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FDA, USDA oppose setting up single agency
By Josh Funk | Associated Press
November 13, 2007 Source of Article:
OMAHA - Peanut butter is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. But chicken pot pies are the Department of Agriculture's responsibility. Frozen cheese pizzas -- FDA. But if there's pepperoni on them, USDA has jurisdiction too.
Critics of the nation's food-safety system say it is too fragmented and marked by overlapping authority, and they say that may help explain why dangerous foods keep slipping through and why contamination scares are handled in sometimes inconsistent ways. "One of the underlying problems is the bifurcation of the regulatory system," said Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest's food-safety division.
Critics also complain that the food-safety system suffers from a shortage of money and inspectors and inadequate enforcement powers.
In the months ahead, Congress will consider several proposals to reform the system, including creation of a single food-safety agency, an idea both the FDA and USDA oppose. A top FDA official said the agencies cooperate well now.
"We do not believe a single food-safety agency would give us the efficiencies you can have from having two agencies responsible for 99 percent of the food that we eat in this country, both domestic and imported," said Richard Raymond, USDA undersecretary for food safety. The government structure that protects the food supply took shape piecemeal over the last 101 years. The results could be seen in the way two recalls were handled over the last year. When Peter Pan peanut butter was linked to a salmonella outbreak in February, ConAgra Foods Inc. recalled it as soon as federal health officials raised questions. But when ConAgra's Banquet-brand chicken and turkey pot pies were tied to a similar salmonella outbreak in October, the Omaha company waited two days to recall them, first issuing only a consumer health warning.
Peanut butter is regulated by the FDA, while pot pies are regulated by the USDA, because because the USDA has long had authority over meat and poultry.
Ready-to-eat foods such as peanut butter receive closer scrutiny because there is greater danger if harmful bacteria are present in those foods. Products such as pot pies must be cooked first, and proper cooking kills most bacteria.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the pot pies sickened more than 270 people, the peanut butter at least 625.
Neither the FDA nor the USDA had the authority to order ConAgra to recall the products. In fact, all food recalls, except for those involving infant formula, are voluntary. Often, the government gets a product recalled by warning the company it could face bad publicity if it does not withdraw the food.
At least a dozen federal agencies share responsibility for keeping America's food safe, with the FDA and the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service playing the biggest roles. But none of the agencies uses the same rule book.
The USDA and FDA sometimes must inspect the same food plant. For instance, the USDA inspects plants where frozen pepperoni pizza is made, because of the meat topping. But the FDA is responsible for inspecting plants that make frozen cheese pizzas.
In the two ConAgra contamination cases, it turns out that an FDA inspector hadn't been to the company's peanut butter plant in Georgia for two years before the recall, while a USDA inspector visits the Missouri pot pie plant daily.
The CDC tracks food-borne illnesses in 10 states as a barometer for the nation, and found that the rate of confirmed food-borne illness cases fell about 28 percent from 1996 to 2006, when there were 38.4 cases per 100,000 people. About 5,000 people die from food-borne illnesses annually.

Codex debates Listeria standards for ready-to-eat foods
By Ahmed ElAmin
Source of Article:
12/11/2007 - EU and US positions at a Codex meeting to set international standards on food safety foreshadow future legislation that would affect control measures in plants, and the manufacture of powdered formulae, ready-to-eat foods, and pasteurised liquid eggs.
At a six-day meeting ended 4 November in New Delhi, India, national representatives to Codex's food hygiene committee also decided to start work on drafting safety guidelines setting standards to control Campylobacter and Salmonella spp. in broiler chicken meat.
At the New Delhi meeting they discussed various positions, including those relating to proposed standards for pasteurized liquid whole eggs, hygienic practice for processing powdered formulae for infants and children, pathogen controls for Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods, and guidelines for evaluating manufacturing control measures.
Codex is a multilateral body set up to develop food safety and other standards that would apply to all member countries.
It operates under the aegis of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation.
The standards are recognised as international benchmarks by one of the multilateral agreements of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and aim to eliminate many of what the UN calls "unjustified technical barriers" to food imports set up by some countries.
The standards also serve to harmonise food safety laws globally, aiding multinational processors in following the law no matter where they trade.
The standards on each particular topic and food type can undergo a huge revision process at various levels of Codex decision making bodies, over a number of years. Member countries must then transcribe the standards into their national laws.
The proposed standard setting what pathogen controls for Listeria monocytogenes ready-to-eat food processors must put in place is based in the main on US risk assessments, according to Codex documents.
Based on the risk assessments, a working group led by Germany concluded that a zero tolerance standard for L. monocytogenes have a proportional reduction in the rates of illness from foods contaminated with the pathogen.
A study commissioned by the food hygiene committee showed that the application of microbiological criteria at a given point of the production chain is only one of the measures that need to be applied, to bring down contamination rates.
The committee proposes to exclude from the criteria foods that are processing in such a way to ensure the killing of L. monocytogenes and for which recontamination is not possible.
The foods must also be processed and handled under systems adhering to good hygienic practice (GHP), a separate international standard.
Such foods include those given a listericidal treatment in the package and those that are produced through aseptic processing and packaging.
The group includes dehydrated products such as powdered milk, dehydrated soup mixes, herbs and spices, fresh, uncut and unprocessed vegetables and fruits, soft drinks, beer and spirits.
At the meeting the EU delegation also proposed that the standard should specifically include ready-to-eat foods for infants and those with medical conditions.
The EU supports a 100 colony forming units per gram (cfu/g) limit on the pathogen for ready-to-eat foods, if the food manufacturer is able to demonstrate the maximum would not be exceeded throughout self-life.
The EU delegation also noted that setting a zero tolerance standard, where a negative reading is set at 25g = 0.04 colony forming units per gram (cfu/g) "might cause misunderstandings".
The EU also wants clarification on foods not covered by the testing standard, pointing out that previous discussions had also discussed products for which Listeria monocytogenes is "very unlikely" to be detected.
Clarification is also needed about the proposed exclusion of foods for which there is less than '1 log' growth during 1.3 times the expected shelf life, the EU stated in its submission. Various definitions of 'shelf-life' might confuse the issue.
At the meeting the Codex committee also set its priorities for proposed standards, with those for egg products topping the list.
Other priorities in order are standards for infant and children foods; combining two codes of practice for various nuts into one; setting a single hygienic code for fruits, vegetable and products made from them; quick frozen foods, spices and aromatic plants; low-acid and acidified low-acid canned foods and aseptically processed and packaged low-acid canned foods, natural mineral waters, frog legs, catering, and street-vended foods.
The WTO's Codex Alimentarius Commission is the body set up to harmonise food safety and other export requirements around the world.
Member countries' representatives meet regularly to debate a common position on every aspect of such requirements, from the holding temperatures frozen meat should be kept at, to processing requirements for specific cheeses.
Agreements forged at Codex meetings could eventually affect the way processors operate worldwide as they become incorporated into national laws.

Cargill and Hormel CEOs Affirm Safety of Low-Oxygen Modified Atmosphere Packaging During House Subcommittee Hearing
November 14, 2007 Source of Article:
In a hearing yesterday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, the CEOs of Cargill, Inc., and Hormel Foods Corporation detailed the facts in support of the safety of meat packaged in low oxygen modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) systems, noting that branded companies like theirs benefit by marketing product that is not only safe, but widely accepted by consumers, as these products are.
The packaging technology, now in use for nearly four years and enjoying extraordinarily high levels of consumer acceptance, was thrust into the spotlight in 2006 as a result of campaign waged by the maker of a competing and patented technology that uses rosemary extract to maintain meat¡¯s red color in much the same way that low-oxygen packaging systems, which use minute amounts of carbon monoxide, also maintain color. During the hearing, witnesses explained that meat in its natural state is purple. Oxygen causes meat to turn red but shortly thereafter to turn brown and ultimately develop off flavors. The combination of gases in the low-oxygen packaging systems maintains a longer shelf life, fresh flavor and the red color that consumers like and expect.
In the face of tough questioning from subcommittee members, Gregory Page, chief executive officer of Cargill Incorporated, and Jeffrey Ettinger, president and CEO of Hormel Foods Corporation, detailed the many benefits the packaging offers.
¡°Through a MAP system, meat is packaged at a central processing plant and is then delivered to the retail grocery store in a tray covered with a protective film. This helps eliminate the potential for cross contamination that can come from human handling both at the retail store and in the home. The package is both leak-proof and tamper proof, adding additional consumer protections,¡± Page said. ¡°As the committee is no doubt aware, many of the leading food scientists have submitted papers and testimony that show the superior freshness and food safety performance of this packaging.¡±
Rep. Michael Burgess, M.D., (R-TX) expressed concern about the amount of time being devoted to examining a technology that had already been reviewed on numerous occasions by federal officials at both the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). He asked Page and Ettinger how many illnesses had been associated with meat packaged in this system and the answer was zero.
Likewise, in a strongly worded statement, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) asked, ¡°How many experts have to say that the use of carbon monoxide in meat packaging is not a food safety issue before we believe them? This hearing has nothing to do with foodborne illnesses. Not one case of human illness has been reported due to consumption of spoiled food, so the case for public health risk cannot be made.¡± She added, ¡°I hope that we are not participating in a kangaroo court due to certain economic interests, under the guise of food and consumer safety.¡±
USDA and FDA officials also provided testimony and defended the process they used to review the use of the packaging technology under the General Recognized as Safe (GRAS) or GRAS process.
In response to questions from Subcommittee Chairman Bart Stupak (D-MI), who suggested that the FDA should consider suspending its acceptance of the technology until it can review the technology again, David W.K. Acheson, M.D., director of FDA¡¯s Food Safety and Security staff, said ¡°FDA has no concerns about CO in meat packaging.¡±
Laura Tarantino, Ph.D., director of the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Office of Food Additive Safety stressed that this packaging system stabilizes but not does not impart color and is therefore not regulated as a food additive. She detailed her staff¡¯s ongoing review of the science surrounding the technology and defended their acceptance under the GRAS process. ¡°We haven¡¯t seen any real evidence of a public health issue or a safety issue,¡± she said. In light of questions from some subcommittee members, FDA agreed to do an additional review of the data surrounding the technology, however.
Extensive questioning also focused on how consumers evaluate meat freshness. USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Deputy Assistant Administrator Dan Engeljohn, Ph.D., told the committee that in its review of the suitability of the packaging technology, USDA determined that in terms of how consumers evaluate meat freshness, ¡°the overwhelming majority rely on use-by dates.¡± He said other factors like color are used, but not to the extent of use-by dates, which are required on all meat packaged using low-oxygen MAP technology.

Now, guidelines to make potato chips cancer risk-free
November 14th, 2007 by admin

Source of Article:
Studies show that when chipped potatoes are cooked in fat at high temperature, acrylamide, a chemical known to cause cancer in animals, is produced.
Now, the boffins have given guidelines that they say will make the food far safer.
The new guidelines state that potatoes should not be stored in the fridge, and that uncooked chips should be soaked for half an hour in water before frying.
Also, consumers should not overcook chips, and should remove them while still yellow rather than brown. The guidelines also say that oven chips contain raised acrylamide levels and therefore, should be cooked to the minimum time and at the exact temperatures as suggested by the producer. A spokesman for Food Standards Agency, Scotland said that guidance already exists for the food industry to reduce the chemical through cooking processes. ¡°This updates people on what they can do at home. We are not saying don¡¯t eat chips. We are not changing our advice to consumers to eat a varied and balanced diet,¡± the Scotsman quoted him, as saying. ¡°But if you do want to reduce acryl amide levels during cooking at home then this is what you can do as a small but important step,¡± he said. (ANI)

ConAgra Foods says pot pie recall will cost $30 million
Associated Press - November 14, 2007 6:35 PM ET
Source of Article:
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - ConAgra Foods says it expects its nationwide pot pie recall to cost about $30 million. But the company expects stronger-than-expected profits from its commodities trading group in 2008 that should offset the recall costs.
ConAgra spokeswoman Stephanie Childs says more details will be released when the company reports second-quarter earnings December 20.
Earlier this year, ConAgra recalled all of its peanut butter products when the CDC linked Peter Pan peanut butter to a salmonella outbreak that eventually sickened at least 625 eople in 47 states.
Salmonella poisoning can cause diarrhea, fever, dehydration, abdominal pain and vomiting. Most cases are caused by undercooked eggs and chicken.
About 40,000 cases of salmonella are reported each year in the U.S. Most of the 600 deaths salmonella causes each year are among people with weaker immune systems such as the elderly or very young.
On the Net:
Centers for Disease Control Salmonella updates:
ConAgra Foods Inc.:

Food Safety and Quality Related Job Openings
Food Safety Programs Director Food Marketing Institute - Crystal City, VA
Food Chemist/ Nutritional Chemist EMSL Analytical, Inc. - Indianapolis, IN
QA/QC Manager - Carl Buddig and Company South Holland, IL
Regional QA/Sanitation Specialist - BJ's Wholesale Club Baltimore/Wash DC; VA; NC; SC
Quality Systems Manager - McCormick & Co., Inc. - Hunt Valley, MD
Sales/Marketing Position Sterilex Corp - Owings Mills, MD
Laboratory Coordinator/QA Supervisor - Bar-S Foods Co Elk City, OK

Food Safety and Quality Related Job Openings

When E. coli strikes, who pays?
Posted on November 11, 2007 by E. coli Attorney
Source of Article:
Matt McKinney of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and I spoke last week when I was in New York working on the Taco Bell E. coli cases that occurred last year in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Mr. McKinney, also has another article featured this morning, ¡°Meat recalls have highlighted an uptick in illnesses. Experts offer several theories why.¡±:
We had a long talk about why I think companies whose products sicken and kill, should step up and help the families who are devastated by products that these same companies profit from. This is not a unique request, nor is it something that does not happen. As I said, ¡°past outbreaks linked to the Odwalla Juice Co. and to the Jack-in-the-Box hamburger chain saw both companies make early payments for victims' medical bills.¡± Other companies, ConAgra, Chi-Chi¡¯s, and recently Taco Bell, have done the same. Being moral does not mean that you are not a good business. As I told Mr. McKinney, I have repeatedly (¡°Step up and pay¡± and ¡°Are you going to pay?¡±) asked Cargill pay bills and wage loss and leave future damages till these children stabilize ? silence. A few other points I made in the article "When E. coli strikes, who pays?:
William Marler, a lawyer who has made a career representing E. coli victims, says businesses should be proactive. His latest client is a 4-year-old boy who was sickened last month after eating a hamburger made with meat that came from a Cargill processing plant. The boy, John McDonald, lost part of his intestine, suffered kidney failure and was hospitalized for nearly a month. His year-old sister was also hospitalized for a week with the same strain of E. coli. Marler says Cargill has refused to pay the McDonalds' medical bills and filed a lawsuit this week seeking unspecified damages.
Meanwhile, Stephanie Smith, 20, from Cold Spring, Minn., who was sickened in the same outbreak, remains in a drug-induced coma at the Mayo Clinic, where doctors are trying to save her life. Her family believes that she was sickened after eating ground beef the weekend of Sept. 22.
It was the second ground beef recall this year for Cargill Meat Solutions Corp., a subsidiary of the Minnetonka-based agribusiness giant, which posted net income of $917 million in its most recent quarter.
A spokeswoman for Cargill said the company does not comment concerning pending litigation.
My comment is that if companies do not step up and help, we will step up and help them change their mind.

ConAgra Foods resumes production of pot pies after recall; sees 2Q charge
November 14, 2007: 05:41 PM EST Source of Article:
SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 14, 2007 (Thomson Financial delivered by Newstex) -- ConAgra Foods (NYSE:CAG) Inc. after Wednesday's closing bell said it has resumed production of its Banquet and private-label pot pies, after recalling them on Oct. 11 due to concerns regarding salmonella.
Shipment of the pot pies, which are produced at the company's Marshall, Mo., plant is expected to begin in December.
The Omaha Neb.-based packaged-food company said it expects incremental costs related to the recall of $30 million, or about 4 cents a share, most of which will be recorded in its fiscal second-quarter results.
ConAgra also said it worked closely with the Department of Agriculture to pursue the likely source of the investigation.
Environmental testing of the Marshall pot-pie production area showed no traces of salmonella, according to initial findings, the company said. The specific salmonella strain appeared to be isolated to Banquet turkey pot pies produced on July 13 and July 31, based on the state findings.
The company said it has developed enhanced protocols for its ready-to-cook manufacturing plants to further ensure food safety going forward. The new guidelines include more stringent testing protocols for ingredients coming into plants, and further testing of finished products, the company said. 'We apologize to any consumer who became ill from eating any of our pot pies,' said ConAgra Chief Executive Gary Rodkin in a statement. 'Any lapse in the safety of our food is unacceptable, and I know the steps we've taken will make a positive difference and help us provide consumers and customers with safe, wholesome products.'
ConAgra shares closed the regular session up a penny at $23.44.
Katherine Hunt
Copyright Thomson Financial News Limited 2007. All rights reserved.
The copying, republication or redistribution of Thomson Financial News Content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Thomson Financial News.

Congress hold food safety hearing
Submitted by WWAY on 13 November 2007 - 6:17pm.
Source of Article:
WASHINGTON -- Coming on the heels of troubling recalls that have hammered the food industry, Congress called on top officials from the department of agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration for an explanation Tuesday.
Rashes of recalls, outbreaks of e. coli and bouts of botulism are all food for thought on Capitol Hill. Tuesday's hearing was the fourth in a series about food safety. Of primary concern was the use of carbon monoxide to conceal the true color of the meat or fish to make it look fresh. The congressional investigation comes on the heels of a nationwide recall of 20 million pounds of beef and concerns about unsafe fish, deceptive labeling and product packaging. The FDA frequently finds bacteria and banned chemicals during fish inspections, yet it tests less than one percent of all seafood imports. Food safety advocated say the FDA needs to do more to protect consumers.
Lawmakers grilled government officials responsible for regulating food and monitoring safety. Specifically, Tuesday's focus was on questionable scientific findings relating to the correlation between the use of carbon monoxide and spoilage.
Federal legislators are considering several proposals, including the creation of a single food safety agency, a measure the FDA and the Department of Agriculture both oppose.

Aflatoxin Alert
Compiled By Staff
November 12, 2007
Source of Article:
The South Dakota Corn Growers Association is warning farmers ? especially in southeast South Dakota ? to test their corn for aflatoxin before combining it.
Aflatoxin has been found include Clay, Lincoln, Turner, Union and Yankton including the towns of Beresford, Canton and Viborg.
Aflatoxin is an insurable cause of loss as long as the grain is tested before being moved into commercial or on-farm storage, says Robert Berg, manager of the SDSU Southeast Experiment Farm at Beresford.
Crop insurance coverage ends at harvest and since there is the possibility of post-harvest contamination, producers must have insurance agents obtain samples prior to storage.
Can't see it
Aflatoxin cannot be detected by a visual evaluation. Moldy grain doesn't always test positive for aflatoxin whereas grain that looks clean sometimes does test positive. Blacklight testing is an indicator used for detection, but is not a definitive test for aflatoxin. A USDA approved determinative test and/or lab is required to quantify if the load's aflatoxin levels exceed FDA Advisory Levels.
The FDA Advisory levels are as follows:
Zero to 20 parts per billion (ppb): No advisory levels. Grain accepted.
21-300 ppb: Corn can be fed to finishing feeder pigs at 200 ppb or less; beef in feedlots can tolerate up to 300 ppb. There is zero tolerance for aflatoxin in dairy products.
Over 300 ppb: FDA prohibits use. Grain would be recommended destroyed.
Price discounts at grain handling facilities have exceeded $1 per bushel for aflatoxin-contaminated corn.
To test corn for aflatoxin, submit a 2-pound sample less than 18% moisture in a paper bag (no plastic bags) to the following address:
Sioux City Inspection and Weighing Service Company
840 Clark Street
Sioux City, Iowa 51101-2037
Include a check for $33.90 per sample and results will be called to the producer within one to two days. Call (712) 255-8033 or email for more information.
Dry to 12-13%
Aflatoxin can also develop or continue to develop on corn in storage. Factors affecting that growth include moisture content and temperature of stored grain, condition of grain going into storage and length of storage.
One strategy for reducing risk of contaminating a bin of corn with aflatoxin is to dry corn out of the field down to 12 or 13 percent as quickly as possible.
Aflatoxin grows rapidly at 14% moisture; moisture content below 13% prevents invasion by the fungus, according to university studies. The fungus also grows rapidly in grain storage temperatures 34 degrees F and above.
For more information, contact the SDCGA at 605-334-0100.
Source: SDCGA

Compounds In Cranberries May Be Antibacterial Agents
ScienceDaily (Nov. 13, 2007) ? Cranberry sauce is not the star of the traditional Thanksgiving Day meal, but when it comes to health benefits, the lowly condiment takes center stage. In fact, researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) have found that compounds in cranberries are able to alter E. coli bacteria, which are responsible for a host of human illnesses (from kidney infections to gastroenteritis to tooth decay), in ways that render them unable to initiate an infection.
The findings are the result of research by Terri Camesano, associate professor of chemical engineering at WPI, and a team that includes graduate students Yatao Liu and Paola Pinzon-Arango.
For the first time, the research has begun to reveal the biochemical and biophysical mechanisms that appear to underlie a number of beneficial health effects that have long been ascribed to cranberries and cranberry juice--in particular, the ability of cranberry juice to prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs). The mechanism by which cranberry juice prevents such infections has not been clear, though scientists have suspected that compounds in the juice somehow prevent bacteria from adhering to the lining of the urinary tract.
Camesano and her students have used the atomic force microscope and other sophisticated tools to study how a group of tannins (called proanthocyanidins or PACs) found primarily in cranberries interact with bacteria at the molecular level. They have found that the compounds prevent E. coli from adhering to cells in the body (a necessary first step in infections) in several ways:
The chemical changes caused by cranberry juice create an energy barrier that keeps the bacteria from getting close to the urinary tract lining.
Direct measurements show that the adhesive forces between E. coli and cells of the urinary tract are greatly reduced when at least a 5 percent solution of cranberry juice cocktail is present.
Cranberry juice causes tiny tendrils (known as fimbriae) on the surface of the type of E. coli bacteria responsible for the most serious types of UTIs to become compressed, reducing the bacteria's ability to latch onto the lining of the urinary tract.
E. coli grown in cranberry juice or the isolated PACs are unable to form biofilms. Biofilms, clusters containing high concentrations of bacteria, are required for infections to develop. Biofilms are the source of infections associated with indwelling catheters and other biomedical devices.
When E. coli are cultured over extended periods in solutions containing various concentrations of either cranberry juice or PACs, their cell membranes undergo changes that hinder the bacteria's ability to attach to cells of the urinary tract.
Camesano and her team have also noticed that cranberry juice inhibits the ability of E. coli to produce IAA, a molecule involved in a phenomenon known as quorum sensing. Bacteria produce IAA to let other bacteria know they are there. Quorum sensing enables bacteria to sense that their population is large enough to initiate an infection, or to form a biofilm. Keeping bacteria from producing IAA may be another way that cranberry compounds can hinder their ability to cause serious infections.

Some of Camesano's current work is aimed at assessing the minimum effective dose of cranberry juice (or tannins) and the optimum frequency to ward off infections. In addition, she is working to test whether the urine of patients who have consumed cranberry juice still contains anti-adhesive properties. The clinical portion of the work is being done in collaboration with Amy Howell, associate research scientist at the Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research at Rutgers University.

Camesano says her work to date indicates that the benefits increase the more juice or cranberry products one consumes. So when it comes to this year's Thanksgiving feast, don't spare the cranberry sauce.

Funded, in part, by the National Science Foundation and the Cranberry Institute and Wisconsin Cranberry Board, the work has been reported in a number of publications and presentations, including FAV Health 2007 (The 2nd Annual Symposium on Human Health Effects of Fruits and Vegetables), the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in September 2006, and the January/February 2007 issue of the Italian publication AgroFOOD industry hi-tech. Adapted from materials provided by Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Company leader speaks about E. coli outbreak in spinach
Publication date: 11/13/2007
Source of Article:
The one thing a food company dreads the most is getting a call from its state's health department about a possible foodborne illness outbreak caused by one of its products.
In many cases, companies are not willing to speak about outbreaks; however, some companies focus on communications to manage through a crisis.
That is exactly what Natural Selection Foods, located in San Juan Bautista, Calif., did when an Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreak was linked to its fresh spinach sold under the Dole brand.
"One of the first things we did was notify our key stakeholders, which included customers, media, employees, growers, vendors and government," said Will Daniels, quality, food safety and organic integrity vice president for Natural Selection Foods/Earthbound Farm.
Daniels recently spoke during the Food Industry Trends Conference in Oklahoma City, sponsored by the Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center, Oklahoma Department of Public Health, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce and the Charles B. Browning Endowed Professorship. The conference focused on regulatory changes, food safety issues and solutions, and food traceability technologies.
"Food processing establishments face dozens of possible crises or unexpected events that can cause the public to lose its trust in the company and the products produced," said Jason Young, FAPC quality management specialist. "By preparing for a crisis in advance, companies can contain and minimize losses."
Daniels said on Sept. 14, 2006, the company received a call from the California Department of Health Services about a possible E. coli O157:H7 outbreak. The first thing the company did was activate its incident management team to decide the next step.
"With information still coming in from the Centers for Disease Control and the FDA, we opted to go to a voluntary recall because it was the right thing to do for our customers and public safety," Daniels said.
After notifying the company's key stakeholders, the company followed its incident management plan. This plan consisted of guiding principles for appropriate communications responses to the customers, media and employees; an effective mechanism for assessing the seriousness of the incident; and a basic checklist and tools to ensure the company's response was coordinated and conducted properly.
Daniels explained the company used the 5 R's to manage through the crisis: regret, responsibility, restitution, resolution and reform.

It was important for the company to express empathy to the victims of the E. coli outbreak, Daniels said. The company immediately sent letters to its customers with information on the product recall.
"We worked with the media to get a message out about contaminated products and instructions of how to handle them and set up a 1-800 number for customers to call about questions and claims," Daniels said.

Since public safety is the top priority of the National Selection Foods/Earthbound Farm, the company worked with investigators to find the source of the outbreak.
Daniels encouraged other food companies that if they are involved in a foodborne illness outbreak, it is the best interest of the public and the food company to give the investigators the information they need to find the source. "Food safety has always been an integral part of our business," Daniels said. "Our systems have consistently been at the top of the industry, but we believe that even the best food safety standards require continuous improvement."

Following the outbreak, the company was committed to taking care of the needs of its customers. "We made an offer early on to reimburse any out-of-pocket medical expenses from anyone who had been affected by the outbreak," Daniels said. "We gave our retail customers specific assurance that we would give full credit for recalled products and offered to cover cost of returning product and disposal."

National Selection Foods/Earthbound Farm has invested in a Quality Assurance and Organic Integrity Program, which Daniels was named vice president. The company has directed resources toward this program to establish and develop the company's testing program, state-of-the-art laboratories and trained staff. "We've enhanced our food safety program to unprecedented levels in the produce industry," Daniels said. "We're committed to continually improving it as food safety science advances."
The company has formed a food safety advisory panel that includes some of the country's leading food safety scientists to help develop its entire food safety program, Daniels said.
Other programs that have been added or reviewed include a seed-to-harvest plan for enhanced good agricultural practices, raw product test and hold program, enhancements in the packing facilities and finished good test and hold program. The company is using the data from its test and hold program to better understand how to prevent outbreaks.

Daniels said that Natural Selection Foods/Earthbound Farm must define a pathway forward. This includes recognizing that E. coli O157:H7 exists in the company's environment and pathogens in raw materials are a hazard likely to occur. "We must test as a processor to detect, so we can prevent," Daniels said. Source:

Norovirus outbreak on Norwegian Cruise Line ship Pride of Hawaii Source of Article:
An outbreak of Norovirus, which is also known as Norwalk-Like Virus (NLV), took place on the Norwegian Cruise Line ship Pride of Hawaii, which was making a seven day voyage around Hawaii islands and which had to finish the tour yesterday in Honolulu port.
All the passengers on board the ship Pride of Hawaii were enjoying their cruise and the beautiful sights of Hawaii Islands, when all of a sudden nearly 10 per cent of them (about 225 people out of 2,500) fell extremely ill with symptoms of terrible stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting. They felt weak and inert as well.
After the ship docked back in port in Honolulu, immediate laboratory tests were carried out in the Hawaii Department of Health, the spokesman of which, Janice Okubo, announced to the Associated Press that there are no doubts as to the origination of the disease.
Okubo reported that in cases like this which involve more than 2 percent of passengers becoming ill, a ship is required to report to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). "We don't have any jurisdiction over cruise ships," she said.
Norovirus or Norwalk-Like Virus (NLV), which sometimes is called ¡ìstomach flu¡í or gastroenteritis, can be classified as a group of viruses among which there can be singled out at least five genogroups: GI, GII, GIII, GIV and GV, and each group has at least 30 subgroups.
It is called Norwalk-Like Virus (NLV) after an outbreak at an elementary school in Norwalk, Ohio, in 1968 and is considered to be a highly contagious germ, by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
According to Star-Bulletin reporter Laurie Au, the virus is highly contagious: about 10 viral particles can be enough to infect a person. Norovirus is not only a respiratory disease. It can be transmitted via touching the infected object and then putting the hand near the nose or mouth. The germs may stay within the human organism from three days to two weeks. The disease itself lasts for about 24 or 48 hours. Then it finishes without any serious complications, excluding those cases, when people become dehydrated after the long lasting diarrhea and vomiting and need further medical aid to restore their liquid level.
As to Marisa Yamane's report on the whole matter, Norwegian Cruise Line ship Pride of Hawaii is considered to be the best of its kind and such an outbreak of this disease can't be considered as something habitual. The crew of the ship works in accordance with all the sanitation standards, but unfortunately it is impossible to exclude the possibility of infectious diseases, especially when the ship docks somewhere, takes on board new passengers who can be already infected. Steve Williams, director of medical operations for Carnival Cruises, said in an interview with World Cruise Network recently that: "Every month we have to deny boarding to one or two people because of illness, but we give them a 100 per cent refund on their cruise." Robbie Dingeman from reported that all the passengers who weren't quarantined, were asked to stay in their cabins for 24 hours, during which time they were served at no charge whatever food they liked wrapped in buffet lines with plastic wrap. If the passengers still wished to leave their cabins, they had to follow elementary sanitation demands, such as hand-washing and avoiding direct contact with any of their mates. The company undertook all the forfeits in regard to the passengers who felt ill and their cabinmates who had been asked to remain in their cabins for 24 hours. They were given free medical treatment and a $200 on-ship credit.
Among the passengers aboard that voyage there were Jeff and Heather Bowman and latter got sick two days into their trip.
It takes a lot of out of you. I was tired for the rest of the trip but it's Hawaii, I'm from Ohio so this is great still," said Heather Bowman.
Norovirus is a kind of infectious disease, outbreaks of which can be viewed in many public places such as nursing homes, schools, cruise ships and hospitals. Norwegian Cruise Line ship Pride of Hawaii is undertaking all the necessary sanitation measures to exclude further spreading of the disease. But to decide the real cause of infection is up to the US Food and Drug Administration which is still investigating the outbreak.

Salmonella from North Carolina Restaurant Sickens 176
Date Published: Monday, November 12th, 2007

Source of Article:

Salmonella linked to a Newton, North Carolina restaurant could be to blame for as many as 176 illnesses. Since health officials in that area first began receiving reports of Salmonella-like symptoms from the patrons of the Carniceria Y Taqueria Hermanos Chavez restaurant, they have been able to confirm at least 25 cases of Salmonella poisoning. However, the number of people sickened in the Newton, North Carolina Salmonella outbreak is most likely much higher than that, as health officials have limited testing to victims who are at ¡°high risk¡± of spreading the bacteria, such as those who work in food service or health care.

Health officials in Catawba County, North Carolina are asking anyone who ate at the Carniceria Y Taqueria Hermanos Chavez restaurant off of US 321 Business to contact the health department at (828) 695-5800 if they experience Salmonella symptoms. Salmonella bacteria cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 72 hours of exposure. Children, the elderly or people with weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable to complications from Salmonella poisoning. In rare cases, extreme instances of Salmonella poisoning can lead to a disease called Reiter¡¯s Syndrome, which is associated with chronic arthritis. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Salmonella bacteria sicken 40,000 people every year. Although the true number could be much higher, because it is estimated that for every case of Salmonella poisoning reported, two others are unreported.

The Carniceria & Taqueria Hermanos Chavez restaurant was ordered to close by Catawba County health officials on November 2 after several cases of Salmonella poisoning were linked to the restaurant. The owner of the restaurant has reportedly said that it is doubtful he will reopen the restaurant. Health officials have been unable to determine the source of the Newton, North Carolina Salmonella outbreak, and it is uncertain if they ever will. Health investigators have said, however, that they are especially concerned that this particular Salmonella outbreak could spread further. Many of those sickened in the Newton Salmonella outbreak work at other restaurants in the area. The Catawba County Health Department has sent letters to those victims instructing them to stay home from work until they are free of Salmonella symptoms.

Restaurant outbreaks of Salmonella poisoning are not rare. Last year, raw tomatoes served at restaurants around the country sickened dozens. And this summer over 700 people in the Chicago area became ill from Salmonella after they ate at the Pars Cove Restaurant food booth at the Taste of Chicago Food Festival. Last month, a Quiznos restaurant in Minnesota was implicated in a Salmonella outbreak that sickened at least10 people. Other Salmonella outbreaks this year have also been linked to Peter Pan and Great Value Peanut Butter, and to Banquet Pot Pies, all of which were made by ConAgra Foods.


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