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3/14
2009
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FDA seeks rapid test for salmonella
Source of Article: http://www.google.com/
By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR 15 hours ago
WASHINGTON (AP) Wanted: Salmonella detector. Must work fast.
Send plans and specifications to Uncle Sam, care of the Food and Drug Administration.
Frustrated that conventional lab methods can now take as long as nine days to identify the most common of food bugs, the FDA is searching for a rapid test for salmonella.
Two recent outbreaks ? one involving peanut butter, the other blamed on tomatoes and hot peppers ? have put the agency on the spot.
Each time the FDA had pieces of the puzzle, but it took a while to fill in the complete picture. The uncertainty made consumers nervous about eating everyday foods. Food producers lost millions in forgone sales and recalled products. Lawmakers fumed. One congressman likened the government's disease detectives to the Keystone Kops.
Since other outbreaks are likely to happen, FDA officials are desperately seeking anything that would make their response more efficient.
"The goal here isn't to design some sort of 'Star Trek' gizmo," said Dr. David Acheson, assistant commissioner for food safety. "We're looking for something that can save us 12 hours here, 12 hours there. If we can shave it to five days, that would be a step forward."
Michael Doyle, head of the food safety program at the University of Georgia, said the FDA should aim high. "To identify an outbreak can take two to three weeks, if they can get that down to three days, it would be a major step forward."
The FDA has asked the Pentagon, the Homeland Security and Agriculture departments, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to lend their expertise. The Agriculture Department and the CDC also contend with salmonella outbreaks. Homeland Security has responsibility for combatting bioterrorism. And the Pentagon is skilled at evaluating all kinds of technology.
"We approached these guys, and they're interested in working jointly," said Acheson.
The first step is to see whether any private companies or academic research centers are working on a rapid test. Then Acheson wants to select two or three methods to evaluate more closely. Finally he'd compare specific techniques and devices in head-to-head lab tests.
One of the reasons it can take so long to identify salmonella is that samples submitted to the lab may not have enough of the bacteria. More bacteria have to be cultured in a nutrient-rich broth to make an identification.
"I can't make the bugs divide any quicker," said Acheson. "But what if we had tools that could work off a smaller number of organisms? I think there is time to be shaved there."
If the initial screening finds salmonella, more testing is needed to match its particular genetic fingerprint to the outbreak strain.
The easiest thing would be to have a portable device that inspectors could carry with them. They could take a tomato, pulverize it, inject the juice into the device, and get an answer in a matter of hours. "That would be the Holy Grail," said Acheson.

USDA OKs cattle E. coli vaccine
Source of Article: http://www.startribune.com/

A Willmar start-up's product could be both a lifesaver and a boon to meat producers.

By THOMAS LEE, Star Tribune

Last update: March 9, 2009 - 10:54 PM

Epitopix has won approval from federal regulators to sell the first animal vaccine in the United States to combat a deadly strain of E. coli bacteria.

The Willmar, Minn.-based start-up, a spin-off of Willmar Poultry Co., won a conditional license from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to start selling the vaccine to cattle producers and beef processors. A conditional license means a company can market the product but that the USDA still requires additional safety and efficacy tests.

"It's extremely significant," said Epitopix general manager Jim Sandstrom. "This is a very, very big thing for us."

Epitopix's vaccine is designed to reduce the amount of the pathogens associated with E. coli O157 in the intestines of cattle, helping to prevent the deadly bacteria from contaminating human food. According to field studies conducted by Epitopix and reviewed by the USDA, the vaccine reduced the number of cattle testing positive for the bacteria by 85 percent. Of the animals that did test positive for E. coli, the vaccine eliminated 99 percent of the bacteria.

"Those are impressive numbers," said Michael Doyle, director of the University of Georgia's Center for Food Safety. "That would be a beneficial treatment for meat producers. We need treatments like this." Doyle is not connected to Epitopix.

E. coli O157 infects about 70,000 people each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The bacteria, which live in intestines of cattle, infect humans who inadvertently consume animal feces found in finished products such as ground beef. E. coli O157 causes stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting and can lead to kidney damage and death. There are few, if any, direct treatments for patients; antibiotics have proved largely ineffective, the CDC says.

After a decade of declines, E. coli cases have been on the rise since 2005. In 2007, companies recalled more than 30 million pounds of ground beef. At least 65 illnesses, but no deaths, were linked to those recalls. Last year, Westland/Hallmark Meat Co., based in Chino, Calif., pulled 143 million pounds of beef off the market, the largest beef recall in history.

Preventing E. coli from seeping into the human food supply has long vexed the $74 billion beef industry. Until recently, beef producers focused on rigorous monitoring, cleaning and testing of animal parts, as well as consumer education. Some companies have developed more high-tech solutions, including feeding cattle "good" bacteria to neutralize the E. coli pathogens and the use of vaccines to protect humans and cattle.

In 2006, Bioniche Life Sciences in Canada introduced the world's first vaccine against E. coli 0157 in cattle but has not yet received approval in the United States.

How it works

Epitopix's "siderophore receptor and porin (SRP)" vaccine trains the body's immune system to target and destroy protein receptors located on the outer membranes of bacteria that otherwise would steal iron from the host. Bacteria need iron to survive, so denying them iron by eliminating the proteins theoretically would kill the pathogen and prevent infection.

Many types of bacteria contain identical protein receptors, so Epitopix's SRP vaccine could theoretically work against many diseases. In 2004, Epitopix spun off Syntiron to apply the technology for human use. Syntiron won a $3.8 million contract this month from the U.S. Defense Department to combat bioterrorism-related diseases, including anthrax and bubonic plague.

Sandstrom of Epitopix says he hopes the vaccine will be ready by the summer, the peak season for cattle slaughter. The company estimates the vaccine will eventually protect 10 million cattle on animal feed a year, or a quarter of the country's annual cattle supply. Epitopix is in talks to partner with major drug manufacturers like Pfizer Inc. and Novartis AG.

One of the country's largest beef producers has already agreed to purchase the vaccine, said Sandstrom, who declined to name the customer.

Cargill Inc., Tyson Foods Inc., and Smithfield Foods Inc. are among the nation's top meat processors.

After a decade of declines, E. coli cases have been on the rise since 2005. In 2007, companies recalled more than 30 million pounds of ground beef. At least 65 illnesses, but no deaths, were linked to those recalls. Last year, Westland/Hallmark Meat Co., based in Chino, Calif., pulled 143 million pounds of beef off the market, the largest beef recall in history.

Preventing E. coli from seeping into the human food supply has long vexed the $74 billion beef industry. Until recently, beef producers focused on rigorous monitoring, cleaning and testing of animal parts, as well as consumer education. Some companies have developed more high-tech solutions, including feeding cattle "good" bacteria to neutralize the E. coli pathogens and the use of vaccines to protect humans and cattle.

In 2006, Bioniche Life Sciences in Canada introduced the world's first vaccine against E. coli 0157 in cattle but has not yet received approval in the United States.

How it works

Epitopix's "siderophore receptor and porin (SRP)" vaccine trains the body's immune system to target and destroy protein receptors located on the outer membranes of bacteria that otherwise would steal iron from the host. Bacteria need iron to survive, so denying them iron by eliminating the proteins theoretically would kill the pathogen and prevent infection.

Many types of bacteria contain identical protein receptors, so Epitopix's SRP vaccine could theoretically work against many diseases. In 2004, Epitopix spun off Syntiron to apply the technology for human use. Syntiron won a $3.8 million contract this month from the U.S. Defense Department to combat bioterrorism-related diseases, including anthrax and bubonic plague.

Sandstrom of Epitopix says he hopes the vaccine will be ready by the summer, the peak season for cattle slaughter. The company estimates the vaccine will eventually protect 10 million cattle on animal feed a year, or a quarter of the country's annual cattle supply. Epitopix is in talks to partner with major drug manufacturers like Pfizer Inc. and Novartis AG.

One of the country's largest beef producers has already agreed to purchase the vaccine, said Sandstrom, who declined to name the customer.

Cargill Inc., Tyson Foods Inc., and Smithfield Foods Inc. are among the nation's top meat processors.

State starts new food-safety guidelines
Source of Article: http://www.ajc.com
By CRAIG SCHNEIDER
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
State food safety officials have implemented the first-ever guidelines for inspections of peanut processing plants following the salmonella outbreak, but industry watchdogs doubt the agency has the enforcement to make them stick.
The state Agriculture Department has drafted three pages of safety checks, questions to ask and documents to examine. All pertain to the peanut plants¡¯ cleanliness, preparation of products and methods for preventing salmonella and other contamination.
For all the latest developments on the peanut crisis and the salmonella outbreak, with an updated list of recalled items, plus background on the scare, go to the AJC's special report:
¡°We¡¯re asking for a lot more information,¡± said Oscar Garrison, Georgia¡¯s assistant agriculture commissioner for consumer protection.
Industry watchdogs question whether state inspectors will get tough regarding those requests. They note that the department has imposed no fines or other penalties against peanut plants in the three years for which the agency maintains records.
¡°The agency does have to become tougher,¡± said Tony Corbo, a representative with Food & Water Watch, a Washington watchdog nonprofit group. Corbo said the new inspection guidelines ¡°seemed to be more of a questionnaire rather than any enforcement of anything.¡±
Garrison acknowledged that the peanut plants are not required by law to provide about one-third of the 28 requests for documentation, including some of the most vital to food safety. These include records regarding in-house tests for salmonella and the operation of the peanut roaster, which is used to kill contamination.
Georgia has 27 peanut processing plants and five plants that manufacture peanut butter. The state Agriculture Department, in charge of food safety, said these plants are inspected about once a year. While prior inspections followed general guidelines on food safety, the new program marks the first time there have been specific instructions for inspecting peanut plants.
The recent outbreak is the second peanut butter-related salmonella outbreak traced to Georgia in four years.
The current outbreak has sickened 683 people in 46 states and may be linked to nine deaths. It has prompted one of the largest food recalls in U.S. history, with 3,235 products on the federal list.
Garrison said peanut plant operators have so far cooperated with the new guidelines. Several of the guidelines respond to problems that health officials found at the Blakely plant in South Georgia, including roaches, mold and a history of selling peanut products that had tested positive for salmonella.
Garrison said the agency is planning for greater regulation.
Senate Bill 80, which recently passed, would mandate, not request, state access to records regarding the destruction of food contamination such as salmonella, which could include salmonella testing and logs on the use of roasters. The bill also would demand that a company that finds salmonella notify the state within 24 hours.
Another bill, which passed the state House Tuesday, would allow county health inspectors to assist in inspecting food processing plants.
Garrison said the new guide for inspections could lead to longer inspections, which could tax the current staff of inspectors.
Garrison said the agency has requested state funding to create a special team of inspectors that focus on food processing plants. That funding request is under review by the state Legislature.
Staff writer Aaron Gould Sheinin contributed to this article.

Governments in China urged to thoroughly enforce food safety law
Source of Article: http://news.xinhuanet.com/
www.chinaview.cn 2009-03-10 23:16:51

BEIJING, March 10 (Xinhua) -- China's cabinet Tuesday ordered local governments and central governmental departments to carefully prepare for the implementation of newly-adopted Food Safety Law, with special focus on the safety of dairy products.
General Office of the State Council, or the Cabinet, said in a circular to the departments and local governments that the law, which goes into effect on June 1, must be enforced in a "down-to-earth" manner in order to ensure food products safe to consume.
The law, adopted by the national legislature on Feb. 28, has been widely seen as a new push to improve food safety in the country through stricter monitoring and supervision, tougher safety standards, recall of substandard products and severe punishment on offenders.
"Governments and relevant departments should take all responsibilities stipulated by the law to enhance supervision and monitoring, and to seriously deal with officials if they fail to perform the duty," said the circular.
The Ministry of Health was asked to create a new set of unified national standards on food safety, as stipulated by the law, by coordinating and revising current standards.
The revision of safety standards on dairy products should be done as soon as possible, said the circular.
Standards should also be made or revised to tighten the control of bacteria, pesticide residue, heavy metal and polluting materials in food products, as well as the use of food additives.
"All safety standards should be available for the public for further consultation," said the circular.
Governments at various levels were also ordered to give "necessary" support to the monitoring and supervision work, and mass media are encouraged to help raise public awareness of the law.
"The implementation of the law is of great significance because food safety directly matters the people's health and safety, the nation's economic growth and social stability," it said.
The law was adopted following some food scandals that triggered vehement calls for overhauling China's current monitoring system.
Although the country had certain food quality control systems in place for many years, lots of loopholes emerged in past years, mainly due to varied standards, lack of sense of social responsibility among some business people, lenient punishment for violators and weaknesses in testing and monitoring work.

Washington man files suit vs. Kellogg, claiming salmonella poisoning

Source of Article: http://www.oregonlive.com/
by Lynne Terry, The Oregonian
Tuesday March 10, 2009, 3:30 PM
A Washington state man and his daughter had to be hospitalized in January with severe symptoms of salmonella poisoning after eating peanut butter crackers.
They recovered but Bill Rector just filed the first lawsuit of his life anyway in hopes of paying for thousands of dollars in medical bills and holding the food industry accountable.
"This could happen again with another product in three months," said Rector, who lives with his wife and daughter in Blaine near the Canadian border. "It makes you wonder about what you buy in the grocery store. I hope more people come forward to make sure that these outbreaks don't happen again."
The lawsuit comes as the Food and Drug Administration issued safety guidelines on today aimed directly at companies that make food with peanuts.
The guidelines warn that improperly roasted peanuts could harbor salmonella and that baking might not always kill the bacteria. They urge manufacturers to buy ingredients from trusted suppliers that have processes in place to kill salmonella.
"In many respects this memo is telling companies that buy products to use common sense," said Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney specializing in food poisoning cases who represents the Rector family and a Wilsonville couple, Peter and Brandy Hurley, who also filed suit.
Their son was sick for 11 days after eating the same thing -- Kellogg's Austin Toasty Crackers with Peanut Butter.
Both the Hurley and Rector lawsuits accuse Kellogg Co. of failing to ensure that the crackers were "safe, wholesome, free of defects" and of negligence in "adequately supervising" its food suppliers.
Kris Charles, a Kellogg spokesperson, said in an e-mail today that the Michigan-based manufacturer does not comment on litigation. It is now facing seven suits nationwide in connection with the outbreak.
Since the first salmonella case last year, 683 people have been sickened, including 13 in Oregon and 23 in Washington state. Nine people have died, making this one of the deadliest instances of food poisoning in U.S. history.
The outbreak has also sparked a massive recall, with more than 3,000 products taken off shelves and destroyed. They include everything from cookies and ice cream to packaged dinners and dog biscuits. Even organic roasted peanuts have been pulled.
All of the recalled items were made with ingredients from Peanut Corp. of America, which is facing a criminal investigation.
Salmonella was found in King Nut peanut butter made with Peanut Corp. ingredients as well as Austin peanut butter crackers.
Rector, 32, said that he and his 3-year-old daughter were hospitalized for three days. Their medical insurance covered 85 percent of the cost, leaving the family with $8,000 in medical bills.
Rector is seeking unspecified damages in the suit. As a manager for a meat department of a grocery store, he said he is also trying to make a point about food safety.
It is not difficult to prevent salmonella infections, but Peanut Corp. did little about the problem, Rector said.
Federal inspectors found salmonella in Peanut Corp.'s plant in Blakely, Ga., along with evidence that the company sold ingredients even after they tested positive for salmonella. A private lab also found salmonella at Peanut Corp.'s plant in Plainview, Texas.
Both plants are closed and Peanut Corp. has filed for bankruptcy.
But manufacturers, such as Kellogg, can also be held accountable under the law, Marler said.
"One thing that's great about the American justice system is that it's a great way of focusing a company's attention on the problem it created," Marler said.

Focus on food contact surfaces, advises Canadian listeria expert
Source of Article: http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/Quality-Safety/Focus-on-food-contact-surfaces-advises-Canadian-listeria-expert
By Mike Stones, 10-Mar-2009
Food contact surfaces, rather than non food contact ones, should be the focus of Canadian legislation aimed at eliminating listeria, according to a federal government advisor on food safety.
Speaking exclusively to FoodProductionDaily.com, Rick Holley, a member of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency¡¯s (CFIA) advisory panel, said:

¡°My concern is that the CFIA is still in negotiation with the industry and has indicated that it intends to put in place non food contact environmental testing for ceilings and walls. That would deflect resources (from food contact surfaces) and prove counter productive.¡±
¡°I¡¯d advise them to scrap it (greater testing of non food contact surfaces). It won¡¯t provide greater level of certainty that the rooms in which the (food) products are manufactured are any safer.¡±
It would be far better to focus new testing procedures on the areas of greatest risk which are food contact surfaces, he added.
New rules on testing non food contact surfaces are expected in the early autumn.

Ready-to-eat meats
Last month, CFIA introduced new more rigorous testing rules for ready-to-eat-meats which will come into force from 1 April 2009.
Meanwhile, Holley questioned Canada¡¯s financial commitment to eliminating listeria. ¡°We don¡¯t have the financial resources to address listeria and listeriosis and that is symptomatic of larger problems.¡±
Canadian food-borne illness surveillance is passive and not ¡°usefully comprehensive,¡± said Holley. ¡°It¡¯s been cut back since the late ¡®80s due to other fiscal priorities.¡±

Also, two-tiered food safety inspection systems, including federal and provincial monitoring, complicate testing procedures unnecessarily, he said.

Risk of Infection
Finally, not enough attention was paid to risk of food infection arising from animal feed contaminants, said Holley.
Earlier this month CFIA and Portuguese Cheese Company advised the public not to eat St John¡¯s brand Fresh Cheese which may be contaminated with listeria.
No reported illnesses have been linked to this product.
An outbreak of listeriosis in Canada last summer was linked to the deaths of 20 people.

The missionaries
Cargill is bringing the food-safety gospel to China

Source of Article: http://www.meatpoultry.com/news/weekly_enews.asp?ArticleID=100421&e=INSERT_EMAIL

(MEATPOULTRY.com, February 27, 2009)
by Steve Bjerklie

As soon as melamine contamination of food products was traced to Chinese processors last year, calls were made to limit or even ban imports of Chinese food products into the U.S.. "It¡¯s always the immediate reaction," notes Mike Robach, vice president of food safety and regulatory affairs for Cargill. "But the way we look at it, it¡¯s a global food supply chain. Soon enough there are going to be 50 percent more people in the world, and they¡¯re going to have to eat food that comes from somewhere. A lot of it is going to come from China."

With an eye on China¡¯s enormous potential as a major world food producer, despite problems such as melamine, Cargill has become an important food-safety resource for the Chinese food industry as well as the Chinese government. The company opened an applications research center in Beijing two years ago and has been working with the government in China on reforming its food-safety regulations to become more practical and stringent.

"It¡¯s been a concern to a number of us that operate in China that we don¡¯t want China condemned as a whole when a situation like what happened with melamine arises," Robach told MEATPOULTRY.com, agreeing that Cargill has a self-interest in the reputation of foods and food ingredients produced in China. "Our business is growing over there. We have a fairly large footprint," he said.

"There are good Chinese food plants and there are some bad plants," he continued, noting that food production in China "is still fragmented. There¡¯s an upper tier that really knows what it¡¯s doing, and that¡¯s great. There¡¯s a mid-tier that¡¯s doing an OK job. And there¡¯s a lower tier that doesn¡¯t know what it doesn¡¯t know, and that¡¯s a little concerning."

In an effort to establish more plants in the top tier and fewer in the bottom, Cargill has partnered with General Mills, Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart, among other companies, to bring uniformity to food-safety standards and practices in China. Cargill is also a member of Safe Supply of Affordable Food Everywhere, a private-public partnership that aspires to be a global catalyst to protect the world¡¯s food supply chain. SSAFE grew out of discussions shared in 2005 at the Paris headquarters of the World Organization for Animal Health by food company executives and academicians.

While China¡¯s food industry is still behind the western world¡¯s in terms of sophistication and technology, the food economy in China is impressive. Chinese consumers eat 51 percent of all the world¡¯s pork, 33 percent of the world¡¯s rice and 15 percent of the world¡¯s ice cream. "Most of what we produce in our operations in China stays in China," said Robach, adding that Cargill has had interests in China since the 1970s. "What we see now is an emerging middle class throughout Asia, and in fact Chinese food executives see poultry and pork as export opportunities in the future."

In March of last year, Cargill signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese government describing food-safety collaborations, and recently Cargill and General Mills hosted a team of Chinese food-safety government officials, business executives and academicians on a world tour of food-safety organizations and agencies; the group also visited some food plants. Stops included a two-week training at the United Nations¡¯ Food and Agriculture Organization¡¯s offices in Rome, Italy; USDA, the Food and Drug Administration, the American Meat Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association in Washington, D.C.; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga.; and the Minnesota state departments of agriculture and health.

"What we wanted to emphasize was the interaction of government regulation and public health," Robach commented to MEATPOULTRY.com. "The Chinese officials on the tour were surprised, I think, by the proactive nature of the private sector. They saw companies and industries taking ownership of food safety. In China, the government tells you what to do. No one is yet stepping forward to make food safety part of their normal operations when they don¡¯t have to."

He said the tour purposely did not include top Chinese executives and leaders. "Our idea was to plant the seeds with emerging leaders, with the people who will be running China¡¯s food plants tomorrow. We also sought to set up training programs at the universities so that there¡¯s a new group of food-safety scientists and experts emerging that can help the industry."

EFSA publishes opinion on nano risk

Source of Article: http://members.ift.org/IFT/Pubs/Newsletters/weekly/nl_031109.htm

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published its scientific opinion on nanoscience and nanotechnologies in relation to food and feed safety. EFSA¡¯s Scientific Committee (SC) has concluded that established international approaches to risk assessment can also be applied to engineered nano materials (ENM). However, the SC also concluded that a case-by-case approach would be necessary and that, in practice, current data limitations and a lack of validated test methodologies could make risk assessment of specific nano products very difficult and subject to a high degree of uncertainty.

This opinion focuses on the use of nanotechnologies, particularly ENMs, in the food and feed chain. It elaborates on approaches and methodologies available for risk assessment of these very small particles but does not address any specific applications of particular ENMs. The European Commission (EC) asked for this opinion because consideration needs to be given as to whether existing risk assessment approaches can be appropriately applied to this new technology.

The EFSA SC recommends that additional research and investigation is needed to address the many current uncertainties and data limitations. Specific recommendations include the following:

Investigating the interaction and stability of ENMs in food and feed, in the gastro-intestinal tract and in biological tissues.
Developing and validating routine methods to detect, characterize, and quantify ENMs in food contact materials, food, and feed.
Developing, improving, and validating test methodologies to assess toxicity of ENMs (including reliability and relevance of test methods).
¡°The Scientific Committee has concluded that in principle it is possible to undertake risk assessments in this emerging scientific area by making use of available international approaches,¡± said Vittorio Silano, Chair of EFSA¡¯s Scientific Committee. ¡°However, given current data gaps and limitations in a number of cases, it may be very difficult to provide fully satisfactory conclusions.¡±

Dead Birds Found Across State Prompt Bird Food Recall
Source of Article: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29622251/

ThePiedmontChannel.com

updated 12:49 p.m. PT, Wed., March. 11, 2009

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Several dead wild birds found across North Carolina have tested positive for salmonella, prompting an investigation that lead to the recall of a wild bird food, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said Tuesday afternoon.

Kentucky-based Burkmann Feeds said it was recalling its Wild Birds Unlimited Wildlife Blend after tests conducted by the NCDA&CS revealed the presence of salmonella bacteria.

The food was sold exclusively at Wild Birds Unlimited stores.

¡°We are pleased that the testing has enabled us to remove contaminated feed from the market,¡± Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said. ¡°Food safety is a No. 1 priority for this department, for both humans and animals.¡±

People handling contaminated wild bird food can become infected with salmonella, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands.

Bipartisan Call for Food Safety Fixes

(New York Times, DC)

By GARDINER HARRIS

A parade of Democratic and Republican lawmakers promised at a House hearing on Wednesday that they would work to pass a broad array of changes in the nation¡¯s food safety system, although they disagreed on crucial details.

Among the sharpest areas of disagreement are whether to split the Food and Drug Administration into two agencies and whether to finance increased safety inspections through fees on industry or through general appropriations.

Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he would oppose splitting the F.D.A., at least for now.

¡°Our first goal should be to address the problems that plague this program where it currently sits,¡± Mr. Waxman said. ¡°After we finish that job, we can consider whether a reorganization is necessary.¡±

But Representative Diana DeGette, Democrat of Colorado and vice chairwoman of the commerce committee, said she continued to advocate a separate agency to oversee food safety.

The differences are not partisan. Republicans at the hearing said they, too, supported strong reforms.

¡°On food safety, there is no daylight between Henry Waxman and Joe Barton,¡± said Representative Joe L. Barton of Texas, the senior Republican on the commerce committee.

The House has held nearly two dozen food safety hearings over the last year, focusing on contamination in jalapeno peppers, peanut butter, pet food, seafood, spinach and tomatoes manufactured both in the United States and abroad.

A panel of experts from consumer groups and the industry largely agreed that broad changes were needed. For industry, the growing number of food-poisoning incidents have become enormously expensive. Thomas E. Stenzel, chief executive of the United Fresh Produce Association, said an entire crop of spinach was discarded in 2006 during a salmonella outbreak.

¡°In fact,¡± Mr. Stenzel said, ¡°we now know that the only contaminated product came from one 50-acre farm, packaged in one processing plant and only on one production shift.¡± Yet spinach sales continue to suffer, he added.

In statements, members of the commerce committee¡¯s Subcommittee on Health agreed that the F.D.A. needed greater legal authority and more financing.

Of more than a half-dozen overhaul bills that have already been filed, most would give the agency the power to require that unsafe food be recalled; at present, most such recalls require a manufacturer¡¯s agreement.

Members also largely agreed that the traceability of foods needed to be improved so the source of any contamination could be found quickly, and that food manufacturers must write and carry out food safety plans.

Whatever the details, the lawmakers said, Congress needs to take action soon.

¡°We have before us one of the finest messes in history,¡± said Representative John D. Dingell, Democrat of Michigan, who accused both Congress and the White House of allowing the F.D.A. to become incompetent.

¡°As a result of the failure of giving Food and Drug the resources it needs,¡± Mr. Dingell continued, ¡°people are dying.¡± 3-12-09

Food safety revamp on way, Obama says
Source of Article: http://www.ajc.com/
By Bob Keefe
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Washington ?- President Barack Obama has ordered the country¡¯s food-safety regulatory agencies to revamp how they work together and to find ways to detect food contamination more quickly after the nationwide salmonella outbreak that had its roots in Georgia.

¡°I¡¯ve directed both the Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services to work to come up with a plan, so that a lot of these different agencies that have some jurisdiction over food safety are integrated in a much more effective way, and [so] things aren¡¯t falling through the cracks,¡± Obama said in an interview Wednesday at the White House with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other newspapers.

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Obama also hinted that he¡¯ll soon announce major changes at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that may improve food safety regulations and give the FDA more power to regulate the tobacco industry.

Bills making their way through Congress would give the government more regulatory power over tobacco ?- either through the FDA or a new federal agency.

But Obama indicated forthcoming changes also are aimed at preventing another salmonella outbreak like the one traced to Peanut Corp. of America¡¯s Blakely plant in that has sickened more than 660 nationwide and may have led to nine deaths.

¡°We ¡¦ need to be able to trace sources of food contamination much more quickly than we¡¯re doing right now,¡± Obama said. ¡°Technology can be helpful, but the key is actually reorganizing the agencies that are responsible so they¡¯re working more in concert than they are right now.¡±

On Wednesday, The New York Times quoted people briefed on the decision as saying Obama intends to nominate Dr. Margaret Hamburg, a former New York City health commissioner, to lead the FDA, with Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, health commissioner of Baltimore, as her chief deputy.

Among other topics Obama addressed:

> The South and Southerners: Asked why his Cabinet and senior staff at last count includes only two Southerners ?- White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, an Alabama native, and EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, originally from New Orleans ?- Obama acknowledged he didn¡¯t keep geography in mind when he was looking for his top advisers.

¡°I¡¯ve got to admit that we have thought a lot about finding the very best people for the jobs, and haven¡¯t been thinking with great intensity about regionalism, because partly ?- except for food and sports teams and the weather ?- we¡¯re one country,¡± he said. ¡°And I think people are so mobile these days that I tend to think of ourselves as all just Americans.¡±

> The economy: Obama said he reads a sampling of letters the White House gets each day from people who are losing their houses and jobs and are generally suffering through the recession.

¡°Some of them are just heartbreaking,¡± he said. ¡°Everything we¡¯re doing is focused on not only pulling this economy out of what is the worst recession since the Great Depression, but also looking at ways we can set a foundation and long-term growth.¡±

Investing in health care, energy and education, he said, would help build a better and stronger economy.

¡°The days of growing the economy through an overheated housing market or through people running up exorbitant credit card bills is over,¡± Obama said. ¡°We¡¯ve got to put our growth model on a different footing,¡±

> Mexican border violence and immigration issues: Obama said U.S. and Mexican officials are working on a plan to address increasing drug-related violence on the border.

¡°Our expectation is to have a comprehensive policy in place in the next few months ¡¦ that will involve supporting [Mexico President Felipe] Calderon and his efforts in partnership.¡±

On immigration, Obama said the meltdown of the U.S. economy and job opportunities ¡°has slowed the flow¡± of illegal immigrants.

¡°But it remains a serious concern,¡± he said.

 


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