Comprehensive News List
General Food Safety News/ Outbreak News/ Recall News/ New Methods News/
USDA/FDA
News/ On-Line Slides/ Job Information/Internet Journal of Food Safety

1/9
2008
ISSUE:334

Sponsors











Sponsorship Q/A

Click here
to go
Main Page

 

Click here
to go
List of Newsletters


To subscribe this Food Safety Newsletter,
Click here

On-Line
Slides


Job Opennings

 

 


Click here for more information

Nearly 400 Sickened in 42-State Salmonella Outbreak
Date Published: Thursday, January 8th, 2009
Source of Article: http://www.newsinferno.com/archives/4509
An ongoing salmonella outbreak has sickened 388 people and hospitalized 67 in at least 42 states, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention has announced. The CDC reported that the age range of those who have fallen ill ranges from under one.year-old to 103 years of age, said WebMD.
¡°We are collaborating with public health officials in 42 states, the FDA, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate an ongoing multi-state outbreak of human infection with Salmonella typhimurium,¡± CDC spokesperson Lola Russell told WebMD. Although the CDC is not saying which states are involved, the Ohio Department of Health issued a news release confirming that Ohio has seen 50 cases there, said WebMD, which noted that Ohio is the state with the ¡°second most¡± cases. The source of the outbreak remains unknown.
A U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spokesperson says it and the CDC are closely collaborating to determine the outbreak¡¯s source, reports WebMD, which also explained that if it is found that the illness originated with an FDA-regulated item, that agency will handle the ¡°traceback¡± investigation. Tracebacks are foodborne outbreak investigations that look for the specific item that caused the outbreak as well as how that item became contaminated, said WebMD.
The salmonella strain involved in this particular outbreak.Salmonellatyphimurium.is considered common and is also the same strain responsible for the 2007 wide-scale outbreak that sickened over 400 people in over 40 states, Russell told WebMD. In that case, Russell added, the CDC found that undercooked, not-ready-to-eat Banquet brand frozen pot pies were to blame. Last year¡¯s huge salmonella outbreak that was finally traced to Mexican peppers and was first blamed on tomatoes, was linked to salmonella Saintpaul, a different salmonella strain than is involved in the current cases.
Salmonella typhimurium outbreaks have been linked to poultry, raw milk and cheese, and pet turtles said WebMD. ¡°We are reminding people that it is often difficult to trace the source or sources of salmonella outbreaks,¡± Russell told WebMD, adding, ¡°We don¡¯t have a potential source at this point.¡±
WebMD noted that the CDC receives at least 40,000 reports of salmonella poisoning annually, with about 400 deaths reported. It is believed that the actual number of cases is much higher 30-fold more, said WebMD.because less serious cases are often not reported.
Salmonella poisoning causes swelling of the lining of the stomach and intestines (gastroenteritis) that is responsible for about 15% of all cases of food poisoning. Salmonella is most serious in infants, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems. In these individuals, the infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites, resulting in death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics. In addition, people who have had part or all of their stomach or their spleens removed, or who have sickle cell anemia, cirrhosis of the liver, leukemia, lymphoma, malaria, or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) are extremely susceptible to salmonella food poisoning. Salmonella also has potential long-term health consequences, with some victims developing a disease called Reiter¡¯s Syndrome, a difficult-to-treat form of reactive arthritis that causes severe joint pain, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination. Reiter¡¯s Syndrome can plague its victims for months or years, and can lead to chronic arthritis.

Illinois, 42 other states in salmonella outbreak
By MIKE STOBBE . 1 hour ago
ATLANTA (AP) . A nationwide salmonella outbreak that has struck 42 states has put about one in five of its victims in the hospital, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.
Nearly 400 people have become ill in the outbreak that might have killed one person. An elderly woman in Minnesota had the infection when she died, although it's not clear that salmonella was the cause, a health department spokesman there said.
The same type of salmonella bacteria has been lab-confirmed in 388 cases nationwide, said the CDC, which is leading the investigation but has not yet released the list of states or determined which foods may have caused people to become sick.
However, health officials in California, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota and Ohio have confirmed cases. Ohio and California reported the most, with 51 cases each.
Nationally, all the illnesses began between Sept. 3 and Dec. 29, but most of the people grew sick after Oct. 1.
Most people develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment.
Officials say steps to protect against the illness include careful handling and preparation of raw meat, and frequent hand washing.
CDC officials say the cases in the outbreak have all been genetically fingerprinted as the Typhimurium type, which is among the most common forms of salmonella food poisoning. Of those cases for which CDC officials have medical treatment information, 18 percent were hospitalized.
A Connecticut congresswoman on Thursday said she was frustrated that health officials don't yet know how the bacteria has been spreading.
Not knowing what food is responsible means the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the U.S. Department of Agriculture cannot help track the original source, said U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat who chairs the Agriculture-FDA appropriations subcommittee
."Any delays in these critical investigations can sicken more people," DeLauro said in a statement.
But foodborne illness investigations can be very complicated, and it can take weeks or months for health officials to interview patients, find common links in what they ate, test suspected foods and come up with a clear-cut cause, said Michael Doyle, director of the University of Georgia's Center for Food Safety.
"There's a lot more to this than meets the eye," he said.
There are about 2,000 types of salmonella and about 40,000 cases are reported each year. Of lab-confirmed cases, salmonella Typhimurium is the most common. The bacteria type is a year-round threat because it's found in meat and eggs, and not as subject to seasonal food supply variations as produce.The current outbreak's bacteria is different from the salmonella Saintpaul bug that caused more than 1,400 illnesses last spring and summer. That was traced to vegetables from Mexico . jalapeno and serrano peppers and possibly certain types of tomatoes.

New Salmonella Legislation for 2009
06/01/09 Source of Article: http://www.stackyard.com/
From this month, legislation in the European Union will ban the sale of fresh eggs from flocks infected with either Salmonella enteritidis or Salmonella typhimurium.
According to Kiotechagil¡¯s chief technical officer Murray Hyden, ¡°the most effective control mechanism is to ensure that feed and water quality are optimised and supportive of healthy commensal microflora.¡± He points to the Code of Practice which states, ¡®Ingredients known to be at a high risk of Salmonella contamination such as cereals and oil seeds stored in flat stores or open bins should be avoided where possible. Also, consider treating protein, cereal ingredients and whole grain feed with aldehyde/acid mixtures (although not on organic enterprises where the use of aldehydes is not permitted). And, after manufacture, feed must also be transported carefully to prevent post processing contamination¡¯.
Mr Hyden also urges poultry producers to take all necessary actions including, where necessary, incorporating acid products such as SALKIL in layers rations as this will greatly reduce the risk of Salmonella positives from horizontal transmission or direct faecal contact with eggs. SALKIL is a liquid product on a mineral carrier that makes it safe to use and provides controlled release of actives.
Mr Hyden highlights a recent report in the journal Epidemiology and Infection which finds that cage-housing systems in the United Kingdom incorporating on-belt manure drying showed a lower prevalence of salmonella infection than conventional installations.
The report records that on-belt manure drying is more successful because it allows the litter to dry faster and attain much lower levels of water activity (Aw). A low water activity, below the threshold of survival for salmonella, will initially prevent multiplication and ultimately cause the death of the pathogens. The report confirmed that a failure to reduce the Aw rapidly results in Salmonella multiplication, persistence and an ability to horizontally infect other birds within the house.
¡°These are very interesting and important findings,¡± says Murray Hyden. ¡°Certain products, such as Kiotechagil¡¯s SALKIL have been specially developed to optimise gut function, especially in layers and breeders where the high calcium in the ration formulation can result in a higher gut pH dominated by potential enteropathogens.¡±
Enteropathogens erode the villi in the gut resulting in poor nutrient and water uptake. SALKIL provides acid platforms for rapid multiplication of the acidophilic bacteria such as the Lactobacilli, which directly reduce salmonella numbers and reduce intestinal pH. A reduced hindgut pH supports the cellulose digesters that produce butyric acid¡±.
The promotion of cellulose digesters, such as Butyrivibrio, will increase butyric acid levels in the intestine. Butyric acid is an essential colonocyte nutrient to optimise villus health and contributes directly to improved nutrient and water uptake. The result is a healthy drier litter, which not only contains fewer enteropathogens but also has a lower Aw¡±.

How safe is that restaurant food.
Lax standards, poor management can lead to violations

by Ahmad Safi Sunday, January 4, 2009
Source of Article: http://www.stjoenews.net
Nearly a thousand people each day eat food from the cleanest kitchen in St. Joseph. Health inspectors consider the food served at Heartland Regional Medical Center to be the best in town. To be served to sick people, it has to be.
Though Heartland, and a handful of other mostly chain restaurants in St. Joseph, have consistently done well during surprise kitchen inspections in the past three years, that¡¯s hardly the norm.
A News-Press review of thousands of health documents for more than 150 restaurants and bars and grills in St. Joseph has found serious violations, such as prescription drugs being seized from a Mexican restaurant, roaches and houseflies living in a kitchen refrigerator at a Chinese buffet, and inspectors being forced to denature discarded foods with bleach so the restaurateurs don¡¯t reuse the food.
At any time, anyone who sells food in St. Joseph can get an unannounced inspection from the St. Joseph-Buchanan County Health Department. Most restaurants, delis and carry-outs are inspected three times per year.
There are just more than 300 establishments in St. Joseph, including school cafeterias, bars and assisted-living facilities.
An inspector¡¯s bad review can shut down an establishment. But that depends on how many so-called ¡°critical violations¡± are amassed during the inspection.
There are nearly 300 ways a food establishment can get in trouble with the Health Department, and about 125 of those are considered critical violations.
¡°(But) really, it could be as few as one. If you have an infestation of any type of pest . mice, rats, roaches, flies even . you¡¯re going to get closed,¡± said Rick Messa, one of the city¡¯s two health inspectors.
A News-Press review of food safety records found four common critical violations: slime in the ice machine, an employee leaving an open personal drink in the kitchen, a dirty slicer and temperature violations . food not holding cold or hot enough.
Mr. Messa said each violation carries a real risk for food-borne illness.
Mold or slime grows best in a moist climate, such as in a restaurant¡¯s unclean ice bin.
An open drink in the kitchen, with each sip by an employee, transfers bacteria from his or her mouth to hand, which may then get into food.
An unclean slicer is the perfect laboratory for bacteria. It takes just four hours for bacteria to grow into a danger area on any food-contact surface.
And the most likely source for a food outbreak is the temperature that food is cooked, cooled and stored. Foods must be kept below 41 degrees or above 140 degrees to prevent bacterial growth.
Mr. Messa said these violations and other less common ones are ¡°90 percent of the time due to laziness.¡±
While Heartland¡¯s kitchen tops the list as the brass ring in clean dining, one establishment that has had its difficulties is Village Steakhouse & Buffet.
Like many buffets in town, Village has a fat inspection file at the Health Department.
The restaurant was closed twice this past year . once for ¡°gross unsanitary conditions¡± and the other time to correct cooling unit problems, according to food safety inspections.
Owner and Manager Erich Uhlhorn said in the current tough economic times, locally owned establishments like his are especially hurt.
¡°I think we just let ourselves get a little bit lax (in 2008),¡± said Mr. Uhlhorn, who adds he is eyeing a nearly $10,000 cooler unit to bring his restaurant infrastructure up to Health Department standards. ¡°This is my livelihood, and only a fool plays fast and loose with that.¡±
Mr. Uhlhorn said he also is considering having his staff go through a food safety class, free in-service training that the Health Department says it tells many restaurants about, but few take them up on.
Inspectors also say good restaurant managers are directly related to the cleanliness at any given restaurant. Captain D¡¯s on the North Belt Highway is a prime example.
Up until 2008, Captain D¡¯s never had a critical violation (¡°one of the cleanest fast-food restaurants¡±), according to health records dating to 2005. But after a grease fire in June, caused when a kitchen employee became distracted on the phone, the restaurant began to rack up critical violations.
Ryan Seippel, a Captain D¡¯s employee since the early 1990s who took over managerial duties in December 2007, said he feels targeted by the Health Department.
¡°He (Mr. Messa) comes in, tells me what is wrong and goes away,¡± said Mr. Seippel, outside the restaurant around noon on Tuesday. ¡°I¡¯ve got one person in the (kitchen) right now. I don¡¯t have a large crew like Cheddar¡¯s.¡±
Health inspection records show that franchise and chain restaurants such as Cheddar¡¯s, 54th Street Grill & Bar and Red Lobster have near-perfect food safety records.
Mr. Messa said that usually is because nationally owned restaurants have accountability to someone above.
¡°Where if you¡¯re local, the only responsibility you have is to yourself. And sometimes they don¡¯t have the resources or the money available to do some of the things some of the national chains can do,¡± he said. ¡°So, for example, to them, replacing a refrigerator unit is a lot more costly, and sometimes they¡¯re reluctant to do that, until we force them to do it.¡±

X-ray irradiation does not affect food quality, say US scientists
By Jane Byrne, 05-Jan-2009
Source of Article: http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/
X-ray technology is effective in killing bacterial pathogens in leafy greens without causing undesirable changes in product quality, claim US researchers.
Bradley Marks and Sanghyup Jeong, who are both based at Michigan State University (MSU), claim that X-rays can kill bacterial pathogens such as E. coli 0157:H7 and Salmonella on the most delicate vegetables as well as extending the shelf life of the produce.
Irradiation from other sources has been used for years to protect ground meat and other products. The process exposes foods to ionizing radiation that kills insects, moulds and bacterium and the technology can kill up to 99 per cent of pathogens.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently published a final rule allowing the use of irradiation for iceberg lettuce and fresh spinach; the technology can already be used with other foods such as spices, poultry and shellfish including oysters, clams and scallops.

Lower dosage
The MSU researchers said that they have been applying a higher dose than that used for medical X-ray imaging, but a lesser dose than that used by competing irradiation methods. ¡°That means less protective shielding is necessary, so the equipment is more compact and food companies can install it at their processing plants,¡± claim the researchers. The X-ray technology, continued the MSU scientists, is being tested in the university¡¯s biosafety level-2 pilot processing facility and is being commercialized by US company Rayfresh Foods. Peter Schoch, CEO of Rayfresh Foods, claims the potential for widespread contamination is compounded by the mingling of greens from different sources in processing plants. He claims that food irradiation based on the use of gamma rays from radioactive material or machine-generated electron beams tends to cause cellular damage and visually degrade food, whereas irradiation using x-rays promise a gentler, more scalable approach.

Other applications
According to Schoch, the company has recently won its first contract to build an X-ray machine to treat ground beef for Omaha Steaks, which inspected the prototype at MSU: ¡°The university¡¯s validation work was pivotal in winning that first order,¡± he added.
The MSU researchers said that work is also being undertaken on validating the technology to kill salmonella on almonds.

Market focus
According to Global Industry Analysts, the world food irradiation market is predicted to exceed $2.3bn by 2012. However, the analysts claim that the market has not lived up to expectations as controversies and narrowing consumer acceptance have limited take up of the technology. "Market growth thrives on factors such as industry and consumer acceptance and application parameters ranging from types of foods to be irradiated to dosage levels. ¡°Competition from existing proven food sterilization technologies such as steam pasteurization and refrigeration, coupled with the high capital outlay required to set up an irradiation processing plant, and stiff opposition from certain quarters thwarts widespread acceptance of the food irradiation technique,¡± they added. The analysts said that the US remains the single largest market for food irradiation, accounting for an estimated 32 per cent of global demand in 2008. According to the report, irradiation technology, though approved for selected products in Europe, has not demonstrated significant penetration in that geography but Asia and Latin America are expected to exhibit potential opportunities in the future.

Melamine byproduct found in more U.S. infant formula
(Newsday, NY) By MARTHA MENDOZA
The Food and Drug Administration says the industrial chemical melamine and a byproduct cyanuric acid have now been detected in four of 89 containers of infant formula made in the United States, doubling previously reported positive results. The contamination is extremely minute, at levels federal regulators say are safe for babies.
In November, The Associated Press reported that undisclosed FDA tests, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, showing that out of 77 containers of domestic infant formula tested, a can of milk-based liquid Nestle Good Start Supreme Infant Formula with Iron contained traces of melamine while Mead Johnson's Enfamil LIPIL with Iron had traces of cyanuric acid. The FDA has now updated its response to the FOIA request by posting results of 89 tests on its Web site. For the complete list, click here.
Those results show that two additional containers of Enfamil LIPIL with Iron had traces of cyanuric acid. Separately, a third major formula maker _ Abbott Laboratories, whose brands include Similac told AP in November that in-house tests had detected trace levels of melamine in its infant formula. Those levels were below what FDA found in the other formulas, an Abbott spokesman said, and below any national safety guidelines. FDA tested 37 different Abbott Laboratories formulas and had no detections.
Abbott Laboratories, Nestle and Mead Johnson make more than 90 percent of all infant formula produced in the United States. In addition to the Abbott formulas, the FDA tested five Nestle formulas, 21 Mead Johnson formulas and 26 products of a fourth company, PBM Products.
Melamine at much higher levels was recently found to have contaminated milk products around the world and has been implicated in the sickening of nearly 300,000 babies in China and killing at least six infants there.
Melamine is rich in nitrogen, which registers as protein on many routine tests. Authorities say the melamine was added to Chinese formula to artificially boost its protein levels.
The FDA and other experts said they believe the minute melamine contamination in U.S.-made formula had occurred during the manufacturing process, rather than intentionally.
The U.S. government quietly began testing domestically produced infant formula in September, soon after problems with melamine-spiked formula surfaced in China.
No Chinese manufacturers of infant formula have met requirements to sell their product here, according to the FDA.
Melamine can legally be used in some food packaging, and can rub off into food from there. It's also part of a cleaning solution used on some food processing equipment. Mead Johnson officials said the FDA had informed them of the test results and they were confident the levels of cyanuric acid are so low that they do not pose a health risk to infants. The company said it is considering changing the cleaning solutions it uses on its manufacturing equipment to reduce cyanuric acid contamination.
Though melamine is not believed harmful in tiny amounts, higher concentrations produce kidney stones, which can block the ducts that carry urine from the body, and in serious cases can cause kidney failure.

To date, here are the FDA results for detections in U.S.-made formula:
Two samples tested from one can of Mead Johnson's Infant Formula Powder, Enfamil LIPIL with Iron had cyanuric acid at levels of 0.412 and 0.31 parts per million;
Three samples tested from one can of Mead Johnson's Infant Formula Powder, Enfamil LIPIL with Iron had cyanuric acid at levels of 0.304, 0.406 and 0.248 parts per million;
Three samples tested from one can of Mead Johnson's Infant Formula Powder, Enfamil LIPIL with Iron had cyanuric acid at levels of 0.247, 0.245 and 0.249 parts per million;
Two samples from a can of Nestle's Good Start Supreme Infant Formula with Iron detected melamine at levels of 0.137 and 0.14 parts per million.
Before the contamination was disclosed, federal food regulators had said they were unable to set a safety threshold for melamine in infant formula.
After the news reports, however, the agency set a threshold of 1 part per million of melamine in formula, provided a related chemical, including cyanuric acid, is not present. None of the formula has tested above that threshold. 1-07-09

FSIS Issues New Sampling Code for E. coli Testing in Ground Beef
Source of Article: http://www.foodproductdesign.com
01/07/2009
WASHINGTON.The USDA¡¯s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) initiated an enhanced risk-based sampling and testing program for E. coli O157:H7 in raw ground beef on Jan. 1, 2009. The new program takes into account establishment volume and whether the establishment has had any FSIS or Agriculture Marketing Service positive results within the past 120 days.
Under the new program, designated as MT43, inspection program personnel can expect to collect a minimum of four samples and up to 24 samples annually. The MT43 program is independent of the MT44 follow-up testing, which results from an establishment being implicated in an E. coli O157:H7-positive production lot.
Sample request forms for raw ground beef that FSIS will test for E. coli O157:H7 will have the MT43 code. These sample results will be posted in LEARN using the new MT43 code. Inspection program personnel are to continue to submit raw ground beef samples for any MT03 sample request forms that have an open sample collection period.
There are no changes to existing sample collection and shipping instructions.

Many labels don't list allergens
Food traces could be harmful
BY SAM ROE and TED GREGORY . CHICAGO TRIBUNE . January 5, 2009
Source of Article: http://www.freep.com/article/20090105/FEATURES08/901050308
CHICAGO -- Some supermarkets, gourmet shops and bakeries routinely sell mislabeled products that pose a danger to children with food allergies, according to Chicago Tribune testing and a comprehensive check of grocery aisles.
In one of the nation's largest examinations of undisclosed ingredients in food, the Tribune reviewed thousands of items at 60 locations in or near Chicago, finding dozens of products obviously mislabeled. The newspaper also conducted 50 laboratory tests -- more than the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration combined over the last several years -- to determine precise ingredients.
In the end, the newspaper identified 117 products that appear to violate federal food labeling laws. Here is what the examination found:

No. 1: Label errors abound
Eight foods -- milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish -- account for 90% of food allergies. That's why federal law requires ingredient labels to disclose them.
Yet the Tribune found numerous examples of those ingredients not being declared. The newspaper also found more than a dozen products with incomplete labels that, for example, simply list "flour" as an ingredient. If an item contains, say, wheat flour, the packaging must say so. Likewise, if a label discloses "butter," it must also state "milk."
When the Tribune alerted manufacturers of the incomplete labels, several said they would remove the products from shelves or amend labels.
Seattle-based Theo Chocolate said it planned a national recall of its Caramel Collection candy after the newspaper informed the company that its labels disclosed "organic butter" but not milk. The company said 5,000 individual packages, sold at the Whole Foods Market grocery chain, would be recalled shortly.

Not all companies were quick to act.
Testing found Kodiak Cakes' Big Bear Brownies mix contained milk, which is not disclosed on the label. Joel Clark, president of Baker Mills, the Salt Lake City company that makes the mix, said the amount found -- 940 parts per million -- was too small to warrant a recall.
In fact, federal law states that all ingredients -- including allergens -- must be disclosed on labels. Moreover, experts believe there is no safe level of allergens for people sensitive to them.

No. 2: Technically, some labels confuse
Ingredient statements are not supposed to use technical terms for common allergens, such as "durum semolina" for wheat or "whey" for milk. But the Tribune found a dozen examples of that violation.
At several retail outlets, the Tribune found Lund's Swedish Pancake Mix that listed "whey powder" without listing milk. Lab results showed the mix contained 5,000 parts per million of milk.
Jewel-Osco spokesman Miguel Alba said the chain would pull the pancake mix from 185 stores in the Midwest. The suchain also said it would pull Violet Crumble bars from the same stores after the Tribune found the labels disclosed "whey powder" but not milk.
Several other companies said they would pull products or change labels after the newspaper found labels listing "durum semolina" or "spelt" without noting that means wheat.

No. 3: Oats are often tainted with wheat
The Tribune tested six brands of oat cereal, and all had hidden gluten, most likely traces of wheat or barley.
Experts say it is difficult to keep wheat out of oats because farmers often grow the crops side by side.
None of the six oatmeal products tested by the Tribune clearly warned consumers about the possibility of wheat, a major allergen.
But after the Tribune informed New York-based HappyFamily that its HappyBellies Oatmeal Cereal contained gluten, Chief Operating Officer Jessica Rolph said she would relabel the product.
The oats that tested highest for gluten were made by the Quaker Oats Co. Spokeswoman Candace Mueller said Quaker is aware that cross-contamination can occur in its oats, but "we are confident that our labels are accurate and our products are safe."

No. 4: Imports are iffy
Parents should know that imports are often unchecked and mislabeled.
The Tribune found imports with incomplete labels or ingredients listed in other languages -- each a violation of the law.
Among the examples: Valencianos Artisanal Crackers, manufactured in Spain and sold at Whole Foods.
The distributor, Forever Cheese of Long Island City, N.Y., initially maintained that the rules didn't apply to the firm because it imports only a small volume of the crackers.
But the FDA said the rules do apply, regardless of how much or how little is imported. Whole Foods said it would pull the Valencianos crackers from shelves nationwide.
Over the last 10 years, at least 1 in 7 recalls for undeclared allergens by the FDA and USDA involved imported food, a Tribune database shows. Most such products were from China, where, experts say, there are few rules regarding labeling.
"If I had a food allergy, I wouldn't eat imported foods," said Dan Rice, director of the New York State Food Laboratory.

No. 5: Dangers of unlabeled food
Parents should not guess at the ingredients in unlabeled food; common allergens can exist in unlikely products. Retail food made to order, such as deli sandwiches, or single items in bins, such as bagels, do not need labels. But packaged foods must have labels.

BSE testing limit for cattle raised
Source of Article: http://www.meatpoultry.com
The rules on testing cattle for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopa-thy (BSE)changed from on January 1st. The age threshold for testing all cattle has been raised to 48 months and over, instead of 30 for animals intended for human consumption and 24 months for fallen stock. The change in European regulations has been agreed by the Food Standards Agency and the Health Minister.
This change will apply to all cattle in the UK or other EU15 Member States. Reduced surveillance coincides with the end of free collection and disposal for farmers notifying fallen stock for BSE testing.
From January 12th, producers will have to make arrangements for disposal of surveillance fallen stock through an approved BSE sampling site. The UK Government will continue to pay for sampling and testing costs.
To help the industry, ¡Ì2m has been made available to the National Fallen Stock Company to subsidise disposal in the first year after the changes.

Hepatitis A found in North Bay bar
Source of Article: http://www.parrysound.com/press/1231266060/
Jan 6, 2009 at 1:21 PM by Carli Whitwell
A worker in a North Bay bar has been confirmed to have Hepatitis A and health unit officials are asking anyone that may have been served there in the past month or so to see their doctor if they have symptoms.
On New Year¡¯s Eve Day, lab results confirmed an employee from the Fraser Tavern, a bar in North Bay . located at 680 Fraser St. . had Hepatitis A.
Public health officials would not say where in the bar the employee worked, only that he or she worked at the tavern while infectious on Nov. 26, 27 and Dec. 3, 4, 10 and 11.
North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit officials are asking those who had drinks or food or garnishes served to them on those dates to be aware.
¡°As a precautionary measure, we suggest bar patrons see their health care provider if they experience any of the symptoms (of Hepatitis A),¡± said Sheila Marchant-Short, manager of the communicable disease control for the health unit, in a press release.

Variation in Antimicrobial Resistance in Sporadic and Outbreak-related Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium
Source of Article: http://www.cdc.gov/eid/content/15/1/101.htm
Eva M©ªller Nielsen, Mia Torpdahl, Steen Ethelberg, and Anette M. Hammerum
Author affiliation: Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, Denmark

Abstract
The prevalence of different antimicrobial resistance profiles and variants of the Salmonella genomic island 1 (SGI1) was reported for Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium DT104 strains isolated from patients in Denmark. Variation in antimicrobial resistance and corresponding changes of SGI1 were shown among isolates from a foodborne outbreak.

Edible films prevent, kill bacteria in tests
By Don Schrack Source of Article: http://thepacker.com/icms
(Jan. 7, 1:35 p.m.) Researchers at a California facility of the U.S. Department of Agriculture may be on the verge of a food safety breakthrough for fresh produce. If the research is successful, some of the glory will have to go to herbs.
¡°We¡¯ve been working with natural antimicrobial-containing edible films made out of fruits and vegetables primarily,¡± said research leader Tara McHugh at the Agriculture Research Service¡¯s Western Regional Research Center in Albany, Calif. ¡°Then we add different essential oils and extracts of essential oils that can act as natural antimicrobial agents against E. coli, salmonella and other pathogens.¡±
The research team is more than two years into a three-year grant project that came about, in part, due to the 2006 E. coli foodborne illness outbreak traced to bagged California spinach.
Not to be confused with films used in fresh produce packaging, the film being developed by the researchers is more like a sheet of paper, McHugh said. The testing began, she said, by putting pathogens in petri dishes and covering the bacteria with the film. The next step was to place spinach inoculated with E. coli in the Petri dishes and to apply the film to see if it would kill the bacteria, she said.
¡°All of those results were promising, and now we¡¯re moving into the actual food product applications,¡± McHugh said. ¡°One of them will be the bagged lettuces.¡±
In some cases, the antimicrobial film prevented the growth of the bacteria, she said, and in other cases it prevented the growth and killed the pathogens that existed.

Commercial applications
How soon the antimicrobial film would be available to the industry . assuming the results are positive . may boil down to dollars and cents issues.
¡°Some of what we do will depend on funding and our partnerships with companies,¡± McHugh said. ¡°I would hope that that within the next year we¡¯d have some results of actual food applications. That¡¯s our goal.¡±
The California laboratory is the only ARS facility engaged in research aimed at developing the edible, antimicrobial film, she said.
¡°We work with many different companies and commodities groups, but on this particular project, we haven¡¯t got there yet,¡± McHugh said.
If sufficient funding is obtained, the film could be in commercial production sometime in 2010, she said.
¡°We¡¯ve transferred the basic film manufacturing technology into commercialization already,¡± McHugh said. ¡°It¡¯s just a matter of adding the anti-microbes to those films.¡±
The antimicrobial agents are readily available. Researchers have focused on compounds from a variety of herbs and spices such as oregano, lemon grass, cinnamon, clove and allspice, McHugh said. The bacteria-fighting film could be integrated into the manufacture of packaging film or bags, she said, or could even be used as flakes.
¡°Some edible film is already available commercially, but they don¡¯t contain natural antimicrobial agents,¡± McHugh said.
A carrot film is used as an alternative to seaweed wrap for some Asian food items, she said, and a similar film is used with some meats, such as hams.
Public acceptance and good taste are potential advantages to the edible film.
¡°It really could offer a good benefit to consumers from both a safety and a nutrition perspective,¡± McHugh said. ¡°For grower-shippers, the film would provide additional protection.¡±

US: Food safety reform waits on back burner
Source of Article: http://www.freshplaza.com/news_detail.asp.id=35831
Many on Capitol Hill have called for an FDA overhaul, although it's unlikely a sympathetic Obama administration can get to it soon.
Despite calls from the incoming Obama administration to bolster the embattled Food and Drug Administration, the agency is unlikely to see major reform soon as bigger problems with higher profiles once again shoulder aside food safety in the competition for resources.
Some of the leading champions of rebuilding the FDA and the food safety system acknowledge that the faltering economy, healthcare, global warming and other issues will make it tough to allocate more money for food safety, despite years of scandals involving food poisoning and tainted imports.
"This is an issue that will have to wait its turn," said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), a longtime proponent of tougher food laws and a friend of President-elect Barack Obama.
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 supply.
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% of the food Americans eat. (Most meat and dairy products are regulated by the Department 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 holes in the FDA's capacity to stay on top of a rapidly expanding food market.
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, decimated the market for products like leafy greens and tomatoes.
"The spinach industry has never recovered," said Tom Nassif, who heads the Western Growers Assn., 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, the FDA's associate commissioner for foods, said recently.
A year ago the FDA announced a plan for reforming itself, 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 as industry.
The agency opened an office in China this year and plans to open one each 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 Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who has pushed for a more sweeping overhaul of the agency. "The current structure is incapable of addressing food safety problems."
DeLauro thinks the FDA has given short shrift to its food inspection duties as it has focused on evaluating pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Those efforts consume the lion's share of the agency's budget.
She has pushed legislation to carve out an agency that would focus exclusively on food.
Durbin has called for an even bigger federal agency that would unify food oversight responsibilities that are currently scattered among the FDA, Agriculture Department and 13 other federal agencies.
Despite the evidence of problems and broad support for attacking them, few believe that is likely soon. "That is a heavy political lift," Durbin said.
If they can't rebuild the agency, critics say they will start by trying to rebuild its legal authority.
Durbin and a bipartisan group of senators have proposed authorizing the FDA to set binding national standards for the safe production of fruits and vegetables, something the agency says it cannot do now.
The lawmakers also want to empower the FDA to order recalls and to access industry records in the event of a recall.In the crush of legislation this year, the bill expanding those powers never came up for a vote. Next year Congress may be preoccupied with the economy and potentially with a healthcare overhaul.More money is also an uncertain prospect, though many in the food industry agree that inadequate FDA funding has hobbled the agency's ability to keep up with the rapidly expanding food marketplace.

Last year, fewer domestic food companies were inspected than in 2001, even though more firms were under FDA jurisdiction -- 65,000, up from 51,000 -- according to the GAO."They simply have to hire an inspection force that can enforce the rules," said Tony Corbo, senior food lobbyist for Food and Water Watch, a consumer rights group in Washington.One of the leading champions of more FDA funding is the Grocery Manufacturing Assn., which represents food and beverage companies.

This year the Bush administration requested an additional $275 million for the FDA's food safety program in the wake of the salmonella scandal. Last year the agency received $620 million for food protection, the GAO calculated.It is virtually certain that the agency will have to rely on private companies to do much of its food inspection, a prospect accepted even by lawmakers like Durbin, who has long championed tougher consumer protections.Durbin's bill would have allowed so-called third parties to inspect domestic and foreign food supplies to ensure they comply with U.S. standards.Obama has not indicated what he has planned for the FDA, although he is expected to name his choice to head the agency soon.Many are watching closely. "Consumer groups," said Chris Waldrop, who directs the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America, "have very high expectations that this administration will do things differently."

Main Page
Sponsorship Qustions

List of Newsletters

To subscribe this Food Safety Newsletter

Copyright (C). All rights reserved FoodHACCP.com.