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10/02
2008
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China Says More Dairy Makers Have Contaminated Milk
(Bloomberg News) By Jiang Jianguo and Theresa Tang
China, embroiled in the tainted milk scandal that has killed four babies, said 15 more companies were found to have contaminated products as it widens a crackdown to allay food-safety concerns that have led to global bans.
About 31 batches of adult milk powder contained the chemical melamine, the Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said in a Sept. 30 statement. That brings the total number of producers affected to 37.
China may halt exports of dairy goods until their safety is verified, Agence France-Presse reported, after more than 20 countries and markets worldwide banned Chinese milk or products made with it. Unilever, Cadbury Plc. and Japan's Kanematsu Corp. have recalled Chinese-made goods.
The contaminated products found in the latest tests on 154 companies' goods have been pulled from shelves, according to China's quality regulator. One item was made by a company partially controlled by Beijing Sanyuan Foods Co., according to the government.
Officials at Beijing Sanyuan couldn't be reached for a comment. Chinese companies and the government are shut for a week-long holiday.

Taiwan Order
Sanyuan suspended trading on Sept. 26 for an acquisition announcement. The stock jumped 77 percent in the six days before the suspension after it was initially cleared of melamine contamination in products tested by the government.
Nestle SA, the world's largest food company, was ordered by Taiwan authorities to stop selling Chinese-made Neslac infant formula and Klim powdered milk in Taiwan, prompting a rebuttal from the Swiss company which said all of its dairy products made in China are safe. About 53,000 babies have been made ill by melamine-tainted milk, according to Chinese government officials.
Chinese officials promised foreign diplomats that it would halt exports of dairy products until the melamine contaminations were eliminated, Agence France-Presse reported today, citing an unidentified Japanese official in Beijing.
An official at China's commerce ministry, who declined to give his name, said he is unaware of the export ban. Officials at the country's foreign ministry couldn't be reached for comment.

Sanlu Group
Melamine, a chemical used in lamination and plastics, was added to diluted milk to boost protein readings, according to the Chinese government. The chemical was first found in infant milk powder produced by Sanlu Group Co., and was also found in products of China Mengniu Dairy Co., Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group Co. and Bright Dairy & Food Co.
Shijianzhuang, Hebei-based Sanlu Group Co. had lobbied municipal authorities to manage news reports about its melamine- contaminated products, the People's Daily reported yesterday, citing a government official.
Sanlu had informed the city government as early as Aug. 2 that melamine-contamination may have led to kidney stones in infants, the report said, citing Shijiazhuang spokesman Wang Jianguo. Sanlu also asked the government to investigate and arrest those found to be responsible for the contamination, the newspaper said.

Calls to Sanlu's offices over the past two weeks haven't been returned.
China's Ministry of Health has reported three infant deaths caused by melamine-laced milk between May and August. The government of the northwest Xinjiang region reported a fourth death on Sept. 18, without saying when it happened. The government hasn't provided an update on the death toll or the number of babies hospitalized since Sept. 21.

China Says Milk Clean, Dairy Scare Spreads Abroad
(Reuters)By Simon Rabinovitch
China tried to repair confidence in its dairy products on Thursday, saying the latest chemical tests had come back clean, as the country's tainted milk scandal reverberated around the world.
The food safety administration instructed stores to display a list of trusted brands after spot checks of 65 companies' milk and yoghurt found no signs of the industrial chemical melamine.
There was no clean bill of health, though, for powdered milk. The food safety watchdog said on Wednesday that 31 more batches had tested positive for melamine, which has been added to milk to cheat in quality tests.
Thousands of children in China have fallen sick and four have died after drinking melamine-laced milk. The dairy scare, China's latest in a long line of food safety problems, also prompted recalls and warnings abroad on Thursday.
Taiwan health officials ordered stores to remove six types of Nestle dairy products after tests found traces of contamination from China. They said there were no health concerns but that the removals were necessary to reassure consumers.
Nestle officials said their products from China were safe and urged the Taiwan health department to introduce "science-based standards" for melamine tests.
Elsewhere, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture in the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg confirmed that "White Rabbit" sweets from China sold in a shop in Stuttgart contained traces of melamine but posed no health risks if consumed.
In South Korea, authorities found tiny amounts of melamine in milk products from New Zealand that were used in baby formula and banned their import.
There were also reports that China had promised Japan and other trading partners that it would halt all exports of dairy products until their safety was guaranteed.
Western diplomats could not confirm such a meeting and said China may only have met with neighbouring countries.
Countries around the world have banned Chinese dairy imports, or ordered them to be taken off shelves, as it became clear that yoghurt and other products were also affected.
Scores of foreign companies have been forced to recall products made with Chinese dairy ingredients, or to reassure customers their goods are safe.
China has said the city government in Shijiazhuang, home to the Sanlu Group whose contaminated milk sparked the scare, sat on a report from the company about the tainting for more than a month, while Beijing hosted the Olympic Games.

China Milk Scandal Firm Asked for Cover-Up Help
(Reuters) By Ben Blanchard
BEIJING - A Chinese company at the center of the scare over tainted milk powder had asked for government help to cover up the extent of the problem, state media said on Wednesday in the newest development in the widening scandal.
In the Communist Party newspaper the People's Daily, Shijiazhuang city government spokesman Wang Jianguo said they had been asked by the Sanlu Group for help in "managing" the media response to the case when first told of the issue on August 2, six days before the opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing.
China's latest food safety problem, involving the addition of the industrial chemical melamine to milk to cheat in quality tests, has caused public outrage and put the spotlight back on deficiencies in industry oversight and weak regulatory bodies.
China has already said the city government in Shijiazhuang, home to the Sanlu Group whose contaminated milk sparked a recall now spread worldwide, sat on a report from the company about the tainting for more than a month, while Beijing hosted the Olympic Games.
"Please can the government increase control and coordination of the media, to create a good environment for the recall of the company's problem products," the People's Daily cited the letter from Sanlu as saying.
"This is to avoid whipping up the issue and creating a negative influence in society," it added.This week, Reporters Without Borders said Beijing had ordered news of the scandal hushed up ahead of the Olympics.
"Several Chinese journalists have said that it is becoming more and more obvious that the authorities in July prevented an investigation into the toxic milk coming out so as not to tarnish China's image before the Olympics," it said in a statement.
Thousands of children fell ill after drinking the milk, and four died. But the rush of people taking their children to hospital for check-ups appears to be slowing, Xinhua news agency said.
"The work involved with offering free check-ups has turned from an emergency situation to normal," it quoted Wen Honghai, Shijiazhuang's top health official, as saying.
Countries around the world have banned Chinese dairy imports, or ordered them to be taken off shelves, as it became clear yoghurt and other products were also affected. Scores of foreign companies have been forced to recall products made with Chinese dairy ingredients, or to reassure customers their goods are safe.
Dairy sales in China dropped too, though Commerce Minister Chen Deming told Xinhua in an interview that sales had begun to bounce back as consumer confidence returned.
"Generally speaking, the sales situation for dairy products around the country has taken a turn for the better," he said.
China has a poor record when it comes to ignoring or glossing over bad news. In 2003, it initially tried to cover up the spread of the respiratory disease SARS. But Wang, who did not say whether the government complied with the media control request, defended the actions of his colleagues, who he said did send a team at once to probe Sanlu and to look for those suspected of adulterating the milk.
"Yet it was not until September 9 that it was reported to the Hebei provincial government," the newspaper said, referring to the province where Shijiazhuang is situated.
Beijing has already fired several Shijiazhuang officials, including the city's Communist Party chief, for the attempted cover-up. Wang said the city government had not considered the consequences of their actions.
"We mistakenly thought that taking necessary measures and raising product quality could mitigate the effect and reduce losses," he said.
"The bungling of the best opportunity to report up the handling of the issue caused much harm to people's safety, and seriously affected the image of the Party and the government," Wang added. He also expressed "deep guilt and pain" for the scandal. 10-1-08

China¡¯s Milk Fiasco Yields Lawsuit In China
Posted by Dan Slater
Source of Article: http://blogs.wsj.com
Two Chinese lawyers are boldly leading the way in the country¡¯s tainted milk drama. Zhang Xingkuan and Ji Cheng, of Beijing¡¯s Deheng Law Office, have filed suit against a Chinese dairy company on behalf of the parents of a one-year old boy allegedly sickened by tainted milk powder. Zhang tells the WSJ that they¡¯re seeking compensation of 150,000 yuan ($21,900) to cover hospital fees, travel expenses, time off from work and other costs. The attorney said that the parents claim the boy developed kidney stones from drinking milk powder made by Sanlu. Sanlu¡¯s officials couldn¡¯t be reached for comment. According to a report in the Washington Post, nine of the brands containing dangerous levels of melamine were produced by Sanlu, a 43 percent stake of which is owned by New Zealand dairy cooperative Fonterra.
(What¡¯s melamine? The Post explains that melamine, which is high in nitrogen and used to make plastics and fertilizer, is believed to have been added to watered-down milk to mask the resulting protein deficiency. It can cause kidney stones and lead to kidney failure. Infants are particularly vulnerable.)
The suit, notes the WSJ, appears to be the first challenge to official efforts to keep the milk scandal which has led to the deaths of as many as four children in China and sickened more than 54,000 out of China¡¯s courts. Product liability suits, reports the WSJ, are rare in China¡¯s developing legal system. China¡¯s official media and the family¡¯s lawyers said the suit was the first filed in relation to illness caused by milk tainted with melamine. As is apparently common in China, the filing isn¡¯t publicly available.
On Sept. 13, Chinese authorities promised free treatment to all children sickened by tainted dairy products, although detailed guidelines on eligibility for treatment haven¡¯t been made public. Some hospitals have narrowly interpreted the obligation to provide care at no cost. And Zhang said the government¡¯s promises haven¡¯t helped his clients, who¡¯ve been paying out-of-pocket for their son¡¯s medical care since June.
And for those of you who, like us, hear ¡®foodborne illness¡¯ and immediately think ¡®Bill Marler,¡¯ it appears that, strangely, he¡¯s not involved in this suit. Although he has been in China recently.

FDA to spend $2.5B on technology upgrade
FDA awarding up to $2.5 billion to 10 contractors for information technology upgrade
September 30, 2008: 05:08 PM EST Source of Article: http://money.cnn.com/
NEW YORK (Associated Press) - The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday it will spend as much as $2.5 billion to upgrade the technology it uses to track the safety of food, drugs and other products.
The announcement comes after a year when the FDA has been criticized for its handling of a salmonella outbreak that implicated peppers and tomatoes. The ultimate source of the outbreak may never be known, regulators said, partly because of shortcomings in the nation's food safety system.
The funds will be awarded over the next decade to 10 contractors, including General Dynamics Corp., Computer Sciences Corp. and Unisys Corp. The companies will compete for various tasks as the agency transfers its data tracking operations to two new systems.
"We are creating a high-tech, efficient, data management system designed to meet the needs of those who must accomplish our mission _ protecting and promoting the health of the American public," FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach said in a statement.

Lack of Funding Forces Closure of Food Supply Safety Program
Last update: 10:55 a.m. EDT Oct. 2, 2008
Source of Article: http://www.marketwatch.com/

WASHINGTON, Oct 02, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Despite extensive efforts by America's veterinarians to convince the US Congress, the US Department of Agriculture, and the Food and Drug Administration to provide long-term funding, a critical food safety resource is permanently shutting down, leaving in the lurch information essential to protecting America's food supply.
The Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank (FARAD) -- used by veterinarians, livestock producers, and state and federal regulatory and extension specialists to ensure that drug, environmental and pesticide contaminants do not end up in meat, milk, and eggs -- began shutting down yesterday. The program needed an immediate cash infusion to stay open, and, ultimately, long-term funding of $2.5 million per year.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has been leading efforts to fund FARAD, which is administered by the USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service and operates out of North Carolina State University, the University of Florida and the University of California-Davis.
Through lobbying and grassroots efforts, the AVMA worked with Congress to have language authorizing FARAD at $2.5 million inserted in this year's Farm Bill. The USDA, however, never incorporated the funding in its budget, and Congress has provided neither emergency funding nor appropriations.
"It's disheartening -- even tragic -- that a program that costs so little yet does so much to keep our food supply safe is not being funded," said Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, director of the AVMA's Government Relations Division. "We're talking about a cost of less than a penny per American to help keep meat, eggs and dairy products free of drugs and pesticides."
Lutschaunig said the last-ditch hope of keeping FARAD from completely closing is for the USDA or stakeholders to fund the program. The AVMA is planning an emergency stakeholder meeting to discuss the future of FARAD.
In the interim, Lutschaunig urges all Americans to call the USDA at 1-202-720-1542 and tell them to immediately provide $2.5 million in emergency funding for FARAD.
More information on FARAD can be found on the AVMA's food safety advocacy web site, http://www.keepourfoodsafe.org.
The AVMA and its more than 76,000 member veterinarians are engaged in a wide variety of activities dedicated to advancing the science and art of animal, human and public health. Visit the AVMA Web site at http://www.avma.org for more information.
SOURCE American Veterinary Medical Association

Tainted lettuce might be in Windsor
Source of Article: http://www.canada.com/
Windsor Regional Hospital might have received lettuce laced with e-coli
The Windsor Star
Published: Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Lettuce associated with an E. coli outbreak in Michigan may have been sent to Windsor Regional Hospital's Metropolitan campus, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit said Wednesday. Medical Officer of Health Dr. Allen Heimann was notified about the tainted lettuce by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. To date, there have been no related E.coli cases in Windsor-Essex, but the health unit is holding a news conference at 4 p.m. today to discuss the issue.
The Michigan Department of Community Health has said 26 cases of E.coli have been linked to bagged, industrial-sized packages of iceberg lettuce sold to wholesalers, restaurants and institutions. Ten people have been hospitalized in Michigan.

Pros and Cons of Commercial Irradiation of Fresh Iceberg Lettuce and Fresh Spinach: A Literature Review
Posted on October 1, 2008 by Bill Marler
Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/
This is the first part of a multi-part series on the Pros and Cons of Commercial Irradiation of Fresh Iceberg Lettuce and Fresh Spinach. Given the recent outbreaks, hopefully this is timely.
On August 22, 2008, FDA published a final rule for the safe use of ionizing radiation (also termed irradiation, irradiation pasteurization, cold pasteurization) of fresh iceberg lettuce and fresh spinach for control of foodborne pathogens, and extension of shelf-life. A few weeks later, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report entitled, ¡°Improvements Needed in FDA Oversight of Fresh Produce.¡± This report states that FDA¡¯s intervention efforts for reducing the risk of contamination during the processing of fresh-cut produce have been limited. Interestingly, the GAO reviewers only briefly mention irradiation, and brought little context to the implications of introducing irradiation as a potential control (¡°kill¡±) step during produce processing.
Currently, a serious outbreak of E. coli O157:H7, possibly linked to iceberg lettuce, is unfolding in Michigan and other parts of the United States. Since 1995, the FDA has documented at least 22 other E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks traced to leafy greens likely contaminated before retail distribution, including a number of outbreaks involving fresh iceberg lettuce and spinach. Clearly, there is a need for improved methods to prevent contamination of produce before it reaches the consumer.
Most food safety experts would agree that there is no silver bullet (defined by Webster¡¯s dictionary as ¡°a magical weapon ; especially : one that instantly solves a long-standing problem¡±) to guarantee protection of any food from contamination. The use of comprehensive ¡°farm-to-table¡± approaches is well accepted as the best way to combat the complex problems in food safety.
Where does irradiation of food fit into this evolving continuum including the new rule in the United States for lettuce and spinach?
Irradiation is probably the most studied, and the most controversial, food processing method in history. Several years ago, two renowned food safety leaders, Drs. Robert Tauxe (2001) and Michael Osterholm (2004), published elegant summaries describing the role of irradiation in food safety and protecting the public health. They did not promote irradiation as a silver bullet, but their commentaries suggested the process is one tool in the toolbox, and may be a silver lining (defined as ¡°a hopeful side of an otherwise desperate or unhappy situation¡±) in the burgeoning problem of foodborne disease.
To better understand the implications of FDA¡¯s new rule, I hit the books with the goal to examine the ¡°pros and cons,¡± (perhaps more appropriately described as ¡°advantages and limitations¡±) of using irradiation as a control step during fresh lettuce and spinach processing. The following is the first in a series summarizing the findings.

Part I. Historical Perspective and Definitions
Irradiation as a processing method for food is not a new technique. Indeed, research into using ionizing radiation to improve food quality and shelf-life began in the late 1800¡¯s. In 1905, scientists received the first patents for application of ionizing radiation as a food preservation process to kill bacteria. In the 1940¡¯s, the term ¡°irradiation¡± was first used in the literature, but some have since questioned using this language to describe the technology. Molins (2001a), an expert in the field of radiation, characterized the term as: ¡°a most unfortunate occurrence because it brought a direct and conceptually misleading association of a food processing technique with the nuclear establishment.¡± He suggested use of the word ¡°irradiation¡± was inappropriate because ¡°it does not describe the actual process of applying ionizing radiation in ways that would set it apart from other processes used in the food industry. Thus, microwaves and infrared light both of which generate heat are also forms of radiation, and their use in cooking, heating foods in a microwave oven, r simply keeping the food warm under infrared light as is customary in many restaurants could just as properly be termed ¡°food irradiation.¡±

Fifty years ago, the FDA defined food irradiation as a ¡°food additive¡± in the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Tauxe (2001) made this comment on the classification in his review paper: ¡°By an historical quirk, the use of irradiation on food was formally approved as though it were something added to food, rather than a process to which the food is subjected.¡±

Regardless of the potential pros and cons of food irradiation, poor terminology is a disservice to the scientific community, industry, and the public; furthermore, the ¡°mystery¡± surrounding food irradiation has potentially lead to unnecessary controversy and miscommunication. Before beginning this review into the potential advantages and limitation of food irradiation, it seems critical to review some definitions and basic chemistry behind the process.

How does food irradiation work?
Food irradiation is based on the principle of using energy to ionize a material, in this case food. Ionizing irradiation treatment involves chemical reactions with microbes, but these reactions are not dissimilar to chemical reactions induced by cooking, canning, curing, drying, freezing, or other food processing techniques. There are pros and cons to every food processing technique. In food irradiation, high speed particles or rays are harnessed by a machine. The particles used for this purpose are common in nature, and part of the energy that comes from the sun. These particles are focused in the process to penetrate the food, and result in the creation of free radicals that damage the DNA of organisms, especially microbial contaminants at the doses used for food. Depending on the organism and irradiation dose, this process is capable of enhancing food safety and quality of the food (the nature of this process as it applies to food safety and comparison with other food processing methods such as cooking, and effects on food quality such as nutrients, are described in subsequent parts of this review).

There are 3 sources of ionizing radiation approved in the context of food processing:
1. Gamma rays
2. X-rays
3. Electronic beams (E-beams)

Only gamma rays require the use of radioactive material (Cobalt 60), but the levels required are too low for creation of ¡°radioactivity¡± in the food or packaging. Thus, the food or packaging are not radioactive. In contrast, X-ray and electronic beam applications do not involve the use of radioactive material. For example, with E-beam technology, electricity is the source for generating electrons that damage DNA of certain microbes that contaminate food. Photons are generated by gamma and x-ray technology, and these methods provide deeper penetration into the food compared with E-beam, but the difference in penetration is not significant in the context of fresh lettuce and spinach. None of these methods for food irradiation create neutrons, the particles associated with nuclear technologies.

The ¡°dose¡± applied to the food is an important consideration in understanding the chemistry of food irradiation. There are three general categories for irradiation dose in food processing. The dose of ionizing radiation is measured in units called gray.

1. Low (< 1kGy) is used mostly to kill insects that infest foods
2. Medium (1-10 kGy) is used primarily to reduce pathogens and prolong shelf-life of foods
3. High (>10 kGy) is used to reduce organisms resistant to low-medium doses, or to sterilize food

FDA currently permits food irradiation in the ¡°medium¡± dose range to control pathogens (primarily bacteria and parasites) for the following foods:

- Fresh, non-heated processed pork
- Fresh or frozen, uncooked poultry products
- Refrigerated and frozen, uncooked meat products
- Fresh shell eggs
- Seeds for sprouting
- Fresh or frozen molluscan shellfish
- Fresh iceberg lettuce and spinach

The susceptibility of organisms to different doses of irradiation varies based on the biology of the organism. Damage is greatest in more complex organisms that may be a problem in food. The required dose to reduce or eliminate pests, pathogens, or spoilage organisms is generally in decreasing order as follows:
Insects < parasites < molds/yeasts < vegetative (non-spore forming) bacteria < spore forming bacteria < viruses < prions
Implications for the Lettuce and Spinach Industry
The new FDA rule for food safety and quality in fresh lettuce and spinach allows a maximum dosage of 4 kGy, which has been shown to be effective at reducing or eliminating the major pathogens linked to produce outbreaks (for example, E. coli O157:H7 and other STECs, Salmonella).
In Part II of this review, the pros and cons (advantages and limitations) of commercial irradiation of fresh iceberg lettuce and spinach relating to microbial contamination and food safety will be explored. Part III examines the food quality and food security considerations. Part IV concludes with an overview of the cost-benefit considerations that both industry and consumers must face in deciding how food irradiation fits into the big picture of prevention and control of foodborne illness.

References
Anonymous. Questions and answers about final rule on irradiation of fresh iceberg lettuce and fresh spinach, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, August 21, 2008. Available at: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cfsup185.html

Anonymous. Improvements needed in FDA oversight of fresh produce, U.S. Government Accountability Office, September 2008. Available at: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d081047.pdf

Cleland, M. R. 2006. Advances in gamma ray, electron beam, and X-ray technologies for food irradiation. In: Food Irradiation Research and Technology. Sommers, C. H. and X. Fan (ed). Blackwell Publishing, Ames, Iowa.

Josephson, E. S. 1983. An historical review of food irradiation. J Food Safety 5:161-89.

Molins, R. A. 2001a. Introduction. In: Food Irradiation: Principles and Applications. R. A., Molins (ed). John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, New York.

Molins, R. A, Y. Motarjemi, F. K. Kaferstein. 2001. Irradiation: a critical control point in ensuring the microbiological safety of raw foods. Food Control 12:347-56.

Murano, E. A. 1995. Microbiology of irradiated foods. In: Food Irradiation: A sourcebook. E. A. Murano (ed). Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa.

Niemira, B.A. and X. Fan. Low-dose irradiation of fresh and fresh-cut produce: safety, sensory, and shelf life. In: Food Irradiation Research and Technology. Sommers, C. H. and X. Fan (eds). Blackwell Publishing, Ames, Iowa.

Olson, D. G. 1995. Irradiation Processing. In: Food Irradiation: A sourcebook. E. A. Murano (ed). Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa.

Osterholm, M. T., and A. P. Norgan. 2004. The role of irradiation in food safety. N Engl J Med 350:1898-901.

Osterholm, M. T., and M. E. Potter. 1997. Irradiation pasteurization of solid foods: taking food safety to the next level. Emerg Infect Dis 3:575-7.

Paquett, K. E. Irradiation of prepackaged food: evolution of the Food and Drug Administrations's Regulation of the packaging materials. 2004. In: Irradiation of Food and Packaging. Komolprasert, V. and Morehouse, K. M. (ed). American Chemical Society, Oxford University Press, Washington, DC.

Shea, K. M. 2000. Technical report: irradiation of food. Pediatrics 106:1505-1510.

Tauxe, R. V. 2001. Food safety and irradiation: protecting the public from foodborne infections. Emerg Infect Dis 7:516-21.

Tri-tip E. coli Loophole Needs to Change
Posted on October 1, 2008 by E. coli Attorney
Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/
Had a long chat yesterday with Contra Costa reporter Larry Mitchell about the loophole around Tri-tips. The full story is at ¡°Lawyer says meat poses E. coli risk.¡±
Some outbreaks of illness caused by E. coli can be blamed on a rule allowing tainted meat to be sold, a Seattle attorney claimed Tuesday.
William Marler, whose law firm specializes in food-borne illness, said he's tried to get the federal government to change its rule but to no avail.
Marler said he tracks outbreaks of E. coli and similar illnesses around the nation and has kept an eye on the situation in Forest Ranch, where 27 people became ill after eating food at a Sept. 6 fundraiser for the volunteer fire department. All signs point to tri-tip served at the event as causing the illness, according to the Butte County Public Health Department.
E. coli bacteria is all around and most of it's harmless, Marler said in a phone interview. However, a strain that appeared a number of years ago, E. coli 0157:H7, can be deadly. Found in the intestines and feces of cattle, this bacteria can contaminate meat, he said.
After a major outbreak of E. coli 0157:H7 in the early 1990s, the federal government moved to regulate the meat industry but only partially succeeded, he said. A compromise was made, involving the "intact cut of meat rule."
According to this rule, he said, hamburger can't be sold if it contains E. coli 0157:H7. But so-called "intact cuts" of meat, such as tri-tip, can be sold containing the bacteria. The rationale for the rule is that hamburger will be squeezed into patties, and contaminated meat on the outside might end up in the middle of the burger, where it might not be cooked long enough to kill any bacteria. But with solid meat, the thinking goes, any bacteria will remain on the outside and definitely be killed in cooking.
In fact, things don't work that way, Marler said, because some intact cuts get contaminated by being tenderized with needles, and some solid meat is turned into hamburger after it leaves the packing plant.
Marler said this policy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is "indefensible" and must be changed. But change seems unlikely because the beef industry's lobby is so powerful, he added.

Study shows huge variety of protozoa in meat plants
By Jane Byrne
Source of Article: http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/
02-Oct-2008 -
A first time survey of free-living protozoa in meat-cutting plants showed high diversity rates of various species including those that could harbor food-borne pathogens say researchers from Ghent University, Belgium.
They report their findings in the September 2008 issue of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
Protozoa are unicellular microorganisms that feed on bacteria, and sometimes the bacteria survive and replicate within the protozoa, the study claims.
Bacteria such as Campylobacter, E. coli 0157:H7, Listeria and Salmonella that survive within protozoa may be able to resist desiccation and disinfectants, claims the team, which may explain how Salmonella food poisoning still occurs even after the processor takes the required safety measures.
They added that an increase in antimicrobial resistance and virulence of bacterial pathogens after passage through protozoa has been previously demonstrated.

Method
In this study, the researchers used a series of methods to screen for protozoa in meat-cutting plants. Five plants were inspected, one plant produced beef (A), two plants processed pork (B and C) and the two other plants produced beef, pork and poultry (D and E). They were visited during February to May 2007 and samples were taken after a waiting period of two hours after cleaning and disinfection.

Results
The team found communities of amoebae, ciliates, and flagellates to be present in all the plants.
Protozoa were detected in floor drains, standing water on the floor, soiled bars of cutting tables, plastic pallets and out-of-use hot water knife sanitizers. In addition, protozoa were identified on surfaces which come into direct contact with meat.
¡°Only the plant E fulfilled the legal requirement of a viable bacteria count of 0 to 10 CFU/cm2 for all surface samples tested.
¡°For plants A to C, the limit was exceeded in only a minority of the samples, In plant D, seven of the samples were unacceptable, including samples from the balance, board meat tenderizer, cutting tables, and saws which were heavily contaminated,¡± said the group.
Cultures were then refrigerated for seven days, after which protozoa were still detected in half of the samples. Through microscopic observations researchers identified up to 61 morphospecies.
¡°This survey showed that there is high protozoan species richness in meat-cutting plants and that the species included species related to known hosts of food-borne pathogens,¡± say the researchers.
They added that in most of the samples that yielded a protozoan-positive enrichment culture, residual organic material and/or water was present and said their results suggest that a good hygiene score does not necessarily correlate with an absence of protozoa in the food processing environment.
¡°Protozoa are known to be common inhabitants of drinking water. The possibility that protozoa are spread by means of droplets formed by the aerosolization of water that is sprayed or splashed during cleaning and disinfection processes cannot be excluded.
¡°Locations which were inadequately cleaned and disinfected because of ignorance or inaccessibility (holes in plastic pallets, undersides of cutting boards and conveyor belts, and upper sides of rails) harbored protozoa,¡± concluded the scientists.
They said that further research is required to determine the survival of protozoa and their internalized bacteria in food processing environments under stress conditions such as heat, extreme pH values and disinfection.
Source: Applied and Environmental Microbiology 74. 18:5741-5749
Published online ahead of print
Microscopic and molecular studies of the diversity of free-living protozoa in meat-cutting plants
Authors: M.J.M. Vaerewijck, K. Sabbe, J. Bare, K. Houf

Norovirus Blamed in Outbreak at Georgetown University
By Susan Kinzie
Washington Post Staff Writer Thursday, October 2, 2008; 3:04 PM
Source of Article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
The cause of more than 146 Georgetown University students being sickened in recent days was a norovirus, university and public health officials said today.
The virus can be transmitted by direct contact with an infected person, eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated liquid, or by hand-to-mouth contact after touching an object that is contaminated. Officials made the announcement as the university dining hall remained closed today.
Administrators were alerted to the growing number of students suffering from nausea, vomiting and diarrhea late Tuesday and decided to shut down the campus dining hall yesterday. Many of the students who became ill had eaten at the Leo J. O'Donovan Dining Hall, known as Leo's.
In an e-mail message to the campus community this morning, Todd A. Olson, vice president for student affairs, assured students that the meals provided temporarily at the student center today were from fresh deliveries, with no exposure to the food preparation areas at Leo's.
All of the affected students have been treated and released. Some were so sick that their heart rates were elevated by dehydration, Eric Glasser, assistant chief of emergency medicine at Georgetown University Hospital, said yesterday, and they were given fluids intravenously.
University officials notified students about the illness and the closing of the dining hall with an early morning e-mail yesterday, causing a stir among students focused on midterm exams.
"I'm grossed out by the whole thing, definitely," said freshman Charlie Nocker, who was eating chicken nuggets, rice and cookies at the student center. The night before, he had talked to a friend who had rushed her roommate to the hospital instead of studying for two exams. "She's really slammed," Nocker said.
Many students said they weren't particularly worried about becoming ill. Some even celebrated briefly yesterday afternoon: Study-group members in the student center hugged when they got an e-mail announcing that their exam would be delayed.
Food services at Georgetown are contracted out to Aramark, Olson said. Company executives did not return a call seeking comment.
Public health officials are questioning students about where and what they ate, collecting food samples and checking the preparation of meals and the sources of food, said Peggy Keller, chief of the bureau of community hygiene for the D.C. health department. They were hoping to finish within 48 hours, she said.
John Davies-Cole of the health department said he did not know when the dining hall was last inspected. Olson said it is inspected at least a couple of times a year. "We have gotten very high marks for cleanliness and safety," Olson said.
Although the investigation was ongoing, some students said that some of the people who became sick had eaten the Hoya Wrap. Named after the school's nickname, it's a pre-made sandwich with chicken and sauce wrapped in a tortilla.
Taylor Dana, a pre-med freshman from Toledo, said she had grabbed one for a quick lunch Tuesday. By her afternoon varsity crew practice, her stomach was hurting so badly that she thought she was going to be sick while she was out on the water, she said. At a seminar afterward, she excused herself and vomited in a bathroom, then dragged herself back to her dorm in the rain, she said, throwing up again along the way. Her roommate brought her books and key back after class, and found her on the floor in the hall. She and the resident adviser for the hall persuaded Dana to get help and called an ambulance to take her to the emergency room.
Dana was one of the first students there, she said, and doctors initially wanted to check for appendicitis or other possible causes of the acute pain. But within minutes, Dana said, the halls were full of other students arriving and being put into beds.
"I could hear they were all throwing up," she said yesterday afternoon, looking exhausted in sweat pants and flip-flops. "It was really bad."
After getting fluids by IV and some stomach pain relievers, she was able to get some sleep, and she left the hospital early yesterday. On her way out, she saw a crew teammate, just checking into the hospital with the same symptoms.

More than 25 E. Coli confirmed in Butte County
By: Kelsey Eidbo
Issue date: 10/1/08 Section: Online Exclusives
Source of Article: http://media.www.theorion.com/
Butte County Public Health has confirmed a tri-tip served at a Forest Ranch Volunteer Fire Department fundraiser as the source of at least 26 cases of E. coli reported in Butte County.Officials are still trying to find out how the meat was contaminated.
Interviews are being held with those who handled the meat to determine the source, said Dr. Mark Lundberg, Butte County public health official. Meat is typically contaminated at the slaughterhouse or by the food handler.
There have not been any cases reported on campus, said Catherine Felix, director of Student Health Service. However, that does not represent students that may have gone to other doctors.Symptoms of E. coli include stomach cramps and diarrhea. The disease can lead to a potentially fatal complication, hemolytic uremic syndrome or HUS, which can cause kidney failure.
The period between exposure and the first symptoms tends to be three to four days after exposure but could be anywhere from one to ten days. HUS usually develops about seven days after the first symptoms.
Though food preparation is in a stranger's hands at public events such as the fundraiser, it is important to be as careful as possible in personal kitchens, Lundberg said.
Lundberg advises students to wash their hands before food preparation, use a meat thermometer to cook meat adequately and be careful of cross contamination.
Anybody can become very sick from the potentially fatal bacterium. However, the very young, elderly and those with weak immune systems are at the highest risk.
Butte County Public Health advises anyone who attended the event and became sick to seek immediate medical attention. Those who work with high risk people or food should stop working and call the Butte County Public Health Department at 891-2732 to receive clearance to return to work.
An outbreak has not been reported on campus. Felix warns students against getting too worried over what could just be typical fall illness.
"There are a lot of kids right now with flu-like symptoms with the changing weather" Felix said. "But don't jump to conclusions. Just come visit the Health Center if you do feel something coming on."

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