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PCA recall¡¯s impact spreads
of Article: http://www.ift.org/news_bin/news/news_home.shtml
2/23/2009-According to the Food & Drug Administration¡¯s Web site,
on Feb. 20 the Peanut Corp. of America (PCA) informed customers who received
products from its Georgia or Texas plants not to distribute or further
use those products and to contact the FDA regarding the proper disposition
of recalled products. In light of the company¡¯s Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing
on Feb. 13, PCA¡¯s assets are currently under the control of a bankruptcy
trustee, which impacts the company¡¯s ability to take any actions regarding
recalled products that were shipped from its Georgia and Texas plants.
On Jan. 28, PCA announced it was voluntarily recalling all peanuts and
peanut products process in its Blakely, Ga., facility since Jan. 1, 2007.
Further, on Feb. 12, the Texas Dept. of State Health Services ordered
PCA to cease the manufacture and distribution of all food products from
its Plainview, Texas, plant and to immediately recall all products manufactured
there since March 2005. According to a Newsday.com article, so far, 654
people in 44 states have been sickened by the Salmonella outbreak traced
to the Ga. plant, which is also linked to nine deaths. In addition, Colorado
health authorities have linked at least nine cases of Salmonella poisoning
to the Texas plant.
Forward Foods, a food manufacturer who received products from PCA, has
had to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy because of the outbreak. In addition,
Kellogg Co. Chief Executive David Mackay said earlier this month the recall
had an adverse 6-cent impact on earnings per share and that it had cost
Kellogg an estimated $70 million in losses. This does not include the
possible further costs Kellogg, and other food manufacturers, might see
from lawsuits filed against them. According to an article in QSR, Attorney
Bill Marler from Marler Clark, a law practice specializing in food poisoning
cases, is moving to lift the stay of bankruptcy for PCA so that litigation
on behalf of victims can continue.
Commission: Meeting of the Codex Committee on Contaminants in Foods
Public Meeting to Address Agenda Items for the
3rd Session of the Codex Committee on Contaminants in Foods
Public Meeting to Address Agenda Items for the
30th Session of the Codex Committee on Methods of Analysis and Sampling
Comprehensive Review Methodology of State Meat
and Poultry Inspection Programs
FSIS Issues Directive on Review Methodology of
State Meat and Poultry Inspection Programs
Determination Of Raw Meat And Poultry Salmonella
Performance Standard Sampling Eligibility In Official Establishments
Proposed Collection; Comment Request; Irradiation
in the Production, Processing, and Handling of Food
Food Labeling Workshop; Public Workshop
Food Protection; Public Workshop
Proposes to Debar Peanut Corporation of America
Verification Procedures for Consumer Safety Inspectors
for the Listeria monocytogenes Regulation
Enforcement, Investigations, and Analysis Officer
(EIAO) Assessment of Compliance with the Listeria monocytogenes
Intensified Verification Testing (IVT) Protocol
for Sampling of Product, Food Contact Surfaces and Environmental Surfaces
for Listeria Monocytogenes
FDA Prevents Two Dairies from Adulterating Animal
Drugs and Food
found in French baby formula
of Article: http://www.ift.org/news_bin/news/news_home.shtml
2/23/2009-According to an AFP article, the Korean National Veterinary
Research and Quarantine Service (NVRQS) detected a strain of bacteria
called Enterobacter sakazaki in a shipment of 135 kg of canned organic
baby formula imported last month from French producer, Vitagermine. However,
the producer of the Babynat formula said that the batch was analyzed prior
to shipment and no bacteria were found. According to the NVRQS, eight
shipments of the product, weighing a total of 1,492 kg, have been imported
into South Korea since Dec. 2007, and six of these shipments, totaling
1,222 kg, reached the market. The Korean quarantine service has secured
four cans for testing. Results are expected sometime this week, and the
NVRQS may order a recall if contamination is found.
The World Health Organization has deemed E. sakazaki harmful, especially
for newborn babies and those with weak immune systems. The bacteria can
cause meningitis, enteritis, and in serious cases lead to death.
mystery? Call in the Minnesotans
Source of Article: http://www.twincities.com/allheadlines/ci_11734975
After solving salmonella outbreak, state held up as a model to follow
By Tom Webb
Posted: 02/19/2009 12:01:00 AM CST
While others celebrated the holidays, Minnesota investigators were tracking
A nationwide salmonella outbreak had sickened hundreds of consumers, leaving
a growing death toll, and nobody was sure why. Within days, state investigators
in St. Paul had cracked the case ? tracing the salmonella to tainted peanut
butter from a troubled Georgia plant.
How did they do it? That's what Congress wants to know as it seeks to
improve the nation's uneven food-safety patchwork. If the salmonella outbreak
revealed how the food-safety system faltered, it also showed how Minnesota
investigators shined during a deadly outbreak.
"Time and time again, it's the foodborne disease unit at the Minnesota
Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture that
has come up with the answers," said U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
More than 40 states were involved in the peanut case, but Minnesotans
were the first to zero in on the type of tainted peanut butter. The first
to trace it back to a Georgia plant. The first to confirm salmonella in
peanut butter. And first to warn the public about the danger ? prompting
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to shut down the plant that same
"Because institutionally-served peanut butter, in five-pound containers,
was identified by the state of Minnesota as a potential vehicle, our investigation
began with a strong lead: the brand name of a company and the address
to begin our trace," the FDA's director of food safety, Stephen Sundlof,
told Congress last week.
Minnesota officials credit no single thing for making the system here
work. It's a complex network and a culture of teamwork: health and food
investigators who work side-by-side; state laws that provide strong consumer
protections; good facilities and resources to detect problems; and experienced
investigators who know how to interview patients, trace products and draw
"It's almost thinking like a criminal investigation, like you're
trying to solve a murder," said Mike Schommer, spokesman for the
Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
| Here's how Minnesotans cracked the peanut case, as told by some who
helped do it.
begins. On Nov. 10, federal investigators noted a bump in the number of
salmonella cases. Within weeks, it was clear a major outbreak was under
way. But from where? Deadly salmonella bacteria can hide in many foods,
but most commonly it's in poultry, so chicken and eggs were suspected
hit. The first Minnesota case was reported on Nov. 17. By Dec. 21, there
were eight more. State investigators probed for telltale clusters and
patterns. "They were all around the state, and there wasn't any clear,
obvious pattern at that point," said Carlota Medus, epidemiologist
with the Minnesota Department of Health.
victims. Health officials in Minnesota interview everyone who falls ill
from salmonella, rather than wait for an outbreak. Then state epidemiologists
can comb through the data, looking for common threads. Early on, an investigator
noticed that "pretty much all of our cases were mentioning peanut
butter," Medus said. "But there wasn't a clear name, or a product
4: The wave
hits. Three days before Christmas, a long-term care facility in Brainerd
reported several salmonella infections. A separate Brainerd facility had
another case. Yet another case in town surfaced. A cluster had emerged,
and investigators bore in.
5: Search for
clues. "We worked with that long-term care facility, looking at things
like menus and invoices," Medus said. The menus didn't even list
peanut butter. But Medus persisted. She thought, "Hmmm, they had
no snacks? I don't think so." Turned out, peanut butter was a common
snack at the facility.
dots. When two schoolchildren in northern Minnesota fell ill, more links
emerged. State agriculture officials asked a regional food distributor
? which delivered to the long-term care facility ? whether it also supplied
the school. It did. Both received the same brand of peanut butter: King
7: Round up
suspects. Food inspectors working with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture
fanned out to seize samples of King Nut peanut butter. "Ideally,
you want the product that the person ate," Schommer said. "But
once it's opened, there is a risk of cross-contamination. So you (also)
go and look at that production lot, and look for unopened products in
a source. Minnesota investigators traced the King Nut peanut butter back
to a processing plant in Blakely, Ga. Said Ben Miller, who supervises
the response unit at the state Agriculture Department, "We spoke
with the QA (quality assurance) manager in Blakely, and told him we were
looking at King Nut as a possible source of salmonella contamination."
Separately, Minnesota alerted the FDA that its probe was pointing to the
9: To the lab.
On Jan. 9, lab tests in St. Paul confirmed that a 5-pound tub of King
Nut peanut butter was contaminated with salmonella. "They took like
15 samples (from the tub), and they didn't find it (salmonella) in every
single one of them," Schommer said. "The contamination isn't
uniform." Because the FDA had been notified earlier, the federal
probe got a jump-start. "They were on the ground and in that facility
right after we found out the presumptive positive," Miller said.
a killer. Even before test results were in, investigators had started
retracing the peanut butter's distribution path. So when the result was
found Friday, Jan. 9, Minnesota officials immediately warned the distributor
in North Dakota. Said Miller, "By 5:30 that evening, they had 30
to 35 people crawling all over the establishment," removing tubs
and alerting every customer who'd bought King Nut peanut butter in the
past six months.
11: A public
warning. The positive test and distribution pattern ? while not definitive
? impelled Minnesota officials to warn the public. On Friday afternoon,
a consumer advisory told people and institutions to avoid King Nut peanut
butter. "We knew King Nut peanut butter was distributed to nursing
homes and schools, and we didn't want to wait over the weekend,"
Medus said. But even then, officials couldn't "explain all the non-institutional
cases" turning up.
12: A genetic
match. On Monday, Jan. 12, genetic testing in Minnesota labs revealed
a match. The strain of salmonella in the peanut butter was the same one
cultured from ill Minnesotans.
13: Cop on
the beat. Agriculture officials fanned out across the state, checking
that questionable products were being removed from store shelves, warehouses
and storerooms. If need be, Schommer said, "We do have the power
to embargo product."
14: Final proof.
Because outside contamination is possible in opened jars, officials seek
confirmation from sealed jars, too. Connecticut found it first. Then Minnesotans
identified three strains of salmonella in an unopened jar from the Georgia
including three in Minnesota, have died in the outbreak. More than 600
have become ill. The plant owner, Peanut Corporation of America, is closed
and has filed for bankruptcy.
F.S.I.S. pursues performance standards for poultry processors
Source of Article: http://www.meatnews.com/
(MEATPOULTRY.com, February 23, 2009)
by Bryan Salvage
WASHINGTON Studies that will lead to performance standards for Campylobacter
are being conducted by U.S.D.A., according to Dr. Daniel Engeljohn, deputy
assistant administrator in the office of Policy and Program Development
at Food Safety and Inspection Service. Standards for Campylobacter are
expected be issued this year.
A baseline study of Campylobacter in broilers was conducted by U.S.D.A.
in 2007-2008 and the agency will issue "guideline performance standards"
in 2009, Mr. Engeljohn recently said in remarks during a National Chicken
Council committee meeting in Arlington, Va. Samples would be taken at
re-hang and post-chill with "enumerative criteria" instead of
a qualitative, positive-negative finding, he added.
Dr. Engeljohn said the agency will conduct a study of chicken parts this
year and next, not just the whole carcass, and establish a "guideline
performance standard." He indicated that breast portions will be
the top priority.
He also expressed concern about the presence of Salmonella enteriditis
in raw broilers. S. enteriditis has historically been associated with
table eggs rather than meat chickens. While only 7.4% of broiler carcasses
are positive for any type of Salmonella, 18% of those samples have S.
enteriditis, he said.
"F.S.I.S. believes that S. enteriditis can be prevented from entering
the human food chain through the foods regulated by F.S.I.S.," he
said. "On-farm controls are practical and feasible for the adequate
control of S. enteriditis. Federally-inspected establishments are expected
to address food-safety hazards before, during and after the product enters
However, there is "no known industry-wide or collective focus"
to reduction of S. enteriditis in broilers, Mr. Engeljohn said, and the
agency is working on a risk-management plan that will lead to compliance
Mr. Engeljohn noted that the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
estimates that the country had 14.92 cases of salmonellosis per 100,000
population in 2007, which was more than the 13.7 cases per 100,000 population
estimated in the baseline year of 1997.
F.S.I.S. estimates, however, that less than one case per 100,000 is attributable
to Salmonella in broilers, he said.
To post your comments on this story, click here: email@example.com.
Outbreak Prompts Tougher Law Proposal
Source of Article: http://cbs2chicago.com/consumer/Salmonella.Outbreak.Prompts.2.942053.html
2 Ill. Congressmen Fight For FDA Access To Questionable Food Testing Results
CHICAGO (CBS) ¡ª There is a new push Monday night to protect you and your
family from potentially dangerous food. This comes after a nationwide
salmonella scare may have killed nine people, and sickened hundreds of
others. CBS 2's Mike Parker reports two Illinois congressmen are fighting
to make sure something like this never happens again.
The deadly tale of the salmonella outbreak that came out of a company
in Georgia . how its products killed nine people and how the Peanut Corporation
of America, and owner Stewart Parnell hid damning test results - has rocked
the country. It has also shocked two suburban Illinois congressmen.
"A broker visited his facility in the 1980s and said it was a time
bomb waiting to go off," said U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk. "If he was
a car dealer, he would have been selling cars with no brakes."
Now Congressmen Mark Kirk and Peter Roskam are trumpeting a new law proposed
by Roskam. It would give the Food and Drug Administration access to any
questionable food testing results.
"And if there's adverse information that comes about, that information
has to be disclosed," said U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam. "In other
words, you can't shop around for a favorable result."
The proposed new law would also give the FDA a new weapon - the power
to order a company to recall dangerous food products. Right now, those
recalls are merely voluntary.
Consumers we talked to today, think that is a good idea.
"The companies are going to want to make their money, make a profit,"
one consumer said. "We should worry about the consumer safety."
"If something's bad on the shelves, it should be taken off,"
another consumer said. "Because it's important for people's health,"
a consumer said.
As for peanut magnate Stewart Parnell¡¦
"I respectfully decline to answer your question," Parnell said.
"In my view, this is direct evidence of criminal activity,"
Kirk said. "If it was just up to me, we would sit him down at a table
and make him eat his own peanut butter."
Roskam introduced a similar measure last year but it went nowhere. It
was never called for a vote. He and Kirk believe the recent salmonella
tragedy might make a difference this time. The FDA says that 5,000 Americans
die every year from food borne illnesses; 76 million get sick. Incredibly,
more than 2,500 peanut products have been recalled in this salmonella
openings in Food Safety and Quality
Senior Program Leader, FS & Micro . Glenview, IL
02/23. FOOD SAFETY COORDINATOR . Orlando, FL
02/23. Food Safety & QA Coordinator . New Orleans, LA
02/23. Consumer Safety Inspector - Vermont
02/23. Food Safety Account Coordinator - Ann Arbor, MI
02/19. FOOD SAFETY MANAGER - Minnesota
02/17. Dir, Frozen Food Safety & QA - Siloam Springs, AR
02/16. Quality Control Specialist . Dunedin, FL
02/16. Food Safety Chemist/Micro . New Century, KS
02/12. Food Safety Manager - Oklahoma
02/11. Sr Auditor - Food Safety &Produce . Watsonville, CA
02/11. Sr Program Ldr . Food Safety & Micro . Glenview, IL
02/11. Dir-Corporate Affairs Food Safety . Washington, DC
02/10. Food Safety Supervisor . Kansas City, KS
02/10. Food Safety Specialist - Ann Arbor, MI
02/10. Director Quality and Food Safety . Cincinnati, OH
Speech Before The National Meat Association
Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/
Thank you NMA for inviting me here to Las Vegas. My guess is inviting
a trial lawyer into your convention is a bit of a ¡°gamble.¡±
Once again another food poisoning outbreak, perhaps slightly more outrageous
than the ones before, now with over 650 sickened, 150 hospitalized and
nine deaths, but eerily similar to those that have come before it. There
is the familiar crush of the media for a picture or a quote of a victim,
the vows by politicians to see this never happens again, and there is
the anguish of burying a parent because they ate a quintessential American
food . this time peanut butter.
I spent last week in Washington DC watching the latest version of the
food safety play that seems to run on a constant loop . year to year .
decade to decade. Some of the characters change . new victims . new food
products . new poisons . new businesses causing the outbreak, but, the
governmental response as to why this debacle is not its fault and the
call by congressional leaders for new legislation are the same. If you
re-run the tapes from the Jack-in-the-Box hearings from 1993 and peanut
butter hearings last week they are remarkably the same . including the
lack of action.
The time has long past to do something to stop the tape and to prevent
the next outbreak. There are now several pieces of food safety legislation
in the halls of the House and the Senate some newer, most are dusted off
every time that there is another outbreak that requires another press
conference and media opportunity. Yet also in the halls of congress, are
those that say the timing is not right to do things on food safety . the
economy takes priority . or, some other reason that continued, cautious
inaction is required and the various proposals remain shelved.
Frankly, the time has come to act and not continue simply to react. Consumers,
Farmers, Suppliers, Manufacturers, Retailers, Regulators and Politicians
need to work together to make our food supply safe, profitable and sustainable.
When a quarter of our population is sickened yearly by contaminated food,
when thousands die, we do not have the ¡°safest food supply in the world.¡±
When a whole industry looses hundreds of millions of dollars because government
picks tomatoes when it really was peppers, we should, must, and can do
First, create a local, state and national public health system that catches
outbreaks before they balloon into personal and business catastrophe.
Surveillance of human bacterial disease is lacking. For many foodborne
illnesses, for everyone culture positive case, 20 to 40 other cases are
missed because of lack of surveillance. Most people who become ill with
a bacterial or viral disease are either seldom seen or never cultured.
The more people are tested, the greater the likelihood that a source,
accidental or not, will be found sooner.
Second, governmental departments, whether local, state or federal, need
to learn to ¡°play well together.¡± Turf battles need to take a back seat
to stopping an outbreak and tracking it to its source. That means resources
need to be provided and coordination encouraged so illnesses can be promptly
stopped and the offending producer - not an entire industry - is brought
Third, we cannot completely regulate ourselves out of this. Standards
need to be set with the entire food chain at the table . from farmer,
to manufacturer, to retailer and customer. Standards must also be based
upon good science.
Fourth, promote research to develop better technologies to make food safe.
Provide tax breaks for companies that push food safety interventions and
employee training. We need to use our technology to make food more traceable
so that when an outbreak occurs authorities can quickly identify the source
and limit the spread of the contamination and stop the disruption to the
Fifth, improve consumer understanding of the risks of food-borne illness.
Industry cannot rely on working parents or the minimum wage worker to
be the last ¡°kill step¡±
not without an investment in real education.
Sixth, there are too few legal consequences for recklessly sickening or
killing customers by selling contaminated food. We should impose stiff
fines and prison sentences for violators, and even stiffer penalties for
None of this will stop bacterial and viral illnesses entirely. These invisible
poisons have been around a long time. However, these six steps will enable
us to help prevent it, help detect it far more quickly, to alert stores
and families, and to keep our most vulnerable citizens - kids and seniors
- out of harm's way.
outbreak highlights inspector shortage
Source of Article: http://www.google.com/hostednews
By GREG BLUESTEIN 3 days ago
ATLANTA (AP) . Tight state budgets have led some of the biggest farm states
to leave dozens of food inspection jobs vacant at a time when hundreds
have been sickened by a nationwide salmonella outbreak tied to a filthy
peanut processing plant.
Georgia, the site of the plant, has about 60 inspectors for some 16,000
sites, while budget cuts have forced the state agriculture department
to keep 15 inspector positions vacant.
California, Texas and Florida are among other states facing the same problems
while food experts say the federal government relies increasingly on states
to monitor the nation's food supply.
"You can only shift the pawns on the table so many times before the
game catches up with you," Georgia deputy Agriculture Commissioner
Oscar Garrison told legislators earlier this month while asking for more
money to hire inspectors.
The salmonella outbreak linked to Peanut Corp. of America has sickened
hundreds, may have caused nine deaths and prompted one of the largest
food recalls in the nation's history. Federal investigators have launched
a criminal investigation, and Virginia-based Peanut Corp. faces mounting
lawsuits and a bankruptcy filing.
Food safety experts warn each loss of an inspector increases the possibility
that food problems could elude detection.
In the Georgia salmonella case, a state inspector found only minor problems
when she probed the Blakely plant in October for less than two hours;
less than three months later federal agents found roaches, mold, a leaking
roof and other problems.
In Texas, eight of 42 manufactured food inspector positions are vacant,
leaving 34 people to inspect about 21,000 facilities, from distributors
to food salvage operations.
That's about one inspector for every 618 facilities, said Doug McBride,
a spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services. So inspectors
have to focus on sites that make higher-risk foods or those with reported
The agency was lobbying to add seven more positions even before a Peanut
Corp. plant in Plainview tested positive for salmonella and was shut down.
| "I'd love to say, we'd like to get to (every facility) once every
12 to 15 months," he said. "Are we able to always. No, it's
Florida's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has left open
12 of its 129 inspector positions open this year. But agency spokesman
Terry McElroy said the cuts will not have as great an impact because Florida
has been adding positions in recent years.
"You do the best you can," McElroy said. "We're confident
that under the circumstances we're able to do the job effectively."
California agricultural officials say inspector cuts or vacancies are
likely as the state grapples with a shortfall that could be as large as
Almost every state legislature in the country is staring down budget deficits
and scraping funds for schools, roads and other public safety areas, like
prisons and police. Food safety is a tough sell.
"It's getting pretty dire out there," said Doug Farquhar, an
analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures. "With
the salmonella scare, you'd think that now would be the time they'd say
we need to invest in food safety. But the opposite is going on."
The belt-tightening comes at an inconvenient time.
The federal government increasingly relies on food safety inspections
performed by states, where budgets for inspections have remained stagnant
and overburdened officials have less training than their federal counterparts.
Gerald Wojtala, president of the Association of Food and Drug Officials,
said the nonprofit is now surveying food programs across the nation to
determine how much the burden has shifted.
He said surveys in 2001 and 2003 showed state and local food safety agencies
conduct more than 95 percent of food safety inspections.
For officials in Georgia, the deadly outbreak has led to some soul searching.
Legislators have floated proposals to deputize county health officials
so they can quickly pursue food safety tips.
And Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin said his department will
focus more on food safety inspections and less on other duties, such as
monitoring out-of-date foods. Leading lawmakers say they hope to boost
inspections, despite budget cuts.
Inspectors are "referees of the food game," said Joseph Hotchkiss,
a food science professor at Cornell University who once worked for the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
"There's no way for us as individuals to know much about our food
. how it's manufactured and prepared . without these people we hire. And
with fewer of those people, that could in general result in an increased
diff: The next O157.
Source of Article: http://www.meatpoultry.com/Feature_stories.asp.ArticleID=99975
An "opportunistic bug" could pose a food-safety threat in meat
products¡¦or maybe no(MEATPOULTRY.com, February 01, 2009)
by Steve Bjerklie
statements about Clostridium difficile¡¯s evident residency in meat products
and livestock is risky at best. Some of the research concerning "C.
diff," as it is often called, is worrisome, even frightening; other
research much less so. And scientists themselves are quick to point out
that at this point what¡¯s not known about a meat connection with C.diff
far outweighs what is known.
"Just because C.diff is showing up in food may not mean it¡¯s a problem
in food. And as far as C.diff in livestock is concerned, we really don¡¯t
know much about the human-animal connection with C.diff. That picture
isn¡¯t clear at all," comments Dr. Liz Wagstrom, assistant vice president
for science and technology at the National Pork Producers Council. Nonetheless,
C.diff in pork and hogs "is something we¡¯ve been following for a
long time," she adds.
Dr. Brandi Limbago, the lead researcher for bacterial characterization,
typing and identification in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention¡¯s
Clinical and Environmental Microbiology Branch, is only a bit more definite.
"We know a fair amount about Clostridium difficile in the health-care
environment, and we know it has been found on meat and in livestock, but
there are a lot of dots and pieces between these facts that are still
blank," she says, noting that studies have found similar strains
of C.diff . "some of them indistinguishable from each other"
. in humans and food animals. But the microbiologist, who has worked and
published with Dr. Glenn Songer at the Univ. of Arizona, one of the world¡¯s
leading C.diff researchers, quickly adds: "While it¡¯s very interesting
that Clostridium difficile has been found in meat, there¡¯s no evidence
that it¡¯s foodborne. To the best of our knowledge, it¡¯s not a foodborne
Songer himself is less sanguine. C.diff, he says, "could be the next
O157 . or it could be nothing. I suspect it¡¯ll turn out to be something
in between." He adds: "People in the industry really want to
know if this is really a problem or not. I understand that. But we have
to think it is before we can think it isn¡¯t."
A menace and a killer
is a well-known menace in health-care facilities, especially in nursing
homes and convalescent hospitals with large populations of older, immune-compromised
patients. C.diff infection brings on diarrhea and can lead to dangerous
inflammations of the colon . colonitis . if not caught and checked early.
Health authorities say it probably causes thousands of deaths, and perhaps
tens of thousands of deaths, in health- care facilities every year. (Canadian
authorities blame C. diff for roughly 2,000 deaths over 2003 and 2004
in a single province, Quebec.) According to Limbago, as much as 80 percent
of all recorded C.diff-caused infections have occurred in a healthcare
setting, with human-to-human transmission the most likely distributing
vector . but at the same time, she adds, "there are other cases with
no health-care connection."
The usual treatment
for pathogenic infection, a regimen of antibiotic therapy, is nearly useless
against C.difficile, because antibiotics clear out resident microflora
and leave behind, in the human gut, a kind of microbiological desert,
which C.diff appears to be especially well-equipped for exploiting. According
to a study released last November by the Association for Professionals
in Infection Control and Epidemiology, 13 out of every 1,000 hospital
patients becomes infected by C.diff, a rate up to 20 times greater than
had previously been estimated. Just as worrying, a virulent new strain,
NAP1, has emerged, and its toxin is 20 times more potent than other strains.
Moreover, NAP1 has proven to be resistant to fluoroquinolone antibiotics
such as Cipro and Levaquin. It¡¯s a proven killer: A pregnant mother of
twins spontaneously aborted and then died from C.diff infection, according
to a 2005 CDC review. It is the virulent new strain, however, that has
been found on meat and in livestock.
a very difficult pathogen to get under control," says Dr. David Theno,
the recently retired director of technical services at Jack in the Box
and one of the industry¡¯s leaders in the battle against E. coli O157:H7.
"You¡¯ve got to be really aggressive with it. As the population ages,
we¡¯re going to have to figure out a way to effectively deal with it, no
the Mayo Clinic, "In hospitals and nursing homes, C.difficile spreads
mainly on the hands of caregivers, but also on cart handles, bedrails,
bedside tables, toilets, sinks, stethoscopes, thermometers . even telephones
and remote controls."
A taste for
So what¡¯s it
doing in meat. That¡¯s what CDC would like to know. In the effort to come
up with an answer, the federal agency called a meeting, in mid-December,
of C.diff¡¯s leading researchers and other interested microbiologists and
food scientists. The specific purpose of the meeting, according to Dr.
Limbago, who attended, "was to discuss methods of detection of Clostridium
difficile in foods," but the real driver behind the gathering is
the compelling, troubling data gathered by Songer in Arizona, Dr. Scott
Weese at the Univ. of Guelph in Canada, and Dr. Roger Harvey, a veterinary
medical officer with USDA¡¯s Agricultural Research Service facility in
College Station, Texas.
studies are, in some ways, the most worrisome for the meat industry. He
found, for the first time, an identical strain of C.diff in contaminated
food and in hogs. Moreover, the professor of veterinary science also found
that more than 40 percent of packaged-meat samples taken from three Arizona
supermarket chains tested positive for the pathogen, and some of these
tested positive for the virulent new strain. He calls the results "very
surprising." He has detected C.diff¡¯s presence in ground meats as
well as in sausages made from ground product, such as fresh pork sausage,
chorizo, summer sausage and even liver sausage. He found the bug in half
the ground-beef samples he tested and in 62 percent of the brauschweiger.
"We haven¡¯t looked at whole-muscle meat yet, but when we do I suspect
we¡¯ll find it," he says.
He adds that
when he first began investigating C.diff in food a few years ago, "I
thought it was a fool¡¯s errand. I couldn¡¯t believe someone hadn¡¯t found
it already. I was sure that if it was there, someone would have found
it. But it seems like no one did look. And when we finally did, we found
aren¡¯t quite so shocking, but they remain troubling. His team took C.diff-positive
samples from 18 percent of the ground beef and ground veal tested, though
they did not find the virulent strain, and the numbers of cells the team
found in the positive samples was somewhat lower than what Songer¡¯s team
found. Harvey¡¯s work at ARS, and previous work by both Songer and Weese,
already found C.diff in dairy calves and pigs, as noted.
we can find it widely in the environment," Weese says. "What
we don¡¯t know is how it travels from farms to food. We¡¯ve got a big gap
in our knowledge so far."
He points out
that C.diff, which was first identified in 1935 (it was originally named
"Bacillus difficile," or "the difficult" microbe),
is unique among pathogens in a couple of ways. One, it can be found among
the gut flora of healthy humans, causing no evident ill effects.
This is why,
when the population of C.diff cells suddenly expands (no one knows why),
treatment with antibiotics can be so dangerous; with the other microflora
pushed out of the way by the drugs, C.diff takes over. Another C.diff¡¯s
attribute that¡¯s unique: As a spore-forming microbe rather than a cell-former,
it can survive typical cooking temperatures . think of it as a kind of
opposite of Listeria monocytogenes, which survives refrigeration.
actually takes some comfort, he says, in the high rates of positives that
Songer found in the grocery meats. "In some ways, finding it so commonly
downplays the risk. If it¡¯s being found in 40 percent of humans or on
40 percent of meat samples, we know that 40 percent of the human population
isn¡¯t getting sick from it."
In search of
As for meat specifically, Weese isn¡¯t ready to sound alarms. "Meat
might be just a carrier, we don¡¯t know. The real problem might always
be spreading from human to human, with meat just an intermediary. I don¡¯t
think the industry should panic at this point . but we should be concerned."
"I can tell you that it¡¯s not coming in to nursing homes on food,"
adds Dave Theno. "It¡¯s already there. In that environment or in a
hospital, it can always move from person to person. We¡¯re talking about
a very opportunistic bug."
"We know it can cause illness in baby pigs," says Liz Wagstrom
at NPPC. "But C.diff is not C.diff is not C.diff . what I mean is,
just because it¡¯s in livestock doesn¡¯t automatically mean meat is a problem.
One reason why it may be showing up in ground meats is because those products
are handled by more people than other kinds of meat products." She
also points out that both Weese¡¯s and Songer¡¯s retail sampling so far
has been regional. C.diff¡¯s national and global distribution in meat and
livestock isn¡¯t yet mapped. "I think it¡¯s something that we need
to look at carefully to see if there¡¯s an emerging problem. But at this
point I don¡¯t believe C.diff is our next BSE or O157."
who will be discussing C. diff at a gathering of meat and animal scientists
this coming March, emphasizes that "there¡¯s no epidemiological link"
connecting even the "indistinguishable" strains found in livestock
and humans. "Animals might be just some kind of reservoir,"
she says, underscoring Weese¡¯s point. In agreement with virtually all
other C.difficile researchers and observers, she says it¡¯s just too early
to tell what kind of role meat and livestock play in C.diff¡¯s lifecycle
Songer is also cautious about sounding alarms, but he pushes the industry
to be proactive. "We can even now probably get ahead of this,"
he says. "Let¡¯s find the critical control points for this, and let¡¯s
take care of them."
This article can also be found in the digital edition of MEAT&POULTRY,
February 2009, starting on Page 64. Click here to search that archive.
Might Fight Pathogens
Source of Article: http://www.foodproductdesign.com/
A study published in the Journal of Food Science shows that nanoparticles
may be effective at inhibiting some pathogens. For the study, zinc oxide
quantam dots (ZnO QDs), nanoparticles of purified powdered ZnO, were evaluated
for antimicrobial activity against Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella
Enteritidis, and E. coli O157:H7. The ZnO QDs were utilized as a powder,
bound in a polystyrene film (ZnO-PS), or suspended in a polyvinylprolidone
gel (ZnO-PVP). Bacteria cultures were inoculated into culture media or
liquid egg white (LEW) and incubated at 22¡ÆC.
The inhibitory efficacies of ZnO QDs were concentration-dependent and
also related to type of application. ZnO powder and ZnO-PVP showed significant
antimicrobial activities against all three pathogens in growth media and
LEW. No antimicrobial activities of ZnO-PS film were observed.
chemists set bar high for food safety
Source of Article: http://media.www.ramcigar.com/
Issue date: 2/19/09 Section: News
02/19/09 - The University of Rhode Island chemistry department has paired
up with SIRA technologies to create food safety barcodes that indicate
when food has expired when being scanned at grocery stores.
SIRA technologies came up with the barcode idea and two members of the
chemistry department discovered the effect pigments have on food safety
"SIRA technologies had this idea, but couldn't make it work,"
William Euler, chairman of the chemistry department, said.
Euler and Brett Lucht, a URI chemistry professor, wanted to create barcodes
containing a pigmentation that reveals whether a food product is too old
Currently, perishable foods sold in grocery stores only contain one barcode
that reveals the name and price of the product. The new pigmentation labels
will contain two barcodes.
The top label determines the food product while the bottom label suggests
unsafe conditions. If the food's temperature decreases and goes bad, a
red pigment will appear on the bottom label.
The red pigment will prevent the scanner from reading the top label. This
will cause an error message to appear, indicating the item is no longer
Lucht said they have made a solution using a mix of pigmentation and ink
to make these barcodes printable. The pigments involve an activation process,
but Lucht said it is too complicated to reveal.
He said the company's main target is the refrigerator market, particularly
dairy and meat aisles.
The chemistry department is currently working to adjust freezer temperatures
that will eventually reveal if meat has been thawed correctly.
Lucht said the barcodes have been tested in military grocery stores, and
there are some barcodes ready to be marketed by SIRA Technologies.
Euler said the barcodes are currently being developed, but are not being
used. They should be on the market in a year, he added.
URI began developing and experimenting with a similar label about 12 years
ago. The initial pigmentation barcodes were called inversable pigmentation
Rather than revealing if a food was too old to eat, it indicated when
a food was warm enough to eat. Items such as frozen dinners and hot coffee
were used in experiments.
URI has been working on the current pigmentation food safety labels for
the past 8 years and undergraduate students are helping Lucht and Euler
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