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Cantaloupe: What Can Consumers Really Do?
Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/234-928.pdf
Experience with overall consumption
of cantaloupe purchased and prepared in the home should give consumers
confidence in the safety of this nutritious and enjoyable fruit. Many
improvements in food safety awareness and management have been put in
domestic and international producers and shippers, particularly over the
past three years, which are also providing a foundation for confidence
in the supply of cantaloupes throughout the year. However, no one can
guarantee an absolutely risk-free system for
melons grown in an open environment despite the best of precautions and
intentions. Consumers have a precautionary role in food safety with cantaloupes
and that involves adequate washing just prior to cutting for consumption
and timely refrigeration of uneaten fruit.
Washing and scrubbing under running tap water is all we recommend but
some consumers are sufficiently concerned to use a variety of disinfectant
treatments. These are challenging to perform in the home but may add a
little extra benefit if done correctly. Though we don¡¯t advocate the necessity
for these extra wash steps, for some the effort is worth the piece of
mind that ¡°what can be done has been done¡±. Why Talk about Melon Washing
Concern over widespread illness due to consumption of cantaloupe has surfaced
once again. Although any potentially affected melons should be gone from
the market, the timing of news reports raises the level of concern for
other imported cantaloupes and comes very close to the beginning of domestic
melon shipments to retail stores. What triggered this now is that imported
cantaloupes from a single company have
been associated with over 50 cases of illness involving 16 states, from
California to New York and five provinces across Canada. The U.S. Food
and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an alert for retailers and consumers
to discard any remaining fruit and to prevent further entry of cantaloupe
from this shipper, based on current information, whose export season to
the U.S. and Canada typically runs until May.
Fruit from this shipper, as
with many others, may be sold in retail stores as individual melons or
are available in large membership ¡°wholesale¡± retailers as a consumer-pack
of three cantaloupes in a netted sleeve. Consumers would be highly unlikely
to know whether
the cantaloupes originated from the named shipper or another based on
information in common media channels. The immediate media association
of Salmonella to cantaloupe
consumption is unfortunate but understandable as there have been seven
such outbreaks since 1990 and more than six large-scale cantaloupe recalls
in the past three years triggered by contamination detected in surveillance
programs. Each time we experience one of these episodes the questions
¡°What can consumers really do? Does washing prevent illness? always come
up. Despite the availability of consistent information from the FDA, the
Center for Disease Control (CDC), and various universities and food associations
about the why¡¯s and how to¡¯s of home washing of melons, information communicated
to the media doesn¡¯t always have a practical ring to it from a consumer
perspective. In an effort to translate laboratory perspectives to consumer
messages, recommendations for washing the outer rind of cantaloupe with
up to 200 ppm bleach with a mild
detergent always surface. We do not support this approach, nor does any
consumer guidance from FDA and CDC include such methods. Resources for
the standard recommendations are provided below. The core messages are
repeated here in the Sidebar for convenience. The purpose of this UC Food
Safety Note is to briefly describe a few
options that are easy to obtain for home use and relatively inexpensive.
Each would be a positive step in safe handling of cantaloupe melons and
seem more likely to be safely applied during food preparation in the average
home. Fruit Blemishes May Increase Risk
The first step is the selection of melons in the store. Focusing on some
signs that should raise an immediate red-flag, that may be relevant for
the current FDA advisory; avoid all fruit that have sunken and darkened
areas on the rind and around the ends. Surface pitting or sunken and brown
patches may be associated with harvesting cantaloupes too early and improper
management during shipping. We have observed this disorder in retail stores
over the past few months
with disturbing frequency. Although cutting away these areas is typically
needed only for cosmetic reasons and not food safety, why take a chance?
These prematurely softened and sunken areas are more likely to allow for
transfer of surface contamination to the edible
flesh. Once this occurs, no amount of washing will help. The same is true
for any visible signs of mold growing on the surface or around the stem-end
scar (like a belly-button). If you can see any mold with the naked eye,
there is a chance that the fine strands on the
surface have created an avenue for bacteria, including Salmonella, to
reach the edible flesh. Shipping melons long distances in special film
bags generally improves quality but, if handled incorrectly, can lead
to early development of exterior mold growth that will enter the interior
flesh but not cause visible decay right away. Here again, washing after
the fact won¡¯t help. Though domestic shipments are not packed and handled
in this way those same precautions for careful inspection of the fruit
you buy apply. Neither sunken areas nor minor mold growth mean that there
is Salmonella contamination or a certain risk
of illness. However, it is your money, Why take a chance? Unfortunately,
though extremely rare, even good looking, sound melons may also be carriers
for Salmonella contamination but proper washing has a much better chance
of providing some protection.
Sensible Choices for Cantaloupe Washing Unfortunately, survey after survey
confirm that consumers generally don¡¯t wash fruit items like cantaloupes
before preparing for eating or
serving to family and guests. Washing with scrubbing, as described in
the guidance articles listed below, is a good, simple, and prudent step
that will help reduce risk in most cases. We do not agree that household
bleach, especially at 200 ppm, should be used for washing
cantaloupes, or other fruits and vegetables. Typical bleach products are
not labeled for this use and may have various additives that make them
unsuitable for food preparation uses.
Hydrogen peroxide has been shown to be effective in reducing the risk
of transferring surface contamination prior to cutting through a melon
rind. Typical retail and drug store sources (3% Hydrogen Peroxide) are
not recommended. These products typically contain stabilizers or additives
not suitable or registered for food use, such as phenols; fine
for finger cuts but not for eating. Consumers can purchase 7, 10, 19%,
or up to 30% Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide for Horticultural and Home Uses
from a variety of sources. Our recommendation is not to handle the higher
concentrates in the home, especially if there are young children around.
A solution made from food grade 7%
hydrogen peroxide, diluted one-half cup per gallon, to use for a vigorous
surface scrub of the cantaloupe followed by a quick rinse in a clean sink
under running water is a good precautionary step before cutting on a cleaned
and sanitized surface. It is a good idea to wear clean gloves when handling
hydrogen peroxide, especially the concentrate; wearing safety glasses
when pouring concentrates that come in larger containers makes good sense.
Though more work is involved, washing cantaloupe in heated hydrogen peroxide
helps increase the killing power. Wash and scrub the cantaloupe under
running tap water and set on a clean paper towel. Heat the water until
uncomfortable to touch but not beginning
to boil. Remove from heat. Add the hydrogen peroxide and immerse the melon
so it is about half covered in the container. Rotate and vigorously scrub
for about 30 seconds. Remove and blot dry with paper towels before cutting.
Vinegar White vinegar, commonly available as a 5% solution, is reported
to be effective as a cantaloupe surface treatment for disinfection. However
test results reported in scientific literature are highly variable which
makes clear consumer tips for the kitchen nearly impossible. In several
tests white vinegar was better than brown. One thing we do know is that
it takes quite a lot to be effective, so spraying a mixture of 1 cup white
vinegar mixed with one cup tap water over the surface
of the melon may be a best choice. It does take some time to kill what
you can that might be on the surface so spritz the entire cantaloupe until
well covered and let set for at least 2 minutes, preferably 10 minutes,
and then rinse in a clean colander or sanitized sink under running water.
Blot dry before cutting. Off-flavors should be unlikely
unless the cantaloupe was overripe. Well ripened and softer melons are
more likely to absorb the vinegar and it is difficult to fully rinse off
Commercial Produce Washes for the Home
Rigorous comparisons of retail and on-line marketed produce washes are
hard to come by and none are currently approved and registered as antimicrobial
agents. The main reasons aren¡¯t necessary to describe for the purpose
of this article but there are some that have shown to be effective at
both removing soil and applied fruit waxes and helpful
in removing bacteria from the surface of produce. We provide two examples
because these are easily available to consumers and have been tested.
Each appears to provide a benefit to eating quality and to reduce food
safety concerns. Ingredients are all FDA food-safe,
typically plant extracts that have detergent-like properties for cleaning
and mild, plant-based acids and antimicrobials. Applications are a few
ounces per pint applied as a spray for larger fruit such as cantaloupe.
As above, spritz the entire surface of the cantaloupe until well covered
and let set for about 2 min, then rinse in a clean colander or sink
under running water. Blot dry before cutting. Various plant essential
oils are also effective but expensive in concentrated form, harder to
obtain, and more likely to impact flavor.
SunSmile¢ç Fruit & Vegetable Rinse http://www.sunrider.com/Eng/WebForm/Products/ProductLines.aspx#
Are These Wash Steps Necessary?
Unfortunately, we can¡¯t truly answer this most reasonable question. As
we said at the beginning, the risk of illness is very, very low but it
does happen. Science doesn¡¯t have a clear answer or solution that will
ensure the safety of all consumers though efforts to move closer and closer
to practical answers continues. We feel strongly that thorough washing,
as described below, is both sensible and sufficient. The extra steps described
above are strictly a matter of personal choice.
A Few Consumer Friendly Resources for Melon Washing Information:
Safe-Handling of Fruits & Vegetables
Cantaloupe: Safe Methods to Store, Preserve, and Enjoy.
Safe Handling of Raw Produce and Fresh-Squeezed
Fruit and Vegetable Juices
Safe Handling of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables and Safe Handling
of Fresh Cantaloupe
Prepared by Trevor Suslow
Extension Postharvest Specialist
Dept. of Plant Sciences
University of CA, Davis
The information in this extension note should not be viewed as an authoritative
source for current registration status or legal use recommendations of
No specific or exclusive endorsement of named products is intended. No
intended nor implied of similar products that are not mentioned. Mention
circumstances implicating cantaloupe or associating cantaloupe shipped
source should not be viewed as authoritative knowledge that these associations
Basic Consumer Recommendations
for Cantaloupe Washing
Wash cantaloupes just before you eat or serve them. Even though you do
not eat the rind, it is important to wash the cantaloupe before you cut
? First, wash your hands with hot, soapy water for 20 seconds. Dry your
hands with a new paper towel.
? Wash with soap and water and sanitize all food preparation areas and
utensils, including any fruit/vegetable brush, with a solution of 1 teaspoon
chlorine bleach in 1 quart water.
? Use a cleaned and sanitized fruit/vegetable brush to vigorously scrub
the outside of the cantaloupe in a clean sink under clean running water.
? Do not use detergents, soaps or laundry bleach to wash cantaloupe. These
products contain materials that are not suitable for food uses, may leave
off-odors and change the
flavor, and could be poisonous.
? Refrigerate leftover cut cantaloupe within 2 hours. If it is left unrefrigerated
for longer than 2 hours, throw it away.
Litchfield Cantaloupe Outbreak sickens 50 in Arizona, California, Colorado,
Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma,
Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin
Posted on March 22, 2008 Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com
FDA Warns of Salmonella Risk with Cantaloupes from Agropecuaria Montelibano
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued an import alert regarding
entry of cantaloupe from Agropecuaria Montelibano, a Honduran grower and
packer, because, based on current information, fruit from this company
appears to be associated with a Salmonella Litchfield outbreak in the
United States and Canada. The import alert advises FDA field offices that
all cantaloupes shipped to the United States by this company are to be
In addition, the FDA has contacted importers about this action and is
advising U.S. grocers, food service operators, and produce processors
to remove from their stock any cantaloupes from this company. The FDA
also advises consumers who have recently bought cantaloupes to check with
the place of purchase to determine if the fruit came from this specific
grower and packer. If so, consumers should throw away the cantaloupes.
Cantaloupe and Salmonella ?
sound familiar? We have been involved in several, here are two:
Kunick Cantaloupe Salmonella Outbreak
On May 13, 2002 the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued
a press release reporting an outbreak of Salmonella Poona connected with
Susie Brand cantaloupes distributed in the United States and Canada by
the I. Kunik Company of McAllen, Texas. The outbreak of Salmonella Poona
infected dozens of people throughout the United States and Canada. The
FDA reported that the cantaloupe was sold in retail stores, restaurants,
and possibly used in other institutions. The recall of Susie Brand cantaloupes
was the result of an FDA traceback investigation that linked salmonella
infection to the consumption of this brand of cantaloupe. The FDA detained
all cantaloupe imported by I. Kunik from Mexico.
Shipley Sales Cantaloupe Salmonella Outbreak
In May 2001, the FDA issued a press release warning consumers about Viva
Brand imported cantaloupe. The FDA advised consumers of an outbreak of
Salmonella Poona linked to cantaloupe imported to the U.S. by Shipley
Sales Service of Nogales, Arizona. The outbreak was implicated in numerous
illnesses and two deaths in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Georgia,
Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada, New York,
Oregon, Tennessee and Washington state. The FDA detained all cantaloupe
imported by Shipley Sales Service and took steps to prevent the importation
of any additional contaminated cantaloupe.
Some other Cantaloupe Salmonella
Multistate Outbreaks of Salmonella Serotype Poona Infections Associated
with Eating Cantaloupe from Mexico --- United States and Canada, 2000--2002
Three multistate outbreaks of Salmonella serotype Poona infections associated
with eating cantaloupe imported from Mexico occurred in the spring of
consecutive years during 2000--2002. In each outbreak, the isolates had
indistinguishable pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns; the
PFGE patterns observed in the 2000 and 2002 outbreaks were indistinguishable,
but the pattern from 2001 was unique among them. Outbreaks were identified
first by the California Department of Health Services (2000 and 2001)
and the Washington State Department of Health (2002) and involved residents
of 12 states and Canada.
Castle Produce Announces the Recall of Cantaloupe Melons Due to Salmonella
Castle Produce, a subsidiary of Tropical Produce, Inc., a wholesale importer
of fresh fruit and vegetables announced the recall of cantaloupes in California
due to potential health concerns. Some cantaloupes delivered on or after
2/16/2007 have tested positive for Salmonella, although no illnesses have
Dole Fresh Fruit Company announced the recall of cantaloupes in the Eastern
U.S. and Quebec due to potential health concerns.
Some cantaloupes packed on January 25, 26 and 27, 2007 by an independent,
third-party grower in Costa Rica have tested positive for Salmonella.
Although no illnesses have been reported, Dole voluntarily has decided
to recall all cantaloupes imported from Costa Rica and packed by that
According to news reports, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya called the
FDA decision ¡°extreme and imprudent,¡± as the melons were contaminated
on their peel, not inside, meaning they may have come in contact with
salmonella bacteria after they were shipped.
Ghost Map of Alamosa
Posted on March 21, 2008 by Salmonella Lawyer
Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/
Inside the cover of Steven Johnson¡¯s ¡°The Ghost Map¡± reads:
It is the summer of 1854. Cholera has seized London with unprecedented
intensity. A metropolis of more than 2 million people, London is just
emerging as a one of the first modern cities in the world. But lacking
the infrastructure necessary to support its dense population - garbage
removal, clean water, sewers - the city has become the perfect breeding
ground for a terrifying disease no one knows how to cure.
Sounds a bit like the spring
of 2008 in Alamosa, Colorado. According to news reports:
Boiling tap water will kill
bacteria to make it safe for use, but health officials warned that no
one should use even boiled tap water once the flush of the water system
begins. Investigators are working to determine how the system was contaminated.
Possibilities include a compromise in a storage tank or cross-contamination
with a sewage line. The city had been working to switch to a chlorinated
system, but the salmonella outbreak is speeding up the city's timetable.
The outbreak has affected business for many restaurants, who were told
to toss any produce washed or misted with city water if it was going to
be served raw, and to stop serving ice or soda fountain drinks made with
city water. They also could not wash dishes with city water.
As recently at March 2008, the Chieftan reported that a new water treatment
plant designed to bring Alamosa in line with federal arsenic standards
for drinking water should be ready by Aug. 1, said Public Works Director
Don Koskelin. The plant became necessary when the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency revised its drinking water standards for arsenic to 10 parts per
billion in 2004, down from the old rule of 50 ppb.
"We'll get the EPA off
our backs, won't we," Mayor Farris Bervig said.
Even earlier and perhaps odder,
in 2005, water was an issue. Then it was the start up of Alamosa-based
Colorado Water company. It wanted to be ¡°a part of whiskey history.¡± Lewis
and Clark believe Colorado's San Luis Valley is just the place to produce
a whiskey "slightly above the Jack Daniels/Jim Beam level,"
as Clark puts it. Why Alamosa? Clark, 50, who previously worked in the
microbrewery business, sized up the San Luis Valley's water and abundance
of barley, and deemed it ideal for a distillery. He also knew there was
no Colorado or Western brand of whiskey. He partnered with Lewis, a native
of Scotland and an expert in the field of single-malt Scotch whiskey (spelled
"whisky" only if produced in Scotland).
Alamosa Salmonella Cases Top 180 - Who is Responsible and How Much?
Posted on March 21, 2008 by Bill Marler
Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/
As of today, 183 cases had been reported in Alamosa. A city spokeswoman
says of those, 57 were confirmed by lab testing, and nine people were
The Alamosa News continues to cover the rising toll of what appears to
be Salmonella-tainted tap water ? ¡°More salmonella cases reported.¡± According
to the paper:
Salmonella has not been definitively linked to the Alamosa municipal water
supply but the City of Alamosa is taking precautions because one site
in the city¡¯s water system tested positive for coliform bacteria and city
officials decided not to take any chances with public health. The contaminated
sample is undergoing further tests.
Alamosa County Emergency Operations Center Public Information Officer
Connie Ricci said that by late Thursday the number of lab-confirmed cases
of salmonella rose to 47 in addition to 76 cases that met the clinical
definition for salmonella but had not been confirmed through laboratory
Interesting fact ? Let us assume that the Salmonella is coming from the
Alamosa City water. And, let us assume that the parents of the sick and
hospitalized children seek compensation. What result? Interestingly, under
Colorado Law (C.R.S. 24-10-106) the city would not be immune from liability
(not able to sue them), but any damages awarded would be capped at $150,000
per person and a total of $600,000 per incident. So, the more sick people,
the less the city has to pay per person. Interesting incentive to NOT
poison your citizens.
Outbreak from Cantaloupe Prompts Recall
Date Published: Monday, March 24th, 2008
Source of Article: http://www.newsinferno.com/archives/2777
Salmonella tainted cantaloupes have been blamed for an outbreak of food
poisoning that spans 16 states and several Canadian provinces, prompting
the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to issue a warning for cantaloupes
imported from Honduras. In addition, the Dole Fresh Fruit Company has
recalled cantaloupes it purchased from a grower in Costa Rica because
those cantaloupes have tested positive for Salmonella as well.
According to the FDA, cantaloupes imported from Honduras by the company
Agropecuaria Montelibano have left 50 people ill with Salmonella poisoning.
While no deaths have been reported as a result of the Salmonella tainted
cantaloupes, 14 victims have required hospitalization. In the US, the
cantaloupe Salmonella poisoning has been reported in Arizona, California,
Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York,
Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin. In
Canada, Salmonella from the cantaloupes has been seen in Alberta, Manitoba,
Ontario and New Brunswick.
The FDA is warning wholesalers,
grocers and consumers who purchased Agropecuaria Montelibano cantaloupes
to discard them at once, and the agency has ordered that the company¡¯s
cantaloupe imports be detained at the border for further testing. Consumers
who have purchased cantaloupe should check with their grocer to see if
the fruit was imported by Agropecuaria Montelibano.
The Dole Fruit Company has
also announced a recall of cantaloupes purchased from a third party grower
in Costa Rica. These cantaloupes have tested positive for Salmonella,
although no illnesses have been reported. According to Dole, approximately
6,104 cartons of cantaloupes were distributed to wholesalers in regions
of the eastern US and Quebec between February 5 and February 8, 2007.
The cantaloupes were distributed for sale in bulk in cardboard cartons,
with 9, 12 or 15 cantaloupes to a carton. The recalled cartons of cantaloupes
are dark brown with ¡°Dole Cantaloupes¡± in red lettering. They have a thirteen-digit
number on a white tag pasted to the carton; the tenth digit is a 2. Consumers
with additional questions should contact the Dole Consumer Center at (800)
The FDA is also recommending
that consumers take the following steps to reduce the risk of contracting
Salmonella or other foodborne illnesses from cantaloupes:
Purchase cantaloupes that are
not bruised or damaged. If buying fresh-cut cantaloupe, be sure it is
refrigerated or surrounded by ice.
After purchase, refrigerate cantaloupes promptly.
Wash hands with hot, soapy water before and after handling fresh cantaloupes.
Scrub whole cantaloupes by using a clean produce brush and cool tap water
immediately before eating. Don¡¯t use soap or detergents.
Use clean cutting surfaces and utensils when cutting cantaloupes. Wash
cutting boards, countertops, dishes, and utensils with hot water and soap
between the preparation of raw meat, poultry, or seafood and the preparation
If there happens to be a bruised or damaged area on a cantaloupe, cut
away those parts before eating it.
Leftover cut cantaloupe should be discarded if left at room temperature
for more than two hours.
Use a cooler with ice or use ice gel packs when transporting or storing
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Salmonella bacteria
sicken 40,000 people every year. Although the true number could be much
higher, because it is estimated that for every case of Salmonella poisoning
reported, two others are unreported. Salmonella causes fever, abdominal
pain, nausea, gas and bloody diarrhea. Symptoms appear within 36 hours
of exposure, and usually last four to seven days. In very severe cases,
Salmonella can lead to kidney failure and other complications. Salmonella
can be particularly dangerous for children, the elderly and people with
weakened immune systems. In rare cases, Salmonella can cause a disease
called Reiter¡¯s Syndrome, a difficult- to- treat condition that causes
severe joint pain, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination.
Food Safety and Quality Related Job Openings
Assurance Sr. Manager - Dollar General . Goodlettsville, TN
Quality Assurance Manager - Lakeside Foods, Inc.- Poynette/ Reedsburg;
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
QUALITY ASSURANCE MANAGER - Premio Foods, Inc.- Hawthorne, NJ
Instrumentation Chemistry Manager - Northland Laboratories . Northbrook
and Quality Related Job Openings
April 9 Public
Meeting to Seek E. coli O157:H7 Solutions
March 26, 2008
Source of Article: http://www.ohsonline.com/articles/60201/
"E. coli O157:H7 - Addressing
the Challenges, Moving Forward With Solutions" is the title of an
April 9 public meeting sponsored by the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection
Service, which has yet to publish details on the location and time of
the meeting. FSIS, part of USDA, said the purpose of the meeting is to
discuss with stakeholders recent spikes in recalls/illnesses related to
E. coli O157:H7, update them on FSIS initiatives, "and build a foundation
for establishing solutions to address the challenges this pathogen causes."
Details will be made available
in future issues of the FSIS Constituent Update (www.fsis.usda.gov/News_&_Events/2008_Constituent_Update/index.asp)
and at www.fsis.usda.gov/News_&_Events/.
Earlier this month, Under Secretary
for Food Safety Dr. Richard Raymond announced FSIS' newest office, the
Office of Outreach, Employee Education and Training, which results from
the International HACCP Alliance headed by Dr. Kerri Harris to change
the agency's approach to serving needs of small and very small plants.
FSIS said the concept of the new office began in 2005, "when many
in the industry questioned whether FSIS took the needs of small and very
small establishments under consideration when HACCP was first implemented."
As a result, FSIS held meetings to get input from such plants, joined
the alliance at a December 2005 meeting, and set up a task force that
developed the Strategic Implementation Plan to Strengthen Small and Very
Small Plant Outreach. "This task force made a lot of progress,"
said Raymond, "but we realized that for long-term success, we needed
to make the important function of training and outreach for small and
very small plants a formal part of the agency."
Leading the new Office of Outreach,
Employee Education and Training is Dr. Karlease Kelly, who FSIS said has
been instrumental in leading the consolidation of outreach and training.
"Ensuring that small plants get the exact resources they need to
comply with any regulatory requirements is a true passion of mine,"
said Kelly. "I'm looking forward to furthering the Agency's goal
of improving its outreach and training services for plant and agency personnel
may contain salmonella bacteria
Canwest News Service
Published: Thursday, March 27, 2008
Source of Article: http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=404050
OTTAWA -- The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is warning the public not
to use National Black Pepper Powder because it may contain salmonella
The pepper is a product of Pakistan and is sold in a 50-gram package,
labelled UPC 6 20514 00077 0 and B.B. END MAY. 2010.
It has been distributed in Alberta and British Columbia by Pak National
Foods Ltd., of Richmond, B.C. The company is voluntarily recalling the
pepper from the marketplace. CFIA is monitoring the recall.
The agency said there have been no reported illnesses associated with
Limit Meat Recall Information
(Associated Press, DC)
Under pressure from the food industry, the Agriculture Department is considering
a proposal not to identify retailers where tainted meat went for sale
except in cases of serious health risk, The Associated Press has learned.
Had that been the rule in place last month, consumers would not have been
told if their supermarkets sold meat from a Southern California slaughterhouse
that triggered the biggest beef recall in U.S. history.
The plan is being considered as the USDA puts the final touches on a proposed
disclosure rule. It had lingered in draft form for two years until getting
pushed to the forefront in February, when 143 million pounds of beef were
recalled by Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. in Chino, Calif., after undercover
video by an animal-rights activist showed workers abusing crippled cows.
Agriculture Department spokesman Chris Connelly confirmed Wednesday that
the agency is weighing whether to make naming the stores mandatory only
for so-called ''Class I'' recalls, which pose the greatest health hazard.
The Chino recall was categorized as ''Class II'' because authorities determined
there was minimal risk to human health.
Currently, the government discloses only a recall itself. It does not
list which retailers might have received recalled meat. The same holds
true for recalled vegetables.
Consumer groups and Democratic lawmakers contend that the public should
have access to the names of retailers in all meat recalls. As originally
written, the rule would have applied to all meat recalls.
''It's unacceptable to us because of the way the rule was originally fashioned,
and we have an immediate example of the Hallmark case being exempted,''
said Tony Corbo of Food & Water Watch, a Washington, D.C., advocacy
At an appearance in Sacramento, Calif., earlier this week, Agriculture
Secretary Edward Schafer said there are ''differences with the different
classes of recalls.''
''But, you know, a Class I recall, to have a retailer notification, I
think, is important,'' Schafer said.
Partly for competitive reasons, industry groups support the way recalls
are currently done, where a description of the recalled product is released
by the Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service along
with some other information including where it was produced.
Retailers must remove recalled meat from their shelves but there's no
requirement that they notify their customers about meat already sold,
though some take voluntary steps to do so.
Consumers may be able to identify prepackaged foods like hot dogs that
the Agriculture Department mentions by brand name, but with ground beef
or other items that are repackaged at grocery stores, there's usually
no identifying information on the package to tell consumers it's a recalled
Kristi Thacker, a registered nurse in the small town of Eldon in central
Missouri, said she had no idea the frozen ground beef in her freezer,
purchased at her local grocery store, was tainted until her 5-year-old
daughter became sick from E. coli. This was during a recall in 2002 and
her daughter, Savana, has now recovered.
''My child would not have gotten sick if they would have told me that
I had bad hamburger. I would have thrown it away,'' Thacker said in an
interview Wednesday. ''Instead, a month later, with bad hamburger sitting
in my freezer the whole time, she became deathly ill.''
Stories like Thacker's have led consumer groups to argue that customers
need more information, a position shared by Dr. Richard Raymond, who made
publishing the retailer rule a top priority when he took over as the Agriculture
Department's undersecretary for food safety in 2005.
In an interview this week Raymond said that it was ''common sense to assume''
that some consumers may have fallen ill because they didn't have access
to names of retailers selling tainted meat. But he disputed the suggestion
that industry opposition -- expressed in written and public comments,
meetings with the White House Office of Management and Budget, and other
venues -- has stalled the rule.
''It's going through the normal process,'' Raymond said. ''It does unfortunately
take a long time to go through the normal process.''
Industry groups argue that even if just Class I recalls are covered, the
rule could create confusion for consumers since retailer lists could be
incomplete or take days or weeks to compile. Customers could have a false
sense of security if their grocery store doesn't immediately show up on
the list, the groups contend.
Some cite the example of California, which is unique among states in having
a law requiring disclosure of retailers' names in recalls. California's
list of retailers from the Westland/Hallmark recall is 147 pages long
and has been continuously updated.
''We've met with USDA numerous times to be sure that they understand our
goal, which is to be sure that if a consumer has bought a product that
has been recalled we do not want them to eat that food,'' said Jill Hollingsworth
of the Food Marketing Institute in Arlington, Va.
But some industry officials also acknowledge competitive concerns, because
if lists of retailers selling recalled meat become public, competitors
would know who to approach to offer the product at a lower price. ''That
does cause some issues in the marketplace,'' said Jeremy Russell, spokesman
for the National Meat Association. 3-26-08
more tainted beef likely
By PHILIP BRASHER ? Register Washington Bureau ? March 20, 2008
Source of Article: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/
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Washington, D.C. - Federal inspectors are expected to find more beef contaminated
with deadly E. coli bacteria this year because of a simple change in laboratory
Randy Huffman, vice president of scientific affairs for the American Meat
Institute, warned a food industry conference in Nashville, Tenn., this
month that the number of positive tests for the bacteria could increase
as much as 20 percent to 50 percent.
But an increase in E. coli positives doesn't mean that there will be more
contaminated meat reaching consumers, said Jim Dickson, a food microbiologist
at Iowa State University.
"It doesn't change what is in the marketplace. It just means the
government is in a better position to find it if it is there," he
If there is an increase in the E.coli rate, however, the U.S. Department
of Agriculture will be under pressure to do more to prevent contamination
from occurring, said Chris Waldrop, a food safety expert with the Consumer
Federation of America.
"They're going to want to do something about it, both from a public
health perspective and their own credibility," he said.
At the end of January, USDA laboratories started using a more sensitive
method of detecting bacteria on meat samples. The technicians are using
a broth that causes the bacteria to grow more quickly if the microbes
are present in the meat.
Last year, USDA inspectors tested 12,200 samples of beef, and 29 turned
up contaminated with E. coli, a rate of 0.23 percent. That was an increase
from the 2006 rate of 0.17 percent.
Recalls were up far more drastically in 2007. Meatpackers recalled a record
33.4 million pounds of beef for possible E. coli contamination last year,
up from 181,900 pounds in 2006, according to the USDA. The old record
of 25.6 million pounds was set in 1997.
Eleven of the 21 E. coli-related recalls last year stemmed directly from
the USDA's testing program. Other recalls were linked to other circumstances,
such as food-poisoning outbreaks being traced to contaminated products.
Amanda Eamich, a spokeswoman for the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection
Service, said the change in testing methods was planned before the increase
in positive tests turned up last year. "Certainly the expectation
is that if you're using a more sensitive broth, we may find more"
of the bacteria, Eamich said.
She said the more sensitive testing would help ensure that beef is safer.
Processors could avoid many recalls by setting aside meat being tested
by the USDA until the laboratory results are known. However, some firms
"simply can't afford to hold product while they wait for test results,"
Huffman said his prediction was based on conversations with people with
experience in testing.
"I wanted to make people aware that there was going to be a change
and that we needed to be paying attention to the issue," he said
in an interview.
American Meat Institute member companies include Tyson Foods, JBS Swift
& Co. and other meat processors.
FDA lax in
spinach safety, U.S. government report says
Thursday, March 20, 2008
CBC News Source of Article: http://www.cbc.ca/
There are "significant lapses" in the way the United States
Food and Drug Administration verifies the safety of fresh spinach, a new
U.S. government report says.
"It appears that FDA is inspecting high-risk facilities infrequently,
failing to take vigorous enforcement action when it does inspect and identify
violations and not even inspecting the most probable sources of many outbreaks,"
said the report by the House committee on oversight and government reform
released last week.
The report, titled "FDA and Fresh Spinach Safety," adds that
these inspections of packaged fresh spinach facilities are the agency's
primary means of checking product safety.
The investigation was prompted by a September 2006 outbreak of E. coli
strain O157:H7 that caused more than 200 illnesses, including that of
an Ottawa woman, and three deaths that were ultimately traced back to
packaged fresh spinach.
There have been at least 20 U.S. outbreaks of this strain of E. coli tied
to fresh spinach or lettuce in the past 12 years. E. coli, or Escherichia
coli, is a species of bacteria that lives in animal intestines.
The committee found that the FDA's current scope of investigation "appears
too narrow to capture the sources of an E. coli outbreak."
"The outdated statutory sanitation standard severely limits the scope
of FDA's ability to adequately prevent many outbreaks," read the
report. "Laboratory sampling can detect some microbial contaminations,
but cannot prevent many outbreaks."
Inspectors look at the interior of the facility, but not the exterior,
which is believed to be the source of the 2006 outbreak. Officials said
the water at the facility in San Benito County, Calif., was likely contaminated
by cattle feces, pig feces or river water.
In addition to "significant shortfalls" in the scope of inspection
and testing, the report also cited difficulties in enforcing corrections
to unsanitary conditions.
The committee found that the FDA observed objectionable conditions during
nearly half its inspections of fresh spinach packing facilities, with
the most common complaints linked to plant sanitation, plant construction
and worker sanitation.
The report said the FDA took "no meaningful enforcement action,"
such as warning letters, seizures or injunctions, and did not follow such
practices at the source of the 2006 E. coli outbreak, where lab testing
indicated microbial contamination.
When further investigation is deemed necessary, the report found the FDA
had difficulty in accessing relevant material or firm records, as the
agency lacks the authority to force companies to hand over the information.
In at least eight cases, including with the facility at the source of
the outbreak, the agency was denied access. The report also noted that
packaged fresh spinach facilities were inspected once every 2.4 years
rather than once a year, which is the FDA's inspection goal. The committee
said that inadequate funding and resources for food safety activities
at the FDA may contribute to the problems with spinach safety inspections.
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