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Largest Recall of Ground Beef Is Ordered
(New York Times)

A California meat company on Sunday issued the largest beef recall in history, 143 million pounds, some of which was used in school lunch programs, Department of Agriculture officials announced.
The recall by the Westland/Hallmark Meat Company, based in Chino, Calif., comes after a widening animal-abuse scandal that started after the Humane Society of the United States distributed an undercover video on Jan. 30 that showed workers kicking sick cows and using forklifts to force them to walk.
The video raised questions about the safety of the meat, because cows that cannot walk, called downer cows, pose an added risk of diseases including mad cow disease. The federal government has banned downer cows from the food supply.
Agriculture officials said there was little health risk from the recalled meat because the animals had already passed pre-slaughter inspection and much of the meat had already been eaten. In addition, the officials noted that while mad cow disease was extremely rare, the brains and spinal cords from the animals . the area most likely to harbor the disease . would not have entered the human food chain.
¡°The great majority has probably been consumed,¡± said Dr. Richard Raymond, the Agriculture Department¡¯s under secretary for food safety.
The video was embarrassing for the Department of Agriculture, as inspectors are supposed to be monitoring slaughterhouses for abuse. It surfaced after a year of increasing concerns about the safety of the meat supply amid a sharp increase in the number of recalls tied to a particularly deadly form of the E. coli pathogen.
There were 21 recalls of beef related to the potentially deadly strain of E. coli last year, compared with eight in 2006 and five in 2005. No one is quite sure what caused the increase, though theories include the cyclical nature of pathogens and changes in cattle-feeding practices caused by the ethanol boom.
The recall on Sunday was more than four times bigger than the previous record, the 1999 recall of 35 million pounds of ground beef by Thorn Apple Valley, federal officials said.
It was prompted by a Department of Agriculture investigation that found that Westland/Hallmark did not always alert federal veterinarians when its cows became unable to walk after passing inspection, as required.
¡°Because the cattle did not receive complete and proper inspection, F.S.I.S. has determined them to be unfit for human food and the company is conducting a recall,¡± Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said in a statement. F.S.I.S. is the Agriculture Department¡¯s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
Technically, the Department of Agriculture does not have the authority to recall meat. However, it can withdraw its inspectors from a plant, putting pressure on a company to issue a recall.
The company is recalling all its raw and frozen beef products since Feb. 1, 2006. Of the 143 million pounds that were recalled, 37 million went to make hamburgers, chili and tacos for school lunches and other federal nutrition programs, officials said.
Cows that cannot walk are banned for use in the food supply because they pose an added risk of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, a fatal disease that eats away at the brain. There have been three confirmed cases of infected cattle in this country since 2003.
The announcement on Sunday was classified as a Class II recall, indicating that the chances of health hazards were remote. Other large recalls involving E. coli have been Class I recalls, indicating that eating the product may cause serious health problems or even death.
Officials at Westland/Hallmark meat could not be located on Sunday for comment.
Some critics pointed out that the recall exposed gaps in the nation¡¯s system for food safety.
¡°The recall is obviously the big news,¡± said Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society. ¡°The longer-term problem is the inadequacies of the inspection system. How can so many downers have been mistreated day after day within a U.S.D.A. oversight system that was present at the plant.
¡°We need more boots on the ground at the plants,¡± he said.
The undercover video, shown on television and on YouTube and other Web sites, has caused an uproar since its release.
The Department of Agriculture started an inquiry and suspended the company as a supplier to federal nutrition programs. Steve Mendell, president of Westland/Hallmark, said afterward that he was ¡°shocked and horrified¡± by the videos and voluntarily suspended operations pending the outcome of the federal inquiry.
On Friday, the San Bernardino district attorney, Michael A. Ramos, filed animal cruelty charges against two employees fired by the meat company. Daniel Agarte Navarro was charged with five felonies and three misdemeanors, and Luis Sanchez with three misdemeanors.
While acknowledging that most of the meat had been eaten, agriculture officials said the recall was necessary to find all the meat that had not been consumed and because the plant was not following the rules.
¡°The reason for doing this is because the plant was not in compliance with F.S.I.S. regulations, and therefore it is an unfit product,¡± said Dr. Kenneth Petersen, assistant administrator for the F.S.I.S.
Department of Agriculture inspectors conduct pre-slaughter inspections on all cattle on the day of slaughter. If an animal becomes unable to walk, before or at the time it is presented for slaughter, employees of the slaughterhouse are required to summon a Department of Agriculture veterinarian.
The veterinarian then has the discretion to determine whether the animal is fit for slaughter. The Department of Agriculture contends that employees at Westland/Hallmark sometimes failed to notify the veterinarian when animals could not walk after being inspected.
Agriculture officials said in a statement that they thought the case was ¡°an isolated incident of egregious violations to humane handling requirements and the prohibition of non-ambulatory disabled cattle from entering the food supply.¡±
The Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for the safety of meat, poultry and eggs, has 7,800 inspectors who check more than 6,200 plants. In 2007, the agency suspended 66 plants; 12 of which were related to humane handling violations. 2-18-08

Hallmark and Westland Meat Packing Company of Chino, California establishment is recalling approximately 143,383,823 pounds of raw and frozen beef products
Posted on February 17, 2008 by Food Poisoning Lawyer
Source of Article:
Share Link The Largest Recall in United States History occurred today.
Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company of Chino, California establishment is recalling approximately 143,383,823 pounds of raw and frozen beef products that FSIS has determined to be unfit for human food because the cattle did not receive complete and proper inspection. According to an FSIS press release, through evidence obtained by FSIS, the establishment did not consistently contact the FSIS public health veterinarian in situations in which cattle became non-ambulatory after passing ante-mortem inspection, which is not compliant with FSIS regulations. Such circumstances require that an FSIS public health veterinarian reassess the non-ambulatory cattle which are either condemned and prohibited from the food supply, or tagged as suspect. Suspect cattle receive a more thorough inspection after slaughter than is customary. Full Release.

In July 2007, FSIS issued a final rule ¡°Prohibition of the Use of Specified Risk Materials for Human Food and Requirements for the Disposition of Non-Ambulatory Disabled Cattle.¡± This rule requires that a case by case disposition must be made by an FSIS Public Health Veterinarian for every animal that becomes non-ambulatory disabled (¡°downer¡±) after passing ante-mortem inspection.

All products subject to recall bear the establishment number ¡°EST. 336¡± inside the USDA mark of inspection. The products were produced on various dates from Feb. 1, 2006 to Feb. 2, 2008. Companies are urged to check their inventories and hold the products until the recalling firm makes arrangements for final disposition of the products. Full FSIS Website.

Congress to investigate food safety process in wake of Chino slaughterhouse scandal
(Press-Enterprise, CA)
Conditions at a Chino slaughterhouse that prompted the recall of 143 million pounds of meat should lead to greater scrutiny of the federal agency charged with protecting the nation's food supply, lawmakers said Tuesday.
Congress will hold hearings next month to determine why an independent group, the Humane Society of the United States, rather than the U.S. Department of Agriculture, exposed mistreatment of cows at Hallmark Meat Packing and potential threats to the food supply.
The first hearing, scheduled for March 5, will consider the annual budget for the USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service, which oversees the inspection of slaughterhouses. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., called the responsibility to ensure food safety incompatible with the department's traditional role to promote U.S. beef products. She suggested the inspection service be removed from the Agriculture Department.
"The USDA's mission is blurred," said DeLauro, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies.
"It took an outside group to unveil these terrible practices," she said later.
DeLauro favors an independent agency, akin to the Environmental Protection Agency, which would house the USDA's inspection service, the Food and Drug Administration and all other federal offices related to the nation's food supply.
The second hearing, on March 13, will examine the USDA's Food Nutrition Services, which oversees the nation's school lunch program.
Much of the beef recalled this week -- 143 million pounds packed since February 2006 -- has already been consumed. The federal agency had purchased about 55 million pounds to distribute to public schools around the nation as part of the National School Lunch Program.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm, also will probe the link between the Chino meat scandal and school lunches, announced Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez.
California officials remain concerned.
"Thankfully, there have been no reports of illness among California students who may have eaten the beef over the past several months," said California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, in a statement.
California school districts were supposed to receive instructions Tuesday on how to get reimbursed for the recalled meat they bought but need to destroy.
Riverside County schools had received 61,160 pounds of Westland frozen beef. San Bernardino County schools had bought 94,040 pounds, according to the office of state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter.
Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive officer of the Humane Society of the United States, said the USDA needs to do more to ensure the nation's beef is safe for consumers.
He suggested installing multiple cameras at meatpacking plants, increasing slaughterhouse visits by federal inspectors and tightening rules on sick and injured cows to keep them out of the food supply.
For six weeks, an undercover investigator with the Humane Society worked inside the Hallmark slaughterhouse in Chino and filmed workers using a forklift to prod, drag and push cattle that couldn't walk. Hallmark distributes meat through Westland Meat Co.
Former pen manager Daniel Ugarte Navarro, 49, of Pomona, is scheduled to be arraigned March 24 in Chino on five felony counts of animal cruelty and three misdemeanor counts of using equipment to move a non-ambulatory animal in a slaughterhouse, said San Bernardino County Deputy District Attorney Debbie Ploghaus.
An arrest warrant has been issued for Luis Sanchez, 32, of Chino, who faces the same three misdemeanor charges, but no felonies, Ploghaus said.
A phone message seeking comment from Hallmark/Westland officials was not returned.
Before being slaughtered, a cow must clear an initial inspection. If it's deemed a "downer cow" -- one that can't walk either from injury or sickness -- it isn't allowed to enter the human food supply, under USDA rules enacted in 2003 to prevent cows with a neurological condition dubbed mad cow disease from spreading to consumers.
Lawmakers and the Humane Society contend there is a loophole that allows for exceptions to the downer cow rule.
A cow that appears healthy during the inspection could be deemed safe by a USDA veterinarian and cleared to enter the food supply, but then become unable to walk before it is slaughtered.
In Hallmark/Westland's case, federal officials say the company didn't call a USDA veterinarian to check the animals' health and allowed them to enter the food supply.
Hallmark slaughtered about 500 cattle a day on average, and was one of only six or seven facilities statewide to process older cattle, including dairy cows past their prime, said Holly Foster, director of public relations for the California Beef Council.
Sybrand "Syp" Vander Dussen, president of the Chino-based Milk Producers Council and owner of Syann Dairy in Chino, said local dairies and cattle auctions that sell to slaughterhouses may have a few extra costs to transport their cows to slaughterhouses in Brawley, Fresno and Arizona but the price will be minimal.
The dairy industry in San Bernardino County has dwindled by nearly half since 1997, to 120 dairies as of Jan. 1, 2007. Still, milk produced by the county's 32,960 dairy cattle in 2006 was the most lucrative agriculture product in the region, valued at $230.7 million that year.
Foster said the slaughterhouse market for cattle owners and dairies has diminished, and less demand has meant less value for their animals.
"They're older, they're more battered through all the production of milk through the years," he said.
The Humane Society's Pacelle said the age and condition of older dairy cows could make them more susceptible to disease and injury.
But Michael Marsh, chief executive officer of Western United Dairymen, said dairy owners have a financial stake in making sure their cows are in shape to produce milk.
A cow producing milk is typically worth $2,500 to $3,000. If a cow becomes ill, the owner pays for a veterinarian to kill it. In California's Central Valley, farmers pay $75 to $100 to have a meat renderer pick up and dispose of a carcass. Disposal costs could be different in Southern California.
Randy Mouw, an Ontario dairyman with 1,400 milking cows, said the Hallmark slaughterhouse's closure and subsequent fear among consumers regarding the safety of meat will hurt his and others' bottom lines as demand decreases.
He said current USDA inspections and regulations are more than adequate to protect the food supply. Problems at the Hallmark/Westland facility were isolated to a couple of bad employees, he said.
"We still have criminals even though we have cops everywhere," he said. 2-19-08

Latest Meat Recall Highlights USDA Weaknesses
Date Published: Tuesday, February 19th, 2008
Source of Article:
The Hallmark/Westland beef recall announced this past weekend has raised serious questions about the US Department of Agriculture¡¯s (USDA) oversight of the meat industry. Hallmark/Westland recalled 143 million pounds of beef on Sunday, after undercover video shot by the Humane Society showed that Hallmark violated USDA rules regarding the slaughter of downer cattle . animals too ill to stand. Downer cattle are at higher risk of contracting diseases like Mad Cow Disease, E. coli and Salmonella that can be passed on to people who eat tainted. The USDA is supposed to have inspectors on site to make sure downer cattle don¡¯t make it into the food supply, but in the case of the Hallmark/Westland beef recall, something went seriously wrong.
The Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company recall includes all of the California-based meat packer¡¯s beef produced since February 1, 2006. A substantial portion of the recalled meat went to schools via the federal school lunch program. The USDA has said that most of the recalled Hallmark/Westland meat was likely already eaten, but several school districts around the country have reportedly found some of the beef in their freezers.
The Hallmark/Westland beef recall came just weeks after disturbing undercover video shot by the Humane Society showed workers at the plant using several abusive techniques to make sick animals stand up and pass a pre-slaughter inspection. These included ramming cattle with forklift blades and using a hose to simulate the feeling of drowning. A USDA veterinarian is supposed to check each downer cow and make sure it¡¯s not diseased, but according to the Humane Society that didn¡¯t happen. Because the Hallmark/Westland recall stretches all the way back to 2006, there is speculation that the meat packer was violating downer cattle rules for years. The government in most cases bars ¡°downer¡± cows . which can¡¯t walk or stand on their own . from the food supply. It implemented the rule in 2003 because an inability to walk is a possible symptom of mad-cow disease, which can cause a rare but fatal brain disorder.
How this was allowed to happen is not clear, but the unidentified Humane Society investigator who shot the film at Hallmark/Westland told ABC News that the USDA¡¯s inspections of slaughterhouses has become too predictable. The investigator told ABC News that the inspector would come out at 6:30 in the morning, and 12:30 in the afternoon. ¡°So, that¡¯s approximately two hours outside in the pens, at a set time every day, and there¡¯s no fear of an inspector ever coming back out again. You can do whatever you want to those animals.¡±
This is not the first time a meat recall has cast the USDA¡¯s performance in a poor light. Last September, the Topps Meat Company ground beef recall revealed weaknesses at the agency. The first case of E. coli poisoning linked to Topps ground beef was reported on July 5. At that time the USDA was unable to trace that illness to a definitive source. But by September 7, state investigators in Florida had linked a girl¡¯s E. coli poisoning to a package of frozen patties found in her family¡¯s freezer. Florida health officials forwarded that information to the USDA. But one case of E. coli poisoning tied to Topps meat was apparently not enough evidence for the USDA to issue a recall notice. The USDA finally did recall Topps meat on September 25, following a meeting of its recall committee. By then cases of E. coli poisoning linked to Topps ground beef were being reported around the country.
Further investigation revealed that Topps had been ignoring safety standards for months prior to the recall. For example, Topps had quit testing its meat for bacterial contamination once a month, and was only doing so three times per year. What¡¯s more, Topps did not require its domestic beef suppliers to test their meat, and the company often mixed tested and untested meat together. The worst thing about the lax safety procedures at the Topps Meat Company plant in New Jersey is that they were occurring right under the noses of USDA meat inspectors. According to the agency, inspectors visited the plant on a daily basis and spent between one and two hours there each day. Yet, the company was never cited over safety issues.
The Hallmark/Westland beef recall has renewed calls for an overhaul of the USDA¡¯s meat inspection system. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Office of Inspector General, is already investigating whether Hallmark/Westland or USDA inspectors were at fault for this latest meat safety debacle.

Listeria Policy Announced by FDA
Date Published: Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

Source of Article:
Listeria, a sometimes deadly form of food poisoning, has made news in recent weeks, as Listeria outbreaks have been tied to tainted milk and other ready-to-eat foods. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a new draft compliance policy to the control the growth Listeria monocytogenes . the bacteria that causes Listeria . in ready-to-eat foods. This is a groundbreaking policy in that this is the first time different policies have been created for foods that do and do not support growth of the toxic organism. The American Meat Institute (AMI) has long looked to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to adopt a similar science-based policy reflecting international standards adopted by Europe, Canada, and other nations. For foods that do not support the growth of the listeria bacteria, the FDA will revise its tolerance level; the ¡°zero tolerance¡± standard for ready-to-eat foods that do support the growth of the bacteria will not change. Three draft documents are published in today¡¯s Federal Register, including a draft Compliance Policy Guide that provides guidance for FDA staff on the agency¡¯s enforcement policy, a draft Guidance for Industry on Control of Listeria monocytogenes in Refrigerated or Frozen Ready-to-Eat Foods, and a Notice of a Public Meeting on March 28, 2008 to receive public comments on the proposed changes to the agency¡¯s policy for Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) in ready-to-eat foods under FDA jurisdiction.
Listeriosis is a type of food poisoning dangerous to the elderly, pregnant women, newborns, and those with chronic medical conditions. Most people experience only mild flu like symptoms.fever, muscle aches, nausea, or diarrhea. In serious cases, the disease spreads to the nervous system, causing headaches, stiff neck, and convulsions. Listeria lives in soil and water and can easily contaminate dairy and beef products; because listeria thrives in cold, milk is an ideal environment. The draft defines ready-to-eat foods that do not support growth of the bacteria using criteria based on the food¡¯s pH and other factors, including a listeristatic control measure... FDA policy does not change and the agency will consider the food to be contaminated when the bacteria is present in foods supporting the growth of Lm during shelf life. Foods that do not support listeria growth will be considered contaminated when bacteria is present or above the new criterion.
¡°We welcome the Food and Drug Administration¡¯s new Listeria monocytogenes draft guidance on Listeria monocytogenes control in food,¡± said Randall Huffman, Ph.D., vice president of scientific affairs at the AMI. ¡°AMI will review and provide comments to the agency on this important initiative. Our initial review indicates that FDA¡¯s action appears scientifically sound, will ensure public health and, reflects Listeria control policies in Europe, Canada, and other nations as well as the current thinking within the Codex Alimentarius. Given global food trade, it is important food safety policies be harmonized in this way. We hope that FDA and USDA¡¯s Food Safety and Inspection Service will work toward harmonizing food safety policies in a similar way within the United States. We urge FSIS to follow FDA¡¯s lead on this policy.¡± Codex Alimentarius is a commission created to protect consumer health, fair food trade practices, promote coordination of food standards work by international governmental and non-governmental organizations.

William D. Marler, Food Safety Attorney, Calls for CDC Long-term Study of Nation¡¯s School Children and Congressional Hearings on Safety of United States Beef Supply Source of Article:

SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The largest recall of beef in U.S. history . over 143 million pounds . and the solid evidence that USDA has failed to enforce its own ban against downer cattle being used in the nation¡¯s school lunch program, demand immediate action by Congress says food safety attorney William D. Marler.
Marler says Congress should call hearings on the safety of the beef supply in the United States and provide funds to the Centers on Disease Control to study children for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease) who consumed the meat supplied to the National School Lunch Program.
¡°The link between cattle that are too sick or injured to stand or walk, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease) has been clearly established,¡± Marler said. ¡°We were promised that the procurement specifications eliminated 'downer' cattle from the National School Lunch Program and the USDA fully banned 'downer' cattle from the human food chain in 2003.¡±
¡°In light of the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company, which was caught on film processing 'downer' cattle, in violation of U.S. law, we now know that USDA ban was a lie,¡± added Marler. ¡°Since BSE typically will not show symptoms for years, we need the CDC to track school children who might have been exposed.¡±
¡°And let¡¯s not forget the risk of E. coli O157:H7. Since April of 2007 until this morning, another 30,000,000 pounds of red meat, mostly hamburger, had been recalled. E. coli illnesses once on a downturn have spiked. Kids are getting sick; seriously sick again,¡± said Marler. According to a USDA study published in August 2004 ¡°downer¡± cows had three times more E. coli O157:H7 than other cows.
¡°One would think that with hundreds of Americans poisoned that Congress would ask one simple question . ¡°What is going on.¡± Congress needs to act now. It is time for Congress to accept a leadership role and call hearings, not only to explore the reasons for the past months¡¯ outbreaks, but also to help prevent the next one. Congress needs to fulfill its role of providing oversight to the other branches of government, especially investigative oversight,¡± added Marler.
Marler Clark LLP PS
William D. Marler, 1-206-794-5043

Probiotics: Live Organisms as Feed Supplements to Fight Salmonella
Source of Article:
A University of Arkansas researcher explains how probiotics can reduce Salmonella in poultry.
Newswise . Here¡¯s a new way to reduce Salmonella in poultry before they go to the processing plant: use probiotics instead of antibiotics for treatment of the birds.
It¡¯s been a complex path getting to this point, and the procedure still raises some other issues to be considered. Still, the development offers a way that makes it easy on poultry growers and enhances food safety.
It¡¯s a matter of incorporating the probiotic into either the water or the feed for the poultry, explained Billy Hargis, director of the Poultry Health Research Laboratory at the University of Arkansas System¡¯s Division of Agriculture. Results from experiments show that administration of the probiotic can reduce Salmonella in either meat-type chicken houses or turkey houses before being transported to the processing plant and reduce the risk of cross contamination among turkeys at the plant.
¡°It¡¯s not a chemical. It¡¯s not a drug,¡± explained Hargis, who has pursued the research for the Food Safety Consortium. ¡°These (probiotics) are live organisms.¡±
The term for the probiotic developed in Hargis¡¯ lab is FM-B11, also known as a defined lactic acid bacterial culture. Defined cultures eliminate the risk of pathogenic organisms existing within the culture, clearing the way for their effective use in stopping Salmonella in commercial poultry.
¡°Another advantage is that we¡¯re talking about organisms that can be produced
very cheaply, which keeps the costs of these treatments very low,¡± Hargis said. That¡¯s partly because the defined cultures from which the probiotics come are tolerant of oxygen, avoiding the high cost of fermenting undefined cultures that can¡¯t grow in the presence of oxygen.
Antibiotics have long been popular among poultry producers seeking to keep their birds healthy and to promote the birds¡¯ growth. Pathogenic bacteria that are harmful to humans are increasing the bacteria¡¯s ability to resist antibiotics, but pathogens that can cause animal disease have not built up as much resistance.
¡°The risk factor for antibiotic resistance from food-producing animals is exceedingly low,¡± Hargis said. But the issue of antibiotic resistance is still becoming a driving force that¡¯s making antibiotics usage for animals less popular, and poultry producers are under pressure to use fewer antibiotics. Alternatives are necessary.
Probiotics enter the picture as live organisms that serve as microbial feed supplements for animals to improve their intestinal microbial balance. Hargis¡¯ research group has taken the lactobacillus probiotic, a form of milk bacteria found in the bird, and added it to poultry water or feed.
More recent efforts are directed toward beneficial bacteria from a totally different genus called Bacillus. During the last year, a substantial laboratory effort has been directed toward identification of organisms of this genus that are harmless to the animals or humans, which inhibit certain pathogenic organisms, and which can produce spores that are resistant to heating or storage. The important part of these new efforts is to develop effective probiotics that can be added to feed, which greatly reduces costs associated with delivery in the drinking water at the farm.
¡°We can add these to the feed even before pelleting,¡± Hargis said. ¡°The beneficial bacteria in the feed have tremendous advantages because now we can talk about continuous administration over time. It makes it very simple. It just comes in with the feed.¡±
Replacing antibiotics with probiotics has definite advantages, but there is some tradeoff. Hargis noted that although animal foods won¡¯t be populated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the lack of antibiotics means producers will need to find other ways to promote their birds¡¯ growth. That means giving more feed to the birds to accomplish the task.

¡°It¡¯s going to take more feed to raise the same amount of meat,¡± Hargis said. ¡°So that means more land has to be involved in row crop production. There¡¯s an effect on the world¡¯s small grain supply because we¡¯ll be putting more small grains into the same amount of meat than we were before.¡± Meanwhile, the price of grain is already going up to meet demand for biofuels, so the price of meats produced from small grains will also rise.

But the advantages offered by probiotics indicate where the future may be. Hargis cited the new probiotic candidate¡¯s stability even in the presence of the heat generated when feed is being turned into pellets and its overall environmental stability. The major plus is its usage in the feed itself, which makes it part of an ongoing process.

¡°We¡¯re using it to prevent problems continuously as opposed to treating problems when they occur,¡± Hargis said.

A gap in food safety
Calif. meat recall shows inconsistency of inspections, experts say
By Jonathan D. Rockoff | Sun reporter
February 19, 2008
Source of Article:
The record recall last weekend of 143 million pounds of ground beef illustrates a key gap that remains despite recent federal efforts to bolster food safety: The quality of government inspections continues to vary sharply around the country, food safety experts say.
"You go to one plant, and they do an excellent job," said Temple Grandin, an animal-handling expert at Colorado State University who regularly visits plants and helped develop industry guidelines on proper practices. "You go to another, and they don't."
U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors frequently miss violations during daily checks of the more than 200 slaughterhouses around the country, and some inspectors ignore warning signs, she said. Based on her observations, Grandin estimates that at least 10 percent of meat companies try to sidestep regulations.
"Our inspection program for foods, whether at the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] or USDA, needs to be revisited," said Michael Doyle, a food safety expert at the University of Georgia, referring to the two federal food safety agencies.
The USDA denied that enforcement was insufficient and emphasized that the government employs many types of safeguards, including plant inspections, to prevent food contamination.
"We know our inspectors were correctly inspecting the plant," said Amanda Eamich, a spokeswoman for the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service.
On Sunday, Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. of Chino, Calif., withdrew millions of pounds of ground beef - and the government barred further sales - after an undercover video by the Humane Society of the United States showed workers using electric prods and forklifts to move apparently sick cattle for slaughter.
The cattle apparently showed signs of illness during a period between getting a clean bill of health by inspectors and being slaughtered. Federal rules require veterinarians to be contacted in such cases, but the calls were not made in this case.
The problems came to light after the Humane Society surreptitiously videotaped treatment of the cattle last fall. The Department of Agriculture said most of the meat, including 37 million pounds sent to schools and other federal nutrition programs, has probably been eaten and that there is no evidence that anyone became sick from it.
Critics have long argued that the federal government employs an insufficient number of inspectors. Overworked government inspectors don't always catch violations during safety checks, and some fail to enforce rules designed to prevent contamination of the food supply, according to experts.
Government rules bar slaughtering cows that, like those on the video, cannot walk. The aim is to prevent meat infected with mad cow disease and other bacteria from contaminating the food supply.
Grandin blamed the Westland/Hallmark recall on faulty enforcement of a clear violation. "They had an inspector who wasn't doing his job, plain and simple," she said.
Agriculture Department inspectors check every slaughterhouse for problems every day. Yet enforcement varies enough that big buyers of meat, such as McDonald's, Burger King and Whole Foods Market, hire their own inspectors to visit slaughterhouses as well and make sure good practices are followed, Grandin said.
While that extra layer of inspection helps prevent problems at the larger meat suppliers contracting with responsible purchasers, some smaller firms escape stringent scrutiny. The unscrupulous among them try to flout the rules, Grandin said.
"We have to be concerned about this in 10 or 15 percent of the plants," said Grandin, who works with industry trade groups and food companies to make sure animals are handled properly.
Grandin said inspections would improve with better training of inspectors and efforts to retain quality supervisors.
Eamich, of the USDA, said inspectors at the Westland/Hallmark plant had been excluding an average of eight sick animals a week from slaughter, and the department's investigation found that the mistreatment documented on the video was an exception to its practices.
After contamination of produce, peanut butter and pet food, critics in Congress and elsewhere have called on the government to hire more food inspectors and check for problems at every step along the food supply chain.
The Bush administration has proposed changes, including stationing inspectors overseas.
The Humane Society secretly taped mistreatment of sick cows at Westland/Hallmark last fall and released the video Jan. 30. Since then, the local prosecutor has charged two plant workers with animal cruelty, and the Agriculture Department has barred further sales by the company and started an investigation.
Wayne Pacelle, the Humane Society's president and chief executive officer, said the meat plant was chosen at random, which suggested to him that the slaughtering of sick animals is widespread and requires more and stronger government attention.
"I think there should be a SWAT team that can roll around to high-risk plants and do a deeper dive," he said. "The inspector here was certifying 500 animals a day based on a cursory inspection. If the animals could stand, they could be certified. That's a low standard."

USDA Orders 143 Million Pound Class II Beef Recall Following Release of Undercover Video Food Safety Not an Issue
February 18, 2008
Source of Article:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Sunday ordered a class II recall of 143 million pounds of beef products produced since February 1, 2006, by Hallmark/Westland Meat Company. The Department has been investigating the company since an animal rights group released video Janary 30 depicting inhumane treatment of livestock at the establishment.
USDA officials stressed that the plant did not comply with inspection procedures, but that food safety was not at issue.
In a statement, USDA said all cattle processed by the plant passed antemortem insepction. However, when some cattle later became non-ambulatory after passing inspection, the plant should have summoned the inspector again, and it did not do so, acccording to the Department.
In a statement, AMI underscored the fact that the meat was being recalled for non-compliance with inspection procedures, not food safety concerns. ¡°USDA¡¯s message was clear: cattle inspection procedures were not followed and when they are not, product is considered ¡®out of compliance¡¯ and must be recalled,¡± said AMI Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and General Counsel Mark Dopp.
Dopp pointed out that all cattle processed by this plant passed the initial inspection to check their health, but that in some instances, when some cattle later became unable to walk, the USDA veterinarian should have been called again to reevaluate, but was not. Cattle can become non-ambulatory for a variety of reasons, including simple injury during movement. The fact that an animal becomes not ambulatory does not necessarily mean it is ill.
Dopp also pointed out that it was ¡°important to note that the government has found no evidence that the meat was unsafe and has appropriately classified it as a ¡®Class II recall,¡¯ and not a ¡®Class I recall,¡¯ which is used when a there is a reasonable probability that a public health risk exists,¡± Dopp said.
Dopp condemned the handling practices depicted in an undercover video shot in the plant and released January 30 and said they stand in sharp contrast to typical animal handling practice in the meat industry.
USDA has also issued a set of questions and answers concerning the reasons for the recall, the impact on the federal food and nutrition systems, and addressing consumer concerns.

Food Safety and Quality Related Job Openings
Quality Assurance Sr. Manager - Dollar General . Goodlettsville, TN
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Sales Specialist l - Bio-Rad Laboratories . New York or Atlanta, GA
QUALITY CONTROL TECHNICIAN - Premio Foods, Inc. - North & Central NJ
QUALITY ASSURANCE MANAGER - Premio Foods, Inc.- Hawthorne, NJ
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Food Safety and Quality Related Job Openings

Organic fertilizer contaminated with salmonella, suit claims by E.B. McCoy
Source of Article:
SAN FRANCISCO - Oceano Packing Company is suing True Organic Products and Western Farm Service for selling fertilizer contaminated by salmonella.
The suit filed Feb. 6 in U.S. District Court of Northern District of California, came after three unrelated customers of Oceano reported finding salmonella in Oceano crops.
Both Defendants are being sued for negligence, breach of express and implied warranty of fitness, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, unfair competition, and for allegedly violating the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.
The Act holds that any agricultural product labeled or represented as 100 percent organic must be produced in accordance with federal guidelines.
The complaint also alleges that Western Farm Service engaged in criminal conversion and allegedly defamed the plaintiff.
According to the complaint, Western Farm representatives allegedly went onto Oceano's property in January without permission and removed a variety of items of personal property, mostly chemicals.
The complaint alleges that Western Farm represented to third parties that Oceano does not pay its trade debts in a timely manner.
During the 2007 growing season, Oceano contacted Western Farm Service, a California company, for its recommendation on a fertilizer. Western recommended a fertilizer known as "true 10-5-2," which was manufactured by True Organic Products.
Oceano, which claims to have conducted its own investigation, states that the fertilizer was the source of salmonella contamination.
Anastauddiou & Associates of Salinas, Calif. represents Oceano.
Filed Under: U.S. District Court

Peter Pan plant doing well a year after salmonella scare shut it down
February 14, 2008

Source of Article:
Sylvester- It was a year ago Thursday that ConAgra Foods realized Peter Pan Peanut Butter coming from their Sylvester plant was making people sick nationwide.
Salmonella bacteria sickened more than 600 people in 47 states. It's been six months since production resumed. We sat down with the plant manager as ConAgra prepares to roll out the additional varieties of Peter Pan. ConAgra says business is better than it was before the salmonella outbreak.
Plant manager Earl Ehret remembers, it was exactly two o'clock a year ago that he had to shut down the lines in Sylvester.
"It was not a good feeling," said Earl Ehret, ConAgra Sylvester Plant Manager.
Over the next six months, ConAgra would learn it was a roof leak that lead to the salmonella contamination. They replaced the roof, reworked the floor plan which included separating the raw products from the finished peanut butter, installed a new roaster, and more.
"We put a new air system in the plant. The plant's now humidity and climate controlled, not only for the process but it's a more controlled environment for the people who work in the plant," said Ehret.
The plant has been running 20 hour shifts, six days a week, and has just begun shipping out the remaining five varieties of Peter Pan.
"All of those flavors are now in inventory and being shipped out back to market," said Ehret. In fact, Peter Pan is doing better now than it was before the salmonella outbreak.
"We actually have a stronger position today January of 2008 we were stronger in the marketplace than we were January of 2007," said Ehret.
They credit that to loyal customers and ConAgra who took the right steps, making the necessary changes, to put out a safe, quality product.
"We'll have to see where the future takes us right now, we're just concentrating on our current Peter Pan Brands, getting them all back out to market and we'll just see where the future takes us from there," said Ehret.
The renovations and recalls cost ConAgra Foods more than 15 million dollars.

Green tea extracts could be meat preservatives
By Stephen Daniells Source of Article:

15-Feb-2008 - Indian scientists are looking into the potential of green tea polyphenols to stop the oxidation of fat in meat products, thereby extending shelf-life and preventing off-flavours.
The research is one of the few studies that look beyond the health benefits of green tea extracts and reports a food formulation application for the polyphenols.
"Reports on the use of GTE in preserving foods¡¦ is not much elucidated in the literature," explained the researchers, from the Defence Food Research Laboratory in Mysore.
The potential health benefits of tea, which have mainly focused on green tea, have been receiving considerable levels of study, with scientists reporting a wide range of effects, including a lower risk of certain cancers, improved heart health, weight loss, and protection against Alzheimer's.
But new research reports that the polyphenols may also have a role in food formulation.
"Since green tea is consumed by people as a daily beverage all over the world, extracts of green tea may be safe to use in food systems to extend the shelf life," wrote the researchers in the peer-review journal Food Chemistry.
Green tea contains between 30 and 40 per cent of water-extractable polyphenols, while black tea (green tea that has been oxidized by fermentation) contains between 3 and 10 per cent.
The four primary polyphenols found in fresh tealeaves are epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), epigallocatechin, epicatechin gallate, and epicatechin (EC).
The new study used ethanol to produce a green tea extract (GTE), and tested the extract on fresh mutton stored at ambient conditions of 25 degrees Celsius and 85 per cent relative humidity. Lead author K.V. Kumudavally reports that the polyphenol-rich extract inhibited microflora spoilage by up to four days, without adversely affecting the sensorial and physical quality of the meat.
Moreover, levels of free fatty acids, associated with spoilage, were significantly lower after four days in the meat preserved with the green tea extract than the control sample - 1.5 versus 4.1 grams per 100 grams, respectively.
"GTE treatment could be effectively used to extend the shelf life of fresh mutton for up to four days in Indian climatic conditions, since it significantly inhibits the formation of these lipolytic [fat] and proteolytic [protein] degradation products, which are responsible for sensorial spoilage," wrote the researchers. "Studies show that GTE had a profound bacteriostatic effect on meat spoilage organisms including certain pathogens, indicating that the antibacterial component of GTE supports its practical use for extending the shelf life of fresh mutton for up to four days, at room temperature, without adversely affecting its physical, chemical and organoleptic parameters," they concluded.
In 2006, scientists from the University of Minnesota reported the potential of green tea polyphenols to stop the Maillard reaction in thermally processed dairy to prevent dark colours and off-flavours (LWT - Food Science and Technology, doi: 10.1016/j.lwt.2006.09.009).
Source: Food Chemistry (Elsevier)
1 March 2008, Volume 107, Issue 1, Pages 426-433, doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2007.08.045
"Green tea - A potential preservative for extending the shelf life of fresh mutton at ambient temperature (25 degrees Celsius)"
Authors: K.V. Kumudavally, H.S. Phanindrakumar, A. Tabassum, K. Radhakrishna and A.S. Bawa

FDF calls for full enforcement of EU listeria regulations
By Linda Rano Source of Article:
18-Feb-2008 - The FDF's says it believes the current EU regulation with regard to criteria for ready-to-eat foods able to support the growth of Listeria Monocytogenes (EC regulation 2073 / 2005, as amended) is appropriate. However, it needs to be "fully implemented and enforced and any additional guidance or other measures will need to be simple and powerful to improve compliance."
An FDF spokesperson clarified: "As with all EU legislation, with so many countries implementing the legislation, there can be differences in the way that country authorities scrutinize products; how they view enforcement; and differences in their interpretation." "We are not saying that this legislation is not being fully implemented, but against this backdrop, we need to make sure that we are working on a level playing field."
EC regulation 2073 / 2005 requires that manufacturers test these ready-to-use products and ensure that sufficient controls are in place to ensure the concentration of Listeria Monocytogenes in food remain below 100cfu/g throughout shelf life.
In the US there is currently a zero tolerance criteria in all foodstuffs.
FDF says that Listeria Monocytogenes criteria are currently the subject of discussion within Codex and within the EU Member States Expert Working Group on Microbiological criteria. The Federation intends to follow this discussion closely.
Also, the British Retail Consortium and the Chilled Food Association are involved with discussions with the Food Standards Agency and EU body DG Sanco (Direction Generale Sante et Protection des Consommateurs) on Listeria Monocytogenes criteria.
At a meeting of the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) last week, a progress report highlighted the continued problems with Listeria.
Incidents of Listeriosis have doubled since 2000. The report said that the cause of this increase has yet to be determined but it is being investigated through research into the epidemiology of the disease and surveys for the presence of listeria in foods thought to be linked with the disease such as retail cold sliced meats and pates.
In January this year, the Scientific Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ) of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) warned that listeria was on the rise, after a general decline in the 1990s.
The number of human cases of the disease increased by 8.6 per cent in the EU from 1,427 cases in 2005 to 1,583 in 2006, even though the number of large listeriosis outbreaks has declined.
It recommended that both industry and consumers need to focus on risk reduction practices during the handling and preparation of food.
Listeriosis is a rare but potentially lethal food-borne infection which can kill vulnerable people such as the elderly and pregnant women as well as people suffering from immuno-compromising diseases such as cancer or HIV.
Most cases of listeria are caused by the consumption of ready-to-eat foods that support growth of the bacteria and develop a high concentration of Listeria along the food chain, said the panel report.
Surveys have revealed associations with food packaging type, preparation practices such as the use of slicing machines for meat products, storage temperatures, the stage of sampling with respect to shelf life, the lack of an effective HACCP system, and lack of education and training of food handlers.
The EFSA panel recommended that to better assess the risk of the foods responsible for listeriosis it was necessary to investigate listeriosis cases more thoroughly and generate and analyse data on the consumption in the EU of ready-to-eat foods in which listeria can be found.
The Food and Drink Federation Food Hygiene Sub-committee, in collaboration with the Fish Committee, is in the processes of finalising a position paper on Listeria Monocytogenes.

Castleberry Might Be Sold Due To Botulism Recall
Posted on February 16, 2008 by Botulism Attorney
Source of Article:
Tim Rausch wrote this morning that Castleberry's Food Company might be sold . ¡°Brand might be sold¡±
The Canadian investment fund that owns Castleberry's Food Co. said it is considering selling the canned meat company, whose 400-employee Augusta plant was linked to a botulism scare last year. Toronto-based Connors Bros. Income Fund has started a "strategic" review of its meat product brands, which includes Castleberry's and Sweet Sue. The fund's Bumble Bee and Clover Leaf seafood brands are not part of the review.
Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin that is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Clostridium botulinum is the name of a group of bacteria commonly found in soil. It is an anaerobic, gram-positive, spore-forming rod that produces a potent neurotoxin. These rod-shaped organisms grow best in low oxygen conditions. The bacteria form spores, which allow them to survive in a dormant state until exposed to conditions that can support their growth. According to the CDC, as of August 24, 2007, eight cases of botulism have been reported from Indiana (2 cases), Texas (3 cases), and Ohio (3 cases). The illness onset dates range from June 29 to August 7, 2007. All eight persons were reported to have consumed hot dog chili sauce made by Castleberry's Food Company. The two cases in Indiana occurred in two persons who shared a meal that included Castleberry's hot dog chili sauce the day before illness onset. Botulinum toxin was identified in both patients' sera and leftovers containing hot dog chili sauce collected from the patients' refrigerator. The three cases in Texas occurred in two siblings and their mother, who shared a meal containing Castleberry's hot dog chili sauce the day before the siblings became ill. The three Ohio cases occurred in unrelated persons who consumed Castleberry's hot dog chili sauce in the week before illness onset. One person reported consuming the chili sauce in early August, after the product was recalled. Botulinum toxin was identified in leftover chili sauce collected from this patient's refrigerator. We are investigating two illnesses likely linked to the Castleberry outbreak. One of the cases is from Hawaii and the other is one of the counted cases from Ohio.

Several sick with E.coli after "Beast Feast" at Mobile church
2/27/2008, 10:44 a.m. CST
The Associated Press
MOBILE, Ala. (AP) ? Several people, including a 7-year-old boy, were hospitalized when they became sick with E. Coli after eating food at a cookout known as the "Beast Feast" at a Mobile church, health officials said.
The 7-year-old was released from Children's Hospital of Alabama on Tuesday, but his 10-year-old brother, who also was exposed to the bacteria at the cookout, was still being treated there, the Press-Register reported Wednesday.
Health and church officials said at least eight people sought treatment after getting sick following the Eastern Shore Baptist Church's 10th annual "Beast Feast."
As many as 20 others reported becoming ill after the cookout and potluck meal that was attended by 300 people on Feb. 16, said Theresa Porter, a Baldwin County coordinator with the state health department.
Spokeswoman Diana Brewer said three people ? ages 15, 74 and 81 ? were admitted to Thomas Hospital in Fairhope between Thursday and Saturday. All were discharged by Sunday, she said.
Porter said eight cultures have tested positive for E. coli O157:H7, a strain of the bacteria that can cause severe illness.

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