List of Newsletters
To subscribe this Food Safety Newsletter,
Salmonella Outbreak Could Lead to Food Safety Reform
Date Published: Tuesday,
February 24th, 2009
Source of Article: http://www.newsinferno.com/archives/4811
This year¡¯s deadly peanut salmonella outbreak has prompted two Illinois
law makers to propose changes to U.S. food safety law. According to cbs2chicago,
US Reps. Mark Kirk and Peter Roskam, both Republicans, want food manufacturers
to give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) access to any questionable
food testing results.
This year, a salmonella outbreak linked to peanut butter and other products
made by Peanut Corp. of America (PCA) has sickened 654 people in 44 states,
and has killed at least nine. Salmonella was found at two plants in Georgia
and Texas, leading to the plants¡¯ closures and recalls of ingredients
made at those facilities. PCA once supplied peanut ingredients to 85 other
firms, and as a result, the number of recalls of foods made with PCA ingredients
has exceeded 2500.
Last month, inspections of the Georgia plant found that PCA shipped peanuts
that tested positive for salmonella contamination at least a dozen times
in 2007 and 2008. At the time of that discovery, PCA officials told the
FDA that those peanuts tested negative for the bacteria in a second round
of testing. But the FDA eventually discovered that PCA actually shipped
some of the peanuts before the second tests were completed. Other lots
were shipped without testing and, in some cases, no second test was performed
even after the first one came back positive.
At a hearing into the outbreak before the House Subcommittee on Oversight
and Investigations, emails revealed that PCA owner Stewart Parnell repeatedly
told employees to ship tainted products. At the same hearing, one official
from a company hired by PCA to test products said the firm¡¯s contract
was terminated after its test found salmonella at the PCA Georgia facility
on several occasions. The FDA never knew about these incidents.
Both Reps. Kirk and Roskam told cbs2chicago that the PCA debacle shows
a need to reform US food safety laws. They are promoting a law that would
give the FDA access to food test results. ¡°And if there¡¯s adverse information
that comes about, that information has to be disclosed,¡± Roskam told cbs2chicago.
¡°In other words, you can¡¯t shop around for a favorable result.¡±
The law would also give the FDA authority to order food recalls. Right
now, companies like PCA only have to voluntarily issue recalls. As we
reported yesterday, health officials in Texas had to issue their own recall
of products from the PCA Texas plant after the company was slow to do
According to cbs2chicago, Roskam introduced similar legislation last year,
but it never came up for a vote. Both Roskam and Kirk told the TV station
that they hope the furor over the PCA salmonella outbreak leads to passage
confirm salmonella at Texas peanut plant
Source of Article: http://www.google.com/
By JAMIE STENGLE 38 minutes ago
DALLAS (AP) Tests show ground peanuts at a Texas plant were contaminated
with the same strain of salmonella that has sickened hundreds of people
across the nation, state health officials said Wednesday.
The peanut meal was tested at the Plainview plant Feb. 12 after the facility
had voluntarily shut down, said Doug McBride, a spokesman for the Texas
Department of State Health Services. Previously, private tests conducted
by Virginia-based Peanut Corp. of America, which operated the plant, had
tentatively indicated that there may have been salmonella at the plant.
It is not yet known what strain those preliminary private tests showed,
The Texas plant is the second facility operated by the embattled Peanut
Corp. to test positive for salmonella. A different strain was found at
the company's Blakely, Ga., plant.
The national outbreak has sickened more than 600 people and is suspected
of causing at least nine deaths, and led to one of the largest product
recalls in U.S. history. Unable to recover from the fallout, the company
has filed for bankruptcy.
"The FDA's investigation is ongoing and the agency is looking at
both the PCA Blakely plant and the PCA Plainview plant as sources of contamination
for the outbreak," said U.S. Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman
Kwisnek said that since the salmonella findings at the Blakely, Ga., plant,
the FDA had expanded the scope of inspections to include other plants,
including the one in Plainview.
Texas health officials ordered a recall on all peanut products from the
Plainview plant on Feb. 12 the same day they took the peanut meal sample
that tested positive ? after finding dead rodents, rodent excrement and
bird feathers in a crawl space above a production area.
It isn't clear if the batch of products tested sickened anyone, but on
Tuesday, federal officials said other test results confirmed peanut butter
made from peanuts processed at the Texas plant also contained the same
Health officials in Colorado had traced salmonella cases there to peanut
butter sold by the Vitamin Cottage grocery chain. The natural foods chain
has said that the peanuts used in the Vitamin Cottage peanut butter came
from PCA's plant in Plainview.
Federal authorities have launched a criminal investigation into allegations
Peanut Corp. knowingly shipped tainted food. Peanut Corp. also faces a
growing number of federal lawsuits seeking millions of dollars of damages
from victims of the outbreak.
A message left Wednesday afternoon with Andy Goldstein, the Peanut Corp.'s
bankruptcy lawyer, was not immediately returned.
The FDA said that so far, more than 2,670 products have been recalled.
Corporation of America Salmonella Typhimurium Outbreak Update
Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/
So far the CDC reports that 654 persons infected with the outbreak strain
of Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from 44 states. The outbreak
began September 1, 2008 and has continued through at least February 3,
2009. The ill are less than one to over 98. 23% reported being hospitalized.
Infection may have contributed to nine deaths: Idaho (1), Minnesota (3),
North Carolina (1), Ohio (2), and Virginia (2).
The recall began in January with a few hundred products and as of Sunday
now stands at 2,591 products from more than 200 companies. Products from
both the Georgia and Texas Peanut Corporation of America plants are part
of the recall. The recalls have extended (we could call them exports)
beyond American borders to Aruba, Australia, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada,
the Cayman Islands, Haiti, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico,
the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, St. Maarten, St. Vincent and the
Grenadines, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, the Turks and Caicos Islands,
and the United Kingdom. The recalls also have reached into some surprising
products, such as bird food. Here is a complete Peanut Butter and other
Containing Products Recall List.
Count Now at 666
Date Published: Wednesday, February 25th, 2009
Source of Article: http://www.newsinferno.com/archives/4813
The peanut salmonella outbreak linked to ingredients made by a Peanut
Corp. of America (PCA) manufacturing facility in Blakely, Georgia plant
has now sickened more than 600 people. Meanwhile, health officials have
confirmed that salmonella found at a second PCA plant in Texas was also
tied to the nationwide salmonella outbreak.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), tainted PCA products
have sickened 666 people across the country. Cases of salmonella poisoning
- including 9 deaths - related to the outbreak strain have been reported
in 44 states and Canada. The CDC also said that 19 clusters of infections
in five states have been reported in schools, long-term care facilities
and hospitals. King Nut brand peanut butter - which was made by PCA -
was present in all facilities.
King Nut brand peanut butter was among the first products recalled last
month because of salmonella contamination. But because PCA makes peanut
paste, peanut butter and other ingredients for 85 other firms, hundreds
of other recalls soon followed. Those recalls now exceed 2000.
At first, the salmonella outbreak was traced to PCA¡¯s plant in Blakely,
Georgia, resulting in its closure. Food & Drug Administration (FDA)
inspections last month found that the company knowingly shipped products
from that plant that had tested positive for salmonella. Emails revealed
at a Congressional hearing showed that PCA owner Stewart Parnell had repeatedly
urged his employees to do so.
Earlier this month, Texas health officials closed a PCA plant in Plainview
after finding horrible conditions there, including dead rodents, rodent
excrement and bird feathers in a crawl space above a production area.
Apparently, the plant¡¯s air handling system was pulling debris from the
infested crawl space into production areas.
As we reported at the time, this facility was not licensed with health
officials. Despite having been in operation since 2005, it also had not
been inspected until the PCA plant in Georgia had been implicated in the
The Texas inspection also revealed salmonella contamination there, and
the bacteria found at Plainview was eventually tied to six cases of salmonella
poisoning in Colorado. Now, the CDC has confirmed that the Texas salmonella
strain is the same one implicated in the nationwide outbreak.
Texas health officials ordered everything from the PCA Plainview plant
recalled last week. However, the health department was forced to issue
the recall action itself after PCA was slow to do so.
PCA is now the focus of a criminal probe being conducted by the US Justice
Department. Earlier this month, the company filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy.
A statement from PCA¡¯s attorney blamed the fallout from the salmonella
scandal for the filing.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 25th, 2009 at 6:36 am and
is filed under Legal News, Food Poisoning, Salmonella.
outbreak may linger for 2 years
Source of Article: http://www.ajc.com/services/content/printedition/2009/02/26/peanut0226.html
By Craig Schneider
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Thursday, February 26, 2009
The national salmonella outbreak linked to more than 2,600 peanut products
could last as long as two years, as contaminated foods sit like ticking
time bombs on store shelves and in kitchen cabinets, federal health officials
The process of identifying those products and ensuring their removal has
been complicated and confusing, said Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of
food safety at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
¡°We¡¯re really concerned. This is not over yet,¡± Sundlof said. He said
the outbreak could last as long as products are around, possibly as long
as two years.
That¡¯s because peanut products, seemingly harmless as they linger in homes
and the marketplace, can have a relatively long shelf life, officials
said. Vegetables and meat, which spoil relatively quickly, must be thrown
The recalled products that officials said were produced by Peanut Corp.
of America ?- peanut butter, peanut paste, granulated peanuts and others
?- became ingredients in thousands of other foods distributed across the
U.S. and about 20 other countries.
Despite one of the largest food recalls in U.S. history, including 2,670
foods as of Tuesday, up to two dozen salmonella cases continue to be reported
each week. That represents a decline from the peak in December when as
many as 60 new cases were reported in a week.
The national outbreak has sickened 666 people in 45 states and is suspected
of causing at least nine deaths.
Meanwhile, the recall that began in mid-January continues to expand with
products added to the off-limits list each day.
A previous salmonella outbreak linked to the ConAgra plant in Sylvester
that produces Peter Pan peanut butter lasted less than a year, according
to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That outbreak occurred
in 2006 and 2007.
¡°If somebody has something hidden in the back of the pantry, and pulls
it out a year from now and eats it, there could potentially be a new illness,¡±
said Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh, a CDC epidemiologist.
The FDA had previously identified Peanut Corp.¡¯s plant in South Georgia
as the sole source of the outbreak. But state and federal officials are
now also focusing on the company¡¯s plant in Texas. Six cases of illness
in Colorado have been linked to the Texas plant.
Texas health officials said Wednesday that a sample of peanut meal from
the Texas plant tested positive for salmonella and also matched the genetic
fingerprint of the salmonella implicated in the national outbreak.
Peanut products were regularly shipped between Peanut Corp.¡¯s Blakely,
Ga., and Plainview, Texas, processing plants, raising the prospect of
a contamination link between the two plants, the FDA said Wednesday.
The Blakely plant¡¯s shipments included honey-roasted peanuts, hot and
spicy peanuts and other seasoned products, said Stephanie Kwisnek, a spokeswoman
for the FDA. The Plainview plant shipped peanut meal to Blakely, she said.
Sundlof, of the FDA, said the agency suspects that the salmonella contamination
originated from the Blakely plant and was transferred to the Plainview
plant. Many more contaminated products have been traced to the Georgia
facility, he said.
Wherever the contamination began, the plants should have had the proper
sanitation and cooking process to eliminate the problem, he said.
Peanut Corp. has three plants, the ones in Georgia and Texas, plus one
in Virginia. All have been shut down, and the company has filed for bankruptcy
> ON THE WEB: For a list of recalled products, visit www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/salmonellatyph.html#products,
or call 1-800-232-4636.
fish poisoning sparks alarm
Source of Article: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29392319/
Little-known ciguatera infection switches victims' sensations of hot and
By JoNel Aleccia, Health writer, msnbc.com
updated 5:30 a.m. PT, Thurs., Feb. 26, 2009
The fish was delicious, no doubt about it.
Perfectly seasoned and cooked just right, the broiled grouper on the Texas
menu last summer tempted Donna Schroeder to eat every bite.
The only problem? It was poisoned, tainted with a hard-to-detect toxin
that produces symptoms so bizarre, they put peanut-linked salmonella infections
¡°It¡¯s horrible, I¡¯m telling you,¡± said Schroeder, 65, a retired Beaumont,
Texas, realtor, who is only now recovering from the worst symptoms of
ciguatera fish poisoning, an exotic foodborne illness that health officials
say may be dramatically under-recognized in the United States.
The malady afflicts at least 50,000 people a year worldwide ? and the
real number may be 100 times that many. While ciguatera fish poisoning
is largely unknown in most of the U.S., several recent cases have attracted
growing concern, officials say. They hope a greater awareness will help
alert consumers and doctors and improve treatment of the incurable illness
caused by coral algae toxins that accumulate in large tropical reef fish.
Within hours of the July dinner, Schroeder was stricken not only with
typical nasty food poisoning symptoms ? diarrhea, vomiting and fatigue
but also with a dangerously slow heart rate and neurological problems
that caused her hands and feet to tingle painfully and, oddest of all,
reversed her sense of hot and cold. Some patients also say they feel like
their teeth are falling out ? and the symptoms can linger for years.
¡°Whatever I touched, if it was hot, it would feel cold. If it was cold,
it felt hot,¡± Schroeder recalled. ¡°I couldn¡¯t walk on the tile floor.
It felt like it was burning me.¡±
That should have been a clue to emergency room crews and doctors, but
it wasn¡¯t, said Schroeder, who was sent home with a general diagnosis
of food poisoning, but nothing to explain the odd reactions or why they
lingered so long.
¡±Doctors don¡¯t even know what it is,¡± she said. ¡°How sad is that?¡±
Ciguatera fish poisoning often is missed, even though it is the most common
seafood-toxin illness reported in the world, said Richard Weisman, a toxicologist
and director of the Florida Poison Information Center.
¡°If you go to the Caribbean Islands, you can¡¯t find anybody who hasn¡¯t
had it,¡± he said.
Residents there and in other tropical places ? Hawaii, Guam, the Virgin
Islands, Puerto Rico ? know that large, predatory fish caught by sport
fishermen on coral reefs are common sources of ciguatera fish poisoning.
The actual toxin is produced by microscopic sea plants, which are eaten
by smaller fish that are, in turn, eaten by larger fish such as barracuda,
grouper, sea bass and snapper. The toxins become increasingly concentrated
as they move up the food chain.
In the continental U.S., reported cases have been rare, typically confined
to tourists who become ill after returning home from tropical vacations
or to fishermen sickened by their own deep-sea catches.
Recently, however, worries about the illness increased after it cropped
up in unexpected places. In 2007, 10 people in St. Louis who ate imported
fish at two restaurants were sickened with ciguatera.
Last year, several unspecified outbreaks of ciguatera linked to grouper
and amberjack compelled the federal Food and Drug Administration to expand
guidelines warning about the risk of ciguatera in fish caught in the northern
Gulf of Mexico.
And just last month, food safety inspectors in Canada issued a health
hazard alert for ciguatera-tainted frozen Leatherjacket fish after two
people became ill in that country.
Symptoms mistaken for multiple
Part of the problem is that ciguatera fish poisoning is hard to detect
for seafood suppliers and consumers alike, said Melissa Friedman, a neuropsychologist
at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami who studied victims of the illness.
¡°You can¡¯t tell from the way it looks. You can¡¯t tell from the way it
tastes. There¡¯s nothing you can do in terms of storage. There¡¯s nothing
you can do in terms of cooking,¡± she said. Instead, people simply eat
the toxic fish and become ill. Baffled doctors often confuse ciguatera
symptoms with those of multiple sclerosis, or else they come away empty-handed,
¡°There are people having CT scans, MRIs, all these tests.¡± he said. ¡°They
do million-dollar workups, but no test will ever come back positive.¡±
Three-day window for best treatment
That can delay one of the only treatments for the illness: an intravenous
dose of a drug called mannitol, which can reduce or prevent the neurological
symptoms. The drug is most effective, however, within the first 72 hours
of illness, Weisman said.
The worst of the illness usually lasts for a week or two, and it's rarely
fatal. But in some victims, the effects linger much longer, or never really
go away. Many patients find that certain foods such as other fish, nuts
or alcohol trigger relapses, and that overexertion can send the symptoms
One of the most pressing problems with ciguatera is that, although the
illness has been chronicled since Christopher Columbus' crew ventured
to the New World, there is no baseline data about incidence ? or prevalence.
Between 1998 and 2002, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
logged only 16 foodborne outbreaks of ciguatera affecting 73 people in
the U.S., a 2006 summary showed.
But only 2 percent to 10 percent of ciguatera fish poisoning cases are
reported to authorities and many health officials don¡¯t realize it¡¯s a
reportable condition, said Dr. Lora Fleming, a ciguatera expert from the
University of Miami. Using data from Dade County, Fla., where about 50
to 60 cases are reported a year, experts estimate that for every single
case of ciguatera detected, between 10 and 100 cases go unreported.
Just last month, the CDC launched
the Harmful Algal Bloom-related Illness Surveillance System, a monitoring
system that will track ciguatera in people and animals, among other things.
First results aren¡¯t expected for a year, however, said Lorraine Backer,
a scientist with the National Center for Environmental Health.
One outcome of the project may be to further discussions of whether global
climate change is influencing ciguatera outbreaks, Backer said. Some scientists
believe that ciguatera is moving north as ocean waters warm, and that
increased numbers of hurricanes and tropical storms may cause disturbances
in coral reefs that make them more hospitable to the toxic algae.
'More prevalent than we think'
In the meantime, it¡¯s hard to convince victims like Donna Schroeder that
ciguatera is not a serious, growing and misunderstood problem. She only
discovered she had ciguatera poisoning by asking her daughter to research
fish-borne food illnesses on the Internet and then matching her bizarre
symptoms to those listed online.¡°I feel it¡¯s more prevalent than we think,¡±
Schroeder said. ¡°There¡¯s a lot more of it and people are getting sicker.¡±
Schroeder has filed a lawsuit
against the place where she ate the meal, the Stingaree Restaurant in
Crystal Beach, Texas, and against Katie¡¯s Seafood Market of Galveston,
Texas, which supplied the seafood.The legal action was inspired mostly
by a desire to raise awareness about the illness, Schroeder said. ¡°I really
wanted to get the word out about this fish,¡± she said. But other victims
have been less altruistic. Todd Stewart, a lawyer in Jupiter, Fla., has
handled a dozen ciguatera cases in the decade, including the largest-ever
settlement for the illness in the state¡¯s history. It was in the six figures,
he said, declining to be more specific. Stewart argues that seafood suppliers
and restaurants have an obligation to research so-called ¡°ciguatera hot
spots,¡± places in the world where the ciguatoxin is common, and to avoid
buying fish from there. ¡°They ought to be asking: Did you take this from
a ciguatera area?¡± he said. ¡°You could potentially be exposing customers
to a poisonous fish.¡±
Brad Vratis, general manager of the Stingaree Restaurant, said he couldn¡¯t
even pronounce ¡°ciguatera¡± before he learned of Schroeder¡¯s illness. ¡°We
haven¡¯t served a piece of grouper in this restaurant since then,¡± Vratis
It can be tough for consumers to protect themselves against a poison that
can¡¯t be detected and can¡¯t be killed by freezing or cooking. At least
one Hawaiian company, Oceanit Laboratories Inc., markets a $30 ciguatera
fish test kit that claims to successfully identify the toxin within an
hour, said Dr. Joanne Ebesu, a senior scientist with the company.
But the paper co-authored by Friedman and Fleming concludes that no commercially-available
fish testing product has been proven to be accurate by independent tests.
Mostly, Fleming said, consumers are on their own.
Fish-lovers hoping to avoid ciguatera poisoning can take a couple of steps.
First, ask where the fish is from. If a restaurant or supplier can¡¯t say,
Second, eat small portions of different fish instead of larger servings
of a single fish. That will perhaps lessen the dose of any toxin present.
Finally, consider avoiding certain fish altogether.
¡°Personally, I don¡¯t eat large reef fish,¡± said Fleming. ¡°And I don¡¯t
eat fillets of fish because I don¡¯t know what the original fish was.¡±
between Alzheimer's, mad cow protein
Source of Article: http://www.sfgate.com/
Bernadette Tansey, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, February 26, 2009
(02-25) 19:56 PST -- The latest in a recent flurry of clues on the workings
of Alzheimer's disease comes from Yale University researchers who found
a link between the disorder and the prion protein, which can cause mad
cow disease and other maladies.
The Yale team found that the prion protein, whose normal function is to
maintain brain health, may contribute to nerve damage if it becomes entangled
with a protein fragment that scientists consider a chief suspect as a
cause for Alzheimer's disease.
That suspect fragment, the amyloid beta peptide, builds up in the gluey
plaques in the brain that are a characteristic sign of Alzheimer's, a
progressive neurodegenerative disease. The amyloid peptide seems to stick
to the prion protein, block its benign effects and interfere with learning
and memory, the Yale group said in a paper published Wednesday in the
"It's very tantalizing," said Dr. Lennart Mucke, director of
the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease, who wrote a commentary
on the Yale theory in the same issue. Mucke is part of a robust community
of Bay Area scientists who are trying to ferret out the root causes of
Alzheimer's disease and develop new medicines.
The prion work adds to a spate of new leads produced at the Gladstone
Institute at UCSF's Mission Bay campus, the Buck Institute for Age Research
in Novato, South San Francisco biotechnology leader Genentech Inc. and
other research teams.
The study by Dr. Stephen Strittmatter and his Yale colleagues raises the
possibility of a link between Alzheimer's and the family of prion diseases
that includes mad cow disease and a related human neurodegenerative illness
called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. But the evidence so far shows no sign
that Alzheimer's disease involves a prion protein with the deformed structure
seen in mad cow and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Such misfolded prions can
arise from genetic mutations or can be carried into the body by infectious
particles from tainted meat.
Mucke said that the prion protein, if it is involved in Alzheimer's, is
probably in its normal form. There's no evidence that the disease somehow
releases infectious prions. "I don't believe it's communicable,"
Other new theories
The prion study does not contradict other new theories about Alzheimer's,
which all suggest fresh potential mechanisms by which the amyloid peptide
or its parent, a protein called APP, may wreak destruction on the brain,
said Dr. Dale Bredesen of the Buck Institute. Each theory opens potential
new avenues to experimental therapies, he said. So far, much of the drug
discovery in Alzheimer's has been focused on simply clearing the amyloid
peptide and its plaques from the brain, on the theory that they cause
broad physical or chemical damage, Bredesen said. But new work shows that
APP and the amyloid peptide are involved in sensitive signaling networks
that can go awry and destroy healthy nerves.
"I think we're seeing a fundamental switch in the view of the disease,"
he said. Recent failures of experimental drugs aimed at the amyloid peptide
alone suggest that additional tactics are needed, he said. "Amyloid
beta was the tip of the iceberg, but there's more."
Bredesen has his own overarching theory. He sees APP as a molecular switch
on the nerves that flips between health and destruction. The protein can
split up into three parts that each nourish the nerve. Or it can fracture
differently into four parts that each attack the nerve - and one of those
destructive four is the amyloid peptide, he said.
Search for a therapy
In the search for a possible therapy for Alzheimer's, Bredesen is focusing
on a molecule that seems to block the destruction switch. The nerve growth
factor netrin-1 appears to curb the release of the amyloid peptide from
APP, he said. Work is under way on methods to deliver netrin-1 to people
with early signs of Alzheimer's, but it could take five years to produce
an approved drug, he said.
Mucke said the Gladstone Institute is working on an array of strategies,
which include preventing the amyloid peptide from finding molecules that
pass along its destructive signals.
Scientists are starting to see Alzheimer's as a complex disease like cancer
or hypertension, which can arise from various root causes. That means
patients may need a cocktail of several drugs, and maybe a custom-made
mix for each individual.
"I'm absolutely convinced that different people get Alzheimer's for
different reasons, and drug development will have to take that into account,"
irradiation¡¯s virtues for food safety
Source of Article: http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/
By Caroline Scott-Thomas, 25-Feb-2009
The Grocery Manufacturers Association has been at pains to reassure consumers
that it does not consider irradiation a replacement for current food safety
procedures, but it could be incorporated into the food safety system to
minimize risk of food-borne illness.
The GMA has released a science policy paper, entitled Food Irradiation:
A Guide for Consumers, Policymakers and the Media, which has been released
at a time of heightened food industry and consumer concern regarding the
safety of the US food supply. It hopes this will convince the public of
the safety of irradiated food.
The report includes a review of available irradiation techniques, how
they work to kill pathogens including salmonella, E. coli and listeria,
and current US government standards on what it considers to be safe irradiation
dosage levels for food.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently published a final rule
allowing the use of irradiation for iceberg lettuce and fresh spinach;
the technology can already be used with other foods such as spices, meat,
poultry and shellfish.
Chief science officer for GMA Robert Brackett said: ¡°Food irradiation
is just one more tool that industry will have at its disposal to provide
consumers with safe food products; however, the adoption of this technology
cannot in any way serve as a substitute for industry adherence to good
manufacturer, agricultural and sanitary practices that are so essential
to maintaining a safe food supply.¡±
The paper also argues that the FDA, the World Health Organization, the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Medical Association
have all agreed on the safety of food irradiation at approved doses, following
50 years of research.
However, the feasibility of irradiation becoming widespread for killing
pathogens has long been called into question, and the GMA first petitioned
the FDA nine years ago to extend the range of products that can be irradiated.
The paper said: ¡°Consumer education is needed to enhance the acceptance
of irradiated foods by the public.¡±
The Center for Food Safety has expressed concern that if the use of irradiation
expands, it could take the place of other food safety measures.
¡°Irradiation is an after the fact ¡®solution¡¯ that does nothing to address
the unsanitary conditions of factory farms, and actually creates a disincentive
for producers and handlers to take preventative steps in production in
handling,¡± it said.
However, reservations about its use go beyond safety concerns, and the
paper points out that a product made with irradiated ingredients is not
eligible for a natural claim, as irradiation is considered to be ¡°more
than minimal processing¡±. Nor can it be certified as organic.
In addition, according to a report from Global Industry Analysts, the
cost of irradiation can be off-putting to manufacturers. Despite this,
its report, released last October, forecast the world food irradiation
market to be worth $2.3bn by 2012.
Its use is currently approved in 37 countries, but the US is the world¡¯s
largest user of the technology, accounting for an estimated 32 percent
of global demand in 2008.
for BPA free infant food packaging
Source of Article: http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/
By Jane Byrne, 25-Feb-2009
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should ban Bisphenol A (BPA)
in children¡¯s products and food containers, and has enough scientific
data to support such a move, claims the Consumers Union (CU).
The demand from the not for profit organisation follows the update the
FDA gave to its Science Board yesterday regarding its ongoing safety review
of the packaging chemical.
According to the CU, the FDA
tacitly acknowledged the serious health concerns regarding BPA at Tuesday¡¯s
BPA is used in certain packaging materials such as polycarbonates for
baby food bottles. It is also used in epoxy resins for internal protective
linings for canned food and metal lids.
The FDA said it is planning to analyze and conduct a series of studies
to determine how BPA affects infants.
¡°The Consumers Union (CU) is glad that FDA will be conducting more studies,
however it is clear the agency is still trying to determine if exposure
limits are appropriate,¡± said Dr Urvashi Rangan, senior scientist and
policy analyst at the CU.
He maintains that the FDA should act immediately to protect high risk
populations, such as children and babies, while it gathers more data on
BPA level in blood
In addition, the CU has called on the FDA to make public all testing information
on BPA and the organisation also encouraged the agency to do more bio-monitoring
of blood levels of the packaging chemical in people.
The FDA's assessment of BPA has been criticised by scientists and US lawmakers.
Last year, the agency claimed the packaging chemical was safe at current
levels in consumer products but it used industry-funded reports to support
The scientific community argued that the FDA, in its review of the chemical,
should have also included independent studies that raise uncertainties
in regard to the potential effects of low dose exposure to BPA in humans,
in particular infants.
Baby bottle ban
Canada banned the use of BPA in the manufacture of baby bottles in 2008,
a move which FDA officials have described as overly cautious.
The FDA has repeatedly said that it cannot just follow Canada in this
regard but instead must reach its own conclusions regarding the packaging
Meanwhile bills are currently under consideration in the US states of
Washington, Minnesota and Connecticut that aim to ban the use of BPA in
products aimed at children under the age of three.
Last week, retailers, can manufacturers, seafood processors and other
business groups testified against the proposed Washington state ban, saying
that the use of BPA in food and drink containers is safe.
Further Concession on Allergen Labelling
Source of Article: http://www.drinksmediawire.com/afficher_cdp.asp?id=4440&lng=2
The European Commission has agreed to extend the deadline for mandatory
labelling of allergens in wines until the end of 2010 following strong
representations by the WSTA and other wine bodies, supported by the UK
The extension from May 31 this year will save wine businesses thousands
of pounds associated with the costs of re-labelling product ranges.
Late last year regulators agreed to adopt a flexible approach to the existing
deadline to give some latitude to Southern Hemisphere wine producers facing
the cost of re-labelling during the middle of the bottling process.
Now all wine producers will have an exemption from the requirement to
indicate levels of egg and milk content in their products until December
Jeremy Beadles, Chief Executive of the WSTA, said: "The extension
granted by the EU is a common sense approach and is to be welcomed. It
will will help businesses in what remains a tough economic climate but
also ensure labelling requirements are ultimately met in a fair way. "
Notes to Editors:
1. Established in 1824, the WSTA represents the whole of the wine and
spirit supply chain including producers, importers, wholesalers, bottlers,
warehouse keepers, logistics specialists, brand owners, licensed retailers
With over 330 members the WSTA works to promote the responsible production,
marketing and sale of alcohol and to share best practice with the entire
machines may kill food bacteria, prevent outbreaks
Source of Article: http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/x-raying-food
Zapping nuts, spinach, lettuce and other foods with x-rays could kill
more pathogens that cause nationwide disease outbreaks. Drawbacks remain,
By Jessica Knoblauch
Environmental Health News
February 24, 2009
Researchers are experimenting with x-ray technology to zap dangerous bacteria
that hide in foods such as leafy greens, tomatoes, ground beef and, most
A new x-ray machine being tested at Michigan State University can reduce
pathogens 99.999%, a higher percentage than traditional methods such as
chlorine washes, food experts say. The technique, which uses a low-dose
form of irradiation, destroys the bacteria on delicate foods without turning
them to mush.
As such methods improve, some food safety experts say irradiation is a
necessary step that could prevent many illnesses and deaths tied to E.
coli and salmonella. In August, the Food and Drug Administration approved
irradiation for iceberg lettuce and spinach, which have been responsible
for some of the worst outbreaks in recent years. That approval is expected
to open doors to more irradiated foods.
¡°The question is, do we want to keep on working with technologies that
are 19th and 20th century technologies or do we make a decision as a country
to move into the 21st century?¡± asks Suresh Pillai, director of the National
Center for Electron Beam Research at Texas A&M University.
About 76 million Americans are stricken with food-borne illness each year.
In the increasingly global food economy, a single head of contaminated
lettuce can spread across state lines and contaminate many people.
Peanut products contaminated with salmonella have sickened more than 650
people in 44 states and killed at least nine since December. And in 2006,
spinach tainted with E. coli from one field in California caused one of
the worst nationwide food-poisoning outbreaks in recent years, killing
three people and sickening at least 205. A few months after that, in two
separate outbreaks, at least 150 people became ill from eating iceberg
lettuce at Taco Bell and Taco John's restaurants. As each recall is issued,
consumer confidence in food safety diminishes.
Irradiation, also known as cold pasteurization, kills harmful bacteria
by briefly exposing food to ionizing radiation, or short energy wavelengths.
Irradiation has already been approved for use on many foods, including
spices, poultry, wheat flour and ground beef. FDA officials, who have
conducted irradiation safety evaluations for more than 40 years, say they
have "determined the process to be safe for use on a variety of foods."
But there are many barriers to irradiating foods on a larger scale, particularly
fresh produce. Some experts say it¡¯s not ready for mass production due
to a lack of major facilities. Also, irradiation is not permitted on certified
organic products. And much of the public is still uneasy about buying
foods that carry an international symbol for irradiation.
¡°The recent FDA approval for
irradiating spinach and iceberg lettuce is misleading to the public because
it¡¯s not ready for industrial use by any means,¡± says Will Daniels, who
oversees food safety at organic leafy greens producer Earthbound Farm.
¡°There are some food items currently irradiated, but by no means are these
irradiation facilities geared up to irradiate everybody¡¯s fresh produce.¡±
Salmonella and E. coli 0157:H7-- involved in many of the recent outbreaks
--are two of the pathogens targeted by the new technology at MSU.
The x-ray machine uses a higher dose of irradiation than medical x-ray
imaging, yet less than competing irradiation methods such as gamma ray
and electron beam. So far, the researchers have proved that x-rays can
kill bacterial pathogens on ground beef, leafy greens and nuts.
¡°Our work to date has shown that x-ray technology is very effective in
killing the bacterial pathogens without causing undesirable changes in
product quality,¡± says Bradley Marks, a professor in the MSU Department
of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering.
The MSU researchers are concentrating on x-ray irradiation because most
research to date has been almost exclusively conducted with gamma ray
or e-beam. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
only four commercial x-ray irradiation units have been built in the world
¡°Our overall goal is not to promote a particular technology, but to give
food processors the best information available so that they can decide
which irradiation technology is best for their process,¡± Marks says.
Currently, the MSU researchers are testing their technology¡¯s ability
to kill pathogens in nuts such as walnuts or almonds, with a possibility
for future work on peanuts.
Nuts, because of their high fat and oil content, tend to become rancid
after irradiation. ¡°High fat/oil products naturally become rancid over
time. Irradiation could speed up that process,¡± Marks says, adding, ¡°I¡¯m
not saying that it will happen, but we just need to test for that.¡±
Patrick Archer, President of the American Peanut Council, says irradiation
has been tested on peanuts in the past, but was ¡°found unacceptable because
it degraded the taste of the nut.¡±
However, MSU¡¯s preliminary tests show no major quality problems such as
rancidity, possibly due to the different nature of x-ray irradiation,
which is lower energy than other methods.
To determine the proper dosage, the researchers first inject food with
bacteria. The contaminated food is then put in a prototype machine that¡¯s
about the size of three home refrigerators hooked together. After the
food is irradiated, the researchers count any surviving bacteria and look
for physical changes in the food product.
¡°Our preliminary results have shown that x-ray technology is at least
as effective at killing bacteria as e-beam or gamma ray, and in some cases
it might be more effective,¡± Marks says.
A major advantage is that its low energy requires less protective shielding
which means the equipment is more compact and can be installed right in
the processing plants. Other irradiation methods have to be located in
One downside, however, is that the x-ray can only process small quantities
of food at a time, such as five-pound bags of lettuce. ¡°You have to treat
the product in single servings,¡± Marks says. Other technologies can irradiate
food by the pallet.
Rayfresh Foods Inc., a technology start-up company that provided MSU with
an x-ray prototype machine, is looking to ramp it up to a commercial scale.
Recently, the company landed its first contract to build an x-ray machine
to treat ground beef for Omaha Steaks.
¡°We feel very strongly that if we¡¯re going to sell ground beef, it¡¯s going
to be irradiated because that¡¯s the highest level of food safety that
we can provide to our customers,¡± says Beth Weiss, public relations director
at Omaha Steaks.
The steak company has been irradiating its ground beef since 2000, but
currently the meat has to be sent on a five-day road trip to Florida to
be irradiated at a separate facility. Using Rayfresh¡¯s machine, on the
other hand, will allow the process to be in-house.
Chris Schoch, the vice president of sales at Rayfresh, said the third-party
testing MSU performs helps establish credibility for the technology. Schoch
said irradiation is ideal for high-risk products such as ready-to-eat
foods like bagged lettuce and raw nuts because there is currently no other
kill step that¡¯s as effective at wiping out bacteria.
Rayfresh has proven the x-ray process can cut pathogens like E. coli and
salmonella from 100,000 microbes per product sample to one. ¡°We have had
success with complete sterilization,¡± says Schoch.
But irradiation is no silver
Instead, many said it should serve merely as an additional step to complement
other food safety practices. ¡°If you irradiate a product but then expose
that product to other contamination risks, then irradiating the product
was a waste of your time,¡± Marks says.
For example, irradiation probably would not have been able to prevent
the recent salmonella outbreak in peanuts, where poor sanitary conditions
and employee negligence were the culprits.
The public is still unsure about irradiated foods, despite the fact that
some food products like spices have been irradiated since the 1900s. No
radioactive substances remain in irradiated foods. Irradiation is a type
of energy that disappears when the energy source is removed.
However, the public¡¯s uneasiness could change as more foodborne illness
¡°After a foodborne illness outbreak, if people hear irradiation will increase
safety, the majority are interested in trying irradiated food,¡± says Dr.
Christine Bruhn, director of the Center for Consumer Research at the University
of California, Davis.
Bruhn said health authorities need to take a more active role in advising
the public that they can choose irradiated ground beef, poultry, spinach
and lettuce and that supermarkets should offer them at reasonable prices.
The Organic Consumers Association disagrees, claiming that irradiated
foods only appear fresh and contain fewer vitamins than non-treated foods.
Many food processors believe that irradiation is not the only answer to
Organic producers such as Earthbound Farm are not allowed to use irradiation
under the National Organics Program standards.
Earthbound Farm, which packaged the spinach responsible for the 2006 E.
coli outbreak, has since put in place the industry¡¯s most aggressive testing
and safety program. Included is a process of triple-washing foods with
a chlorine rinse and pathogen-testing at every step of production. In
2008, 0.14% of the leafy greens that arrived at Earthbound Farm¡¯s plant
tested positive for salmonella or E. coli and was destroyed.
Many leafy greens producers have signed onto a California agreement that
verifies that growers follow food safety practices. So far nearly 120
members have signed on, representing over 99 percent of the volume of
California leafy greens. Recently, the USDA expressed interest in nationalizing
The peanut outbreak has also renewed interested in revamping what food
safety experts believe to be an outdated food safety system. Agriculture
Secretary Tom Vilsack said he supports merging the nation's food-safety
system, which is currently divided into the US Department of Agriculture
and the FDA, into one agency.
Meanwhile, some food safety experts maintain that any tool demonstrated
to be safe and effective should be available to protect the public from
harmful bacteria. Said Bruhn, ¡°The goal is to protect the public while
permitting the consumption of healthful tasty foods.¡±
List of Newsletters
To subscribe this Food Safety Newsletter
(C). All rights reserved FoodHACCP.com.