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12/08
2007
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Why we can't trust our food
December 6, 2007 Source of Article: http://www.boston.com/

THE SHORTCOMINGS in the Food and Drug Administration that became apparent during the scandals over Vioxx and contaminated spinach are just a small part of the problems besetting the agency. In a recent review, a panel of experts concluded that the FDA suffers from outdated technology, inadequate staffing, an inability to hold onto the staff it has, and an overall lack of resources.
The one encouraging feature of the review is that the FDA commissioner himself, Andrew von Eschenbach, had called for it. That should help guarantee that the report won't be quickly dismissed, as have similar complaints about the agency from former employees.
"FDA's inability to keep up with scientific advances means that Americans' lives are at risk," the report said. "The FDA does not have the capacity to ensure the safety of food for the nation." With a budget of about $2 billion, the agency tries to regulate everything from cosmetics to prescription drugs to most food - products with a total value of $1 trillion a year.
So a first test of the resolve of Congress and the Bush administration to address the FDA's problems will be its budget. The increase of just 5.3 percent requested by the agency is clearly not up to the challenges laid out by the report's authors from industry, government, and academia.
Edward Kennedy, chairman of the US Senate Health Committee, pointed to the report's conclusions at a hearing Tuesday. He noted that both the European Union and Japan have more robust systems of food inspection than the United States, especially for imports. Alarm bells went off in 2006 when pet food imported from China killed or sickened thousands of dogs and cats in the United States. The Washington Post later unearthed FDA documents showing human food shipments from China with high levels of carcinogens, filth, and pesticides.
A former FDA associate commissioner, William Hubbard, told the Globe this spring that just 2 percent of all food imports from China get inspected - even with that country's checkered safety record. For food from other countries, the rate is less than 1 percent. Hubbard said domestic food producers can go for 10 to 15 years between inspections. It is basically an "honor system," he said. According to Hubbard, reform will require a rebuilding of the FDA's corps of scientists. In the last three years, he said those working at the food inspection headquarters had declined from 1,000 to 800.
Each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food-borne illnesses kill 5,000 Americans. Congress can reduce such avoidable deaths by insisting on an FDA with the resources and authority it needs. The public should not have to wait for a new administration to crack down on producers or importers of tainted food.

Which is better? Antibacterial scrubbers vs. soap
By Ranit Mishori
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Source of Article: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/health/2004052358_soap05.html
WASHINGTON If cleanliness is next to godliness, modern America is the land of the faithful ? fighting the good fight against today's so-called superbugs with sparkling countertops and well-washed hands.

Our culture's cleanliness obsession has been fed by a booming business in household products that promise the virtue of sterility. According to estimates by the Environmental Protection Agency, our antimicrobial crusade has us spending almost $1 billion annually on soaps and detergents, toys and cutting boards, bedsheets and toothbrushes, all of them treated with chemical compounds designed to kill the germs that cling to them. At the forefront of this product niche is the antimicrobial hand wash, commonly fortified with the bug-battling chemical triclosan.

It may be a dangerous, germ-filled world out there, but with your little bottle ? choose one: Dial, Safeguard, Palmolive ? you can stroll worry-free through it.

Or so you may think.

The anti- in antibacterial

The problem about our obsession with killing germs, some scientists and public health advocates warn, is that it may ultimately do us more harm than good.

Chief among those skeptics is microbiologist Stuart Levy of Tufts University School of Medicine, president of the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics (APUA). Levy's research has led him to question why "antibacterial ingredients, once successfully used to prevent transmission of disease-causing micro-organisms among patients, particularly in hospitals ... are now being added to products used in healthy households ... even though an added health benefit has not been demonstrated."

That's happening, Levy says, despite several "potential negative consequences" of these products, including weakening the immune system, which could lead to a greater chance of allergies in children, and their possible link to the emergence of antibiotic resistance ? the very problem that is making some diseases, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, so difficult to treat.

Members of the manufacturing industry, meanwhile, including Brian Sansoni, vice president of communications at the Soap and Detergent Association, contend that consumers can use these products "with confidence" because "they reduce or kill germs on the skin that can make us sick."

And that message has found a following. According to Mintel GNPD, a market research firm based in Chicago, 71 percent of adults who do some or all of the household cleaning "prefer (to use) antibacterial and germ-killing cleaning products."

Eek! It's spreading!

The first mass-marketed antimicrobial product was put out in 1948 by the Dial Corp. "Aren't you glad you use Dial?" the marketing campaign asked: "Don't you wish everybody did?" The implied biology lesson ? a correct one, as it happens ? was that bacteria are partly responsible for body odor. The new deodorant was a hit; Liquid Dial followed in 1987, and a waterless hand-sanitizing gel in 1998.

Major marketing breakthroughs came when companies figured out how to put the antimicrobial compounds into more than just soap.

Hand sanitizers were swiftly followed by germ-killing plastics and synthetic fibers, and suddenly nearly every product in your house ? from air filters to wallpaper, bathroom appliances, door frames, food-storage containers and the kitchen sink ? could be part of the fight against bugs. Check your computer keyboard; chances are it was treated with a film of Microban, one of the leading trade names for triclosan.

In the wake of such scares as the bird flu, E. coli in food and MRSA, Mintel says the germ-killing marketplace has become even more fertile. In one recent three-year period, new product launches increased by more than 700 percent, from 200 products introduced in 2003 to more than 1,600 in 2006.

For many Americans, soap ? the plain old soap your grandmother used ? is simply not enough.

Go, good old soap!
Plain old soap relied primarily on animal and vegetable fat for its chemistry, and its cleaning power came essentially from its ability to create suds and lather, as the soap molecules formed a thin film around dirt, allowing it to be washed away under running water.
Down the drain go not only bacteria but also viruses, such as those that cause the common cold. Compounds like chlorine, alcohol and peroxide (which kill immediately and at random rather than inhibiting the growth of bacteria) were often added to give soap extra cleansing kick. Those products are also commonly found in travel wipes and towelettes.
Adding specifically antibacterial agents seemed a natural next step. And although Levy and other scientists don't dispute that these chemicals can kill bacteria, they argue there's no evidence they do any good. "No study has shown that," Levy says. What's more, many illnesses such as flu and the common cold, which prompt people to wipe down telephone handsets and doorknobs, are caused not by bacteria but by viruses ? and antibacterials can't slow a virus at all.

Levy cites several studies, among them a 2004 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, in which 228 New York households were divided randomly into two groups: One used regular soap and water; the other antimicrobial soap. There were just as many instances of vomiting, diarrhea, fever, sore throat, cough, runny nose and pinkeye among the antimicrobial users.

"For general use, antibacterial soaps are not superior to cleansing with regular soap and water," says Shmuel Shoham, an infectious-disease specialist at Washington Hospital Center. His view is backed by the conclusions of an advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration, which voted 11 to 1 in 2005 that, when it comes to keeping us healthy, antibacterial soaps and washes are no more effective.

But the New York study's lead author, Elaine Larson of Columbia University, concedes that antibacterial soaps may offer benefits when there are medically vulnerable people in the house: someone who is "ill, immunocompromised, a neonate (newborn) or elder." A point Sansoni emphasizes: Health care is not just in the hospital, it is in our homes.

What about resistance?

While the arguments continue over whether antibacterial soap does any good, there's a second concern over whether it may actually do harm.

"Evidence is accumulating," Shoham says, "that chemicals used in antimicrobial soaps may be causing bacteria to become more resistant to commonly used antibiotics."

Levy lays out this theory in his book "The Antibiotic Paradox": Antibacterial products leave residues where they are used. They linger and continue to kill the bacteria, but not effectively or randomly. The naturally stronger bacteria that survived the initial assault develop new defense mechanisms against the chemicals. This selection process gives rise to a new generation that is resistant to the offending compounds.

Certain bacteria also develop "cross-resistance" ? transferring their new and improved defenses to bacteria fighting other types of antibiotics.
This is essentially the same scenario as the emergence of drug resistance from the overuse of antibiotic medications.
But Sansoni says that transferring the drug-resistance phenomenon to hand cleaners is one of the "greatest suburban myths," for which, he says, there is no scientific evidence. Indeed, scientists looking for the emerging resistance have found it only in their own labs, in Petri dishes. Triclosan, for example, has been shown to make bacteria undergo mutations and create resistance ? but only in the lab. Not on your kitchen counter.

The good go, too

Beyond the drug-resistance worries, some scientists are concerned that antimicrobial soap is an indiscriminate killer.
Some bacteria are bad for us, but some are good. The antimicrobials kill both. And when the good bacteria are gone, there's more room for the bad bacteria to grow, raising our risk of becoming sick.
Besides, a germ-free environment may actually weaken our immune systems, some critics say. They are referring to the Hygiene Hypothesis ? the theory that children build immune systems from infancy by putting in their mouths those dirty objects they find lying around.
A number of studies have linked development of allergies, asthma and skin problems in children to their having been raised in too-sterile environments. "You need a little dirt," Levy says, "to train your immune system correctly."
The takeaway: If you are worried about MRSA, E. coli, SARS, influenza or simply the common cold, you know you should wash your hands.
Thoroughly.
Plain soap and water will do.

Bisphenol A in infant formula at 'dangerous' levels, says group
By Ahmed ElAmin
Source of Article: http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/
06/12/2007 - Bisphenol A (BPA), known as the 'gender bender' chemical, leaches into liquid baby formula from the linings of cans at levels dangerous to infant health, according to new research published yesterday by a US environmental group
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) said the research reveals that Bisphenol-A, used to line nearly all infant formula cans, was found in at levels "far higher" in the product than those that leach from plastic bottles under normal use.
EWG had previously estimated that one out of every 16 infants fed ready-to-eat liquid formula are exposed to BPA at doses exceeding those that caused increased aggression and significant changes in testosterone levels in laboratory animals.
The new research adds to the mounting consumer fear over products packaged in containers with the chemical. Meanwhile, processors such as Nestle continue to resist removing the packaging additive from their products.
The EWG noted that previous studies showing that the packaging chemical leaches from plastic baby bottles into food had led many parents to switch to BPA-free bottles.
Now EWG claims the baby formula being put into the bottles also contains BPA, which has leached from the original cans the product was packaging in.
"Many parents have switched to BPA-free bottles for their infants," said Sonya Lunder, an EWG senior analyst. "US manufacturers of infant formula and baby bottles can and should do the right thing and remove this harmful chemical from their products."
Processors and can manufacturers have consistently stated that the chemical has not been show by scientific studies to pose a health risk. Earlier this year the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) set a maximum limit for human daily intakes of BPA, after assessing the evidence.
Setting a Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) on BPA provides guidance on the use of the chemical to regulators and processors as this can be used as the basis for scientific risk assessments on whether it can be used, reduced or banned.
BPA is an additive widely used in plastic packaging and the resin linings of food cans, among other applications. Studies have found that the chemical migrates in small amounts into food and beverages from packaging containing the substance.
The EWA said it contacted company officials at Nestle, Ross-Abbot (Similac), MeadJohnson, (Enfamil), Hain-Celestial (Earth's Best), and PBM, which sells formula under various names at Walmart, Kroger, Target and other stores.
Each company's policy was documented a minimum of three times, twice through phone interviews, and once by an e-mail questionnaire, the EWG stated.
The results reveal that all manufacturers use BPA to line the metal portions of all infant formula containers, including powdered varieties, EWG stated.
"There is mounting scientific evidence that BPA is toxic, especially to children," said Aaron Freeman, policy director with Environmental Defence Canada, which participated in the study. "Governments should be acting quickly, starting with a ban on BPA in food and beverage containers."
Citing previous formula testing by EWG and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the organisation said the evidence shows that BPA leaches from the plastic lining of metal cans into liquid formula, exposing formula-fed babies to potentially harmful concentrations that are higher than levels leaching from the bottles.
BPA levels in powdered formula sold in the US haven't been tested, but the formula is diluted with water before being fed to babies, and thus poses less risk to babies, EWG stated.
The EWG is a nonprofit research organisation based in Washington, DC.
Previous scientific research into the chemical has implicated BPA in disease or infant developmental problems. The chemical has long been known to act as an artificial estrogen, the primary hormone involved in female sexual development.
BPA has already been shown to increase breast cancer cell growth. In the January 2005 edition of the journal Cancer Research, a University of Cincinnati research team reported that it increased the growth of some prostate cancer cells as well.
Another study released this year by scientists at the same university also indicated that low doses of BPA can damage the development of young brains.
Warnings about other possible long-term health risks associated with fetal exposures to BPA have also been published in recent scientific literature.
BPA was first shown to be oestrogenic in 1938, in a study using rats. In a 1993 study BPA was found to be oestrogenic in the human breast cancer cell. Another 1995 study found that the liquid in some cans of tinned vegetables contained both BPA and and the related chemical dimethyl bisphenol-A.
The highest levels of BPA were found in cans of peas. BPA was also found in the liquid from cans of artichokes, beans, mixed vegetables, corn and mushrooms. All liquids which contained BPA were found to be oestrogenic to a human breast cancer cell, scientists reported.
In 1997 researchers Fred vom Saal and others at the University of Missouri-Columbia concluded that BPA was harmful to humans and that its use should be banned. They noted that BPA is also used in the manufacture bottles, from which it leaches at an increasing rate as the bottle ages.
A study from a group of German researchers released in September provided the first direct evidence that human exposure to BPA in Europe is very low and is, at most, in a range similar to the levels reported in other parts of the world, according to a chemicial industry site.
The research was sponsored by UBA (Umweltbundesamt), the German Federal Environment Agency.
BPA is used to manufacture polycarbonate, a rigid plastic used to make infant feeding bottles, plates, mugs, jugs, beakers, microwave oven ware and storage containers. It is also used in the production of the epoxy-phenolic resins that form internal protective linings for cans and metal lids. The resins are also used as coatings for water storage tanks and wine vats.
When the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) set a maximum limit for human daily intakes of BPA in January this year, its stated that its scientific panel on food contact materials concluded that the setting of a full rather than a temporary TDI was needed, including a review of all available new data from the last five years.
Having considered both the pre-2002 and new studies available, the EFSA scientific panel concluded that the no-observed-adverse-effect level (NOAEL) of five milligram/kg body weight/day identified in the previous evaluation in 2002, remains valid.
The panel also concluded that reports of low-dose endocrine effects of BPA in rodents did not demonstrate such activity in ways that were "robust or reproducible".
"New studies have shown significant differences between humans and rodents, such as the fact that people metabolise and excrete BPA from their system far more quickly than rodents, further limiting the relevance of low-dose effects of BPA reported in some rodent studies for human risk assessment," EFSA stated.
"Studies have also shown that mice are particularly sensitive to oestrogens. Given that BPA is a weak oestrogen, the absence of adverse effects at 5 milligram/kg body weight and below in a new robust study on mice and two generations of their offspring adds further confidence to the risk assessment."
The EFSA scientific panel noted that conservative estimates of current daily exposure to the chemical put it at 30 per cent of the TDI in all population groups. "These exposure estimates include BPA migration into canned foods and into food in contact with PC table ware or storage receptacles," EFSA stated.
The estimates do not include either potential migration of BPA from receptacles into food during microwave heating or into drinking water due to the use of resins in water pipes and in water storage tanks.
The Canadian government last month launched a study into the BPA. The results are expected next year.

GMO Crops: A Growing Concern
Genetically modified organisms, such as certain strains of corn, soybeans, and other farm fare, aren¡¯t as safe as proponents would have the public believe. Pro or con?
Source of Article: http://www.businessweek.com/

Pro: Suspect Practice
by Gillian Madill and Ian Illuminato, Friends of the Earth

Genetically modified crops have been hailed as a way to make agricultural products safer and more affordable, but they have accomplished neither of these goals.

One persistent danger lies in the prospect of crops unapproved for human consumption becoming mixed with the food supply. In 2000, Friends of the Earth and other groups discovered an unapproved strain of genetically modified corn on grocery store shelves. StarLink corn, which had been deemed safe only for animal consumption because of human allergen concerns, was showing up in Kraft (KFT) taco shells. The discovery led to recalls, mill closures, halts in exports, and buybacks of contaminated corn.

Safety concerns related to genetically engineered crops can also create larger-scale economic risk. Just look at what happened to the U.S. rice market in 2006, when illegal varieties of genetically modified rice were found contaminating the U.S. rice supply. Some estimates indicate that this incident caused more than $1.2 billion in damages and additional costs to the U.S. rice industry, whose export sales dropped dramatically.

Another problem: The modification of some crops to improve their resistance to herbicides has given rise to a rapidly growing population of herbicide-resistant weeds, which has led to more herbicide use. This can cause economic hardship for farmers who find it harder to grow crops and have to spend more for herbicides. It also results in more chemical runoff into streams and rivers. Furthermore, increased herbicide use threatens humans, because it means potentially higher levels of toxic chemicals in our food.

Americans concerned about food safety and economic stability would be well advised to take a cue from their neighbors in Europe, and demand more stringent oversight in regard to the genetic modification of crops.

Con: Safe and Abundant Sustenance
by Jim Greenwood, the Biotechnology Industry Organization

Today Americans enjoy one of the safest and most abundant food supplies in the world¡¯s history. But access to healthful and nutritious food is not enjoyed by everyone. According to the United Nations, more than 850 million people worldwide suffer from malnutrition. This situation will likely worsen by 2050, when the world¡¯s population will increase by 50% and the cultivable land will decrease by 50%, placing new pressures on global agriculture.

How do we address this international crisis? While there is no easy and singular solution to starvation, we know that biotechnology can expand and enhance the global food supply. Over the past decade agricultural biotechnology has improved plant productivity and crop quality, increased farmer income, supported stewardship of the land, and contributed to a safe food supply. Biotech crops constitute part of the diet of billions of people around the world without one single documented health problem.

In the U.S., biotech crops receive scrutiny from three separate federal agencies?the Agriculture Dept., the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration. There they undergo intensive safety review, from the research lab to field trials and ultimately to commercial plantings by farmers. No conventional or organic crops undergo this level of premarket testing, review, and regulation.

This safety record is backed by a broad range of international scientific organizations?the American Medical Assn., the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Dietetic Assn., the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization, and the World Health Organization?who all endorse biotech crops as safe.

Sometimes, biotech crops are actually safer than conventional or organic crops. An Iowa State University study found that biotech corn contains substantially lower levels of cancer-causing compounds and mycotoxins linked to cases of spina bifida.

In the future, consumers will likely have access to nutrient-enhanced biotech foods, which could serve as powerful tools in combating famine and malnutrition in developing countries.

Opinions and conclusions expressed in the BusinessWeek Debate Room do not necessarily reflect the views of BusinessWeek, BusinessWeek.com, or The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Japan Plans to Relax U.S. Beef Import Restrictions (Update1)
By Takashi Hirokawa and Sachiko Sakamaki
Source of Article: http://www.bloomberg.com/
Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Japan plans to relax restrictions on U.S. beef, allowing imports of meat from cows up to 30 months old, said Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura today.
The government must obtain an agreement from the U.S. on the plan before putting it before Japan's food safety commission for approval, Machimura said at a press conference.
``Our government has been trying to propose raising the 20-month limit to 30 months,'' he said. ``But we haven't finished coordination with the U.S.''
Japan was the largest buyer of U.S. beef before the first U.S. case of mad-cow disease was found in 2003. After a lengthy ban on all U.S. beef, Japan now imports meat from animals 20 month old or younger, which have a lower risk of disease, according to scientists.
Earlier in the day, Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Mark Keenum said the U.S. won't accept a plan that raises the age of cattle imports.
``Our hope is that we will persuade Japan to adhere to the WTO international standards for beef,'' Keenum said in an interview in Tokyo.
The World Organization for Animal Health, also known as OIE, voted in May to give the U.S. its ``controlled-risk'' rating for mad-cow disease. The designation means controls are effective, and meat from U.S. cattle of any age can be safely traded. The OIE standards are used to settle trade disputes at the World Trade Organization.
Consumption of meat from cattle with mad-cow disease, scientifically known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is believed to be related to a fatal disease in humans.
The U.S. is asking all its trading partners to adhere to OIE standards, Keenum said, adding that the Philippines is the only importer in Asia to have done so.
Japan imported about 30,000 tons of beef from the U.S. in the first nine months of this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
To contact the reporters on this story: Takashi Hirokawa in Tokyo at thirokawa@bloomberg.net ; Sachiko Sakamaki in Tokyo at ssakamaki@bloomberg.net .

Allergy-ridden children ask for lunch bag checks
Friday, December 07, 2007 - 07:04 AM
By: 680News
Source of Article: http://www.680news.com
Toronto - A group of Woodbridge students want mandatory lunch bag checks because they have claimed that their allergies are potentially life-threatening.
The National Post reported the 6 children are asking the Human Rights Commission to force their school to screen out foods to can cause severe allergic reactions.
The students, who range in age from 6 to 11, said their allergies are so bad they qualify as disabilites under human rights law.
If a tribunal rules in favour of the children, all schools in the province could be forced to follow suit.

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

Pot Pie Patrol
Posted on December 6, 2007 by Salmonella Attorney
Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/
To date, we have filed six lawsuits against ConAgra stemming from this Salmonella outbreak. We presently represent nearly two dozen people throughout the United States. Today we are in the ConAgra Pot Pie Manufacturing Facility this morning in Marshall, Missouri inspecting the plant. As my readers might recall, the CDC has published its preliminary findings on the scope of the outbreak involving ConAgra¡¯s Banquet Pot Pies and other private label brands such as Wal-Mart¡¯s Great Value. The USDA's Inspection Report has yet to be released to the public.

Investigation of Outbreak of Human Infections Caused by Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:-

Between January 1, 2007 and October 29, 2007, at least 272 isolates of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- with an indistinguishable genetic fingerprint have been collected from ill persons in 35 states. Ill persons whose Salmonella strain has this genetic fingerprint have been reported from Arizona (1 person), Arkansas (4), California (18), Colorado (9), Connecticut (7), Delaware (5), Florida (2), Georgia (2), Idaho (11), Illinois (7), Indiana (3), Iowa (1), Kansas (4), Kentucky (9), Massachusetts (7), Maryland (7), Maine (2), Michigan (3), Minnesota (7), Missouri (18), Montana (6), Nevada (6), New York (10), North Carolina (2), Ohio (11), Oklahoma (1), Oregon (4), Pennsylvania (18), Tennessee (6), Texas (4), Utah (12), Virginia (9), Vermont (2), Washington (27), Wisconsin (24), Wyoming (3).

Interestingly, I got this email a few moments ago:
You may already be aware of this but just in case you aren¡¯t I¡¯ll pass this along. I received information yesterday that there has been another illness reported that is associated with product from the ConAgra plant in Marshall, MO. This is a lab-confirmed report of Salmonella is associated with consumption of a Banquet Turkey Meal. There was a previous similar complaint reported in October that was not lab-confirmed. Both previous and present complaints apparently involve the Banquet Turkey Meal with a sell by/use by date of January 2009. The product is a 9.25 oz ¡°Turkey Meal¡±. I have not seen a label from this product but I am told it says turkey meal, mostly white meat with gravy, dressing, mashed potatoes and peas. The complainant is apparently located in North Carolina and purchased the product at a local supermarket.
More problems?

Food poisoning from bakery's chocolate cakes sickens 109 people (Singapore)
Wed, 05 Dec 2007
Source of Article: http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/153308.html
Singapore - Food poisoning from a bakery chain's contaminated chocolate cakes has sickened 109 people including 23 members of one family at a birthday party, health officials said Wednesday. Authorities in Singapore have ordered a recall of all Prima Deli products. Its manufacturing facility has also been temporarily shut down.
The 39 franchises selling Prima Deli's cakes and bread have been told to close for at least a week.
The toll of food poisoning accompanied by fever, diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach pains has mounted over two weeks. Eight people have been hospitalized.
No one has died. Those infected usually experience symptoms over four to seven days.
The cakes appear to have been contaminated through poor hygiene with a type of bacteria known as salmonella enteritidis, The Straits Times said. It is usually spread through food made from infected animals or from food that has been exposed to the stool of infected people.
The latest incident was reported to the National Environment Agency. Of the 30 family members at the gathering, 23 suffered severe food poisoning after eating servings from the 1.5-kilogram cake.
Anizah Yusof, who purchased the cake to celebrate the birthdays of her mother and niece, told the newspaper that her own four-day illness was the worst episode of diarrhoea she has ever had.
"I was also very giddy and couldn't walk properly, so I just lay down on the bed," the 19-year-old was quoted as saying. "It was also very difficult to breathe."
Two of the bakery's workers have tested positive for the salmonella strain.
Consumers have been told to throw away any food from the bakery.

Eliminating L. monocytogenes on hot dogs by infrared treatment
December 5, 2007
Source of Article: http://members.ift.org/IFT/Pubs/Newsletters/weekly/nl_120507.htm
The aim of this research was to develop an infrared pasteurization process with automatic temperature control for inactivation of surface-contaminated Listeria monocytogenes on ready-to-eat meats such as hotdogs.
The pasteurization system consisted of an infrared emitter, a hotdog roller, an infrared sensor, and a temperature controller. The infrared sensor was used to monitor the surface temperature of hotdogs while the infrared emitter, modulated by a power controller, was used as a heating source. The surface temperature of hotdogs was increased to set points (70, 75, 80, or 85 C), and maintained for bacterial kill.
With a 3 min holding at 80 C or 2 min at 85 C, a total of 6.4 or 6.7 logs of L. monocytogenes were inactivated. This study demonstrated that the infrared surface pasteurization was effective in inactivating L. monocytogenes in RTE meats.
For more, see Journal of Food Science: http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1750-3841.2007.00589.x

E. Coli in Ground Beef Still a Threat, Despite Millions Spent by Meat Processors
Date Published: Thursday, December 6th, 2007
Source of Article: http://www.newsinferno.com/archives/2150
Ground beef recalls due to E. coli contamination have reached near-record levels this year, and E. coli outbreaks have sickened thousands of people across the country. The sudden spike in E. coli problems has the meat industry scrambling to find ways to fight this sometimes deadly bacterium. But as E. coli meat recalls and outbreaks become more common, it is becoming plain that this might be easier said than done.
E. coli is a bacterium that occurs naturally in the intestines of most animals, including humans. Most types of the bacteria are harmless, but the E. coli 0157:H7 strain can be particularly dangerous to people. The symptoms of E. coli poisoning usually occur within 3 to 9 days after a victim eats contaminated foods. E. coli 0157:H7 causes a disease called hemorrhagic colitis, which is the sudden onset of stomach pain and severe cramps. This is followed by diarrhea that is watery and bloody. Sometimes there is vomiting, but there is no fever. The illness lasts about a week. While most people will recover completely, E. coli poisoning can be very dangerous for children, the elderly and anyone with a weak immune system. In some cases, E. coli 0157:H7 will cause a disorder called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can be life-threatening. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), E. coli 0157:H7 is responsible for sickening 73,000 people every year, and of those, 60 will die from the disease.

This year, E. coli contamination has hurt meat processors large and small. The 67-year old Topps Meat Company filed for bankruptcy after it recalled more than 21 million pounds of tainted meat that made hundreds of people ill. Even giants like Tyson Fresh Meats and Cargill Meat Solutions have seen their reputations sullied by E. coli recalls. The meat industry says it spends $350 million a year to keep E. coli out of meat, yet the recalls and outbreak keeps coming.

Most of the E. coli meat recalls have involved ground beef, a product uniquely susceptible to E. coli contamination because grinding can mix live E. coli bacteria throughout the meat, and consumers often undercook their hamburgers. Meat processors use a variety of methods to keep this from happening, including hosing down cattle carcasses with chemicals before processing them, exposing the carcasses to extremely hot steam to kill bacteria, employing steam vacuums to suck away microbes and using elaborate gear to test hundreds of meat samples a day. But as one disease expert told the New York Times, ¡°If you gave me a million, zillion dollars and said give me a plant that doesn¡¯t have E. coli, I couldn¡¯t do it.¡±

Because it appears impossible to prevent E. coli from contaminating meat at processing plants, the common sense thing to do would be to keep tainted meat off of store shelves. But although the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that processors hold meat shipments until tests confirm it to be pathogen free, not all processors do this. Rather, they put ground beef on the market and recall it later if tests find E. coli contamination. The meat industry rationalizes this approach by saying that E. coli contamination can be eliminated by cooking ground beef thoroughly. But clearly, as the number of E. coli poisoning cases illustrates, this is not an adequate response. Many consumer advocates are now pushing for the USDA to adopt a mandatory ¡°test and hold¡± policy. They argue that if E. coli contamination can¡¯t be eliminated at the processing facility, then meat should be kept off of store shelves until it has been tested disease free.

Fresh-cut produce washing practices can minimize food-borne illness risks - New information will benefit produce industry and consumers
6-Dec-2007
Source of Article: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-12/asfh-fpw120607.php

WASHINGTON, DC -- Researchers at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently examined the safety and quality of "wash techniques" used in the production of packaged produce. The study, published in the October 2007 issue of HortScience, simulated washing techniques to learn more about how industry practices affect quality and safety of pre-cut lettuce.
Yaguang Luo, PhD, Research Food Technologist at the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Produce Quality and Safety Laboratory, headed the study of produce wash techniques used in the commercial preparation of pre-cut fruits and vegetables. Luo explained that recent outbreaks of food-borne illnesses associated with the consumption of fresh-cut produce underscored the importance of ensuring food safety of these packaged convenience foods.
He noted that washing the produce is an important step commonly employed by the industry to maintain the quality and safety of fresh and fresh-cut produce. Prior to the study, however, little information existed about how wash operation and water re-use techniques affected the water quality, the efficacy of sanitizers on the reduction of microorganisms, or the quality and shelf life of packaged products. Luo explained: "The main objective of the research was to examine the dynamic interactions among wash operation, water quality, and sanitizer efficacy and product quality. We investigated the effect of produce washing techniques, including simulated water re-use, and the ratio between product weight and wash water volume on the water quality and effectiveness of sanitizers used to reduce microorganisms."
The researchers found that procedures in which water was re-used during the washing process led to rapid accumulation of organic matter in wash water and compromised the efficacy of sanitizers. According to Luo, "It is generally known that water re-use can cause water quality loss. The value of this research is that it reveals the complex effects of the foreign matter that is washed from produce on water quality and product quality, and it provides specific information on how wash operation variables (such as re-use of the same tank of water with increasing amount of cut product being washed) affect the water quality." The study also demonstrated the direct effect of wash water quality on product quality.
Luo concluded that results of the USDA study should define relationships among produce wash operations, water quality and product quality, giving produce packers new tools for enhancing food safety and quality.

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The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortScience electronic journal web site: http://hortsci.ashspublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/42/6/1413/

Founded in 1903, the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) is the largest organization dedicated to advancing all facets of horticultural research, education and application. More information at ashs.org

Acrylamide cancer link confirmed
05 December 2007 Source of Article: http://www.rsc.org/
A study has for the first time confirmed the proposed link between dietery intake of acrylamide and cancer - five years after the suspected carcinogen was detected in cooked food.
Those who ingest more acrylamide via their diet are twice as likely to develop womb or ovarian cancer, a Dutch study involving 62,000 women over 11 years has concluded.
In 2002, Swedish researchers provoked worldwide concern when they discovered people were taking in acrylamide through their diet - including such common foods as crisps, potato chips, coffee, biscuits, and bread. The chemical was known to cause tumours in rats, is a neurotoxin, and seemed likely to be a human carcinogen too. Later research showed that whenever food is fried, roasted or grilled to turn a tasty golden brown, acrylamide is also formed, via the Maillard reaction of amino acids such as asparagine with reducing sugars above 120¡ÆC.
These were worrying discoveries, but large-scale epidemiological studies on men and women in Sweden and the US had found no link between increasing dietary acrylamide intake and the risk of various cancers including breast, colorectal, bladder and renal cancer.
Now researchers led by Janneke Hogervorst, at Maastricht University, have investigated links with rarer cancers of the womb and ovaries. Each disease affects around 60 per 100,000 post-menopausal women in the UK every year.
The team used a Netherlands study on diet and cancer, in which 120,000 people, and more than 62,000 women, aged 55-70 years, were asked details about their diet. The Dutch researchers used this data to estimate acrylamide intake from foods, and followed up the participants through cancer registries. After 11 years, women who had eaten around 40?g of acrylamide a day were twice as likely to develop womb and ovarian cancer as those who'd eaten around 9g a day. There was no increased risk of breast cancer. The team did not look at the effects of acrylamide on men.
A previous Italian study had found no link between acrylamide and ovarian cancer. But it had asked people with the disease to recall their earlier diet - a method which has greater potential for bias.
Lorelei Mucci, who has conducted many epidemiological acrylamide studies at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, US, told Chemistry World that the Dutch study was well designed. The researchers had done their best to control for the effects of other risk factors for cancer such as smoking or a high intake of fatty foods, she noted. Particularly interesting in this study was that Dutch spiced cake - a kind of non-crusty gingerbread - accounted for most of the variation in acrylamide intake. In Swedish and US populations, noted Mucci, coffee and fried potato chips are the main sources of acrylamide. Both Hogervorst and Mucci emphasised that further corroboration of the results are needed from other studies on different populations.

Inside the body, acrylamide metabolises to glycidamide, which forms adducts with haemoglobin and DNA. But the associations with ovarian and womb cancers have led to speculation that acrylamide may also disrupt proteins which maintain hormone balance in the body, said Hogervorst.

European scientists and food manufacturers have already made many efforts to reduce acrylamide production in foods - mainly funded by the European Commission's 4-year strategic acrylamide project, HEATOX, which was completed on 26 November. However, removing it from the diet completely would be nigh on impossible. Other genotoxic compounds, such as furans, are formed when food is cooked. And fatty foods and smoking are far more strongly associated with the risk of common cancers.

Richard Van Noorden

Raw Milk Can Cause Serious Intestinal Problems
(WIBW Channel 13, KS)
Following two outbreaks of campylobacteriosis that made at least 87 people ill, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas Department of Agriculture are advising the public to avoid consuming raw milk or products made from raw milk.
Campylobacteriosis is an intestinal infection caused by the bacteria Campylobacter.
Infection often causes diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, nausea, headache and muscle pain.
In the first outbreak in southwest Kansas, 68 people became ill after eating cheese made from raw (unpasteurized) milk donated by a local dairy for a community celebration.
Nineteen people were ill enough to seek medical attention, and two people were hospitalized. Four of these persons tested positive for Campylobacter jejuni; no other food items served at the event were associated with illness.
The second outbreak is linked to a dairy in south central Kansas that sells raw milk directly to consumers.
As of November 30, 2007, 19 cases of campylobacteriosis had been reported. Each person reported drinking raw milk purchased from the dairy.
Although most people with campylobacteriosis recover within seven to 10 days, rare complications such as reactive arthritis, hemolytic uremic syndrome and Guillian-Barre syndrome can develop.
Pasteurization is the only effective method for eliminating disease-causing bacteria in raw milk and milk products. It is a simple process that involves heating the milk to a high temperature
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for a short period of time.
This heat treatment destroys harmful germs but it does not harm the nutritional value of milk and cheese.
Pasteurization also can prevent diseases like tuberculosis, diphtheria, polio, Q fever, salmonellosis, strep throat, scarlet fever and typhoid fever from being transmitted through milk.
Although it is against federal law to sell raw milk across state lines, Kansas law allows raw milk and raw milk products to be sold or donated directly to the final consumer if the transaction takes place on the dairy farm where the raw milk was produced.
All containers and signs on the farm must indicate the milk is ¡°raw, unpasteurized.¡±
There can be no advertising other than the sign erected on the farm, and door-to-door sales and/or delivery of raw milk are prohibited.
All milk sold in retail stores must be pasteurized.
Raw milk, whether it¡¯s from cows, sheep or goats, can carry dangerous microorganisms like Campylobacter, Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria, which are responsible for causing many food borne illnesses. Getting sick from one of these can lead to diarrhea, stomach cramps, fever, headache, vomiting, or exhaustion.
The illnesses can be dangerous for people with weakened immune systems, such as the elderly, children and people with cancer, an organ transplant or HIV/AIDS.
Bacteria found in raw milk and raw dairy products can be especially dangerous to pregnant women and their unborn babies.
Many persons continue to drink raw milk but consumers need to be aware of the health risks associated with consuming raw milk and products made with raw milk.
Raw milk produced on even the most sanitary dairy farms can contain harmful bacteria. Pasteurization is the only way to be sure the milk is safe. 12-04-07

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