Comprehensive News List
General Food Safety News/ Outbreak News/ Recall News/ New Methods News/
USDA/FDA
News/ On-Line Slides/ Job Information/Internet Journal of Food Safety

3/03
2008
ISSUE:294

Sponsors












Sponsorship Q/A

Click here
to go
Main Page

 

Click here
to go
List of Newsletters


To subscribe this Food Safety Newsletter,
Click here

 

On-Line Slides

Internet Journal of Food Safety

 

Job Openings

 

 

School Lunch at Risk for Years
Weak Safety Standards Reported by Auditors As Far Back as 2003
By ELIZABETH WILLIAMSON
March 3, 2008; Page A6 Source of Article: http://online.wsj.com/

The U.S. Agriculture Department has for years had problems ensuring that beef supplied to the national school-lunch program meets food-safety standards, federal auditors' reports show, suggesting more widespread problems than those that triggered the biggest food recall in U.S. history.
In reports dating back to 2003, the USDA Office of Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office cited the USDA's lunch-program administrators and inspectors for weak food-safety standards, poor safeguards against bacterial contamination, and choosing lunch-program vendors with known food-safety violations. Auditors singled out problems with controls over E. coli and salmonella contamination.
In a 2003 report, the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, said "195, or about 3%, of the total of 7,390 foodborne outbreaks that were reported nationwide, between 1990-99, occurred in schools." The GAO traced about half of 40 large outbreaks to poor sanitation in school kitchens.
The reports appear to contradict USDA and meat-industry assertions that violations at the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. plant in Chino, Calif., which voluntarily recalled 143 million pounds of ground meat Feb. 17, were an "isolated incident," as officials said at the time. That plant, the second-largest provider of beef to the school-lunch program in terms of pounds, has been singled out by the USDA and animal-rights groups for food-safety-related violations dating back at least a decade. Last week, the USDA put at least two employees on paid leave of absence during its investigation of problems at Hallmark/Westland, according to an official of the union that represents federal food inspectors.
The USDA inspector general's office has been blunt in its criticism of the agency's food-safety enforcement. A 2005 report by Assistant Inspector General Robert W. Young found "adequate management controls were not in place to ensure that ground-beef products purchased...were free of pathogens," including E. coli and salmonella. Though lunch-program rules require that meat contaminated with microbes be destroyed, the USDA "had not required plants to maintain documentation verifying that product contaminated with microbes were properly identified, segregated and controlled."
At two plants supplying ground beef for children's lunches, "documentation was not available" to prove the meat didn't contain salmonella, they wrote.
In some cases, the report said, the USDA awarded school-lunch contracts to vendors the agency knew had food-safety problems. At one unnamed plant, meat samples tested during the 2003-04 school year contained both E. coli and salmonella. The plant was cited 40 times for USDA violations that year, including failure to follow food-safety standards.
The USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service, or AMS, which buys commodities for the school-lunch program and for government feeding for infants and the elderly, "took no corrective action against suppliers with recurring deviations [known as nonconformances], numerous commodity complaints, and products that tested positive for prohibited pathogens," the report noted.
Craig Morris, deputy administrator of AMS, said Friday his agency "responded to [the office of inspector general's] audit and all of our decisions were accepted."
Among the changes that AMS agreed to make were to draw meat samples for microbe tests from throughout what they measure as a "lot" of meat, instead of chiefly from the top of the "lot." But AMS disagreed with the USDA's overall assessment in 2005, saying many improvements were made after the study and "AMS believes that it has exercised significant and substantial management control over the ground-beef purchase program."
"Our program is as stringent, as robust as any testing program out there," Mr. Morris said. About 10 companies rank as qualified bidders for contracts to submit ground beef to the lunch program. Ground beef isn't graded because it is a blended product. The Hallmark/Westland plant processed older cattle, such as spent dairy cows, and the ground meat from them was among the cheapest available. Contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder.

The AMS awarded 141 weekly ground-beef contracts to Hallmark/Westland since the company was approved as a vendor in 2003, according to Mr. Morris. During the period of the recall -- Feb. 1, 2006, to Feb. 2, 2008 -- prices paid for 68 weekly contracts ranged from $1.29 to $1.63 per pound. Quantities ordered ranged from 40,000 to 2.5 million pounds weekly.
At the time of the recall Hallmark/Westland was supplying about 20% of the ground beef used by USDA in the federal food and nutrition program, which includes the federal school-lunch program.
In 2003, Mr. Morris said, the first year AMS implemented new testing procedures, salmonella microbes turned up in 2.1% of ground meat tested, and E. coli showed up in 0.5%. Last year, Mr. Morris said, 0.2% of beef samples for the lunch program tested positive for salmonella, and none for E. coli, he said.
The USDA banned meat from downed cows from the school-lunch program in 2000 and instituted a similar ban in 2003 for the entire food supply. Mr. Morris says Hallmark/Westland appears to have violated this safeguard. Officials at Hallmark/Westland couldn't be reached for comment.
The inspector general's office criticized USDA meat and poultry-safety inspection again in December, after an outbreak of E. coli-related illness that sickened 32 people. That outbreak, unrelated to the lunch program, resulted in a recall of 22 million pounds of ground beef, a record broken by the current recall.
--David Kesmodel contributed to this article.

US lawmakers demand further food safety measures
By Linda Rano Source of Article: http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/
03-Mar-2008 - US lawmakers are demanding further food safety measures following concerns over the recent recall of over 143,000,000 pounds of raw and frozen meat products by a California meat packer. The recall followed an investigation by the US Agriculture Department's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service, after video-evidence from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) showed slaughter house workers forcing crippled cattle onto their feet and into the food chain.
The footage led to fears that the use of crippled cattle could increase the risk of human exposure to mad cow disease and other pathogens.

Congressional committee hearing
Last week the US House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a meeting to discuss which measures work best in safeguarding the nation's food supply. It was attended by representatives of leading companies in the food processing industry.
The beef recall was discussed along with other recent recalls.
The Committee urged food manufacturers to provide serious recommendations and strongly support legislation to ensure the safety of the nation's food.
Congressman John D Dingell said in a statement: "our food supply becomes more dangerous all the time. It is clear our regulatory system is broken."
The Committee is considering whether to compel the head of the packing company to attend a meeting to help clarify how on-site USDA inspectors could have missed the safety problems.

GMA response
The US Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) issued a statement in response to the Hearing.
The Association proposed a comprehensive plan for improving the safety of imported and domestic food, including one proposal that food companies voluntarily share confidential test results, laboratory data and sourcing information with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
This measure would aim to give the government to give an improved focus for its limited resources to assess the safety on high-risk products and countries.
The GMA also said that it had asked Congress and the Bush administration to double the FDA food safety budget over the next 5 years, to allow the agency to hire more inspectors and scientists, update its information systems and expand its testing capability.

Senate subcommittee hearing
Later in the week there was a hearing of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee to discuss the beef recall.
Senator Herb Kohl pressed a number of measures on Secretary of Agriculture, Ed Schafer, including the auditing of all 900 meat processing plants that slaughter cattle to make sure there are language-appropriate materials for workers and that employees receive proper training. Senator Kohl asked that the audit of the 23 plants supplying to the USDA nutrition programmes be carried out within 30 days, as well as demanding input on legislation to prevent future failures of the meat inspection protocols. Reuters reports that USDA Inspector General Phyllis Fong told the subcommittee her independent agency was investigating to see whether the failure to abide by the laws was an isolated incident or whether the same was happening at other plants.

HSUS
Meanwhile, the HSUS has announced it is filing a lawsuit against the USDA to close a loophole in the regulations it says contributed to the recall.
A statement by HSUS claims that in 2007 the USDA: "quietly reversed course and relaxed its rules to permit some crippled cows to be slaughtered for human consumption."
HSUS is currently under pressure to explain why it withheld the video from the USDA until the end of January, despite it being recorded in October and November.

FDA chief urges quick congressional action on food safety powers
Associated Press - March 1, 2008
Source of Article: http://www.wistv.com/Global/story.asp?S=7950158
WASHINGTON (AP) - The head of the Food and Drug Administration is asking Congress to give his embattled agency more power to regulate the safety of food.
FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach (ESH'-ehn-bahk) is pressing Congress to pass a Bush administration proposal that would give the agency more authority, including the ability to order mandatory recalls of unsafe foods. Von Eschenbach wants the new powers put in place by Memorial Day. The commissioner acknowledges that the FDA must make some major changes to keep up with complex global markets that have more U.S. food and medicine being produced overseas. Answering critics that the FDA has been too slow in catching problems after drugs go on sale, Von Eschenbach says the FDA will soon begin a long-awaited program called the "sentinel initiative" using a national database to spot trouble faster.

Salmonella Bacteria Turned Into Cancer Fighting Robots

Source of Article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080229171124.htm
ScienceDaily (Feb. 29, 2008) ? Salmonella bacteria can be turned into tiny terminator robots that venture deep into cancerous tumors where conventional chemotherapy can't reach. Once in place, the bacteria manufacture drugs that destroy cancer cells. This could translate chemotherapy that is more specific, more effective and easier on patients.
Neil Forbes of the University of Massachusetts Amherst has received a four-year grant of more than $1 million from the National Institutes of Health to research killing cancer tumors with Salmonella bacteria. Forbes turns the bacteria into tiny terminator robots that use their own flagella to venture deep into tumors where conventional chemotherapy can¡¯t reach. Once in place, the bacteria manufacture drugs that trigger cancer cells to kill themselves.
¡°When we get the Salmonella bacteria into the part of the tumor where we want them to be, we¡¯ve programmed them to go ape,¡± says Forbes. ¡°We have the bacteria release a drug to trigger a receptor in cancer cells called the ¡°death receptor,¡± which induces cancer cells to kill themselves. We¡¯ve already done this in the lab. We¡¯ve done this successfully in cancerous mice, and it dramatically increases their survival rate.¡±
Normally, mice with tumors all die within 30 days. After receiving this bacterial system and getting a dose of radiation, all the mice in Forbes¡¯ lab tests survived beyond the 30 days, which could potentially translate into many months or years in people.
¡°It sounds like science fiction, doesn¡¯t it?¡± says Forbes, an assistant professor in the chemical engineering department. ¡°But Salmonella are little robots that can swim wherever they want. They have propellers in the form of flagella, they have sensors to tell them where they are going and they are also little chemical factories. What we do as engineers is to control where they go, what chemical we want them to make, and when they make it.¡±
Using bacteria to attack cancer tumors has been tried with only moderate success for decades. But Forbes¡¯ work with Salmonella is introducing a radical improvement called ¡°targeted intratumoral therapeutic delivery,¡± which sends the bacteria into parts of the tumor that are currently beyond the reach of conventional therapies. This could translate into individualized doses of chemotherapy for human cancer patients, make therapy more specific and effective, give people smaller doses of chemicals while they are being treated and cut down on patient mortality.
The basic problem being addressed by Forbes is that some regions in any cancer tumor are impossible to reach with current chemotherapy drugs. Drug access to the tissue in any tumor is limited by the distribution of its blood vessels. Tissue located farthest from its surrounding blood vessels is the hardest for drugs to reach because the vessels act as their chemical highways into the tumor. Every tumor has a different distribution of blood vessels, depending on the nature of the tumor and the patient¡¯s genetic makeup.
¡°Think of the region between blood vessels as a sponge,¡± explains Forbes. ¡°The particles from a therapeutic drug tend to accumulate around the outer portions of the sponge, nearest the blood vessels, and not penetrate to the interior.¡±
That¡¯s where an unlikely hero, the Salmonella bacterium, comes in. Unlike drugs (which are not alive), Salmonella can take energy from their environment and can ¡°swim¡± wherever they please. They have their own outboard motors called flagella, and can travel where they want in a tumor, regardless of blood vessels. Forbes¡¯ concept is to use special Salmonella disarmed of their toxicity and fix them with drug payloads so they can swim into these hard-to-reach regions of the tumor and kill the cancer cells there.
¡°The bacteria, as far as I can tell, are the only therapy that can penetrate deep into tissue, far beyond where blood vessels reach,¡± says Forbes.
Bacteria naturally seek out dead tissue for food by using sensors that home in on chemicals such as ribose, given off by dying cells. But Forbes doesn¡¯t want his Salmonella robots going to the dead cancer cells already killed off by chemotherapy. He wants them penetrating to the slow-growing, but live, cancer cells that current therapy can¡¯t touch. So his solution is to remove the ribose sensor from Salmonella.
¡°By knocking out the ribose receptor, we can keep the bacteria away from dead cells, where we don¡¯t need them to go, but get them to travel into slow-growing cells located in hard-to-reach tissue far from blood vessels; the regions currently beyond our therapeutic treatment,¡± says Forbes.
Adapted from materials provided by University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Retailer Recall in Motion and Inspectors being Shocked
Posted on March 1, 2008 by Food Poisoning Lawyer
Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/
Carrie Peyton Dahlberg of the Sacramento Bee and I spoke yesterday about the fallout of the nations largest meat recall. As she has said ¡°from soup to jerky, the list of products made with recalled beef has been growing, and messages to consumers have gotten ever more confusing. Makers of kitchen standbys like Hunt's spaghetti sauce and Hot Pockets have asked grocery stores to yank selected items from their shelves ? but aren't telling anyone at home to clean out their pantries. As regulators and businesses cope with the nation's biggest beef recall, the trade offs of cost and risk seem to be getting murkier instead of clearer.¡± It is interesting to see a "retailer recall" - products in stores, but not a "consumer recall" - product that you might have at home to eat. Hmmm, how much sense is this making?
As I told her:
"You can't run away from the video of horrifically treated animals," said food safety attorney William Marler. "That, combined with a lot of the product going to school districts ? the political pressure was too much." Marler, a Seattle lawyer with a national reputation representing people sickened by bad food, fears "a lot of resources are being wasted on this recall" that could be better spent combating more serious dangers.
In an interesting twist, Victoria Kim of the Los Angeles Times wrote: ¡°Chino beef inspectors put on leave.¡± At least two federal inspectors who worked at the now-shuttered Chino plant at the center of the largest-ever beef recall have been put on paid leave, union officials said today.

Food Safety and Quality Related Job Openings
Quality Assurance Sr. Manager - Dollar General . Goodlettsville, TN
Quality Assurance Manager - Lakeside Foods, Inc.- Poynette/ Reedsburg; Belgium WI
QUALITY & ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCE . Kellogg Company . Omaha, NE
QUALITY ASSURANCE TECHNICIAN . Kellogg Company . Allyn, WA
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
Instrumentation Chemistry Manager - Northland Laboratories . Northbrook IL

Food Safety and Quality Related Job Openings

(UK) E.coli butcher certificates 'not checked' inquiry told
Mar 3 2008 By Madeleine Brindley, Media Wales
Source of Article: http://icwales.icnetwork.co.uk/
ANOTHER food inspector has admitted he failed to make basic checks on E.coli butcher William Tudor in the years before the deadly outbreak.
Graham Gubb, Bridgend Council's senior food safety officer, said he did not check food hygiene training certificates for staff at John Tudor & Son when he renewed Tudor's butcher's licence in July 2002.
He also decided it was only a medium-risk business, even though it was supplying cooked meats - some of which had not been stamped with crucial shelf-life dates - to vulnerable school children.
Mr Gubb's evidence, at the start the fourth week of the E.coli public inquiry, adds to the growing picture of a history of deficient inspections by Bridgend Council employees of the butcher who caused the 2005 E.coli outbreak, which killed five-year-old schoolboy Mason Jones.
He said he did not question discrepancies on Tudor's butcher's licence application form - the butcher claimed that six people had Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) training, but Mr Gubb's inspection report gave no details of whether that training had taken place. He also said there was no evidence that the HACCP plan had been reviewed.
However, he did note that Tudor had passed a Bridgend Council food hygiene "tick box" questionnaire test, which he had helped design to test butchers' knowledge in 2001.
James Eadie, the inquiry's senior counsel, said Mr Gubb's inspection forms were "sloppily filled out", and questioned whether he had taken any care to complete them properly. Mr Gubb replied, "I thought I was being diligent in my work."

A scrambled mess of food safety agencies
Commentary by Sylvia A. SmithWashington editorAdvertisement
Source of Article: http://www.journalgazette.net/
WASHINGTON When U.S. citizens rely on government to ensure that cooties don¡¯t get into the beef we grill, the eggs we scramble and the salads we eat so virtuously, we¡¯re counting on two key agencies.

Our trust is beyond naive. It¡¯s foolish.
The Department of Agriculture has the dual ? and conflicting ? tasks of protecting the livelihoods of beef and poultry farmers while at the same time making sure no unhealthy animals are slaughtered for food. The latest scandal at a USDA-inspected meat plant where downer cows were led to slaughter is a chilling illustration of this conflict.
The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for the safety of 80 percent of the food we eat but has an inspection budget half the size of USDA¡¯s inspection money.
These incongruities are overlaid by a patchwork of rules and regulations that, as a government auditor observed with sublime understatement, ¡°is not the product of strategic design.¡±
A few years ago a Republican congresswoman pointed out the absurdities: FDA inspects cheese pizzas, closed-face meat sandwiches, beef soup and chicken broth. The Agriculture Department inspects pepperoni pizzas, open-face meat sandwiches, chicken soup and beef broth.
Both agencies inspect eggs, depending on where they are in the process from chicken to grocery or egg factory to frozen quiche.
¡°As the old saying goes,¡± Rep. Jo-Ann Davis said at a hearing, ¡°you can¡¯t make this stuff up.¡±
We, through our elected officials, allow this. Are we idiots?
It¡¯s easy to point out the silliness, and it would be just that except for the terrible tragedies that can result. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention blame food-borne diseases for 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths each year. (If you¡¯ve ever had even a mild case of food poisoning, you know it can cause several days of agony.)

So what to do about it?
USDA and the FDA have the bulk of food inspection responsibility, but there are a dozen other federal agencies that also help enforce more than three dozen food-safety laws. This is irrational public policy and leads to inevitable conflicts. Is the answer one agency that does it all?
That sounds like a clean and logical approach and is very tempting to embrace. What¡¯s not to like about a call to unite the agencies that have some jurisdiction, bring peace to warring turf battles and save money and time by eliminating duplication?
Hey, wait a minute. We did that.
We call it the Department of Homeland Security.
The verdict is still out on whether Homeland Security will ultimately make U.S. citizens safer and taxpayers less burdened. But the answer so far is a virtual border fence that doesn¡¯t work even though we¡¯ve spent $1 billion to develop it and traveler screening that infuriates everyone.
Would we have the same bumbling and stumbling result if the FDA lived up to its name and became the agency that ensures the country¡¯s food safety, has the power to order recalls of tainted foods and the budget to inspect and enforce?

No doubt.
One of the biggest impediments would be the members of Congress who would see their little fiefdoms yanked away. Their resistance to change would be aided and abetted by the lobbies that would have to form new alliances with a whole new set of regulators. Perish the thought.
The latest beef scandal is certainly not enough to blast apart 100 years of food-safety regulation hodgepodge. In fact, nothing short of a food-related 9/11 will shake up Congress, the White House and ? let¡¯s face it ? the people who pay their salaries. Only a cataclysmic event has the potential to impel us to remake the way the U.S. handles food safety.
Until then: Cook everything until it¡¯s nearly inedible (although that won¡¯t kill all beasties) and wash your hands a lot (ditto). Conversely: Indulge your reckless streak by eating three meals a day.
Bon appetit.

FSIS reopening comment period on salmonella initiative program
By Alicia Karapetian on 3/3/2008 for Meatingplace.com
USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service has told industry members that it will reopen the comment period and extend the implementation date associated with the Salmonella Initiative Program portion of the Salmonella Verification Sample program, the National Chicken Council has announced. The comment period on the Salmonella Verification Sample program closed last week.
NCC, along with the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, National Turkey Federation and a variety of other interested parties, requested a 60-day extension of the comment period for all provisions of the program and a minimum 180-day extension of all implementation dates. The comment period will remain closed, however, for provisions in the document related to posting salmonella results and restructuring the salmonella sampling program.
NCC said it has filed comments expressing concerns over many of the document's provisions. FSIS officials had no comment on the issue.

USDA and FDA To Host Public Meeting On 2nd Session of the Codex Committee on Contaminants in Foods (CCCF) of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex)
March 03, 2008

Source of Article: http://www.meatami.com/
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are sponsoring a public meeting from 1 to 3 p.m. March 5 to provide information and receive public comments on agenda items and draft United States positions that will be discussed at the 2nd Session of the Codex Committee on Contaminants in Foods (CCCF) of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex), which will be held in The Hague, Netherlands, from March 31-April 4, 2008.
The public meeting will be held in the Harvey Wiley Federal Building Auditorium, FDA, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), 5100 Paint Branch Parkway, College Park, MD 20740. Codex documents related to the 2nd Session of the CCCF are accessible via the World Wide Web at the following address: http://www.codexalimentarius.net/current.asp.
Comments may be submitted electronically to the following e-mail address: henry.kim@fda.hhs.gov.
Register electronically to the same e-mail address above. Early registration is encouraged.

Food additives 'probably here to stay': expert
By Laura Crowley Source of Article: http://www.foodnavigator.com/
03-Mar-2008 - The necessity of artificial additives in foods means they will continue to be despite being found to have adverse effects on behaviour, says a nutritionist.
In her article, published in the latest edition of the British Nutrition Foundation's Nutrition Bulletin, Claire Williamson reviews landmark studies on preservatives and the industry's response to the findings.
"Additives carry out a variety of useful functions and play a key role in maintaining the food qualities and characteristics that consumers demand, but are particularly important in keeping food safe," said Williamson.
"So some additives, particularly preservatives (including sodium benzoate) are necessary and probably here to stay."
Removing additives
While studies have found negative effects of food additives, most recently the Southampton study that linked some colourings to hyperactivity in children, Williamson said the effects of removing them altogether could be much worse.
All food additives must appear on food labels, either by name or an E-number, which means it has been approved for its intended use across the European Union.
Williamson wrote: "Food additives are not a new phenomenon and some have been around for centuries, e.g. baking powder (bicarbonate of soda) which has been in use since the 19th century and vinegar (acetic acid) which is used to preserve foods and prevent microbial damage.
"Some additives are found naturally in foods, such as vitamin E, which acts as an antioxidant and prevents fats from going rancid."
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has formed a group to provide the European Commission with scientific advice on additives.
Meanwhile, following the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment's (COT) re-evaluation of their safety, the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has advised parents to prevent their child from consuming certain additives if they show signs of hyperactivity. Some food manufacturers have reformulated their products to remove such additives, such as Nestle Rowntree, which removed additives from all its products in 2005. However, Williamson said: "Whereas it may be possible to remove some additives from foods, preservatives are necessary because without them, food would quickly spoil. "Benzoic acid, which is found naturally in cranberries, bilberries, plums, cloves and cinnamon, is added to processed foods to prevent the growth of microbes, particularly pathogenic moulds and fungi. As John Emsley, a chemical scientist, comments on the Sense About Science website, if this preservative was removed from food products, there could be an increase in the number of cases of food poisoning."

The Southampton study
The study at the centre of the debate was conducted in two phases. In stage one, 153 three-year-olds and 144 eight- and nine-year-olds were given one of two drink mixes containing artificial food colours and additives, or a placebo. The children were drawn from the general population and across a range of hyperactivity and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) severities. Mix A contained sunset yellow (E110), tartrazine (E102), carmoisine (E122), ponceau 4R (E124) and sodium benzoate (E110). This same mix was used in an earlier study on a cohort of three-year-olds which was deemed inconclusive because the effects were not confirmed by clinicians. Mix B contained sunset yellow (E110), quinoline yellow (E104), carmoisine (E122), allura red (E129) and sodium benzoate (E110). Phase one lasted six weeks, with every child consuming the mixes and the placebo for one week each, and a one week wash-out period between each. Parents were asked to keep other sources of artificial colours out of the diet, and to keep a diary of violations.

Phase two involved some of the children from the older group - responders and non-responders - during two half-day session a week apart, at which they were given either a placebo or an active drink similar to mix A or B, but the whole day's dose was given at once. The effects on the children's behaviour were assessed using a global hyperactivity aggregate (GHA) based on aggregated scores of observed behaviours and ratings by teachers and parents, plus, for those aged eight and nine, a computerised test of attention. The conclusions drawn by the researchers were that artificial food colours and additives were seen to exacerbate hyperactive behaviour in children at least up to middle childhood. According to Williamson: "The lack of any possible biological mechanism means that it is not possible to conclude that the association is causal, and further research is needed to elucidate the individual effects of the specific additives used in the study."

Processed foods being yanked due to meat recall (MEATPOULTRY.com, February 27, 2008)
by Bryan Salvage
Source of Article: http://www.meatnews.com/feature_stories.asp?ArticleID=91581
NEW YORK ¡ª General Mills, Inc. and Nestl¥é Prepared Foods Co. said on Feb. 26 they initiated recalls of products both companies processed that include meat targeted in the recently announced Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. recall, according to The Wall Street Journal. This action expands the recall to now include processed foods.
General Mills initiated a recall of 35,000 cases of its Progresso Italian Wedding soup because it contained beef from a supplier that received meat from the Hallmark/Westland plant. Nestle initiated a recall of 49,000 cases of its Hot Pockets sandwiches that contain beef from a vendor that used meat from Hallmark/Westland, according to the newspaper.
Meanwhile, Hormel Foods told The Wall Street Journal that a small amount of Farmer John brand hot dogs and cotto salami were being recalled.
The Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. recall of approximately 143,383,823 lbs of raw and frozen beef products is the largest meat recall in history. All products produced since Feb. 1 are being recalled because the F.S.I.S. determined them to be unfit for human food since the cattle did not receive complete and proper inspection. Meanwhile, industry is working to limit expansion of the Class II recall because the investigation has indicated there is no food-safety risk.

Study examines world perceptions of U.S. beef
By Robert Pore
Source of Article: http://www.theindependent.com
Last year, U.S. beef exports began rebounding after the pounding they took when a cow tested positive for mad cow disease in December 2003.
More than 100 countries cut off their imports of U.S. beef after the incident, from which the industry continues to recover. Last year, there was a 24-percent increase in beef exports to just over 1 billion pounds and 32 percent in value to more than $2 billion. But the beef industry continues to take its hits last year after massive beef recalls because of E. coli and this year because of animal abuse. But in an effort to restore customer confidence around the world in beef, a new study found that what a person is eating when it comes to beef can vary widely from one country to another. The study used data from more than 4,000 consumers surveyed across four countries. Conducting the study were agricultural economists from Kansas State University, Michigan State University and Maastricht University (Netherlands). They found that consumers in Japan and Mexico have more concerns about beef food safety than do consumers in the United States and Canada.

"Food safety concerns have created havoc in global beef markets in recent years," said Ted Schroeder, agricultural economist with K-State Research and Extension and one of the study's authors. "Most noteworthy in North America was a loss of major export markets following the discovery of cattle in the United States and Canada infected with BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) in 2003."
The four countries studied represent major markets for U.S. beef.
Last year there was a 3-percent decline to the U.S. largest beef customer, Mexico, by 3 percent. Beef plus beef variety meat exports to Mexico increased 1 percent in value to $1.185 billion but declined 3 percent in volume to 359,452 metric tons (792.4 million pounds).
U.S. beef exports to Canada increased 37 percent to 132,144 metric tons (291.3 million pounds) valued at $602 million, largely fueled by currency dynamics and the increase in live cattle imports from Canada.
Beef exports to Japan increased by 265 percent to 44,718 metric tons (98.6 million pounds) valued at nearly $230 million. The 20-month age limit applied to beef exports to Japan has restricted combined beef and variety meat exports to just 12 percent of 2003 export volume.
According to the study, Japanese consumers are more "risk averse" with respect to beef food safety, the economists found that relative to U.S. and Canadian consumers, Japanese and Mexican consumers perceive beef to be less safe and consider eating beef to involve greater food safety risk.
Other findings of the study included:
Food safety perceptions and attitudes, and interaction between the two, contribute to reductions in beef consumption by at least some consumers in each of the four countries, with impacts most pronounced in Japan and Mexico.
From policy and industry perspectives, a beef food safety event in the United States and Canada can be dealt with by quickly containing the hazard and informing consumers about the low probability of adverse health effects associated with consuming the product. For Japanese consumers, a beef food safety concern requires greater assurance that steps have been taken to eliminate a potential hazard.
Canadian and American respondents generally believe that beef products are safe, though they perceive that E. coli 0157:H7 poses the highest risk, with about 50 percent of respondents indicating moderate risk or greater. About 60 percent of respondents in Canada and the U.S. rated BSE as low or very low risk.
Japanese respondents generally perceived low risk levels for beef except for BSE, which more than 50 percent of the respondents rated "high" or "very high risk."
Overall, Mexican respondents have greater concerns about beef food safety than consumers in the other three countries.
"The high risk perceptions of Mexican respondents for food safety hazards that have low incidence rates suggest that Mexican consumers have a higher concern about food safety than consumers in the other three countries," Schroeder said. "The reason for that is unknown. Perhaps they experience more food safety-related illnesses than do consumers in the other countries. Food safety concerns may also be influenced by other factors such as media and government announcements."
Working with Schroeder was fellow K-State ag economists James Mintert.
"The lack of knowledge among consumers about some beef food safety concerns is noticeable," Mintert said. "In particular, the most common response in Canada, the United States and Japan is that consumers don't know the risk levels associated with Listeria, Campylobacter, and Staphylococcus aureus. This could be because the incidence level of these foodborne pathogens is low, and generally receive little media attention. For that reason, consumers may simply be unfamiliar with them."
Mintert said the findings of this and future work indicate that a concerted industry effort to ensure that beef is free of any food safety concern is essential if beef is to regain market share because Japanese consumers, in particular, have a very low tolerance for even a small probability that beef contributes to food safety problems.
"Information reassuring consumers needs to be combined with a stringent, auditable set of changes in industry and government inspection standards to avoid large sustained losses in consumer demand," Schroeder added.
Details about the study can be found on The Berkeley Electronic Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy's Web site: http://www.bepress.com/bejeap/vol7/iss1/art65.

DOST man reveals presence of aflatoxin in rice, other food products
by Prix D Banzon PIA Press Release 2008/03/04
Source of Article: http://www.pia.gov.ph/City (4 March)
The absence of strict implementation on food safety standards in food production led the government to come up with stronger campaign on proper and safe practices to control contaminants of aflatoxin that is also found in rice, the staple food of Filipinos. Anthony Sales, Ph.D. technology transfer section head of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-XI) during the Kapehan sa Dabaw at SM City's Pizza Hut said that based on his study, he found out the presence of aflatoxin in rice. He however clarified that the study was based on the sample of rice taken from Digos City, Toril in Davao City, General Santos City and Sultan Kudarat. The study, he said revealed that the rice samples had about.5 ppb (parts per billion) of aflatoxin. Crops that are frequently affected with aflatoxin are cereals (maize, sorghum, pearl millet, rice, wheat) oilseeds (peanut, soybean, sunflower, cotton), spices (chile peppers, black pepper, coriander, turmeric, ginger) and tree nuts (almond, pistachio, walnut, coconut, brazil nut). Exposure to high level of alfatoxin produces acute necrosis, cirrhosis, and carcinoma of the liver. Sales said that for rice to be spared from aflatoxin, it is a must that producers follow good manufacturing practices. He said aflatoxin is heat resistant and could not be removed by washing especially when it is inside the product. He cited the need for the good application of post harvest technology that would include proper storage and processing. He bared that most of the warehouses here are dilapidated where rice stocks are not stored properly.
The products need to be stored in dry place to avoid moisture because when the produce is wet then the molds start to set in the rice.
"Rice after harvesting must be dried properly and stored in a dry place to safeguard the products from developing contaminants," he said.
He also said that there is high content of aflatoxin in domestically produce than those imported from Thailand and Vietnam.
Sales said they are coming up with a Food Safety Summit to tackle the many concerns affecting safety on the food people eat as well as the manufacturing of food products on March 6 to 7 at the Grand Regal Hotel in Davao City. (PIA)

Main Page
Sponsorship Qustions

List of Newsletters

To subscribe this Food Safety Newsletter

Copyright (C). All rights reserved FoodHACCP.com.