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FSIS: new salmonella policies for poultry slaughter facilities// 29 Jan 2008
Source of Article:
The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service has announced new policies and practices for the Agency's salmonella verification sampling programme in poultry establishments.
In 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Salmonella serotypes accounted for 38.6% of human food borne illnesses, making it the most common human food borne pathogen. The FSIS is taking action to advance efforts to achieve the Agency's public health goal of significantly reducing human cases of salmonellosis.
The changes, which are set to take effect as from March 28, 2008, include:
- Publication on the FSIS website of completed verification sample set results for establishments that show inconsistency to meet salmonella performance standards, beginning with those from young chicken slaughter establishments (there has been an increase in percent positive rates and serotypes of human health concern found in these products).
- A voluntary incentive-based program for poultry establishments that should yield significant data on attribution of human illness to FSIS-regulated products.
- Increasing the agency's use of targeted sampling approaches and collaborative serotype and subtype data.
Significant success in poultry sector
On Nov. 16, 2007, FSIS posted the third quarter progress report on Salmonella testing of selected raw poultry products. This report showed significant success. Of turkey slaughter establishments, 84% are now Category 1, the other 16% are in Category 2. These numbers represent significant improvement from the first quarter of 2007 where 53% of establishments were in Category 1, 38% in Category 2 and 3% in Category 3. For broilers, the percentage of establishments in Category 1 is 73% and the percentage of establishments in Category 2 is 23%. This figure is up by 10% from the first quarter of 2007. This is compared with only 35.5% of broiler establishments performing in Category 1 after the first quarter of 2006.
- Category 2 establishments - sample set results above half but not exceeding the current standard for one or both of their most recent sample sets.
- Category 3 establishments - exceeding the current standards.
- Category 1 establishments - the lowest Salmonella rates of the three categories with sample set results at or below half of the current standards.
Participating establishments must collect samples for microbial analysis on each line during each shift on every day of production. These additional samples will provide the Agency with key microbial data on attribution of human illness to FSIS-regulated products.
The FSIS is seeking comments, which need to be submitted by Feb. 27. All comments must identify FSIS and the docket number FSIS-2006-0034 and can be mailed to:
To view the full notice, click here:

Labeling clash over food from clones
Critics want FDA to identify origins
(Chicago Tribune, IL)
By Stephen J. Hedges
Food safety groups, citing polls that indicate most Americans won't knowingly buy food from cloned animals, are leading a protest against a government policy of not requiring food labels to disclose details about its origin.
Two bills in Congress, one each in the House and Senate, would require specific labeling for food from clones.
"What I don't understand is why we're not labeling," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who sponsored the House version of the bill. "I think it's one more indication of an abdication of a duty to protect public health."
A 2007 poll conducted by Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports magazine, found that 89 percent of Americans want cloned foods to be labeled and 69 percent said they have concerns about meat and dairy products from cloned animals.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman Kimberly Rawlings said the agency can only require labels under certain conditions. "Under current laws, FDA may require specific food labeling if there are any safety concerns, or if there is a material difference in the composition of food," she said.
The past few years have marked a steady slide in labeling requirements for certain foods. Disputes have erupted over disclosing the use of a growth hormone in dairy cows, and most recently, the FDA had decided that no special labels would be required for food from cloned animals.
The FDA made the last decision when it found earlier this month that food from cloned animals was no different than conventionally produced milk or meat. Because there is no difference, the FDA reasoned, there is no legal need for a special label.
That logic has sparked sharp criticism from food safety groups, which contend that the cloning label ruling is one in a steady string of regulatory decisions in which the government has sided with the food industry over consumers.
These food safety groups and DeLauro are also critical of the Department of Agriculture, which regulates meat and poultry. They note the agency's reluctance to enforce a requirement that labels disclose the country of origin of meat, produce and peanuts. Congress passed the requirement as part of the 2002 farm bill, then relaxed the meat portion when the beef industry objected.
The Agriculture Department, siding with the meat companies, has argued that country-of-origin labeling, or COOL, was too costly to implement.
Yet such labeling is required for seafood. Food safety groups say the value of that labeling became clear last year, when the FDA put restrictions on some imported seafood because of possible contamination.
New legislation now requires COOL to be implemented for meat later this year, but some meat industry groups have already vowed to try to prevent that.
"I do see a trend, worldwide, where consumers and the public are asking for more information because more information is better," said Greg Jaffe, director of the biotechnology project for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington food safety group. "Why would somebody say no to more information?"
The Agriculture Department's move on country of origin labeling isn't the agency's only controversial labeling decision. The department's Food Safety and Inspection Service chose in 2004 not to require labels showing that meat was treated with carbon monoxide, which helps packaged beef stay red.
The FDA's Rawlings said her agency has concluded that meat treated with carbon monoxide is safe, and that extra labeling isn't required because the carbon monoxide treatment does not "impart a color, it maintains a naturally occurring color."
But both the FDA and Agriculture Department have steered clear of what is probably the most contentious labeling dispute: whether dairies can use labels that proclaim their milk came from cows that were not treated with a growth hormone.
At issue is recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST), also known as recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), which is marketed by Monsanto Co. under the name Posilac.
Some dairies do not want to use the hormone, arguing that consumers are not interested in milk that comes from cows treated with rBST. Some animal-rights groups have questioned the hormone's effect on cows, and food groups have raised doubts about whether the hormone is carried into milk products.
The FDA, Rawlings said, has concluded that "there is not a significant difference between milk from treated and untreated cows and therefore, under the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the agency did not have the authority to require special labeling for milk from rBST-treated cows."
She said the FDA "has concluded that food companies that do not use milk from cows treated with rBST may voluntarily inform consumers of this fact in their product labels."
But because milk naturally contains bovine somatotropin, labeling milk hormone-free is misleading, Rawlings said. Instead, the FDA suggests the use of labels that state, "from cows not treated with rBST."
Several large grocery store chains, including Kroger and Publix, as well as Starbucks and Caribou Coffee, have announced recently that they will only offer milk from cows that have not been given rBST. Those businesses said they were responding to consumer preferences.
Monsanto and farmers who want to use the hormone on their cows have challenged the "no-hormone" labels. Monsanto filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission last year, arguing that such labels imply that there is something wrong with rBST, damaging its sales.
The dairy labeling fight has also unfolded in state regulatory agencies and legislatures. Earlier this month, Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell weighed in to halt a labeling dispute there. He concluded that the state would allow the hormone-free labels, as long as they were accompanied by a statement that the FDA found no difference in milk from rBST-treated and untreated cows.
Illinois reached a similar solution about a decade ago, and similar disputes are playing out in Ohio and Indiana.
Bill Friend, an Indiana state representative, has proposed legislation that would prevent "hormone free" labels on milk. Friend said dairy farmers in his rural district have been asked by Kroger and some dairies to sign affidavits pledging that they are not using rBST. The hormone increases production by up to 25 percent, Friend said, but farmers could lose a market, and profits, if they don't sign the affidavits.
Among the groups opposing Friend's bill is Consumers Union. Michael Hansen, a senior scientist for Consumers Union, said the "no hormones" label resembles other labeling that advertises the lack of an ingredient as a way to market food.
"Do all these products that advertise no artificial flavors, no artificial colors have to be determined to be safe by the FDA?" Hansen asked. 1-27-08

Survey finds 83% worried about safety of food
The Yomiuri Shimbun
Source of Article:
About 83 percent of Japanese are worried about food safety, according to a recent Yomiuri Shimbun opinion poll.
The figure is almost identical to the 84 percent who expressed such concerns in a similar survey in September, held after a series of mislabeling scandals of food products came to light, and suggests that concern over food safety has taken root.
Asked about reasons for their anxiety in a multiple choice format, 71 percent chose "the series of scandals involving false labeling of food products," while 57 percent picked "the increase in food imports." "Residual agricultural chemicals" and "food additives" were both picked by 50 percent of people.
Asked whether they trust food labels in general, 50 percent said they do, with 9.3 percent choosing "very much." However, 49 percent said they do not trust them, with 14.2 percent choosing "not at all."
Respondents who said they trust food labeling decreased by 11 points from 61 percent in an April 2004 survey. The mislabeling scandals seem to have greatly affected consumer psychology, analysts say.
As reasons for the numerous food mislabeling scandals, about 85 percent picked "moral decline among company owners and executives," followed by "insufficient monitoring and tests by authorities" (50 percent) and "light punishment of law violators" (37 percent).
Asked whether they think food mislabeling cases will decrease, 42 percent said they thought they would, but 55 percent said they did not think so.
The opinion poll was conducted using face-to-face interviews on Jan. 12 and 13 with 3,000 voters randomly selected at 250 locations throughout the country. Of them, 1,780, or 59.3 percent, gave valid responses.

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

USDA Lab Focuses on Deadly E. Coli
By JOSH FUNK 2 days ago
Source of Article:
CLAY CENTER, Neb. (AP) ? Cattle wander among earth-covered bunkers that dot the landscape just west of this tiny rural town. The bunkers are remnants of a Naval ammunition depot that produced bombs during World War II. The depot is now an animal research center where government scientists are working to unlock secrets contained in the genetic makeup of the cattle.
Their focus: the E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria, which can kill if it reaches the dinner table.
"Our purpose is to save little kids' lives," said Mohammad Koohmaraie, director of the center.
The scientists at the Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center say they still don't know why the number of beef recalls soared in 2007 or why E. coli contamination appeared to be rising.
"What we try to do is increase our understanding as much as possible about the bug," Koohmaraie said.
The lab has its own feedlot and a herd of about 6,500 cows that are used for genetic research.
In 2007, more than 30 million pounds of ground beef were pulled off the market in 20 recalls because of possible E. coli contamination. That included the second-largest recall in U.S. history, which put Topps Meat Co. out of business.
At least 67 sicknesses were linked to last year's beef recalls. No deaths were reported. In 2006, there were just eight beef recalls and no reported illnesses.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that E. coli sickens about 73,000 people and kills 61 each year in the United States. Most of the deaths are people with weak immune systems such as the elderly or very young.
The bacteria was discovered in the late 1970s and is present in the intestines of most cattle. It also can be found in deer, goats and sheep. It doesn't cause problems for the livestock, but the E. coli 0157:H7 variant can cause severe illness in humans.
Symptoms of E. coli infection include stomach cramps and diarrhea that may turn bloody within one to three days.
The large scope of the research being conducted at the Meat Animal Research Center sets its work apart from research at universities and other labs in the USDA's Agricultural Research Service.
"The uniqueness of what we do is in the sample size," Koohmaraie said. "We really don't speak unless we have confidence in the data. A bug like E. coli 0157:h7 is really problematic if you don't design the experiment properly."
One of the lab's current projects will test whether feeding cattle distiller's grain ? a byproduct of making the gasoline additive ethanol ? has any effect on the level of E. coli and the quality of meat produced.
The Nebraska Corn Board suggested the distiller's grain research last spring, and the lab agreed because more and more feedlots are using the ethanol byproduct, Koohmaraie said.
The research involves 600 cattle. Half are being fed a traditional grain feed and half are being fed distiller's grain. The research will wrap up in June after the cattle have been sold for slaughter and samples of their carcasses have been collected.
Smaller studies already suggest a link between distillers grain and high levels of the bacteria. For instance, researchers at Kansas State University said last fall they found that cattle fed distiller's grain are twice as likely to carry E. coli 0157:H7.
The meat industry significantly increased its efforts to control E. coli after the 1993 outbreak in which four children died and hundreds of people became ill after eating undercooked hamburgers from Jack in the Box restaurants.
The Clay Center lab, which is about 120 miles southwest of Omaha, didn't really have much of a food safety research program until the Jack in the Box outbreak, Koohmaraie said. After that, Congress and the USDA made it a priority to learn more about E. coli and other pathogens.
A great deal of research had already been done on E. coli by then, but the Clay Center lab made an important discovery: E. coli was getting into meat processing plants on the hides of cattle as well as inside the animals' intestines.
That work contributed to the development of systems to wash the hides of cattle and the carcasses with either hot water or chemical solutions as they enter the processing plants.
The lab determined which solutions work best and how washing systems should be designed.
Warren Mirtsching, who oversees food safety for JBS Swift & Co, said the lab showed how valuable a hide washing system can be and that meat packing plants didn't have to spend millions to install an effective system.
"I think they perform a very special niche," Mirtsching said. "They are the validator."
On the Net:
USDA Agricultural Research Service:
Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center:
National Meat Association:
Beef Industry Food Safety Council:

FDA Want US Inspectors Stationed In Foreign Countries
Date Published: Friday, January 25th, 2008
Source of Article:
The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) would like to go global. In an effort to improve the safety of imported foods and medicines, the FDA wants to post its own inspectors in embassies and consulates throughout the developing world. According to The New York Times, the ¡°boots on the ground¡± initiative would focus on nations like India and China and regions like Central and South America and the Middle East.
The FDA has jurisdiction over 80% of the US food supply and all prescription and over the counter medications. But while imports of both food and drugs have increased dramatically, the FDA inspects only about 1 percent off the imported goods under its oversight. The FDA¡¯s oversight of imports has been under scrutiny since last year, when dozens of imported products were recalled over safety issues. Foods from China, particularly seafood laced with illegal levels of antibiotics and toxic pet food ingredients, have been of special concern. The outcry over those scandals has led the FDA to reexamine its food safety procedures, especially regarding imported products.
Traditionally, the FDA had been a reactive organization, and steps up inspections of particular products when problems arise. But since the safety scandals of last year, the agency has been trying to engage more ¡°risk-based¡± approach that would focus on high-risk products and countries whose imports have a troublesome track record.
According to The New York Times, the FDA already sends inspectors to dozens of countries each year to inspect pharmaceutical plants and clinical trial sites. And in December, the United States and China agreed to a greater American role in certifying and inspecting Chinese food products, including an increased presence of American officials at Chinese production plants.
But FDA commissioner Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach said in a briefing with reporters that he wanted the agency¡¯s presence abroad to be on an ¡°ongoing and continuous basis rather than episodic and periodic.¡± This would be a marked expansion of the role the FDA now plays in countries that import to the US, although the agency has long helped to train foreign food and drug inspectors and even advise in the writing of legislation to empower foreign versions of the FDA.
But the ramped up foreign inspection plan is still far from being a reality. Von Eschenbach said he wasn¡¯t sure where the money for the plan would come from ? the FDA could ask for additional financing from Congress for the inspectors or find the money in its existing budge. Although some in Congress have advocated a bigger budget for the FDA, the Bush Administration has been less than supportive.
Von Eschenbach also said he would have to work out other details with the State Department, including how such inspectors would interact with other parts of the federal government. In addition, FDA inspectors would not be sent to a country unless their presence was requested.

West Mid¡¯s food hygiene secures four star status
By Christine Briddon
Source of Article:
West Middlesex University Hospital has achieved four out of five stars for its food safety standards. Under a new pilot scheme supported by the Food Standards Agency, hospitals are given ratings from zero to five stars, following impromptu inspections by the environmental health department.
The scheme makes information publicly available on how well food businesses are complying with food hygiene law.
At West Mid, Ecovert FM provides catering for patients, visitors and staff. The inspection looked at food hygiene in the hospital's restaurant, cafe and main kitchen. The "very good" four star rating found "good safety management and high standard of compliance with food safety legislation" in all areas.
Ecovert general manager Mike Gennery said: "To achieve this level when we provide 440,000 meals every year is testament to the hard work of all our staff."
Ecovert provides 1,000 patient meals every day, plus 200 meals for staff and visitors.

FDA flawed on food, medical device safety: GAO
By Ruth Mantell, MarketWatch
Last update: 6:53 p.m. EST Jan. 29, 2008
Source of Article:
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- When it comes to the safety of food and medical devices, the Food and Drug Administration has some work to do, government investigators reported to lawmakers on Tuesday.
"FDA has opportunities to better leverage its resources," according to a Government Accountability Office report presented at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's oversight subcommittee. "Efficient use of resources is particularly important at FDA because we found that its food safety workload has increased in the past decade, while its food safety staff and funding have not kept pace."
The GAO recommended that FDA should offer specific information about its strategies and the resources it needs to implement a food-protection plan. FDA oversees about 80% of the U.S. food supply, which includes $417 billion of domestic food and $49 billion of imported food annually, according to GAO.
"Without a clear description of resources and strategies, it will be difficult for Congress to assess the likelihood of the plan's success in achieving its intended results," according to GAO.
In November, the FDA announced food-safety proposals, but didn't include price tags or the number of new FDA employees that would be needed to see them through. That plan recommended moves such as giving FDA mandatory recall authority and additional preventive controls for high-risk foods.
FDA, which critics say is underfunded and understaffed, could be helped by gaining "adequate authority, a clear purpose and timeframe, leadership support, an open process, a balanced membership, accountability, and resources," according to GAO. In November, an advisory committee to the FDA found that the agency "suffers from serious scientific deficiencies and is not positioned to meet current or emerging regulatory responsibilities."
Also Tuesday, the GAO said FDA has not met its statutory requirement to inspect domestic manufacturers of medical devices classified as high risk, such as pacemakers, or medium risk, such as hearing aids, every two years.
"FDA officials estimated that the agency has inspected these establishments every 3 years (for high risk devices) or 5 years (for medium risk devices)," according to GAO. "There is no comparable requirement to inspect foreign establishments, and agency officials estimate that these establishments have been inspected every 6 years (for high risk devices) or 27 years (for medium risk devices)."
For inspections of foreign medical device establishments, two databases that FDA uses for information "contain inaccuracies that create disparate estimates of establishments subject to FDA inspection," according to GAO.
GAO added that there has been a small number of inspections completed by accredited third-party organizations - a concern that "raises questions about the practicality and effectiveness of establishing similar programs that rely on third parties to quickly help FDA fulfill its responsibilities."
Ruth Mantell is a MarketWatch reporter based in Washington.

Bovine tuberculosis detected at Fresno County dairy
(Associated Press, CA)
A herd of cows in Fresno County is sick with bovine tuberculosis, California agricultural officials said Friday.
The chronic disease doesn't threaten the quality or safety of milk and meat produced in the state because most milk is pasteurized, and raw milk is regularly tested for TB. Cattle processed for meat are routinely inspected for TB, too.
Officials tested for the rare disease after inspectors saw suspicious lesions on a cow being examined for slaughter, said California Department of Food and Agriculture spokesman Steve Lyle. Five cows have tested positive since then.
State agricultural authorities are barring the farm from moving cows off their property indefinitely to prevent further spread of disease, Lyle said.
The dairy farmer is working with state and federal animal health officials to eradicate the disease from the herd, the department said.
Bovine TB was last found in California in 2003. 2-01-08

Raw milk helps family farm thrive
(Centre Daily Times, PA)
By Josh McAuliffe
For years, the Schlittler family drank their milk just as it came from their cows, with no tinkering whatsoever. Today, they're opening up their farm to outsiders who want in on the action.
Since the fall of 2006, the Spring Brook Township family has been selling unpasteurized, unhomogenized, raw milk straight from the udders of the Holsteins on their 150-acre farm just off Interstate 380.
Currently the only documented producers of raw milk in Northeastern Pennsylvania, the Schlittlers are tapping into a continually growing anti-pasteurization subculture. Some raw milk enthusiasts drink it because they believe it's healthier than processed milk, capable of improving one's immune and digestive systems. Some can't get enough of the taste, which tends to be sweeter and creamier than pasteurized. Others see it as a benefit to small farms and the environment.
With this mind-set comes some risk, as raw milk has the potential to carry harmful bacteria that pasteurization destroys, including E. coli, listeria and salmonella. Proponents of raw milk, however, claim pasteurization also kills beneficial bacteria, proteins and enzymes.
For years, the Food and Drug Administration has banned the interstate transport of raw milk, and regularly issues warnings to the public on the dangers of its consumption.
Fifteen states, including New Jersey and Maryland, prohibit the sale of raw milk. Pennsylvania, however, has taken a much more open-minded approach. In just the past two years, raw milk permits in the state have gone up threefold, said Bill Chirdon, director of food safety for the state Department of Agriculture.
"We don't think that's a fad," Chirdon said. "We think it's a long-term trend."
Under state law, farms like the Schlittlers' must submit themselves to quarterly inspections by the Department of Agriculture, and, on an annual basis, have their milk tested for four pathogens (salmonella, E.coli 0157H, listeria and campylobacter) and their cows checked for tuberculosis and brucellosis.
In addition, the Schlittlers pay a laboratory to test their milk for bacteria twice a month. They're also required to keep a sign posted in their barn that advises customers on the possible perils of drinking raw milk, stressing pregnant women, children, the elderly and people with weak immune systems are the most susceptible.
Although these precautionary measures can significantly minimize the risks, a 100 percent clean product can never be guaranteed, Chirdon stressed.
"Unfortunately, cows have very poor personal hygiene," he said with a laugh. "So, you have to be careful."
The Schlittlers' 105-year-old farm is currently being run by the family's fourth generation. About four years ago, Scot Schlittler, his sister, Liz Shenko, and her husband, Chuck, took over day-to-day operations from their parents, Jake and Irene Schlittler.
The three made the decision to sell raw milk from a purely economic standpoint, having first learned about the concept at seminars offered by the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture. By taking out the middleman - i.e., the dairy companies they used to sell their milk to - they could better sustain themselves through a direct-marketing approach.
Thus far, their business has operated entirely by word-of-mouth. At the moment, they have about 15 regular customers who pay $5 a gallon. Some are recent raw milk converts, while others are immigrants from Russia, Egypt and Central America who grew up drinking it. Some buy as much as 10 to 15 gallons per trip.
"People are so thankful that we're giving them real food," said Scot Schlittler, who like the Shenkos, works full-time jobs in addition to his duties on the farm.
Among the regulars is South Scranton artist George Strasburger, who typically travels to the farm once a week for a fresh gallon. He said environmental and health concerns played a role in his decision to start drinking raw milk.
"My thinking is, the less processing in any food, the better it is," said Strasburger, noting his disdain for big agribusiness.
Does he ever worry about getting sick?
"No, I don't worry about it," Strasburger said. "I know too many farmers who raise happy, healthy families with raw milk. I have more trust with them than I do with these factory farms."
There are 26 milking cows on the Schlittlers' farm - pure-bred Holsteins and Holsteins crossed with other breeds like Jersey and Brown Swiss. All of them have names - Willow, Doo Drop, Sarah, etc. - and most wear bells around their necks, a common practice on farms in Switzerland, from where Jake Schlittler's grandfather, Samuel Schlittler, emigrated in 1903.
Scot Schlittler said the cows aren't pushed too hard, and don't receive any growth hormones, medications or antibiotics. The family has also begun the process of converting the cows from a grain-heavy to a grass-based diet, which is more friendly to a cow's digestive system.
Overall, the Schlittler cows produce 750 pounds of milk per day, with about 10 pounds going into each gallon container, Chuck Shenko said. Once taken from the cows, the milk is stored in two stainless steel bulk tanks - one holding 625 gallons, the other 415 - at 37 or 38 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Schlittlers were drinking raw milk "from the time they were born," Irene Schlittler said. Back then, she and her husband were selling their milk to companies like Dairylea, which would pasteurize the milk and put it on a supermarket shelf.
For years, the kids watched their parents struggle just to make ends meet. Often, family dinners were made up entirely of food taken from the garden. "One of dad's favorite expressions was the 'all potato' dinner," Scot Schlittler said.
"They stuck it out through thick and thin. I don't know how they did it," Chuck Shenko said.
"We got by and everyone was happy," Irene Schlittler said. That must have been the case, or two of the Schlittlers' five children wouldn't be making a go of the family business today.
"When you got the farming in the blood, it's hard to leave," said Scot Schlittler, who came back to the farm after 20 years away.
He rises everyday around 3:30 a.m., and between the farm and his full-time job as a manager at Burke's Pharmacy in Green Ridge puts in what usually amounts to a 14-hour day.
"It's a hard lifestyle in that you're married to it," he said. "You're really sacrificing a lot of time. Your freedom is essentially nil."
"It's a love-hate relationship," added Liz Shenko, who works as a medical technician at Mid-Valley Hospital.
The three all have certain specialties on the farm. Chuck Shenko is the resident Mr. Fix-It, while Scot Schlittler is known as "the cow whisperer" for his ability to gently coax the cows into production mode.
"Scot has a nice, calm disposition to him, and I think the cows feel it," said Liz Shenko, who has an uncanny knack for detecting when a cow is sick. She also does the farm's books. Right now, Scot Schlittler is the only one taking an income from the farm's operation, pulling in about $300 a month for his sweat equity.
At some point in the future, he, his sister and his brother-in-law would love nothing more than to see the farm become a full-time operation that, in addition to milk, would produce raw milk cheeses and grass-fed meats and poultry.
"We really want to keep the tradition of the family farm alive," Liz Shenko said. 2-03-08

Technology to Make Beef Safer
Source of Article:
Thursday, December 27, 2007; Page A16
Regarding the Dec. 21 Business article "Beef's Wake-Up Recall":
The Agriculture Department must do more than rethink safety rules for ground beef. The current system is designed to reduce, not eliminate, E. coli and other hazardous bacteria. We're still eating hamburger contaminated with deadly germs, and our children are getting sick and dying.
Improved processing has reduced positive samples to 0.2 percent, but that means that 1 in 500 pounds of raw ground beef contains E. coli. Recalls are not particularly effective. On Dec. 20, the Agriculture Department ordered the recall of meat contaminated with drug-resistant salmonella that had been sold between Sept. 19 and Nov. 5. How much of that remained uneaten?
More thorough cleaning, additional testing and more frequent inspections might conceivably cut contamination in half, at considerable cost. But is 1 in 1,000 -- or even 1 in 5,000 -- an acceptable contamination rate for our children's food? We need a definitive step to kill any harmful bacteria that remain after processing. Safe, effective and inexpensive technology -- irradiation -- is available now. Ground beef from a few forward-thinking processors already is irradiated, as are most spices and an increasing number of tropical fruits.
The Agriculture Department and beef processors are dithering while children are dying. It's time for ground beef to be routinely irradiated.
St. Paul, Minn.
The writer is a consultant to the Minnesota Beef Council, which favors beef irradiation.

Salmonella Typhimurium Infection Associated With Raw Milk and Cheese
Consumption?Pennsylvania, 2007
JAMA. 2008;299(4):402-404.
MMWR. 2007;56:1161-1164
Source of Article:

In February 2007, the Pennsylvania Department of Health received reports, through routine electronic laboratory disease reporting, of two persons with recent laboratory-confirmed infections with Salmonella enterica serotype Typhimurium. Both persons had reported drinking raw (unpasteurized) milk from the same York County, Pennsylvania, dairy (dairy A). S. Typhimurium isolates from these persons had pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns that were indistinguishable by use of the XbaI restriction enzyme. The same month, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) received reports of illness from raw-milk customers of dairy A. PDA obtained milk samples from the raw-milk bulk tank at dairy A, which yielded S. Typhimurium with a PFGE pattern that was identical to the pattern from patient isolates. On February 26, the Pennsylvania Department of Health and PDA launched an investigation to determine the source and scope of the outbreak. This report summarizes the findings of that investigation, which determined that 29 cases of diarrheal illness caused by S. Typhimurium were associated with consumption of raw milk or raw-milk products from dairy A. The findings underscore the need to inform policymakers and the public of the potential health risks associated with raw-milk consumption.

Epidemiologic and Laboratory Investigation

In Pennsylvania, raw-milk sales are legal at farms that hold a PDA permit, and vendors must display public notices regarding the potential hazards of consuming raw milk.1 Dairy A owned 120 cows and sold raw milk for pasteurization and by PDA permit directly to consumers. In February 2007, PDA estimated that dairy A was selling 200-300 gallons of raw milk weekly to 275 regular customers.

A case of salmonellosis was defined as a diarrheal illness with onset since February 1, 2007, in a Pennsylvania resident who provided a stool specimen that tested positive for S. Typhimurium with a PFGE pattern that matched the outbreak pattern by use of the XbaI restriction enzyme. Nationally notifiable disease reports from Pennsylvania since January 2005 were reviewed for PFGE-matched S. Typhimurium isolates to identify cases and risk factors. To locate additional cases, ill household contacts of persons with confirmed cases were asked to provide food histories and submit stool specimens for testing. Raw milk for testing was obtained from dairy A milk tanks on five dates (February 20, February 28, March 27, May 14, and July 19) and from households of two ill persons on two dates (February 28 and July 20). In addition, PDA conducted multiple dairy A inspections during February-July 2007.

Investigative Findings

A total of 29 cases were identified, with illness onset occurring in three temporal clusters during February 3?July 14, 2007. The first cluster consisted of 15 cases with onsets of illness from February 3 to March 5. Raw-milk samples were collected February 20 from a dairy A bulk milk tank and February 28 from the home of an ill person. Both sets of samples yielded the outbreak strain of S. Typhimurium. On March 2, PDA ordered dairy A to stop raw-milk sales and advised the public not to consume raw-milk products from dairy A.

On March 19, PDA allowed dairy A to resume sales of raw milk after PDA conducted inspections and recorded two consecutive negative cultures from milk-tank samples. However, a second cluster of three cases was detected when the outbreak strain of S. Typhimurium was identified in another patient, whose diarrheal illness began on March 21 and who had consumed raw milk from dairy A after sales resumed. The two additional cases were identified in persons with onsets of illness on March 19 and March 22. The first of these occurred in one of six ill persons who primarily spoke Spanish and who told investigators they had not consumed raw milk. However, when reinterviewed in early April, three of these six persons reported consuming queso fresco (a type of soft cheese) they bought at a grocery store serving the local Hispanic community. PDA learned that the queso fresco had been made by an unlicensed producer who purchased approximately 20 gallons of raw milk weekly from dairy A. Sale of raw-milk cheeses aged <60 days is illegal in Pennsylvania. Subsequently, in April, PDA inspectors seized 18 unlabeled retail containers of queso fresco from the grocery store. The cheese tested positive for alkaline phosphatase, indicating the cheese was produced from unpasteurized milk.2 Bacterial cultures were negative for pathogens.

On March 27, PDA again ordered dairy A to halt raw-milk sales and suspended its raw-milk permit. No additional cases were noted until June-July 2007, when a third cluster of 11 PFGE-matched S. Typhimurium cases was detected through routine electronic laboratory reporting. Of these, 10 occurred among residents of three counties near dairy A. On July 19, PDA confirmed that dairy A had been distributing raw milk to the public despite its suspended permit; the date when illegal milk distribution began could not be determined. The outbreak strain of S. Typhimurium was isolated from dairy A raw milk collected from a bulk milk tank on July 19 and from the home of an ill person on July 20. PDA ordered dairy A to halt distribution of raw milk on July 20 and subsequently revoked the raw-milk permit for this dairy.

Among the 29 persons identified with diarrheal illness and PFGE-matched S. Typhimurim, 17 (59%) were male, and the median age was 6 years (range: 5 months?76 years). Fourteen (48%) patients reported drinking raw milk from dairy A, four (14%) consumed unregulated queso fresco (three linked to dairy A raw milk and one from an unknown source), and two (7%) consumed raw milk but did not identify the source. Two (7%) other patients were unrelated infants aged 5 months and 7 months. The parents of these infants acknowledged that raw milk from dairy A was present in their households but told investigators the milk was not consumed by the infants. For seven (24%) patients who did not reside with any of the other patients, no source of exposure to S. Typhimurium could be determined. Two of the 29 patients were hospitalized; no deaths were reported.

Environmental Inspections

Eight PDA inspections of dairy A conducted during January-April 2007 revealed improper cleaning of milking equipment, insufficient supervision of workers, unspecified illness among lactating cows, and bird and rodent infestation. On at least two inspections, the required public notice regarding the potential hazards of drinking raw milk was not visible at the dairy A retail store.

S. Typhimurium matched by PFGE to the outbreak pattern was isolated from dairy A raw-milk tank samples collected on three different dates (February 20, May 14, and July 19); an S. Typhimurium isolate collected from a milk tank February 28 was unavailable for PFGE typing. In addition to Salmonella, dairy A raw-milk tank samples also yielded Listeria monocytogenes (February 28, May 14, and July 19) and Campylobacter jejuni (February 28 and May 14). Although a stool specimen from one patient with February 28 illness onset yielded both S. Typhimurium and C. jejuni, the Campylobacter isolate was unavailable for subtyping. No Listeria infections were associated with dairy A.

Reported by:
L Lind, MPH, J Reeser, K Stayman, M Deasy, M Moll, MD, A Weltman, MD, V Urdaneta, MD, S Ostroff, MD, Pennsylvania Dept of Health; W Chirdon, Pennsylvania Dept of Agriculture. E Campagnolo, DVM, Div of State and Local Readiness, Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response; T Chen, MD, EIS Officer, CDC.

CDC Editorial Note:
Raw milk is a well-documented source of infections from Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Campylobacter, Listeria, Mycobacterium bovis, and other pathogens.2-6 In 1938, before widespread adoption of milk pasteurization in the United States, an estimated 25% of all foodborne and waterborne outbreaks of disease were associated with milk.7 By 2001, the percentage of such outbreaks associated with milk was estimated at <1%.7 During 1998-2005, a total of 45 outbreaks of foodborne illness were reported to CDC in which unpasteurized milk (or cheese suspected to have been made from unpasteurized milk) was implicated. These outbreaks accounted for 1,007 illnesses, 104 hospitalizations, and two deaths (CDC, unpublished data, 2007). Because not all cases of foodborne illness are recognized and reported, the actual number of illnesses associated with unpasteurized milk likely is greater.

In the investigations described in this report, the evidence indicating raw milk from dairy A as the source of this outbreak included the (1) high percentage of ill persons who reported consuming either raw milk (48%) or queso fresco traced to raw milk (10%) from dairy A, (2) temporal associations between clusters of illnesses and starts and stops of distribution of raw milk by dairy A, and (3) repeated isolation of the outbreak strain of S. Typhimurium from dairy A raw-milk tanks. The PFGE pattern of the outbreak strain (XbaI JPXX01.0022) is rare, previously identified only 24 times in isolates from 11 states in 3 years, in a national PulseNet database of approximately 43,000 S. Typhimurium isolates.

Consumers have reported consuming raw milk for convenience, taste preference, or perceived health benefits. Although some advocates claim health benefits from raw milk compared with pasteurized milk, including decreased risks for atherosclerosis, arthritis, and lactose intolerance, such claims are not supported by scientific evidence.8 Unsubstantiated claims of health benefits of raw milk for infants and children are particularly concerning for caregivers because infants and children are dependent on their caregivers to make safe dietary decisions for them. Sixteen of the 29 ill persons in this outbreak were aged <7 years.

Pathogens that infect humans are shed in the feces of cows, can be present in or on the udders of cows, and can contaminate their milk. Standard hygiene practices during milking can reduce but not eliminate the risk for milk contamination. In a 2001-2002 survey of Pennsylvania dairy farms, pathogenic bacteria, including Salmonella, were isolated from 13% of samples from raw-milk bulk tanks.9 Pasteurization decreases the number of pathogenic organisms, prevents transmission of pathogens, and has been determined to improve the safety of milk more than other measures, including certification of raw milk.4-5

Farms in Pennsylvania that hold PDA raw-milk permits undergo twice-monthly milk testing for coliforms and standard plate counts and monthly testing for growth inhibitors and somatic cell counts; annual PDA inspection and culture of raw milk for Salmonella, Campylobacter, E. coli O157, and L. monocytogenes; and annual herd skin testing for Mycobacterium bovis and Brucella.1 Despite these measures, consumers cannot be assured that certified raw milk is free of pathogens.

As of 2004, at least 27 states permitted some form of raw-milk sales to the public, including sales at dairies, farmers' markets, or through purchase of "cow shares." Certain states also allow public sales of raw milk but for pet food only.10 In Pennsylvania, the number of dairies with raw-milk permits increased from 42 in 2005 to 75 in 2007. During 2006-2007, three clusters of illness from Campylobacter were associated with consumption of raw milk from three different Pennsylvania dairies (Pennsylvania Department of Health, unpublished data, 2007). During the same period, PDA announced raw-milk recalls from three other dairies after finding L. monocytogenes in milk samples; no human illness was associated with these findings.

Given the continued interest in raw-milk production, policymakers, parents, and the public need to be informed regarding the potential health risks posed by raw-milk consumption. The only sure way for consumers to prevent raw-milk?associated infection from Salmonella or other pathogens is to refrain from consuming raw milk.

This report is based, in part, on data contributed by C Sandt, B Perry, Bur of Laboratories, P Feliciano, Pennsylvania Dept of Health; M Hydock, R Malik, L Sulpizio, Pennsylvania Dept of Agriculture; T Nguyen, T Ayers, G Ewald, M Lynch, Div of Foodborne, Bacterial, and Mycotic Diseases, National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-Borne, and Enteric Diseases; A Patel, A Sheth, EIS officers, CDC.

1. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Chapter 59: Milk sanitation. Available at
2. Gillespie IA, Adak GK, O¡¯Brien SJ, Bolton FJ. Milkborne general outbreaks of infectious intestinal disease, England and Wales, 1992-2000. Epidemiol Infect. 2003;103:461-468.
3. Leedom JM. Milk of nonhuman origin and infectious disease in humans. Clin Infect Dis. 2006;43(5):610-615. FULL TEXT | ISI | PUBMED
4. Currier RW. Raw milk and human gastrointestinal disease: problems resulting from legalized sale of "certified raw milk." J Public Health Policy. 1981;2(3):226-234. FULL TEXT | PUBMED
5. Potter ME, Blaser MJ, Sikes RK, Kaufmann AF, Wells JG. Human Campylobacter infection associated with certified raw milk. Am J Epidemiol. 1983;117(4):475-483. FREE FULL TEXT
6. CDC. Human tuberculosis caused by Mycobacterium bovis?New York City, 2001-2004. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2005;54(24):605-608. PUBMED
7. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Grade "A" pasteurized milk ordinance: 2001 revision. US Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition; 2002. Available at
8. Leonard C. On the safety of raw milk (with a word about pasteurization). Presented at the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments, Columbus, Ohio, May 12-17, 2005. Available at
9. Jayarao BM, Donaldson SC, Straley BA, Sawant AA, Hegde NV, Brown JL. A survey of foodborne pathogens in bulk tank milk and raw milk consumption among farm families in Pennsylvania. J Dairy Sci. 2006;89(7):2451-2458. FREE FULL TEXT
10. Dairy Division of National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. Raw milk survey: November 2004. Available at

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