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Peanut Butter Recalls Involve Over 180 Products Linked to One Plant
Source of Article:
January 23rd, 2009
The nationwide peanut butter recalls issued as a result of the recent salmonella outbreak now involves over 180 products which contained peanut ingredients processed at a single plant in Georgia.
Over 30 million pounds of peanut butter and peanut paste produced at a plant operated by Peanut Corporation of America in Blakely, Georgia have been recalled due to possible contamination with Salmonella typhimurium, which could produce food poisoning symptoms within 12 to 72 hours.
According to the latest numbers provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 486 cases of salmonella food poisoning have been reported throughout the United States. This includes at least 6 salmonella deaths and over 100 hospitalizations involving more severe forms of food poisoning.
The reported number of food poisoning cases is likely to skyrocket over the next few weeks, as it usually takes up to three weeks for the CDC to receive reports of illness. In addition, only 1% to 10% of all cases are usually ever reported, meaning that tens of thousands of people have likely been sickened by the contaminated peanut butter.
The Salmonella typhimurium strain of bacteria found in the reported cases of food poisoning was also found in an open five gallon container of peanut butter at a nursing home in Minnesota which was manufactured by Peanut Corporation of America.
Kellogg Co. has also confirmed that the FDA has identified the strain of salmonella in Austin Peanut Butter Crackers which were made from peanut paste produced at that plant.
On January 19, 2009, the Connecticut Department of health tested a previously unopened container of King Nut peanut butter which was produced by Peanut Corporation of America. That container also contained the same strain of bacteria, confirming that the source of the contamination is the processing plant where the container was sealed after production.
The peanut processing plant has been closed, but the potentially contaminated products produced have been distributed throughout the United States. Peanut butter sold in bulk containers between 5 pounds and 1,700 pounds were shipped to food service institutions, such as nursing homes, hospitals and schools, raising substantial health concerns, since young children, elderly and those with a compromised immune system are more susceptible to food poisoning.
Peanut paste manufactured at the plant was also sold to more than 70 different manufacturers who used the ingredient in hundreds of different types of peanut butter cookies, peanut butter crackers, cereal, candy and ice cream with peanut butter, making it difficult for consumers to identify which products have been recalled.
The FDA has established a searchable database at with the current list of peanut butter recalls. However, since new products seem to be added to the list daily, many consumers are avoiding anything with peanut butter in it.
Peanut Corporation of America, which is a family owned business with less than 50 employees, will likely face hundreds or even thousands of peanut butter food poisoning lawsuits which will ultimately be filed on behalf of individuals who are diagnosed with salmonella typhimurium food poisoning.

Investigation Update: Outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium by CDC

US says Georgia plant is sole salmonella source
Wed Jan 21, 2009 5:00pm EST
Source of Article: By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON, Jan 21 (Reuters) - The sole source of the U.S. salmonella outbreak involving contaminated peanut butter appears to be the Peanut Corp of America's Blakely, Georgia processing facility, federal officials said on Wednesday.
More than 125 products including cookies, crackers, ice cream and even some pet food have been recalled in connection with the outbreak, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said.
Six deaths may be associated with the outbreak, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The CDC said at least 486 people from 43 states and one person in Canada have been reported ill from the outbreak of the Salmonella typhimurium strain, with 107 of them being hospitalized.
Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said Connecticut health authorities tested an unopened container of peanut butter from the PCA's Blakely plant and discovered the strain linked to the outbreak of illness.
The fact that the unopened container had the strain indicates contamination did not occur after it was shipped from the facility, Sundlof said. Coupled with previous evidence, Sundlof said authorities believe the Blakely plant is the only source of the outbreak.
"That is our assumption at this point. We will continue to follow up on any leads that point us in a different direction," Sundlof told reporters during a conference call.
The plant is not currently operating, he said.
Sundlof said he expects the number of recalled products to continue to increase.
Among the latest was by NutriSystem Inc (NTRI.O), which announced on Wednesday a voluntary recall of its peanut butter granola bar. On Tuesday, PetSmart Inc (PETM.O), the largest U.S. pet-products and services retailer, recalled seven of its Grreat Choice Dog Biscuit products.
General Mills Inc (GIS.N), Kellogg Co (K.N) and other companies also have recalled products. Authorities say peanut butter sold on grocery store shelves does not appear to be involved. PCA has recalled peanut butter and peanut paste products manufactured since July at the Blakely plant because of potential Salmonella contamination. Peanut paste is a concentrated product consisting of ground, roasted peanuts. PCA manufactures peanut butter and peanut paste distributed to food manufacturers to be used as ingredients in commercially produced products. PCA peanut butter also is served in long-term care facilities and cafeterias. Salmonella can cause abdominal cramping, diarrhea and fever and it can kill the very young and very old. "More cases are being reported every day. The outbreak appears to be ongoing," Dr. Robert Tauxe of the CDC said. Minnesota authorities previously tested an opened container from the plant, and found the Typhimurium strain. Sundlof said a federal inspection of the Blakely plant turned up evidence of salmonella on the floor, but not the Typhimurium strain. "It does indicate that there are problems within the plant because salmonella should not be found there," he said. (Editing by Julie Steenhuysen and Cynthia Osterman)

High-Risk Series: An Update by GAO
source from:
GAO-09-271 January 22, 2009
Highlights Page (PDF) Full Report (PDF, 99 pages) Accessible Text

The federal government is the world's largest and most complex entity, with about $3 trillion in outlays in fiscal year 2008 funding a broad array of programs and operations. GAO's biennial reports on high-risk areas, done since 1990, are meant to bring focus to specific areas needing added attention. Areas are identified, in some cases, as high risk due to their greater vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement. GAO also identifies high-risk areas needing broad-based transformation to address major economy, efficiency, or effectiveness challenges. In this 2009 update for the 111th Congress, GAO presents the status of high-risk areas listed in 2007 and identifies new high-risk areas warranting attention by Congress and the executive branch. Solutions to high-risk problems offer the potential to save billions of dollars, dramatically improve service to the public, strengthen confidence and trust in the performance and accountability of the U.S. government, and ensure the ability of government to deliver on its promises.

In January 2007, GAO detailed 27 high-risk areas and, in March 2008, added a 28th--planning for the 2010 Census. In the last 2 years, progress has been made in most of the 27 areas, although the extent varies. Overall, federal departments and agencies, as well as Congress, have shown a continuing commitment to addressing high-risk challenges, including taking steps to help correct several of the problems' root causes. In particular, the Office of Management and Budget has led an initiative to work with agencies to develop corrective action plans for high-risk areas. GAO has determined that sufficient progress has been made to remove the high-risk designation from one area: the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) air traffic control modernization. Since 2007, FAA has continued to make progress in addressing the root causes of its past problems and has committed to sustaining this progress in the future. Continued attention from the executive branch and Congress is needed to make additional progress in other areas. This year, GAO is designating three new high-risk areas. The first new area is modernizing the outdated U.S. Financial Regulatory System. As a result of significant market developments that, in recent decades, have outpaced a fragmented and outdated regulatory structure, significant reforms to the U.S. regulatory system are critically and urgently needed. The current regulatory approach has significant weaknesses that if not addressed will continue to expose the U.S. financial system to serious risks. Determining how to create and implement a regulatory system that reflects new market realities is a key step to reducing the likelihood that our nation will experience another financial crisis similar to the current one. The second new area is protecting public health through enhanced oversight of medical products. Concerns have been expressed about FDA's ongoing ability to fulfill its mission of ensuring the safety and efficacy of drugs, biologics, and medical devices. GAO's work examining a variety of issues at FDA echoes the conclusions reached by others that the agency is facing significant challenges that compromise its ability to protect Americans from unsafe and ineffective products. FDA needs to, among other things, improve the data it uses to manage the foreign drug inspection program, conduct more inspections of foreign establishments, systematically prioritize and track promotional materials for review, and adopt management tools to ensure that drug sponsors comply with regulations on the presentation of clinical trial results. The third new area is transforming EPA's processes for assessing and controlling toxic chemicals. EPA does not have sufficient chemical assessment information to determine whether it should establish controls to limit public exposure to many chemicals that may pose substantial health risks. Actions are needed to streamline and increase the transparency of the Integrated Risk Information System and to enhance EPA's ability under the Toxic Substances Control Act to obtain health and safety information from the chemical industry.

Salmonella Common In U.S. Poultry
Source of Article:
By Steven Reinberg HealthDay Reporter Thursday, January 22, 2009; 12:00 AM
THURSDAY, Jan. 22 (HealthDay News) -- While peanut butter contaminated with salmonella has dominated the headlines recently, U.S. health officials cautioned Thursday that salmonella bacteria is also prevalent in live poultry.
The Jan. 23 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report details two different outbreaks of salmonella Montevideo in 2007 that were traced to live poultry.
The first outbreak was identified in September 2007 by the North Dakota Department of Health. Those stricken with the bacterial infection included three siblings, aged 1, 3 and 7. All three developed diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal cramps, and were hospitalized for eight to 10 days.
All told, an estimated 65 people -- 60 percent of them adults -- were sickened in North Dakota and 19 other states. Investigators linked the salmonella infections to the handling of live, older poultry bought for meat or egg production. The outbreak occurred in the fall and winter, and the trail eventually led to hatcheries in Iowa and four other states, the CDC said.
The second outbreak began in the spring of 2007, and 70 percent of the infections were among children -- average age 5 -- who handled baby chicks and ducklings bought as Easter pets. A total of 64 people in 23 states fell ill. The infection was traced to a New Mexico hatchery.
"Live poultry is a source of human salmonella infections," said Dr. Umid Sharapov, a CDC medical epidemiologist and co-author of the report. "Persons should wash their hands with soap and water after handling live poultry. Children younger than 5 should not be allowed to handle baby chicks."
The CDC estimates that there are 1.5 million cases of salmonella poisoning each year in the United States from a variety of causes, with undercooked meat and eggs being the prime culprits. Dr. Pascal James Imperato, dean and Distinguished Service Professor of the Graduate Program in Public Health at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York City, said there is insufficient regulation of the poultry industry, making salmonella widespread among chickens and other poultry.
"Human salmonella infections due to contact with poultry are not uncommon," Imperato said. "Poultry can be healthy carriers of salmonella and not exhibit any apparent illness."
The risks are especially high for young children who come into contact with baby chicks and ducklings purchased as pets by parents at Easter time, he said.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at New York University School of Medicine, said he thinks the way poultry is raised contributes to the high prevalence of salmonella in these birds.
"I am aghast at how we allow our poultry to be raised in squalor," he said. "The conditions they are in -- they are living in their own poop -- cause salmonella to thrive."
"This article points out the ease with which salmonella spreads from live poultry to humans," Siegel added. "This is a reminder that our poultry population is infested with salmonella."
Salmonella, as well as other health threats, can be transmitted by many other pets, including exotic ones.
The number of exotic animals in the United States has almost doubled since 2002, with 4.4 million homes now harboring reptiles, and 40,000 households home to hedgehogs, according to a report in the October 2008 issue of Pediatrics.
In 2003, a human monkey pox outbreak was traced back to imported African Gambian rats that had infected prairie dogs sold as pets. And small pet turtles were responsible for 103 cases of salmonella infection in the second half of last year, mostly among young children, the report found.

Peanut Butter Salmonella Deaths and Injuries Lead to Lawsuits
Source of Article:
January 21st, 2009
At least six salmonella deaths and hundreds of cases of food poisoning throughout the United States have been linked to contaminated peanut butter, and the first lawsuits are starting to be filed.
As of Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that at least 485 people in 43 states and Canada have reported suffering food poisoning caused by the Salmonella typhimurium strain of bacteria which was found in large containers of peanut butter and peanut paste used to make peanut butter crackers, cookies, ice cream and other foods.
The peanut butter salmonella contamination has been linked to a peanut processing plant in Georgia, which is operated by Peanut Corporation of America.
One of the peanut butter salmonella deaths that has been linked to the peanut butter involves Shirley Mae Almer, who died December 21, 2008 at a nursing home in Minnesota. Her family was notified earlier this month that she had salmonella in her blood and state health officials have confirmed that peanut butter served at the nursing home where she lived was contaminated by the same strain bacteria involved in the nationwide salmonella outbreak.
According to the Perham Enterprise Bulletin, Almer¡¯s family is making preparations to file a peanut butter food poisoning lawsuit against the manufacturer. She was in a weakened state when she was given the peanut butter, as a result of a urinary tract infection and pre-existing cancer, which made her more susceptible to the infection.
Salmonella food poisoning can result in symptoms within 12 to 72 hours after consuming contaminated food, typically involving diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and fever.
While most healthy adults tend to recover within a few weeks, elderly, young children and those with weakened immune systems can be more susceptible to severe cases of food poisoning, which can be fatal if the infection enters the bloodstream.
At least one other food poisoning lawsuit has been filed by a Vermont family on behalf of their 7 year old son who became sick after eating Keebler Cheese & Peanut Butter Crackers which were recalled by Kellogg Co. earlier this week after it was discovered that peanut paste used during manufacturing was received from Peanut Corporation of America.
According to the Boston Globe, the child developed symptoms of salmonella food poisoning on November 25, one day after eating the peanut butter crackers. He was hospitalized for six days and stool samples confirmed the salmonella diagnosis.
In the coming months, potentially hundreds or even thousands of peanut butter salmonella lawsuits could be filed. While the number of reported Salmonella typhimurium food poisoning is only about 500, it is generally accepted that only about 1% to 10% of all adverse events are ever reported to health officials.

Canada: Listeriosis suits settled for $25-27 million
Source of Article:
By Tiffany Crawford, Canwest News ServiceDecember 25, 2008
Class-action lawsuits against Maple Leaf Foods, related to a listeriosis outbreak have been settled out of court for a cost estimated at between $25 million and $27 million.
The top executive at Maple Leaf Foods on Thursday called the settlement "fair and reasonable."
"This was a tragic experience and I want to acknowledge the co-operation of all the parties involved to ensure that people affected receive timely restitution," said Michael McCain, president of Maple Leaf Foods.
"Our goal throughout this legal process has been to negotiate a fair and early settlement so that we can obtain court approvals and promptly compensate families who were affected," said McCain, who previously apologized to the public and said the company would take full responsibility.
One of the deaths that occurred in connection with the tainted meat happened at Cowichan District Hospital.
In the wake of the tainted-meat affair, the suits were launched in August in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. However, subject to court approval, all cases will be handled in just three provinces -- Saskatchewan, Quebec and Ontario, said Ted Charney, of Falconer Charney LLP, another of the lawyers involved in the suit.
There are currently about 5,000 plaintiffs, but lawyers said that number could grow if others who fit into the class definition come forward. The amount of compensation each would receive varies.
The class definition covers Canadians who suffered physical injuries such as illness or the death of a family member, but also includes those who experienced emotional distress.
The amount of money that each class member would receive depends on the severity of their illness.
"For example in the case of someone who died, for the estate itself there will be $120,000, plus $30,000 for the spouse of the deceased and $30,000 for the children of the deceased and $20,000 for the parents," Colin Stevenson of Stevensons LLP explained.
At the other end of the scale would be someone who consumed the meat and became ill for a day or two, he said. A full grid outlining the particulars of the settlement will be posted online at
Lawyers expect to get court approval by February, which means the plaintiffs could see a cheque by sometime next summer, said Stevenson.
The national class action suit originally claimed $100 million for all consumers who purchased or consumed products on the Maple Leaf Foods recall list.
The Maple Leaf Foods' Toronto meat-processing plant was shut for a month when it was determined that its deli meats had been contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

Study Examines Why Restaurant Workers Don't Wash Hands and Follow Other Food Safety Practices
Source of Article:
Why do restaurant workers -- who handle an estimated 70 billion meals and snacks in the U.S. every year -- sometimes not follow common food safety practices such as washing their hands properly or keeping work surfaces sanitary?
According to a recent Kansas State University study, restaurant workers blame time constraints, inconvenience, inadequate training and inadequate resources for failure to follow food safety practices.
K-State researchers conducted focus groups with restaurant employees to identify perceived barriers to handwashing, cleaning work surfaces and using food thermometers. Foodborne illnesses are most commonly caused by poor personal hygiene, cross contamination and improper time/temperature controls.
Barriers, they found, were not only a lack of food safety knowledge but also often a lack of understanding why employees should comply with food safety guidelines. Previous research indicated that training increases knowledge regarding food safety issues, but that knowledge does not always translate into improved behaviors.
"We have used the results of this study to develop and implement an intervention program to address the barriers that training appears," said Amber D. Howells, an instructor of dietetics, registered dietitian and the study's first author.
The restaurant industry employs 13.1 million people, and 59 percent of reported foodborne illness outbreaks were associated with restaurants in 2005. Howells said outbreaks usually are directly related to food-handler error.
Because of the study, K-State researchers recommend that restaurant managers:
* Provide regular food safety training to their foodservice employees;
* Educate employees about the consequences of improper food handling to improve attitudes toward food safety;
* Place signs about consequences of improper food handling in food production areas;
* Encourage food safety compliance with verbal reminders and praise;
* Be good role models;
* Incorporate food safety practices into employees' daily routines to eliminate the perceptions that they do not have time to perform them.
Other researchers with the K-State's department of hospitality management and dietetics involved with the study included Betsy B. Barrett, associate professor and a registered dietitian; Kevin R. Roberts, assistant professor; and Carol W. Shanklin, professor, interim dean of the Graduate School and a registered dietitian. Also involved were Valerie K. York, an evaluator in K-State's office of educational innovation and evaluation, and Laura A. Brannon, associate professor of psychology.
For the study, two series of focus groups were conducted. Focus groups were to identify obvious barriers to following safe food preparation practices. The 34 participants in Group A, all restaurant employees involved in food preparation, received no special food safety training. The 125 participants in the second series of focus groups, Group B, were divided into 20 focus groups and received four hours of formal training from certified ServSafe instructors.
The research found that employees did not comply with food safety guidelines because of a variety of perceived barriers.
In Group A, additional barriers identified lack of space and other tasks competing with cleaning work surfaces; inconvenient location of sinks and having dry skin limiting hand-washing; and lack of working thermometers and thermometers in inconvenient locations.
Group B agreed with Group A, but added other barriers: lack of incentive to clean work surfaces and manager not monitoring the work and manager not monitoring the use of thermometers.
Research results were published in the August 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. The study was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to Shanklin. The $482,763 grant also is funding other food safety research.

Something fishy? Counterfeit foods enter the U.S. market

Source of Article:
By Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
Some of your favorite foods may be fakes.
Foods masquerading as something else a more nutritious something else ? have been big news in the past two years. Chinese food companies in particular have been blamed for making deadly alterations to dairy, baby and pet foods by adding melamine. The chemical makes it appear that the food or beverage has the required level of protein.
But what about food producers in this country? What fraudulent foods do U.S. consumers have to fear from American companies?
Experts say dangerous U.S.-produced foods are comparatively few, but producers have been known to practice "economic adulteration" ? adding a little to their bottom line by padding, thinning or substituting something cheap for something expensive.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration regulate the food industry, but with safety issues to deal with, economic adulteration has "really been back-burnered," says Bruce Silverglade of the non-profit Center for Science in the Public Interest. So in a caveat emptor world, what should consumers look out for?

Fish is the most frequently faked food Americans buy. In the business, it's called "species adulteration" ? selling a cheaper fish such as pen-raised Atlantic salmon as wild Alaska salmon.
When Consumer Reports tested 23 supposedly wild-caught salmon fillets bought nationwide in 2005-2006, only 10 were wild salmon. The rest were farmed. In 2004, University of North Carolina scientists found 77% of fish labeled red snapper was actually something else. Last year, the Chicago Sun-Times tested fish at 17 sushi restaurants and found that fish being sold as red snapper actually was mostly tilapia.
"It's really just fraud, plain and simple," says Gavin Gibbons of the National Fisheries Institute, an industry group.
One thing consumers don't need to worry about is scallops. Tales of skate wings cut into circles and sold as scallops are common. But Randolph says the FDA has never found an actual case of it.
Salmon is tricky. Randolph does have one tip, though. Farmed salmon gets its coloring from dyes added to food pellets the fish are fed, while wild salmon gets it from the plankton they eat.
"When you cook it, the wild salmon retains its color, and in the aquaculture salmon, the color tends to leak out," she says. Suspicious consumers can call the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Nutrition hotline at 1-888-SAFEFOOD.

Olive oil
This luxury oil, touted for its heart-health properties and taste, has become a gourmet must-have. Americans consumed about 575 million pounds of the silky stuff last year, according to the North American Olive Oil Association. Sixty-three percent was the higher-grade extra virgin, which comes from the first pressing of the olives.
It's also one of the most frequently counterfeited food products, says Martin Stutsman, the FDA's consumer safety officer for edible oils.
There are no national figures on olive-oil fakery. But after complaints, Connecticut began testing two years ago. "We were coming across a lot of products labeled as extra-virgin olive oil that contained up to 90% soybean oil," says Jerry Farrell Jr., Connecticut's commissioner of consumer protection.
Most name brands were fine, Farrell says. It was often off-brands sold in discount stores that were the problem.
Connecticut was so concerned that in November, it became the first state in the nation to set standards for olive oil, enabling officials there to levy fines and pull adulterated products off store shelves. California is set to create its own standards this year. Reports from panels of testers have found as much as 60% to 70% of the olive oil sold as extra virgin in the state is a lower-quality olive oil, says Dan Flynn of the Olive Center at the University of California-Davis.
The easiest thing is for fakers to add 10% vegetable oil in extra virgin, says Stutsman. "It will still smell as it should, but you've saved 10% of the cost."
Bob Bauer, president of the North American Olive Oil Association, says it's more of a problem in restaurants than in supermarkets.

An expensive natural product that's mostly sugar, honey is easily faked. "If you can substitute a less expensive source of sugar for the expensive one, you can save some money and gain market share," says the FDA's Stutsman.
It used to be that cane sugar or high-fructose corn syrup was mostly used to thin out honey. But chemically, that was easy to spot. FDA used an isotope test that would easily identify the adulteration.
So counterfeiters got wily and started using beet sugar. Its profile is similar to honey, so the FDA had to switch to a much more complicated, multistep test comparing the sugar profiles to see if the proportions and trace materials match.
"But once we started catching people, they create a moving target. They'll switch to something more difficult (to detect)," says Stutsman.

Maple syrup
Maple syrup is another high-value item that can be adulterated. In these tough economic times, Vermont, the USA's largest supplier to flapjacks everywhere, may up its testing programs.
The boiled-down sap of the sugar maple tree can be diluted with water or sugar by sellers "trying to get more bang for the buck," says Kristin Haas, food safety director in the state's Agency for Agriculture, Food and Markets.
Vermont's testing program has found fraud only three times in the past 17 years, says Haas, but it's not taken lightly. "A couple of years back, there was a gentleman who actually went to prison because of this issue."
When times get tight, the incentive to cheat can rise like sap in the spring, so the state may have to work harder to keep its premier product pure.

A product of the tropics, vanilla pods can be soaked in milk or stored in sugar to impart a delicate vanilla scent to foods. More commonly, they're soaked in alcohol that is then used as a flavoring.
But vanillin (pronounced VAN-ah-lynn), a chemical copy of the richly organic vanilla flavor, was created in the laboratory in the 19th century. When used in foods, it's supposed to be labeled as an artificial flavor and usually is.
One "too good to be true" product to watch out for is really inexpensive vanilla extract sometimes sold in Mexico and Latin America, says the FDA. It's often made with coumarin, a toxic substance that has been banned in U.S. foods since 1954.
Coumarin is chemically related to warfarin, a blood thinner, and can be dangerous. It's "no bargain," the FDA says.

People are talking food safety -join the discussion

Source of Article:
1/22/2009-The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) held a media teleconference on Jan. 21 to update consumers on the Salmonella typhimurium outbreak in peanut butter products. Stephen Sundlof, Director, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, FDA, and Robert Tauxe, Deputy Director, Division of Foodborne Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases, CDC, assured the press and public that they are continuing their investigation on the outbreak, in addition to working with food manufacturers to ensure the affected food products are efficiently recalled. At the current time, there have been more than 125 recalled products, and the FDA expects this number to continue to increase as it continues to get new product specific information. So far there are 486 persons from 43 states and Canada that have been infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella typhimurium; of these, 107 or 22% were hospitalized because of the illness and six deaths have been reported that may be associated with the outbreak.
The outbreak has raised many questions about food safety, manufacturer practices, and traceability. What can be done to shore up food safety? What should the media¡¯s role be when outbreaks occur? How can food manufacturers enhance traceability? All of these questions are currently being discussed on Food Technology¡¯s new ePerspective?a place to offer your insights on food science hot topics. Check out others¡¯ opinions on the outbreak and share your own.

In addition, if you are interested in learning more about the issues of traceability, register to attend IFT¡¯s ¡°The Challenges of Traceability¡± webcast, taking place Jan. 28, from noon till 1:30 p.m. CST. In addition to learning from the experts, you will hear what your peers think and are doing about traceability, and gain a deeper understanding of the key outbreaks and issues that have placed this topic in the regulatory spotlight.
You will also learn how IFT is involved in the issue of traceability with the FDA, and how you and your organization can become involved.

[E. coli O111] Outbreak's origin a mystery
The source of a rare pathogen that killed one man and sickened dozens eludes investigators.
Source of Article:
By KIM ARCHER World Staff Writer
Published: 1/22/2009 2:33 AM
Last Modified: 1/22/2009 10:14 AM
The mystery of how the largest E. coli O111 outbreak in U.S. history came about will never be known, lead investigator Dr. Kristy Bradley said.
"Unfortunately, it's not uncommon to be unable to pinpoint exactly a bacteria's entry to a restaurant," said Bradley, the state epidemiologist for the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
The final report on the five-month investigation into the northeastern Oklahoma outbreak will be released in mid-February. The findings were first reported on
In late August, more than 300 people fell ill after eating at the Country Cottage restaurant in Locust Grove. About 70 people were hospitalized, and a Pryor man, Chad Ingle, died after contracting the bacteria.
"We feel we did a very complete epidemiological investigation," Bradley said. "We looked at numerous specimens from employees who had fallen ill, to water, to the food and environmental surfaces."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was called in early in the investigation to help determine what bacterium was sickening so many people.
It was the CDC that finally narrowed the source to the rare and virulent form of E. coli that Bradley called "a very bad actor."
Ten children and a few adults required dialysis because their kidneys shut down. Some were in the hospital for weeks.
E. coli O111 is a shiga toxin-producing form of E. coli, a type of enterohemorrhagic bacteria that can cause illness ranging from mild intestinal disease to severe kidney complications, Bradley said.
Although the investigation will never reveal the origin of the bacteria, Bradley said officials are certain that people were exposed at the restaurant in Locust Grove.
"We knew Country Cottage was where the people were exposed," she said. "But we can't say specifically how it spread."
Investigators might have been able to determine its origin had investigators actually found the organism among the many environmental specimens tested, Bradley said.
But searches for an actual organism after exposure and outbreaks are rarely successful, she said.
Bradley said the bacteria could have come in on somebody's boots and have been spread by restaurant patrons and food handlers alike.
Cindi Moore, a member of the family that owns the restaurant, said the outbreak and its fallout have been "emotional for everyone involved."
The restaurant's owners, Dale and Linda Moore, expressed deep sadness about the outbreak in numerous written statements.
The restaurant closed Aug. 25 after it was determined to be the source of the outbreak. It reopened in late November.
Under an agreement with the state Health Department, the restaurant had to meet 11 requirements, including disconnecting a private well on the premises, thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting every surface in the restaurant, and implementing a new hand-washing monitoring system. Each employee also was required to complete a food safety class.
When the restaurant opened again, Bradley said, the problem had been remedied.
"There is no more risk of acquiring E. coli at that restaurant than at any other restaurant," she said.

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