter outbreak that is blamed for killing at least four and sickening hundreds early last year, was not the first instance of a Salmonella outbreak in a batch of Peter Pan peanut butter for the ConAgra Foods company.
Nor did it come as a surprise to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which had failed to follow up on earlier problems at the plant that produced the contaminated peanut butter. Documents obtained by ConsumerAffairs.com through a Freedom of Information Act request reveal that ConAgra discovered ¡°microbial problems¡± in October 2004.
In February 2005, the FDA sent inspector Jackie Douglas to ConAgra's Sylvester, Ga. plant, which produces Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butters, to investigate an anonymous claim of insect infestation, poor in-plant sanitation, equipment maintenance and quality control.
The FDA also had received five complaints from consumers who said they found plastic, hair, rice and mouse droppings in the peanut butter.
'Micro hold'
Although Douglas found the plant to be in compliance with applicable codes, the plant managers informed her that there was a ¡°micro hold¡± in October 2004, in which some of the plant's peanut butter was destroyed as a result of lab tests.
"Management verbally reported that each day's production is tested in-house for Salmonella and coliforms prior to release of the production for sale," Douglas noted in her inspection report. "Firm acknowledged that there was some production in October that did not meet product specifications and was put on micro hold, and was subsequently destroyed. However, management would not report the exact reason for the hold, nor the amount of product affected."
The plant managers informed Douglas that the details of that micro hold would be made available to the FDA if they filed a written request.
The FDA never did request that information, ConAgra spokeswoman Stephanie Childs said.

FDA dropped the ball
If the FDA had folowed through, it would have discovered that the micro hold was the result of Salmonella, Childs said. She wasn't sure how much peanut butter was destroyed, but she said the product manufactured the day the Salmonella was discovered was destroyed as well as an unspecified number of days before and after.

The FDA made no further inquiries until two years later when the Centers for Disease Control informed the FDA that more than 200 consumers had been infected with Salmonella, possibly as a result of eating Peter Pan peanut butter.

FDA spokeswoman Catherine McDermott gave unresponsive answers to ConsumerAffairs.Com's questions and a follow up e-mail and phone call to the agency's press office were not returned.

A month after the initial recall, ConAgra and the FDA issued press releases announcing that the recall would be expanded to October 2004.

"We were reaching back to custumers who might on an off-chance still have that product in storage or on shelf," Childs said. "I think there was some confusion behind the intent of that FDA press release. But our intent from the very beginning was to recall 100 percent of product made there."

Childs said it was a coincidence that the company announced an extension to its recall back to October 2004, the same month the company destroyed unknown batches of peanut butter that contained Salmonella.

Excessive moisture
In both Salmonella outbreaks, ConAgra scientists are not entirely sure what caused them. But they largely blame excessive moisture, Childs said.

The October 2004 outbreak was possibly a result of peanut shells from one distributor that may have been exposed to too much hurricane weather. It's also possible that sugar stored in a damaged shed may have been exposed to rain, the company said.

The February 2007 recall was possibly the result of the plant's faulty sprinkler system or a leak in the roof.

"We have procedures in place to clean up after that; stop production, get rid of product that may have been impacted by those kinds of scenarios and to start fresh," Childs said. "But we think there must have been some salmonella after our cleanup and that that lead to the unintentional contamination of the product later on."

Despite the cleanups, micro holds and ConAgra's in-house Salmonella testing, their product sickened hundreds of consumers whose doctors reported it to the CDC and likely many thousands more.

ConsumerAffairs.Com has received 205 related complaints. Many of those complaints involved multiple illnesses among family members.

Was the problem sporadic?
"Yes, we have these regular testing procedures. Yes, we regularly hold the product," Childs said. "But our experts believe that either the salmonella count was either too low to detect or that it was sporadic enough that our testing procedures could not detect it."

The plant tests one jar per line per hour, Childs said.

The FDA has levied no fines against ConAgra and the agency's investigation is ongoing. A manager at the Health and Human Services Freedom of Information Office said it will likely be "many months" before the FDA finishes its investigation.

Back on shelves
Peter Pan returned to store shelves in August and Childs said the company has made extra efforts to ensure the product is safe.

"We fully renovated the plant, worked with food safety experts to modify product testing and further separated raw ingredients from any finished product," Childs said.

By the time Peter Pan returned to stores, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention said that 628 people in 47 states have been affected by salmonella poisoning from the tainted peanut butter.

While most of the product has been pulled from store shelves, health officials say some of the recalled jars may still be in consumers¡¯ pantries. The recalled peanut butter can be identified by the product code beginning with 2111 on the lid.

While the CDC does not officially attribute any deaths to the outbreak, families of at least four elderly consumers have told ConsumerAffairs.com that their loved ones died after eating tainted peanut butter. Their deaths are not counted, officials say, because no autopsies were performed.

Eighty-one-year-old Rosie Haskins died February 26. Her family reported to ConsumerAffairs.com that a partially eaten jar of peanut butter was found in her room. The jar had the telltale 2111 stamped on the lid.

Another death reported to ConsumerAffairs.com was that of 85-year-old Mary Halstead of West Virginia. She died after her son made her a peanut butter sandwich -- her favorite food.

"Dumb old me, I made her a peanut butter sandwich at home and brought it to her at the hospital, because it was just about the only thing she wanted to eat," Larry Halstead, her son, said. "In no time, she got just 100 percent worse." Halstead said his mother then became semi-comatose and died.

Two other deaths have been unofficially attributed to the tainted peanut butter.

An elderly Chicago-area man, George Baldwin, was said to be in relatively good health just before his death from complications of food poisoning, shortly after he ate a peanut butter sandwich.

"He puts the peanut butter on toast, eats the toast, in six hours he develops fever, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting -- all of which are signs of salmonella poisoning," Baldwin family attorney Don McGarrah said.

A 76-year old Pennsylvania woman, Roberta Barkay of Philadelphia, died in January from complications of food poisoning, and family members contend she too ate peanut butter shortly before her death. The family has hired an attorney who has filed suit against the manufacturer, ConAgra.

While new cases of peanut butter-related salmonella have tapered off, the CDC is warning consumers to be careful. The agency says consumers should carefully examine peanut butter jars on kitchen shelves to make sure the product is not included in the recall.

¡°This outbreak demonstrates the potential for widespread illness from a broadly distributed contaminated product, one that had not previously been implicated in a food-borne illness outbreak in the United States,¡± the CDC said in a statement.

Is Our Food Any Safer Since the Last E. Coli Outbreak?
By Carl Nagin, California Coast and Ocean.
Posted October 18, 2007.
Source of Article: http://www.alternet.org/environment/65067/?page=entire
Farmers are now forced to comply with an array of new food safety measures, some of which are scientifically unproven and environmentally harmful.
Late in August 2006, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta began investigating cases of severe food poisoning reported by health officials in 26 states and one Canadian province. Over the next six weeks, a rare and particularly virulent strain of Escherichia coli 0157:H7 sickened more than 200 people, hospitalizing half of them, some with severe kidney damage, and killing two elderly women and a child. For epidemiologists, the outbreak presented a breakthrough because a DNA-fingerprinting system enabled CDC investigators to trace back the source of the infections from clusters of cases nationwide.
Bacteria in stool samples of hospitalized patients were genetically matched to pathogens in pre-packaged, "ready to eat" Dole brand spinach that they had recently purchased and consumed. Further, product codes on the bags indicated that the contaminated greens had been processed during one shift on August 15 at a plant then owned and operated by Natural Selection Foods. The company's records showed that the spinach had been harvested from four fields in Monterey and San Benito counties.
Just how the spinach became contaminated and where in the process from field to package the bacteria originated will probably never be known. An investigative report released last March by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could make "no definitive determination" as to "how E. coli 0157:H7 pathogens contaminated spinach in this outbreak."
The consequences of the crisis fell heavily on Central Coast farmers, who are now being pressed by buyers to comply with a conflicting array of new food safety measures, some of which are costly, scientifically unproven, and environmentally harmful. Some violate state regulations, and may even be counterproductive to food safety. But the growers must follow these measures in order to market their crops to the larger contractors or handlers.
The farmers' predicament is jeopardizing the future of sustainable agriculture and of the habitat and clean water it supports, according to the Nature Conservancy's Monterey Project Director Chris Fischer: "Farmers and conservationists in California have been working together for more than 20 years to develop practices that help protect water quality and wildlife habitat, but since last fall, farmers have been under enormous pressure from their buyers to go the other direction," she said. "To stay in business, they are being forced to build miles of fences along streams, cut down trees, and bulldoze ponds. Some actions, like creating bare-earth buffers along waterways, may actually increase the risk of contamination downstream." more information

Fermented tea eyed as natural preservative source
By staff reporter
Source of Article: http://www.foodnavigator.com/
16/10/2007 - Tea, seemingly always in the headlines for its potential health benefits, could also offer an interesting source of food preservatives, Chinese researchers report.
Extracts from microbially-fermented Puer tea and Fuzhuan brick-tea have the potential to inhibit several food-borne bacteria, including Bacillus cereus, Bacillus subtilis, Clostridium perfringens and Clostridium sporogenes.
"With the trend of increasing use of natural and biological preservatives in food products, natural antimicrobial agents from microbial fermented tea may offer an innovative and interesting measure for such applications," wrote lead author Haizhen Mo from Henan Institute of Science and Technology.
Before such a resource can be tapped however the researchers state that several critical aspects still need to be clarified before the tea extracts can be industrialised as alternatives to synthetic preservatives such as like butylhydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylhydroxytoluene (BHT) to slow down the oxidative deterioration of food.
Suspicion over chemical-derived synthetic preservatives has pushed food makers to source natural preservatives such as rosemary extract instead, and market analysts Global Information pitch the global food preservative market at ¢æ422.7bn ($575bn), reaching ¢æ522bn ($710bn) by 2008.
Among the challenges left include identification of the exact components in the tea responsible for the antimicrobial effects. Indeed, Mo and co-authors ask whether it is the more well-known tea catechins or polyphenols or antimicrobial metabolites from the fermentation process not originally present in unfermented or green tea leaves that are responsible.
Another area in need of research is whether the antimicrobials could impact the flavour and nutritional aspects of the food products.
"These natural preservatives should be desirably colourless and tasteless so that they will not bring about any off flavour troubles," wrote the researchers.
"Ideally, these natural preservatives should not bring about any anti-nutritional effects," they added.
The process for fermentation also needs optimising, they said.
"[Both] Puer tea and Fuzhuan brick-tea¡¦ are produced through a solid state fermentation process, [and] standardisation and optimisation are necessary. Solid-state fermentation is described as a process where no free water is present.
"A standardised fermentation process will not only ensure food safety but also the product quality.
"Furthermore, during the standardisation and optimisation of the process, more insight will be obtained for the metabolic mechanism of the fungi involved, how they produce antimicrobial metabolites and eventually an overproduction of these useful natural preservatives can be expected," they concluded.
The study was a collaboration with researchers from Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
Source: Trends in Food Science & Technology (Elsevier)
Published on-line ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.tifs.2007.10.001
"Microbial fermented tea - a potential source of natural food preservatives"
Authors: H. Mo, Y. Zhu, Z. Chen

New Pathogen Detection Database Released
source from: rapidmicrobiology.com

BioMinds LifeSciences Pvt Ltd., Hyderabad, India, has announced the release of one of its pioneering products for researchers working on pathogen detection using qPCR in laboratories around the globe. PathoOligoDB ¢â is an extensive and carefully curated database containing a wide array of information on pathogen detection using the widely applied qPCR technique.

The product is absolutely free for academic use and currently holds curated information of bacterial, fungal and viral pathogens. As of now, PathoOligoDB ¢â contains about 2978 specific oligos for 1023 pathogenic genes reported in about 150 pathogenic organisms, 1200 specific sample information and 1455 enzymes from about 33 journals. Besides this, researchers will also find extensive information on relevant experimental recipes such as buffers, other chemicals and reagents, and relevant vendor information for the resources mentioned.

PathoOligoDB ¢â is equipped with an innovative algorithm to quickly search for the oligos and related resources based on search filtering specified by the user. Users can search for oligos using the pathogen name, gene symbol, assay application, oligo sequence information, PubMed ID, oligo design vendors, and types of popular detection chemistries such as: TaqMan¢ç, TaqMan MGB, Molecular Beacon, SYBR¢ç Green, LNA¢ç, and FRET etc.

"According to ABRF 2007 Nucleic Acid Research Group Survey", qPCR is the third most opted pathogen detection approach among researchers around the world. We have designed PathoOligoDBTM after understanding the importance and the demand for instant information on optimized oligos, which would save the valuable time and cost involved in manual designing of oligos.¡±, says Dr. Ravi Kumar, Director of BioMinds LifeSciences Pvt Ltd. He invites the researchers to submit the validated oligos data to further strengthen the database and make it available for the research community.

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