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Salmonella Saintpaul Outbreak Exposes Food Safety Weaknesses
Source of Article:
Posted : Mon, 17 Nov 2008 13:32:59 GMT
Author : Produce Safety Project, an Initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts at Georgetown University
WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 DC-PSP-food-safety
Produce Safety Project Report Makes Recommendations for System in Critical Need of Reform
WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Weaknesses in food safety policy, organization and communications were all displayed during this summer's outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul, according to a report released today by the Produce Safety Project (PSP), an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts at Georgetown University.
The report, "Breakdown: Lessons to Be Learned from the 2008 Salmonella Saintpaul Outbreak," represents an in-depth review of the public record of last summer's Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak that caused illnesses in more than 1,400 people across the country. For a full copy of the report and the executive summary click here:
Congressional leaders and produce industry representatives have called for public health officials to conduct an analysis of the public health system's response to the outbreak. The report is an effort to frame questions that such a review should consider. In particular, the report focuses on: food safety policy; the public health system's organization, capacity and effectiveness in the outbreak response; and risk communications with the media and the public.
Highlights and recommendations from the report include:
The need for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to use its existing statutory authorities to establish mandatory and enforceable safety standards for fresh produce. While FDA officials said the outbreak showed the need for these standards, they said Congress needs to pass legislation to grant it explicit authority to do so. However, the report notes that FDA has already used existing authorities to put in place preventive safety standards for seafood in 1995 and for juice in 2001.
The need for organizational reforms throughout the public health system for a more coordinated outbreak response. The report raises questions about how timely and effectively data was shared between public health agencies and if it contributed to a delayed identification of jalapeno and serrano peppers as a vehicle for Salmonella Saintpaul.
The need to have established and unified risk communication plans in place before an outbreak. The report documents "dueling" public health messages from various agencies announcing the outbreak, and questions why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its presentation of data numerous times in the middle of the outbreak.
"Many of these problems have been identified for years by expert body after expert body," said Jim O'Hara, director of PSP. "If we pass up this opportunity to learn from this most recent outbreak, we will keep repeating the same costly mistakes - for public health and industry alike."
For the report and comprehensive timeline, PSP reviewed all of the public statements and Web site postings of the CDC and FDA; the transcripts of the FDA/CDC media calls; press releases and Web site postings by state public-health departments and industry trade associations; and media coverage from around the country. In addition, PSP staff attended and monitored the oversight hearings held by Congressional committees.
"The Obama Administration should make the establishment of mandatory, enforceable safety standards for fresh produce a food safety priority and take steps to fix our broken outbreak response system," O'Hara said. "Both actions will go a long way toward safeguarding public health and protecting farmers."
The Produce Safety Project at Georgetown University seeks the establishment by the Food and Drug Administration of mandatory and enforceable safety standards for domestic and imported fresh produce, from farm to fork. Our families need to have confidence that federal food safety regulation is based on prevention, scientifically sound risk assessment and management, and coordinated integrated data collection. For more information online, visit
SOURCE Produce Safety Project, an Initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts at Georgetown University

Salmonella Saintpaul report provides recommendations
Source of Article:
11/20/2008-A recent report released by the Produce Safety Project (PSP), an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts at Georgetown University, provides an in-depth review of the public record of the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak of 2008.
The report, entitled ¡°Breakdown: Lessons to be learned from the 2008 Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak,¡± calls for preventive safety standards for fresh produce, reform of the public-health system¡¯s organization and outbreak response, and establishment of unified risk communication plans.
According to the PSP, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) needs to use its existing statutory authorities to establish mandatory and enforceable safety standards for fresh produce. It is noted that the FDA has already used existing authorities to put in place preventative safety standards for seafood in 1995 and for juice in 2001.
In addition, the PSP sees the need for organizational reforms throughout the public health system for a more coordinated outbreak response. The report raises questions about how timely and effectively data was shared between public health agencies and if it contributed to a delayed identification of jalapeno and Serrano peppers as a vehicle for Salmonella Saintpaul.
Finally, the PSP expresses the need to have established and unified risk communication plans in place before an outbreak. According to the report, from the beginning of the outbreak, public-health communication to the media and the public was disjointed and confusing.

City considers salmonella claims
Posted: Wednesday, Nov 19th, 2008
Source of Article:
No lawsuits filed yet
ALAMOSA With more than 40 claims for damages ranging from $100 to $1 million, the City of Alamosa is still grappling with this spring¡¯s salmonella outbreak linked to the city¡¯s water supply. Alamosa City Attorney Erich Schwiesow last night told the city council that none of the claims has yet turned into a lawsuit but claimants have up to two years after the incident to file a lawsuit, or about two years from March of 2008. The time frame for claims is 180 days, he said. ¡°The filing of a claim does not necessarily mean the filing of a lawsuit,¡± Schwiesow told the council Wednesday night. ¡°No one has sued the city.¡± He said all of the claims have been forwarded to the city¡¯s insurer who is aware of the claims but has not yet made any determination on them. Schwiesow said the initial conclusion with regard to these claims is they would be eligible to be covered under the insurance policy. ¡°This is just an update to let you know where we sit,¡± he said. Schwiesow added that no action was required of the city at this point. In fact, he advised the city council not to do anything without having the insurance company sign off on it.
¡°The decision about what to do with them is not one that the city makes itself,¡± Schwiesow added. ¡°That would be made in conjunction with the insurance company.¡±
Councilor April Gonzales asked if the insurance company was willing to pay anything on these claims.
¡°They are not willing to pay out anything as far as I know,¡± Schwiesow said.
City Manager Nathan Cherpeski said the city¡¯s insurance company is sitting tight at this point in relationship to paying any of the claims.
Schwiesow said the city¡¯s coverage is $150,000 per claimant up to $600,000 cumulative for the incident.
Schwiesow said the city council can tell the insurance company that the city is not interested in settling any of the claims and let the insurance company go from there, or the insurance company can tell the city it is willing to settle some of the claims. That is how the negotiating would occur, he said.
He added that if the city council wanted to talk more in depth about strategy, he would suggest an executive session. The council did not pursue an executive session on the matter on Wednesday, but Mayor Farris Bervig said that would probably be necessary at some future time. Schwiesow said the majority of the claims are being handled by the Marler Clark firm out of Seattle, Wash., first on the scene with the initial claim of $150,000 from Jordan Cook on April 2.
The first salmonella case was reported around March 12, and by May 1 more than 400 cases had been reported, more than 100 of those confirmed through cultures. About two dozen people were hospitalized.
The single death attributed to the outbreak occurred on April 15 when Romeo resident Larry Lee Velasquez, Sr., 55, died at St. Mary Corwin in Pueblo.
The claims handled by the Marler Clark firm include a $1 million claim from Isabel Velasquez individually and as surviving spouse and personal representative of Larry Velasquez. Velasquez¡¯s claim and that of more than three dozen other residents, was filed on August 16.
Schwiesow said that five other claims were submitted apart from Marler Clark. Those include the smallest claim for $100 from Linda Relyea and Chris Medina, filed June 10; a claim specifically for $6,817.47 from the Corey and Natalie DeAngelis family filed on August 8; a $2,300 claim from Curl Up & Dye (Linda Sanchez) filed on July 8; an unknown claim from Sonic Drive In filed on June 2; and a $10,387 claim from Pizza Hut filed on Oct. 15.
The claims being handled by Marler Clark, in addition to the initial Cook claim and the $1 million Isabel Velasquez claim, involve claims for 14 minor children and seek upwards of $50,000 in damages per claimant.
Aside from the minors listed, claims filed under the Marler Clark firm on August 16 include: $50,000 for Luis Amaya; $50,000 for Frank Calhoun; $100,000 for Pamela Calhoun; $50,000 for Gregory Allen Collins; $75,000 for Davina Dodds; $50,000 for Dora Ellis; $75,000 for Nathan Andrew Gallegos; $75,000 for Blas Luz Huerta; $150,000 for Calvin B. Jones; $50,000 for Louise Malouff; $50,000 for Philip J. Malouff; $50,000 for Timothy P. Malouff; $50,000 for Christy Medina; $125,000 for Ralph Raymond Petty; $75,000 for Marissa Roldan; $75,000 for Darace J. Smith; $75,000 for Levi Karl Torres; $75,000 for Christina K. Valdez; $50,000 for Larry Velasquez, Jr.; $50,000 for Anna Velasquez; $50,000 for Medward Romero; $75,000 for Vanessa Villalva; and $50,000 for Cassandra Wobith. The total claims handled by the Marler Clark firm total $3.825 million.

Children at risk in food roulette
Mislabeling, lax oversight threaten people with allergies
Source of Article:
By Sam Roe | Tribune reporter
November 21, 2008
American children with food allergies are suffering life-threatening?and completely avoidable reactions because manufacturers mislabel their products and regulators fail to police store shelves, a Tribune investigation has found. In effect, children are used as guinea pigs, with the government and industry often taking steps to properly label a product only after a child has been harmed. The Tribune investigation revealed that the government rarely inspects food to find problems and doesn't punish companies that repeatedly violate labeling laws. In disclosing ingredients, labels must clearly identify major allergens such as peanuts, milk, eggs and wheat. Millions of parents, teachers and baby-sitters scrutinize these labels to ensure that they are not giving children unsafe food.

FDA sends inspectors to China
Source of Article:
11/20/2008-The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has opened its first overseas office in China to guard against contaminated animal feed, counterfeit drugs, toys made with lead paint, and dairy products containing melamine, according to an article in the Washington Post. This comes as a result of China¡¯s growing role as an exporter to the U.S. and the recent food safety scares originating from the country. Most recently, melamine-tainted dairy products and animal feed from China killed four Chinese infants and sickened thousands, prompting last week¡¯s FDA directive that all Chinese foods made with milk be detained at U.S. ports unless importers certify them melamine-free.
The FDA contingent in China will have at least eight American employees, in addition to Chinese hires, in three offices in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. The aim is to work more closely with Chinese regulatory agencies to set quality standards and to educate companies and their distributors.

FSIS Issues Directive on Performing Sanitation Verification Review

Food Poisoning: Is There A Concern About Melamine For the United States?
Source of Article:
For some time now, there has been concern in China about the inclusion of melamine in products. Melamine is a chemical used in making plastics and fertilizer. Recently, it has been improperly used by companies to up the product's perceived protein content.
Testing that was done suggests that the melamine level was nearly double the maximum permissible level. These findings are significant because this summer melamine tainted milk powder sickened more than 50,000 Chinese children and led to the deaths of four babies. The World Health Organization says that melamine and cyanuric crystals, which can grow and block the tunules, have been found in the kidneys of some Chinese children.
Canada has been issuing alerts as the result of candy that has entered it's country from China. But, is this something that the US should be concerned about? The U.S. should be specifically looking at milk products from China found in cookies and candies, bakery and cereal foods, icings, snack foods, products containing cheese, milk and butter, soft candy with fillings and pet foods.

The FDA is advising consumers not to consume the following products because of possible melamine contamination:
¡¤ Fresh and Crispy Jacobina Biscuits New!
¡¤ Koala's March Creme filled Cookies
¡¤ YILI Brand Sour Milk Drink
¡¤ YILI Brand Pure Milk Drink
¡¤ Blue Cat Flavored Drinks
¡¤ White Rabbit Candies
¡¤ Mr. Brown Mandehling Blend Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
¡¤ Mr. Brown Arabica Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
¡¤ Mr. Brown Blue Mountain Blend Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
¡¤ Mr. Brown Caramel Macchiato Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
¡¤ Mr. Brown French Vanilla Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
¡¤ Mr. Brown Mandheling Blend instant Coffee (2-in-1)
¡¤ Mr. Brown Milk Tea (3-in-1)
¡¤ Infant formula manufactured in China #
If you suffer from food poisoning, you need to get immediate medical care. If it continues or there are long term affects you should contact an attorney concerning the problem. Early investigation can include the collection of samples, checking for health alerts, and the proper notifying of those that caused the problem.

Click here for more information

More research needed into foodborne diseases: WHO
Thu Nov 20, 2008 1:03pm EST
Source of Article:
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA (Reuters) - Foodborne diseases appear to be on the rise in both rich and poor countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.
More research is needed to determine how much sickness and death stems from contaminated food, such as the tainted Chinese milk that caused kidney problems in more than 50,000 children and killed four, and the U.S. salmonella outbreak that made more than 1,400 people ill, WHO director of food safety Jorgen Schlundt said.
An estimated 30 percent of new infectious diseases originate in bacteria, viruses, parasites, chemicals and toxins introduced along food production chains, he told an experts' meeting.
"There are some indications that the foodborne disease burden is increasing. But there is not very good data, it is difficult to say exactly what is happening," Schlundt said.
About 2.2 million children die each year from diarrheal illnesses including cholera caused by dirty water, food, and poor sanitation, according to the United Nations agency.
Food products needed to be monitored at every stage of their handling, Schlundt said.
"If you want to deal with food safety you have to go from the 'farm to the fork'. The notion that you can deal with it at the end of the food chain is clearly wrong," he said.
In many countries, regulatory authorities fail to work together, he said.
"In China there are 16 different authorities involved in some way in dealing with the melamine crisis," he said.
Julie Ingelfinger, a Harvard Medical School professor and pediatric nephrologist, said many people had overlooked the seriousness of complications caused by contaminated food.
For instance, E.coli poisoning can cause hemolytic-uremic syndrome, a cause of kidney failure in children, she said.
"Research into the long-term effects of foodborne disease is increasingly important because it is unquantified and goes on for decades," she said.
David Heymann, WHO assistant director-general for health, security and the environment, told the meeting that rich and poor countries were both vulnerable to foodborne diseases.
"Foodborne diseases occur on every continent and in every country really. We never know where these events will happen," he said.
The recent salmonella outbreak in the United States -- its worst in a decade -- was an example of the changing picture of foodborne diseases, according to the WHO.
Although salmonella is often linked to poultry, eggs and dairy products, recent outbreaks have been tied to fresh produce, it said. Tomatoes were suspected in the U.S. outbreak before the salmonella was traced to peppers from Mexico.
Nancy Donley, president of the U.S. non-profit group S.T.O.P. (Safe Tables Our Priority), said food safety needed to be taken more seriously as a public health concern.
"It's crucial to keep foodborne disease prevention as a top priority in the world," said Donley, whose 6-year-old son Alex died in 1993 from e.coli-contaminated meat. "Behind every statistic is a face, a name, a life."
(Editing by Laura MacInnis and Angus MacSwan)

FSIS directive covers food-borne illness investigations

Antibiotic resistant E.coli could spread, warns Soil Association
Source of Article:
By staff reporter, 19-Nov-2008
A newly discovered antibiotic resistant strain of E.coli is at risk of spreading, the Soil Association has warned, as no restrictions have been made on the herd where it was identified.
Antibiotic resistance is a major concern, as it is well understood that excess use can reduce effectiveness. Around 30,000 people in the UK alone are estimated to have an enhanced type of antibiotic resistance known as extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL); increasing resistance means there is less likelihood of infections in humans being successfully treated in the future.
The bug, discovered in cows at an unidentified farm, is a vera-toxin known as E.coli O26 which produces E.coli (VTEC). Nineteen out of 20 calves and three out of 40 cows were found by government vets to be positive. This is the first time that VTEC E.coli has been found with ESBL in the UK, and only the third time in the world.
According to the Soil Association, which is calling for limit to be imposed on the veterinary-use of modern penicillin-type antibiotics, the farmer has been given hygiene advice to protect his family, but no restrictions have been placed on animals from the affected herd.
This means that they can be sold locally to unsuspecting farmers and for export ¡°so the Soil Association fears that the hyper-resistant strain will spread more widely¡±.
Soil Association policy advisor Richard Young called the incident ¡°one of the most worrying developments in the continuing rise of ESBL E.coli¡±.
He added that there is a lack of awareness that continued high use of antibiotics in farming is contributing to increasing antibiotic resistance in humans.
¡°The government often calls on doctors to prescribe antibiotics less often. But similar advice needs to be given to veterinary surgeons and farmers¡±.
The organic association is also campaigning for restrictions of modern cephalosporins ? a class of antibiotics on all farms, both conventional and organic.
As of January 2009, it is restricting cephalosporin use on the organic farms it certifies in a bid to prevent the spread of ESBLs, in addition to other kinds of antibiotics that are already limited.

Canada confirms 16th case of BSE
By Lisa M. Keefe on 11/18/2008
Source of Article:
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) on Monday confirmed it had found bovine spongiform encephalopathy in a 7-year-old dairy cow from British Columbia.
The agency also reported that no part of the animal's carcass entered the human food or animal feed systems. CFIA is investigating the source of the infection, including the animal's birth farm and herdmates. It says the age and the location of the infected animal are consistent with previous cases found in Canada.
Canada remains a Controlled Risk country for BSE, as determined by OIE, and so this announcement should not affect exports of cattle or beef from the country.
According to OIE, Canada has had 16 native-born cases of BSE: two in 2003, one each in 2004 and 2005, five cases in 2006, three in 2007 and four so far in 2008. Canada also had an imported case of BSE in 1993.

Maple Leaf CEO's memos to workers give glimpse of struggles with listeria
Source of Article:
Special investigation by CBC News/Toronto Star
Last Updated: Saturday, November 8, 2008 | 9:27 AM ET
CBC News
Weeks before the word listeria became a common term in households across Canada, the company at the centre of an outbreak was struggling with "belt-tightening" amid a "massive change period," according to memos written by the head of Maple Leaf Foods.
In a series of confidential memos obtained by CBC News and the Toronto Star, company president Michael McCain reveals the business had stopped catering internal meetings, asked workers to print double-sided and had put a freeze on hiring as they were "scrubbing [their] budgets."
The memos provide a glimpse behind the scenes during the tumultuous months when the deadly listeriosis outbreak, linked to the company's Toronto plant on Bartor Road, dominated headlines across the country.
For the past decade, McCain has written the frank, unedited notes and e-mailed them to thousands of employees each week, he said in an interview.
To read a samples of Michael McCain's emails, click on the links on the right-hand side of the page. The documents, typically three pages, have been shortened and information (such as routine business matters or company plans for the future) removed.
While mostly filled with details about running the multi-billion dollar company, a major player in the food industry, the notes focus on the listeriosis outbreak over the months of August and September and increase in frequency to several days a week.
At least 20 people have died from a Listeria monocytogenes strain linked to the company's Toronto facility, which prompted the largest food recall in the country's history.
McCain said he first learned of positive tests for listeria on three Sure Slice products on Aug. 16 by way of a phone call from a manager late at night, while at his Georgian Bay cottage.
"My first reaction was, okay, it's unfortunate, disappointing. It happens to all brands," McCain said in an exclusive interview.
At that time, he says he didn't know about any connections to illness.
A day later, the company issued its initial recall of several products ? one that would later expand beyond 200.
'No reason to hang our heads'
"You all know how critically important we take food safety throughout our organization," he writes in the Aug. 20 memo to employees. "We have had a breach in that commitment¡¦"
McCain says the company "acted swiftly" to the positive listeria tests, an "isolated incident" limited to two production lines at the Bartor Road facility.
He writes that there are confirmed cases of listeriosis but "so far these cases have not been linked to our products."
As a precaution, the company orders a sweeping recall of products made back to June 2 and announces the closure of the plant for a deep-clean scrub.
The next day, he writes to employees again amid a building media storm as the first listeriosis death becomes public.
"This isn't something we should ever want to be in the news about, but we have no reason to hang our heads ? we're doing what is the right thing to do in this situation ¡¦ acting responsibly and with extraordinary precaution," he writes on Aug. 21.
He stresses that there's no confirmed link to Maple Leaf products, but that public health has confirmed the outbreak's connection to a single DNA pattern.
A day later, McCain admits it "has not been one of the most pleasant weeks in my 30-odd years in the food industry."

Listeria linked to plant
He grumbles about "extensive" media coverage, calling it "most unfortunate" that the pervasiveness of listeria in plants, supermarkets and kitchens isn't being addressed.
But there's hope in the note, with McCain saying he's received "literally hundreds of supportive and inspirational e-mails" in the past few days and quotes an optimistic poem sent by one about refusing to fall down.
On Aug. 23, however, public health officials confirm the link between the listeria strain and Maple Leaf's Bartor Road plant.
"I am deeply saddened to advise you that test results have been returned, and we have been advised the strain of listeria bacteria which caused the illness and death of several consumers matches the listeria strain identified in some Maple Leaf Food products," McCain writes that same day.
"My heart goes out to all those who have become ill and to the families who have lost loved ones," he says. Several days later, he would offer those condolences publicly at a press conference.
Days later, McCain sends a memo questioning the reclassification of some listeriosis-linked deaths, raising the death toll from four to 12.
He calls it "disturbing" that "elderly patients with multiple health challenges" who had listeria in their blood, but whose deaths were not confirmed as directly caused by the bacteria, have been added to the list.
In the interview with the Star and CBC News, McCain defends his comment, saying he never doubted the number of deaths but was simply echoing the opinion of the public health agency's top doctor.
"I don't want to be crass about this, but I was told by the health professionals that because these individuals had multiple health challenges, they were vulnerable to all those health challenges," he said in an interview. "They told me they could not necessarily say that it was the listeriosis that was the cause of death."

'Coming out the other side'
September begins to look less grim for the company as listeriosis moves off the front pages of newspapers and the Bartor Road plant gears up to reopen.
"We're coming out the other side of this now," McCain writes on Sept. 6.
Calls to a customer hotline rapidly drop to 600 a day from a peak of 9,000, says McCain. About 50,000 calls from the public came in during the first weeks of the recall alone.
McCain says he's "intensely proud" of how the company handled the outbreak, but singles out an employee for saying "very hurtful things" about Maple Leaf ? that the meat slicers hadn't been cleaned in years.
Calling it the "most ridiculous falsification," he says it's "good news" no one pays attention to "bullshit like this."He says the equipment is cleaned six to eight hours a day with sanitizers, steam and alcohol baths.
Over the next few weeks, the federal election takes the spotlight off Maple Leaf and the company starts to focus on recovery.
More than four weeks after its closure, the Bartor Road facility reopens on Sept. 17.

'Nauseating' class action lawyers
But class action lawyers ? who first launched a lawsuit in late August ? are on McCain's mind.
The "single most offensive aspect" of the situation, McCain says in a Sept. 19 note, are "nauseating" class action lawyers.
While some claims are legitimate, he acknowledges, others are "outright fraud."
He said they collect outrageous fees to try to extract money on the "faintest, thinnest of claims of so-called emotional stress or illness (tummy ache stuff) without any connection, any proof of connection or having just bought any Maple Leaf product."
McCain writes that he ignored advice from company lawyers telling him to abstain from public comments that could expose Maple Leaf to such lawsuits.
"I was asked very firmly to take the call from the team of lawyers ¡¦ and I said, 'I don't want to talk to them,'" he said in the interview. "They counsel people not to take responsibility."
By Sept. 27, three of the Toronto plant's 11 lines have restarted and the company is "recovering quite well from the recall," McCain writes.
"We still have a ways to go, but we are on the right track to recovery," he says.
In the note, he refers to media accounts questioning the level of oversight at meat processing plants, calling them "terribly misguided."
In one of the final memos, he writes about the fact that someone has shared the weekly notes with the media. "Candidly, I don't think that is 'fair ball'¡¦ but it is what it is," he writes, vowing to continue writing them.
By then, the memos are back to normal, focusing more on the business of the company and McCain is touting the company's assets its "exceptionally strong" business base, excellent cash flow and diversified business.
He notes internal company polling shows over 90 per cent of Canadians have high regard for the way the company dealt with the recall and about 80 per cent said they would buy products in the future.
"History of other brands in North America that have faced other challenges would indicate that if you do the right thing, in six, nine, maybe 12-month time horizons, that the brand can be recovered," he told the Star and CBC News.
With files from David McKie

New Bacteria Discovered In Raw Milk
Source of Article:
ScienceDaily (Nov. 16, 2008) ? Raw milk is illegal in many countries as it can be contaminated with potentially harmful microbes. Contamination can also spoil the milk, making it taste bitter and turn thick and sticky. Now scientists have discovered new species of bacteria that can grow at low temperatures, spoiling raw milk even when it is refrigerated.
According to research, the microbial population of raw milk is much more complex than previously thought.
"When we looked at the bacteria living in raw milk, we found that many of them had not been identified before," said Dr Malka Halpern from the University of Haifa, Israel. "We have now identified and described one of these bacteria, Chryseobacterium oranimense, which can grow at cold temperatures and secretes enzymes that have the potential to spoil milk."
New technologies are being developed to reduce the initial bacterial counts of pasteurized milk to very low levels. Most enzymes will be denatured at the high temperatures used during pasteurisation, which means they will stop working. However, the heat-stable enzymes made by cold-tolerant bacteria will still affect the flavour quality of fluid milk and its products. Because of this, research into cold-tolerant bacteria and the spoilage enzymes they produce is vital.
"Milk can be contaminated with many different bacteria from the teat of the cow, the udder, milking equipment and the milking environment," said Dr Halpern. "Milk is refrigerated after collection to limit the growth of microbes. During refrigeration, cold-tolerant, or psychrotolerant, bacteria that can grow at 7¡ÆC dominate the milk flora and play a leading role in milk spoilage. Although we have not yet determined the impact on milk quality of C. oranimense and two other novel species (C. haifense and C. bovis) that were also identified from raw milk samples, the discovery will contribute to our understanding the physiology of these organisms and of the complex environmental processes in which they are involved. There is still a lot to learn about the psychrotolerant bacterial flora of raw milk."
There is an ongoing debate about the benefits and risks of drinking unpasteurised milk. Some people believe the health benefits resulting from the extra nutrient content of raw milk outweigh the risk of ingesting potentially dangerous microbes, such as Mycobacterium bovis, which can cause tuberculosis, and Salmonella species. Because of these risks, many countries have made the sale of unpasteurised milk illegal. Pasteurisation involves heating milk to around 72¡ÆC for 15-20 seconds in order to reduce the number of microbes in the liquid so they are unlikely to cause disease. Some bacteria produce extracellular enzymes that are remarkably heat tolerant and can resist pasteurisation. Lipase enzymes cause flavour defects and proteases can lead to bitterness and reduced yields of soft cheese.
Raw milk is consumed in rural areas of Europe and is also available in large cities. Distribution of unpasteurised milk is legal in England, Wales and Northern Ireland but illegal in Scotland. There are around 275 establishments in England that are approved by the Food Standards Agency to sell raw milk. However, the green-top bottles must display a warning that indicates the content has not been heat-treated and may contain harmful organisms. Furthermore, farmers are not allowed to sell unpasteurised dairy products if their herd is suspected to be infected with bovine tuberculosis.
"In Israel, dairy companies estimate that cold-tolerant bacteria can cause a 10% loss of milk fats and proteins. When researchers looked at these bacterial communities, they found that 20% of the bacteria isolated were found to be novel species and 5% of these were members of the genus Chryseobacterium," said Dr Halpern. "Because of their effect on milk quality, it is important that we develop sensitive and efficient tools to monitor the presence of these cold-tolerant bacteria."

EPA Advisers Seek Perchlorate Review
Scientists Hope Agency Rethinks Decision Not to Issue Standard
(Washington Post, DC) By Juliet Eilperin
The Environmental Protection Agency's scientific advisers have warned the agency that it should delay final action on its decision not to set a federal drinking-water standard for perchlorate, a chemical in rocket fuel, because the computer model underlying the decision may have flaws.
In a letter last week, the heads of EPA's Science Advisory Board and its drinking water committee urged EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson to extend the public comment period on its preliminary determination to not regulate perchlorate. That decision is set to become final next month.
Perchlorate, which is present in the water systems of 35 states, accumulates in the body from consuming water, milk, lettuce and other common products and has been linked in scientific studies to thyroid problems in pregnant women, newborns and infants.
"Given perchlorate's wide occurrence and well-documented toxicity to humans, the [Science Advisory Board] strongly believes that there must be a compelling scientific basis to support a scientific determination not to regulate perchlorate as a national drinking water contaminant," Advisory Board Chairwoman Deborah L. Swackhamer and Joan B. Rose, chairwoman of the board's drinking water committee, wrote Nov. 5.
In drafting its Oct. 3 decision not to limit perchlorate, the EPA relied heavily on a computer model created by the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology, which has yet to be fully vetted by other scientists. Swackhamer and Rose asked Johnson to extend the Nov. 10 deadline for public comment for three months, but the agency has decided to close it Nov. 28.
Benjamin H. Grumbles, the EPA's assistant administrator for water, said the agency had commissioned an independent peer review of what he called "the novel application of the model" used to draft the perchlorate policy. Members of that panel have "just submitted their recommendations on the model," Grumbles said, adding that he anticipated the agency would issue a final determination "sometime in December."
In an interview yesterday, Swackhamer said that the EPA's decision to press ahead with the rule does not make sense when the model has yet to be fully vetted.
"It seemed premature to go ahead and make a decision on perchlorate when they didn't have all the science in," Swackhamer said, adding that extending the comment period for 18 days still does not give the scientific panel an opportunity to meet and pass judgment on the model. "Eighteen days doesn't buy us any time."
Environmentalists have accused the agency of deliberately ignored human studies of perchlorate's effects conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in favor of an industry-funded computer model.
The computer model determined that pregnant women would not experience harmful effects from perchlorate at levels below 15 parts per billion, but a 2006 CDC study of 1,000 women found that one third had experienced significant changes in thyroid hormone levels at an exposure rate of 7 parts per billion.
In a submission to GOP members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee last year, James L. Pirkle -- deputy director for science in the laboratory sciences division of CDC's National Center for Environmental Health -- wrote that the findings of the 2006 study "are consistent with causality. That is, we think that there is sufficient evidence from clinical studies that perchlorate directly causes decreases in [the thyroid hormone] thyroxine at high levels."
Richard Wiles, executive director of the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization, said that the EPA "went out of their way to do the polluters' business" by relying on a computer model rather than other studies.
"We've really reached a low in terms of scientific standards when we're ignoring large studies from the CDC that the CDC says are consistent with causality," he added.
Grumbles said that he did not "know the origins of the model" that the EPA used but that he knew "it had a valid basis to be part of our decision making. The agency's committed to sound science."
The EPA is drafting a health advisory on perchlorate, to circulate to state and local officials, that Grumbles said was also undergoing peer review. According to the agency's most recent analysis, more than 16 million Americans are exposed to the chemical at a level that is unsafe. Only two states, Massachusetts and California, have set limits on the allowable amount of perchlorate in drinking water, both at levels far below what the EPA deemed permissible. 11-14-08

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