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

3/12
2008
ISSUE:295

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

 

 

Updated - QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS HALLMARK/WESTLAND MEAT PACKING CO. (from USDA)

Followup care suggested for food-poisoning victims The Associated Press
Source of Article: http://www.timesleader.com
WASHINGTON Doctors have little way to predict which food poisoning survivors will suffer long-term consequences. But survivors of the worst-case E. coli infections have a high enough risk for later kidney-caused problems that the University of Utah recommends a yearly exam for them in hopes of catching brewing illness early.
The warning is for people who suffered a life-threatening E. coli complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS something that most commonly strikes children ages 2 to 7.
As they age, Utah¡¯s Dr. Andrew Pavia says these people need an annual:
Blood pressure check. That¡¯s not routine for children and young adults, but subtle kidney scarring from the HUS could cause high blood pressure early in life.
A urine exam to check for protein, an early sign of kidney damage.
A blood test to measure kidney function.
There is no proven way to ward off these problems. But Pavia points to early-stage research out of France that suggests if these survivors start showing early signs of trouble, such as protein in the urine, giving them certain blood-pressure medications can offer some protection. They seem to slow kidney deterioration.
It needs more study, but in the meantime, ¡°It can¡¯t hurt to lower blood pressure a little bit and hopefully get the protective benefit,¡± he says.

USDA lab near Clay Center developing E. coli tests
Source of Article: http://www.kptm.com/
Associated Press - March 1, 2008 1:15 PM ET
CLAY CENTER, Neb. (AP) - Scientists at a government research lab near Clay Center are helping DuPont develop new ways to detect E. coli. Last year, more than 30 million pounds of ground beef was recalled because of possible E. coli contamination. Some E. coli strains can cause severe illness in humans. Symptoms of E. coli infection include stomach cramps and diarrhea that may turn bloody. DuPont Qualicon president Kevin Huttman says working with the USDA lab should help develop the tests more quickly. The research center's director Mohammad Koohmaraie (KOO-mar-eee) says the scientists at the Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center work to resolve high priority problems for the beef, swine and sheep industries. The research is hoped to help the meat processing industry better control the bacteria.

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

WSU prof says downer cattle need inspection
A label from one of the boxes of recalled beef dumped at the Asotin County landfill.
Source of Article: http://www.klewtv.com/news/health/16238352.html
PULLMAN - Much of the more than 143 millions pounds of recently recalled beef is now incinerated or in a landfill somewhere. The month-long scare, however, still has some thinking about the long-term effects of potentially bad beef.
The recent concern stemmed from video released by the Humane Society, showing sick and crippled cattle at the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company in California being mistreated and forced into the slaughterhouse.
WSU Associate Professor of Epidemiology John Gay says people need to recognize the rarity of mad cow disease, and the big difference between mad cow, and downer cattle beef.
"The likely reason that these cows went down is probably more related to accidental reasons than infectious disease causes, because they had to go through the sales process,¡± said Gay. ¡°They've gone, usually to a sales yard; they've been bought, purchased there, and transported to the slaughter plant."
Gay said Tuesday a disease like mad cow is very slow to develop, and even if you had contracted it in the last year, you likely wouldn't feel its effects for a long time. He said if a cow has a broken leg on the other hand, there would be no immediate health risks associated with the meat from that animal, but after a long enough time, problems can arise. "You can start getting changes in the cow's metabolism, it can make the meat unfit. It won't be a pleasant experience," Gay said. As for the recalled meat, Gay said they can't be sure whether there was contamination of some sort, but it's always best to err on the side of caution. "If an animal's down, I want to know why it's down. If it has fractured its leg or something and it's just immediate, I wouldn't have a problem consuming it. If it's been a longer period of time, I'd want to know why it's down, and I'd want the inspector to inspect it to see that it's fit for human consumption."

Polyphenols may be the key to low acrylamide bakery
By Stephen Daniells Source of Article: http://www.foodnavigator.com/
05-Mar-2008 - Manufacturers of bakery products looking to reduce levels of acrylamide can tap into a range of solutions, but polyphenols may be the most promising, suggests a new review.
"The most promising field for acrylamide reduction is the addition of low molecular additives such as polyphenols, which have not so far been applied in cereal products," wrote Achim Claus, Reinhold Carle and Andreas Schieber in this month's issue of the Journal of Cereal Science.
"Such additives ideally combine acrylamide reduction with little or no changes in product technology or, most importantly, sensory quality.
"Furthermore, possible health benefits from e.g. polyphenols could even enhance the consumer acceptance of such products."
The review is a timely pooling of the significant and often rapid progress that has been made in acrylamide-reduction, since it first hit the headlines in 2002.
Acrylamide is a carcinogen that is created when starchy foods are baked, roasted, fried or toasted. In 2002, when scientists at the Swedish Food Administration first reported unexpectedly high levels of acrylamide, found to cause cancer in laboratory rats, in carbohydrate-rich foods.
Since the Swedish discovery a global effort has been underway to amass data about this chemical. More than 200 research projects have been initiated around the world, and their findings co-ordinated by national governments, the EU and the United Nations.
And while reducing acrylamide levels is an important target in bakery products, "manufacturers need to keep in mind consumer expectations regarding flavour, colour, and other sensory properties in order to ensure their products remain marketable," wrote the authors from the Institute of Food Science and Biotechnology at Hohenheim University.

The antioxidant approach
Studies are beginning to emerge that show antioxidants may reduce acrylamide levels, with evidence available that ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and rosemary extracts reportedly reducing levels of the potential carcinogen in breakfast cereals, crackers, and even olive oil used for frying.
"Similar observations were reported when a spice mix containing flavonoids was applied to potato crisps, and for the addition of bamboo leaf extracts," state Claus, Carle and Schieber.
The scientific trio go on to state: "According to our observations (unpublished results) polyphenolics had a strong lowering effect on acrylamide formation in wheat bread, which may be explained by their reaction with asparagine.
"Hence, polyphenols appear to be a very potent and valuable additive for acrylamide reduction in different bakery products and more detailed studies concerning this topic are required."

Acidic additives potential
Claus, Carle and Schieber also consider progress made using consumable acids, amino acids, and cations, since these additives offer "a very simple but efficient method to minimise acrylamide in bakery products."
Indeed, studies have already shown that the likes of citric, lactic, tartaric, and hydrochloric acids may reduce the levels of acrylamide in a variety of bakery products, including baked corn chips, semi-finished biscuits and crackers.

The enzyme approach
Another growing area of interest is enzymes. Asparaginase can be employed to turn asparagine into aspartic acid, which prevents acrylamide formation in the Maillard reaction. At the tail-end of 2007 the Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the EU (CIAA) included asparaginase in the new version of its Acrylamide Toolbox, a move seen to validation the efforts of companies that have developed commercial solutions using the acrylamide-reducing enzyme. This is an area that has seen much heated activity this year as both DSM Food Specialities and Novozymes have commercial products aimed at this area. However, the Hohenheim-based scientists note: "Although asparaginase addition seems to be very promising for acrylamide mitigation, it is rather expensive compared with other strategies. "Therefore, it is unlikely that asparaginase will be used to produce low-price foodstuffs such as bread or bread rolls. However, after approval as a food additive, its use for both patisserie articles and coffee appears to be more promising."
Source: Journal of Cereal Science (Elsevier)
March 2008, Volume 47, Issue 2, Pages 118-133
"Acrylamide in cereal products: A review"

USDA SHOULD IMPROVE PROCEDURES FOR HELPING SCHOOLS MANAGE FOOD RECALLS, WITNESSES TELL HOUSE EDUCATION COMMITTEE
US Fed News
WASHINGTON Source of Article: http://www.meatpoultry.com/
The House Education & Labor Committee issued the following news release:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture did not provide adequate support to help school districts track, handle, and dispose of tainted beef in the wake of the largest meat recall in U.S. history, witnesses told the House Education and Labor Committee today.
The USDA issued the recall last month after a U.S. Humane Society investigation revealed that meat from non-ambulatory (or "downer") cows at a California meatpacking company had been allowed to enter the food supply. Federal law prohibits meat from downer cows from entering the food supply because it poses a greater risk of salmonella and e.coli contamination and mad cow disease. More than a third of the tainted meat - more than 50 million pounds - had gone to federal nutrition programs, including to schools.
"This incident raises very alarming questions about the U.S. Department of Agriculture's ability to monitor the safety of meat in this country - including the meat that is being served to children in the National School Lunch program," said U.S. Rep George Miller, the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. "Schools and parents should have every assurance that the food supplied to their kids' cafeterias by the federal government is safe. It is unacceptable that the USDA so completely failed to do its job."
At the request of Miller and other Democratic lawmakers, the U.S. Government Accountability has initiated an investigation into the safety of foods in the National School Lunch Program. Today's hearing was the first congressional examination into how beef recall affected school districts around the country.
The USDA's communications and recall procedures made it harder for schools to understand and comply with the recall, explained Dora Rivas, the Director of Child Nutrition for schools in Dallas, Texas, whose district is still working to dispose its recalled meat. In one instance, the USDA issued a press release before providing school districts with updates on how to dispose of tainted meat: "It is unfortunate that press release information went out for public release before official information and instructions arrived to food service directors via the USDA/state communications allowing little time to prepare for media and public response."
Rivas also expressed concerns with the various costs that districts have incurred while dealing with the recall. "Some of the non-reimbursable expenses we have incurred are overtime costs and administrative expenses. Again I am concerned about what happens in the small districts where they do not have the resources to respond and absorb the costs," Rivas said.
Penny Parham, the Administrative Director for the Department of Food and Nutrition for Miami-Dade public schools, called for USDA to increase reimbursements to schools facing increased costs due to the recall: "As a result of the recall and removal of all beef from the menu, our food service program incurred additional costs because we had to increase our inventory in order to replace those items on the menu that were made with beef. The USDA should assist school food service programs that have been hit hard by rising food and labor costs."
In addition to discussing the beef recall, witnesses at the hearing made recommendations on how Congress should improve the overall quality and safety of federal school nutrition programs during the upcoming reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, which will expire in 2009.
Kenneth Hecht, the Executive Director of California Food Policy Advocates, discussed new research showing that more than half of the food commodities, such as meat, that schools receive through USDA go through processing before being sent schools, which can decrease foods' nutritional value. Currently, no government agency oversees the nutrition quality of commodities that are processed. "In some cases, USDA-purchased products are sent to processors where the foods take on fat, sodium, and sugar that are counterproductive to the students' health. Considerations of nutrition quality, then, as well as food safety, may argue for greater oversight of what goes on in commodity processing," he said.
Mary Hill, the President of the School Nutrition Association, who also voiced concerns with the USDA's interactions with schools during the recall, urged Congress to expand and streamline the school meal programs, increase federal reimbursements to help schools improve nutrition, and create consistent, national nutrition standards for school meals. "The children in California need the same nutrients for healthy development that are needed by the children in South Dakota and Florida," she explained. "Hungry children can't learn and you can't compete in a world economy without an education. An educated workforce is the backbone of the country and the school nutrition programs are vital to our success."
Kathleen Corrigan, the Director of Food and Nutrition Services for the Mt. Diablo Unified School District in Concord, California, highlighted her district's efforts to provide students with healthy school breakfast options: "We believe breakfast is critical for every student in order to start the day ready to learn. We have expanded the number of high quality, nutritious menu offerings to include more fresh fruit, whole grain cereals and breads, and low fat dairy products."
To see all of the testimonies from hearing, visit:
http://edlabor.house.gov/hearings/fc-2008-03-04.shtml
For more information on the beef recall, visit: http://www.house.gov/apps/list/speech/edlabor_dem/RelFeb17USDARecall.html

New regulations: eliminating salmonella in turkeys
05 Mar 2008 Source of Article: http://www.worldpoultry.net/
When salmonella sampling in turkey flocks comes into force, chick box and dust samples as well as boot swabs will be the most likely methods turkey farmers will need.
According to Farmers Weekly, in a recent meeting organised by ADAS on behalf of DEFRA, up and coming measures to reduce Salmonella typhimurium and enteridis in turkey flocks was discussed.
Alison Wintrip confirmed that new regulations are due to begin in January 2009. Breeders, layers and broilers have all been surveyed and the aim is for no more than 1% of the breeding flock to remain positive for salmonella by the end of that year.
Although sampling for turkeys is not yet required, producers are advised to take samples, said Wintrip, adding that surveys were completed in 2007 and the sample regime will need to be decided on in 2008, and is expected to come into force in 2010. Sampling will be straightforward and low cost at about ¡Ì7.50 plus VAT per sample.
She concluded in saying that it is understood that national controls are on the way not just from DEFRA but throughout the EU.

Salmonella problematic in the case of fattening pigs and turkeys, too
EU-wide monitoring provides a representative overview for the first time of the incidence of Salmonella in fattening pigs and turkey flocks
05/03/2008
Source of Article: http://www.newsfood.com/
In two studies conducted jointly by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) and the control authorities of the federal states, German turkey flocks and fattening pigs were tested for Salmonella. The results: Salmonella was detected in around 10 percent of the fattening turkey flocks examined.
In contrast, the breeding turkey flocks were free of Salmonella. Approximately 13 percent of the samples from fattening pigs tested positive for Salmonella. ¡ìFor the purposes of precautionary consumer protection, the control of Salmonella must, therefore, already begin at the breeding and fattening stages of food-producing animals¡í, commented Professor Dr. Dr. Hensel, President of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment. The two studies are part of an EU-wide monitoring programme which provides, for the first time, a representative overview of the scale on which turkey flocks and fattening pigs in the EU are contaminated with Salmonella. Based on the results Europe-wide and specific national control programmes for the reduction of the Salmonella contamination in fattening pigs and turkeys are to be set up. In the turkey study 300 fattening turkey flocks and 98 breeding turkey flocks were examined which had been selected in a representative manner. Five collective faecal samples from each flock were examined for Salmonella. Salmonella was not detected in any of the samples from the breeding turkey flocks. The situation was different in the case of the fattening turkeys. Salmonella was detected in at least one sample from 31 out of the 300 fattening turkey flocks (10.3 percent). The samples were differentiated serologically and then further examined at the National Reference Laboratory for Salmonella within BfR. It identified 12 different Salmonella sub-groups. They included the two most frequent causes of Salmonella infections in man - Salmonella enteritidis and Salmonella typhimurium in fattening turkeys, albeit on a small scale. Salmonella enteritidis was only detected in one flock, Salmonella typhimurium in eight flocks.
In the fattening pig study 2,569 samples of intestinal lymph nodes were examined bacteriologically. Salmonella can be very easily detected in the lymph nodes. The samples of 326 animals (12.7 percent) tested positive for Salmonella. The National Reference Laboratory for Salmonella within BfR differentiated 23 sub-groups and observed that the human pathogenic species Salmonella enteritidis and Salmonella typhimurium also occur in fattening pigs. With 180 isolates (55.2 percent of the Salmonella-positive samples), Salmonella typhimurium was the most frequently detected whereas Salmonella enteritidis with 10 isolates (3.1 percent) was detected relatively rarely. The results show that both turkeys and fattening pigs are potential sources of infection for man.
During slaughter the Salmonella from infected animals can migrate to the meat and then constitute an infection risk for the people who consume the meat and meat products. The studies show that the control of Salmonella must already begin during the breeding and fattening of food-producing animals. Hygiene during the slaughter of the animals, the processing of the meat and, last but not least, during the preparation of food is equally important when it comes to avoiding Salmonella infections. As Salmonella is heat-sensitive, meat and meat products should be cooked through as this affords the most effective protection against salmonellosis.
BfR has passed on the results of the studies to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). There, they are evaluated together with the data from other Member States of the European Union. Based on these representative data which can be compared between the EU Member States, measures for the control of Salmonella are to be elaborated and co-ordinated.

Lawmakers demand USDA list beef recall stores
Thu Mar 6, 2008 By Christopher Doering
Source of Article: http://www.reuters.com/
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic lawmakers on Thursday demanded the U.S. Agriculture Department release by next week a list of stores which received the 143 million lbs of beef recalled by a California company last month, but administration officials said that may not be possible.
USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Agency first proposed two years ago that retail establishments which received recalled products be identified publicly, to give consumers important information more quickly.
USDA had planned to begin listing retailers later this year, but lawmakers and consumer groups are now pushing the department to do it sooner following the February 17 recall by Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co of 143 million lbs of meat, mostly beef.
"If we can't get the information from you by the first of next week then we are going to start pressing you very hard in whatever way we can," Maurice Hinchey, a New York Democrat on the House Appropriations subcommittee on agriculture, said during a budget hearing.
"If we have stores that are selling bad product then we need to know about it," he added. The meat from the recall, the largest in U.S. history, was delivered to just under 10,000 suppliers who later distributed the product to restaurants, retailers and other establishments, according to USDA. Most of the meat probably already has been consumed, and no illnesses have been reported.
Currently, it is difficult for consumers who have purchased tainted products to locate a store because USDA considers recall distribution lists to be confidential and leaves it up to retailers to decide whether to disclose details.
Agriculture Undersecretary Richard Raymond, who oversees USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, has long been a supporter of publicly releasing lists of establishments impacted by recalls.
But he told lawmakers USDA does not have the authority to release lists, including one of retail outlets associated with the Hallmark/Westland recall.
"I'm not sure I can at this point and time because it's considered proprietary," said Raymond. Still, he vowed to talk to USDA lawyers as early as this afternoon to see what can be done.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee on agriculture, chided Raymond and FSIS for taking two years to work on a measure that still has not been implemented.
"That is really unacceptable," said DeLauro, who has suggested USDA issue an emergency rule listing the retailers and school districts that received products tied to the Hallmark/Westland recall.
In a letter sent last month to the USDA, eight consumer groups said listing retailers would help create a more efficient recall process and decrease the consumer risk of becoming ill or dying from eating the products.
Under the current recall process, the department contacts food distributors to ensure proper notification is taking place and that products are being removed from store shelves and disposed of properly.
USDA also releases the company recalling the product, the reason for the recall, a description of the item and whether any illnesses have been reported to the public.
(Editing by Jim Marshall)

IFT issues advisory on fake 2008 Nano & Food Meeting website
Source of Article: http://www.ift.org/news_bin/news/news_home.shtml
3/06/2008-The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) is issuing an advisory to all IFT members and allied organizations on a bogus conference entitled "2008 Nano & Food Meeting," which advertises a fictional March 20-21, 2008, event in New York City.
Although the conference website lists IFT as an association partner, and references speakers from IFT and other recognizable participants, IFT members and interested participants should be aware that this conference and the associated website (www.fftimeeting.com) are not legitimate, and the fictitious event is not being held by IFT or with IFT's involvement.
Based on review by legal counsel, IFT has learned that this information has been fabricated and that content appears to have been illegally copied from a different organization's nanotechnology conference which was held in Atlanta in 2006. IFT is currently reviewing options with legal counsel to resolve this situation. In the interim, please join with us in sharing this advisory with individuals and organizations to help IFT counter this misinformation. For details on official IFT programming, please visit ift.org/knowledge. For further information on this advisory, please contact Jerry Bowman, Vice President of Communications and Media Relations, at jbowman@ift.org or 312.604.0256.

$40 Million Food Safety Lab in Jeopardy
Julie Philipp Source of Article: http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/
GENEVA, NY (2008-03-07) A top state official says Governor Spitzer is about to announce where the state's new, 40-million dollar food safety lab will be built.
Former Governor George Pataki had planned to put the state-of-the-art facility in Ontario County, at the Cornell Agriculture Experiment Station in Geneva. When Spitzer took office, however, he put that decision on hold. Now there are signs the lab will be built in Albany instead.
The state's current food safety lab is located in Albany, and New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker says researchers there already have close working relationships with scientists at other state government labs in Albany. Hooker also says Spitzer had to consider whether these top scientists would want to relocate to Geneva.
A spokesperson for the Governor would not confirm which site has been selected, saying discussions are ongoing. State Senator Michael Nozzolio's district covers Geneva. Senator Nozzolio says he has not received official word from the Governor's office. If Spitzer determines the lab should stay in Albany, Nozzolio says he will look at options to block that decision. Nozzolio says the food safety lab is a good fit for Geneva. He notes there are many scientists in this region who are qualified to work at the food safety lab. He says locating it in Geneva will help revitalize Upstate. He adds there is opportunity for collaboration with the Infotonics Center near Canandaigua, where researchers are working on food packaging technology. Commissioner Hooker appears tonight at nine on WXXI-TV's Need to Know.

USDA Won't Disclose Who Sold Recalled Beef
By JANE ZHANG March 7, 2008; Page A8
Source of Article: http://online.wsj.com/
WASHINGTON -- Agriculture Department officials, under fire on Capitol Hill over the largest meat recall in U.S. history, told legislators that they can't disclose a list of 10,000 establishments -- from food distributors and processors to grocery stores and restaurants -- that sold the recalled meat.
But a rule change, in the works for the past two years, would allow the disclosure if it hadn't been held up by bureaucratic delays.
Richard Raymond, the department's undersecretary for food safety, told the House Appropriation's agriculture panel that he has pushed for the rule change, but it has yet to be sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget for approval. The USDA and the budget office, however, have been discussing the rule informally.
That answer didn't satisfy some lawmakers. Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D., N.Y.) said the names of the companies are not proprietary, and he requested that the USDA provide information by the middle of next week.
"This is a very, very critically important issue," he said. "If we have stores that are selling bad products, we should know about it."
Mr. Hinchey pursued the matter at a separate hearing with OMB Director Jim Nussle, who promised to look into the rule change, the congressman's spokesman said.
USDA officials have been grilled at a series of congressional hearings in the last few weeks after the recall of 143 million pounds of beef, dating back two years, by Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. The Chino, Calif., company, the second-biggest beef supplier last year to the national school-lunch program, has been shut down indefinitely.
Agriculture officials said the recall wasn't triggered by food contamination but because of the way the company handled cows that had passed a preslaughter inspection yet then became unable to stand. Undercover video by the Humane Society of the United States showed workers forcing so-called downer cows to stand up using forklifts and electrical-shock devices, and dragging at least one cow to the area where cattle were killed.
Most of the meat has been consumed, but the USDA's Dr. Raymond said some may have been made into canned food and might be on grocery-store shelves. The government has ordered the recalled meat to be destroyed and buried in landfills. But The Wall Street Journal has reported that a few companies are holding off destroying the meat with the hope it could be donated or put back in stores.
Questioned by subcommittee Chairwoman Rosa Delauro about holding on to the meat, Dr. Raymond said that was "wishful thinking, because regulators say you need to destroy the products." Alfred V. Almanza, administrator of the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, said, "it's a prohibiting activity" that could lead to criminal prosecution.
USDA officials have said it is "extremely unlikely" that the recalled meat poses a risk to human health. No illnesses have been reported from the recalled meat.
But downer cows are more likely to carry mad-cow disease, which causes a rare, but fatal, brain disorder in humans. The government generally prohibits such animals from entering the food supply, but some are permitted to be slaughtered if they clear further inspection by a USDA veterinarian.
Under the USDA's estimate, if the Hallmark/Westland plant had allowed every downer cow to be slaughtered, the risk of human exposure to mad-cow disease would be increased by 0.13%, Dr. Raymond told the lawmakers.

Probiotics: Live organisms as feed supplements to fight Salmonella
Friday March 07, 2008 Source of Article: http://www.hpj.com/
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.

Taming Food Poisoning and Bioterrorism Toxins
Posted on: Thursday, 6 March 2008
Source of Article: http://www.redorbit.com/
New insights into how plant toxin ricin kills cells could help scientists develop drugs to counteract poisonings
A powerful plant toxin widely feared for its bioterrorism potential may one day be tamed using findings about how the toxin attacks cells. The findings may also help scientists combat food poisoning episodes such as those recently caused by bacteria-tainted produce and ground meat.
Biotechnology researchers at Rutgers University have discovered that ricin, extracted from abundant castor beans, kills cells by a previously unrecognized activity that appears to work in concert with its ability to damage protein synthesis. While those earlier known effects still harm cells, it¡¯s the newly discovered and more stealthy activity that the researchers now believe delivers the knockout punch.
Ricin toxin is feared as a bioterror agent because it can be easily purified from the waste of castor oil production and there are no known antidotes. It is poisonous if inhaled, ingested or injected. Symptoms can show up within hours, including difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Death can result within days from low blood pressure, severe dehydration, respiratory failure and eventually, failure of organs such as the liver and kidneys . Those who survive severe ricin poisoning may still have permanent or long-lasting organ damage.
Writing in the March 7 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Rutgers plant biology and pathology professor Nilgun Tumer and her colleagues report that ricin tricks a cell into turning off a natural defense mechanism that destroys foreign proteins. If ricin did not first deactivate the cell¡¯s defenses, the cell would be able to turn on a stress response to get rid of the toxin. The discovery allows scientists to explore new ways to disarm ricin.
¡°Because there are no specific medical treatment options for ricin intoxication, we felt it essential to dig deeper into the mechanism of ricin-induced cell death,¡± said Tumer. ¡°The new mechanism we discovered provides new targets for possible therapeutic agents.¡±
Tumer discovered that ricin is inhibiting a cell defense mechanism known as unfolded protein response or UPR. Proteins that a cell synthesizes need to have their long molecular chains folded in a precise pattern. The UPR causes proteins that don¡¯t fold, or that fold incorrectly, to be degraded and removed from the place in a cell where folding occurs, known as the endoplasmic reticulum (ER).
When the toxic ricin A protein enters a cell, it takes a reverse pathway, being transported to and unfolded in the ER. At this point, the UPR should initiate a cell stress response that degrades the unfolded proteins, hence acting as the cell¡¯s first line of defense. A piece of the ricin A protein molecule, however, signals the ER to shut down its UPR and the cell¡¯s stress response needed for survival.
Tumer verified this mechanism by testing it with a mutant form of the ricin A protein molecule. The mutant lacked the signal that caused the UPR to shut down. When Tumer introduced the mutant protein into yeast cells, she found that the UPR triggered the necessary stress response.
¡°At first, we thought ricin might be triggering the stress response and preventing it from turning off, which causes cell damage in some cancers and type II diabetes,¡± Tumer said. But in experiments with the mutant form of ricin A protein, the stress response was turning on and off properly. ¡°Then we discovered that the wild ricin A protein was inhibiting the stress response,¡± she said.
Tumer noted that toxins secreted by some strains of E. coli bacteria, including those blamed for high-profile food poisoning cases recently involving spinach, lettuce and fast-food hamburgers, appear to have a similar mechanism to ricin. Further study is needed to verify this and find ways to combat the toxin.

153 kids (Russia), kindergarten staff hospitalised with food poisoning
03.03.2008, 11.37
Source of Article: http://www.itar-tass.com/eng/
IRKUTSK, March 3 (Itar-Tass) - A total of 153 people, including 120 kindergarten students have been hospitalised with symptoms of food poisoning in the Siberian city of Bratsk, sources from the regional department of the Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations told Tass on Monday.
An outbreak of intestinal infection was registered last week in a municipal kindergarten, and 120 out of 259 children attending that kindergarten are in hospital. The kindergarten was closed and medics keep under observation the children staying at home.
The number of hospitalised staff has not changed, and 33 people remain in hospital. Additional 150 beds are ready for a case of emergency.
According to the Rospotrebnadzor consumer rights watchdog, children and kindergarten teachers got poisoned from rissoles made of rice, eggs and chicken liver, they had had for lunch.
Five days ago, the city mayor imposed a state of emergency. Control has been tightened over foodstuffs supplied to all schools, kindergartens, orphanages and boarding schools of Bratsk.
Regional Irkutsk authorities set up to a panel to investigate the incident

What they didn't tell you about recent meat recall
By Stephen J. Hedges
Wednesday, March 12, 2008 Chicago Tribune
Source of Article: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/
WASHINGTON ? The largest meat recall in U.S. history was bound to reverberate throughout the food-manufacturing world. So far, four major food manufacturers ? ConAgra, General Mills, Heinz and Nestle ? have acknowledged that meat involved in the 143 million-pound recall, announced Feb. 17, was used in some of their products.
So why haven't those products been recalled?
They have been ? very quietly.
Nestle, General Mills, Heinz and ConAgra each acknowledged to news organizations that they have recalled products containing beef from the meatpacking company Hallmark/Westland.
Those products include two versions of Nestle's Hot Pocket sandwiches, Heinz's Boston Market lasagna with meat sauce, General Mills' Progresso Italian Wedding Soup and a variety of meat products from ConAgra, ranging from Slim Jim snacks to Hunt's Manwich Original Sloppy Joe Sauce.
The companies stressed that the use of Hallmark/Westland meat was limited, and that they notified retailers and told them to pull those products.
But none had taken the usual step of notifying consumers through news releases and warnings on Web sites.
Why the secrecy? In part because the recall is indirect; the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) urged Hallmark/Westland to contact food producers that use its meat and urge them to pull their products. But the USDA did not contact food producers.
The food manufacturers said they are under no obligation to notify consumers.
The Hallmark/Westland recall is considered a Class II recall under U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, which means there is a remote risk of adverse human-health effects.
But food-safety advocates said ordinary shoppers have been forgotten.
"It's better to fess up and be open and honest with your consumers," said Bill Marler, a lawyer who often sues companies on behalf of food-poisoning victims. "It makes consumers more comfortable with your product, not less comfortable."


Company officials said their understanding was that the USDA wanted them to notify only retailers. "There was not a requirement for public notification through USDA because the health risk is negligible," said Nestle spokeswoman Roz O'Hearn.

General Mills spokeswoman Kirstie Foster said, "This is not a consumer recall. According to USDA, consumers do not need to take action."

ConAgra asked grocers carrying the affected products to remove them. A spokeswoman said consumers will be reimbursed upon request, but the company's Web sites don't mention that offer.

Heinz said only a "small portion" of recalled ground beef was used in its lasagna and it is working with stores "to ensure the recalled product is removed from store shelves."

Amanda Eamich, of USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, said the department's recall directly named only Hallmark/Westland, not its customers. But USDA did tell Hallmark/Westland to ask the manufacturers that use its meat to pull their products. She acknowledged the agency did not ask that consumers be notified.

"Companies can certainly choose to do so if they'd like," Eamich said. "But our goal is to make sure that products are controlled and destroyed."

Hallmark/Westland and the USDA announced the meat recall after the Humane Society of the United States released a video that showed dairy cows bound for slaughter being mistreated at the company's Chino, Calif., slaughter plant.

The mistreated cows were "downers," unable to stand because of undetermined ailments. The slaughter of downers is strictly regulated; the USDA requires an inspection, and only those whose ailments pose no risk to food, such as a broken leg, can be slaughtered.

The video led to the recall and to the closing of the Chino plant and criminal charges against two former Hallmark/Westland employees. The USDA is conducting an investigation and has put two inspectors who were working at the plant on administrative leave.

Richard Raymond, the USDA undersecretary for food safety, told Congress last week that recalled Hallmark/Westland meat went to more than 10,000 distributors and food manufacturers, including the USDA's own nutrition programs ? including the school-lunch program ? which bought 50 million pounds of meat.

About 100 school districts in Washington state, including in Seattle, received raw beef from Hallmark/Westland in November and December. In late January, the USDA advised schools to stop using the beef.

Raymond said USDA regulations prevent the department from disclosing Hallmark/Westland's customers because such information is considered proprietary. Food-safety groups argued for lifting that restriction.

The food producers involved emphasized that their use of Hallmark/Westland meat was limited.

"A very small amount of those products is impacted," said Teresa Paulsen, of ConAgra. "That's because we produced product with beef sourced from Westland on only a few days. In fact, less than two-tenths of 1 percent of our overall product volume is impacted."

Foster, of General Mills, said Hallmark/Westland was not a supplier to the company. Instead, she said, the meat company was a vendor to one of General Mills' suppliers and the recalled meat made it into 35,000 cases of Progresso Italian Wedding Soup "for a very short time."

Nestle's O'Hearn said the Hallmark/Westland recall affected the company "in a very minor way" and just "two days of production on one line in one facility" are being recalled.

Marler, the lawyer, criticized the department for its handling of the Hallmark/Westland recall, which he said was too broad to be effective. The recall covered meat produced from Feb. 1, 2006, to Feb. 2, 2008, an unusually long period for perishable food.

USDA officials said most of the recalled meat likely had been consumed. They said no illnesses linked to the meat have been reported.

Material from The Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

Main Page
Sponsorship Qustions
List of Newsletters

To subscribe this Food Safety Newsletter

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