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Obama Orders Review of FDA in Salmonella Outbreak
Source of Article:
Saying his daughter should be able to eat peanut butter without getting sick, president acts as salmonella outbreak, peanut recalls, criminal probe continue
Posted February 2, 2009
By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter
MONDAY, Feb. 2 (HealthDay News) -- President Barack Obama has ordered a comprehensive review of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as the investigation and peanut product recalls continue in the salmonella outbreak.
"I think that the FDA has not been able to catch some of these things as quickly as I expect them to catch," Obama said in an interview on NBC's "Today" show, according to the Associated Press. "And so, we're gonna be doing a complete review of FDA operations."
Obama said Americans should be able to count on the government to keep children safe when they eat peanut butter, and that includes his 7-year-old daughter, Sasha, the AP reported.
"That's what Sasha eats for lunch probably three times a week," Obama said. "And you know, I don't wanna have to worry about whether she's gonna get sick as a consequence to having her lunch."
Meanwhile, the recalls of peanut product continued to mount. As of Monday, more than 80 companies had issued recalls for everything from cookies, crackers, cereal and candy to ice cream, trail mix and dog treats.
On Friday, U.S. officials launched a criminal investigation into the Georgia processing plant owned by Peanut Corp. of America, which produced the peanut products known to be the source of the salmonella sickening of 529 people, and the possible deaths of eight others.
Dr. Stephen Sundlof, head of the FDA's food safety center, said the Justice Department will head up the investigation, with assistance from the FDA.
While the rate of new illnesses seems to be declining -- an indication that the outbreak may be winding down -- officials said reports of new cases could be expected to continue for weeks.
The current salmonella outbreak isn't the first time Peanut Corp. has been involved in shipping tainted product, Sundlof said Friday.
Last April, months before the first signs of the salmonella outbreak appeared in the United States, peanuts exported to Canada were found to be tainted. The shipment was refused by a Canadian distributor because "the peanuts had metal fragments in them," Sundlof said.
The products were then returned to the United States and destroyed in November after the FDA rejected as "unacceptable" findings by a private lab hired by Peanut Corp. to analyze the product, Sundlof said.
The criminal investigation also follows disclosure by FDA officials last week that, from 2007 into 2008, the company shipped peanut butter that it knew had been contaminated with salmonella.
Inspection reports from FDA investigators at the plant two weeks ago cited a litany of safety and sanitation problems and a trail of products that were sent out after being retested to clear the salmonella contaminants.
The current outbreak prompted U.S. health officials to announce a startling nationwide recall late Wednesday for all peanut products made over the last two years at the Georgia plant.
The recall involves all whole peanuts, granulated peanuts, peanut meal, peanut butter, and peanut paste.
At this point, the only safe peanut butter is apparently in name-brand jars on store shelves.
And in Canada, CanWest reports, 30 more peanut products were recalled over the weekend, including mostly ice cream cones and peanut, caramel and protein bars manufactured by firms in Mississauga, Ont., and one U. S. company.
Although no illnesses have been reported, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said the products were sold nationally.

Half U.S. salmonella victims children, CDC says
Source of Article:
Tue Jan 27, 2009 3:29pm EST
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Children are half of the 500 people made sick in an outbreak of salmonella linked to peanut butter across the United States, federal health officials said on Tuesday.
A spokesman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said more than 280 of those diagnosed with Salmonella Typhimurium are under age 18. State health officials say some are infants.
However, none of the eight deaths possibly linked to the outbreak are children, said CDC spokesman David Daigle, who said such outbreaks usually affect old people more than the young.
"It is higher than usual, but all depends on the vehicle of the outbreak," Daigle said by email.
The outbreak has been traced to peanut butter and other products from a single plant in Georgia, now closed, operated by the Peanut Corporation of America.
"Note, there are many peanut-free schools these days because of peanut allergy issues," Daigle said.
The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration say the plant's products were not sold at retail, but in industrial-sized cans of peanut butter used by schools and other institutions, and in peanut paste used industrially to make snacks, pet treats and other foods.
On Monday the CDC said the outbreak appears to be waning. It has forced the recall of more than 180 products, from crackers and cookies to treats made by coffee giant Starbucks, General Mills Inc, Kellogg Co and others.
The outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium appears to have begun in September, the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration say. Salmonella causes diarrhea, vomiting and fever. While it usually clears up without treatment, it can kill the old, very young and patients with other serious illnesses.
The CDC and FDA have been under pressure from politicians and consumer groups to do more to protect the food supply. The CDC estimates that 40,000 Americans a year get salmonella.
Caroline Smith DeWall, a director of food safety at the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, said this latest outbreak "should create the incentive for Congress to act quickly to address the nation's food safety problems."
"There is a broad, bipartisan consensus ... that has earned the support of consumer and industry groups," agreed Scott Faber of the Grocery Manufacturers Association. (Additional reporting by Christopher Doering in Washington, editing by Alan Elsner)

The USDA does have its hands in the peanut jar
Source of Article:
In yet another indicator of the confusion of who is in charge over what food - FDA or USDA - Local, State or Federal Regulators, "tip o' the pen to" Bob Keefe for his story today - Troubled peanut firm¡¯s chief also an industry quality adviser - in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. According to Mr. Keefe:
The president of the peanut company linked to a nationwide salmonella outbreak serves on an industry advisory board that helps the U.S. Department of Agriculture set quality standards for peanuts. Stewart Parnell, president of Peanut Corp. of America, based in Lynchburg, Va., was first appointed to the USDA¡¯s Peanut Standards Board in July 2005 and was reappointed in October for a second term that runs until June 2011....
In a Press Release from 2002, the USDA announced that it was moving ¡°to implement a new peanut quality program as outlined in the new Farm Bill.¡± This included that ¡°all peanuts marketed in the United States must be officially inspected and graded by federal inspectors or federally licensed state inspectors. Imported peanuts will be subject to the same quality and handling standards as domestically produced peanuts. The new Farm Bill ¡¦ requires [the] USDA to appoint a new Peanut Standards Board comprised of members of the peanut industry. [The] USDA will consult with the board before establishing or changing quality and handling standards for domestically produced and imported peanuts."
I wonder what input Mr. Parnell had on ¡°quality and handling standards?¡±

What¡¯s the Connection with Georgia Peanuts and Salmonella Tennessee?
Source of Article:
We all remember that on June 1, 2007, the CDC reported that a total of 628 persons had been infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella serotype Tennessee in 47 states since August 1, 2006. Rumor has it that that number was actually in excess of 700 - perhaps 714? Those illnesses were eventually linked to ConAgra¡¯s Sylvester Georgia Peter Pan and Great Value Peanut Butter Plant. Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Serotype Tennessee Infections Associated with Peanut Butter --- United States, 2006?2007.
Now, As of January 29, 2009, the CDC reported that a total of 529 persons had been infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium in 43 states since September 1, 2008. The illnesses have been linked to Peanut Corporation of America¡¯s (PCA) Blakely Georgia Peanut Butter Plant ? 70 miles from Sylvester. Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Infections Associated with Peanut Butter and Peanut Butter--Containing Products --- United States, 2008?2009.
A close reading on the recent CDC¡¯s recent report notes an interesting connection between the 2007 outbreak and the recent one - "A possible association between the two outbreaks warrants further investigation¡¦. The relationship of the S. Tennessee finding to the current outbreak is being investigated further." The reason for the connection is that on January 22, Minnesota Department of Health found that a previously unopened container of King Nut peanut butter collected from the North Dakota distributor yielded Salmonella serotype Tennessee with a PFGE pattern that was indistinguishable from an outbreak strain in the multistate outbreak in 2006--2007 caused by contaminated peanut butter. ("tip o' the pen to" Newday's Delthia Ricks for asking the question at one of the FDA/CDC Press Conferences).
Interesting connection? Did PCA or one of its suppliers provide peanuts or peanut products to ConAgra in 2006? Perhaps environmental? Perhaps somehow linked to raw peanuts grown in Georgia? Perhaps linked to animal populations that enjoy the Southwest Georgia location?

Peanut firm¡¯s chief an adviser
Source of Article:
By Bob Keefe The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Sunday, February 01, 2009
The president of the peanut company linked to a nationwide salmonella outbreak serves on an industry advisory board that helps the U.S. Department of Agriculture set quality standards for peanuts.
Stewart Parnell, president of Peanut Corp. of America, based in Lynchburg, Va., was first appointed to the USDA¡¯s Peanut Standards Board in July 2005 and was reappointed in October for a second term that runs until June 2011, according to the USDA.
The all-volunteer board isn¡¯t directly involved with food-safety issues. Its main duties are to advise the USDA on how to grade and classify peanuts after they come out of the field ?- setting the sizes for jumbo vs. medium peanuts, for instance, or standards on how much moisture they should contain before they¡¯re allowed on store shelves.
The board also is charged with helping set ¡°quality and handling standards¡± for domestic and imported peanuts.
Created by the 2002 Farm Bill that provides federal subsidies to farmers, the board advises the secretary of the USDA on ¡°standards intended to assure that satisfactory quality and wholesome peanuts are used in the domestic and import peanut markets,¡± according to the USDA.
A USDA spokesman said no one was available Friday to provide more details on the board or its members.
Ben Smith, a member of the Peanut Standards Board who also is manager of peanut operations for snack foods maker Lance Inc. in Columbus, said the board probably wouldn¡¯t get involved in food-safety issues such as salmonella found in peanut processing.
¡°We deal primarily with the agricultural aspect of peanuts,¡± he said.
Peanut Corp. of America issued a statement Friday expressing empathy with those sickened and said it is cooperating with investigations.

Fresh produce industry¡¯s credibility on the rise
Source of Article:
By Abraham Mahshie
(Feb. 2, 11:45 a.m.) Consumer confidence was dealt a heavy blow by this past summer¡¯s Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak, and many in the industry are promoting beefed up food safety programs to quickly recover lost ground.
¡°It¡¯s hard to say,¡± said Bill Pool, manager of produce agricultural practices and regulations at Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester, N.Y. ¡°Tomato sales have seemed to come back, spinach sales have kind of come back from before the (fall 2006) spinach outbreak. That was a long, long recovery.¡±Pool said the food scare was on consumers¡¯ minds for some time, but they eventually tuned out the media overload.
¡°Slowly but surely, customer confidence is returning,¡± he said.
¡°I think the market pretty much has come back. It¡¯s not quite where it was,¡± said Randy Bailey, president of Bailey Farms, Oxford, N.C., a grower of hot peppers who agreed that time more than anything else is what helped bring back consumers.
Nonetheless, Bailey is promoting new food safety measures and certifications on his farm, and said he believes they will give him an edge over the competition.
He updates his Web site with every audit, and he has painted his third-party auditor¡¯s Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) seal on the side of his trucks.
¡°On trucks the new banner is really hot ? it¡¯s a picture of green lush fields and the certification logo on it, it¡¯s pretty eye catching.¡± he said.
Acknowledging that the aftermath of the foodborne illness scare cost millions of dollars to the industry, Bailey said some Mexican growers were afraid to plant jalapenos for export again.
¡°They weren¡¯t sure if they would be able to sell now,¡± he said. ¡°The domestic customers will do without it for a while whereas if it¡¯s a staple in you diet, it will have less of an impact for the Hispanic customer.¡±
Steve Crider, chief executive officer of Reliable Organics, Austin, Texas, said he promotes food safety as part of his marketing package, using the appeal of locally grown produce.
¡°We¡¯re 10 miles outside of downtown as opposed to other parts of the world,¡± he said. ¡°It¡¯s not a greenhouse versus field grown standards, it¡¯s more that we¡¯re local and they¡¯re not.¡±
Jim Gorny, executive director of the Postharvest Technology Research & Information Center, Davis, Calif., said he believes consumer confidence is returning for items like peppers and bagged salads, but the key will be preventing another outbreak, especially among susceptible items, including tomatoes, melons, lettuce and spinach.
¡°That repeated consumer alarm just drives people away,¡± he said. ¡°It¡¯s really critical that the industry take food safety seriously and have really intensive food safety management for those type of products.¡±
Bob Whitaker, chief science officer at the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del., said PMA¡¯s research indicates consumers are concerned and their confidence has decreased, especially for imported foods, but he said communication can boost confidence dramatically.
¡°There is a real role for communication,¡± he said. ¡°The California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement went to talk to people and basically, they had around 49% confidence of leafy greens, and after having discussed the metric system, auditors and government inspections, the confidence level rose to around 89%.¡±
Still, Whitaker said communication is lacking, despite the efforts of some commodity groups and regional groups who are formulating messages around food safety.
¡°We¡¯re going to have to be more proactive in informing consumers of what we¡¯re doing,¡± he said.
Whitaker said a comprehensive set of food safety standards, such as a benchmark set by the Food and Drug Administration, would unify the message cross the entire industry.
Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange Inc., Maitland, said his industry has been among the most active commodity groups calling on the state government to outline a set of safety standards that can reduce the duplication of audits.
¡°We have been continuing to work with our trade partners on a standardized audit for the tomato industry for farm, packinghouse, repackers ? on up the line,¡± he said.
Bonnie Fernandez, director of the Center for Produce Safety, Davis, Calif., which was formed after the 2006 E. coli/spinach outbreak, plans to fund research projects that focus on ensuring the safety needed for strong consumer confidence.
¡°We certainly are going to be including questions around tomatoes and pathogens associated around tomatoes in our next request for proposals that will be coming out in the next few months,¡± she said.
Robert Buchanan, director of the Center for Food Systems Safety & Security, College Park, Md., agreed that more research can still be done.
¡°We haven¡¯t run out of tricks in terms of research. I think the answer is out there, but it¡¯s going to be a system, not an individual step,¡± he said. ¡°There have been a number of new technologies that have been looked at.¡±

Spinach and Peanuts, With a Dash of Radiation
Source of Article:
By ANDREW MARTIN Published: February 1, 2009
Before the recent revelation that peanut butter could kill people, even before the spinach scare of three summers ago, the nation¡¯s food industry made a proposal. It asked the government for permission to destroy germs in many processed foods by zapping them with radiation.
That was about nine years ago, in the twilight of the Clinton administration. The government has taken limited action since.
After spinach tainted with a strain of E. coli killed three people and sickened more than 200 others in 2006, the Food and Drug Administration gave permission for irradiation of spinach and iceberg lettuce. It has yet to begin. Meat irradiation is permitted but rarely used. Among common items on the grocery shelf, only spices and some imported products, like mangoes from India, are routinely treated with radiation.
The technology to irradiate food has been around for the better part of a century. The federal government says that it is safe, and many experts believe that it could reduce or even eliminate the food scares that periodically sweep through American society.
It might even have killed the salmonella that reached grocery shelves in recent weeks after a factory in Georgia shipped tainted peanut butter and peanut paste, which wound up in products as diverse as cookies and dog treats.
But irradiation has not been widely embraced in this country.
Food manufacturers worry that the apparent benefits do not justify the cost or the potential consumer backlash. Some consumer groups complain that widespread irradiation of food after processing would simply cover up the food industry¡¯s hygiene problems. And some advocacy groups question the long-term safety of irradiation.
Amid all these doubts, one thing is certain ? food poisoning continues. The cases that rise to public attention are only the tip of the iceberg. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are 76 million cases of food-borne illness each year in the United States. The vast majority are mild, but the agency estimates there are 5,000 deaths from food-borne disease and 325,000 hospitalizations each year.
All of this drives advocates of irradiation crazy.
¡°Our society is running around with our head in the sand because we have ways to prevent illness and death that aren¡¯t being used,¡± said Christine Bruhn, director of the Center for Consumer Research at the University of California, Davis. ¡°The rules are so tight on irradiation that you can¡¯t pull it out and use it when a new problem arises, and that¡¯s to the detriment of the American public.¡±
Suresh Pillai, director of the National Center for Electron Beam Research at Texas A&M University, likened fears of irradiation to early phobias about the pasteurization of milk.
¡°It¡¯s unnecessary for people to be getting sick today with pathogens in spinach or pathogens in peanut butter,¡± said Professor Pillai, who described the potential for irradiation of food as ¡°humongous.¡± ¡°We have the technologies to prevent this kind of illness.¡±
Food is irradiated by brief exposure to X-rays, gamma rays or an electron beam. The process is intended to reduce or eliminate harmful bacteria, insects and parasites, and it also can also extend the life of some products.
Advocates say it is particularly effective at killing pathogens in items like ground beef and lettuce, where they might be mixed into the middle of the product or hiding in a crevice that is hard to clean by traditional means.
The United States is dotted with irradiation centers, but they are generally used to sterilize medical supplies like bandages and implants, not food.
Food and Water Watch, an advocacy group, has long maintained that irradiation would be too expensive, impractical and sometimes ineffective because it might hide filthy conditions at food processing plants. Patty Lovera, the group¡¯s assistant director, said irradiation not only kills bacteria but can also destroy nutrients in food.
¡°There¡¯s a whole impact on the food product, which we think is an unacceptable cost,¡± Ms. Lovera said.
She pointed out that irradiated beef was offered at many grocery stores nationwide at the beginning of the decade but it did not last long. Customers were turned off by the higher price and by the extended shelf life of irradiated beef.
¡°People that did the shopping, they would look at the date and be freaked out at how long it would be good for,¡± she said.
Food industry officials, meanwhile, remain wary of irradiation because of the upfront costs and the potential public reaction to any technique with the word ¡°radiation¡± in it. (Irradiation leaves no traces of radioactive material in food.)
One potential test of public acceptance could come with the marketing of irradiated spinach and lettuce. After the E. coli outbreak in 2006, the spinach industry lost 30 percent of its business. The F.D.A. approved irradiation for spinach and iceberg lettuce in August.
¡°There¡¯s no shortage of people who are looking at it,¡± said Hank Giclas, vice president for strategic planning, science and technology for the Western Growers Association. ¡°I don¡¯t know of anyone who is moving forward with it at this time.¡±
Officials at two irradiation companies said business for food was growing slightly.
¡°It¡¯s changed a little bit, but not a whole lot,¡± said Harlan Clemmons, president and chief operating officer of Sadex, which operates an irradiation plant in Iowa. He said he does twice as much business irradiating pet treats and livestock feed as human food.
¡°It¡¯s very amazing,¡± he said. ¡°There are so many products that could be made safe by using irradiation.¡±|It remains an open question if peanut butter or products with peanut paste would be likely candidates for the technique.
Irradiation typically does not work so well on products with high amounts of fat or oil like peanut butter because they can turn rancid during the process. A spokesman for the American Peanut Council said irradiation was tested but found unacceptable because it degraded the taste of the nut.
Nonetheless, Professor Pillai said a low dose of radiation might be effective in killing traces of salmonella in peanut butter ? or manufactured products with peanut paste ? without ruining the taste. He said it would not work as a substitute for basic hygiene and food safety measures.
¡°You customize the amount of dose with the product that you are using,¡± he said.
Similarly, a spokesman for the Grocery Manufacturers Association said food companies should make sure plants are clean and follow good manufacturing and food safety practices. If problems remain afterwards, then irradiation could be an option, provided it is permitted by the federal government.
The association, then called Grocery Manufacturers of America, was among the sponsors of the application that was filed with the F.D.A. nine years ago, which sought approval to irradiate ready-to-eat meat and poultry products and fruit and vegetable products.
Now that spinach and iceberg lettuce have been approved, it is focusing on persuading the F.D.A. to permit irradiation of hot dogs and deli meats. An F.D.A. spokesman declined to comment, saying the agency does not comment on open petitions.

Chicago Listeria Outbreak
Date Published: Friday, January 30th, 2009
| Source of Article:
A listeria outbreak has been reported in Chicago and has stricken three pregnant women. Medill Reports said three women who were infected with the dangerous pathogen suffered serious pregnancy complications.

Dr. Rick Holley of the Department of Food Science at the University of Manitoba in Canada explained that, ¡°The organism grows at refrigerator temperature¡¦. It will grow in the food processing plants. It will grow in a vacuumed package?it doesn¡¯t need air to grow,¡± reported Medill. Melanie Arnold, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Health confirmed, ¡°This particular outbreak has three cases. There have been two miscarriages and one [child] delivered, but premature,¡± reported Medill. The baby tested positive for listeriosis, the disease caused by the listeria monocytegenes germ.

Holley explained that because the immune system is stressed during pregnancy and because white blood cell counts drops, the listeria pathogen can run amok. ¡°It goes to two places,¡± Holley said. ¡°The brain?causing meningitis?or the placenta and sets up shop. It will infect the placenta and may infect the fetus or it may not. If it infects the fetus, [spontaneous] abortion results. But if it doesn¡¯t and it just infects the placenta, during delivery [the child] will become affected,¡± quoted Medill. CBS2Chicago reported that all three women reported having eaten soft cheeses; however, according to Medill Reports, no confirmation has been made about the exact source of the outbreak.

¡°It is very important that pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems avoid eating foods that are more likely to contain the Listeria bacteria, such as soft cheeses?including Brie, feta, and Mexican style soft or semi-soft cheese?unless the product clearly states it is made with pasteurized milk,¡± Dr. Damon state director of public health, said, reported Medill. ¡°Although anyone can become sick from eating food contaminated with bacteria, pregnant women, newborns, and people with weakened immune systems are most at risk,¡± he added.

All three listeriosis cases tested positive for the same DNA pattern reported MyStateLine, which explained that listeria can be found in raw foods, such as uncooked meats and vegetables; processed foods that become contaminated after processing, such as cheese and cold cuts at the deli counter; and unpasteurized, or raw, milk or foods made from raw milk.

Listeriosis symptoms can develop in days or weeks and can vary from a mild flu-like illness to meningitis and septicemia; pregnant women can experience anything from miscarriage, still birth, or birth of an infected child. Pregnant women are about 20 times likelier than others to be infected, with about one-third of listeriosis cases occurring during pregnancy; the incidence of listeriosis in newborns is 8.6 per 100,000 live births and the perinatal and neonatal mortality rate (stillbirths and early infant deaths) is 80 percent. Those with compromised immune systems?such as people undergoing chemotherapy treatment or those diagnosed with HIV/AIDs and hepatitis?the very young, and the very old are also at risk. Healthy individuals may suffer short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. In the United States, about 2,500 cases of listeria poisoning occur annually with about 200 in every 1000 cases resulting in death.

Faster Salmonella detection has meat applications
Source of Article:
(, February 02, 2009)

AMES, IOWA ? Researchers at Iowa State University researchers say a new technique for testing for Salmonella in produce may also have meat applications. Using a sampling method that utilizes the application of adhesive tape to food surfaces, the researchers believe the technique will provide food safety officials with more accurate and faster results during the investigation of foodborne illness outbreaks. The process was developed by Byron Brehm-Stecher, assistant professor in food science and human nutrition, and his graduate student Bledar Bisha, initially for produce applications, and utilizes ultraviolet light to identify the pathogen.

The tape is applied to the surface of the produce, then carefully removed, taking a sample of whatever is on the skin. That sample is then put on a slide and soaked in a special warm, soapy mixture that contains a genetic marker that binds with Salmonella and gives off a fluorescent glow when viewed under an ultraviolet light. Use of this genetic marker approach is called Fluorescent In-Situ Hybridization, or F.I.S.H.

The approach can tell investigators if the produce is contaminated with salmonella in about two hours.

When asked if this method could be used on meat or poultry, Mr. Brehm-Stecher answered, "We have only used it for produce at this point, but tape-based sampling techniques have been used previously for sampling of meats for subsequent deposition onto agar media for growth [Dr. Daniel Fung at Kansas State University has been active in this area].

"I believe that the tape-F.I.S.H. method could be used for sampling of additional surfaces [inanimate food contact surfaces, meats, etc.]," he added. "With the use of different organism-specific probes, it could also be adapted to detection of different pathogens on produce and other surfaces."

New Technique Developed For Quick Detection Of Salmonella
Source of Article:
ScienceDaily (Feb. 2, 2009) ? In the hours following an outbreak of salmonella, there are many questions. And answers can be hard to find. Where did the problem start? Can it be contained? Is the sickness likely to spread?
Iowa State University researchers have developed a technique for testing for the presence of salmonella that may give investigators better, faster answers.
The process, developed by Byron Brehm-Stecher, assistant professor in food science and human nutrition, and his graduate student Bledar Bisha, begins with testing the food, in most cases produce, with a strip of adhesive tape.
The tape is applied to the produce, then carefully removed, taking a sample of whatever is on the skin of the produce. That sample is then put on a slide and soaked in a special warm, soapy mixture that contains a genetic marker that binds with salmonella and gives off a fluorescent glow when viewed under an ultraviolet light. Use of this genetic marker approach is called Fluorescent In-Situ Hybridization, or FISH.
The approach can tell investigators if the produce is contaminated with salmonella in about two hours.
"This method is rapid, it's easy, and it's cheap," said Brehm-Stecher.
Current methods of detecting salmonella take one to seven days.
Brehm-Stecher and Bisha call the process "tape-FISH" and note that it could be an important technique for salmonella investigators.
"I think this will be good tool in outbreak investigation and routine surveillance especially since all you need is tape, a heat block, a small centrifuge and a fluorescence microscope," said Brehm-Stecher. "It has the potential to be very portable."
Brehm-Stecher's and Bisha's findings will be published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, published by the American Society of Microbiology.
Once at a location where an outbreak of salmonella has occurred, investigators can test the produce for contamination. Outbreaks can be due to other factors such as food preparation.
Once investigators find the origin of the salmonella, they can take steps to contain it, said Brehm-Stecher.
Salmonella can be found on produce such as tomatoes, cilantro, peppers, spinach and others. The produce can be contaminated while it is in the fields or during processing. Washing the produce thoroughly can help, but cannot ensure the produce will be safe.
The tape-FISH technique can also be used to test produce that is not suspected of being contaminated, but the volume of produce that would need to be tested may make this impractical. However, the technique could be very valuable as a basic research tool. Researchers could investigate how salmonella and other types of organisms interact on produce surfaces, said Brehm-Stecher.
This is the first application of tape-FISH to salmonella, but the idea came to the ISU researcher while reading about art restoration.

In 2008, Brehm-Stecher read about an Italian group that was using a similar approach to look for bacteria on ancient catacombs. Those researchers were hoping to identify and remove bacteria that were slowly eating away at the relics.
After some classroom discussion with his students, Brehm-Stecher decided that using the FISH on produce could be useful and began researching the idea with Bisha. Together, they were able to apply the method to produce and made several improvements in speed and sensitivity over the existing tape-FISH approach. Brehm-Stecher hopes that his tape-FISH approach can help speed investigations of produce contamination, such as last summer's outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul, which was eventually traced to imported jalapeno and Serrano peppers.

Tainted meat victims offered up to $125,000: Maple Leaf
Source of Article:
By Becky Rynor, Canwest News ServiceFebruary 2, 2009 10:01 AM
Maple Leaf Foods Inc., said settlements could range up to $125,000 for claimants who had serious and long-lasting physical injuries from consuming the tainted meats. Claimants who suffered physical symptoms consistent with listeriosis and lasting between 24 and 48 hours will be in line for settlements of about $750.
TORONTO ? Maple Leaf Foods Inc., said Monday it has reached a proposed settlement for individuals who consumed or purchased contaminated deli meats from a Maple Leaf Foods plant in Toronto last year.
In a news release Monday, the company said settlements could range up to $125,000 for claimants who had serious and long-lasting physical injuries from consuming the tainted meats. Claimants who suffered physical symptoms consistent with listeriosis and lasting between 24 and 48 hours will be in line for settlements of about $750.
Maple Leaf also says it will pay $120,000 to the estates of those who died from the listeriosis outbreak, "plus additional substantial amounts to immediate family members."
The news release also said legal fees and administration costs would also be paid out of the $25 million settlement fund. An additional $2 million will be added to the settlement fund if it is found to be insufficient.
All aspects of this proposed settlement are subject to court approval.
After an extensive investigation last summer, Maple Leaf said it believed two slicers at its Toronto plant had been harbouring the deadly Listeria monocytogenes bacterium.
Listeria monocytogenes causes listeriosis, a food-borne illness particularly threatening to infants, pregnant women and the elderly.
The outbreak triggered a massive nationwide recall of deli meats in August and was linked to at least 20 deaths in Canada in 2008.
The proposed settlement affects people who ate or purchased certain food products between January 1, 2008 and August 31, 2008.
The terms are still subject to court approval in Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec.
Hearings have been scheduled at the Court of Queen's Bench in Saskatchewan on March 10; at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Toronto on March 5 and at the Superior Court of Quebec in Montreal on March 20.
The company said claimants who support the proposed settlement do not need to appear at the hearings.
However, if the settlement is approved, claimants will have to complete and return a claim form which can be obtained by calling a toll-free number 1-800-801-2521, by going to the company's website at or by e-mailing a request to
Claimants have until 5 p.m. ET July 31, 2009, to submit the form.
Anyone wishing to oppose the settlement should submit a written objection according to the procedures and deadlines described on the website no later than March 2, 2009.

New-found food safety Confidence
Source of Article:
A new European research programme Conffidence aims to deliver safer food through rapid and cost-efficient tests to detect chemical contaminants in food.
The project will also work on animal feed and is being co-ordinated by Rikilt ? The Institute of Food Safety at Wageningen in the Netherlands.
Conffidence hopes to replace costly existing methods to monitor and control chemical contaminants with new simplified techniques that work more quickly and can identify more than one specific chemical at a time.
The project has been designed to provide long-term solutions to the monitoring of a wide variety of chemical contaminants. These include pesticides, persistent organic pollutants, veterinary pharmaceuticals such as antibiotics, heavy metals, plant and shellfish toxins and mycotoxins. Tests will be developed and validated for vegetables as well as fish and fish feed and cereal-based food and feed. A balanced mix of novel technologies will be utilized. These include dipstick tests that can be used in the same way as pregnancy tests, and low-cost laboratory-based high-throughput methods.
After completion, the simplified methods will be used to perform international food surveys that will contribute to measurement of consumer exposure to chemical contaminants.
The CONff IDENCE consortium consists of 17 partners from 10 European countries. The project is being supported financially by the European Union and national governments and is expected to last four years.
The UK¡¯s Central Science Laboratory is taking part and its work within the project is funded by Defra in addition to the European Commission. One of its areas of focus will be on pesticides. The initial two years of work will concentrate on developing methods and testing equipment, while years three and four will shift focus on to dissemination, exploitation, and surveys with the new technology.

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