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On food safety, U.S. not No. 1
GAO report of other nations' systems fuels call in Congress for change, the Tribune's Stephen J. Hedges reports
July 16, 2008 Source of Article:
WASHINGTON ? In what is surely more bad news for federal food safety regulators, the Government Accountability Office has released an audit suggesting at least six other countries and the European Union have better food safety systems than the U.S.
The 97-page audit, released Monday and conducted by the audit arm of Congress, was ordered up by two of the most vocal food safety critics, Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).
Both have pressed for a single food safety agency instead of the dual system in the U.S. right now?the Food and Drug Administration regulates most foods, while the Department of Agriculture is responsible for meat, poultry and egg safety.
"I hope today's report serves as a wake-up call for the administration and others in Congress," Durbin said. "We need a thoughtful overhaul and reorganization of America's food safety system."
The audit examined how Canada, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the EU reorganized their food safety systems to work more efficiently. Each country, the GAO reported, stated that the ability to "trace back" foods and the authority to order food recalls were "critical in helping them respond to outbreaks of food-borne illness."
The FDA and USDA have struggled through a year of high-profile contamination cases and recalls, which are voluntary. The latest involves salmonella poisoning of 1,148 people.

Top Food-Safety Misconceptions
By Allison Van Dusen
Wed, Jul. 16 2008 07:42 AM EDT
Source of Article:
When you heard about the recent outbreak of infections caused by Salmonella-tainted tomatoes, odds are you were surprised a mere vegetable was at the heart of the scare.
But experts and data suggest Americans' trust in the safety of their fruits and vegetables may be a little misplaced-just one of many misconceptions people have about food safety and food-borne disease.
When it comes to foods that pose safety concerns, Americans tend to worry the most about meat, not fresh produce. In fact, a new national study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health shows that, of a representative national sample of 1,500 adults, 82% identified raw fish or sushi and 80% rare or medium-cooked hamburgers as at least somewhat risky. Only 36% of those surveyed found raw fruits and vegetables to be risky.
In 2006, the Center for Science in the Public Interest reviewed its database of food-borne-illness outbreaks, compiled by sources including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state health departments and scientific journals. The group found that between 1990 and 2003, the foods most commonly linked to outbreaks with identified causes were seafood (899) followed by produce (554), then poultry (476), beef (438) and eggs (329).
"Fresh fruits and vegetables have been one of, if not the most, significant source of food-borne illness in the past decade," says Douglas Powell, scientific director of the Food Safety Network at Kansas State University.
Why the disconnect? People tend to think the worst of meat, in particular, due to the number of recent high-profile recalls by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including a November recall of more than 1 million pounds of Cargill Meat Solutions ground beef products, which may have been tainted with E. coli.
Over the past couple of decades, Americans also have been digesting news about cases of mad cow disease popping up in England, Canada and the U.S., says Robert Blendon, professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Public food-safety campaigns also have put far more effort over the years into raising awareness about the dangers of failing to properly handle meat as opposed to fruits and vegetables. In addition, people view fresh produce as wholesome and natural, not as a health threat.
"They pretty much think you wash a fruit or vegetable a little and that's it," Blendon says.
But while washing off produce is a good precaution, it won't necessarily safeguard you from a food-borne illness. Nor will only buying locally grown fruits and vegetables from the farmers' market, says Powell.
At the farm level, produce can be contaminated in a variety of ways, including contact with untreated manure, infected or polluted water, workers with poor hygiene habits or unclean storage or transportation facilities, Powell says. While local farms may use less transportation and fewer workers, the chances for contamination are still there. And since fresh produce is, of course, uncooked, anything that comes into contact with it can taint it. Once E. coli or Salmonella gets inside a leafy green, tomato or sprout, it's hard to get rid of it. While following recommended safety practices at home certainly may help, consumers need to be vigilant about paying attention to food recalls and removing affected foods from their homes, says Mindy Brashears, director of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence at Texas Tech University.
That's particularly important given that some are still confused about the role cooking can play in preventing food-borne illnesses. Though the majority of those surveyed by the Harvard poll knew that cooking food thoroughly would protect them against Salmonella (68%), and E. coli (61%), 41% of respondents incorrectly believed that cooking would protect them against botulism and 32% thought cooking could protect them from mad cow disease.
No matter what you do, experts say you should never assume you can completely avoid having harmful bacteria turn up on your or your family's dinner plates. "You can do everything you possibly can," Brashears says, "and it can still happen to you."

Conservatives must release ¡°dangerous¡± plan to abandon food safety
July 16, 2008
Source of Article:
OTTAWA - The Conservative government is putting the health of Canadians at risk with its plan to abandon food safety inspections, Liberal Agriculture Critic Wayne Easter and Public Health Critic Carolyn Bennett said today.
¡°We all rely on good, healthy, safe food. It is shocking that the Conservatives are prepared to threaten the health of Canadians by abandoning key elements of the food safety system,¡± said Mr. Easter.
Mr. Easter was referring to recent media reports that exposed Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz's plan to slash Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) funding.
Reports indicate that under the Conservative plan, the CFIA will, among other things, pull back from inspecting meat and meat products, animal feed, and commercial seeds.
Dr. Bennett expressed concern that deep cuts to CFIA food inspections will leave Canadians vulnerable to contaminated food reaching supermarket shelves.
¡°From Walkerton to the damning Ontario auditor¡¯s report on food-safety hazards, Ontarians remember well what happened when Conservative Premier Mike Harris slashed the number of inspectors in his province,¡± said Dr. Bennett. ¡°Now that senior members of the Harris government sit around the cabinet table in Ottawa, we must be vigilant that the kind of damaging cuts made in Ontario are not repeated on a national scale.¡±
¡°Experts who have caught a glimpse of this secret plan have called it ¡®dangerous¡¯. Even with the little we know about it, it is clear that this plan will hurt farmers and threatens the food we all eat. That is why it is so critical that the Conservatives release their plan now, regardless of the ¡®communication risks¡¯ involved,¡± said Mr. Easter.

New developments in anti-acrylamide enzymes
By Jess Halliday Source of Article:
16-Jul-2008 - DSM is introducing application-specific versions of its Preventase enzyme; meanwhile, Novozymes is launching Acrylaway in Australia and New Zealand after having received regulatory approval.
Acrylamide is a suspected carcinogen that is formed during by heat-induced reaction between sugar and an amino acid called asparagine. Known as the Maillard reaction, this process is responsible for the brown colour and tasty flavour of baked, fried and toasted foods.
The competition between DSM and Novozymes over asparaginase enzymes to tackle the problem without affecting the taste of baked and fried foods has been hot. Both firms launched their solutions for use by the food industry in 2007, after having licensed the application rights from Frito Lay and Proctor and Gamble.
DSM's Preventase and Novozyme's Acrylaway are said to work in the same way: they convert asparagine into another amino acid called aspartic acid, thus preventing it from being converted into acrylamide. The effect is a reduction in acrylamide in the final product by as much as 90 per cent.
While Preventase is derived from Aspergillus niger, Acrylaway comes from a different strain, Aspergillus oryzae.

DSM has now developed its Preventase offering into three sub-brands - Panna, Bicra and Xtru - which are intended for use in different kinds of products.
Panna is said to be intended for use in wheat-based products like bread, biscuits and crackers; Bicra is for "subcategories of biscuits", according to the company.
Xtru, meanwhile, targets acrylamide reduction in extruded snacks.
Judith Heikoop, new business development manager for Preventase, said: "Further work on a variety of other food applications such as fries and potato-based snacks have led to the development of a portfolio of Preventase solutions that is tailored to the needs of our customers, their food products and their production processes."

Global roll-out
Both DSM and Novozymes have been working hard on obtaining the necessary regulatory approvals in key markets around the world.
While they both have the US and Europe under their belts, as well as various other countries, Novozymes this week has claimed a march on its competitor after having obtained approval from Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ). This has allowed it to go ahead with its planned
"Registration of Acrylaway in Australia and New Zealand was formally obtained on July 10 2008 with the publication in the gazettal," said Novozymes' regional marketing manager for Asia Pacific, Wolfgang Eger.
"Novozymes is now the first and only company to offer an asparaginase enzyme for sale in Australia and New Zealand."
The approval comes as no great surprise, however, since Acrylaway had already been recommended for addition to the positive list of approved processing aids, following a safety evaluation.
A spokesperson for Novozymes told that the next countries for which Novozymes is expecting approvals this year are Brazil, China, and Russia.

Acrylamide May Hike RCC Risk
Jody A. CharnowJuly 11, 2008 Source of Article:
DIETARY INTAKE of acrylamide, a probable human carcinogen, may be associated with an increased risk of renal cell cancer, according to a report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2008;87:1428-1438).
Researchers in The Netherlands analyzed data from a subgroup of 5,000 participants in The Netherlands Cohort Study on diet and cancer, which began in 1986. At baseline, participants filled out self-administered questionnaires on 150 food items and possible risk factors for cancer, such as smoking, occupation, and physical activity. Investigators estimated acrylamide intake from the mean acrylamide concentration of food items and the frequency of consumption and portion size of the food items.
After 13.3 years of follow-up, 339 cases of renal cell cancer, 1,210 cases of bladder cancer, and 2,246 cases of prostate cancer were available for analysis. Compared with the lowest quintile of acrylamide intake, the highest quintile was associated with a significant 59% increased risk of renal cell cancer, after adjusting for potential confounders. Acrylamide intake was not associated with bladder or prostate cancer.
From the June 2008 Issue of Renal And Urology News

US Far Behind Other Countries on Food Safety
Date Published: Wednesday, July 16th, 2008
Source of Article:
We¡¯ve long been reporting on the sorry state of food regulation in the United States, as well as the frequent, nationwide outbreaks of deadly food borne illnesses such as Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli that are the result. Given the recent problems with meat and produce that have sickened thousands and hospitalized dozens in the past couple of months, it is apparent that our food safety systems needs?if not an overhaul?some changes to better protect Americans.
Although the US is not the only ¡°developed country¡± to suffer problems associated with tainted food products, we are quickly gaining a reputation for being terribly lax in handling the problem. And, now, a new federal report on the ¡°common-sense steps¡± which have been taken by other countries, including Japan, Canada, and Ireland as well as a variety of other nations, might provide a ¡°practical guide to food safety.¡± Many are wondering why the US has not yet begun to follow at least some of the proven steps in the report, which was released this week by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
The report outlines steps that don¡¯t involve large ¡°government bureaucracies¡± but do seem to have some tangible solutions. For example, one of the suggestions is the creation of one agency to oversee food safety. In the US we have the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which oversees meat and poultry and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which oversees most everything else.
Foreign agencies can recall dangerous food products and also require producers to recall products when there is reason to believe products might be unsafe. This is not done in the US. Also, the foreign agencies responsible for protecting consumers don¡¯t mitigate responsibilities by promoting the industry in which it monitors, which is done here and can be seen with the USDA in which it both inspects meat and protects the cattle industry. Perhaps this is why the USDA conducts minimal testing and is hard at work to cease the efforts of a beef producer looking to increase its safety standards.
The foreign countries also adopted a ¡°farm to table¡± policy in which safety laws cover every stage of food production, beginning at the field and following the food to shipper, processor, and so on, placing the bulk of food safety responsibility on food producers. Also, importers are required to pay for the disposal of bad food and must focus inspections on foods carrying the greatest contamination risk. Also, the European Union tracks food from field to table in a ¡°one step forward, one step back¡± system, wherein at each stage the company shipping or handling the food must know both its supplier and its customer. It is the lack of such a tracking system that is contributing to why the FDA cannot find the source of the salmonella outbreak that has recently sickened over 1,100 people across the US.

Worse, the FDA has not implemented the food protection plan it announced last year, which included focusing its resources on the highest risks. The FDA has only gone so far as to have recently informed Congress on how much money is needed for the plan.

Californians for SAFE Food Launches Campaign Opposing Proposition 2: 'The Un-SAFE Food Initiative'
Source of Article:
Opposed by a Broad, Growing Coalition, Prop. 2 Threatens Food Safety, Jeopardizes Public Health and Cuts off Access to Local, Fresh, Affordable Eggs in California
Last update: 3:40 p.m. EDT July 16, 2008
SACRAMENTO, Calif., July 16, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Californians for SAFE Food, a coalition of public health and food safety experts, labor unions, consumers, family farmers and veterinarians, today officially launched its campaign to oppose Proposition 2, the November ballot initiative that bans almost all modern egg production in California.
Dubbing Prop. 2 the "un-SAFE food initiative," Californians for SAFE Food also introduced its Web site, and released an updated list of organizations and individuals who have joined the opposition campaign.
"Proposition 2, quite simply, is an un-SAFE food initiative. It undermines California's current high food safety standards, putting us at greater risk with exposure to illness and disease like Salmonella and Bird Flu," said Julie Buckner, spokeswoman for the "NO on Prop. 2" campaign. "While the proponents claim the measure is 'moderate,' it is really a wide-sweeping, risky, and dangerous measure that will have costly, negative consequences for California."
Prop. 2 impacts how egg-laying hens are housed, creating many risky, dangerous and costly consequences for California. The measure jeopardizes food safety and public health; effectively wipes out Californians' access to locally grown, fresh eggs; creates a consumer dependency on eggs shipped from other states and Mexico; and significantly drives up food prices at a time when families already face skyrocketing gas, housing and other basic living expenses.
Prop. 2, which bans modern housing systems for egg-laying hens, actually undermines California's scientifically-developed, modern egg production systems, which are safe, sound and healthy for hens and humans alike. Those systems purposely house egg-laying hens indoors to protect them from contact with migratory and wild birds that can carry Bird Flu and other diseases, and are designed to keep hens from their own waste, as bird feces can contain Salmonella bacteria.
Proposition 2 puts California's food safety at risk by increasing the likelihood of egg-associated Salmonella contamination. California currently has the strictest food safety rules for egg production in the U.S., which have been credited with helping control egg-associated Salmonella enteritidis infections in California over the last 10 years. Out-of-state and foreign egg producers, like Mexico, which will become California's defacto egg suppliers if Proposition 2 passes, do not have the same high food safety standards as California.
Further, the humane treatment of farm animals is already required by California law and the health and welfare of egg-laying hens is the top priority of California egg farmers. "We are a family-run, professional business that has always been strongly committed to farming responsibly," said Ryan Armstrong, vice president of operations at Armstrong Egg Farms. "We produce both cage-free and modern cage production eggs on our farm, which my family has owned and operated for 60 years. Prop. 2 is a slap in the face to those of us who have worked so hard for three generations to do the right thing. The proposal, pure and simple, will wipe us out."
A recent economic impact study by Promar International confirmed that Prop. 2 will effectively drive California's egg farmers out of business, resulting in more than 3,400 job losses, a loss of $615 million in state economic activity, as well as millions more in lost state and local tax revenues. Consumers will then be forced to either depend on eggs trucked in from Mexico and out-of-state, where food safety rules are not as high, or pay triple the price for locally-grown eggs.
Californians for SAFE Food is a broad-based and growing coalition of public health and food safety experts, labor unions, consumers, family farmers and veterinarians who want to keep food choices in California safe, local and affordable. The coalition has already received the endorsement of a number of prominent groups and individuals, including the American College of Poultry Veterinarians; American Agri-Women; Agricultural Council of California; Association of Veterinarians in Egg Production; California Farm Bureau Federation; California Women for Agriculture; General Teamsters Local Union 386; Marin County Farm Bureau; National Animal Interest Alliance; San Diego County Farm Bureau; Dr. Craig Reed, DVM, former Deputy Administrator, Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA; Dr. Tim E. Carpenter, PhD, Professor of Epidemiology, Department of Medicine and Epidemiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, UC Davis; Dr. Patricia Blanchard, DVM, PhD, Branch Chief, UC Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory Systems, among many others.
For more information about the Californians for SAFE Food coalition and the "NO on Proposition 2" campaign, visit

U.S. Sen. Harkin: Calls on FDA For More Effective Food Safety Trace-Back System
7/15/2008 Source of Article:
As Salmonella Outbreak Grows, Harkin Calls on FDA For More Effective Food Safety Trace-Back System How Can the Government Tell Consumers We Don¡¯t Know The Source of What Made Over 1000 People Sick?
Washington, D.C. ? Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), the Chairman of Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to initiate an effective trace-back system to allow tracing of the origins of fresh produce in food safety outbreaks. Harkin did so as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced this week that since April, 1148 persons have been infected with Salmonella Saintpaul, with cases that have been identified in 42 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada.
In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Leavitt, Harkin said that the Salmonella outbreak demonstrates the need for better coordination and communication among federal agencies, industry, and the states, as well as a strong trace-back system to determine the source of food-borne illness outbreaks.
¡°Each food-borne outbreak seems to be larger than the next, and in this case, over a month has lapsed and the origins of this case are still unknown,¡± said Harkin. ¡°The victims of this outbreak are growing by the day and don¡¯t know what food made them sick because the source of contamination remains a mystery to the Food and Drug Administration. How do you tell over 1000 people we don¡¯t know what made them sick?
¡°In the face of stark warnings about the vulnerability of our food supply, it is time for the government to take action and implement effective trace-back processes so that we can quickly track the origins of contaminated food products in order to prevent increasing cases of illness. It is long past time for the government to take comprehensive steps to increase our response to food-borne illness outbreaks.¡±

Spain Tops Food Poisoning Poll (15 Jul 2008)
Source of Article:
Spain is Europe's number one food poisoning hotspot, according to a new survey.
A poll carried out by Halifax revealed that one-quarter of tourists have experienced tummy troubles while in Spain, with Greece, Turkey and Egypt named as other hotspots.
Vicky Watson, a spokesperson for Halifax Travel Insurance, commented: "Having a long-awaited holiday dominated by the dreaded Delhi Belly is nothing to look forward to. Make sure that you do some online research and preparation before travelling by planning to go to restaurants with positive reviews from other travellers."
She added that 20 per cent of Brits had been forced to seek medical attention as a result of food poisoning and urged holidaymakers to take out a travel insurance policy before going abroad.
The survey also revealed that 38 per cent of those who are struck down by food poisoning spend two days of their holiday recovering and lose around ¡Ì42.42 per day off the cost of their trip.
The Travel Magazine suggests that Britons protect themselves against food poisoning by avoiding tap water in foreign countries and ensuring that all food is piping hot.
This article is brought to you by Go Travel Insurance - Specialist in travel insurance and holiday insurance

Just Say No to Nuts During Pregnancy
Daily consumption while expecting ups odds of asthmatic offspring, study suggests
Posted July 15, 2008
By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter Source of Article:
TUESDAY, July 15 (HealthDay News) -- If you've got a strong family history of food allergies or allergic asthma, you might want to think twice before munching a handful of nuts when you're pregnant.
That's because recent research has found that regular consumption of nut products during pregnancy raises the odds of having a child with asthma symptoms by nearly 50 percent.
The study, published in the July 15 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found "consistent positive associations between maternal nut product consumption, such as peanut butter, during pregnancy and wheeze, dyspnea (shortness of breath), steroid use, doctor-diagnosed asthma and persistent wheeze in children from 1 to 8 years of age," said study author Saskia Willers, a doctoral candidate at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.
As many as 4 percent of American children have food allergies, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Slightly more than 1 percent of people in the United States -- or about 3 million -- are allergic to peanuts or tree nuts.
Most allergies develop as a result of repeated "sensitization" to an allergen in susceptible individuals, and each time the body is exposed to the allergen, the reactions tend to increase. It's already recommended that children under 3 not be given nuts or nut products, because their immune systems are still developing and may be more susceptible to allergens, explained Dr. Jennifer Appleyard, chief of allergy and immunology at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit.
"If you say avoid nuts in children, and for nursing mothers because peanut protein can be transferred through milk, do we need to take it a step further and limit nuts during pregnancy?" said Appleyard.
To try to answer that question, Willers and her colleagues reviewed information gathered from interviews of more than 4,000 pregnant women -- 1,327 with a history of allergy or asthma and 2,819 with no such history. The women were asked about their diets, and their children were followed from birth to 8 years of age to assess whether or not diet impacted the risk of developing asthma.
They found no association between maternal consumption of vegetables, fish, eggs, milk or milk products and the development of asthma, according to the study. The researchers also found no association between rare or regular consumption of nuts and the development of asthma symptoms.
However, daily consumption of nut products increased the odds that a child would have wheezing by 42 percent, shortness of breath by 58 percent and steroid use to ease asthma symptoms by 62 percent, compared to children born to mothers who rarely consumed nuts. Overall, the odds of developing asthma symptoms for a child whose mother ate nuts daily were 47 percent higher, according to the study.
But, Willers said, it's too soon to recommend a complete nut ban during pregnancy. "The associations we found are pretty strong, only we are the first to find these effects, so they need to be confirmed by other studies before recommending the avoidance of peanuts and nuts during pregnancy," she said.
Appleyard agreed. "This subject definitely needs further investigation. And, if you can pass on the antibodies that cause nut allergy from mother to fetus, why not other allergies as well?" she asked.
However, she did suggest that women with a strong family history of food allergy may want to limit the amount of nut products they consume during pregnancy.
More information
To learn more about peanut allergy, visit the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network.:

Children May Build Tolerance To Egg Allergy
Article Date: 16 Jul 2008 - 0:00 PDT
Source of Article:
New research suggests that beating childhood egg allergy is literally a piece of cake.
In a preliminary study, researchers in Greece demonstrated that gradually exposing allergic children to heat-treated egg - such as those in baked goods - could help them overcome the allergy.
In the trial, 94 children were regularly given tiny amounts of cake containing egg. Over a period of several months, the quantity of cake was gradually increased. Eighty-seven children (90 percent) were able to eat the maximum amount without symptoms.
After six months of daily doses of the processed egg, those children were challenged to eat egg that was not cooked to the same degree. More than 95 percent had no reaction and were believed to have outgrown the allergy.
The findings will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the official scientific journal of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).
According to the AAAAI, one in 17 children under age 3 suffers from a food allergy. Hen's egg is among the most common allergens for children. And while many children with egg allergy outgrow the sensitivity by the time they enter school, until then eliminating all egg from the diet is the only effective management.
This study suggests that deliberate exposure to heat-treated egg may speed that tolerance.
The AAAAI represents allergists, asthma specialists, clinical immunologists, allied health professionals and others with a special interest in the research and treatment of allergic disease. Established in 1943, the AAAAI has nearly 6,500 members in the United States, Canada and 60 other countries.
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

Cancer organization wants processed meats off school lunch menus
By Tom Johnston on 7/16/2008
Source of Article:
A Washington D.C.-based cancer-prevention organization has launched a TV commercial campaign that calls for processed meats to be removed from the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs.
The Cancer Project's "Protect our Kids" campaign claims processed meats such as deli meat, hot dogs and hamburgers cause cancer. The organization cites a report by the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund.
However, the meat industry disagrees (See New cancer report says limit red and processed meat; industry disagrees on, Oct. 31, 2007.). Many doctors have said the science doesn't back the claims, and that it's difficult to pinpoint a single source as the cause of cancer.
The campaign commenced in Austin, Texas, where USDA began a series of listening sessions it will be conducting throughout the country to gather comments on possible reforms to the Child Nutrition Act.
A spokeswoman for The Cancer Project told the organization initially will launch the campaign in individual cities as USDA visits them, but the commercial along with a survey on the prevalence of processed meats in schools "eventually will be a national campaign."
USDA's next stop is Aug. 6 in Baltimore.

GAO looks at other countries¡¯ food safety systems
By Lisa M. Keefe on 7/16/2008
Source of Article:
In an audit report released on Monday, the federal General Accountability Office examined the food safety systems of six other countries and the European Union, and found that they generally seem to benefit from a comprehensive farm-to-table approach and that consumers' opinion of their effectiveness is improving.
Monday's report is a follow-up to a similar report the GAO conducted in 2005.
The GAO said in a summary of the audit's results, posted on its Web site, that the study was not intended to be an evaluation of other countries' systems, nor did the agency intend to compare and contrast other countries' systems with that of the United States.
However, the GAO did take note of most other countries' ability to trace food shipments quickly, the better to track down bad food in case of the recall. Also, the agency noted that other countries consolidated their food safety responsibilities in one office alone.

Food Horror 2: Subway Braces For Backlash After Knife Found In Sandwich
Hilary Lewis | Jul 17, 2008 3:47 AM
Source of Article:
A Queens man is suing the Subway sandwich chain for $1 million after finding a seven-inch knife baked into the bread of his sandwich. The man wasn't injured?he found the blade before it cut the inside of his mouth?but he says he did got sick from the contaminants on the "filthy" knife.
This doesn't trigger the same business-destroying gag reflex as the Wendy's chili finger episode, but Subway's PR team had better shift into overdrive.
New York Post: A Queens man is suing the sandwich empire for $1 million after finding a large serrated knife he says was baked into the bread of his 12-inch cold-cut sub...
"It's shocking. You see this metal knife. I mean, it's one thing seeing a hair or something," John Agnesini said. "If I didn't look at it, could you imagine what would happen? I could've slashed the side of my mouth..."
He was not badly injured, but became violently ill with "severe stomach issues" for three hours, he recalled.
A doctor told him he had the symptoms of food poisoning, which Agnesini attributed to whatever contaminants may have seeped into his food, possibly from the melted plastic handle of the knife.
He also said the knife was "filthy."

No Salmonella in Our Tomatoes, Florida Growers Say
Date Published: Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Source of Article:

Florida tomato growers have had enough, and want federal regulators to declare their products Salmonella-free. Last month, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued a health alert, warning consumers to avoid certain tomatoes, including those grown in several Florida counties. But the FDA has never proven that tomatoes were to blame for the multi-state Salmonella outbreak, and even with the suspect tomatoes off of the market, people have continued to get sick.

At last count, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said that 1,196 people have been infected with Salmonella St. Paul, a rare strain of the bacteria. States reporting illnesses include (9), Colorado (16), Connecticut (4), Florida (2), Georgia (28), Idaho (6), Illinois (113), Indiana (16), Iowa (2), Kansas (18), Kentucky (1), Louisiana (1), Maine (1), Maryland (32), Massachusetts (26), Michigan (24), Minnesota (22), Mississippi (2), Missouri (17), New Hampshire (5), Nevada (11), New Jersey (12), New Mexico (102), New York (32), North Carolina (23), Ohio (10), Oklahoma (25), Oregon (10), Pennsylvania (12), Rhode Island (3), South Carolina (2), Tennessee (9), Texas (456), Utah (2), Virginia (31), Vermont (2), Washington (17), West Virginia (1), Wisconsin (13), and the District of Columbia (1). Five ill persons are reported from Canada; four appear to have been infected while traveling in the United States, and one individual remains under investigation.

The FDA issued its tomato warning last month, and growers in Florida say the affected areas have not shipped tomatoes in more than two months. Yet, the number of people reporting Salmonella infections continues to grow on a daily basis. In fact, the CDC says the last illnesses occurred on July 4th. Florida growers see that as pretty clear evidence that something else is making people sick.

The FDA thinks so too, and last week expanded its Salmonella probe to include jalapeno and Serrano peppers, fresh cilantro and other foods served with tomatoes. But so far, the FDA has not changed its advice on tomatoes.

Florida growers estimate that they face losses that could range from $600 million to $700 million. They also need to start replanting for next season, but don¡¯t want to do that until the FDA gives their crops a green light.

So far the agency hasn¡¯t budged, and says it still hasn¡¯t ruled out the tomatoes as a source of the Salmonella outbreak.

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 17th, 2008 at 5:30 am and is filed under Legal News, Food Poisoning, Salmonella.

Asthma study may reignite pregnancy-peanut debate
By Stephen Daniells Source of Article:
16-Jul-2008 - Consuming peanuts and peanut products during pregnancy may raise the infant's risk of developing asthma by about 50 per cent, suggests new research from The Netherlands.
Over 4,000 women took part in the study, and data was obtained for 2,832 children. The results are published in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
"We were pretty surprised to see the adverse associations between daily versus rare nut product consumption during pregnancy and symptoms of asthma in children, because we haven't seen this in similar previous studies," said lead author Saskia Willers.
Despite the worrying associations, the researchers noted that it is "too early to make recommendations of avoidance".
According to the European Federation of Allergy and Airway Diseases Patients Association (EFA), over 30m Europeans suffer from asthma, costing Europe ¢æ17.7bn every year. The cost due to lost productivity is estimated to be around ¢æ9.8bn.
The condition is on the rise in the Western world and is the most common long-term condition in the UK.

Study details
Expectant mothers taking part in the Prevention and Incidence of Asthma and Mite Allergy study were asked to complete food frequency questionnaires (FFQ) to quantify their consumption of fruit, vegetables, fish, egg, milk, milk products, nuts, and nut products. Their children were then followed from birth to age eight, and the prevalence of asthma recorded.
While no affects were found for vegetable, fish, egg, milk or milk products during pregnancy on asthma in the offspring, the researchers did calculate that the daily consumption of nut products was associated with a 42 per cent increase in the risk of wheeze, a 58 per cent increase in shortness of breath, and a 47 per cent increase in asthma symptoms, compared to rare consumption.
"The only consistent association between the maternal intake of the investigated food groups during pregnancy and childhood asthma symptoms until eight years of age that we found was with nut products," said Willers.
Commenting on the research, John Heffner, MD, past president of the American Thoracic Society, said: "These findings emphasise the critical important of additional investigations into the environmental exposures for both mother and child that underlie the pathogenesis of asthma. "It is important, however, to emphasise that such associations do not confirm a causative linkage," he added.

The wider issue
The study is particularly timely after the UK's House of Lords called for a review in September 2007 of the advice on peanut consumption by pregnant women and children to reduce allergy risk.
The UK's Department of Health currently advises pregnant women with a family history of allergies to avoid eating peanuts, and not feed them to their children until they are at least three years old. This advice dates from 1998, when the Food Standards Agency's Committee on Toxicology (COT) last reviewed the evidence.
A report from the Lords' Select Committee on Science and Technology on allergy noted that the most dramatic increase in food allergy prevalence in recent years has been seen for peanut allergy. The Isle of Wight Birth Cohort Study reported in 2002 that peanut sensitisation had "increased three-fold in children born between 1994 and 1996, compared to those born in 1989".
However the committee drew on evidence from a number of experts, who cited studies indicating that exposing a child's immune system to peanut allergen at an early age could actually result in tolerance.
In particular, they said that in Israel, where the incidence of peanut allergy is lower than in the UK, peanuts are commonly used in infants' weaning foods.
While the new study from The Netherlands deals with asthma and not peanut allergy, it does suggest caution when reviewing or reversing current advice.
Source: American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine
Volume 178, Pages 124-131
"Maternal Food Consumption during Pregnancy and the Longitudinal Development of Childhood Asthma"
Authors: S.M. Willers, A.H. Wijga, B. Brunekreef, M. Kerkhof, J. Gerritsen, M.O. Hoekstra, J.C. de Jongste, H.A. Smit

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