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Unusual E coli strain sickens 231 in Oklahoma
Robert Roos News Editor
Source of Article:
Sep 10, 2008 (CIDRAP News) A restaurant-related illness outbreak in Oklahoma featuring an uncommon strain of Escherichia coli has expanded to involve at least 231 people, 61 of whom have been hospitalized, Oklahoma health officials announced today.
The sick have been infected with E coli O111, a far less common strain than E coli O157:H7, the serotype typically identified in E coli outbreaks. Both strains can cause the form of kidney failure known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which is potentially fatal.
Sixteen of the 61 people hospitalized in the outbreak have received dialysis treatment, including nine children, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) said in an update today. The patients include 185 adults and 43 children; three patients' ages have not yet been learned, officials said.
"We still have some individuals who are on dialysis for HUS," Oklahoma State Epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley told CIDRAP News today. She said there has been one death in the outbreak, that of a 26-year-old man.
The numbers of patients and hospitalizations are likely to change as the investigation continues, the OSDH said today.
Food source elusive
Most case-patients ate at the Country Cottage restaurant in the northeastern Oklahoma town of Locust Grove between Aug 15 and 17, the OSDH has said. But despite interviewing more than 1,300 people who ate there, health officials have not yet identified a specific food source for the outbreak.
"I'd love to say we're zeroing in on a food item, but we've not been able to do that," Bradley said. "We hope that by increasing the number of controls [interviewed], we might have a particular food item or category that will fall out in our analysis, but as our investigation has progressed I'm becoming less and less optimistic. If we're not able to, it points to the possibility that we have an infected food handler who handled multiple food items."
She said that possibility seems more likely, since the restaurant is a large buffet-style operation, with 58 employees who handle food. While most employees have a primary duty station, it is not unusual for them to fill in at other stations as needed, so they would handle a number of foods, she said.
Bradley said investigators have been trying especially to find and interview children who ate at the restaurant during the period in question. Not only are children at greater risk for serious illness, but information from children might equip investigators with valuable clues about possibly contaminated food items.
"Children tend to select fewer things off a buffet than adults," Bradley explained. "We were hoping we might find it [a contaminated food] in a subset analysis of children."
Yesterday officials said testing of surfaces in the restaurant had revealed no contamination, and last week authorities determined that water from a well on the restaurant site was safe.

Largest outbreak of E coli O111
"This appears to be the largest E coli O111 outbreak ever reported in the US," Bradley said in a Sep 2 update on the outbreak.
The first OSDH announcement of the outbreak came on Aug 25. Four days later state officials said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had identified the pathogen as E coli O111.
As described by the OSDH, signs and symptoms of the illness have been similar to those of E coli O157:H7: diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and severe abdominal cramps, usually with no or only mild fever. Bradley called the illness "very similar to [those caused by] other enterohemorrhagic E coli strains."
Most of the people infected have had diarrhea lasting a couple of days, but were not sick enough to need medical attention, Bradley said.

How common?
Little is known about the incidence of pathogenic E coli strains (known as Shiga toxin?producing E coli, or STEC) other than O157:H7, according to a January 2007 report by the CDC. Another CDC report, covering FoodNet foodborne disease surveillance in 2006, said the program colleted data on 209 non-O157 STEC isolates, of which 29 (15%) were O111. O26 and O53 strains were more common. (FoodNet surveillance covered about 15% of the US population in 2006.)
The January 2007 CDC report, discussing STEC cases in Connecticut from 2000 to 2005, said, "Overall, infections caused by non-O157 STEC were less severe than those caused by STEC O157. However, the severity of disease caused by STEC is related to the virulence profile of the infecting strain, and some non-O157 serotypes cause illness as severe as that caused by STEC O157."

Multiple Lawsuits Likely in Deadly Oklahoma E.Coli Outbreak
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Source of Article:,2933,420383,00.html
OKLAHOMA CITY Seven families who have been victims of a deadly E. coli outbreak in northeast Oklahoma have contacted a legal firm in Washington state.
At least 200 people became sick and one person died in connection with the outbreak, which the Oklahoma State Department of Health believes began at the Country Cottage buffet restaurant in Locust Grove.
Lawyer Bill Marler of Marler Clark in Seattle said his firm has been retained by seven families who may want to sue over the rare E. coli O111 outbreak.
Marler, who has been involved in several food-borne illness cases, said his firm is waiting for more information about the cause of the Oklahoma outbreak before it pursues legal action, but some form of litigation is "highly likely," he said.
"At this point it would not be responsible to file a lawsuit against the restaurant without waiting to see if you can figure out exactly how this thing happened, but ultimately there's got to be a meeting of the minds and looking at how to best take care of the people who got sick," he said.
Amanda Clinton, who is acting as spokeswoman for the restaurant's owners, said she expects multiple people to file claims, partly because the attorneys have been advertising their services online to the victims.
"I would not be surprised if multiple lawsuits are filed, based on past, similar cases," Clinton said Wednesday. "If I had someone in my family who was sick, I would probably file a lawsuit too."
Clinton said she was unsure if the restaurant's owners ? Dale and Linda Moore ? have hired an attorney.
The state Health Department is interviewing people who ate at the restaurant to see if they ate a common food, and inspectors are testing kitchen surfaces and foods at the restaurant in search of the same rare type of E. coli that's been blamed for the illnesses.
On Tuesday, the department said buffet counters and kitchen surfaces at Country Cottage were found to be clean of any harmful bacteria.
The state sampled 17 surfaces Aug. 28 and found no harmful bacteria in any of them, said state Epidemiologist Kristy Bradley.
But most people who became sick in connection with the outbreak ate at Country Cottage between Aug. 15 and Aug. 17, she said. Surfaces at the restaurant could have been cleaned before the tests were taken.
The state is expected to release bacterial samples of the restaurant's food soon, and that may the last chance to connect the E. coli outbreak to a specific food item, Bradley said.
From there, Health Department workers will analyze interviews done with people who ate at the restaurant.
That analysis will be used to come up with percentage likelihoods that certain food items can be blamed for the illnesses, she said.
Anyone who ate at Country Cottage from Aug. 15-17 is asked to call the Health Department this week between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. at (800) 990-2769.

Almond growers sue USDA
By ERICA WERNER 2 hours ago
Source of Article:
WASHINGTON (AP) A group of California almond growers and sellers is suing the U.S. Agriculture Department over a year-old rule that requires them to pasteurize almonds.
They say it's ruining their business by driving organic- and raw-nut enthusiasts to unpasteurized foreign imports.
In a lawsuit announced Wednesday after it was filed in federal court in Washington, 15 growers and wholesale nut handlers seek reversal of the rule that was imposed in September 2007 following salmonella outbreaks that were traced to raw almonds.
The suit contends that handlers who paid a premium for raw almonds have been paying as much as 40 percent less for the pasteurized variety, or rejecting them altogether.
They argue that the rule was imposed without the proper rule-making process, didn't take key issues into account and should be thrown out.
"This ruling is a financial disaster and has closed a major customer group that we have built up over the years," said one plaintiff, Dan Hyman, an almond grower and owner of D&S Ranches in Selma, Calif.
Hyman contended his customers are being denied "a healthy whole natural raw food that they have eaten with confidence, enjoyment and benefit for decades."
USDA spokesman Keith Williams said the agency had not seen the lawsuit and couldn't comment.
California produces some 90 percent of the world's almonds and virtually all almonds grown in the U.S., according to the Almond Board of California, a marketing arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Last year that amounted to 1.3 billion pounds, worth more than $1.4 billion.
The Almond Board worked in favor of the rule after the 2001 and 2004 salmonella outbreaks, and spokeswoman Jenny Konschak had no comment on the lawsuit. She said organic almonds account for less than 1 percent of production, and she couldn't provide a figure for what percentage of output raw almonds accounted for before their production was curtailed by the Agriculture rule.
In pasteurization a process also used for milk, juice and eggs ? the shelled and hulled nuts typically are laid out on a conveyor belt that passes them through a moist burst of steam to heat the kernels' surface to about 200 degrees, killing any pathogens present. An alternative process sends the nuts into a chamber where they're sprayed with propylene oxide gas.
The Almond Board concluded that pasteurization didn't affect the quality of the almonds, but consumers interested in untreated food have been steering clear, and customer feedback has been extremely negative, the lawsuits' plaintiffs say.

Food Safety Information forHurricanes, Power Outages, & Floods by FDA

Germ-free greens: Foodborne illness outbreaks put irradiated veggies in the spotlight
September 4, 2008 - 12:40AM
Melissa McEver
Source of Article:
In the future, a quick zap of radiation could render fruits and vegetables free of the bacteria most likely to make you sick.
On the heels of a multi-state outbreak of sickness related to jalapeno and serrano peppers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now allowing growers or importers to irradiate fresh spinach and iceberg lettuce. The government already allows irradiation of beef, poultry, eggs and spices, but has never permitted produce to undergo irradiation at levels high enough to kill bacteria.
With irradiation, food is exposed to a short blast of high-frequency radiation, killing bacteria or insects but leaving no dangerous residue behind, according to experts.
Eventually, this process could become more popular among Rio Grande Valley growers, although it's unlikely to catch on right away, growers said.
"Other areas might be trailblazers because they're larger players who can afford the cost (of irradiation)," said Ray Prewett, president of Texas Citrus Mutual, a Mission-based association of citrus growers and sellers.

The word "irradiation" might sound ominous, but the treatment is largely safe, said Guy Hallman, research entomologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Kika de la Garza Subtropical Agricultural Research Center in Weslaco.
"It's a very good process," Hallman said. "It's as safe as cooking food, and this way you're not fumigating or adding chemicals."
Researchers have studied the safety of irradiating foods for decades and have found no evidence that it produces unsafe chemicals or significantly hurts nutritional content, he said.
Some food-safety advocates have said these studies have focused more on potatoes and onions, and that little research exists on the safety of eating irradiated spinach, lettuce and leafy vegetables.
Irradiation also can harm flavor, according to some studies, but reports are mixed.
It all depends on the levels of radiation used and on the type of produce, Hallman said. The trick is to find a dose that kills bacteria and pests without hurting taste and nutrients, and that varies by fruit or vegetable, he said.
Consumers have shown some reluctance to buy irradiated foods, which must be labeled as irradiated, experts say.
But with the recent outbreaks of food-borne illnesses, that could change, Hallman said.
"We keep seeing problems of massive food poisoning, and irradiation would solve a lot of those problems," he said.

Rio Grande Valley produce importers and growers - recently in the national spotlight after salmonella bacteria were found on peppers here - say they might consider irradiation, but they have reservations about it.
"Certainly we'll look at it as an option," said Lawrence Kroman, owner of McAllen-based I. Kunik Co., which imports produce from Mexico for wholesalers and grocery stores.
Kroman questions, however, whether consumers would embrace the idea of buying irradiated fruits and vegetables.
"It's not supposed to change taste or consistency, but I wonder if they would accept it," he said.
Kroman said the company might consider using an irradiation facility being built in Matehuala, a small city in north central Mexico, to irradiate some produce before importing it to the United States. The facility is slated for completion next year, said Arved Deecke, general manager of Benebion, the company building the plant.
Cost would be a big deterrent for local growers, at least for now, said Prewett of Texas Citrus Mutual. Few growers and importers here carry spinach or lettuce, so the cost would only make sense if the FDA approved additional types of produce, he said.
"If the rule was broadened to include other (fruits and vegetables), that might make the capital costs more affordable," Prewett said.

I Want to Find Irradiated Salad Greens in My Local Grocery Store
Written by Rod Adams
Published on August 28th, 2008
Source of Article:

Call me a Popeye, but I like having fresh green salads for lunch or dinner. Unfortunately, it is sometimes risky to eat raw vegetables because of the risk of contamination by common bacteria like E. coli, salmonella and listeria. I have long wondered when it would be possible to purchase greens that had been irradiated to kill the bacteria without changing the texture, flavor or nutritional value.
My wait is now closer to ending. On August 21, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the use of ionizing radiation at doses that will drastically reduce the population of the target bacteria on spinach and iceberg lettuce without harming the food.
The type of radiation that will be used - high energy gamma rays - cannot cause food to be come radioactive. A second characteristic of high energy gamma is that it can be administered with great precision by controlling the exposure times, distances and angles.
Gamma irradiation food processing plants can also be quite energy efficient. Though some processors use electrically powered devices to create gamma rays, there are others that use selected radioactive isotopes like Cobalt-60 or Cesium-137.
Because of the risk of recontamination during handling and transportation, I suspect that irradiated foods will be sold in sealed bags. The technique of irradiating materials in sealed bags has been in use for decades with medical equipment.
Since people have a right to know about the processing - either because they are like me and want the product or because they might have some reason to avoid the product - irradiated products will be marked with a special label called a radura.
At least some of the many people with suppressed immune systems are quite happy with the news and are anxiously awaiting approval from the FDA for irradiation treatment of additional fruits and vegetables. For them, techniques that improve food safety are matters of life and death, not just a matter of preventing temporary discomfort.

Salmonella sticks to salad with help of finger-like flagella, scientists say
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
CBC News Source of Article:
Scientists need to know how salmonella bacteria causes food poisoning in order to find ways to prevent health risks, British researchers told a food conference in Scotland on Wednesday.
The researchers, Gadi Frankel from Imperial College in London and Rob Shaw from the University of Birmingham, said the process by which salmonella bacteria contaminate vegetable products is not rocket science, but it is important.
Frankel and Shaw, who presented their findings to the Food Micro 2008 symposium in Aberdeen, focused on salmonella bacteria and salad leaves.
They said salmonella bacteria attach themselves to salad leaves by using stringy appendages that work like long thin fingers.
They said only a few cases of food poisonings are linked to bagged salads, but the numbers are likely to increase in the coming years.
"In their efforts to eat healthily, people are eating more salad products, choosing to buy organic brands and preferring the ease of pre-washed bagged salads from supermarkets than ever before," Frankel said.
"All of these factors, together with the globalization of the food market, mean that cases of Salmonella and E. coli poisoning caused by salads are likely to rise in the future. This is why it's important to get a head start with understanding how contamination occurs now."
The appendages used in the binding process mostly help the bacteria swim and move about, they said.
The researchers said the number of food poisoning cases involving bagged salads is growing. In 2007, a salmonella outbreak in the United Kingdom was traced to imported basil, and in 2006, an E. coli outbreak in the U.S. was traced to bagged baby spinach.
The researchers said between 1996 and 2000, 23 per cent of all infectious disease outbreaks in the U.K. were caused by contaminated food, and of these, four per cent were linked to bagged salad.
Frankel and Shaw focused on one particular form of salmonella known as salmonella enterica serovar senftenberg.
They said scientists know that salmonella can spread to salads and vegetables if they are fertilized with contaminated manure, irrigated with contaminated water or come into contact with contaminated products during cutting, washing or packing. But they said scientists did not know how the pathogens bind themselves to the leaves.
The long stringy appendages, known as flagella, flatten out beneath the bacteria and cling. To test their observations, the scientists genetically engineered salmonella without flagella in the lab and found they could not attach themselves to the leaves.
The salad remained uncontaminated.
"Discovering that the flagella play a key role in salmonella's ability to contaminate salad leaves gives us a better understanding then ever before of how this contamination process occurs. Once we understand it, we can begin to work on ways of fighting it," Frankel said.
In a previous study, the researchers discovered how E. coli 0157, a strain of E. coli that causes serious sickness in humans, binds to salad leaves. It uses short, needle-like filaments, which are normally used to inject bacterial proteins into human cells, to attach themselves, causing contamination.

National Food Safety Education Month
Source of Article:
9/10/2008-September is National Food Safety Education Month and the theme of this year¡¯s informational push aimed at public health professionals is ¡°Be Food Safe.¡±
The national program is the collaborative effort of The Partnership for Food Safety Education, Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food Safety and Inspection Service. By offering educational materials for varying audiences, organizers hope to reduce the 76 million cases of foodborne illness that occur each year.

Food safety ? can we afford not to eat the cost?
Special to Globe and Mail Update
September 4, 2008 at 12:09 AM EDTSource of Article:
To some of us, each passing day makes sterile food look more appealing - too bad it
doesn't taste very good. It seems that nearly every time we change the way food is processed, we're outsmarted by an unrecognized or underestimated food-borne pathogen. No safety system can provide protection against every threat to Canadians, but there are ways to reduce the risks.
Safe food is the responsibility of producers, processors, distributors, retailers, regulators and consumers. It is naive to think that safety can be tested or inspected into food - it must be built in. Although the Canadian Food Inspection Agency can be effective in deterring fraudulent activity by the minority, it is not the primary determinant of food safety for the majority, who are motivated to produce consistently safe food in order to remain in business.
Pro-active, company-driven programs such as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point, combined with CFIA audit verification, can provide adequate assurance, with enhanced inspection triggered by poor audit performance. Recently, in the United States, a variety of external pressures have moved government inspection agencies to emphasize final product testing. However, sampling plans used for end product testing don't have enough power to guarantee food safety. In addition, this approach will destroy any lingering value from HACCP.
Canada needs reform to reorganize the roles of federal, provincial and municipal food inspection agencies. The CFIA has overall responsibility, but more co-ordination is needed. Federal registration is required only if a plant ships its products to another province or country, and inspection rigour is influenced by the type of food rather than its safety risk. These issues must be quickly resolved, and a consistent regulatory framework must be established to govern all food - World Trade Organization commitments oblige Canada to accept food imports that meet the least stringent standards for similar foods manufactured domestically.
Canada's current food safety policy is firmly based on subjective reasoning. While there are fragmented efforts to monitor food-borne illness, there is no national enteric disease outbreak surveillance system to objectively assess food-borne pathogen occurrence in humans or to identify the products that make us ill most frequently. Without this information, we can't effectively manage risk. This system will require investment, but without it, we will be moving forward blindly.
Efforts can't end with the adoption of a more active surveillance program. Critics will be quick to point out that despite the implementation of a similar U.S. plan, Food Net, Americans continue to experience food safety crises almost weekly. What's missing? One important but overlooked element in the food safety systems in Canada, the United States and most of the developed world is the impact of nutrient recycling.
In agriculture, responsible environmental stewardship involves recycling soil organic matter by applying manure to cropland and pastures. This manure is frequently contaminated by pathogens shed by animals. Meanwhile, animal and plant waste is recycled as feed for food and companion animals. These activities can unwittingly recycle zoonotic pathogens, which can cause infectious diseases to jump from animals to people.
Trade in animal feed and feed ingredients spans the globe, an industry worth roughly $25-billion annually. Most countries, including Canada, prohibit import of feed and ingredients containing pathogens, metals or toxins that may affect animal health, but do not require the absence of zoonotic pathogens. In North America and most European countries, although more than 25 per cent of feed and ingredients contain these pathogens, no action is taken unless pets die or humans become ill from pet food.
Animal feed can continuously introduce zoonotic bacterial pathogens to farms and our food supply. Evidence to support this claim is controversial in most case studies, but not all of them. The reality is that with increased intense animal production, we are seeing these pathogens in feed and food animals where they haven't been before. Motivation to tackle the issue is weak given the background occurrence of zoonotic pathogens on the farm. But the results could be dramatic, like they were with bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
Fixing Canada's food safety system will be expensive. But food-borne illness currently costs each Canadian more than $1,000 a year. Can we afford the unnecessary morbidity and loss of life?
Richard A. Holley is a professor in the department of food science at the University of Manitoba.

Deadly bug under scrutiny at major food safety conference
Monday 1st of September 2008
Source of Article:
Almost 850 delegates from 50 countries - including many leading scientists - are attending Food Micro 2008 which is exploring a huge range of microbiological issues surrounding the safety and quality of food. One of the key speakers at the University of Aberdeen organised event is Britain's best known food safety expert, Professor Hugh Pennington.
( - Almost 850 delegates from 50 countries - including many leading scientists - are attending Food Micro 2008 which is exploring a huge range of microbiological issues surrounding the safety and quality of food.
One of the key speakers at the University of Aberdeen organised event is Britain's best known food safety expert, Professor Hugh Pennington.
The Emeritus Professor of Bacteriology at the University will ask whether lessons have been learned from the 1996 Lanarkshire E. coli outbreak when 21 elderly people died after eating contaminated meat from a Wishaw butcher.
Professor Pennington chaired the public inquiry into the case which was the world's worst recorded outbreak of E. coli food poisoning.
He is currently chairing the public inquiry into the 2005 E. coli O157 outbreak in Wales which claimed the life of a five-year-old and left 150, mainly schoolchildren, ill. Again contaminated meat supplied by a butcher was to blame.
Professor Hugh Pennington's talk entitled Groundhog Day Again! takes place on Thursday, September 4.
Delegates will also hear of pioneering research taking place at the University of Aberdeen that has found E. coli O157 infections in humans are more like to have come from cattle rather than sheep.
Researchers have used state of the art technology to analyse the DNA of the bug found in humans and compared it with the DNA of E. coli found in cattle and sheep.
Their discovery that human infections are more likely to come from cattle will help inform those trying to combat the E. coli problem which is more prevalent in the North East of Scotland than anywhere else in the world.
Another study from the University of Aberdeen to come under the spotlight is research into campylobacter and the strain that is resistant to antibiotics.
cientists have found that the anti-resistant strain of that particular bug is more likely to be found in retail chicken than cattle.
Food Micro 2008 - which takes place at Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre from September 1 to 4 - has been organised by Mr Iain Ogden and Dr Norval Strachan at the University of Aberdeen.
Mr Ogden, Senior Research Fellow, said: "Food Micro 2008 is the biggest food microbiology conference that has taken place in Europe. It is a tremendous opportunity for food microbiologists to share the latest thinking on key food safety issues that touch the lives of millions of people all around the world."
Dr Strachan, Senior Lecturer, added: "At the University the Aberdeen we have been pioneering research into the causes of Campylobacter and E. coli O157 which are some of the most important types of bacterial gastrointestinal infection known.
"The results of our research demonstrate the importance of cattle and sheep as the hosts of E. coli O157 and the importance of poultry meat as a source of campylobacter. The conference was awarded to Aberdeen due to the level of research activity at the University and gives the Aberdeen group a tremendous platform to present its work and foster collaboration with like minded international scientists."

Oystermen to consider more safeguards against bacteria
Published: Friday, September 05, 2008
Source of Article:
COMMERCIAL TOWNSHIP ? Delaware Bay oystermen will look at increased safeguards next year to combat vibrio bacteria during summer¡¯s hottest months. The Delaware Bay Shellfish Council is putting together a committee to look at mandating stronger restrictions to fight vibrio parahaemolyticus, a naturally occurring bacteria that thrives in warm waters. Multiple cases of vibrio from Delaware Bay oysters sickened people in Maryland and possibly other locations, according to Maryland and New Jersey officials and local oystermen. That prompted the shutdown of Delaware Bay oyster beds for more than a week in late August. DEP scientist Bob Connell found no signs of active vibrio after DEP biologists conducted water tests, but that was not unexpected. The waters have cooled since the summer¡¯s hottest weeks in June and July, when it¡¯s believed the oysters sickened those who consumed them. ¡°He didn¡¯t find anything there,¡± said Steve Fleetwood, who heads Bivalve Packing, a local seafood company that ships Delaware Bay shellfish around the country. ¡°That¡¯s kind of what we knew. We just don¡¯t have much of a problem with it. But it is there. It is temperature sensitive.¡± Fleetwood is heading the committee to look at more safeguards, a group formed Tuesday after a meeting with federal and state health officials. Already, oystermen voluntarily limit their harvests to morning hours during the hottest weeks, and the harvest is suspended for two weeks in June, when waters are typically hottest. Catches must also be refrigerated by 3 p.m. during the summer. Friday marked the last day of those restrictions. ¡°This time of year, the sun¡¯s not as hot,¡± Fleetwood said. ¡°We can go back to working a little bit later in the day. Things will not be the same as we know it in Delaware Bay because we all know we have to prevent this from happening again.¡± Topping the agenda could be further restricting the hours of harvest during summer months or requiring oystermen to refrigerate oysters earlier after catches, maybe even immediately on their boats. Vibrio is only a problem in raw oysters. Cooking the oysters kills the vibrio. Chilling them sends it into a dormant state. Consuming raw infected oysters can lead to illness, particularly in people with compromised immune systems, such as the elderly. The bacteria belong to the same family as vibrio vulnificus, but they are two distinctly different species. Vibrio vulnificus is found more often in waters farther south and is often fatal, whereas vibrio parahaemolyticus is not considered nearly as dangerous.

Vibriosis prompts oyster harvest areas to be closed
Source of Article:
By Jeff Chew, Peninsula Daily News
PORT TOWNSEND The state Department of Health has closed Quilcene Bay and Triton Cove State Park in Jefferson County to the recreational harvest of oysters after several vibriosis cases were reported.The recreational oyster harvest closure also includes the shores of Triton Cove State Park at the Jefferson-Mason County line, the department said Friday.

Raw oysters
The vibrio closures were based on a number of human vibriosis cases associated with eating raw oysters from Quilcene Bay, said Andrew Shogren, Jefferson County environmental health director
Quilcene Bay will remain closed to the recreational harvest of oysters at least through the month of September, he said.
Recreational beaches affected are the Quilcene Bay Tidelands, West Quilcene Bay Beach, and Point Whitney Tidelands.
Vibrio causes a variety of symptoms including diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache, fever, and chills.
The symptoms usually appear about 12 hours after eating infected shellfish, but they can occur anywhere from two to 48 hours after consumption.
The illness is usually mild to moderate, and lasts for two to seven days.
Vibriosis is an intestinal illness caused by naturally occurring bacteria known as Vibrio parahaemolyticus.
Unlike paralytic shellfish poisoning and domoic acid toxins, Vibrio is destroyed by thorough cooking.
Each summer the state Department of Health issues a vibrio advisory for all of Hood Canal to remind recreational shellfish harvesters that shellfish in Hood Canal should be thoroughly cooked between the months of May through October to avoid vibriosis.
The Department of Health offers the following tips to summer harvesters of shellfish in Washington State:
- Always check the pollution and biotoxin status of the beach before you harvest.
- Harvest as soon as possible after the tide goes out.
- Do not harvest shellfish that have been exposed to direct sunlight for more than four hours.
- Refrigerate or ice as soon as possible and within four hours of harvest.
- Thoroughly cook shellfish.
The Department of Health additionally reminds consumers that store-bought shellfish must be refrigerated and handled properly to prevent illness.

Court sides with USDA on BSE testing
By Tom Johnston on 9/2/2008
Source of Article:
USDA can prohibit meat packers from testing cattle for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, a federal appeals court ruled late last week.
The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturns an earlier federal court decision stating Arkansas City, Kan.-based processor Creekstone Farms Premium Beef must be allowed to test for BSE because USDA can only regulate disease "treatment." The test doesn't qualify as a treatment, the ruling said, because there is no cure for BSE and the test is conducted on dead animals.
However, the appeals court ruled that a diagnosis can be deemed a facet of treatment. "And we owe USDA a considerable degree of deference in its interpretation of the term," Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson wrote, according to the Associated Press.
USDA argues the rareness of the disease doesn't call for expanded testing, and that expanded testing doesn't guarantee food safety. In fact, the government contends, the testing could create a false positive.
The case now returns to the district court, where Creekstone can make further arguments. Creekstone's legal counsel has argued that USDA's own regulations regarding treatment of domestic animals do not prohibit individual companies from testing for BSE, noting the test is conducted only after an animal is slaughtered.

US scientists express concerns over Bisphenol A exposure
By Jane Byrne
Source of Article:
04-Sep-2008 -
In its final evaluation of the chemical bisphenol A (BPA), the US National Toxicology Program (NTP) has expressed concerns for potential exposures to foetus, infants and children.
The main conclusions of the NTP report include expression of ¡®some concern¡¯ over the potential for developmental toxicity for foetuses, infants, and children, based primarily on evidence from animal studies that would suggest that there might be effects on prostate gland and brain development, with also the potential for behavioural effects.
The NTP, an interagency programme of the US Department of Health and Human Services, also noted ¡®minimal concern¡¯ over potential for changes in mammary gland development and early female puberty ? which is a lower level assessment from the ¡®some concern¡¯ evaluation it issued in its draft report on BPA in April.
"Some concern" is in the middle part of a five-level concern scale the NTP uses that ranges from "negligible concern" to "serious concern".
The NTP said its report is the result of a comprehensive and rigorous scientific review process that included an earlier report from a panel of independent scientific experts, public comments received on the report, peer review comments, and new relevant scientific literature.
According to the NTP, BPA in food and beverages accounts for the majority of daily human exposure.
The chemical is used in certain packaging materials such as polycarbonates for water bottles, drinks and baby food bottles. It is also used in epoxy resins for internal protective linings for canned food and metal lids.
Concerns have arisen over BPA since it has been found to migrate in small amounts into foods and beverages stored in the materials and some recent animal studies indicated that high levels of BPA could be carcinogenic.
The NTP said that the degree to which BPA leaches from polycarbonate bottles into liquid may depend more on the temperature of the liquid or bottle, than the age of the container.
In December 2007, Canadian retailer, Mountain Equipment Co-op, decided to stop selling sales of Nalgene bottles made of BPA, while the US retailer Wal-Mart recently announced that it will phase out bottles containing BPA by 2009.

Additional studies urged
The NTP noted limited and inconclusive evidence from animal studies that could indicate health concerns but it said that further research will be needed to determine if these concerns are relevant to human health.
¡°There are insufficient data from studies in humans to reach a conclusion on reproductive or developmental hazards presented by current exposures to bisphenol A, but there is limited evidence of developmental changes occurring in some animal studies at doses that are experienced by humans.
¡°It is uncertain if similar changes would occur in humans, but the possibility of adverse health effects cannot be dismissed,¡± claims the agency.
¡°The fact that there are so many levels of uncertainty makes it very difficult for us to make any kind of overall recommendations as to how exactly the US public should view BPA right at this point,¡± said John R. Bucher, NTP associate director.
He said that the report indicates a number of research areas that the NTP believes need following up on to reduce the uncertainties and ¡°allow a clearer picture of exactly what we should be doing as a society with regards to exposures to BPA¡±.

The NTP has no power to regulate BPA, but its findings are used by other federal agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency, which set safe exposure limits for chemicals.
An FDA draft report, however, released last month found that BPA is safe at current human exposure levels. This was in line with the report issued in July by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), which said that the human body rapidly metabolises and eliminates the substance and thus BPA presents no risk to adults, children or infants.
The FDA Subcommittee on BPA announced that it will hold a public meeting in relation to its draft assessment on September 16 in Washington.
Chairman of the US House of Representatives¡¯ Committee on Energy and Commerce, John D. Dingell, said yesterday that the FDA is relying on industry based research to arrive at its conclusions rather than examining the totality of scientific evidence.
The Committee is examining the FDA¡¯s review of the chemical.

New research
Meanwhile, according to a report in today¡¯s Washington Post, a group of Yale researchers, in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that monkeys exposed to levels of BPA considered safe for humans by the EPA had interference with brain cell connections vital to memory, learning and mood.
"Our findings suggest that exposure to low-dose BPA may have widespread effects on brain structure and function," claim the researchers.
The Yale team said that they studied monkeys to better approximate the way BPA might affect humans.

Industry perspective
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) maintains that bisphenol A is safe at current exposure levels. "The safety of our products is our highest priority," claims Steven G. Hentges, of the ACC¡¯s Polycarbonate/BPA Group.
He welcomed the NTP findings which he said ¡°identified no serious human health concerns¡± and ¡°will provide important input into safety assessments of consumer products containing bisphenol A.¡±

Center develops food tracking tools
By Alice Lipowicz
Published on September 8, 2008
Source of Article:
Researchers at the Homeland Security Department¡¯s National Center for Food Protection and Defense are developing two new computer applications to track the spread of food-borne illnesses and contamination and to assess the vulnerability of the food supply chain.
The DHS Center of Excellence at the University of Minnesota is collaborating with major food manufacturers and suppliers on the Consequence Management System, a computer model that simulates the spread of food illnesses or poisoning, either accidental or intentional, according to a news release. The system was developed by BT Safety of Eden Prairie, Minn.
The center has set up information-sharing arrangements with a number of major food manufacturers and processors to track specific shipments of food. That data is fed into the consequence management computer model to predict, track and react to contamination incidents, and to identify the origin of the contamination.
¡°We have a lot of close collaboration with industry,¡± Frank Busta, senior science adviser at the center, said in the release. ¡°They¡¯ve volunteered their information and assistance to both protect the public and avoid the economic consequences of an outbreak.¡±
Also in development is the Food and Agriculture Sector Criticality Assessment Tool, now in the design and testing phase. The tool identifies the critical elements and vulnerabilities of the food and agriculture supply chain. It was developed in partnership with the National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense based at Texas A&M University.
The assessment tool has been distributed to more than 30 state agencies for field testing, the news release said.

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