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Who Poisoned our Peppers?
Posted on August 19, 2008 by Bill Marler
Source of Article:
What if the great 2008 Tomato, right Pepper, Salmonella Outbreak actually happened this ay?
At 10:00 PM last May 30th, on the same day New Mexico asked for help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) with a growing outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul, a foreign Network begin airing a video taken inside a fresh produce distribution center showing workers treating peppers with an unknown liquid. There is a claim that this is a terrorist act.
In the next 15 minutes, every network news operation is playing the video. The broadcast networks break into regular programming to air it, and the cable news stations go nonstop with the video while talking heads dissect it.
Coming on a Friday afternoon on the East Coast, the food terrorism story catches the mainstream Media completely off guard. Other than to say the video is being analyzed by CIA experts, and is presumed to be authentic, there isn¡¯t much coming out of the government.
Far-fetched? Don¡¯t count on it. I have been saying for years that a foodborne illness outbreak will look just like the terrorist act described above, but without the video on FOX News. Far-fetched?
Tell that to the 751 people in Wasco County, Oregon?including 45 who required hospital stays---who in 1984 ate at any one of ten salad bars in town and were poisoned by followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. The goal was to make people who were not followers of the cult too sick to vote in county elections.
Tell that to Chile, where in 1989, a shipment of grapes bound for the United States was found laced with cyanide, bringing trade suspension that cost the South American country $200 million. It was very much like a 1970s plot by Palestinian terrorists to inject Israel¡¯s Jaffa oranges with mercury.
Tell that to the 111 people, including 40 children, sickened in May 2003 when a Michigan supermarket employee intentionally tainted 200 pounds of ground beef with an insecticide containing nicotine.
Tell that to Stanford University researchers who modeled a nightmare scenario where a mere 4 grams of botulinum toxin dropped into a milk production facility could cause serious illness and even death to 400,000 people in the United States.
The reason I bring this up is not only because we are about to mark the seventh anniversary of 9/11, but because I wonder if food terrorism really had been the cause of this year¡¯s Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak, would it have made any difference in our government¡¯s ability to figure out there was an outbreak, to figure out the cause, and to stop it before it sickened so many.
Would the fact of terrorists operating from inside a fresh produce distribution center somewhere inside the United States or Mexico brought more or effective resources to the search for the source of the Salmonella Saintpaul? If credit-taking terrorists were putting poison on our peppers, could we be certain Uncle Sam¡¯s response would have been more robust or effective then if it was just a ¡°regular¡± food illness outbreak?
After 9/11, Health & Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said: ¡°Public health is a national security issue. It must be treated as such. Therefore, we must not only make sure we can respond to a crisis, but we must make sure that we are secure in defending our stockpiles, our institutions and our products.¡±
Before Thompson¡¯s early exit from the Bush Administration, he did get published the ¡°Risk Assessment for Food Terrorism and Other Food Safety Concerns.¡± That document, now 5-years old, let the American public know that there is a ¡°high likelihood¡± of food terrorism. It said the ¡°possible agents for food terrorism¡± are:
- Biological and chemical agents
- Naturally occurring, antibiotic-resistant, and genetically engineered substances
- Deadly agents and those tending to cause gastrointestinal discomfort
- Highly infectious agents and those that are not communicable
- Substances readily available to any individual and those more difficult to acquire, and
- Agents that must be weaponized and those accessible in a useable form.
After 9/11, Secretary Thompson said more inspectors and more traceability are keys to our food defense and safety. To date, we¡¯ve made no movement to ensure this.
So would the fact of a terrorist group operating from a produce distribution center inside the United States or Mexico have brought more or effective resources to the search for the source of Salmonella Saintpaul? If credit-taking terrorists were putting poison on our peppers, could we be certain that Uncle Sam¡¯s response would be more robust, more effective than if it was just a ¡°regular¡± food illness outbreak?

Absolutely not! The CDC publicly admits that it manages to count and track only one of every forty foodborne illness victims, and that its inspectors miss key evidence as outbreaks begin. The FDA is on record as referring to themselves as overburdened, underfunded, understaffed, and in possession of no real power to make a difference during recalls, because even Class 1 recalls are ¡°voluntary.¡± If you are a food manufacturer, packer, or distributer, you are more likely to be hit by lightening than be inspected by the FDA. You are perfectly free to continue to sell and distribute your poisoned product, whether it has been poisoned accidentally or intentionally.
The reality is that the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak is a brutal object lesson in the significant gaps in our ability to track and protect our food supply. We are ill prepared for a crisis, regardless of who poisons us.
Somewhere between the farm and your table, our Uncle Sam got lost.

¡°Say it ain¡¯t so Joe¡±¡¦.. Errrr, David the Food Czar
Posted on August 19, 2008 by Salmonella Attorney
Source of Article:
Garance Burke, the pied piper of pepper reporting, added fuel to the flames lapping at what is left of a once proud Federal Agency ? the FDA. Her story of a few hours ago, ¡°Mexican peppers posed problem long before outbreak,¡± is less shocking than pathetic. Here is the meat:
Federal inspectors at U.S. border crossings repeatedly turned back filthy, disease-ridden shipments of peppers from Mexico in the months before a salmonella outbreak that sickened 1,400 people was finally traced to Mexican chilies.
Yet no larger action was taken. Food and Drug Administration officials insisted as recently as last week that they were surprised by the outbreak because Mexican peppers had not been spotted as a problem before.
Peppers and chilies were consistently the top Mexican crop rejected by border inspectors for the last year. Since January alone, 88 shipments of fresh and dried chilies were turned away. Ten percent were contaminated with salmonella. In the last year, 8 percent of the 158 intercepted shipments of fresh and dried chilies had salmonella.
The agency doesn't keep count of what percentage of the nearly 491,200 metric tons of Mexican peppers imported last year were turned away at the U.S. border. In general, the federal government inspects less than 1 percent of all foreign food entering the country.
And, David Acheson, our Food Czar, linked the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak to Tomatoes? "Say it ain¡¯t so." With our federal food safety agencies unable to perform at a basic level of competence, perhaps the Opinion Piece in the LA Times has things at least partially correct ? ¡°Sold on food safety - Corporate self-interest and fear of lawsuits has some retailers taking on the role of consumer watchdogs.¡±
If more than 1,400 people were sickened by a nationwide outbreak of salmonella, could a lawsuit be far behind? A Colorado man has sued Wal-Mart [that would be my case], claiming that he was sold a tainted jalapeno pepper even though the retailer leads its customers to believe that the food it sells is wholesome. [The Salmonella Saintpaul found in his stool was a match to the peppers found in his home and linked to all 1,400 other illnesses and the Mexican farms where the peppers were grown].
The opinion piece goes on to say incorrectly, ¡°Wal-Mart, of course, would have had no way of knowing whether its peppers were tainted [Hmmm, wonder if Wal-Mart even cared where it could buy peppers the cheapest?]¡¦.¡±

But, then the writer hits it:
Considering how amorphous food production is under modern agribusiness practices -- with processors and distributors commingling and shipping produce from hundreds of farms, and the FDA unable so far to monitor this situation in a meaningful way -- retailers represent the consumer's best chance of being compensated for food poisoning. Because of that, they also might turn out to be the strongest force for safer agricultural methods.
Bingo! It is time for the big retailers to step up and put food safety first. Whether it is peppers procured by Wal-Mart or hamburger handled by Whole Foods, retailers must require ? and pay for ? safe food from suppliers. Safer food means less ill people, less ill people means less lawsuits. Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, get the picture? You stop buying contaminated food and selling it as safe to your customers and I will stop suing you - easy enough?

USDA drafts guidelines on E. coli sampling in small, very small beef plants
By Tom Johnston on 8/18/2008
Source of Article:
USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service on Friday issued draft compliance guidelines on sampling beef product for E. coli O157:H7 in small and very small plants.
The Draft Guidance document offers specific testing frequency recommendations for small and very small plants that produce ground beef based on their daily volumes.
"The purpose of this guidance is to help small and very small establishments develop sampling plans for monitoring the effectiveness of process controls that are designed to prevent Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157:H7 contaminated product from leaving the establishment," the agency said.
To view the document, click here.

Who Does the USDA Really Protect When it Comes to Deadly E. coli?
Posted on August 18, 2008 by Food Poisoning Lawyer
Source of Article:
Guest Blog by Denis W. Stearns:
On October 3, 2002 I submitted a petition to the USDA in which I asked the agency to explicitly clarify whether a USDA policy that appeared to allow the deadly pathogen E. coli O157:H7 on so-called ¡°intact meat¡± applied to meat sold to retail outlets like grocery stores and restaurants. Even now it is a near-universal practice for retail outlets to use this meat?commonly called ¡°boxed beef¡± because the cuts of meat are individually shrink-wrapped and then boxed?to make ground beef. Sometimes the meat is directly used to make ground beef, and sometimes only trimmings are used?that is, the pieces left over after roasts and steak are cut and trimmed. Either way, there has never been any doubt that tens of thousands of grocery stores and restaurants use tons of intact meat every day to make ground beef. To my mind it makes absolutely no sense that the USDA would allow meat companies to sell intact meat contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. Why allow a loophole so large that it essentially moots USDA policy on this deadly pathogen?
Interestingly, the USDA responded to my petition with a letter from Philip Derfler, Deputy Administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service. In the letter, Mr. Derfler acknowledged that USDA policy was unclear, and stated that my petition would be treated as a public comment and referred to the Regulations and Directives Development Staff. That was six years ago, and USDA policy is less clear today than it was back then, and just as indefensible.
We are now in the midst of yet another outbreak of heartbreaking illnesses and likely deaths caused by contaminated meat that the beef industry claims the USDA authorizes it to sell. This claim is hardly new either. In 2004, the American Meat Institute and other meat industry trade groups fought all the way to the United States Supreme Court trying to overturn a Wisconsin Court of Appeals decision. The decision held that USDA policy on intact meat did not immunize meat companies from lawsuits based on allegations that E. coli-contaminated meat was unreasonably dangerous as a matter of state law. In other words, the meat industry was fighting for the right to sell E. coli-contaminated meat, claiming that USDA policy said that it could. It lost, but that did not prompt the USDA to change or clarify its policy.
Putting legal arguments aside, common sense alone clearly demonstrates why an exception for intact meat makes no sense. While the meat industry can cleverly argue that its intact meat is not intended for ground beef, and that cooking always makes it safe, neither statement is true. As the recent Nebraska Beef outbreaks make tragically clear, most intact meat does not reach consumers still intact. Furthermore, if each shrink-wrapped cut of meat had ¡°DO NOT USE FOR GROUND BEEF; E. COLI O157:H7 PRESENT¡± printed in bold letters on it, there is not a grocery store in the country that would buy it. Indeed, commenting on the current outbreak, a representative of Whole Foods explained that it was using intact meat to make its own ground beef ¡°in an attempt to assure quality and safety.¡± I guess the joke was on them then.
The current USDA policy on E. coli and intact meat is indefensible because it protects the interests of the meat industry instead of the public health. A policy that is based on the demonstrably false assumption that intact meat is not being used to make ground beef at a retail level is a policy that has no basis in fact or reason. It also entirely ignores the incredible risk of cross-contamination, which is what caused the 2000 outbreak at a Milwaukee-area Sizzler restaurant that killed one child and sickened scores of others. The Sizzler outbreak also recently resulted in a $7.1 million verdict against the same meat company that fought to the Supreme Court (with industry trade groups) for the right to sell the deadly stuff. Meanwhile, all these years later, the USDA says it is continuing to consider its options. Well, I have a suggestion: How about putting the interests of the public first for a change and sticking to a real zero-tolerance policy for this deadly pathogen?

B.S.E. case confirmed in Alberta
(, August 15, 2008)
by Keith Nunes Source of Article:
OTTAWA ? Yet another case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (B.S.E.) has been identified in a six-year-old beef cow from Alberta. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (C.F.I.A.) said the animal¡¯s birth farm has been identified and an investigation is under way.
As with past investigations, the C.F.I.A. is tracing the animal¡¯s herd mates at the time of birth and looking for possible sources of infection. The case was detected through Canada¡¯s national B.S.E. surveillance program.
The case is the second this summer. In late June, the C.F.I.A. identified a case of B.S.E. in a five-year-old Holstein cow in British Columbia.

FDA increases inspections, tightens pepper imports
By Mary Avila
Monday, August 18, 2008 at 10:54 a.m.
Source of Article:
Mexican produce imports are in the spotlight once again.
Health officials are still not sure what exactly is behind the salmonella epidemic but have tightened rules for importing peppers from Mexico.
Just last month, government inspectors visited a potentially infected plant in McAllen trying to get some answers.
U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) representatives were tight-lipped about the situation.
But the FDA said on Friday that it has placed tougher border screenings on a dozen Mexican distributors on its "import alert" list.
The new guidelines became an issue at ports of entry in the Rio Grande Valley last month.
Produce importers complained their loads were being held up for days and spoiling.
But FDA is still inspecting farms in Mexico where a handful of jalapeno and serrano peppers were believed to have contained the bacteria.
More cases of salmonella contamination have since been uncovered although officials have not revealed how much salmonella bacteria has been found.

Salmonella fears halt production at Kildare meat plant
OLIVIA KELLY Saturday, August 16, 2008
Source of Article:
A CO KILDARE meat plant which is possibly linked to a salmonella outbreak in Ireland, Britain and Finland has temporarily halted production.
Dawn Farm Foods said it was stopping meat production at its plant in Naas to carry out a ¡°pharmaceutical grade cleandown¡± of the entire plant.
The plant will resume production after the cleaning, but the production line identified as the possible cause of the outbreak will not be reopened.
Up to 119 people in Ireland, Britain and Finland have been infected by the salmonella agona outbreak, which may be caused by contaminated meat products made at the Naas plant. A 77-year-old British woman has died from complications thought to be associated with the outbreak.
The bug can cause serious illness including diarrhoea, stomach cramps, vomiting and fever.
In a statement yesterday Dawn Farm Foods said the possible link to the outbreak was associated with one specific production line which was immediately closed after the company was notified by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.
Shipping of all associated products was stopped and the decommissioned line would not reopen until the final results of the investigation into the outbreak have been made known.
The company said the entire plant would now be subject to a pharmaceutical grade cleandown.
¡°The company has taken this measure as an additional safeguard to reassure its business customers and the public as to the safety of its products. Dawn Farm Foods has engaged the services of a specialist bio-activation technology company normally utilised in the pharmaceutical and biomedical sectors, to carry out this process.¡±
The cleandown will ensure that the factory is clear of any potential environmental contaminants, the statement said.
¡°This is the first incident of its kind for Dawn Farm Foods in its 25 years in operation and Dawn Farms is working closely with the authorities and international experts to ensure that every necessary step is taken and all efforts are made to protect consumer health and maintain customer confidence,¡± it added.
The company said the health and safety of consumers was paramount and it was taking every possible step to bring the matter to a conclusion.
The European Centre for Disease Control this week issued a Europe-wide public health alert in relation to the outbreak, which was first identified at the beginning of August.
The centre has confirmed that 14 people across Europe have been hospitalised due to the outbreak. Four people in the Republic have required hospital treatment.
The outbreak has prompted the withdrawal of beef strips, chicken, lamb and pork supplied to at least eight European countries and to Kuwait. Dawn Farm Foods voluntarily withdrew the food products after the genetic fingerprint of salmonella agona was linked to a particular production line at its Naas plant.
Last Wednesday the food safety authority said additional products had been identified that could be implicated as a source of the outbreak.
One product in particular had been incorporated into a number of branded retail packs of chicken and bacon sandwich filler tubs which had been sold through national retail chains. These products had been withdrawn by the retailers.

Leafy greens food safety program completes first year of audits
Aug 18, 2008 10:32 AM
Source of Article:
A model consumer food safety program has completed more than 500 inspections in its first year thanks to the California Leafy Greens Handler Marketing Agreement (LGMA).
In 2007, California farmers came together to raise the bar for food safety. As a result the LGMA was formed as members work collaboratively to protect public health by reducing potential sources of contamination in California-grown leafy greens.
There have been no confirmed major incidents since the creation of the LGMA, which has received very favorable reviews from an independent panel of academics.
¡°The LGMA represents an unprecedented commitment to food safety and public health,¡± said Scott Horsfall, chief executive officer with LGMA. ¡°While there is always much more work to be done, the leafy greens industry has come a long way in the last twelve months.¡±
At the heart of the LGMA program is the mandatory government inspection program which certifies that member companies are implementing food safety practices, which were developed by university and industry scientists, food safety experts, farmers, shippers and processors.
These food safety practices were also reviewed by state and federal government health agencies. All LGMA member companies are subject to mandatory government inspections on a regular, but random basis, to ensure LGMA-accepted food safety practices are being implemented.
The inspections are conducted by California Department of Food and Agriculture inspectors who receive special training and certification from the United States Department of Agriculture.
Currently, LGMA members represent over 99 percent of the volume of leafy green products produced in California. If an LGMA member is found to be out of compliance with the established food safety practices, they can be decertified from the program. Buyers of leafy green products support the LGMA program by only purchasing these products from certified member companies.
Recent research shows that the leafy green industry¡¯s approach to food safety can generate very favorable opinions among consumers. In a nationwide survey conducted in early 2008, 89 percent of consumers had a favorable opinion of the required food safety program including mandatory government inspections. And, 70 percent said the LGMA food safety program raised their confidence in the safety of leafy greens.
Further, almost 60 percent of consumers believe food safety is better protected by a program that employs government oversight and mandatory government inspections rather than private auditing companies following a set by individual companies.
Fourteen leafy green products are covered by the LGMA including: Arugula; Butter Lettuce; Chard; Escarole; Iceberg Lettuce; Spinach; Red Leaf Lettuce; Baby Leaf Lettuce; Cabbage Endive; Green Leaf Lettuce; Kale; Romaine Lettuce; and Spring Mix.

Bisphenol A Safe, Says FDA
FDA Issues Draft Report on Bisphenol A Noting "Adequate Margin of Safety" in Typical Exposure From Food
By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD
Source of Article:
Aug. 15, 2008 -- Bisphenol A, the controversial plastic chemical, is safe at typical exposure levels from food and drink, according to an FDA draft report.
Bisphenol A, also called BPA, is found in polycarbonate plastic, including some water bottles and baby bottles, and in epoxy resins, which are used to line metal products including canned foods.
The draft report states that based on lab tests in rodents, infants and adults are exposed to bisphenol A levels that are below toxic levels. "Safe or safety means that there is reasonable certainty in the minds of competent scientists that the substance is not harmful under the intended conditions of use," but "complete certainty of absolute harmlessness is scientifically impossible to establish," the draft report states.
Bisphenol A safety became a hot topic in April, when U.S. government scientists at the National Toxicology Program (NTP) expressed "some" concern about bisphenol A's possible effects on the mammary gland, prostate gland, and accelerated female puberty.
Since then, there's been a storm of bisphenol A publicity, with major retailers including Wal-Mart backing away from baby bottles containing bisphenol A, the FDA probing bisphenol A safety, and consumers wondering how concerned they should be.
"It's become a bit of a media spectacle," says Sarah Vogel, PhD, MPH, whose Columbia University dissertation traces the politics, economics, and scientific history of bisphenol A.
That spectacle hasn't let up. Today's FDA draft report, which doesn't recommend banning bisphenol A, is the latest development. But California lawmakers are debating a bill that would limit bisphenol A to trace amounts in products for kids age 3 and younger, and the NTP's final report is expected this summer. An FDA subcommittee will meet on Sept. 16 to discuss the FDA's draft report on bisphenol A.
But will those reports settle the bisphenol A safety debate? Or have the questions lodged in the public consciousness, with opinion outpacing official guidance? And when all is said and done, will you ever look at your water bottles, baby bottles, and canned foods the same way?
It depends whom you ask, with three very different viewpoints vying for your favor.

View No.1: No Need to Worry
This is the stance that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) took in late July -- and it's in line with today's FDA draft report.
An EFSA panel reviewed bisphenol A research -- mostly done on rodents -- and concluded that bisphenol A passes through the human body much faster than in rodents, with little chance for harm to human fetuses or newborns.
That finding "supports FDA's position that data we have reviewed up until this time support the safety of the currently permitted uses of BPA in food contact material," FDA spokesman Sebastian Cianci told WebMD by email last week, before the draft report was issued. Like the European report, the FDA's draft report argues that studying bisphenol A's effects in rodents may "overestimate" bisphenol A's effects in humans.
The American Chemistry Council, a plastics industry trade group, praises the FDA's conclusion. In a news release, the council says the FDA's draft report "strongly reaffirms" the safety of bisphenol A and calls the draft report "the most up-to-date analysis on the safety of bisphenol A in the world."
Steven Hentges, PhD, of the American Chemistry Council's Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group, told WebMD last week that consumers and companies that ditched bisphenol A made those decisions "very quickly, without having complete and final information."
Hentges says the studies that touched off concern "really aren't very robust." He also sees a "language" issue dating back to the NTP's draft report.
"The NTP language was 'some concern' and people tended to focus on the word 'concern' without realizing or really thinking through that there's a qualifier up front: 'some,'" says Hentges.

View No. 2: Cause for Concern
People with concerns about bisphenol A -- including some scientists studying bisphenol A -- see no proof that bisphenol A is harmless in humans.
Vogel, who will start a fellowship at the nonprofit Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia this fall, favors banning bisphenol A, but she doesn't think that a ban is likely.
Earlier this week, Vogel told WebMD she expected the FDA would, "at a minimum, would decide to reduce the reference dose," which is the acceptable amount of bisphenol A exposure in everyday life. That didn't happen; the FDA's draft report doesn't mention changing the reference dose.
Vogel wasn't immediately available to comment on the FDA's draft report. The nonprofit Environmental Working Group -- which Vogel doesn't work for -- issued a news release criticizing the FDA's draft report. "We have long since lost faith in FDA's ability to be an impartial authority on FDA's safety. Time and again, FDA has sided with special interests instead of the public interest on this chemical," Renee Sharp, a senior analyst with the Environmental Working Group, says in the news release.
Almost 93% of Americans have detectable levels of bisphenol A in their urine, Vogel observes, citing CDC data on urine samples provided by some 2,500 Americans aged 6 and older for a national health survey in 2003-2004.
Those CDC figures don't connect bisphenol A to health effects. But the data, along with bisphenol A research on animals, "doesn't make me feel great," Vogel says. She'd like to see stricter safety standards and more research in people, as long as research doesn't become a stalling tactic. "If it's a way to delay any decision on BPA, it's really frustrating," says Vogel.Hentges counters that "with bisphenol A, we already know so much about it ... it's not likely that anyone's going to do an experiment tomorrow that will render everything that we know today wrong."

View No. 3: The Precautionary Approach
Canadian health officials took what they called a "prudent" approach in April, when they proposed banning bisphenol A in baby bottles, although their risk assessment didn't find proof of danger."Canada really took the lead and said this is what the precautionary principle looks like," says Vogel. "It will be interesting to see how it plays out."
Hentges stresses the fact that the Canadian proposal isn't law yet and isn't based on science. "If you dig into the details of the science, you find that they're really quite similar -- Canada, NTP... Europe. None of them found those studies to be really compelling, none found them to be really suitable for making any kind of real conclusion."
Meanwhile, Vogel says the bisphenol A issue goes beyond baby bottles and water bottles. She's concerned about bisphenol A in the environment, workers who handle bisphenol A, and the government's chemical safety standards and risk assessment process.
"These are really big issues," says Vogel. She sees a larger tug of war between people's desire to "do what's right" and to be reassured that "everything is fine."
What to do in the meantime? Here's what the FDA told consumers in April, when the media frenzy began. It's advice that focuses only on baby bottles, not other sources of bisphenol A."At this time, FDA is not recommending that anyone discontinue using products that contain BPA while we continue our risk-assessment process. However, concerned consumers should know that several alternatives to polycarbonate baby bottles exist, including glass baby bottles."

Salmonella outbreak winds down; questions remain
Source of Article:

WASHINGTON (AP) ? The nationwide salmonella outbreak is finally winding down but federal health officials can't yet say how the few tainted Mexican peppers they've found could explain such widespread illness.
The outbreak isn't considered over yet, Food and Drug Administration food safety chief Dr. David Acheson cautioned Friday. The outbreak strain has been confirmed in 1,423 patients, with the latest known illness beginning July 24.
The FDA is focusing its probe on some farms in Mexico where a handful of jalapeno and serrano peppers, and some irrigation water, tainted with the outbreak strain of salmonella were traced. At least one of the farms also grew tomatoes the initial suspect as well as peppers. And two of them sent produce to a common packing facility, raising the prospect that contamination there could have spread to a much higher volume of food.
The FDA said Friday it is still working with Mexican authorities to determine exactly what happened in that packing facility.
And the agency has expanded testing of certain Mexican produce, uncovering more cases of salmonella contamination just not the same strain that caused this particular outbreak in jalapenos, basil and cilantro. While Acheson wouldn't say how much salmonella is being found, the agency has put a dozen Mexican growers or distributors on its "import alert" list for tougher border screening this month alone.

It¡¯s Official, Nebraska Beef Has Trouble Controlling E. coli
Date Published: Friday, August 15th, 2008
Source of Article:
According to a recently released Associated Press report, federal investigators have just determined that Nebraska Beef Limited¡¯s practices could not effectively control E. coli bacteria on June 24. Because of this Nebraska Beef¡¯s latest recall has been expanded.
A United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) spokeswoman, Laura Reiser, says that investigators felt that about 160,000 pounds of meat needed to be added to the most recent recall that began last Friday. This decision came after a USDA review of the Omaha company¡¯s records. Meanwhile, approximately 1.36 million pounds of primal cuts, subprimal cuts, and boxed beef, that were made on June 17, June 24, and July 8, have now been included in the August 8 recall.
Nebraska Beef¡¯s intact meat products have been linked to 27 illnesses in Canada, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, according to the AP report. Also, recently, The Washington Post reported that the newest strain that has been coming out of the Massachusetts outbreak is from the same as that E. coli strain which sickened 31 people in 12 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada. Nebraska Beef is the meat supplier and processor implicated in the E. coli outbreak that was linked to Kroger Grocery, as well.
This is not the first time Nebraska Beef has been in the epicenter of seriously questionable practices and food contamination illness and death. According to the Washington Post, Nebraska Beef has received numerous sanitation violations over the past six years, for example:
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) shut down Nebraska Beef three times in 2002 and 2003 after discovering ¡°feces on carcasses, water dripping off pipes onto meat, paint peeling onto equipment, and plugged-up meat wash sinks.¡±
Nebraska Beef was written up no less than five times in 2004 and early 2005 for not removing brains or spinal cords from the food supply, as required. These parts are of particular concern because it is there that bovine spongiform encephalopathy?mad cow disease?can originate.
In August 2006, US inspectors ¡°threatened to suspend Nebraska Beef operations for not following requirements for controlling E. coli.¡±
In 2006, ¡°Minnesota health officials blamed Nebraska Beef for sickening 17 people who ate meatballs at a Minnesota church potluck. Several victims filed lawsuits against Nebraska Beef, including the family of a woman who died.¡±
Other reports also indicate that in 2003, the USDA went to court in an attempt to try to shut down Nebraska Beef¡¯s Omaha packing plant after citing it for numerous violations. In 2007, Nebraska Beef sued the USDA saying its inspectors had unfairly targeted it. Last month, A USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) investigation at two processing plants that collaborated with Nebraska Beef revealed E. coli contamination occurred because some production practices took place under ¡°insanitary¡± conditions insufficient to prevent E. coli bacteria.

FSIS committee on microbiological criteria for foods seeks nominations
By Ann Bagel Storck on 8/14/2008
Source of Article:
USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service has announced a call for nominations for the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF).
The committee is looking for individuals with scientific expertise in the fields of epidemiology, food technology, microbiology, risk assessment, infectious disease, biostatistics and other related sciences. Individuals who may be currently employed by state and federal governments, industry, academia or consumer groups are also invited to submit nominations. Members who are not federal government employees will be appointed to serve as non-compensated special government employees (SGEs). SGEs will be subject to appropriate conflict-of-interest statutes and standards of ethical conduct.
The nominee's typed resume or curriculum vitae must be limited to five one-sided pages and should include educational background, expertise and a select list of publications authored. The current charter for the NACMCF and other information about the committee are available here.
Send nominations and submissions to Karen Thomas-Sharp, advisory committee specialist, Room 333, Aerospace Center, 1400 Independence Ave., SW., Washington, D.C. 20250. Sharp also can be reached at 202-690-6620 or at Deadline is Sept. 7.

Salmonella outbreak spreads to Sweden and France
DR MUIRIS HOUSTON, Medical Correspondent
Source of Article:
THE SALMONELLA outbreak possibly linked to a meat plant in Co Kildare has now spread to Sweden and France, bringing to five the number of European Union countries affected.
The latest figures for the outbreak of salmonella agona, released last night, show some 132 people have now been infected by the bug. Sweden has reported its first two cases, while France has confirmed one person has been infected by the relatively rare strain of the bacterium.
There has been one death linked to the salmonella outbreak. A 77-year-old British woman died from complications thought to be associated with the infection.
The genetic fingerprint of the microbe has been linked to a particular production line at the Dawn Farm Foods plant in Naas.
Of the 132 people with salmonella-induced food poisoning, some 125 have the same genetic fingerprint as samples taken from the meat plant. Final test results are awaited on a further seven cases.
Dawn Farm Foods decided to close the entire plant for a week last Friday. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland said yesterday that this decision was the company's own and not based on specific advice from the authority.
Responding to weekend reports that the particular type of salmonella agona identified as the cause of the outbreak had been found in a river in Scotland, the authority said the investigation was ongoing.
"We are continuing to look at all possible sources, but at the moment the only company implicated is Dawn Farm Foods," the authority added.
The food production company said it was the responsibility of EU authorities to track down other sources for the outbreak "should they exist".
A spokeswoman for the Health Protection Surveillance Centre said a water specimen taken from a Scottish river contained the exact same strain of salmonella but it had subsequently been established that the microbe had originated in a sewage outlet and was therefore the result rather than the cause of the outbreak.
Of the 132 people who have become sick as a result of salmonella agona infection, some 76 cases have been identified in England with Scotland reporting 31 cases. Eleven people in the Republic are now known to have been affected, with four of these requiring hospital treatment. Finland, France and Sweden are the other EU states where cases have been found.The European Centre for Disease Control has reported that the Finnish case arose after the person ate beef strips contained in a sandwich.As a result of the outbreak, beef strips, chicken, lamb and pork supplied to at least eight European countries and to Kuwait have been withdrawn by Dawn Farm Foods.

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