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FDAs Food Protection Plan progress report
Source of Article:
12/02/2008-The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released a report on the progress made since the implementation of the Food Protection Plan, launched one year ago. The Plan is designed to address food safety and food defense for both domestic and imported products and covers the full lifecycle of food, by encouraging the building of safety into every step of the food supply chain. The Plan has three core strategies: The prevention of outbreaks of food-borne disease, and intervention and response if they occur.

Here are some of the FDAs accomplishments from the past year in each core area.
Prevention. The FDA is establishing offices in five regions that export food to the U.S.?China, India, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. The agency has already hired staff for its offices in China and India. In addition, the FDA has released the CARVER self-assessment tool for industry, to minimize the risk of intentional contamination of food, and has conducted training seminars on how to use the tool. There are plans to hire an International Notification Coordinator to manage the information exchanges between the FDA and foreign regulatory authorities.

Intervention. During 2008, the FDA completed inspections of 5,930 high-risk domestic food establishments. Also, the agency developed a rapid detection method that uses flow cytometry to indentify E. coli and Salmonella in food. This method is now being used in poultry-processing facilities to detect and prevent bacterial contamination. The FDA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection jointly issued a final rule on Prior Notice of Imported Food Shipments, and an accompanying Compliance Policy Guide on Oct. 31, 2008.

Response. The FDA continues to work with the industry and the public to identify best practices for tracing fresh produce throughout the supply chain. Following the detection of melamine in infant formula and milk products from China, the FDA worked with its state and local counterparts to canvas more than 2,100 vendors of Asian products to remove any Chinese infant formula from the market. Along with this, the FDA provided regular updates on its Web site to keep consumers up-to-date as to which products to avoid. Additionally, the FDA hired two emergency/complaint-response coordinators to improve its response to emergencies that involve animal feed, including pet food.
The entire one-year summary of progress under the Food Protection Plan
The Food Protection Plan

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) Food Outbreak Report 2008
Source of Article:
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) identified a total of 5,778 outbreaks of illness linked to specific foods, involving 168,898 individual illnesses that occurred between 1990 and 2006. An outbreak involves two or more ill people. The food categories most commonly linked to outbreaks were:
- Seafood: 1,140 outbreaks involving 11,809 cases of illness
- Produce: 768 outbreaks involving 35,060 cases of illness
- Poultry: 620 outbreaks involving 18,906 cases of illness
- Beef: 518 outbreaks involving 14,191 cases of illness
- Eggs: 351 outbreaks involving 11,143 cases of illness
This chart shows the relative rates of illnesses linked to outbreaks among the food categories when adjusted for consumption during the period of 1999 to 2006. Since Dairy is the lowest risk food category per serving consumed, we set its rate of illness as 1 in order to facilitate a comparison between categories.

Remember, CSPI is counting only those illnesses that are "officially" reported. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 76 million foodborne illness cases occur in the United States every year. This amounts to one in four Americans becoming ill after eating foods contaminated with such pathogens as E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Hepatitis A, Campylobacter, Shigella, Norovirus, and Listeria. On an annual basis, approximately 325,000 people are hospitalized with a diagnosis of food poisoning, and 5,000 die
The Center for Science in the Public Interest recommends:
1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) should continue to improve outbreak reporting and surveillance. The CDC has improved its reporting and surveillance system, but gaps still remain. For example, nearly half of all states do not follow national standards for tracking disease outbreaks. Those gaps are particularly troubling given the numerous recent large outbreaks. Improvements in state oversight and coordination and increased funding at state level would allow CDC to act more quickly and could reduce the sizes of foodborne illness outbreaks.

2. Congress should pass legislation to modernize food safety laws and increase funding, starting with FDAs food safety program. While creating a unified, independent food- safety agency would be the best solution in the long run, the crisis in confidence in FDAs ability to manage food safety problems creates an urgency for making improvements at that agency. Outbreaks occur, in part, because of inadequate regulatory authority, inadequate monitoring, and inadequate funding. Congress should separate food safety from drug approvals, by creating a new Food Safety Administration at the Department of Health and Human Services. A new Administrator would oversee the modernization of the food safety program, with an enhanced mission in the areas of prevention, inspection and enforcement and would help restore consumer confidence.
Posted on November 29, 2008 by Food Poisoning Lawyer

FDA Touts Efforts to Enhance Food Safety
(Washington Post, DC) By Steven Reinberg
Responding to criticism that it has done a poor job safeguarding the nation's food supply, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a report Monday detailing its efforts to protect consumers.
Among the most important changes in 2008 was the agency's initiative to build better relationships with state and local health departments to protect the food supply, said Dr. David Acheson, assistant commissioner for food protection at the FDA.
"Another big success is the strategic change we are making with regard to imports. What you could call the 'globalization of FDA,' which is shifting our emphasis on inspection on the port of entry only to more of a product-lifecycle approach," Acheson said. "We are focused on building the systems to better understand what's going on in foreign manufacturing."
U.S. consumers have been bombarded during the past two years with a series of worrisome headlines, ranging from milk products, blood-thinning medication and pet foods contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine imported from China; to jalapeno peppers from Mexico bearing the salmonella bacteria; to U.S.-produced spinach poisoned with the E. coli bacteria.
The new report updates progress made since the FDA unveiled its Food Protection Plan in 2007. Titled Food Protection Plan: One-Year Progress Summary, the document cites improvements in three areas: prevention of outbreaks of food-borne disease; intervention; and response to outbreaks. Some of the accomplishments include:
Prevention: The agency said it's in the process of opening five offices around the world, to be staffed with its own inspectors, in China, India, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. The FDA participated in meetings in China to discuss food-safety issues in both countries and to share suggestions on ways to address global food safety. It is hiring an "international notification coordinator" to serve as a liaison between the FDA and its foreign counterparts. It has approved the irradiation of iceberg lettuce and spinach to control toxins such as E. coli. It has developed tests to detect contaminants such as melamine and cyanuric acid.

On the intervention front, the FDA said it has inspected 5,930 high-risk food establishments in the past year; has developed a rapid detection test for E. coli and salmonella in food that's now being used in poultry-processing plants; and has expanded its database of "adverse drug events" to include "adverse feed events," to respond faster to outbreaks of feed-borne disease in animals, among other efforts.

As for its "response" efforts, the FDA said it's working with industry and the public to find better ways of tracing fresh produce in the food-supply chain; has hired two "emergency/complaint-response coordinators" to improve the agency's response to emergencies involving animal feed, including pet food; and has reached agreements with six states to create a "rapid response team" for food and food-borne illnesses.

In response to the threat of melamine-contaminated infant formula and milk products from China, the FDA said it has canvassed more than 2,100 stores stocking Asian products to remove them from store shelves.

Some critics think the FDA's food-safety efforts still don't go far enough.
"We were not a huge fan of some of the goals they laid out, so we are not a huge fan of the progress they've made," said Patty Lovera, assistant director of the consumer watchdog group Food & Water Watch.
Lovera thinks the FDA needs to have more independent authority to enforce food safety.
"They are too reliant on the industry," Lovera said. "They are really collaborating with the industry -- there is really not new regulation. There is not an overall commitment to enforcement domestically or abroad. This whole plan they are reporting progress on, we think is a step in the wrong direction."
Lovera said many of the food-safety problems that occurred this year highlighted the FDA's shortcomings. For example, late last week, the agency set acceptable levels of melamine in domestic infant formula -- one month after stating that no levels were acceptable.
"That's a month after they said, 'Oh, we don't think there is any safe level for infants.' Then magically, they said, 'Now we have a safe level for infants,' " Lovera said. "They are always in catch-up mode, they are always in response mode."

Jeffrey Levi is an associate professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, and a senior policy advisor to the consumer group Trust for America's Health. He said the new FDA report fails to offer enough guidance for what needs to be done to protect the food supply.

"The report does not rise to the level of providing a roadmap for the next administration about the challenges ahead, the resources that will be needed, and the milestones against which we can measure progress," Levi said.

The challenges to food safety are growing, Levi said. "Especially as we import more food, especially as the food-production system becomes more complex, we need a system that keeps up with that," he said.

Consumers Union, while acknowledging some progress, also said the FDA wasn't doing enough to protect the American food supply.

"The FDA needs a complete overhaul, including but not limited to vastly increased funding, far greater staff and much more frequent inspections of both domestic and foreign food processors," Consumers Union said in a news release. "While FDA's progress report states that the agency has inspected 5,930 domestic food establishments during fiscal year 2008, a January 2008 GAO report analyzing the Food Protection Plan states that there are 65,520 domestic food production facilities in the U.S. This means that FDA is still inspecting U.S. food production facilities only once every 10 years. At this rate, we would not be surprised to see more problems like the salmonella that was found in peanut butter manufactured at a Georgia processing facility in 2007."

Besides regulating drugs and medical devices, the FDA oversees about 80 percent of the U.S. food supply, including many foods grown abroad. 12-01-08

New Mexico Department of Health Report on Enterobacter sakazakii Illness and Death
Source of Article:
As part of its investigation into a rare infection that can be associated with infant formula, the New Mexico Department of Health is advising people on the safest way to prepare formula. The Department of Health is investigating two cases of Enterobacter sakazakii illness, a rare cause of bloodstream and central nervous system infections, in a female infant from Lea County and a male infant from Otero County. The male infant has died, and the female infant is hospitalized.
E. sakazakii can cause severe, invasive disease among infants and has been associated with powdered formula, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There have been about 120 cases recorded across the world in all age groups, but infants are at particular risk. Some proportion of powdered formulas that have been tested have contained E. sakazakii or other bacteria that can cause disease.
The Department of Health is working with the CDC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and New Mexico Environment Department to try to determine what caused the babies to develop the infection. The Department of Health has interviewed families and conducted environmental and food testing. The Department expects test results to be available in about a week.
Testing at the Department of Healths Scientific Laboratory in Albuquerque has determined that the two infants had different strains of the bacteria. Both babies did consume powdered formula in addition to other foods. In past investigations in other states, powdered infant formula contaminated with Enterobacter sakazakii has been associated with infant illnesses. However, that association was not documented in many of the cases investigated.

Salt reduction could impact on food safety, says UK group
By Jane Byrne, 01-Dec-2008
Source of Article:
A draft report from a UK food safety committee has recommended that manufacturers consider the impact on microbiological safety when making formulation changes to the key controlling factors such as salt in specific products.
The Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) has drawn up a report on the increased incident of listeriosis in the UK for the Food Standards Agency (FSA), in which it stresses that preservative factors are important in restricting the growth of the bacterium when present in foods.
Listeria is found naturally in the environment and can be present in a wide range of foods, from pates and soft cheeses to cooked sliced meats and smoked fish.

The FSA claims the reported number of illnesses from listeria in the UK has doubled since 2000, particularly in people over 60 years of age. In 2005, there were an estimated 400 cases, of which 380 people were hospitalised and 130 people died, making listeria the biggest cause of death from food poisoning.
The ACMSF argues that trends to reduce factors such as salt may lead to increased growth of the bacterium, L. monocytogenes, if present on foods.
According to the report, many foods that allow the growth of Listeria spp. are included in the FSA targets for salt reduction and include ready meals, cooked meats and sausages, cheeses and sandwiches.
The Committee has called on the FSA to work with industry to ensure that factors such as salt levels of specific products are not changed without considering the impact on L. monocytogenes contamination of the product.

FSA response
The FSA told that it will be considering all the report's recommendations following the outcome of the 12 week public consultation, when it will also evaluate whether additional advice for industry is required.
The agency said that during the drafting of the report, and in consultation with the ACMSF, it published a factsheet detailing key control measures that can be taken to minimise the risk of listeriosis: "The guidance was targeted at those preparing and supplying chilled ready-to-eat foods for vulnerable groups."
The UK food safety regulator added that it has commissioned research on the microbial risks associated with salt reduction in certain foods and alternative options for preservation, which is available on its website; it added that it has continuously reiterated to manufacturers, through stakeholder meetings and guidelines, the importance of assessing the potential impact that reformulation might have on microbiological safety.
In 2007 the Agency, in collaboration with the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), published a guidance document for small and medium sized businesses on salt reduction.
"This publication provides information and practical tips for businesses on how to reduce salt in meat products, while considering factors such as food safety, labelling and additives, stated FSA.

Good safety record
The draft report from the ACMSF does stress, however, that the food industry has implemented many controls to prevent the contamination of foods with L. monocytogenes in the last two decades: Evidence suggests that the incidence and levels of the bacterium at the point of production and the point of sale are not higher than was detected in the late 1980s.
But the Committee did find that the provision of durability instructions such as Use By dates on perishable foods sold loose such as cooked sliced meats was found to be variable and they thus urge the FSA to review the need for consistent advice on such products.
The report also recommends that any future information devised by the agency and targeted at the food manufacturing industry should reiterate the particular importance of temperature and shelf life control as well as hygiene and cleaning, especially of equipment susceptible to contamination such as slicing machines.

Meat and cancer: an upbeat story
By Lisa M. Keefe on 12/2/2008
Source of Article:
The Journal of the National Cancer Institute in November published online the results of a study that found no association between the consumption of fat, protein and meat consumption on the development of kidney cancer.
The study, led by Jung Eun Lee of the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, analyzed data from 13 other studies seeking a connection between the incidence of kidney cancer and diet. Kidney cancer rates are rising worldwide, but the cause remains unknown.
In the recent study, researchers compared the fat, protein and meat intakes of the participants who developed kidney cancer with those who did not develop the disease. They found no association with fat, protein or meat intake after considering the influence of other known kidney cancer risk factors.

New Study Disputes View On Peanut Allergy
Source of Article:
Kellye Lynn
BALTIMORE (WJZ) Peanut allergies are on the rise with more than a million Americans affected. Healthwatch reporter Kellye Lynn says a new study contradicts a commonly held view about preventing the dangerous allergies.
This research indicates that early consumption of nuts could help cut the risk of peanut allergy.
Ten-year-old Aaron Magaziner knows how to react when his body reacts to peanuts. His epinephrine pen goes everywhere Aaron does. It's been a way of life since his mom found out he was allergic at the age of three.
"When I tried to give him peanuts, he would just pull away from it like it was poison, like it hurt him almost," said his mom, Miriam Magaziner.
Peanuts are the most common cause of fatal food reactions, which kill about 150 people per year.
Doctors often urge pregnant women to avoid peanuts to reduce the risk of allergy in their offspring. Now new research could change opinions, says food allergy expert Dr. Robert Wood of the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.
"It turns out the best way to make someone not allergic is to give them very low doses of exposure very early in life," said Dr. Wood.
The researchers compared children in the UK and Israel and found those who avoided peanuts in infancy and early childhood were ten times more likely to be allergic to peanuts than those who were exposed to the food.
Still, in some cases, avoidance is effective. Aaron's mother intentionally kept her youngest son, Justin, away from certain foods early in life.
"He didn't get soy protein until he was six months. He didn't get milk products until he was a year and he turned out to have no allergies," she said.
Dr. Wood says another study will soon be released that shows that greatest risk of developing peanut allergy is the amount of peanuts consumed by a mother during pregnancy. That study could be released in six to nine months.

New treatment for food allergies
01/12/2008 10:41 - (SA) Source of Article:
London - A European team of scientists are embarking on new research to develop food allergy treatments. Classical treatment with allergen-specific immunotherapy, where a patient received monthly injections with an allergen extract for three to five years, is effective but dangerous due to anaphylactic side-effects. In the Fast project, scientists will use modified variants of allergic proteins that are hypoallergenic and therefore safer.
The proteins will be purified to increase effectiveness and dosage control easier.
"Food allergy affects around 10 million EU citizens and there is no cure," says Dr Clare Mills of the Institute of Food Research, a lead partner in the Food Allergy Specific Therapy (Fast) research project.

"All people with food allergy can do is avoid the foods to which they are allergic. The threat of severe anaphylaxis has a great impact on their quality of life."
Attempted treatment with allergen-specific immunotherapy, where a patient received monthly injections with an allergen extract for three to five years, failed because it could cause anaphylaxis as a side effect. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction involving the whole body, often within minutes of exposure to the allergen.
Peanut allergy is the most widely known cause, but other causes of anaphylaxis include other foods, insect stings, latex and drugs. If untreated in time it can be fatal.
Ninety percent of all food allergies are caused by about 10 foods.
Allergies to fish and fruit are among the most common in Europe.

In fish allergy the protein responsible is parvalbumin and in fruit it is lipid transfer protein (LTP).
Modified hypo-allergenic versions of these proteins will be produced at tested as potential treatments.
"We are hoping for a cure that will allow people to eat fish or fruit again," says Dr Ronald van Ree from the Academic Medical Centre at the University of Amsterdam.
"But a significant reduction of sensitivity would already be a great step forwards.
"The risk of unintentional exposure due to cross-contamination of foods, or while eating in restaurants or at parties, will decrease. This will take away lot of the anxiety that has a negative impact on the quality of life of food allergy sufferers."
Source: Institute of Food Research, UK

Fish & Shellfish Top CSPI Outbreak List
Source of Article:
As Thanksgiving Approaches, Group Urges Obama Administration to Make Food Safety Top Priority
WASHINGTON?Outbreaks involving produce, including E. coli on spinach, and Salmonella on jalapeno peppers and fresh tomatoes grabbed headlines this year and last. But when you look at relative rates of outbreak-related illnesses caused by various foods, fish and shellfish turn out to cause more sicknesses per bite than any other category. Turkey is linked to three times as many illnesses as chicken?no doubt in part because many harried holiday cooks might not as be as familiar with how to safely thaw and cook a whole big bird, or to store the leftovers
"While many food safety disasters in the home can be avoided with careful handling, those coming to the table from farms and factories here and abroad have become far too frequent over the last few years," said Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety for the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest. "Instead of relying on recalls and warnings, the Food and Drug Administration should focus on preventing these problems from ever reaching consumers."
According to the foodborne-illness data crunched by CSPI in its annual Outbreak Alert! report, a pound of fish and shellfish is 29 times more likely to cause illness than the safest food category, a pound of dairy foods. After dairy, produce is the second safest category of food, followed by pork (click to see accompanying chart).
Even when not adjusted for consumption, CSPI's Outbreak Alert! database has more seafood outbreaks, 1,140, than for any other category of food. Fin fish, such as tuna, grouper, mahi mahi, and salmon, were linked to 694 of those outbreaks; mollusks, including oysters, clams, and mussels were linked to 175 outbreaks; and the rest linked to shrimp, lobster, or foods such as crab cakes and tuna burgers. While Vibrio bacteria and noroviruses contributed to those, naturally occurring toxins such as scombrotoxin and ciguatoxin account for a plurality of seafood outbreaks.
"Our food safety system is based on antiquated laws, including ones that are more than a hundred years old," DeWaal said. "A hundred years ago we werent importing millions of pounds of seafood from Asia, nor were we repacking Mexican tomatoes and shipping them to 50 states. Modernizing this system should be an urgent priority of the Obama administration, to reduce outbreaks and illnesses from food and restore consumer confidence."
Outbreak Alert! includes nearly 5,800 outbreaks that occurred between 1990 and 2006 for which both the food and the pathogen are identified. The data set has been published by CSPI for the last 10 years, and can be reviewed on CSPI's website. Because foodborne illness is dramatically underreported, because much foodborne illness does not occur in outbreaks, and because it is so difficult to prove which food caused an outbreak, CSPI's data represents just the tip of a very large iceberg: Each year, according to the CDC, foodborne illness sickens 76 million and kills 5,000 Americans.
CSPI reminds home cooks to allow plenty of time to thaw whole turkeys in the refrigerator?about 24 hours for every four to five pounds?and to not let germs on the turkey grow by thawing on the counter. Cook whole turkeys to 180 degrees F as measured by a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh and be sure to refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours after cooking to keep them safe.

Antibiotic must be used sparingly in the nation's food supply
Source of Article:
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Shelley Hearne and Tom Bullock
Three of the NFL's biggest stars have been tackled by something so small it can be seen only under a microscope. Cleveland Browns' star Kellen Winslow, Tom Brady of the New England Patriots and Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts have been sidelined with bacterial infections this season, according to news reports.
These high-profile cases remind us that hard-to-treat bacterial infections are, unfortunately, part of a wider and more troubling trend.
For example, a particularly worrisome bacterial strain - methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus or MRSA - recently sickened students at Lakewood High School and at Mentor High School. If you think that the bugs are getting tougher to beat, you're right. Bacteria are growing more resistant to the best options in the medical playbook, namely types of antibiotics that in past years could easily kill the germs before they caused serious illness or death. The bugs are getting stronger because the drugs designed to fight them have been misused - not only on human patients, but also, it is now known, in large-scale livestock feeding operations.
Besides staph strains (including MRSA), other bacteria growing resistant to antibiotics include food-borne campylobacter, E. coli and salmonella.
Bacteria acquire resistance to antibiotics through prolonged exposure to low doses. Their biological systems learn to recognize the chemical mechanisms that antibiotics use, develop defenses that resist or evade those mechanisms, then include those genetic traits as they reproduce - spreading the drug resistance among entire bacterial colonies.
Some drug resistance stems from overuse in treating people. The common cold, for example, is caused by a virus, not bacteria, so antibiotics shouldn't be used to treat it.
But more than half of all antibiotics used in this country go to agriculture, mostly large-scale livestock feeding operations. There, some of the most potent disease-fighting drugs in modern medicine are routinely fed to livestock, not because they are sick with a bacterial infection, but just to make them gain weight faster or to compensate for crowded, stressful and un- sanitary conditions in factory farms.
Resistant bacteria from these farms then may be picked up by humans through contaminated meat, contact with farm or food workers who handle contaminated animals or meat, and by contact with soil or water polluted by farm waste.
Agricultural overuse of antibiotics has been directly connected to resistant campylobacter, E. coli and salmonella. Research is now under way into whether drug-resistant MRSA infections also can be traced back to misuse of antibiotics by large-scale livestock feeding operations.
Note that the problem doesn't appear on all farms or in all livestock operations. Many American farmers have found that consumers prefer meat, eggs and other products that are produced without antibiotics, including those that are sold as organic or locally raised. Note, too, that the problem doesn't stem from giving antibiotics to animals that truly have bacterial illnesses. Instead, it's the misuse of the drugs that's to blame.
The link between drug-resistant bacteria and the misuse of the drugs by large-scale industrial livestock operations has been reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the National Academies of Science and the World Health Organization. Such research convinced the European Union to ban the practice.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown is sponsoring legislation that would phase out the misuse of antibiotics used in factory farms. Although the bill has support from the Ohio Association of Boards of Health, the Ohio Nurses Association and the Ohio Public Health Association, it still has languished in committee for years.
Meanwhile, the effectiveness of lifesaving drugs has continued to wane.
This summer, Congress made modest progress by requiring pharmaceutical companies to report the quantities and intended use of antibiotics they sell for industrial farm animal production. Congress did not, however, require the companies to report how the drugs are actually used. So while the public will be getting some information from the drug makers, other critical data still will be missing.
As Winslow, Brady and Manning know, the best defense is a good offense. That means directly tackling the problem of antibiotic misuse where it's found: on the factory farms.
Hearne holds a doctorate degree in public health and is the managing director of Health and Human Services Policy at the Pew Charitable Trusts. Bullock lives in Lakewood and is the Pew Environment Group's Ohio representative.

Improper Microwaving Led to Pot Pie-Salmonella Outbreak
11.25.08, 08:00 PM EST
Source of Article:
CDC urges clearer cooking instructions to protect consumers
WEDNESDAY, Nov. 26 (HealthDay News) -- A salmonella outbreak across dozens of states last year was caused by microwaveable frozen pot pies that weren't properly cooked, the U.S. government reported Wednesday.
And that highlights the need for safe preparation of such foods, according to the report, which will be published in the Nov. 26 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The outbreak included 401 cases of salmonella infection (salmonellosis) in 41 states. Of the people who became ill, 32 percent were hospitalized. Investigators pinpointed Banquet brand frozen, not-ready-to-eat microwaveable pot pies as a source of the infections.
A further review determined that 77 percent of those sickened after eating the pies had cooked them in microwave ovens, and consumer confusion about microwaving instructions might have led to improper cooking of the pies. The manufacturer, ConAgra Foods Inc. of Omaha, Neb., issued a voluntary recall in October 2007 for all nine brands of pot pies, the report said.
Other microwaveable not-ready-to-eat foods, such as chicken nuggets and breaded pre-browned chicken breasts, have been linked with other salmonella outbreaks. Although some of these products appear to require only warming, they contain raw ingredients that require full cooking, the CDC report said.
Microwave ovens heat unevenly and that means some parts of a food item might be more thoroughly heated than other areas. To help prevent food-illness outbreaks, manufacturers need to provide clear labeling and cooking instructions on not-ready-to-eat foods so that consumers are aware of health risks and cook the foods properly, the CDC said.

Food Poisoning Update: FDA Blasted on Melamine Contaminated Infant Formula
Source of Article:
December 01, 2008 - 12:56 PM
The Washington Post reported today that the FDA is being blasted from all sides for allowing the Melamine food poisoning crisis to spin out of control. The story identifies sources of Melamine contamination:
The FDA found melamine and cyanuric acid, a related chemical, in samples of baby formula made by major U.S. manufacturers. Melamine can cause kidney and bladder stones and, in worst cases, kidney failure and death. If melamine and cyanuric acid combine, they can form round yellow crystals that can also damage kidneys and destroy renal function.
Melamine was found in Good Start Supreme Infant Formula With Iron made by Nestle, and cyanuric acid was detected in Enfamil Lipil With Iron infant formula powder made by Mead Johnson. A spokesman for Nestle did not respond to repeated calls and e-mails for comment yesterday.
This situation has been in public view for sometime and finally Congress has weighed in and let the corporations know that putting babies at risk will not be tolerated:
"This FDA, this Bush administration, instead of protecting the public health, is protecting industry," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the FDA budget. In an interview, DeLauro said she wants the agency to disclose its findings and to develop a plan to remove melamine from formula. "We're talking about babies, about the most vulnerable. This really makes me angry."
Melamine food poisoning is just another problem that highlights the threat to American food supply as a result of unscrupulous corporations that put people over profits and the take over of regulatory agencies like the FDA by corporate operatives who were instructed by Presidents Bush and, I am sorry to say, Clinton.
The same thing is happening to our food supply that has happened recently on Wall Street. The public has been battered for 20 years with politicians and corporations assailing government regulation as "bad". Think about it as you watch the financial and food supply markets in crisis. Americans must rely on the government to regulate these industries and to protect us from the greed and negligence on industries that affect public health and safety.
The problem started when
"Chinese manufacturers deliberately added the chemical to watered-down formula to make it appear to contain higher levels of protein. More than 50,000 Asian infants were hospitalized, and at least four died."Then the FDA looked at American manufacturers and now say that their levels of Melamine and cyanuric acid and okay for babies. The catch here is that the FDA has admitted that they do not know what exposure is safe for infants:
Agency scientists have maintained they could not set a safe level of melamine exposure for babies because they do not understand the effects of long-term exposure on a baby's developing kidneys. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that infant formula is a baby's sole source of food for many months. Premature infants absorb an especially large dose of the chemical, compared with full-term babies.
The Washington Post story is must reading for parents with babies getting infant formula. Other credible reporting sources from consumer advocates are reporting other sources of the Melamine food poisoning threat including infant formula from Vietnam.

Safe food comes from animals that are healthy
Source of Article:
Dr. Bill Epperson Special to The Clarion-Ledger ? November 25, 2008
We have always thought safe food comes from healthy animals, but "healthy" can mean different things.
To many people, animals that do not show obvious signs of illness are "healthy." However, many studies have shown animals with no obvious signs of illness are affected with subclinical disease and develop lesions inside the body. I have examined my cattle after harvest and seen lesions of respiratory disease in nearly 40 percent, yet I had only treated 9 percent for pneumonia (and I thought I was doing pretty well!). Obviously, my "healthy" cattle were really not so healthy.
Recent work from Iowa State has shown pigs examined after harvest that had lesions indicative of pneumonia had a greater level of contamination with Campylobacter - an important food-borne pathogen in people.
Pneumonia in pigs is not caused by Campylobacter, but, apparently, the meat from animals affected with respiratory disease had an increased chance of Campylobacter contamination. Perhaps the disease lowered resistance to colonization by these organisms, or maybe the lesions make it easier for meat to become contaminated at harvest. It is not clear how or why this is, but it does seem contamination and food safety are linked to animal health.
Some recent mathematical modeling has built on this idea and suggested the possibility that antibiotic use in animals may actually improve food safety by improving animal health. This is all very new and is not understood but is interesting to think about.
While we hear much worry in the news about antibiotic use in livestock and many feel antibiotic use in animals should be curtailed (some want them eliminated), they may, in fact, result in a net benefit to public health by decreased food contamination.
The bottom line is safe food comes from healthy animals. While prevention of all disease is the ultimate goal, the fact is, some animals will get sick and need treatment. It may be that effective antibiotic treatment, in addition to improving the welfare of the animal and decreasing stress, may decrease contamination of the meat and thereby improve food safety.
This is something we at Mississippi State are learning about through our research. People lots smarter than me are working hard right now to figure this out, so we will stay tuned.
Dr. Bill Epperson is head of pathobiology and population medicine at Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. Contact him via e-mail at

China says 300,000 babies sickened by tainted milk
(Associated Press China) By GILLIAN WONG
China has dramatically raised the toll from its tainted milk powder scandal, saying six babies likely died and 300,000 were sickened, figures that back up months of complaints from parents and show the government is beginning to acknowledge the scale of the crisis.
The scandal has been met with public dismay and anger, particularly among parents who feel the government breached their trust after their children were sickened or died from drinking infant formula authorities had certified as safe.
The Health Ministry's revised death toll is twice the previous figure, while the new count of 294,000 babies who suffered urinary problems from drinking contaminated infant formula is a six-fold increase from the last tally in September.
"Most of the sickened children received outpatient treatment for only small amounts of sand-like kidney stones found in their urinary systems, while some patients had to be hospitalized for the illness," the ministry said in a statement late Monday.
The latest statistics show that China's communist leaders are slowly acknowledging the scale of China's worst food safety scare in years. During such crises, the government often deliberately releases information piecemeal in part to keep from feeding public anger.
Thousands of parents have been clamoring for compensation for their sickened and dead children. The release of the figures raises the question of whether the Health Ministry is getting closer to finalizing a compensation scheme.
"The new figures are more realistic and objective than previous figures. We knew the previous ones could not have been accurate," said Chang Boyang, a Beijing lawyer who has provided legal assistance to families of children who became ill.
Four of the six deaths were recorded in the provinces of Jiangxi, Zhejiang, Guizhou and Shaanxi, and the other two were in Gansu province in the northwest, the ministry said.
The ministry said it investigated 11 possible deaths related to melamine-tainted milk and ruled five of them out. Melamine poisoning could not be ruled out in the remaining six cases, it said but gave no further details or explanation. It also did not make clear whether three earlier reported deaths were included in the new total.
The ministry said it checked into babies who died before Sept. 10, and that between then and last Thursday, no new deaths were reported.

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