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Topps - Lessons America Forgot from Upton Sinclair's "Jungle"

Posted on November 24, 2007 by Bill Marler
Source of Article:
In October Topps Meat Company, founded in 1940, went out of business. That was after Topps had recalled nearly 22 million pounds of frozen hamburger contaminated with E. coli and 40 people across the U.S. had become ill.
Tort deformers decried the ¡°tragedy¡± that is this Topps¡¯ collapse - that a business went under and employees had lost their jobs. Yes, a company bankrupt and unemployment are tragic. What makes it more so is that the catastrophic breakdown in the food-safety chain at Topps could have and should have been prevented by Topps management.
It¡¯s been a century since Utpon Sinclair published the ¡°Jungle," which exposed the contaminated underbelly of the American meat industry. Reform quickly followed. America got the Pure Food and Drug and Meat Inspection Acts. In the early 1990s, when these safeguards failed ? e.g. Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak ? again there was a public push for improving food safety.
The U.S.D.A. Food and Inspection Service responded with creating and aggressively enforcing the mandatory Risk Management System. Derived from research and operations in the American space program, this approach [HACCP] prevented new outbreaks by establishing check-points at every phase of meat processing. In addition, the agency classified the presence of E. coli O157:H7 as an adulterant under the Meat Inspection Act. Until recently, the meat contamination problem seemed fixed.
Had Topps complied with the letter and spirit of HACCP, it would not have processed contaminated meat in 2005 and again in 2007. So, why hadn¡¯t Topps done what was the right thing to do for it and its now unemployed? We will be researching that question for years.
My theory is that Topps¡¯ leadership might have chosen to take short-cuts on systemic food-safety procedures. Therefore, contamination which should have been detected early in meat processing wasn¡¯t. The result wasn¡¯t pretty: Food-poisoned consumers went through the agony that E. coli inflicts. They had incorrectly trusted that label ¡°Inspected by the U.S.D.A.¡± as guaranteeing safety.
Over a century, two waves of reform in ensuring the safety of the American food supply chain have given business a total systems approach. That approach works if management follows the rules. Unfortunately, employees at Topps who lost their means of making a living were among those punished - severely.
Will other businesses be able to learn that century-old lesson: Inattention to proper food processing will be the kiss of death for their brandname, profitability and, yes, very existence.

Topps files for bankruptcy after massive beef recall
Posted on November 23, 2007 by E. coli Lawyer
Source of Article:
Jeffrey Gold, AP's "E. coli guy," in New Jersey filed the story that had been rumored about for weeks about Topps Meat Company's Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. Topps has up to 10,000 creditors (including several of my clients) and liabilities of up to $100 million, according to its Chapter 7 filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Newark. Interestingly, Topps put its assets in the same range.
As you recall, Topps closed its doors on October 5, six days after it issued the recall of 21.7 million pounds of frozen hamburger. In September, the USDA said three people were confirmed as getting E. coli from Topps products, with 22 other cases under investigation. According to the CDC, cases were found in Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. That number has grown to at least 40. We have filed two lawsuits on behave of victims (two develpoded HUS) in New York and are investigating the claims of 24 others. We filed a similar lawsuit against Topps in 2005 - bet they wished they would have listened then. In early December we will be visiting the now empty plant.
Interestingly, also listed as creditors are Tyson Foods Inc., of Chicago, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service. Another creditor appears to be Topps executive vice president Anthony L. D'Urso, a member of the family that ran Topps for about 60 years until a controlling interest was purchased in 2003 by Strategic Investments & Holdings, a private-equity firm based in Buffalo, N.Y. That means that these and other creditors will compete with people injured by E. coli food poisoning - that is going to be an interesting fight over the corporate corpse.

Although, Topps has listed $12,000,000 in insurance to cover the claims of the victims of the E. coli outbreak, with at least 40 ill, and punitive damage claims, retail outlets (stores that sold the product) and the suppliers of the meat, are clearly going to be brought into the case once the bankruptcy stay has been lifted. I also really want to subpoena USDA/FSIS officials. The bottom line for us is that we intend to make sure our clients are fairly compensated AND we find out when both Topps and the USDA knew about the extent of the E. coli contamination and why the recall took weeks to occur.

I have also had a few email chats over the last 24 hours with Law Firm Blogger (who has a significant background following bankruptcy cases). I appreciate her insight and her post today, and her article today.

Eating GM foods is a health risk

Email Printer friendly version Normal font Large font Jeffrey Smith
November 28, 2007
Source of Article:
The Premier's decision to allow genetically modified crops is also bad for the economy.
JOHN Brumby's announcement to allow genetically modified (GM) foods to grow in Victoria threatens more than just the income of Australia's farmers and food companies. There is irrefutable evidence that GM foods are unsafe to eat.
Working with more than 30 scientists worldwide, I documented 65 health risks of GM foods. There are thousands of toxic or allergic-type reactions in humans, thousands of sick, sterile and dead livestock, and damage to virtually every organ and system studied in laboratory animals.
Government safety assessments, including those of Food Standards Australia New Zealand, do not identify many of the dangers, and a careful analysis reveals that industry's superficial studies submitted to FSANZ are designed to avoid finding them. The process of inserting a foreign gene into a plant cell and cloning that cell into a genetically engineered crop produces hundreds of thousands of mutations throughout the DNA. Natural plant genes may be deleted or permanently turned on or off, and hundreds can change their function. This massive collateral damage is why GM soy has less protein, an unexpected new allergen, and up to seven times higher levels of a known soy allergen. It also may explain why British soy allergies skyrocketed by 50% soon after GM soy was introduced.
But there is another possible cause. Genes inserted into GM soy produce a protein with allergenic properties. Moreover, the only human feeding study ever conducted on GM foods found that those genes had transferred into the DNA of our gut bacteria and remained functional. This means that long after we stop eating a GM food, its potentially dangerous protein may be produced continuously inside our intestines.
GM corn and cotton have genes inserted that produce a pesticide called Bt. If the gene transferred from corn snacks, for example, it could turn our intestinal flora into living pesticide factories. Farmers on three continents link Bt corn varieties with sterility in pigs and cows, or deaths among cows, horses, water buffaloes and chickens. Hundreds of farm workers who pick Bt cotton get allergic reactions.
When sheep grazed on the cotton plants after harvest, one out of four died within a week ? about 10,000 sheep died last year. Lab animals fed GM crops had altered sperm cells and embryos, a five-fold increase in infant mortality, smaller brains, and a host of other disturbing problems.
Documents made public by a lawsuit revealed that scientists at the US Food and Drug Administration warned that gene-spliced foods might lead to allergies, toxins, new diseases and nutritional problems.
Although they urged superiors to demand long-term studies, official FDA policy claims they never heard such concerns and that no safety tests are required. The person in charge of that FDA policy was the former attorney for the biotech giant Monsanto ? and later the company's vice-president.
In the US, the White House had instructed the FDA to promote GM crops, hoping it would increase US exports. They were wrong. When 25% of US corn farmers planted GM varieties, corn sales to the EU dropped by 99.4%. All corn farmers suffered as prices fell by 13 to 20%. Soy and canola markets also closed, and the US now spends an additional $3 to $5 billion per year in subsidising the GM crops no one wants. The US Department of Agriculture admits that GM crops do not increase farmer profit and can actually hurt incomes; they do not increase yield and often produce less.
Canadian canola yields were down 7.5% and profits plummeted as exports were diverted from the premium-paying EU market to the low-priced Chinese. What was bad for Canada was good for Australia, as Australia captured non-GM markets and soon enjoyed a $63 price advantage. Food marketers in North America deeply resent GM crops, which don't offer a single consumer benefit. In fact 29% of Americans are strongly opposed to GM foods and believe they are unsafe. A growing number of doctors are prescribing a non-GM diet. Next year, the US natural food industry will remove all remaining GM ingredients and non-GM shopping guides will appear in stores nationwide.
Consumer buying pressure will likely force the entire food chain in North America to swear off GM within the next two years. Such a tipping point was achieved in Europe in April 1999, when virtually all major manufacturers vowed to go non-GM in a single week.
So with all this evidence, why is Australia turning a blind eye to the dangers of genetically engineered foods?
Australia should be sitting down and taking notice of the response to GM foods throughout the world. With GM markets closing, the negative impact of GM in North America, and the overwhelming evidence of harm from GM food, it is certainly not the time to let the state ban expire
With the state ban lifting in Victoria and now NSW, before we know it there won't be any food on our tables that is not genetically engineered.
Jeffrey Smith, the author of Genetic Roulette and Seeds of Deception, is executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology in Iowa, USA.

Where¡¯s the Irradiated Beef?

International Irradiation Association (iiA) Newsletter (October 2007)
Source of Article: Food Irradiation Update (December 2007)
Out of the 8-billion pounds of ground beef produced annually in the US, there are approximately 18-million pounds irradiated for your health and safety. Irradiated ground beef patties are available in the US at many supermarkets, through Schwan¡¯s home delivery system and by mail order from Omaha Steaks.
The Schwan's Food Company features a juicy, one-third pound Black Angus Steak burger and their classic quarter pound burger, 90% lean and full of big, beefy flavour. Both irradiated for your safety. Their website
¡°Omaha Steaks Ground Beef: Always Superior, Always the Safest. At Omaha Steaks we are proud to provide you with the finest quality, safe and wholesome food. Throughout our 90-year history, we have always taken food safety very seriously. Our top priority is ensuring the integrity of our products and the trust of our customers. That's why we use an innovative food safety technology called irradiation on all our ground beef.¡±
¡°From ground beef and patties to chicken breasts and whole turkeys, New Generation (by Colorado Boxed Beef) offers America¡¯s broadest selection of irradiated foods?fresh and frozen. Using the same proven technology that NASA has relied on for years, our goal is to uphold the highest standards of food safety while providing an ever-growing selection of wholesome meat and poultry products.
¡°Get all the Facts on Irradiated Beef: We're proud to offer Wegmans Irradiated Fresh Ground Beef as a choice to our customers. This is 100% ground beef with the added food safety benefit of the FDA and USDA-approved irradiation process. By choosing this product, you can start enjoying great-tasting burgers cooked the way you like them moist, juicy and flavorful.¡± visit
Leaders and visionaries these companies have been offering customers irradiated products since the early part of this decade. These C.E.O.¡¯s, employees and suppliers can sleep safe and sound at night knowing their products do not have E. coli that is making anyone sick.
We applaud all companies that are answering Bill Marler¡¯s plea ¡°Put me out of business, please. For this trial lawyer, E. coli has been a far too successful practice - and a heart-breaking one. Marler says, "I am tired of visiting with horribly sick kids who did not have to be sick in the first place. I am outraged with a food industry that allows E. coli and other poisons to reach consumers, and a President, Congress and federal regulatory system that does nothing about it.¡±

FDA conducting L. monocytogenes risk assessment in cheese November 28, 2007.
Source of Article:
The FDA is seeking scientific data and information that would assist the agency in its plans to conduct a risk assessment for Listeria monocytogenes in soft-ripened cheese. The purpose of the risk assessment is to ascertain the impact on public health from the reduction and/or prevention of L. monocytogenes growth and recontamination during the manufacturing and/or processing of soft-ripened cheese.

Food Safety and Quality Related Job Openings
NIR/Analytical Services Manager ? Land O¡¯Lakes, Inc. - Shoreview, MN
Sanitation Manager ? Malt-O-Meal - Northfield, MN
Food Safety Consultant - Agricultural Consulting Services, Inc. ? Rochester, NY
Quality Control Supervisor - Channel Fish Co. ? Boston, MA
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

Food Safety and Quality Related Job Openings

Study focuses on pathogens in unpasteurised cheese By Neil Merrett Source of Article:
23/11/2007 - A three-year project designed to test the safety of producing cheese from unpasteurised milk has been announced by the Campden Chorleywood Food Research Association (CCFRA).
The study, funded by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA), will focus on the effects of strains of Mycobacterium bovis and E. coli pathogens in unpasteurised milk when used to make cheeses.
The findings from the project, which kicked off on 1 September this year, could
have major implications for cheese processing, CCFRA scientist Phil Voysey told
"It is currently unknown how E-coli in cattle is affected when passed into milk," he said. "The study will provide more information to the FSA and the dairy industry on possible dangers."
According to the CCFRA, the Mycobacterium bovis pathogen has been known to survive in cheeses made from unpasteurised milk, though there is as yet no research into the risk this can pose.
In regards to the vero-cytotoxin producing E. coli (VTEC), which is also associated with raw milk, even less appears to be known.
The CCFRA says that there is no knowledge on how well the pathogen is able to survive in fermented products, particularly when coming into contact with starter cultures and microbial flora present within them.
The project therefore aims to develop and test new ways to detect and isolate the organisms in milk and cheeses. Additionally, the study will also asses how micro-organisms survive in a range of both hard and soft varieties focusing on the particular effects of PH and salt levels.
Voysey said the project will recreate the processes used by cheese manufacturers, under lab conditions, to enable predicative work on inhibiting the growth of Mycobacterium bovis.
The project will consult with experts involved in cheese processing, including manufacturers, industry associations like Dairy UK and the Northern Ireland Dairy Council, and scientists from Queens University Belfast, the CCFRA says.
The association added that it welcomed further comment from the dairy industry about the studies.

Acrylamide may increase female cancer risks
By Stephen Daniells
Source of Article:
26/11/2007 - Increased dietary intakes of acrylamide could raise the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer by 29 and 78 per cent, respectively, says a new study.
Over 62,000 women in the Netherlands, aged between 55 and 69, took part in the research that is one of only a handful of studies showing significant increases in cancer risk, and highlighting the need for reformulation or process changes in the food industry to reduce the presence in food.
Acrylamide is a carcinogen that is created when starchy foods are baked, roasted, fried or toasted. It first hit the headlines in 2002, when scientists at the Swedish Food Administration first reported unexpectedly high levels of acrylamide, found to cause cancer in laboratory rats, in carbohydrate-rich foods.
Despite being a carcinogen in the laboratory, many epidemiological studies have reported that everyday exposure to acrylamide in food is too low to be of concern.
The new study, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, both challenges and supports previous studies - while increased risks for endometrial and ovarian cancers were reported, acrylamide intake was not related to breast cancer risk, as reported by others.
Janneke Hogervorst and co-workers from the University of Maastricht examined data from 62,573 women taking part in the Netherlands Cohort Study on diet and cancer.
Average dietary acrylamide intake for the population was assessed in a random sample of 2,589 women. The women answered a food frequency questionnaire. Smoking habits were factored into the analysis since smoking is an important source of acrylamide.
After 11.3 years of follow-up, the researchers reported 327, 300, and 1,835 cases of endometrial, ovarian, and breast cancer, respectively.
The average acrylamide intake for the sample population was 8.9 micrograms per day. The highest average acrylamide intake (40.2 micrograms per day) was associated with a significant increase in the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer. No effect on breast cancer was observed.
Hogervorst and co-workers also note that the risks were even more pronounced in people with no history of smoking: the highest average acrylamide intake was associated with a 99 per cent and 122 per cent increase in the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancers, respectively. Again, no significant effect on breast cancer was observed.
"We observed increased risks of postmenopausal endometrial and ovarian cancer with increasing dietary acrylamide intake, particularly among never-smokers," wrote the researchers.
The contradiction between other observational studies and those of animal studies, where high acrylamide doses led to increased rates of cancer of the thyroid, testicles, breasts, and uterus, has been suggested to be due to excessive exposure of the animals to the chemical - the animal studies used does 1,000 to 100,000 times higher than what humans are exposed to, and the animal studies provided the acrylamide from water, unlike humans who obtain acrylamide from food sources.
Scientists have also suggests that humans may effectively detoxify acrylamide when consumed at dietary levels.
Despite the inconsistency in the literature, industry and universities are actively exploring effective ways of reducing the formation of acrylamide. Moreover, acrylamide-reducing ingredients are already commercially available.
Source: Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention
Volume 16, Pages 2304-2313 "A Prospective Study of Dietary Acrylamide Intake and the Risk of Endometrial, Ovarian, and Breast Cancer" Authors: Janneke G. Hogervorst, L.J. Schouten, E.J. Konings, R.A. Goldbohm, and P.A. van den Brandt

FDA funds anti food terrorism efforts
By Lorraine Heller
Source of Article:
11/20/2007 - The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday announced it is pumping more funds into securing the safety of the nation's food supply.
The move, which comes as part of the agency's recently announced Food Protection Plan, will see three grants being awarded to spot radioactive material in food.
FDA said the lab grants will expand the testing program of its Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA) to address the threat to food safety through radiological terrorism events. In addition, they will help identify accidental contamination.
The three-year grants provide $250,000 a year to the Texas Department of State Health Services Laboratory, the New York Health Research/New York Department of Health, and the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene.
The grants will be used for supplies, personnel, and facility upgrades. The labs will also receive training in current food testing methodologies, participate in method development and validation, proficiency testing, and food defense surveillance assignments.
This year has seen a number of changes in efforts to ensure food safety, following numerous high profile contamination cases and safety slips.
Earlier this month, the US government announced wide sweeping plans to improve the safety of the nation's food supply, with measures including more stringent inspections, stronger penalties and mandatory recalls.
The two plans unveiled aim to prevent contamination in the domestic food chain (Food Protection Pan), and to ensure the safety of imported food (Import Safety Action Plan).
The FDA's Food Protection Plan is built around three core elements: prevention, intervention and response.
It will promote increased corporate responsibility, increased collaboration and communication with stakeholders, and a broad risk-based approach to food protection.
Under the plan, FDA will also be able to issue additional preventive controls for high-risk foods, accredit third parties for voluntary food inspections, increase access to food records during emergencies, and issue a mandatory recall if voluntary recalls are not effective.
Following in the 'prevention', 'intervention' and 'response' vein, FDA said the new funded labs will be involved in food defense surveillance testing as well as bolstering the FDA's emergency response efforts by increasing the capacity for testing of foods for radioactive contamination, intentional or accidental.
These labs are part of the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN).
According to FDA, FERN aims to integrate the nation's food-testing laboratories at the local, state, and federal levels into a network able to respond to emergencies involving biological, chemical, or radiological food contamination.
The network is designed to respond to emergencies related to agents in food and restore the public's confidence in the food supply.

World overreacted to U.S. mad cow discovery: industry
Thu Nov 15, 2007
By Christopher Doering
Source of Article:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Major U.S. beef customers, including Japan and South Korea, overreacted to the United States' discovery of mad cow disease four years ago, the meat industry told an independent trade panel on Thursday.
Major U.S. trading partners banned American beef soon after the United States found its first case of mad cow disease in December 2003. Since then, the U.S. has struggled to open major trading markets. This year the U.S. will export about 5 percent of its beef, compared with 10 percent in the past.
"BSE is a case study in overreaction," John Reddington, vice president for trade at the American Meat Institute, told an International Trade Commission panel. The bans by Japan and South Korea "have no basis" in science and conflict with international animal health guidelines.
The ITC was asked in August by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus to report on barriers to U.S. beef sales in major trading partners. The ITC will give its report to the committee by June 6, 2008.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association told ITC that U.S. beef producers, feedlots and processors have lost nearly $12.5 billion in revenue alone to South Korea and Japan since the bans were first put in place. Before mad cow disease, the United States annually exported $1.4 billion in beef to Japan and $519 million to South Korea, making them the first and third largest customers for U.S. beef.
Closing markets to U.S. beef largely "was a protectionist opportunity that was exercised around the world," said Jay Truitt, NCBA vice president of government affairs. "They saw an opportunity for us to be locked out."
He added that rather than using science to tackle the issue, their decision was made with politics in mind.
Currently, Japan permits entry of beef from U.S. cattle 20 months or younger. South Korea allows only imports of boneless U.S. beef from cattle younger than 30 months.
Last month, Seoul temporarily halted imports after finding banned spinal material in a shipment. U.S. officials had hoped a recent decision by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), which gave the United States a "controlled risk" status for beef safety, would significantly increase beef exports, but so far there has been little change.
(Reporting by Christopher Doering; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

TOXIC TACOS: A microbial combination plate
Posted on November 19, 2007 by Food Poisoning Attorney
Source of Article:
When Taco Bell offered free tacos for every American during baseball¡¯s World Series last month, all I could do was hold my head and mutter something like: "Hasta luego, Amigos!"

The very idea of doling out fast-food tacos to millions of baseball fans should ring like a . jackpot jingle in the corridors of a personal injury law firm like mine - or all the "wannabees" that are beginning to light up the Internet with "google ads" and plagiarized blogs. Recently tacos seem have a food-poisoning track record right up there with Chinese-manufactured pet food. In the past few years alone, we¡¯ve seen outbreaks of deadly E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Hepatitis A, Listeria, Shigella and Norovirus in at least 13 states, from Washington and California to New York and Texas ? all traced to restaurant tacos.
Just this year there have been taco-related outbreaks in Alabama, Illinois and Oregon. And those are just the outbreaks scientifically traced by public health officials. We¡¯ll never know how many more people have been sickened without identifying a source. Tracing the source of disease outbreaks isn¡¯t easy. Health officials need to detect an outbreak early, thoroughly interview sick people and find the common denominator before memories fade and evidence disappears.
And even when tacos are suspect, the specific source of the poison varies from one outbreak to the next. In the Alabama outbreak last summer, the culprit may have been lettuce laced with E. coli. In Illinois, it was Salmonella in the cheese. An outbreak at Taco Bell last year in East Coast states was blamed on tainted lettuce, or as my post below says - maybe not. Others have been tracked back to green onions, cilantro or undercooked meat. It seems that when restaurants layer tortillas, meat, cheese, tomatoes, onions, avocado and lettuce, there are multiple opportunities to contaminate, cross-contaminate and make people sick.
Take, for example, a major outbreak of Hepatitis A in Florida in December, 2000. Officials at the Lake County Health Department learned that seven people were sick, and five were hospitalized with Hepatitis A, all in a two-week span. State and local officials identified the toxin and questioned each of the patients, including family members and friends who were not so sick. Eventually, officials identified 78 people sickened in five eastern states. In the Florida case, most of the sick people had eaten at a Taco Bell restaurant in Fruitland Park. Further inquiry narrowed the possibilities down to six menu items and eight ingredients, and only two of those items had been eaten by a majority of the sick people. Eventually, they zeroed in on the green onions as the most likely cause. But, given the fact that nearly every menu item in a Taco Bell has nearly the same ingredients, how do you really know what ingredient was contaminated?
My point: Tacos can be dangerous. The ingredients ? meat and lettuce and green onions ? come from an array of sources, are handled by so many people and are all tossed into the same products, creating a very muddy trail of evidence. A list of outbreaks below:
Date Location Vendor Microorganism Food type
Oct 98 WA Finley School E. coli O157:H7 Taco Meal
Aug 00 TN San Antonio Salmonella Unknown
Oct 00 CA Viva Mexico Shigella Salsa
Feb 02 IL Laredo Salmonella Employee
Aug 03 TX Cheese LIsteria Cheese
Aug 03 MO Habaneros E. coli O157:H7 Salsa
Nov 03 PA Chi-Chi's Hepatitis A Onions
Sep 05 CA La Golondrina Hepatitis A Lettuce?
Jun 06 OH La Fiesta Norovirus Employee
Nov 06 Several Taco Bell E. coli O157:H7 Lettuce?
Nov 06 Several Taco Johns E. coli O157:H7 Lettuce
Jan 07 AU Mex Express Botulism Cheese
Jan 07 OR Sergio's Dos Norovirus Unknown
Mar 07 IL El Paso Salmonella Cheese
Jul 07 AL Little Rosie's E. coli O157:H7 Lettuce
And there have been more - In October 2007, Tortilla Flat was the scene of a Norovirus outbreak and just a few days ago, Carniceria Y Taqueria served Salmonella-Tainted Tacos in North Carolina. Buenos Noches. Thanks to my friends at K-State (who bring you BARFBLOG) for providing a "bite" of the history of the "terrible tacos."

Confirmed salmonella cases hit high of 85
Tue, November 27, 2007
Source of Article:
The number of people hit by salmonella food poisoning at the University of Western Ontario has jumped by another eight confirmed cases, the Middlesex-London Health Unit reported yesterday.
With the latest laboratory tests, the total sickened now officially stands at 85.
The jump in cases yesterday followed a quiet weekend in which no new cases were reported.
At least five students have been hospitalized from the illness.
Dozens more students have reported symptoms consistent with salmonella food poisoning, but haven't been tested.
The health unit is no longer releasing statistics on those cases, said associate medical officer of health Dr. Bryna Warshawsky.
The outbreak has been linked to the Pita Pit fast-food outlet at the university's community centre, which was shut down and sanitized before reopening.
It'll be later this week before the health unit can determine if the cleanup eliminated the salmonella bacteria.
Warshawsky said she anticipates there will be more lab-confirmed cases as the health unit encourages students who have been ill to submit stool samples for testing.
An online survey of students who ate at the Pita Pit is being conducted on the university's website by the health unit in an effort to pinpoint the cause of the salmonella contamination. The survey closes at 11:55 p.m. today.
"We are getting a really good response," said Warshawsky, with about equal numbers of people who were sick and those who weren't.

UWO says sorry for salmonella poisoning
Wed, November 28, 2007
Source of Article:
The University of Western Ontario has taken the unusual step of apologizing for the salmonella food poisoning outbreak that has been linked to its on-campus food service.
"It is a terrible thing. We feel very badly for our community," Susan Grindrod, associate vice-president of housing and ancillary services, said yesterday.
In a statement released late yesterday afternoon, the university said its apology was to the Western community and specifically to those who became ill.
Advertisements with the apology are being placed in both the student newspaper and the university's own papers.
Although the precise cause of the salmonella outbreak hasn't been pinpointed, Grindrod said people in Western's food services felt strongly about what happened.
"The hospitality services folk are there to serve our faculty, staff and students. . . . This is what our whole life is at Western," she said.
The outbreak is the first known incident of food-borne illness at Western in at least 25 years, despite the university serving six million customers a year, Grindrod said.
First detected 2 1/2 weeks ago, the salmonella contamination has been traced to the university's Centre Spot food court and the Pita Pit outlet.
A total of 85 cases of salmonella poisoning have been confirmed by lab tests. No additional lab-confirmed cases were reported yesterday.
Dozens of individuals at Western also have reported symptoms consistent with salmonella infection but haven't been tested. At least five students have been hospitalized.
The university announced yesterday it has hired an independent health and safety inspector to provide suggestions to enhance food safety processes and measures to avoid cross-contamination between foods. Hand-free sanitization stations have been installed at entrances to the Centre Spot.
The steps are in addition to everyday practices that include taking regular, documented temperature checks for refrigerated and hot holding units, collection of food samples, product rotation, quality checks and diligent hand-washing procedures for staff, the university said.
The Public Health Agency of Canada says there are 6,000 to 12,000 cases of salmonella reported in Canada each year.
Most individuals infected develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after being infected.

FDA Awards Grants to Further Food Safety
Part of efforts outlined in agency¡¯s new Food Protection Plan
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA) today announced the award of three lab grants, designed to boost the food screening capabilities and spot radioactive material in food, resulting from deliberate or accidental contamination. These labs are part of the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN).
The three-year grants provide $250,000 a year for supplies, personnel, minor facility upgrades and training. Recipients of the grants are the Texas Department of State Health Services Laboratory, the New York Health Research/New York Department of Health, and the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene.
FDA's ORA will expand its testing program to address the threat to food safety through radiological terrorism events. ORA has developed radiological screening and analysis methodologies used to evaluate foods and food products.
The grants are targeted toward enhanced detection of radiological contamination and thus enhance the nation's overall capability to rapidly detect and respond to deliberate attacks on the food supply.
The grant awards further expand the FDA's ability to promote the integrated strategy for protecting the nation's food supply through the three core elements of prevention, intervention, and response, as outlined in the agency's Food Protection Plan. These funded labs will be involved in food defense surveillance testing as well as bolstering the FDA's emergency response efforts by increasing the capacity for testing of foods for radioactive contamination, intentional or accidental.
The selected laboratories will receive funds to assist in acquiring supplies, personnel, and facility upgrades. The labs will receive training in current food testing methodologies, participate in method development and validation, proficiency testing, and food defense surveillance assignments.
Two key project areas have been identified for the grant recipients. These areas involve the detection of radioactive contamination, utilizing the most advanced detection systems available.
FERN's mission is to integrate the nation's food-testing laboratories at the local, state, and federal levels into a network able to respond to emergencies involving biological, chemical, or radiological food contamination. The network can respond to emergencies related to agents in food and restore the public's confidence in the food supply.

DuPont Unit Releases 8-Hour Listeria Field Test
November 26, 2007
Source of Article:
DuPont Qualicon released a new, genetic-based test Nov. 26 that allows food companies to detect Listeria on environmental surfaces in only eight hours, according to the company, which says the new assay "is the first commercial application of Reverse-Transcriptase PCR for bacterial testing in food." It is part of a suite of BAX(R) system products.
"This flexible test can give food companies clear, precise results at the end of a shift," said Kevin Huttman, president of DuPont Qualicon. "With fast, accurate detection of Listeria, even at low concentrations, food processors get the information they need to take action sooner and release product faster."
Listeria is found in many kinds of foods and us usually killed with proper cooking. Ready-to-eat products, such as hot dogs and deli meat, can become contaminated between cooking and packaging, however. The infection Listeriosis is caused by eating food contaminated with pathogenic Listeria monocytogenes. This illness is especially risky for pregnant women and immuno-compromised individuals. DuPont Qualicon said.

New Laser Based Technology Provides Fast, Low Cost Microbial Identification
source from:
Micro Imaging Technology (MIT) is located in San Clemente, California and for several years has been developing a laser based breakthrough technology for rapid microbial identification. The company¡¯s first product, the MIT 1000, has now gone into production.
The MIT 1000 is currently capable of identifying 23 different bacterial species (e.g. E.coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella). Unlike other test methods (i.e. standard lab testing or PCR) the user is not limited to testing for a specific organism. As long as the organism is in the MIT 1000 library, it will be identified. We can also add other species to the library to suit your specific needs. I have attached a copy of our data sheet that provides more detail about the system.
Most of the popular rapid identification systems cost over $5 per test ($2.85/test is the industry average according to Strategic Consultants Inc) and the MIT 1000 is conservatively estimated at only $0.10/test as the system uses no reagents or chemicals to ID the organism.
Results are obtained in minutes after the culturing stage is completed, due to the small number of organisms needed for the system to properly identify the contaminant, culturing is usually completed in less than 12 hours. MIT's laboratory testing for bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella was actually completed in just over 10 hours from the time the 'sample scraping' occurred.

Magnetic Nanoparticles Detect And Remove Harmful Bacteria
Source of Article:
ScienceDaily (Nov. 20, 2007) ? Researchers in Ohio report the development of magnetic nanoparticles that show promise for quickly detecting and eliminating E. coli, anthrax, and other harmful bacteria. In laboratory studies, the nanoparticles helped detect a strain of E. coli within five minutes and removed 88 percent of the target bacteria, the scientists say.
Xuefei Huang and colleagues point out that ongoing incidents of produce contamination and the threat of bioterrorist attacks have created an urgent need for quicker, more effective ways to detect bacterial decontamination.
To meet that need, they developed a "magnetic glyco-nanoparticle (MGNP)," a unique compound that combines magnetic nanoparticles with sugars.
Sugars (or carbohydrates) on cell surfaces are used by many bacteria to attach to their host cells in order to facilitate infection. The scientists exposed a group of E. coli bacteria to the sugar-coated nano-magnets to mark the microbes so they could be easily identified and removed by a magnetic device. The researchers also used the particles to distinguish between three different E. coli strains.
The study represents "the first time that magnetic nanoparticles have been used to detect, quantify, and differentiate E. coli cells," the researchers state.
The journal article,"Magnetic Glyco-nanoparticles: A Unique Tool for Rapid Pathogen Detection, Decontamination, and Strain Differentiation" was published in theNov. 7 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Adapted from materials provided by American Chemical Society.

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