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Journal of Food Safety
Issues Draft Label Policy Guidance for N-60 E. coli O157:H7 Testing Claims
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Source of Article: http://www.meatami.com/ht/display/ArticleDetails/i/43109
(American Meat Institute)
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued a draft guidance
to the industry on the use of labels bearing an FSIS-approved N-60 E.
coli O157:H7 testing claim. Such special label claims are voluntary. An
establishment may use such claims when it demonstrates such E. coli O157:H7
testing claims are truthful and not misleading. FSIS needs to approve
such claims before the establishment can use them on labeling.
FSIS allows the use of labels that contain special claims (e.g. instructional
and disclaimer statements for E. coli O157:H7) under certain conditions.
In order to provide receiving establishments ¦¡ particularly small and
very small plants ¦¡ with information about the HACCP system and testing
done at the supplier establishment, the Labeling and Program Delivery
Division (LPDD) has developed a N-60 testing claim guidance. This labeling
claim is intended to provide the receiving establishment with this information
in lieu of Certificates of Analysis (COAs) that may not properly transfer
with product through distributors. This claim asserts that the raw beef
component has been produced under an integrated control program between
the slaughter/dressing operation and the trim production operation and
tested for the presence of E. coli O157:H7 using a particular sample method
(e.g., N-60 sampling). Labels bearing this claim would not be approved
for products sold at retail or directly to consumers.
FSIS is providing these draft compliance guides for review and comment.
All stakeholders are encouraged to submit their comments to FSISGuidanceDocumentComments@fsis.usda.gov.
Comments will be accepted until November 17, 2008.
Sets China For First Overseas Office; More To Follow
(Dow Jones Newswires, DC)
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will open its first overseas offices
in China this year, as part of efforts to regulate food sent to the United
States, an official said Thursday.
Offices will also be opened in India, Europe and Latin America for the
first time, said Mike Leavitt, secretary of health and human services.
The move reflected the increased globalization of the world's food and
drug trade, notably from developing to developed nations, he said.
"Increasing our presence overseas will provide greater protections
to American consumers at home and benefit our host countries as well,"
Leavitt said. "Opening these offices will mark a key milestone in
the globalization of our efforts to enhance the safety of imported food
and medical products."
Food quality concerns are paramount for the FDA after recent high profile
cases involving China.The first office will open by the end of 2008 in
Beijing, with additional staff to be posted in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou
Over the last month, countries around the world have issued recalls and
bans of Chinese-made dairy products because high levels of melamine were
In total, 46,810 children were hospitalized after drinking milk tainted
with melamine, which was added in place of water to increase volume.
Figures from China's Ministry of Health said 5,824 children were still
receiving hospital treatment for kidney diseases due to the tainted products,
according to a report from state news agency Xinhua.
"The globalization of the food supply and medical product manufacturing
has demanded that we do things differently," said FDA Commissioner
Andrew C. von Eschenbach. "We won't have to send our experts to another
country to work with foreign governments and regulated industry to improve
our oversight - we'll have staff living there and working on the ground
365 days a year."
Last year, the U.S. imported more than two trillion dollars worth of products
from around 825,000 importers. 10-16-08
lettuce irradiation just a beginning?
Oct 16, 2008 9:52 AM, By Jim Langcuster
Source of Article: http://southeastfarmpress.com/vegetables-tobacco/food-safety-1016/
Jean Weese could be described as the Barbara Mandrell of food safety.
In the fashion of Mandrell, the singer who embraced country music long
before it became cool or acceptable in many quarters, Weese, an Alabama
Cooperative Extension System food scientist and Auburn University professor
of nutrition and food science, was touting the benefits of irradiation
even while many watchdog groups considered it well beyond the parameters
of respectable discourse.
Now, after years of what seemed like a long trek through the desert, she
and many of her colleagues feel vindicated ? at least partly. The federal
government announced in August that it would allow food producers to subject
spinach and lettuce to mild doses of radiation to kill food-borne pathogens.
In announcing its decision, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration stated
that it believed irradiation not only will go a long way toward ridding
foods of potentially harmful pathogens but also would extend the products¡¯
shelf lives ? something Weese and other experts have argued frequently
and passionately for years.
As far as she¡¯s concerned, FDA¡¯s decision is long overdue.
¡°We¡¯re one of the few countries that don¡¯t allow massive amounts of food
to be irradiated,¡± Weese says, adding that the Netherlands, where irradiation
is widely used, is considered to possess one of the safest food supplies
in the world.
¡°Other European countries also have been irradiating a wide range of food
for years,¡± she says.
Weese was one of several U.S. food safety researchers who used laboratory
research years ago to prove to federal regulators that irradiation could
work ? and work well ? with leafed produce.
Weese and fellow Auburn researchers injected E.coli bacteria into the
stems of lettuce and then irradiated it to see if this would destroy all
of the bacteria.? Irradiation was shown to kill bacteria on the surface
and within the plant ? for Weese a testimony to the effective role this
procedure could play in protecting consumers against bacteria that could
not be removed merely through simple washing.
She says this recent FDA decision likely marks the beginning of what will
likely involve several other types of produce, starting with tomatoes
and peppers, she says.
¡°The most recent food safety scares have been with tomatoes and peppers,
and I suspect these will be the next types of produce approved for irradiation,¡±
Weese describes irradiation, which uses gamma radiation to kill microorganisms,
as a very simple process. The products are taken into a room and exposed
for a short time to Cobalt 60. What remains after treatment is a product
that looks, tastes and feels the same way it did before irradiation occurred,
though one completely free of potentially harmful bacteria, she says.
Irradiated meat has been available on U.S. grocery store shelves for years,
Weese says, adding that irradiation for leafy produce was stymied partly
by concerns over what effect this procedure would have on produce with
high water content. Based on her own studies, she believes these concerns
will likely prove groundless.
firm resumes lettuce packaging amid ongoing E. coli probe
FREE PRESS STAFF October 15, 2008
Source of Article: http://www.freep.com/article/20081015/NEWS01/81015020
Aunt Mid's production of large industrial-sized packages of iceberg lettuce
salad at its Detroit facility has resumed while an investigation into
an E.coli outbreak blamed on California lettuce used by the company continues,
Michigan health and agriculture officials reported Tuesday.
The Michigan Department of Agriculture did product and environmental sample
testing at Aunt Mid¡¯s the last week of September and additional testing
was conducted by the state health department, Michigan State University,
the federal Food and Drug Administration and Aunt Mid's. Because lettuce
from the outbreak was not available at the time of the testing, state
health officials say those tests all came back negative for E. coli.
State agriculture officials say Aunt Mid¡¯s is monitoring and testing each
lot of its Fresh Pak bagged lettuce it produces for a 30-day period and
is providing those results to the state, which will also randomly test
production for any evidence of contamination.
A total of 50 cases of E. coli with the same genetic fingerprint have
been reported since Sept. 1, including 38 cases in Michigan, nine in Illinois
and three from Ontario province in Canada. The Michigan cases included
a group of Michigan State students and some inmates at Lenawee County
Jail whom authorities say ate contaminated lettuce from large commercial
user bags sold by Aunt Mid's.Twenty-one of those sickened have been hospitalized
-- including one with hemolytic uremic syndrome -- but no known deaths
have been reported. No new illnesses are expected because of the lapse
of time and because the contaminated lettuce identified by authorities
as the source is no longer available, state health officials said.
An investigation that included independent studies in Michigan and Illinois
identified iceberg lettuce as the source of the illness and a Michigan
Department of Agriculture traceback investigation determined that Aunt
Mid's was the common processor of iceberg lettuce that was washed, cut
How the lettuce, which was as identified as originating in California,
became contaminated, remains undetermined, Michigan agricultural officials
said. The California Department of Public Health is continuing its investigation
into the origin and handling of the lettuce involved in the outbreak.
However, Michigan health officials remind that such traceback investigations
take time because of the records that must be reviewed and data analyzed.
Data from patients who reported being sickened must be carefully analyzed
and tested to determine the origin of the illness and the food involved.
tainted with Salmonella was on its way to Finland and Sweden
Source of Article: http://www.hs.fi/english/
Danish officials have caught up with an outbreak of salmonella, which
has been spreading since February. Danish food safety officials have found
salmonella in pork produced at the Horsens slaughterhouse run by Danish
Crown. The bacteria was found in a consignment of meat that was intended
for the Finnish and Swedish markets. Britta Wiander, head inspector of
the import and market supervision unit of the Finnish Food Safety Authority
(EVIRA), says that legislation protects Finland very well against tainted
¡°Before the meat is sent to Finland it must be checked for salmonella.
A laboratory statement has to come with the meat¡±, Wiander says.
Finland has special permission from the European Union to implement tighter
regulations than the rest of the EU. There is little salmonella in Finland,
and most Finns who are infected with it catch the disease during travel
The discovery at Danish Crown does not explain the whole epidemic, nor
does it mean that Danish Crown would be the original source of the problem,
it is most likely that the contamination occurred already before the animal
came to the slaughterhouse.
Danish Crown packs meats for export, so its meat cannot be responsible
for the epidemic raging in Denmark, where more than 1,000 people have
been infected this year, and six have died. Denmark is the world¡¯s largest
exporter of pork, but the Typhimurium U292 strain of salmonella, which
is the one that has been spreading in Denmark, has not been detected in
other countries. Danish officials have been desperately looking for a
source, going through refrigerators of those who are ill, checking their
credit card records, and taking samples at various food processing plants.
Brains, Spinal Cords to be Banned From Pet Food Starting in 2009
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 by: David Gutierrez
Source of Article: http://www.naturalnews.com/024489.html
(NaturalNews) Effective April 23, 2009, the FDA has banned a series of
cattle products from all animal feed and pet food in attempt to prevent
the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad
BSE is a fatal, degenerative disease of the brain cause by defective proteins
known as prions. These prions can be acquired by consuming the flesh of
infected animals and lead to a similarly fatal human version of the disease,
known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.
Federal regulations already prohibit using ruminant protein as part of
the feed given to other ruminants. These measures were instituted in the
United States and Canada in 1997, after a mad cow outbreak in the United
Ruminants are animals that chew their cud, such as cows, sheep and goats.
Other U.S. protections against mad cow disease include a partial ban on
slaughtering cattle that cannot stand, which are more likely to be infected
with BSE, and a requirement that meatpackers remove the spine and brain
from all slaughtered animals. These are the body parts most likely to
carry mad-cow-causing prions.
The new regulations expand these rules in an attempt to keep BSE prions
out of any animal feed, out of awareness that ruminant and non-ruminant
feed might contaminate each other during the manufacturing or transport
processes, or that ruminants might accidentally be given the wrong kind
of feed.Any animal feed will now be prohibited from containing any materials
from a BSE-infected animal; the brain or spinal cord of any cattle aged
30 months or older; materials from any cattle that are aged 30 months
or older, have not had their spinal cords removed and have not been inspected
and approved for human consumption; tallow containing more than 0.15 percent
insoluble purities, or that has been derived from any other prohibited
materials; and mechanically separated beef derived from any other prohibited
Chinese dairies pledge high standards
(Associated Press ? China)
By HENRY SANDERSON
Chinese dairy executives trying to shore up their beleaguered industry
pledged Thursday to implement higher standards, while nearly 6,000 babies
remained hospitalized with kidney problems from contaminated milk.
Officials in the major dairy-producing region of Inner Mongolia said the
country's two largest dairies were planning to consolidate farming and
raw milk collection to allow better quality control.
The move is the latest attempt to contain the fallout after baby formula
contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine was blamed for causing
the deaths of four infants and sickening about 54,000 other children in
The Health Ministry said Wednesday that 5,800 children were still hospitalized,
six in serious condition.Chinese authorities have blamed dairy suppliers
for the food safety scandal that began last month, saying they added melamine
to watered-down milk to fool quality control tests and make the product
appear rich in protein.
Melamine, a chemical used to make plastics and fertilizers, can cause
kidney stones as the body tries to eliminate it and, in extreme cases,
can lead to life-threatening kidney failure. Infants are particularly
In an effort to restore public trust in local milk supplies, reporters
were taken on a tour of dairy facilities in Inner Mongolia, home to Mengniu
Dairy Group Co. and Yili Industrial Group Co., both of which have been
implicated in the scandal.
Mengniu and Yili have seen their shares plummet. The leading business
magazine, Caijing, reported that losses at both companies were expected
to top $526 million in the next four to five months.
Officials said quality checks have intensified in recent weeks, with Mengniu
and Yili deploying 3,000 inspectors throughout the region, and the government
more than 4,000.
"Provide 100 percent safety to consumers," read a slogan on
a red banner in the ultra-clean processing and packaging hall at Yili's
headquarters in Hohhot.
Yili employees showed reporters a new station for melamine testing where
workers dressed in lab coats and gloves used new testing equipment they
said cost the company $15 million to import from the United States and
"After this incident, we have increased melamine checks on all raw
milk supplies (and) only that which passes the tests goes into the factory,"
said Yili executive president Zhang Jianqiu, after the tour. "All
of Yili's products on the markets for sale ... meet the standards."
Government officials said the blame did not lie with the companies but
lower down the chain with the farmers. Ren Yaping, a vice governor of
Inner Mongolia, said the government and the industry are considering merging
milk collection stations and farmers into larger cooperatives as a way
to improve quality."The most important thing at the next stage is
to start from the raw milk and improve the inspection right through the
production process," Ren said.
The tainted milk scandal has led to more than 30 countries restricting
Chinese dairy products, and in some cases all Chinese food imports.
In Vietnam, health officials said Thursday that three milk products imported
from a Japanese company's factory in Singapore were found to be contaminated
The products' Vietnamese distributor, Huong Thuy Company Ltd., said the
milk melon, cappuccino coffee and milk coffee all came from Pokka Corp.'s
factory in Singapore.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian government on Thursday banned the import of ammonium
bicarbonate, a baking agent, from China, after certain products tested
positive for melamine.
Malaysia has already banned the import of all milk and milk-based products
from China. 10-16-08
B.S.E. testing hinders U.S. beef industry
(MEATPOULTRY.com, October 16, 2008)
by Bryan Salvage
Source of Article: http://www.meatpoultry.com
TOKYO ?What is hindering a hungry world¡¯s access to protein, driving up
food costs and harming local economies, as well as the U.S. beef industry,
are the combination of an overreliance on meaningless testing and a lack
of focus on documenting the effectiveness of steps that are making significant
inroads against Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. So claimed Dr. Ulrich
Kihm, a leading global expert on B.S.E., at a conference on Oct. 15 in
Tokyo for Japan¡¯s opinion leaders hosted by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
The former chief veterinary officer of Switzerland with extensive experience
in the research and analysis of infectious animal diseases, including
B.S.E., spoke at the seminar. Other speakers included Dr. Masahiko Ariji,
a researcher for the AMITA Institute for Sustainable Economics, plus a
panel of Japanese journalists and health industry experts.
Japan¡¯s policy on testing 100% of cattle for B.S.E. ? regardless of age
? has been ineffective, Dr. Kihm told the audience, which included more
than 80 Japanese government officials, meat industry representatives,
media and opinion leaders, including Takeshi Mikami, chairperson of the
Food Safety Commission for the Government of Japan. The youngest documented
case of B.S.E. to his knowledge was 34 months of age.
Removing specified risk materials and the implementation of bans on the
use of meat and bone meal for livestock feed, however, have dramatically
reduced the incidence of B.S.E. and the risk of vC.J.D. (variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob
disease), Dr. Kihm added.
Although there is a risk of B.S.E. for Japanese consumers, it has not
been accurately reported, Dr. Ariji charged. "The risk of dying from
B.S.E. is one of the smallest, least measurable food-related risks,"
The U.S. International Trade Commission recently issued a report detailing
that since B.S.E. was discovered in the United States in December 2003,
the U.S. beef industry has lost an estimated $11 billion in missed sales
and opportunities and increased costs, said Philip Seng, U.S.M.E.F. president
and chief executive officer.
Japan¡¯s insistence on 100% testing for all cattle has been a costly error,
acknowledged a panel of distinguished Japanese media and health industry
experts ? but this policy is difficult to reverse because it has been
portrayed to Japanese consumers as an essential safety step. Dr. Ariji
stated that Japan has wasted 1 trillion yen (roughly $10 billion) on animal
testing that has not saved any lives.
"The political atmosphere at the time [B.S.E. was first reported
in Japan] would not allow limited testing," said Dr. Yoshihiro Ozawa,
an advisor to the international world organization for animal health and
a panelist. "I regret that scientists didn¡¯t make the point that
cattle that were not tested were still safe. It is important to say that
the 100% testing is not necessary, otherwise what is not correct will
still be done."
A glowing reference
for food-borne pesticides
[October 15, 2008]Source of Article: http://www.spectroscopynow.com/
The control of pesticides on foods bound for sale is an ever-present problem
for the food industry with dire consequences for consumers if the protection
systems fail. A recent publication by the British Crop Protection Council
estimated that there are about 860 active compounds in current pesticides,
belonging to more than 100 classes. Many of these are toxic, so regulatory
authorities have set maximum residue limits (MRLs) for safety purposes,
those of the EC ranging from several ppb to ppm.
Traditional methods for measuring the levels of pesticides in all types
of foods involve extraction, purification and, in some cases, enrichment
steps. These are generally followed by analysis using one of the hyphenated
techniques such as GC/MS or LC/MS, often in tandem mass spectrometry mode.
Although these methods are accurate with relatively low limits of quantification
and detection, the often lengthy sample preparation and resultant extended
analysis times are undesirable in quality control and testing laboratories.
These limitations have been tackled by Renato Zenobi and colleagues from
the Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences at ETH Zurich, who
turned to a novel ambient mass spectrometry technique. Earlier in 2008,
the development of the flowing afterglow atmospheric pressure glow discharge
(APGD) source was announced by the group run by Gary Hieftje at Indiana
University. Zenobi built a version of the source in his own lab and attached
it to a quadrupole-time-of-flight mass spectrometer.
A glow discharge was generated in a helium flow at atmospheric pressure
using a tungsten rod as cathode and a stainless steel plate as anode.
Within the discharge, the metastable species and other excited species
that were formed reacted with ambient air to produce protonated water
clusters and radical cations such as NO+.. The clusters, in turn, ionised
the analyte molecules in a chemical ionisation process.
In this instance, the system was tested for the analysis of 10 pesticides
in food products. Apple, orange, cranberry and grape juices were diluted
in water, spiked with the pesticides and droplets were added to filter
paper. Similarly, salad leaves and small pieces of apple skin were washed
before the pesticides were spotted onto small areas. There was no further
treatment before the samples were placed between the source and the mass
spectrometer inlet for analysis.
The pesticides, covering the carbamate, triazine, urea and organo-chlorine
classes, were carbendazim, carbofuran, metolcarb, propoxur, alachlor,
metolachlor, dinoseb, atrazine, simazine and isoproturon.
The mass spectra obtained with the APGD source were very similar to those
obtained by electrospray ionisation, with strong protonated molecular
ion peaks (except for alachlor which had a [M-CH3OH+H]+ peak). The tandem
mass spectra recorded under the same collision-induced dissociation conditions
were also similar for both ionisation processes. However, the fragment
ion intensities tended to be higher with APGD, pointing to APGD being
a more energetic ionisation than electrospray ionisation. The probable
thermal loss of the CH3OH group from the alachlor molecule appears to
support this deduction.
For identification, 9 of the 10 pesticides fulfilled the minimum requirement
of three identification points laid down in the EC guidelines for quality
control in pesticide analysis. They matched the protonated molecular ion
plus two of the product ions, while the tenth pesticide, metolachlor,
matched the protonated molecular ion and one product ion.
The limits of determination in the fruit juices ranged from 1 ng/mL (ppb)
for metolcarb to 500 ng/mL for alachlor. The researchers were encouraged
to find that the more complex nature of orange juice, due to the presence
of fruit pulp, did not have any noticeable effects on these limits. For
spiked apple skin, the limits of determination ranged from 0.01-5 ng,
corresponding to 0.009-5.0 ppb. These values for juices and skin are well
above the EU MRLs of 1-500 ¥ìg/kg (ppb) for pesticides in fruit juice and
0.01-5 ¥ìg/kg in apple skin.
Reproducibilities of APGD MS were in the region of 20% r.s.d., which is
acceptable for screening purposes. They could be improved by adopting
a more precise procedure for positioning samples in front of the source.
First attempts at quantification in fruit juice did not produce linear
calibration curves, with larger errors for higher pesticide concentrations.
However, the team noted that it was still easy to determine the order
of magnitude of the pesticide concentrations.
This relatively poor performance achieved in the early stages of development
suggest that the technique could be used for initial screening to determine
which batches of products would require more accurate examination, perhaps
by LC/MS. This outcome is essential "for the control of the labelling
of bio-/organic foods."
A revised source geometry might make it possible to analyse pesticides
on whole fruits, rather than small strips of skin, with the potential
for several sampling sites on a single fruit. Miniaturisation and mounting
on a portable mass spectrometer would allow for pesticide control in the
However, the main advantages of the APGD MS method are the lack of sample
preparation which speeds up the whole analysis process, and the good detection
Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry 2008, 22, 2791-2798: "Atmospheric
pressure glow discharge desorption mass spectrometry for rapid screening
of pesticides in food"
Article by Steve Down
The views represented in this article are solely those of the author and
do not necessarily represent those of John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.
Irradiation And Consumer Acceptance
Christine Bruhn Ph.D., Director, Center for Consumer Research
Department for Food Science and Technology
University of California, Davis October 16, 2008
Source of Article: http://www.perishablepundit.com/
We have dealt a great deal with irradiation, including an extensive review
of the state of the art which we entitled, Irradiation Kickstart. This
piece followed up on the heels of FDA¡¯s Irradiation Ruling Puts FDA On
The Spot, which announced FDA¡¯s approval of irradiation for use with iceberg
lettuce and spinach. Although there are many technical issues with regard
to irradiation ? what dose, what packaging, logistics, cost, etc. ? one
of the key industry concerns is consumer acceptance of irradiated produce.
To explore this subject more thoroughly we asked Pundit Investigator and
Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to find out more:
Q: What can you tell us about
consumer acceptance of irradiated food?
A: We do research on consumer
attitudes toward food safety and quality, and help to respond to consumer
concerns, educate on the facts, and clear up misinformation.
Q: Have you done any studies
related to fresh produce in particular?
A: Our main research on irradiation
was done a couple years ago and related primarily to meat. We did have
questions included about produce, related to availability of tropical
fruits irradiated for disinfestation of pests rather than food safety
applications. [Editor's note: you can read the full report here]
Q: Do you think your earlier
research would be applicable to consumer acceptance of irradiated spinach
and iceberg lettuce, now that the focus has been shifted and elevated
from pest control to combating deadly pathogens?
A: The application of irradiation
for something eaten raw is a new opportunity. While the research doesn¡¯t
specifically address this, I can share my view of how people respond and
would respond regarding irradiating food for food safety.
Q: What is our understanding
on this issue?
A: Some are saying the public
won¡¯t buy it. That is not the case. The public hasn¡¯t been given an opportunity.
My work and that of other researchers over the last 20 years has found
some people are ready to buy irradiated product right now. They want it,
but complain that the grocery store hasn¡¯t offered it to them. This group
of consumers represents maybe 10 percent of the population. At the other
side of the spectrum, 10 percent of consumers are appalled by irradiation.
They believe it makes the product less safe and less nutritious and wouldn¡¯t
touch it with a 10-foot pole.
The majority of the population
is in the middle. They don¡¯t know very much about irradiation, or how
it would benefit them. When we share the science ? that it will increase
safety but doesn¡¯t markedly affect taste or nutrition ? they are ready
to buy it. They want to buy it. The goal is getting the correct information
to the consumer.
Q: In your research, were consumers
receptive to irradiating tropical fruit to provide more variety in the
marketplace? If so, it seems they would be even more open to irradiation
for improved food safety. What is your assessment?
A: In our study, we did ask
questions about availability of certain imported tropical fruits like
papaya and mango that consumers wouldn¡¯t have access to if not irradiated.
That¡¯s purely a pleasure application, and consumer feedback toward irradiation
was extremely positive. Great irradiated mangos were shipped into the
U.S. last year. I¡¯ve had delicious irradiated mangos from India and Thailand.
Mexico is revving up to ship irradiated mangos. It is just a matter of
being sure all regulatory approvals are in place because this is a quarantine
operation. More irradiated fruits will be appearing in supermarkets.
You¡¯re not cooking your iceberg
lettuce. If consumers can appreciate irradiation in the form of pleasure,
eating product that might not normally be available, it is not a leap
to expect they will be even more enthusiastic about irradiation in the
form of food safety, and they will have confidence they are serving their
family safe product that is good for them.
Q: Since your research suggests
the majority of consumers just need to know more information about the
irradiation process to feel comfortable in purchasing the product, what
communication efforts do you suggest, and by whom?
A: Having a grocery store put
irradiated product on the shelves is an endorsement in and of itself.
It is even better if the grocery store promotes it. Tell shoppers this
is good for you. You¡¯re buying a value-added product that is safe and
Q: Wegmans has been progressive
in this regard, offering consumers its own brand of irradiated meat, but
it seems to remain a niche product. Why hasn¡¯t it taken off?
A: Wegmans¡¯ irradiated ground
beef is fresh, not frozen, which means they need high enough turnover.
I see that as a good thing. They wouldn¡¯t carry irradiated beef if they
weren¡¯t getting good reaction.
I believe it would be helpful
for any introduction of irradiated product to have the health community
stand up and support it. Inform consumers it adds further protection to
their families, and it is labeled to distinguish it. When there is another
food safety problem related to leafy greens, this product is a safe haven
and will protect your health.
The percentage of contaminated
produce is extremely small and a testament to the industry¡¯s food safety
vigilance. Still, who wants to take the chance? The public expects safe
product. This kill step means consumers can serve product with 100 percent
confidence; it¡¯s the only way when dealing with raw fresh produce.
Q: What about quality issues?
Is there still a learning curve on balancing the higher doses of irradiation
needed for food safety with maximizing taste, texture, and nutritional
content for commercial application?
A: Just like any other approach
to handling food, you do it through preserving flavor and quality; depending
on your techniques you can make beautiful toast or hunks of charcoal.
Can it be done where irradiated products are indistinguishable in taste
and texture from non-irradiated products and the nutrition is preserved?
The answer is yes. Early literature showed problems. Don¡¯t look at studies
done 15 or 20 years ago. Let¡¯s do it right and give consumers a choice.
Q: In contrast to your research,
anti-irradiation groups, while relatively small in number, have been quite
vocal in expressing concerns and trying to stop progress.
A: I believe statements Food
and Water Watch makes are not supported by science. Nutritional damage
and concerns about safety are not based on the facts. Recognized health
authorities confirm this. CDC and FDA mandates require safety and nutritional
value are considered before they grant approval. These anti-irradiation
groups are expressing their philosophical views.
Q: Food and Water Watch claims
that irradiation of foods produces furans, which are poisonous. Furans
have been at issue in FDA¡¯s regulatory approval process of irradiated
foods. Is there valid reason for concern?
A: Furan is a compound that
can form in extremely small levels in foods that have sugar interacting
with other compounds in the food matrix. Furans exist in canned goods
and other foods as part of their composition. They are not hazardous.
That¡¯s one myth this Food and Water Watch organization propagates. Spinach
and lettuce don¡¯t even have furans.
Q: Is that one reason why FDA
finally gave the OK for spinach and iceberg, but has delayed approval
of irradiation for other types of foods like deli meats and ready-to-eat
A: The delay is for broader
reasons. Deli meats cover a whole range of different foods, soy, milk
powder, many different ingredients, etc. FDA wants to be sure it has investigated
all the ingredients and how they interact with the irradiation process.
In regards to fresh foods, FDA is assessing how many furans would be permissible
before effects can be shown. The product needs a certain concentration
of furans for there to be a safety concern. It would require consuming
a heck of a lot of food.
Q: What challenges lie ahead?
A: The challenges I see are
mainly logistical, first building the facilities. The ideal would be inline
operations in Salinas and Arizona when production shifts seasonally. Companies
want to test the concept with irradiation facilities already in place
before building them into their own operations.
The issue of consumer acceptance
of irradiated produce is something of a red herring:
First, right now no one is
proposing irradiating all produce or even all spinach and iceberg lettuce.
So it is not necessary to have 100% consumer endorsement. We have suggested
initially pitching the product as a foodservice application to hospitals,
senior citizen centers, assisted living facilities and other specialized
places where consumers may have impaired immune systems.
Second, Dr. Bruhn is right
on in saying that the key impediment in consumer acceptance of irradiated
food is lack of availability. The meager research we have on this, which
goes back to 1992 was when Carrot Top Market in Illinois and Lorenzo¡¯s
Market in Florida sold irradiated strawberries. You can see some of the
research results here. The comeuppance of this research was that when
irradiated and non-irradiated product was sold side by side with appropriate
educational literature, the irradiated product sold well.
The truth is that the vast
majority of consumers are unlikely to know or to care. How many people
who buy ground beef from Omaha Beef know they are buying irradiated product?
How many know the ground beef at their local supermarket is not irradiated?
The assumption in the US is that food sold commercially is safe. The very
act of selling an item is an endorsement.
Third, because most consumers
expect the food they buy at a supermarket to be safe, the biggest obstacle
is that without inline irradiation ? that is to say as long as we have
to take bags and truck them some place to irradiate ? irradiation will
require a premium price. Now why exactly should consumers pay this premium
if the product is already safe? On ground beef, Wegmans can wax poetic
about rare hamburgers. Many enjoy raw chop meat. But what, exactly, is
the argument for why consumers should pay more for irradiated spinach?
This is where the public health
authorities come into the picture. The problem is this: They can¡¯t simultaneously
say everything is perfectly safe and we have the safest food supply in
the world but consumers should pay extra for irradiated spinach and iceberg
lettuce. It is not a sound argument.
We would suggest that public
health authorities start out by telling the industry that the FDA intends
to issue a recommendation that hospitals, assisted living facilities,
retirement homes, etc., should only serve irradiated ground beef, spinach
and iceberg lettuce. This would assure the industry of a reasonable-size
A year after making its intent
clear, the FDA should issue the recommendation.
Once this market is functioning,
there will be spillover as some product will find its way to retail and
other foodservice uses. Years of consumption in this specialized market
will assuage any concerns that others might have on irradiation.
Long term we have to expect
that this technology will be as common on high risk produce items as pasteurization
is on milk.
Of course, consumers and restaurants
need to be aware that irradiation does not protect against cross-contamination
in a kitchen, food preparation workers with dirty hands or any risk after
the product is irradiated. So vigilance is still required.
We have been fortunate to enjoy
the low-key persuasiveness of Dr. Bruhn at many public presentations and
a few private conversations. We thank her very much for sharing her perspectives
with the industry on this important issue.
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