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Ten Food Safety Stories of 2008
Source of Article: http://www.businesswire.com/
SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Food safety advocate and attorney Bill Marler
(of Seattle foodborne illness powerhouse Marler Clark) polled his wide
range of contacts in the food safety community, and assembled a list of
the top ten food safety stories of 2008. Comments can be read (and made)
1. Melamine in Chinese food
products ? where to start? With the kids, of course. We first heard about
melamine in Chinese infant formula, resulting in heartbreaking numbers:
294,000 children sickened, hundreds hospitalized, and at least six infants
who lost their lives. The crisis widened as melamine was found in candy,
coffee, tea, and numerous other Chinese products, sparking recalls, bans,
and now the US testing for melamine in our own products. It¡¯s pervasive,
it¡¯s global, and it¡¯s going to be in our food supply for a long time to
come. In fact, the WHO has just announced first-ever ¡°safe¡± levels of
2. Salmonella Saintpaul in
tomatoes?wait?peppers. A final count of 1,442 ill in 43 states, D.C.,
and Canada, and those are the confirmed illnesses. Using CDC math - which
estimates that for every documented case of Salmonella in the US, another
38.5 go unreported - the total number sickened was probably closer to
50,000. In an outbreak that stretched for months without a smoking tomato,
Americans got an inkling of what can go wrong in a global, mass-distributed
food economy. The upside is that now there¡¯s a lot of talk about increasing
3. E. coli ? In addition to
the continued rise of E. coli O157:H7 contamination in meat and other
products like leafy greens and raw dairy, 2008 saw non-O157 E. coli burst
onto the scene in an Oklahoma outbreak that sickened over 300 and caused
the death of one. Non-O157 STECs (Shiga-toxin producing E. coli) have
been documented and talked about; there have been high-level meetings
by food protection agencies to address the issue. But here¡¯s the bottom
line: only O157:H7 is listed as an adulterant in meat. Non-O157:H7 STEC¡¯s
are not listed yet and not tested for, but still are making people very,
4. Raw Milk - The food story
that has pitted health advocates against health advocates in a debate
that sometimes reached the level of a screaming-match. On one side, those
who insist that raw milk has numerous healthful benefits destroyed by
pasteurization, and on the other side, those who counter (me included)
that the bacteria in raw milk can cause terrible illnesses, mostly in
kids, (bacteria which is ?you guessed it?killed by the pasteurization
process), and believe the risk to the public outweighs the rights of consumption.
The issue came to a head in California State Bill 201, which sought to
set coliform (basically, bacteria) limits in raw milk production, among
other things. Even though the bill hoped to address the issues of both
camps, the protectors believed it would actually worsen the regulation
problem. Both groups lobbied hard. There were movie stars. Sick kids.
The bill passed the legislature, but was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger.
5. Listeria in Maple Leaf Deli
Meats - Twenty Canadians died and hundreds, perhaps thousands, were sickened
by an outbreak of Listeria in deli meats and soft cheeses. Most of the
deaths were immunocompromised individuals: elderly, young, sick, or pregnant.
The story has raised much awareness not only about Canada¡¯s food safety
vulnerabilities, but also the importance of more warnings on product labels
and menus, as well as a heads up to the general public.
6. Frozen, uncooked entrees
resulting in illness - again. We found out that we¡¯re a microwave culture,
and habits are hard to break. Consumers were infected with Salmonella
after consuming entrees that contained raw chicken products and were NOT
supposed to be cooked in the microwave. But they look just like microwave
entrees, and just about everything else is microwavable, so confusion
is understandable. Will it be WARNINGS WRIT LARGE or just doing away with
7. Irradiation of fresh iceberg
and raw spinach was approved by the FDA. Consumer confidence in the safety
of raw leafy greens has been shaken by spinach and lettuce-borne outbreaks
and existing sanitizing technology is clearly not enough. Although irradiation
is no replacement for good agricultural practices, it appears to be a
good addition to the food-safety tool kit. There has been a great deal
of debate about the safety of the products once irradiated, a discussion
that has as much to do with personal choice as it does scientific research.
Clear labeling will allow consumers to make their own decisions.
8. Multistate Outbreak of Human
Salmonella Infections Caused by Contaminated Dry Dog Food. Well, it actually
happened in 2006 and 2007 but was reported in 2008. The CDC, state health
officials and the FDA investigated this prolonged, multistate outbreak
of Salmonella enterica serotype Schwarzengrund infections. The source
was identified as dry dog food produced at a manufacturing plant in Pennsylvania.
Hundreds of humans and presumably a few dogs became ill. Bottom line:
after handling pet food, pet owners should wash their hands immediately,
and infants should be kept away from pet feeding areas.
9. Westland/Hallmark recall
due to downer cows ? This is on the list, in the last position, because
many believed it was a food safety story, even though it technically wasn¡¯t.
An undercover video made by the Humane Society revealed that Chino-based
Westland/Hallmark were slaughtering and selling the meat from ¡°downer
cows¡± - animals too sick to walk to slaughter. This is an absolute no-no,
as cow sickness can mean bad meat. Because of the video and the resulting
bru-ha-ha, 143 million pounds of beef was recalled ? the largest meat
recall in American history. Why is this not really a food safety story?
Because no contaminated meat or illnesses were documented. But shining
a spotlight on poor practice led to better practice, and that should lead
to safer food.
10. There are still 13 days
left in the year, so this one has been blank in the likely chance something
will come up. If not, it will mean a happier holiday season for the American
consumer as well as for those in the food safety community. Hats off to
those who work hard year-round to keep the American food supply as safe
as possible?here¡¯s wishing you a quiet (and safe) season.
ABOUT MARLER CLARK: Marler
Clark has represented victims of every major food borne illness outbreak
since 1993. The firm¡¯s attorneys have litigated high-profile food poisoning
cases against such companies as ConAgra, Wendy¡¯s, Chili¡¯s, Chi-Chi¡¯s,
and Jack in the Box. Marler Clark currently represents thousands of victims
of outbreaks traced to ground beef, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and spinach,
as well as other foods. For further information contact Mary Siceloff
at email@example.com or (206) 719-4705, or visit www.MarlerClark.com
reform likely to take back seat in Obama plan
Despite push for legislation, 'dysfunctional' agency overshadowed
Source of Article: http://www.baltimoresun.com/
By Noam Levey | Tribune Washington Bureau December 22, 2008
After years of food poisoning episodes, tainted imports and unrealized
promises of reform, the incoming Obama administration has been saying
the embattled Food and Drug Administration would finally get what it needed
to make the nation's food supply safer. But now, some of the leading champions
of rebuilding the FDA and the food safety system acknowledge that big
reforms are likely still years away.
"This is an issue that will have to wait its turn," said Assistant
Senate Majority Leader Richard J. Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois and
longtime proponent of tougher food laws and a friend of President-elect
Once again, bigger problems with higher profiles might shoulder aside
food safety in the competition for resources. With the federal deficit
already in record territory, the new administration committed to nearly
$1 trillion in new economic stimuli - on top of billions for financial
and other bailouts - and expensive domestic initiatives promised for such
problems as healthcare and global warming, more money for food safety
may be hard to come by.
And instead of assuming more direct control of the inspection system,
the government seems likely to remain heavily dependent on growers, food
processors and others in the industry to police themselves and the food
Durbin and others on Capitol Hill nonetheless plan to push ahead with
legislation to try to strengthen the FDA, the much maligned agency responsible
for overseeing about 80 percent of the food Americans eat. While most
meat and dairy products are regulated by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture,
fresh produce and most processed foods are the responsibility of the FDA.
Obama, who has backed Durbin's efforts and sponsored his own legislation
to strengthen state and local food oversight, will continue to back them,
according to an official working on his transition.
The federal government's food oversight was once seen as a model. But
after years of neglect - and Bush administration distaste for aggressive
government regulation - a series of deadly food-borne disease outbreaks
involving peanut butter, spinach and peppers called public attention to
gaping holes in the FDA's capacity to stay on top of a rapidly expanding
The agency struggled to identify the sources of contaminated foods, most
recently this spring when federal officials initially linked a salmonella
outbreak to tomatoes before concluding that jalapeno peppers from Mexico
were the likely culprit.
At the same time, contaminated pet food from China exposed weaknesses
in the agency's system for regulating imports. Consumer groups lambasted
the agency for failing to protect the public; food-borne illnesses sicken
as many as 76 million people and kill an estimated 5,000 each year.
Growers complained that the FDA's failure to identify the source of contaminated
food quickly intensified public fears. That, in turn, severely hurt the
market for products like leafy greens and tomatoes.
"The spinach industry has never recovered," said Tom Nassif,
who heads the Western Growers Association, a leading national trade group
based in California.
Independent reviews by the Government Accountability Office and others
found the agency lacked even basic information technology capabilities
to analyze data and assess risks.
"We need some radical shifts," Dr. David Acheson, FDA's associate
commissioner for foods, acknowledged in a recent interview.
A year ago, the FDA announced its own plan for reform, promising a major
expansion of overseas inspections, better systems to identify where risks
are highest and more cooperation with state and local authorities as well
The agency opened an office in China this year and plans to open ones
in India and Latin America in 2009. But the promised changes have not
come soon enough for critics, including many on Capitol Hill. "There
is little question that the FDA is dysfunctional," said Democratic
Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, who has pushed for a more sweeping overhaul
of the agency. "The current structure is incapable of addressing
food safety problems."
of Melamine: Not Just China¡¯s Problem . Guest Blog Phyllis Entis - Part
Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/
Anyone who thinks that we've heard the last of melamine is sorely mistaken.
During the first week of December, member countries of the European Union
reported three instances of melamine contamination:
- Germany found 275.3 ppm in ammonium bicarbonate baking agent from China
- Germany also reported 6.3 ppm in a dog treat fish cookies with cheese
. from China
- Slovenia detected 162 ppm in milk products, and uncovered an attempt
to illegally import milk and animal products into the country from China
Two more melamine-contaminated products ammonium bicarbonate (81 and 128
ppm) and rice protein concentrate (21,000 ppm) were reported the following
On December 5th, the World Health Organization's expert panel recommended
a "Tolerable Daily Intake" for melamine of 0.2 mg per Kg of
body weight . a 60% reduction in the previous recommended intake limit
of 0.5 mg/Kg on which governments had based their interim maximum allowable
levels for melamine in food.
After the WHO report was issued, Canada reduced its maximum allowable
limit for melamine in infant formula and sole source nutrition products
to 0.5 ppm from 1.0 ppm. Other governments, as far as we can tell, have
not yet followed suit.
"Trace" amounts of melamine are turning up in foods even infant
formulas that never came within sight of China's borders. For example,
low levels . 0.25 ppm or less of melamine and cyanuric acid (a related
compound) showed up recently in infant formulas manufactured in the United
These findings are not due to deliberate adulteration, as was the case
in China. Rather, melamine finds its way into foods via several routes:
- migration from plastic food-contact surfaces;
- migration from cleaning sponges;
- residual melamine from food sanitizing solutions used in processing
- metabolism of cyromazine and certain other pesticides by plants and
The 2007 contaminated pet food incident opened our eyes to the danger
posed by the combined ingestion of melamine and cyanuric acid . both previously
thought to be very low health risks. This year's tragedy in China has
made all of us aware of the prevalence of melamine in our food.
There are actions that we consumers can take to reduce the risk of melamine
migration into our food, especially food that we feed our children. Eliminating
melamine from our food supply, however, will require the concerted action
of farmers, food processors and regulators.Check back tomorrow for more
on how melamine finds its way into your family's food.
New version of
mad cow suspected
Source of Article: http://www.upi.com/
Published: Dec. 18, 2008 at 10:31 AM
LONDON, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- British medical researchers say they're concerned
a new human version of mad cow disease has been detected, officials said.
While most cases of new variant Creutzfeld-Jakob disease (vCJD) in Britain
have occurred in people with a
genetic profile carried by 42 percent of the population, the BBC reported
that a young man with a different genetic profile appears to have the
disabling disease.The report said the diagnosis, which must be confirmed
by biopsy, suggests at least 90 percent of Britain's population is susceptible
to vCJD.The Times of London said the prion protein that malfunctions to
cause the disease comes in three versions. People with two copies of the
amino acid methionine -- the MM genetic type-- have been thought to be
most vulnerable to vCJD. The new case, however, is in a person with the
MV genotype. It is unknown whether people with the VV genotype are vulnerable,
the newspaper said.
will resign at end of Bush's term
Source of Article: http://www.boston.com/
Associated Press / December 17, 2008
WASHINGTON - Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, who made progress in stabilizing
a troubled Food and Drug Administration, will resign from his job as commissioner
on Jan. 20.
His successor will be named by the new president, Barack Obama, who is
considering candidates such as Baltimore's health commissioner, several
prominent physicians, and former and current FDA officials.
Von Eschenbach, 67, was appointed by President Bush in 2005 as the FDA
was reeling from widespread criticism about lax oversight of prescription
drug safety. A cancer survivor himself, he was director of the National
Cancer Institute before joining the FDA.
He has overseen a major increase in funding that Congress mandated for
the drug safety office. He also directed the FDA's first steps to strengthen
its role as an international regulator, opening three offices in China
The FDA has continued to get criticism from Congress and consumer groups,
most recently over its handling of a salmonella outbreak. But under von
Eschenbach, tensions seem to have eased between the drug safety office
and the much larger division that handles drug approvals. Lawmakers and
consumer advocates, including critics, say they have found Eschenbach
easy to work with.
in pigs at slaughter evaluated
Source of Article: http://www.meatnews.com/news/headline_stories.asp?ArticleID=98882
(MEATPOULTRY.com, December 23, 2008)
by MEAT&POULTRY Staff
PARMA, ITALY ? The European Food Safety Authority¡¯s Task Force on Zoonoses
Data Collection published an analysis of the risk factors related to Salmonella
in slaughter pigs within the European Union on Dec. 22. While the results
reveal that Salmonella-infected pigs were more likely to lead to Salmonella-contaminated
carcasses, these could also come from uninfected pigs. What¡¯s more, the
Salmonella carcass contamination was more likely to happen in some slaughterhouses
compared to others.
Results from this report will serve as a scientific basis to assist Member
E.U. States to define the best control measures for reaching the Salmonella
reduction targets to be defined by the European Commission.
As a result of the study, E.F.S.A.¡¯s Task Force recommended that Member
States and the E.U. pig industry pay attention to preventing Salmonella
spread within slaughterhouses since they have proven to have an important
role in the contamination of pig meat.
Control measures at the pig-farm level are also necessary for reducing
Salmonella occurrence in pigs and pig meat, and that consideration should
be given to integrated control programs covering both farms and slaughterhouses,
the Task Force noted.
Some similarities between the Salmonella types most frequently reported
in humans and those found in slaughter pigs were revealed in the analysis,
indicating that pigs and pig meat do contribute to Salmonella infections
in humans, though other animal species and food can also be a source for
Factors related to Salmonella infections were found to vary considerably
To post your comments on this story, click here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
approach to food safety inspections
Source of Article: http://www.federaltimes.com/index.php?S=3871810
By GREGG CARLSTROM December 23, 2008
Hoping to shore up sagging public confidence, the Food and Drug Administration
has abandoned the use of random inspections to ensure food safety in favor
of inspections targeted at high-risk production sites.
Under the new approach outlined this month, the agency will focus its
attention on farms with poor safety records, importers with lower quality
standards, and other at-risk food suppliers.
FDA has struggled with its image this year because of its sluggish response
to a salmonella outbreak. It took months to find the source ? peppers
grown in Mexico ? and several more weeks to find the farm that grew the
peppers. The new approach is the first step toward modernizing the inspection
process, said Dr. David Acheson, FDA¡¯s associate commissioner for foods.
¡°We¡¯re trying to make better
use of the data we¡¯ve got. Do we need more data? Probably,¡± Acheson said
in an interview this month. ¡°But it shouldn¡¯t be: ¡®Well, we don¡¯t have
enough data, so we¡¯ll just do random inspections.¡¯¡±
But critics say the agency
doesn¡¯t have enough data to know which farmers and distributors are high
risk. The problem is particularly acute for imported food, they claim,
because less than 1 percent of imported food is tested.
¡°How do they determine risks
when they¡¯re doing so little testing?¡± asked Patty Lovera, assistant director
of Food and Water Watch, a nonprofit consumer advocate. ¡°Only a fraction
of the food ever sees a lab.¡±
Americans eat about 40 percent
more imported food today than in 1995; the food is produced by more than
189,000 facilities. The growing volume of imports means FDA has little
choice but to conduct risk-based inspections: It costs, on average, $16,700
to inspect a foreign facility, so the cost of inspecting each facility
once ? $3.2 billion ? exceeds FDA¡¯s annual budget. The agency is trying
to cut down those costs by opening field offices overseas. The first one,
in China, opened last month; FDA planned to open two offices in India
this month, but Acheson said the attacks in Mumbai will delay those openings.
The foreign offices will lower the cost per inspection, but they will
still tax the agency¡¯s resources, according a Government Accountability
Office report released earlier this year. ¡°[The] establishment of an FDA
field office in China will likely require a long-term commitment of agency
resources,¡± GAO wrote. ¡°The overall resource need could be significant.¡±
And the small number of offices ? FDA currently plans to open less than
a dozen ? means the agency is still able to inspect only a small percentage
of foreign food facilities. ¡°What will it take for them to inspect a higher
proportion of imports?¡± Lovera asked. ¡°That¡¯s where the cracks show. ¡¦
The agency is completely outgunned when it comes to imports.¡± Critics,
including GAO, say the food protection plan also doesn¡¯t have enough benchmarks.
There are fewer outbreaks of food-borne illness today than a decade ago,
but that doesn¡¯t necessarily mean FDA is doing a better job at inspections.
¡°There¡¯s not a lot of assessment as to whether they¡¯re being effective,¡±
said David Plunkett, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Science
in the Public Interest. ¡°There are no benchmarks.¡±
Acheson said identifying the highest-risk producers, and inspecting them
more frequently, would be one benchmark for measuring the plan¡¯s effectiveness.
FDA will also improve food safety by working more closely with the private
sector ? but will not turn over inspections to private companies, he said.
¡°We¡¯re not in the business of contracting out FDA inspections,¡± he said.
Instead, the agency wants to take advantage of the private inspection
data that many companies already collect. Major food retailers, for example,
require their produce suppliers to meet certain standards, and they inspect
those suppliers regularly. Acheson said FDA could use that information
to shape its high-risk list.
FDA is working on a pilot program with several major shrimp producers.
The companies will send FDA information about how they certify suppliers;
Acheson said the agency would periodically send its own inspectors to
¡°look over their shoulders.¡±
The agency also wants to improve its computer systems to better analyze
complaints about food products, Acheson said. ¡°We¡¯re trying to pick up
the more subtle signals around consumer complaints that are harder to
mine,¡± Acheson said. ¡°Say we get complaints about a canned product. ¡¦
If you mine the data, and the cans all come from one manufacturer, maybe
the canning process at that firm is not up to snuff.¡±
Consumers generally make those complaints to their state health agencies,
which send information to the federal Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention in Atlanta.
FDA intends to ask Congress for a big investment in food safety. It received
a $150 million supplemental at the end of 2008; Acheson said he¡¯d like
a similar amount added to FDA¡¯s budget for the next few years.
Some of the money would be used to hire new inspectors. The agency is
trying to conduct more inspections each year: It conducted about 5,900
in fiscal 2008, up from 2007, but still below the 6,000 it conducted in
2004. The decline is largely due to the agency¡¯s perennially tight budgets.
The agency also wants Congress to act quickly to pass its legislative
agenda. FDA wants to require food facilities to register with the agency
every two years; that would give the agency an up-to-date list of producers,
and a steady source of fees. FDA also wants the authority to issue mandatory
recalls of contaminated food products. ¡°There¡¯s been a lot of language
from the Hill, but nothing has ever turned into a bill,¡± Acheson said.
outbreak rocketed Canada's food safety system to top of mind in 2008
Source of Article: http://www.google.com/
1 hour ago
TORONTO ? The deadly, nationwide outbreak of a previously anonymous bacterium
has pushed Listeria and food safety to the forefront of the public consciousness,
but experts warn that people are mistaken if they think avoiding Maple
Leaf cold cuts amounts to safe eating in 2009.
Canadians can expect food-borne illness outbreak levels to hold steady,
or even increase, in the absence of wholesale changes in how such events
are tracked and managed, said Rick Holley, a food science professor at
the University of Manitoba.
"The organisms that are going to be involved in causing food-borne
illnesses may change, but we have done (very little) to reduce the frequency
with which food-borne illness occurs in Canada," Holley said.
About 40 per cent of the food produced in Canada is manufactured under
federal regulations, while much of the remainder is subject to provincial
That's symptomatic of the multi-jurisdictional, sometimes unco-ordinated,
nature of food safety in Canada, said Holley.
"If someone says to me, 'I'm not going to buy any more Maple Leaf
meat because it's very risky, they don't know what they're doing, I'm
going to buy locally,' Well, think again," he said.
"The local guy doesn't have to deal with the federal regulations."
If there was a government funded, central database for information on
food-borne illness, food scientists would be able to identify risks then
manage them, Holley said.
"If we carry on the way that we are right now, nothing, believe me,
is going to change in terms of the frequencies with which we see food-borne
illness in Canada, except that it's going to increase as the population
Brian Evans, executive vice-president and chief veterinary officer of
the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, said the federal agency is "fully
committed" to building such a database.
"At the end of the day... prevention is our best effort and our most
important priority," Evans said.
"At the same time we do realize the limits, that no food-safety system
will ever be perfect and will ever be able to eliminate all risk from
the food supply."
In August, Maple Leaf Foods (TSX:MFI) began a recall of ready-to-eat meat
products amid a nationwide Listeria outbreak. Twenty people died in the
outbreak, which was linked to a Maple Leaf facility in Toronto.
Listeria, which had been little known outside food safety circles, became
a household word and many were shocked to learn - via repeated messaging
from both food inspection officials and Maple Leaf CEO and president Michael
McCain - that it's everywhere.
It's in the soil, on produce, and likely on kitchen countertops in millions
of homes. Proper cleaning and cooking protocols must be followed to reduce
the threat of illness.
"Food safety became a very much front-of-mind issue in 2008, not
necessarily for the right reasons, but nevertheless, I think that's a
positive overall," Evans said. "I think it is important that
people have an understanding."
People are more familiar with food-borne outbreaks of E. coli or salmonella
because their incidence of causing illness in people is higher than Listeria,
Evans said. With that bacteria, only the subspecies Listeria monocytogenes
causes human illness, and then only in the elderly, immuno-compromised
and pregnant women.
The public education efforts of McCain and Evans appear to be working,
at least for Maple Leaf.
Company data shows consumer confidence in early December was at 91 per
cent - up from 64 per cent in the immediate aftermath of the recall.
"(It) was certainly a game-changing year for food safety in this
country in many ways," McCain said.
In September, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced an investigation
into the listeriosis outbreak. Both McCain and the union representing
CFIA inspectors would like to see that happen.
"We would certainly, very actively and assertively, encourage the
government to get on with the investigation," McCain said.
The Prime Minister's Office did not respond to questions about the investigation.
Maple Leaf has been scrubbing its image clean, implementing intense sanitization
and testing protocols, but some say the company was never the problem.
The real risk lies in a persistent lack of resources that "handcuff"
CFIA employees, says the president of the Agriculture Union at the Public
Service Alliance of Canada.
"They're making all the right moves in terms of shoring up the program
deficiencies, (but) they don't have the resources to actually make it
happen," said Bob Kingston.
"Now it's in the government's court. CFIA is trying to make the appropriate
changes, but they'll simply need people to do it.
"If the government won't come through then we could be in a worse
situation than we were before."
The CFIA may be facing challenges, but there have been no cuts to the
budget as a result of the economic downturn, Evans said.
From the time the Maple Leaf recall began making headlines, Kingston has
waged a campaign against a government move toward greater industry self-regulation.
Kingston said inspectors drown in paperwork and can't keep a proper eye
on the plant floor.
"I think it allowed for what happened at Maple Leaf to go on as long
as it did without anybody knowing about it," he said.
E. coli Outbreaks of 2008 Show a Problem Getting Worse, Says Food Safety
Source of Article: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2008/12/prweb1780154.htm
A look at the biggest E. coli outbreaks in 2008 suggests an ever-worsening
problem. Food safety lawyer Fred Pritzker says failure of regulation is
evident as E. coli outbreaks continued to cause death and serious illness.
"You still get companies that continually flout the rules, and there's
not enough consequences to stop the bad actors,'' Pritzker said. Pritzker
lists details of five major E. coli outbreaks of 2008.
Minneapolis, Minnesota (PRWEB) December 22, 2008 -- A look at the biggest
E. coli outbreaks in 2008 suggests an ever-worsening problem.
In 2008, large-scale corporate farms and centralized production facilities
continued to play a major role in America's E. coli problem. But by far
the largest E. coli outbreak of the year was centered at a lone family
restaurant in Locust Grove, Oklahoma.
The Country Cottage Restaurant outbreak started August. 15. By the time
it was over, 341 people were sickened with E. coli O111 infections, 72
persons were hospitalized and one 26-year-old man, a gospel singer, was
Fred Pritzker, a Minneapolis lawyer whose law firm is nationally recognized
in the area of foodborne illness litigation, said that when taken all
together, 2008 was a year in which America's deadly E. coli threat showed
no signs of slowing down from a dangerous pace set in 2007. Between June
and November 2007, 30 million pounds of beef were recalled by 20 different
companies. In 2008, ground beef recalls linked to E. coli outbreaks continued
to be common and large.
"It's a failure of regulation,'' Pritzker said. "People are
eating food that contains this deadly pathogen.''
In keeping with the axiom that ground beef is the most common vector for
E. coli O157:H7, 2008 was marked by multi-state outbreaks of infections
that were associated with beef trimmings for hamburger produced by Nebraska
Beef Ltd of Omaha. The company ordered two major recalls of tainted beef
in June and July.
The year also was highlighted by a major E. coli outbreak related to fresh
produce. In 2006, U.S. consumers were rocked by a deadly E. coli O157:H7
outbreak associated with bagged spinach. In 2008, the tainted leafy green
vegetable was iceberg lettuce bagged at a food plant in Detroit. The outbreak
sickened at least 50 people.
Pritzker said produce growers still lack effective mandatory safety standards
to guard against E. coli contamination. In repeat-offender slaughterhouses,
more inspections are needed.
"You still get companies that continually flout the rules, and there's
not enough consequences to stop the bad actors,'' Pritzker said.
Ever since 1993, when four children died from E. coli O157:H7 infections
in an outbreak linked to undercooked restaurant hamburgers, the U.S. food
industry has been under pressure to curb the bacteria.
There was a decade of progress, including help from Congress. But Prtizker
said 2008 was another year in which E. coli infections seemed to gain
momentum. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
2005 was the year when rates of E. coli O157:H7 infections in healthy
people started to rise again after steady decline.
Some researchers believe a possible explanation for increased prevalence
of E. coli O157:H7 in cattle is related to a byproduct of ethanol. Called
distillers grain, it became increasingly abundant as cattle feed during
ethanol's boom in 2006, 2007 and early 2008.
A study by researchers at Kansas State University found higher levels
of E. coli O157:H7 in the feces of cattle fed a diet that included distillers
grain, which is cheaper than corn.
Although the study was not conclusive, Pritzker said a lot of food safety
experts came to believe in 2008 that the correlation makes sense. And
two other E. coli problems went unresolved in 2008: Several strains of
E. coli that are just as deadly as O157:H7 remained unchecked by the government
and some purveyors of raw milk are still skirting the law to sell a product
increasingly linked to illness outbreaks.
"It's easy to gloss over the problem if you don't see the individual
suffering involved in these outbreaks,'' Pritzker said. "The agony
and the suffering of these individuals is dramatic and significant.''
Major E. coli Outbreaks of 2008:
-Country Cottage Restaurant. The outbreak was linked in August to contamination
by E. coli O111. A total of 341 outbreak-related cases were reported,
56 cases were in children, 72 persons were hospitalized and one died.
The restaurant was shut down and reopened in late November under an agreement
with health officials. While no single food item was found to be the source,
officials believe several different foods became contaminated with the
-Nebraska Beef Ltd. In late June, the Omaha company recalled 5.3 million
pounds of trimmings for ground beef. Health officials linked the product
to 49 confirmed cases of E. coli O157:H7 infection in seven states. About
a month later, the same slaughterhouse recalled another 1.2 million pounds
of meat linked to 31 confirmed E. coli O157:H7 cases in 12 states. Much
of the recalled meat was supplied through the Kroger grocery chain, but
the tainted beef also turned up elsewhere. At the Barbecue Pit in Moultrie,
Georgia, there were at least eight confirmed cases of E. coli O157:H7.
In four of those illnesses, victims suffered hemolytic uremic syndrome
(HUS), a complication that can lead to kidney failure.
-Goshen Boy Scout Reservation. Health officials this summer confirmed
25 cases of E. coli O157:H7 infection among attendees at a Boy Scout camp
in Goshen, Virginia. The cases were matched through molecular fingerprinting
and linked to frozen ground beef from California-based S&S Foods.
S&S recalled about 153,630 pounds of ground beef products.
-Aunt Mid's Iceberg Lettuce. Michigan officials confirmed that bagged
iceberg lettuce was the common source of illness in a September-October
outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections that included 38 cases in Michigan,
nine in Illinois and three in Ontario. At least 21 of those who were sickened
spent time in the hospital. The outbreak strain of E. coli was never found
at Aunt Mid's processing plant and investigators could never say if the
lettuce became contaminated at the plant or in California, where it was
grown. Aunt Mid's lettuce was associated with E. coli infections at the
Lenawee County Jail, two Illinois restaurants and Michigan State University.
-Vermont Ground Beef. In September,Vermont Livestock Slaughter and Processing
Co. in Ferrisburg, Vermont, recalled 2,758 pounds of ground beef products
that had been distributed to restaurants in the state. The recall was
prompted by an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7. At least 10 people were sickened,
including one who was hospitalized. An investigation by state and federal
health officials found that the recalled beef may have caused the illnesses.
Cattle on 21 farms to be slaughtered over dioxin levels
Source of Article: http://www.meatpoultry.com/
The samples were last week found to be positive for marker polychlorinated
biphenyls, or PCBs, and further tests found that the dioxin levels were
higher than the results from the recent controversial pork samples. However,
while the cattle implicated will have to be slaughtered and the dioxin
levels exceeded the legal limit, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland
(FSAI) said the risk to public health was extremely low.
"The risk assessment carried out by the FSAI indicates that, based
on food consumption data, the exposure from beef is 300 times lower than
that posed by the pork contamination," a FSAI spokesman said.
"Therefore, consumers should have no concerns in relation to health
risks and retailers are not required to take any action."
Farms that could have potentially used contaminated feed have been restricted
since December 5, and yesterday the Department of Agriculture confirmed
21 out of 120,000 cattle farms here had received the implicated animal
"The actual number of cattle farms is extremely low, representing
0.02% of the total national number of cattle farms," said the authority
Alan Reilly, deputy chief executive of the authority said that while samples
were higher than in the pork products, the level of concern was lower
owing to the lower likely exposure and superior traceability systems that
apply to beef allowing implicated product to be identified, isolated and
withdrawn from the market.
Meanwhile, EU member states yesterday backed a disposal scheme for animals
locked down on farms that have used contaminated feed, as well as for
certain pig meat stocks held in, or still owned by, slaughterhouses.
The EU will co-finance the purchases at an average rate of 50%.
Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Mariann Fischer Boel
said: "We hope that co-funding the destruction of affected meat will
help bring this problem to a rapid conclusion and assist farmers who face
Norovirus Outbreak Linked To Illegally Operating Caterer
December 17, 2008
Source of Article: http://www.wxii12.com/health/18298258/detail.html
WINSTON-SALEM -- State health officials are cautioning North Carolinians
about food-borne illness, after three confirmed norovirus outbreaks, one
of which was linked to a caterer operating illegally from her home in
the western Piedmont, have sickened more than 50 people and affected at
least nine counties.
Locally, those counties include Forsyth, Caldwell, and some parts of the
Last week, Forty-two residents and workers at The Oaks At Forsyth nursing
home on Bethesda Road became ill after a virus outbreak was reported at
the facility. The outbreak at The Oaks was not related to the illegal
catering service, Forsyth County Health Director Dr. Tim Monroe said.
Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause the "stomach flu"
or gastroenteritis, and cannot be seen or tasted but spread easily from
person to person, according to health officials.
¡°More than a million North Carolinians experience a norovirus-related
illness each year,¡± said State Health Director Leah Devlin. ¡°Food is a
major part of the holidays for many people, and I want to remind everyone
of steps they can take to prepare, serve and enjoy the food more safely
during this season."
Linda Means, communicable disease nursing supervisor at the Forsyth County
Health Department, said last week that the outbreak at The Oaks carried
all the signs of a norovirus outbreak common in nursing facilities.
Means said the virus was most common during the colder part of the season
and said strict hand washing was the most effective way to prevent its
Terry Pierce, director of the Division of Environmental Health, said that
residents who hire caterers for holiday parties should be especially careful,
and need to make sure the caterers are properly permitted or licensed.
Paints for Hospitals Could Kill Superbugs
Products Finishing (December 18, 2008)
Source of Article: http://www.accu-mold.com/
New nanotechnology paints for walls, ceilings, and surfaces could be used
to kill hospital superbugs when fluorescent lights are switched on, according
to a presentation at the Society for General Microbiology's Autumn meeting
held at Trinity College, Dublin.
With rising concern about the spread of hospital superbugs, healthcare
trusts are increasingly looking to find better ways to maintain hygienic
standards in hospitals. The same concerns are driving developments in
the food industry and in pharmaceutical companies. These new nanoparticle
paints could provide a simple and cost-effective solution.
The new paints contain tiny particles of titanium dioxide, which is the
white compound often used as a brightener in commercial paints.
Scientists have discovered that extremely small, nanoparticle-sized forms
of titanium dioxide can kill bacteria and destroy dirt when they absorb
UV energy from the sun and produce active molecules that clean up the
"It would be best if the titanium was antibacterial at wavelengths
of light that you find indoors, such as fluorescent light, so that paints
containing the nanoparticles could be used in hospitals," says Lucia
Caballero from Manchester Metropolitan University, UK.
The researchers looked at the survival of the food poisoning bacterium
E. coli on different formulations of paints containing the titanium nanoparticles
under different types and intensities of lights. "We found that paints
containing titanium dioxide are more successful at killing bacteria if
the concentration of the nanoparticles is stronger than in normal paint.
Our best results showed that all the E. coli were killed under ordinary
fluorescent lights," says Caballero.
"However, other common additives in paints, such as calcium carbonate,
silica or talc decreased the antibacterial efficiency of the paint. If
calcium carbonate was present the kill rate dropped by up to 80%,"
New rapid test for diarrhoea-causing
Identifying individual species of Cryptosporidium
Source of Article: http://www.tcetoday.com/tcetoday/NewsDetail.aspx?nid=11270
by Wendy Laursen
THE TIME TAKEN to identify the diarrhoea-causing microorganism Cryptosporidium
in water samples has been reduced from 15 hours to three, and the new
technique enables the most harmful species to be identified so that sources
of contamination can be more readily identified.
The technology is based on the detection of the Cryptosporidium species
usually found in human faeces using fluorescent probes that target specific
sequences of nucleic acid. Existing immuno-chromatographic and immuno-fluorescence-based
assays do not provide species or genotype-specific information and polymerase
chain reaction techniques involve expensive equipment and reagents.
¡°The probes can distinguish C. parvum and C. hominis which are responsible
for most of the outbreaks that are harmful to humans,¡± says Anitha Alagappan,
test developer and a PhD candidate at Australia¡¯s Environmental biotechnology
Cooperative Research Centre.
¡°Species data is important to understand the risk of infection to exposed
people. There are many different species of Cryptosporidium, some of which
are infectious to humans and some which aren¡¯t. Many current testing methods
only detect the presence or absence of Cryptosporidium, but not the species
The new rapid screening tool uses fluorescent in situ hybridisation technology.
The reliability of the new technology was tested against one of the standard
methods applied in the water industry in collaboration with the Cryptosporidium
Reference Laboratory in the UK. A strong correlation (0.994) between the
two methods confirmed that the species identification method was as reliable
as currently-used methods.
¡°The test has been validated now and could be used by water utilities
worldwide as it fits into current testing methods quite easily,¡± says
Belinda Ferrari team leader from the University of New South Wales.
The diarrhoeal illness, cryptosporidiosis, can be life threatening in
immuno-compromised people and currently there is no effective treatment.
Public swimming pools and drinking water have been sources of the disease
in the UK and the US.
HACCP software enables complete cycle control, says NWA
By Jane Byrne, 12-Dec-2008
Source of Article: http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/
A new software programme manages the complete Hazard Analysis Critical
Control Point (HACCP) operational cycle to provide a powerful food safety
and quality control system, claims its US developer.
Northwest Analytical (NWA) said that its new eHACCP programme, which is
now being released onto the European market, expands on its established
NWA Quality Information System (QIS) by encompassing compliant data collation,
secure electronic signatures as well as management and reporting capabilities.
HACCP is a food safety management system designed to ensure the safe production
and packaging of food. The HACCP process provides a systematic and effective
method to analyze a process, and identifies potential biological, chemical
and physical hazards that can occur in food. In addition, HACCP requires
the development of strategies to prevent the inclusion or reduction of
these hazards to an acceptable level in the food.
Jeffery Cawley, vice president of marketing development at NWA, said that
while there are categories of manufacturing information management systems
that supply part of the functionality required, until now there has not
been a commercial product that manages the complete HACCP operational
cycle. He told FoodProductionDaily.com that the eHACCP system also includes
consultation on the process of converting from a paper-based to a paperless
system, with, he claims, 90 per cent of food processing facilities still
running paper-based HACCP operational programmes.
Food industry partnership
The development of the eHACCP was informed by collaboration with leading
food manufacturers, continued Cawley.
¡°Food processors have been using various NWA Quality components for the
past several years for quality control and compliance. This includes the
application of the NWA Quality Monitor for controlling workflow and collecting
data for both food quality and food safety parameters. ¡°With recent expansions
to the underlying NWA QIS, it became reasonable to meet HACCP requirements
with a few extensions. We were able to identify these as a result of our
long term food industry customer relationships and professional involvement
with the food industry,¡± he explained.
According to Cawley, the new software package improves HACCP compliance
and reporting through the elimination of transcription errors, better
data handling and retrieval as well as alerts based on statistical process
control (SPC) trends to indicate process deterioration. Extended reporting
templates to meet HACCP based requirements are also included, he added.
¡°With no manual data handling, analysis and reporting, our quality information
system (QIS) customers typically report being able to reallocate one to
two professionals to more productive process management and improvement
operations, as a result of installing the eHACCP system,¡± said Cawley.
NWA said that it teamed up with leading food safety expert, Dr John Surak,
to develop a conversion plan that includes the training, validation and
verification steps need to properly implement the system:
¡°These steps are critical to assure regulatory agencies, customers and
third party auditors that eHACCP is an effective food safety system.¡±
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