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hot (pepper) lead in hunt for salmonella source
By LAURAN NEERGAARD 1 day ago
Source of Article: http://ap.google.com/
WASHINGTON (AP) ? It was a hot lead for detectives on a cold case. People
suddenly were getting salmonella at a Minnesota restaurant more than 1,000
miles from the center of the nation's outbreak.
Not my tomatoes, protested the manager. He'd switched his supply to government-cleared
fresh tomatoes and even canned ones. But a lot of his menu items had a
raw jalapeno garnish sprinkled on top, and that turned out to be a critical
clue in the two-month salmonella mystery.
On July 3, Minnesota e-mailed the feds. After tracing credit card receipts
? to find what the restaurant's healthy customers didn't eat ? there was
good evidence that the jalapenos were sickening people. And, officials
had a diagram tracing the pepper shipments all the way back to three farms
One of those farms shipped peppers through the same large warehouse in
McAllen, Texas, where Food and Drug Administration inspectors weeks later
would find a single contaminated Mexican-grown pepper being packed by
a neighboring vendor.
How could Minnesota pinpoint hot peppers just days after discovering a
cluster of sick residents, when federal investigators had spent weeks
fruitlessly chasing tomatoes?
To be fair, "there was already some doubt about tomatoes causing
this whole outbreak," cautioned Kirk Smith, foodborne disease chief
at the Minnesota Department of Health.
And federal investigators say Minnesota's information came just as they
were getting hints from two Texas restaurant clusters that jalapenos might
play a role.
"Ours was the first that pointed specifically to jalapenos as an
ingredient, not just the salsa," Smith said.
It's too soon to know if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
improperly blamed tomatoes in early June, based on reports from the first
people to fall ill in New Mexico and Texas.
"I don't think we can find fault yet," said University of Georgia
food-safety expert Michael Doyle. "With tomatoes, if you looked at
the initial case-control studies, they really came up high on the list."
The CDC didn't comment Wednesday.
At the FDA, food safety chief Dr. David Acheson told The Associated Press
the system should be reviewed to see if it can be improved. "Did
every part of this system work from one end to the other?" he asked.
"I'm not saying it didn't, but I think one has to question that."
Regardless, the way Minnesota unraveled its own cases ? speedily comparing
the sick and the well and then racing to track food suppliers ? offers
lessons for a public health system grappling with how to handle increasingly
complex outbreaks from tainted produce.
"We have got to put the appropriate perspective on this outbreak
as to what went right and what went wrong so the kind of changes that
are going to further foodborne disease (prevention) can be made,"
said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota infectious disease specialist
and frequent adviser to the government.
He fears the salmonella mystery may be the "swine flu of foodborne
disease," and make federal health officials more reluctant to issue
consumer warnings in future outbreaks unless they've found the smoking
gun, an actual tainted food.
"That would be the worst legacy of this entire situation," Osterholm
Reports of the salmonella strain sickening hundreds elsewhere in the country
began dribbling in to Minnesota's state health department on Monday June
Minnesota's system is different from those of many states: Rather than
county health departments initially checking outbreaks and reporting to
headquarters, Smith's state office handles investigations from the beginning.
By Thursday, with six cases reported, he had epidemiologists interviewing
the sick: What did you eat in the few days before getting ill? Where?
By Sunday, two people had mentioned the same Twin Cities-area restaurant.
Smith ordered that other patients be directly asked about that site. Monday
morning, four more people fingered it ? and by lunchtime, epidemiologist
Erin Hedican was on the scene.
She quickly found seven more ill: employees who ate their own meals at
the restaurant and started getting sick after the first customers had.
Good to know: That meant the workers weren't the source.
With the manager, Hedican combed ingredients. Any new items added lately?
New suppliers? She requested invoices from shipments just before June
14, the first known meal date of one of the sick, and started the hard
push to get credit card receipts so she could learn what people who didn't
fall ill had eaten.
By Tuesday morning, a garnish made of diced jalapenos and red peppers
was topping a list of possible suspects.
"This is not like a sprig of parsley on the edge of your plate. This
was sprinkled directly on almost every entree," Smith said.
Still, "a lot of people didn't notice the jalapenos," Smith
said, while they were quick to mention tomatoes.
"Recall, that's what makes it tricky. That's why I wonder about all
those initial cases" in other states, he added.
By Wednesday night, Smith's team had interviewed 13 sick people and 28
others who had eaten at the restaurant on the same days but stayed well.
The sick were 46 times as likely to have eaten the garnish. The next morning,
he alerted CDC and FDA.
Meanwhile, Ben Miller of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, which
regulates food suppliers, was pursuing those invoices. Miller knows traceback:
He is credited with following contaminated lettuce blamed for a 2006 E.
coli outbreak back to two suspect farms in California, before FDA singled
out the culprit.
This time around, Miller knew his colleagues down the hall were suspicious
of that garnish. He doubted a red pepper connection; they're used in far
more restaurants than jalapenos.
The Twin Cities supplier that delivered to the restaurant led him to a
larger distributor, also local. Miller whittled down shipment dates to
between June 5 and 9. That distributor had bought from two sources: a
shipper in California and another in McAllen, Texas, who in turn got the
peppers from three farms in Mexico. Miller later ruled out one farm by
further narrowing shipping dates; now he's waiting to hear from FDA if
his Texas link panned out.
"A few phone calls and you can work it fairly quickly back to the
grower," Miller said.
Federal officials had lots of questions for Minnesota as they matched
that data with the clusters in Texas, the outbreak's center.
The Minnesota data "helped us begin to narrow this down," Acheson
said, although he wouldn't call it the key cluster.
But Smith's team wasn't done: By July 8, it had a big enough group ? 19
sick and 78 healthy customers ? to do a statistical comparison of multiple
ingredients. The sick were 100 times as likely to have eaten a jalapeno
as the well.
The next day, July 9, the CDC issued its first consumer precaution, that
people at high risk of salmonella should avoid fresh jalapenos.
Associated Press Writer Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report.
U.S.-grown peppers not to blame for salmonella
By JESSICA KLIPA
Source of Article: http://www.bradenton.com/local/story/768178.html
The federal investigation of the salmonella outbreak has narrowed further
after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that jalapeno and
Serrano peppers grown in the United States did not cause the outbreak.
After reviewing traceback and traceforward information and comparing harvesting
times with the people who became ill, the FDA has determined that the
salmonella-tainted jalapeno pepper found at a distribution center in Texas
was grown in Mexico.
The company, Agricola Zarigosa Inc., of McAllen, Texas, voluntarily recalled
its jalapeno peppers after the FDA announced it found a positive sample
of the Saintpaul strain in a jalapeno pepper early last week.
Until further notice, consumers are advised to avoid eating foods that
contain raw jalapeno peppers if they have been grown, harvested or packed
in Mexico. Not associated with the outbreak are commercially canned, pickled
and cooked jalapeno peppers from all other geographic locations.
Since April, almost 1,300 people in 43 states have been infected with
the Saintpaul strain. About 240 people have been hospitalized, according
to the Centers for Disease Control.
Initially blamed for what has been identified as the largest outbreak
of food-borne illness in the last decade, the tomato industry this week
plans to explain to Congress the damage caused by the investigation and
introduce ways federal agencies can work with industry leaders in the
future to quickly resolve outbreaks.
A federal bill to compensate tomato growers and packers who were unable
to sell their crops as a result of the FDA advisory linking tomatoes to
salmonella has been directed to the secretary of agriculture.
Introduced by Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-Palm Beach Gardens, the bill was co-sponsored
by U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, and three other members of Congress.
Compensation to growers and packers is warranted after the FDA collected
about 1,700 samples of tomatoes, which all tested negative for the Saintpaul
strain, said Reggie Brown of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange.
He estimates Florida's damages to be less than $100 million, which is
a figure that also includes southern Georgia and South Carolina.
"It's created concern in the public mind when it should never should
have," he said. "We're looking forward to the consumers eating
tomatoes as soon as we can get them back on the shelves."
Officials say that what's unfortunate is that Florida's tomato industry,
which will begin selling its produce again in late September or early
October, will have to work to regain public confidence and bounce back
from the hit.
The "dark cloud" hanging over the tomato industry would more
easily dissipate if the FDA would clear tomatoes for good, said Liz Compton,
spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Agriculture.
Commissioner Charles Bronson, who recognizes the impact of the investigation
on the industry, is also expected to appear before the House Energy and
Commerce Committee this week to give the state's perspective of the outbreak
and how the state's resource could have been better used to collaborate
with federal officials to resolve the problem.
"Still, they have yet to say that tomatoes were never the problem,"
Compton said. "They're not saying that because they don't feel that's
the case right now, but we do."
find salmonella on another jalapeno
By David Mitchell
Source of Article: http://thepacker.com
(July 29, UPDATED 2:09 p.m.) A second jalapeno pepper has tested positive
for Salmonella Saintpaul, and this time, it has been directly linked to
a sick consumer.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said July 28
that that a pepper provided by an ill resident of Montezuma County tested
positive with the same strain of salmonella that has caused more than
1,300 illnesses in a multistate outbreak.
Alicia Cronquist, an epidemiologist with the Colorado Department of Public
Health and Environment, said the pepper was purchased at a Wal-Mart store
in the southwestern part of the state, likely on June 24, and the consumer
became ill July 4.
Cronquist said state agency received the pepper sample July 21, and the
positive test was confirmed July 28.
¡°It¡¯s really important that we¡¯ve been able to link a pepper to a specific
person who has been ill,¡± she said. ¡°Most people don¡¯t remember exactly
what they ate or exactly when or where they bought it.¡±
No grower or distributor has been identified. Cronquist said the state
is working with the Food and Drug Administration to determine the origin
of the product.
¡°This is a big priority for all of us,¡± she said.
FDA announced a consumer advisory July 21, warning consumers not to eat
fresh jalapenos after a Mexican jalapeno in a McAllen, Texas, distribution
center tested positive for Salmonella Saintpaul. The agency also advised
high-risk consumers ? infants, the elderly and people with compromised
immune systems ? not to eat fresh serrano peppers.
FDA cleared domestic jalapenos and serrano peppers July 25.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Bentonville, Ark., said in a July 28 news release
that ¡°following updated information provided by the FDA on Friday, July
25, we destroyed all Mexico-grown jalapeno peppers and returned all U.S.-grown
jalapeno peppers to our shelves.¡±
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said July 28 that there
are 1,304 reported illnesses in 43 states; Washington, D.C.; and Canada.
There have been at least 252 hospitalizations. The most recent onset date
of a reported illness is July 12.
Fiasco Could Have Been Prevented with Better Record-Keeping, Enforcement,
and Investigatory Tools
Tuesday, July 29th, 2008
Source of Article: http://www.newsinferno.com/archives/3528
It seems that Florida tomato growers are the latest victims in the federal
government¡¯s failure to quickly resolve a Salmonella outbreak that sickened
approximately 1,300 people nationwide. Because the government bowed to
food industry lobbyists and refused to implement an electronic record-keeping
system years ago that could more quickly determine the source of food-borne
illnesses, record delays and additional illnesses occurred in what is
one of the largest Salmonella outbreaks this nation has seen.
But now, a U.S. House investigative subcommittee hearing on Thursday may
be the push that will ultimately change the current, paper-driven system.
Most experts believe that if better record keeping was in place, tomatoes
might not have been mistakenly blamed for this most recent Salmonella
outbreak. Representative Bart Stupak, Democrat-Michigan, is the hearing¡¯s
chair. Stupak also chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee¡¯s investigative
subcommittee. ¡°This latest Salmonella outbreak has shown us that it is
necessary to have electronic record keeping and trace-back systems,¡± Stupak
told The Associated Press.
When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first said tomatoes might
have caused the outbreak, many stores stopped selling them, restaurants
stopped serving them, and people stopped eating them, all adversely impacting
tomato growers. Two months later, the FDA blamed Mexican jalapeno peppers
from a Texas distribution center and said that tomatoes were, in fact,
safe to eat after all. But, tomato growers in Florida and elsewhere across
the country have lost millions. And while this week¡¯s House subcommittee
hearing will not undo the damage resulting from the FDA¡¯s actions, it
could help prevent such mistakes from occurring in the future.
The AP discovered through government reports and interviews with former
federal officials that the Bush administration was pressured by the food
industry to limit companies¡¯ record keeping. Industry lobbyists said maintaining
electronic records would be too costly. Because U.S. health investigators
have only been left with paper records to review, the speed and effectiveness
of the investigation has been hampered, costing businesses about $250
million in loses since the outbreak first began in April. ¡°The food industry
is learning the hard way that having a strong FDA and common-sense regulation
makes good financial sense,¡± said Representative John Dingell, Democrat-Michigan,
chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
William Hubbard, former associate commissioner of the FDA, told the AP
that if the FDA had been given the resources and authority it requested
years ago, ¡°I think we would have solved this already.¡± Also, government
records indicate that food industry groups met with White House officials
no less than 10 times between March 2003 and March 2004 ¡°as food-safety
regulations were under debate.¡± The FDA¡¯s proposed rules ¡°were significantly
watered down before they became final,¡± said Caroline Smith DeWaal of
the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest. Tommy
Thompson, the-then secretary of Health and Human Services, acknowledged
to the AP, ¡°We went in with the larger package but knew we had to compromise.
If we had more, would it help the situation now? Yes.¡±
food protection plan
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Source of Article: http://www.reporternews.com
In November 2007, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services unveiled
its plans to strengthen and update the U.S. food safety system. In order
to make many of the necessary changes, the plan stresses the need to realign
roles and responsibilities within the agency and for legislative action.
For instance, the Food & Drug Administration is seeking legislative
changes that will allow the agency to require food facilities to renew
their FDA registrations every 2 years, which the agency argues will allow
for superior prevention.
Also, among other recommended changes, FDA is urging Congress to empower
the agency to issue mandatory recalls of contaminated products when voluntary
recalls fall short.
The Food Protection Plan was developed in conjunction with the broader
U.S. Import Safety Action Plan that focuses on how the U.S. can improve
the safety of all imported products.
The Food Protection Plan focuses FDA's efforts on three areas:
- Prevention -- FDA will boost efforts to prevent food from becoming contaminated
via a 3-pronged approach of: 1) promoting increased corporate responsibility
to prevent food-borne illnesses; 2) identifying food vulnerabilities and
assessing risks; and 3) expanding the understanding and use of proven
- Intervention -- FDA will intervene at critical points in the food supply
chain from production to consumption. Inspections will be based on risk
assessments and enhanced risk-based surveillance.
- Response -- FDA intends to improve both the agency's immediate response
to a food-borne illness outbreak, and its risk communication with the
U.S. public, industry and other interested parties.
Sources: FDA, Trust For America's Health
to make you sick: Most imports not inspected
By Brian Bethel (Contact)
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Source of Article: http://www.reporternews.com/
From spinach to tomatoes, every few years a new food-related health concern
sends government officials and private individuals scurrying for solutions.
A 2007 poll by consumer group Trust For America's Health found that 67
percent of Americans are worried about food safety -- ranked higher than
concerns about pandemic flu, biological or chemical terrorism, and natural
And there is cause for concern. About 76 million Americans -- one in four
-- are sickened by food-borne illnesses every year, according to the organization.
Much attention in investigations such as the recent salmonella outbreak
is given to the quality and standards of imported foods, which make up
15 percent of food consumed in the United States.
Each year the average American eats about 260 pounds of imported foods,
The Associated Press reported in 2007.
But only about 1 percent of imported foods the Food and Drug Administration
oversees -- including fruits and vegetables -- is inspected, according
to Trust for America's Health.
An estimated 85 percent of known food-borne illness outbreaks are associated
with FDA-regulated food products, compared with 15 percent of such outbreaks
being associated with meat, poultry and eggs -- items regulated by the
U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service.
"We need to recognize that Americans are getting 13 to 15 percent
of their diet from imported food products," said Sarah Klein, staff
attorney with the Center for Science in the Public Interest's food safety
"When you think about how much that is, and how little the FDA is
inspecting, it is somewhat alarming."
The FDA regulates $417 billion worth of domestic food and $49 billion
worth of imported food each year, according to its Web site. Questions
sent to the FDA were not immediately answered.
The organization has been systematically stripped of the funding it needs
to adequately oversee food safety, Klein said.
The FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition has lost 20 percent
of its science staff and about 600 inspectors in the past three years,
according to TFAH's April 2008 report, "Fixing Food Safety: Protecting
America's Food Supply From Farm-to-Fork."
The organization has 1,700 field inspectors, versus 7,600 for the USDA,
and the FDA's budget for fiscal year 2007 was $563 million, versus the
USDA's $1.02 billion.
Patty Lovera, assistant director for consumer group Food & Water Watch,
said that while for years her group has focused on the USDA, the FDA is
responsible for much more of the U.S. food supply, both imported and exported.
"We have a split system, and many people are shocked when they realize
how much the FDA doesn't do," she said. "Many more people are
familiar with the concept that the USDA is in there. That's their legal
mandate -- to be in the plants."
The FDA relies solely on point-of-entry inspections of imported food.
The USDA, on the other hand, works with the importing establishments'
governments to verify that other countries' regulatory systems for meat,
poultry and egg products are equivalent to that of the U.S. and that products
entering the U.S. are safe.
The FDA's inspection requirements are company-specific, meaning companies
must register with the FDA before importing food products.
The USDA is in many ways "doing a much better job than the FDA,"
but the organization also imports fewer products and has more resources,
The United States Department of Agriculture inspected about 16 percent
of imported foods in fiscal 2006, The Associated Press reported last year.
There are inherent difficulties in dealing with any agricultural products
from other nations, Lovera said.
"If you're talking about things like salmonella in produce, chances
are you're talking about something that was spread through contaminated
water," she said. "That's an example of a challenge in other
Items such as fish have an enormous number of challenges, including being
kept at the proper temperature.
"There are logistical issues in just moving some of this stuff around
the planet and keeping it at the temperature it needs to be," she
"There are so many things that can go wrong."
The FDA import model is one of voluntary guidance, she said.
"They tell the industry, 'Here are our suggestions for how to do
things safely,'" Lovera said. "When it comes to the inspection
resources they have and the size of the industry they're supposed to be
regulating, they're just really outgunned."
But according to a 2007 U.S. Government Accountability Office report,
federal oversight of food is in general fragmented, with 15 agencies collectively
administrating at least 30 laws related to food safety.
"None of those agencies has ultimate authority or responsibility,
so accountability for the total system is limited," according to
TFAH's April report. "No one person in the federal government has
the oversight and accountability for carrying out comprehensive, preventive
strategies for reducing food-borne illness," the report says.
America's food safety system includes the government, which ideally serves
as a regulatory agency, and the food industry, which produces, processes,
distributes and sells food, according to the report, which said that most
producers take safety seriously. Historically, innovations in food safety
come from within the industry.
The FDA does not have the authority, in this country or elsewhere, to
take an overly active role, Klein said. The FDA has had problems with
tainted imports including pet foods, seafood and produce in recent years,
"One of the things we saw during the pet food outbreak last year
was that the FDA had to basically make a request to China to go inspect
facilities that had been importing tainted wheat glutens," Klein
said. "We'd like to see the FDA go over and certify these systems
before they accept product from them."
While much attention is paid to potential overseas problems, domestic
outbreaks can be just as deadly and hard to track, Lovera said.
Two years ago, a domestic E. coli outbreak in spinach made people in "almost
the entire country sick" from something that happened in one county
in California, she said.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest wants a comprehensive traceability
system, similar to tracking systems used by shipping businesses such as
UPS, Klein said.
"When you mail a package, you're given a bar code that allows you
to go online and track your package," Klein said.
"It will show you that your package went from the UPS center where
you dropped it off to the distribution center where it was sorted to an
airplane, where it was sent to another distribution center and sorted
In CSPI's vision, a farmer would affix a label to an item of produce,
similar to stickers already seen on foods at some supermarkets.
"We're just saying, why don't we do a standardized number?"
she said. "On that sticker would be a number that stays with that
commodity whether it was repacked, what kind of packing house or distribution
it went through, so that in the event of an outbreak like the one we're
experiencing now, the FDA would be able to track it right back to its
Jaydee Hanson, policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety, said some
have proposed other solutions such as laser-inscribed tattoos on the skins
But determining who should run such a tracking program is difficult, Lovera
"We think it should not be an industry-run system," she said.
"We need more than what we have now, I think we're living through
an example of that. But right now, I don't think that just a traceability
system is all we need to do. That's a system for dealing with a problem,
and we would also like to put as much energy into preventing problems."
Ideally, government agencies should implement farm-to-fork tracking to
prevent drawn-out searches for the source of tainted goods when it happens,
while trying to create better practices to ensure safety before the food
reaches them, Klein said.
In 2004 the FDA came up with what Hanson called a good food safety strategy
but didn't ask Congress for the money to implement it.
"The FDA has come up with some good designs, but it hasn't asked
Congress for the resources to build the house," he said.
The Bush Administration released its Import Safety Action Plan in November.
The Plan is integrated with the FDA's Food Protection Plan, also released
in November, according to the TFAH report.
"The Food Protection Plan discusses the need to build safety into
the entire food supply chain -- including imported foods," according
to the report.
The plan directs the FDA to "work with foreign governments, which
have a greater ability to oversee manufacturers within their borders to
ensure compliance with safety standards."
Hanson said the FDA has announced intentions to open offices this year
in Latin America, India and China, which he called a good step.
It is essential to stress that the United States wants food that meets
its higher standards, he said.
"If China, India and Mexico want to export to us, then let them pay
to meet our standards," Hanson said.
Outbreak Exposes Food-Safety Flaws
Lack of Preparation And Poor Records Cause Delays, Errors
(Wall Street Journal)
By JANE ZHANG and JANET ADAMY
The twisting road that led federal investigators to announce Monday that
they found a single contaminated jalapeno pepper grown in Mexico and sitting
at a distribution center in McAllen, Texas -- the smoking gun in the continuing
salmonella outbreak long blamed on tomatoes -- has exposed problems in
the U.S. food-safety system.
After weeks of trying to get to the bottom of the outbreak, it occurred
to investigators in late June that they had to look beyond fresh tomatoes.
In at least two large clusters of illnesses, tomatoes weren't a factor,
and cases kept piling up after the government had warned consumers to
avoid eating fresh tomatoes.
Hurdles to the probe ranged from poor record-keeping for tracking fresh
produce to some overwhelmed state health departments to the fact that
jalapenos had never before been implicated in a salmonella outbreak.
"It's a mess -- that's part of the problem with the food-safety system
we have today," said Michael Doyle, director of the University of
Georgia's Center for Food Safety. "When folks get together at the
table, no one is officially in charge. Sometimes one person talks over
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of 12 federal
agencies responsible for food safety, relies heavily on state health departments
to test stool samples. But some states don't have the money or resources
to handle that task quickly. Delays in reporting -- Texas, with the largest
number of cases, had a backlog -- slowed the probe.
In early stages of the investigation, jalapeno peppers weren't in the
picture. The peppers, never before linked to a salmonella outbreak, weren't
on the questionnaire health officials used to interview early patients.
Officials in New Mexico and at the CDC decided raw tomatoes were the source
of the outbreak because 86% of patients ate them before becoming ill.
History also played a part: Tomatoes had caused at least a dozen prior
But the Food and Drug Administration's hunt for contaminated tomatoes
was hampered by poor record-keeping and the common practice of mixing
and processing tomatoes from many different farms together. Also, many
tomato fields were no longer in production, and all 1,700 samples tested
negative for salmonella.
What the federal government and the food industry learn from the investigation
could help improve the system. Already, a system to enhance the FDA's
ability to trace the source of contaminated food has gained support among
some prominent lawmakers and the FDA.
Agricultural producers have been leery of such systems because they could
bring liability to their doorstep, but Kathy Means, a vice president at
the Produce Marketing Association, said that is changing since recent
outbreaks of food-borne illnesses have been so costly for farmers and
The trade group last year began crafting a plan to set up a global, electronic
tracking system. "We need to be able to trace produce in minutes
or hours, not days or weeks," Ms. Means said.
Officials at the CDC still haven't ruled out tomatoes as the culprit,
though the FDA did lift its warning against eating them, but are also
doing some soul-searching. "We are asking ourselves: Could you have
caught peppers? Was there a pepper component missed in earlier stages?"
said Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the CDC's division of food-borne,
bacterial and mycotic diseases. He added later: "We want very much
to learn what we can do better."
As of Monday, the CDC had reported that 1,256 people in 43 states, the
District of Columbia and Canada had been sickened, and that two deaths
were linked to the outbreak. The number may be higher, because many people
recover without seeing a doctor or having a stool sample analyzed. Salmonella
is a feces-borne bacterium that can cause diarrhea, fever and cramps.
The outbreak was first identified May 21, when New Mexico's state laboratory
confirmed three cases with the genetic fingerprint of the rare and virulent
Saintpaul strain of salmonella.
The next day, with more cases confirmed, state officials immediately alerted
the CDC. Also that day, the CDC told Texas officials that similar salmonella
cases had cropped up there.
By May 23, Texas had 14 cases, said William Ayres, a spokesman for the
Texas Department of State Health Services.
Both states started asking patients what they ate before they got sick.
The state questionnaires had more than 200 food items including peppers
but not specifically jalapenos. The surveys found a strong link with tomato
consumption, a disproportionately high 86%, and less than half of the
ill people who were surveyed remembered eating salsa, Dr. Tauxe said.
By late June, investigators were focusing on ingredients in salsa and
other dishes that contained fresh tomatoes. Health authorities were scrutinizing
two Texas clusters involving Mexican-style restaurants and another in
Minnesota. In each of the Texas clusters, about 30 people became ill,
Dr. Tauxe said. In one, people ate a dish with fresh jalapeno and fresh
tomatoes, and in the other, fresh jalapeno peppers and canned tomatoes,
which are considered safe.
In Minnesota, the restaurant had already tossed out tomatoes after the
FDA warning, said Kirk Smith, supervisor of the foodborne diseases unit
at the Minnesota Department of Health. Among the 20 patrons and seven
food workers sickened, jalapenos were the common item.
Jalapenos are hard to pinpoint because they are used in many dishes, and
people often don't remember eating them, Dr. Tauxe said. "How do
we detect something people don't remember eating."
Last week, the FDA lifted its warning on tomatoes, but still said they
could have been to blame for some of the cases. Regulators still held
out the possibility that cilantro or serrano peppers might be the cause
of some of illnesses, too. 7-23-08
Safety Advocate William Marler Calls For Public Meat Inspection Records,
Article Date: 28 Jul 2008 - 3:00 PDT
Source of Article: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/116322.php
Food safety advocate and attorney William Marler is calling on the Meat
Industry and the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) to make the
inspection reports from meat processing facilities visible and easily
available to the public so that consumers - including grocery stores and
restaurants - can make informed choices on which products they want to
"During the last decade, the number of city and state health departments
that post restaurant inspection results online has increased significantly,"
said Marler from his office in Seattle. "Moreover, in places like
Los Angeles County, all restaurants regularly receive either a letter-grade
or inspection-score, and these must be prominently posted near the entrance
to the restaurant. The primary goal of these efforts is to motivate restaurants
to improve sanitation and food-handling practices so that fewer people
get sick. When faced with a choice between dining at a restaurant that
received a C-grade versus an A-grade, it is pretty much a no-brainer that
people are going to be more inclined to spend money at a restaurant with
a higher grade!
"But if making this kind of information easily available is such
a no-brainer, why then does the FSIS make it so difficult for the public
to find out the results of thousands of inspections it performs everyday
in meat plants across the country? In 2005, FSIS employed over 7,600 inspection
program personnel in about 6,000 federally inspected establishments nationwide
with an annual cost of $815.1 million. That is a lot of money to spend
on inspections given that the public does not currently have any way by
which to gain easy and timely access.
"Right now, for all meat products made in a USDA-inspected plant,
the plant's establishment number must appear on the label with the mark
of inspection. But if a consumer trying to decide what brand of frozen
hamburgers to buy wants to compare one plant's inspection records with
another, the only way copies of the inspection reports (called Noncompliance
Records, or NR's) can be obtained is by making a request under the Freedom
of Information Act (FOIA). These FOIA requests can, however, take years
to be processed. And so usually it is only after there has been a big
outbreak and recall - like the recent ones involving Topps or Nebraska
Beef - that the public learns about how many times a plant has failed
an inspection, or been found to be in violation of safety regulations."
"Consumers should know the record of the company responsible for
any meat they purchase," sums up Marler. "We've paid for the
inspections - we're owed that much, at least."
An accomplished personal injury lawyer and national expert in foodborne
illness litigation, William Marler has been a major force in food safety
policy in the United States and abroad. He and his partners at Marler
Clark have represented thousands of individuals in claims against food
companies whose contaminated products have caused serious injury and death.
His advocacy for better food regulation has led to invitations to address
local, national, and international gatherings on food safety, including
recent testimony to the US Congress Committee on Energy and Commerce.
Marler Clark is considered the nation's foremost law firm representing
victims of foodborne illness and other serious personal injuries. Contact
Mary Siceloff at firstname.lastname@example.org or (206) 719-4705. For further
information visit http://www.marlerclark.com and http://www.marlerblog.com.
coli Lawsuit Filed Against Missouri Raw Milk Distributor
Posted on July 29, 2008 by E. coli Lawyer
Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/
A lawsuit was filed today in the Circuit Court for Barry County, Missouri
against Soni Copeland and the Herb Depot and Organic Market. The petition
was filed on behalf of Monett residents Brian and Angela Pedersen and
their young son, Larry. The Pedersen family is represented by Marler Clark,
a Seattle law firm dedicated to representing victims of foodborne illness,
and by Aleshire, Robb, and Sivils of Springfield, Missouri.
The lawsuit states that in April, 2008 Angela Pedersen purchased raw milk
from the Herb Depot and Organic Market in Monett, where she was encouraged
to give it to her son Larry, then one year old. In late April, Larry Pedersen
began to suffer from symptoms including vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and
abdominal cramps. He was admitted to the hospital in Aurora, Missouri,
where he tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 and subsequently developed
HUS, or Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, a severe and life-threatening complication.
On May 10, 2008 he was transferred to the St. Louis Children¡¯s Hospital,
where he remained until May 29. As a result of his infection and illness,
he has suffered severe and permanent injuries.
Raw milk regulation is determined at the state level and varies widely
across the country. In Missouri, raw milk can legally be sold at the point
of production (the dairy farm) or delivered personally by the farmer,
but may not be sold by retail establishments such as the Herb Depot. As
a state law was violated, the Missouri Attorney General¡¯s office has also
filed suit against Soni Copeland and the Herb Depot.
Raw milk is at the center of a nationwide controversy over its potential
value as a nutritional food versus the terrible illnesses that can result
from contaminated product. Pasteurization was developed to rid dairy products
of pathogens like toxic E. coli, as well as to assure a longer, safer
shelf life. Proponents of raw milk believe that pasteurization also eliminates
healthful benefits of the dairy product.
coli Links Nebraska, Georgia, California
Posted on July 25, 2008 by E. coli Attorney
Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/
E. coli cases are such an everyday announcement now days, I have trouble
keep up with them on the blog. Here are a few over just the last twelve
York Officials Confirmed E. Coli Case
A health official says restaurant food and a recent meat recall have been
ruled out as possible sources of E. coli that sickened at least two people
in southeast Nebraska. The cases were reported to the department on Tuesday.
More E. coli lawsuit expected
A law suit filed Monday against Nebraska Beef, who the Public Health Department
reports sold E. coli tainted meat to a Moultrie restaurant, may not be
the only local complaint filed.
Cargill Meat Recalled - Again
Fresno, California - Beef Packers, Inc., a Fresno, California, firm, is
recalling approximately 1,560 pounds of beef cheek products because they
may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture¡¯s
Food Safety and Inspection Service announced today. The following products
are subject to recall: 30-pound boxes of ¡°CARGILL MEAT SOLUTIONS CORPORATION,
BEEF CHEEK MEAT - SM BX.¡±
E. coli patient hospitalized 3 weeks
Laura Comer spent three weeks in the hospital. Suspect plasma was flushed
out of her body and replaced with fresh quantities. Seven doctors treated
her, some of them quoting mortality rates. All because of something she
Milk Causing Illness in East, Midwest and West
Posted on July 22, 2008 by Food Poisoning Attorney
Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/
In breaking news this evening, Connecticut state inspectors are investigating
raw milk from a Simsbury dairy farm after reported illnesses. The State
Department of Agriculture is looking at whether the raw, unpasteurized
milk from Town Farm Dairy on Wolcott Street is responsible for making
people sick after a number of illnesses have been reported. The dairy
has voluntarily shut down production and its store while inspectors investigate.
We are representing a young girl sickened with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome
by E. coli O157:H7 in Missouri. Press reports - Raw milk thought to sicken
one with E. coli O157:H7 in Missouri. Radio station KSMU reports in this
podcast that a local resident has contracted E. coli O157:H7 and that
raw milk appears to be a risk factor. Hear it all at KSMU News.
We are also investigating a guillain-barre syndrome case from Crescent
City, California that was caused by a Campylobacter infection induced
by raw milk consumption. The victim has been hospitalized on a ventilator
now for 5 weeks.
We are also continuing
litigation on behalf of two children who suffered severe E. coli O157:H7
infections (HUS) after consuming raw milk products produced by Organic
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