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3/24
2009
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U.S. food safety system too flawed for a quick fix
Source of Article: http://www.ajc.com/services/content/printedition/2009/03/23/hautered0323.html
By Wenonah Hauter, Charles Stanley Painter
From News Services
Monday, March 23, 2009
Our 100-year-old food inspection system is not aging gracefully. Despite a century of improvements, consumers are still playing Russian roulette when it comes to the food they eat. Even today, one in four Americans ?- 76 million people ?- endures a food-borne illness and 5,000 people die each year.
This year¡¯s peanut meltdown alone has killed nine people, sickened thousands and shaken consumer confidence in food safety. Reports of the filthy conditions at Peanut Corporation of America sound more like Upton Sinclair¡¯s 1905 ¡°The Jungle¡± than a 21st-century food facility. Health inspectors and former employees described roaches, mold-covered walls and a rat dry-roasting in the peanuts.
Yet, no one seems to take responsibility for the depressingly routine food safety fiascos. Congress wants to know who is culpable and which agency ?- the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Food and Drug Administration ?- is in charge. It is no wonder that some are calling for a single food inspection agency to consolidate accountability.
Before rushing to create the Department of Homeland Security of food safety, Congress must consider what could be lost by combining two agencies with radically different levels of authority and resources.
USDA inspects 20 percent of the food supply, including all meat, poultry and egg products, while FDA is responsible for the rest. This confused jurisdiction is highlighted in the ubiquitous pizza example ?- FDA oversees cheese pizza and USDA inspects pepperoni pizza. This seemingly idiotic division of labor reflects the important differences in the authority and mission of these food inspection agencies. We shouldn¡¯t ask which agency inspects which pizza. Instead, the question should be this: How often and how well is food inspected
USDA¡¯s billion-dollar food safety budget funds 7,400 inspectors that provide at least daily inspection to 5,600 meat and poultry facilities. In contrast, FDA has two-thirds the food safety budget of USDA, but oversees 80 percent of the food. FDA¡¯s fewer than 500 inspectors only visit the nation¡¯s 150,000 processing plants under its jurisdiction once every decade. So, USDA inspects pepperoni pizza makers every day, but FDA inspects cheese pizza factories once every 10 years.
Moreover, USDA has a powerful tool that FDA lacks. USDA can withdraw inspectors from a substandard facility, which legally prevents the plant from operating, effectively preventing contaminated pepperoni pizzas from reaching grocery store shelves. FDA cannot block tainted food from the marketplace or enforce mandatory recalls. This has proved to be a fatal weakness.
Nonetheless, USDA has its own set of problems, and its oversight has been eroded over the past decade. In 1996, the Clinton administration reduced USDA authority by allowing meat processors to write their own inspection plans ?- plans that are not certified by USDA. Inspectors began focusing on paperwork audits instead of inspecting products for possible contamination. Additionally, USDA has not kept up with the increased volume of meat and poultry being processed. In 1981, USDA employed about 190 workers per billion pounds of meat and poultry inspected and approved. By 2007, USDA employed fewer than 88 workers per billion pounds, a 54 percent drop.
Considering the disproportionate resources, inspection authority, and the flaws plaguing both agencies, a rapid merger of USDA and FDA would make a rocky marriage. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was right when he said, ¡°Before there can be any conversation about merging of entities or a single agency or anything of that sort, you¡¯ve got to get the foundation right.¡±
Legislative proposals abound for mending the broken food safety system, especially the glaring failures of the FDA. Rep. Rosa DeLauro¡¯s (D-Conn.) bill, the Food Safety Modernization Act, would require FDA to mirror USDA¡¯s inspection model and correct the statutory limitations that have shackled the agency. DeLauro¡¯s bill has the strongest framework to upgrade the FDA¡¯s outdated and ineffective food safety oversight.
After reforming FDA, then we can update USDA laws and restore USDA¡¯s inspection authority to prevent future outbreaks of food-borne illnesses from meat and poultry. However, if USDA and FDA are combined before the basic building blocks of food safety reform are in place, the merger could do more harm than good.
> Wenonah Hauter is executive director of Food & Water Watch, a Washington consumer organization.
Charles Stanley Painter chairs the National Joint Council of Food Inspection Local Unions.

Sunsprout Enterprises¡¯ Salmonella Sprouts Now Linked to 121 Illnesses in NE, SD and IA

Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/
The outbreak that's sickened people in four Midwest states has been tied to SunSprout Enterprises' sprouts that were distributed to grocery stores and restaurants. The Omaha company "voluntarily" recalled its products.
Nebraska health officials say 84 cases of Salmonella saintpaul have been confirmed near Omaha, Lincoln and Kearney.
Iowa officials confirmed 27 cases. South Dakota and Kansas officials have both confirmed five cases in their states.
Sprouts have been implicated in an increasing number of foodborne illness outbreaks in recent years, and although procedures have been developed to significantly reduce bacterial contamination, not all sprout growers have adopted techniques to decrease the risk of contaminated produce. In 1999, the FDA announced new guidelines for the growing of sprouts, including using calcium hypochlorite treatment on seeds. This treatment exposes seeds to high levels of chlorine, killing bacteria, but leaving seeds unharmed. Since its introduction, manufacturers who consistently use this seed disinfectant treatment have not been implicated in foodborne illness outbreaks.

691 Salmonella Typhimurium Peanut Product Illnesses in 46 States
Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/
The CDC reports today that 691 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from 46 states. The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Alabama (2), Arizona (14), Arkansas (6), California (76), Colorado (18), Connecticut (11), Florida (1), Georgia (6), Hawaii (6), Idaho (17), Illinois (11), Indiana (10), Iowa (3), Kansas (2), Kentucky (3), Louisiana (1), Maine (5), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (48), Michigan (38), Minnesota (43), Missouri (15), Mississippi (7), Montana (2), Nebraska (1), New Hampshire (13), New Jersey (24), New York (34), Nevada (7), North Carolina (6), North Dakota (17), Ohio (100), Oklahoma (4), Oregon (13), Pennsylvania (19), Rhode Island (5), South Dakota (4), Tennessee (14), Texas (10), Utah (7), Vermont (4), Virginia (21), Washington (24), West Virginia (2), Wisconsin (5), and Wyoming (2). Additionally, one ill person was reported from Canada. Interesting - No cases in Alaska, South Carolina, Delaware or New Mexico.

Among the persons with confirmed, reported dates available, illnesses began between September 1, 2008 and February 24, 2009. Patients range in age from <1 to 98 years. The median age of patients is 16 years which means that half of ill persons are younger than 16 years. 21% are age <5 years, 17% are >59 years. 48% of patients are female. Among persons with available information, 23% reported being hospitalized. Infection may have contributed to nine deaths: Idaho (1), Minnesota (3), North Carolina (1), Ohio (2), and Virginia (2).

Salmonella Typhimurium Peanut Products Update ? 683 sickened in 46 states ? 23% Hospitalized and 9 Deaths ? With Movie
Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/
CDC now reports 683 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from 46 states. The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Alabama (2), Arizona (13), Arkansas (6), California (76), Colorado (17), Connecticut (11), Florida (1), Georgia (6), Hawaii (6), Idaho (17), Illinois (11), Indiana (10), Iowa (3), Kansas (2), Kentucky (3), Louisiana (1), Maine (5), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (48), Michigan (38), Minnesota (42), Missouri (15), Mississippi (7), Montana (2), Nebraska (1), New Hampshire (13), New Jersey (23), New York (34), Nevada (6), North Carolina (6), North Dakota (17), Ohio (99), Oklahoma (4), Oregon (13), Pennsylvania (19), Rhode Island (5), South Dakota (4), Tennessee (14), Texas (10), Utah (6), Vermont (4), Virginia (21), Washington (23), West Virginia (2), Wisconsin (5), and Wyoming (2). Additionally, one ill person was reported from Canada.

Among the persons with confirmed, reported dates available, illnesses began between September 1, 2008 and February 13, 2009. Patients range in age from <1 to 98 years. The median age of patients is 16 years which means that half of ill persons are younger than 16 years. 21% are age <5 years, 17% are >59 years. 48% of patients are female. Among persons with available information, 23% reported being hospitalized. Infection may have contributed to nine deaths: Idaho (1), Minnesota (3), North Carolina (1), Ohio (2), and Virginia (2). See the below video on how this nasty bug works.

1. Salmonella has a dramatic way of invading the host cell.
2. The surface of intestinal cells is covered with microvilli.
3. Like the enteropathogenic E. coli, Salmonella uses a specialized syringelike mechanism to inject proteins through the host membrane surface and into the cytoplasm.
4. The injected proteins trigger the epithelial cell membrane to extend outward (ruffle), and as a result, the bacterium is engulfed and dragged inside the host cell.
5. Once many bacteria have adhered to the intestinal lining, symptoms of the infection (diarrhea and cramping) commence.
6. The process of engulfing the bacterium ends up with the bacterium completely encased in a vacuole made up of the host cell membrane. The vacuole is dragged inside the cell by actin filaments.
7. Under normal circumstances, the host cell has the bacterium exactly where it wants it. The normal mechanism for dealing with a foreign body invading a cell involves lysosomes of the cell fusing with the vacuole surrounding the invader and showering it with a concentrated mix of digestive enzymes, which degrade the intracellular pathogen. So, unless the Salmonella can do something fast, it is doomed.
8. However, the Salmonella has injector system to inject other bacterial proteins into the surrounding vacuole and adjacent area. This second injection alters the vacuole structure (shown as a white-blue glow in the animation). The vacuole is now blocked from fusion with toxic lysosomes (shown as red balls).
9. Now safe and sound, Salmonella begins to divide inside the vacuole. The bacteria continue to divide while the vacuole grows.
10. The Salmonella infection may now spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites.

Also, today "FDA issues peanut safety guidelines for foodmakers." As I said:

COMMON SENSE

Bill Marler, a Seattle-based lawyer who is representing 85 clients who got sick from eating tainted food, said the recommendations are just common sense for any manufacturer that uses outside suppliers.
"What the FDA does in this suggestion memo is to say make sure you are buying your parts from reputable people who have a plan," Marler said in a telephone interview.
"These are all great ideas and all things that the industry should have known. Some did know. Some practiced it, but clearly a lot of people weren't paying attention."
Marler said he has filed six lawsuits in federal court against Peanut Corp; its owner, Stewart Parnell; and Kellogg Co (K.N), which used some of the recalled peanuts as ingredients.
Peanut Corp had a $12 million insurance policy for personal injury liability, he said, but that will not be enough to cover the claims of people filing personal injury and wrongful death cases.

He said the company also had a recall insurance policy worth about $7 million. Otherwise, the company was about $400,000 in debt.
Marler also has filed lawsuits against Kellogg and Ohio-based food distributor King Nut individually, and said he plans to file more by the end of the week.

What if Nestle Had Told the FDA?

Source of Article: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/

Nestle USA has gotten kudos all around for conducting its own inspections of Peanut Corporation of America factories and for opting not to use PCA's products when those inspections turned up all kinds of unsavory, unsanitary conditions. You can read the detailed reports on the Congressional Committee on Energy and Commerce Web site where they were posted in connection with last week's hearings about the PCA/salmonella scandal.
I agree that Nestle USA did a good job by not just relying on a third-party inspector. It's a shame that PCA didn't change its ways when Nestle told the company what it had found -- even when Nestle offered to help, as it did when it reported that PCA lacked a plan for monitoring pathogens (such as salmonella).
But a number of readers commenting on Washington Post's report about Nestle USA's inspections asked an intriguing question: What might have happened had Nestle taken its findings to the FDA right away? Could a great deal of suffering -- and nine deaths! -- have been averted had it been more widely known that PCA was potentially selling salmonella-tainted peanuts?
Edie Burge, a spokesperson for Nestle USA, tells me, "We did share our detailed audit results with PCA, which provided a comprehensive overview of the issues we uncovered during our audit. As you know, we are not required to inform the government about problems we find as a result of our internal audits of potential suppliers."
That's how the system works. And of course it's not Nestle USA's job to inspect factories on behalf of the American people. That's the FDA's job.
The Obama administration has pledged to revamp the FDA's operations to better equip the agency to handle the complex challenges of keeping America's food supply safe. Getting that right could mean we wouldn't have to worry about these things so much any more.
Complicating the story: Nestle USA issued a press release on January 28 that read in part "We are pleased to advise that no Nestle USA products have been affected or recalled as a result" of the PCA/salmonella issue. So what to make of a February 3 recall of Nestle HealthCare Nutrition's recall of its OPTIFAST Honey Nut 'n Oat Nutritional Bars "due to possible Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) Contamination and Potential Health Risk"?

Turns out, Nestle HealthCare Nutrition isn't the same as Nestle USA -- though, as Edie Burge explains, they both report to the same Nestle headquarters in Switzerland.
I don't know about you, but I'm inclined to withhold my kudos for now.
By Jennifer Huget | March 23, 2009;

Nestle's Inspectors Saw Rat Droppings, Rejected Peanuts

Source of Article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
Hearing Explores Why Others Did Not
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 20, 2009; Page A02
Nestle USA, considering whether to buy ingredients from Peanut Corporation of America, twice sent its own inspectors to check out the company. Both times, they rejected the company after finding sanitary problems at its facilities in Georgia and Texas, noting rat droppings, live beetles, dead insects and the potential for microbial contamination.

It proved to be a good call.

Today, Peanut Corporation of America stands accused by federal investigators of knowingly selling peanut products contaminated with salmonella bacteria, which triggered a criminal investigation, the largest food recall in American history and an outbreak of illness that has sickened at least 691 people and killed nine since September.

Kellogg and other companies that bought products from Peanut Corporation of America told lawmakers yesterday that unlike Nestle, they did not perform their own inspections. Instead, they relied on third-party audits common in the U.S. food industry.

David Mackay, Kellogg's chief executive, said his company trusted audits performed by the American Institute of Baking International, the biggest food-inspection firm in the country. The institute conducted scheduled inspections of PCA's facilities and never flagged serious problems. It issued a "certificate of achievement" and a "superior" rating last August, when PCA was getting results from internal laboratory tests that revealed a salmonella problem in its plant in Blakely, Ga., congressional investigators said.

"They gave PCA glowing reviews," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "The company was selected by PCA, paid by PCA, and realized that if they didn't give PCA a glowing review, they were not going to get hired again.

"They gave PCA a certificate of achievement," added Waxman, who held up the certificate in one hand and with the other waved a photograph, taken by federal investigators, of dead rodents inside a PCA facility. "How do you have a company that looks like this getting a certificate of achievement? . . . It really makes you think there must be something wrong."

E-mails released by the committee showed a comfortable relationship between the auditor for AIB and PCA's plant manager. In one e-mail, the auditor tells the plant manager to get the plant ready for inspection, asks the manager to select the date and then offers holiday wishes to the manager and his family.

Brian Soddy, vice president of marketing and sales for AIB, defended the audits in a telephone interview yesterday and said that PCA "went to great lengths to clean it up" before scheduled inspections. Others, including Georgia state inspectors, had also missed problems in PCA's facilities, he said.

AIB conducted basic annual audits at a cost of about $1,000 for PCA. It offers more rigorous inspection services, including a multi-year program at a cost of $20,000 to $30,000, but that was not part of its contract with the peanut company, Soddy said.

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), chairman of the panel's oversight and investigations subcommittee, asked why Kellogg and other companies did not investigate their suppliers.

"Nestle didn't solely rely on an auditor selected by PCA and paid by PCA," he said. "It conducts its own audit with its own staff. You all talk about how safety is the number one issue. Why didn't you do the same thing?"

Kellogg, which has lost about $70 million because of the recall, is now sending its own inspectors into peanut-processing plants and is no longer relying on third-party firms paid by the processors, Mackay said. He said that Kellogg follows that procedure for other raw materials and foods that carry high risks for contamination, but that it is impossible for Kellogg to inspect each of its 1,000 suppliers. And although food companies bear some responsibility to ensure their supplies are safe, they are powerless against a dishonest supplier, he told lawmakers.

"On every batch, we received a certificate of analysis from PCA, and every batch [was] negative" for salmonella, he said. "It's extremely difficult when you have an unethical and dishonest supplier to manage this."

Starting in 2007, Kellogg purchased $5 million to $10 million worth of peanut ingredients annually from PCA and used them in its Keebler cookies and crackers, Famous Amos cookies and Austin peanut butter crackers, among other items, Mackay said.

Yesterday's hearing was the third held by the committee into the scandal surrounding PCA, which filed for bankruptcy protection last month. The case has called national attention to food safety and has sparked dozens of proposals for reform on Capitol Hill. President Obama, who has expressed concern about the peanut butter sandwiches consumed by his 7-year-old daughter, has flagged food safety as a priority. His proposed budget includes additional money for food inspectors at the Food and Drug Administration, and he has created a White House working group to recommend ways to increase food safety.

The outbreak of salmonella illness is ongoing, although officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the number of new cases has declined substantially. They said they expect new illnesses to be reported for the next several months, because some recalled items have a long shelf life and remain in home pantries and in some stores. The FDA does not require retailers to prove that recalled food has been destroyed and has no way to know how many of the more than 2,000 recalled products are still in circulation.

Kellogg CEO testifies in Salmonella hearing

Source of Article: http://www.ift.org/news_bin/news/news_home.shtml

3/20/2009-The House Committee on Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation held a hearing on March 19, entitled ¡°The Salmonella Outbreak: The Role of Industry in Protecting the Nation¡¯s Food Supply.¡± David Mackay, President and CEO of Kellogg Co., was one of the people who offered testimony. Mackay expressed regret that Kellogg products were involved in the Salmonella outbreak associated with the Peanut Corp. of America (PCA). He went on to recount how the company handled news of the outbreak in Jan. 2009 by quickly recalling the food products linked with Salmonella. According to Mackay, ¡°more than seven million cases of our products were recalled due to the PCA contamination at a cost of approximately $65?70 million.¡±

In addition, Mackay explained that the company has since taken actions to make their food safety systems and principles better. The company has established new cross-functional Kellogg audit teams, including the Quality, Food Safety, and Materials Management groups, to audit suppliers of high-risk ingredients, who have already completed on-site audits of Kellogg¡¯s peanut and peanut paste ingredient suppliers. The company is requiring suppliers to conduct environmental testing and monitoring in their plants to assist in identifying, assessing, and correcting potential contamination before it becomes a food safety problem. In addition, Kellogg is strengthening its internal training and education across its supply chain.

To conclude his testimony, Mackay offered ways to enhance that safety of the nation¡¯s food supply. They include:

? The formation of a single food safety authority under Health and Human Services that will give accountability to one agency leader for science, surveillance, research, and inspection, with support from a science-based Food Safety Advisory Council.

? A requirement that every food company conduct a risk analysis and document their preventative controls, verification systems, and testing results in a food safety plan that is subject to regular FDA review.

? Annual inspections by the FDA of facilities producing high-risk products.

? Working with industry and government to align around a single food safety standard for evaluating facilities, with appropriate training and accreditation of auditors and auditing firms.

? Ensuring that the FDA has the right mix of intervention and enforcement powers.

¡°The PCA situation has shown that if a company chooses to ignore even basic food safety principles, food safety systems and protections can be compromised, whether those are individual company systems or the U.S. food safety system generally,¡± said Mackay.

United States Food Safety Legislation 2009 ? Quite a lot to ¡°chew¡± on!
Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/
I think I have pulled together all of the pending (and one missing) pieces of legislation on food safety for your reading pleasure. If between lawsuits, and I have time, I will give you my thoughts on the legislation.

H.R.759: To amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to improve the safety of food, drugs, devices, and cosmetics in the global market, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep Dingell, John D. [MI-15] (introduced 1/28/2009) Cosponsors (8)
Committees: House Energy and Commerce
Latest Major Action: 1/28/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Summary ? Bill

H.R.814: To amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act, and the Egg Products Inspection Act to improve the safety of food, meat, and poultry products through enhanced traceability, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep DeGette, Diana [CO-1] (introduced 2/3/2009) Cosponsors (5)
Committees: House Agriculture; House Energy and Commerce
Latest Major Action: 2/3/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the Committee on Agriculture, and in addition to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned. Summary ? Bill

H.R.815: To amend the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act, and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to provide for improved public health and food safety through enhanced enforcement, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep DeGette, Diana [CO-1] (introduced 2/3/2009) Cosponsors (11)
Committees: House Agriculture; House Energy and Commerce
Latest Major Action: 2/3/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the Committee on Agriculture, and in addition to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned. Bill

H.R.875: To establish the Food Safety Administration within the Department of Health and Human Services to protect the public health by preventing food-borne illness, ensuring the safety of food, improving research on contaminants leading to food-borne illness, and improving security of food from intentional contamination, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep DeLauro, Rosa L. [CT-3] (introduced 2/4/2009) Cosponsors (41)
Committees: House Energy and Commerce; House Agriculture
Latest Major Action: 2/4/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and in addition to the Committee on Agriculture, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned. Summary ? Bill

H.R.999: To amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to improve food safety.
Sponsor: Rep Roskam, Peter J. [IL-6] (introduced 2/11/2009) Cosponsors (1)
Committees: House Energy and Commerce
Latest Major Action: 2/11/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Summary ? Bill

H.R.1332: To amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act with respect to the safety of the food supply.
Sponsor: Rep Costa, Jim [CA-20] (introduced 3/5/2009) Cosponsors (28)
Committees: House Energy and Commerce; House Agriculture
Latest Major Action: 3/5/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and in addition to the Committee on Agriculture, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned. Bill

S.92: A bill to ensure the safety of seafood and seafood products being imported into the United States.
Sponsor: Sen Vitter, David [LA] (introduced 1/6/2009) Cosponsors (None)
Committees: Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Latest Major Action: 1/6/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Summary - Bill

S.425: A bill to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to provide for the establishment of a traceability system for food, to amend the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspections Act, the Egg Products Inspection Act, and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to provide for improved public health and food safety through enhanced enforcement, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen Brown, Sherrod [OH] (introduced 2/12/2009) Cosponsors (None)
Committees: Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry
Latest Major Action: 2/12/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. Bill

S.429: A bill to ensure the safety of imported food products for the citizens of the United States, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen Casey, Robert P., Jr. [PA] (introduced 2/12/2009) Cosponsors (1)
Committees: Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry
Latest Major Action: 2/12/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. Summary ? Bill

S.510: A bill to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act with respect to the safety of the food supply.
Sponsor: Sen Durbin, Richard [IL] (introduced 3/3/2009) Cosponsors (8)
Committees: Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Latest Major Action: 3/3/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Bill

Then there was S.3358: A bill to provide for enhanced food-borne illness surveillance and food safety capacity that was introduced by then Senator Obama. Bill


Canada: Food safety plan rolled out
Source of Article: http://www2.canada.com

Rafe Arnott, The Times
Published: Friday, March 20, 2009

In the wake of a country rocked by deaths and illness from listeriosis, tainted water, mad cow disease, melamine poisoning and avian influenza - not to mention global warming affecting crop production through drought and changing weather patterns - the federal Liberals have put together a dedicated group of politicians, medical doctors and animal health experts to come up with a plan for Canadian food to be safe all the way from the farm to the dinner table.

Dr. Ron Lewis, former chief veterinarian for B.C., was in Abbotsford on Tuesday at a meeting to discuss food safety and security with local farmers, consumers and elected officials that took place at Sammy J. Pepper's.

Lewis was there as a part of the Opposition food caucus and said the group was looking at a national food safety program.

The meeting in Abbotsford included interviewing people from various walks of life who are involved in agriculture - local hog and chicken farmers, berry growers - to get feedback and input on the program.

Hedy Fry, Liberal MP for Vancouver Centre, said the opposition is looking to form a comprehensive national strategy on food safety and food security.

"Safety meaning, how do we ensure the food we're eating is healthy, free from pathogens, free from disease, free from bacteria . . . that it won't make people sick and that it is nutritious?

". . . We set up a plan so that Canadians are going to have food to eat."

With many Canadians dependent on imported food to fill grocery shelves, Fry said some nations could stop exporting food to maintain minimum quotas at home. "There may come a time when countries cut off our supply to feed their own people," Fry said.

Georgia Makes Food Safety Changes ? Real or Imagined? Is it just more public relations?

Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/

The Georgia House and Senate have both moved rapidly over the last several weeks to solve the public relations disaster that was the Peanut Corporation of American. In an effort to prop-up the nearly $2.5 Billion Georgia peanut industry which has lost millions of dollars over the last month, the legislature has passed both houses have passed SB 80 (http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2009_10/pdf/sb80.pdf).

Under the legislation, state agriculture officials would be required to craft rules establishing how frequently food processors must conduct testing. However, those manufacturers with a state-approved food safety plan would be exempt from the rules. The legislation reads:

¡°If an operator of a food processing plant, in its discretion, submits to the department a written food safety plan for such plant and such plan conforms to rules and regulations promulgated for purposes of this subparagraph, then such food processing plant shall comply with the requirements of such written food safety plan, including but not limited to any test regimen provided by such plan, in lieu of complying with a test regimen established by rules or regulations promulgated by the Commissioner pursuant to subparagraph.¡±

The legislation empowers the Georgia Department of Agriculture to order more tests at the processor's expense ? but, again, only if necessary:

¡°Such rules or regulations shall identify the specific classes or types of food processing plants, foods, ingredients, and poisonous or deleterious substances or other contaminants that shall be subject to such testing requirements and the frequency with which such tests shall be performed by food processing plants.¡±

However, there are time that certain companies may be required to test - ¡°the Commissioner may order any food processing plant to have samples or specimens of its foods and ingredients tested for the presence of any poisonous or deleterious substances or other contaminants whenever in his or her determination there are reasonable grounds to suspect that such foods or ingredients may be injurious to health.¡± Those test results ¡°shall [be] report[ed] ¡¦ to the department within 24 hours after obtaining such information.¡±

So, what¡¯s the bottom line? The Department of Agriculture will now draft regulations encouraging companies to craft food safety plans. If those plans are approved by the department, then the company does not have to test the products for pathogens. So, how many companies will have a plan so they will not have to test? (Guess what Peanut Corporation of America had one). What am I missing here?

Food safety bill headed for governor¡¯s desk

Source of Article: http://blogs.ajc.com/gold-dome-live/2009/03/18/food-safety-bill-headed-for-governors-desk/

12:18 pm March 18, 2009, by Aaron Gould Sheinin

Senate Bill 80 is that rarest of beasts: A major piece of legislation that gets nary a single vote against it.

The House just approved the bill, which would make it a felony for any company or individual to fail to report the discovery of salmonella or other food-borne disease to state authorities.

The House and Senate have both now unanimously approved the bill, which will be sent to Gov. Sonny Perdue¡¯s desk.

The bill will 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 legislation is the result of the scandal involving a South Georgia peanut plant that is blamed for a number of deaths and illnesses around the country.
The bill also would demand that a company that finds salmonella notify the state within 24 hours.

People, pigs would be hurt by antibiotics ban: N.P.P.C.

Source of Article: http://www.meatnews.com/news/headline_stories.asp?ArticleID=100910

(MEATPOULTRY.com, March 18, 2009)
by Bryan Salvage

WASHINGTON ? Legislation introduced March 17 in Congress that is sponsored by Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York would be detrimental to the health and well-being of pigs, increase pork producers¡¯ production costs and the price consumers pay for pork ? and it could also jeopardize public health, according to the National Pork Producers Council.

Chairwoman of the House Rules Committee and a microbiologist, Congresswoman Slaughter introduced the "Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act" in the House of Representatives. This legislation is designed to ensure that the U.S. preserves the effectiveness of antibiotics for the treatment of human diseases, according to Ms. Slaughter

Estimates by the Union of Concerned Scientists state that 50 million lbs. of antibiotics ? nearly 70% of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. ? have been used in food animals for purposes other than treating disease since P.A.M.T.A. was last introduced two years ago, Ms. Slaughter said.

"The practice of over-using antibiotics in animal feed is certainly contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria," she added. "This legislation will play a critical role in protecting the integrity of our antibiotics and the health of all Americans."

The proposed bill would:

Phase out the non-therapeutic use in livestock of medically-important antibiotics
Require this same tough standard of new applications for approval of animal antibiotics
Does not restrict use of antibiotics to treat sick animals or to treat pets and other animals not used for food

"This is irresponsible legislation," said Don Butler, N.P.P.C. president. "We are committed to maintaining the well-being of our animals, and we need access to a range of animal health products to keep our pigs healthy and, in turn, produce safe food products. This bill will prevent that, and we¡¯ll see more pigs die and higher production costs ? and that means consumers will pay more for pork."

When pigs have been sick during their life, they will have a greater presence of food-safety pathogens on their carcasses, according to an Iowa State University study conducted by Dr. Scott Hurd. And a 1999 ban in Denmark on some antibiotics used in pork production has resulted in an increase in piglet deaths and in the amount of antibiotics used to treat diseases.

The Slaughter bill, which ostensibly would prohibit the use of antibiotics that promote growth in livestock but which also would ban ones that prevent and control disease, was introduced to address the increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, N.P.P.C. said. According to a 2000 survey of human-health experts, however, 96% of antibiotic resistance in humans is due to human use of antibiotics. And according to the Animal Health Institute, less than 5% of animal antibiotics are used for nutritional efficiency ? which promotes growth ? and even the majority of those prevent diseases.

"Pork producers, under the direction of a veterinarian, have a moral obligation to use antibiotics responsibly to protect human health and provide safe food," said Dr. Jennifer Greiner, D.V.M., N.P.P.C. director of science and technology. "Producers also have an ethical obligation to maintain the health of their pigs, and antibiotics are an important tool to help us do that."

The U.S. pork industry has programs ? the Pork Quality Assurance Plus and the Take Care: Use Antibiotics Responsibly programs ? that include principles and guidelines on antibiotic use that help protect animal and public health and animal well-being, N.P.P.C. concluded.

To post your comments on this story, click here: meatpoultry@sosland.com.

USDA to increase ground beef sampling for E. coli

Source of Article: http://www.ift.org/news_bin/news/news_home.shtml

3/17/2009-The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture¡¯s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is increasing sampling for E. coli at high volume ground beef establishments because they produce product that is most widely consumed. The increase in sampling will allow the FSIS to estimate the amount of uncontaminated raw ground beef with a higher degree of certainty. The Office of Public Health Science and the Office of Data Integration and Food Protection will analyze sample results for E. coli O157:H7 in raw ground beef. Specifically, the Office of Public Health Science will produce a weekly report on sample findings, along with an annual summary report that will be published on the FSIS Web site. The Office of Data Integration and Food Protection will analyze the sampling data to identify trends (e.g., geographical, seasonal) and to evaluate program effectiveness (e.g., sample scheduling and collection rates). In addition, that office will use the data to calculate a quarterly performance measure of E. coli O157:H7 in raw ground beef that will be included in the Agency¡¯s quarterly performance report.

E. coli Vaccine for Cows

Source of Article: http://www.newschannel10.com/Global/story.asp?S=10013038
Posted: Mar 16, 2009 7:45 AM PDT Updated: Mar 16, 2009 3:48 PM PDT

Ground breaking research at West Texas A&M University found a new weapon against a deadly strand of E.coli.
It's in the form of a vaccine and it has just been approved by the USDA.
Researchers at WT tested the E.coli vaccine in a commercial feed lot. Results showed an 85 percent reduction in the number of cattle that shed E.coli O517. Those cows that did show traces of the strand shed 98 percent fewer cells than those that did not receive the vaccine.

"So not only did the vaccine decrease the number of cattle shedding, it decreased the amount they shed. So there's a two-fold benefit to this vaccine," said Dr. Guy Loneragan, who led the research at WT.
Loneragan says the vaccine does not eliminate the E.coli strand completely. It gives ranchers and producers another means to help fight the food borne disease.
The vaccine is now available for commercial use nationwide. The price of the vaccine has not been determined, but a similar vaccine in Canada runs about $7 U.S. per cow.

Country of Origin Label Law Goes into Effect
Date Published: Tuesday, March 17th, 2009
Source of Article: http://www.newsinferno.com/archives/5121
The interim U.S. Department of Agriculture¡¯s (USDA) Country of Origin Law (COOL) that was set in motion this autumn is now fully in effect, the Associated Press (AP) is reporting. The new law enables shoppers to determine from where their foods originated and will include labeling on most fresh meats, which, in some cases, will detail from where the animal was born, raised, and slaughtered, said the AP.
Labels will also be included on some fruits and vegetables, the AP noted, all better enabling shoppers to figure out if their food came from the U.S. or was imported. But, many of the recent food poisoning outbreaks and recalls?California spinach, salmonella-tainted Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) peanuts, E. coli-tainted Nebraskan beef, and listeria-tainted Pennsylvania chicken?have all originated domestically.
The LA Times explained that COOL, which began with the 2002 and 2008 farm bills, went into interim effect this past September. The law is now final and covers a variety of perishable foods including muscle meat cuts, ground beef, lamb, chicken, goat, and pork; wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish; fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables; macadamia nuts; pecans; ginseng; and peanuts, said the LA times.
But, the law does contain a number of significant exceptions. If an ingredient is part of a processed food (foods that undergo a physical or chemical change, said the AP)?the LA Times gave tomato sauce as a popular example?then the final product is excluded from the law. Change includes cooking, curing, smoking, or combining one food with another, said the AP.
For instance, roasted peanuts are excluded because roasting is an altering process; however, raw peanuts require labeling. Pork must be labeled, but ham and bacon, which are cured, are exempt. While chicken must be labeled, if it is breaded, thus altered, it does not require labeling. The same with vegetables. If peas are fresh or frozen, they require labeling; however, if they are canned?which involves cooking?or mixed in a packaged salad?which combines the peas with other foods?no labeling is called for. This combining exemption includes all bagged salads, mixed vegetables, and even chocolate-covered fruit, to name a few. Also excluded are ¡°restaurants, lunchrooms, cafeterias, food stands, bars, lounges and other food service sites,¡± said the AP.
USDA Secretary, Tom Vilsack, said that he ¡°strongly¡± supports ¡°country of origin labeling?it¡¯s a critical step toward providing consumers with additional information about the origin of their food,¡± quoted the LA Times, which explained that penalties up to $1,000 per violation for retailers and suppliers found to be in noncompliance with COOL can be assessed.
But, some criticize the regulation, such as Opposing Views, which argued that the law makes foods more costly and the information is essentially useless, saying that just because a perishable food originated offshore that does not provide meaningful information about that food¡¯s quality and safety. Opposing Views claims the enactment?implemented at a first-year cost of $89 million, $62 million annually?is simply a form of ¡°regulatory harassment designed to play to anti-foreign prejudices.¡±
Regardless, food safety advocates have been fighting for the policy for some time now, as have U.S. ranchers, mostly due to their competition with Canadian ranchers, said the AP.

But, advocates say that COOL will better enable shoppers to buy local or choose from which country their food comes from. Also?and of very significant importance in the wake of, and in the midst of, numerous food borne illness outbreaks?when an outbreak occurs, investigators will have an easier time determining the food¡¯s source, which is hoped to ultimately speed up the resolution of such outbreaks.


New Salmonella detection kit is highly sensitive, claim developers
Source of Article: http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/
By Jane Byrne, 23-Mar-2009
A detection kit for the presence of the deadly strain Eschericia coli 0157:H7, Salmonella and Staphyloccoccus aureaus provides definitive results and does not need confirmatory tests, claim its developers.
Crop Biotech Update reports that researchers from the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (BIOTECH), at the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) have developed a DNA Amplification System (DAS) kit that is a pathogen specific, accurate and highly sensitive system.
The system utilizes polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology, continued the researchers.\
They maintain that the kit, the development of which was part funded by the Philippines Department of Science and Technology, can be utilized by the food industry as well as government regulatory agencies, health institutions and quarantine and service laboratories.

According to the scientists, their technology is based on the principal that after binding to very specific primers, small fragments of the DNA segments of the pathogenic microorganisms are amplified into million-fold copies, thus allowing for the detection of the presence of the pathogenic microorganism.
Last week, the product developers provided training to food manufacturers as well as other sectors on the use of the DAS kits.

Faster time-to-results urged
Meanwhile, diagnostic test consultant and Strategic Consulting president, Tom Weschler, recently told FoodProductionDaily.com that greater speed in pathogen detection within processing plants rather than a reliance on enhanced regulation is the key to reducing product contamination from pathogens such as Salmonella.
Last month, the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found it had knowingly shipped peanut products tainted with a salmonella strain that was linked to at least 677 reported illnesses and nine deaths.

Official court documents listed more than 475 businesses with claims against the PCA, including processors, manufacturers and growers, far more than the company¡¯s own estimate of 100-199 creditors when it filed for bankruptcy on February 12.
¡°There is an immediate need for detection kits that shorten the time-to-result for food processors to help them take corrective measures much faster at production line level, while ensuring that retailers and consumers still get their products in the fastest time possible,¡± claims Weschler.
He added that improvements in sampling concentration methods by microbiology technology manufacturers would make it easier and less time consuming to determine pathogen presence in food products.

FDA guidance
Following on from the peanut outbreak, the FDA recommended that manufacturers only use suppliers that have proven that they adhere to good manufacturing practices.
However, if 'questions have been raised concerning the potential presence of salmonella,' or if no such information is available, the agency urges manufacturers to ensure their own practices would reduce any presence of salmonella to below levels where it would pose a health risk.
In its guidance to food processors, the FDA also notes that although salmonella is generally destroyed by heat, salmonella in peanut products, which have low moisture content, is much more heat-resistant, and therefore requires considerable expertise to guarantee that foods are adequately treated.

Press Release: EnviroLogix Launches QuickToxT Kit for Melamine
Friday, March 20, 2009 12:09 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Portland, ME, March 19, 2009 -- EnviroLogix Inc. has introduced the first five-minute, on-site immunoassay to detect melamine contamination in raw materials used in animal feed and pet food products.
QuickTox Kit for Melamine was developed with speed, simplicity and sensitivity in mind. As sensitive as ELISA, it is designed to detect melamine contamination at 2.5 ppm, the threshold established by regulatory agencies worldwide for non-infant food products.
Intended for use at material-receiving points, the test enables accurate and visual screening of numerous sample types, including corn gluten meal, distillers grains (DDG), cottonseed meal, and soybean meal. It may also be adapted to detect melamine in finished pet food and milk.
¡°We developed this rapid test in response to industry need for a more effective way to triage raw materials being delivered to the feed plant?and before those materials enter the manufacturing process,¡± said Simon Varney, product manager for the EnviroLogix line of agricultural test kits. ¡°This melamine test enables feed processors and others to ensure the quality of their ingredients and to provide buyers with confidence in finished products.¡±
Based in Portland , Maine , EnviroLogix is a leading provider of rapid diagnostics for agricultural, horticultural and environmental applications. The QuickTox Kit for Melamine complements the company¡¯s growing line of feed and food safety products, which include test kits for various mycotoxins.
The test itself is a lateral flow strip, or so-called ¡°dipstick.¡± In principle, specific color-coded antibodies bind to melamine molecules in a sample. In a positive result, the antibody-melamine complex travels up the strip and inhibits color development at the Test Line. In a negative sample, unbound antibodies migrate up the strip and are captured at the Test Line, resulting in color development. All strips include an internal control to ensure the test was performed correctly.
The QuickTox Kit for Melamine, Catalog # AS 073 BG, includes 50 test strips and all the accessories needed.
Melamine is a nitrogen-rich industrial chemical often used in plastics and adhesives. Allegedly, it has been used by raw materials suppliers to increase the apparent protein content in various food and feed products. Melamine has low acute toxicity but prolonged exposure can lead to urinary stones and other health problems. Contamination incidents have led to massive product recalls across different industries.
For more information about QuickTox, contact Simon Varney at 207-797-0300, simon.varney@envirologix.com, or visit www.envirologix.com/melamine.

Raw Milk Is Gaining Fans, but the Science Says It's Dangerous

Source of Article: http://health.usnews.com/
Dairy farm owners report growing interest in buying shares in their cows
By Kerry Hannon
Posted March 20, 2009
Kitty Hockman-Nicholas's phone is ringing off the hook. Callers to her dairy farm in Winchester, Va., are so eager to buy a share in one of her 20 hormone-free, grass-fed Jersey cows that she expects her 150 cow co-owners to double in number this year.
Why buy a cow? For the unpasteurized raw milk. A growing number of consumers are keen to drink raw milk, for reasons ranging from a desire to buy locally produced food to taste to a belief in its purported health benefits. Word of mouth abounds of how raw milk cleared up asthma and ear infections in children, improved osteoporosis in seniors, and even made autistic kids function better. (Pasteurization?subjecting milk to a short burst of heat to kill bacteria, followed by rapid cooling?has been standard protocol since the 1920s in this country.) Sally Fallon, founding president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based advocate for consumption of whole, natural foods, estimates that more than 500,000 consumers regularly consume raw milk and claims that the number "is growing exponentially."
Accurate sales estimates are hard to come by, though, since the government is firmly opposed to raw milk and in many states?like Virginia?the only way to get some legally is to tap right into the cow. (U.S. News interviewed farmers at more than a dozen dairies from Virginia to California, and all reported a significant bump in sales of raw milk or in dairy cow ownership in the past few years.) Scientists warn that no evidence exists to back up most of the reported health benefits of raw milk and that there are serious risks of infection from listeria, salmonella, and E. coli. From 1998 to May 2005, raw milk or raw-milk products have been implicated in 45 foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States, accounting for more than 1,000 cases of illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And that's probably an understatement, the report notes, since foodborne illnesses often go unrecognized and unreported.
"It's like playing Russian roulette with your health," says John Sheehan, director of the Food and Drug Adminstration's Division of Dairy and Egg Safety. The dangers, he says, range from mild food poisoning to life-threatening illness. "One complication that can arise as a result of infection with E. coli O157:H7 is hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can cause acute renal failure, especially in the very young or the elderly," Sheehan says. "There are absolutely no health benefits from consuming raw milk."
Indeed, it's only in the case of asthma and allergy that some evidence exists to suggest a possible protective effect. A study published in the June 2006 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology by researchers at the University of London analyzed the diet of 4,767 children in Shropshire, England, and found that those who lived on farms and drank raw milk had significantly fewer symptoms of asthma, hay fever, and eczema. Children who drank raw milk were 40 percent less likely to develop eczema and 10 percent less likely to get hay fever than their peers who didn't drink raw milk. A second European study of nearly 15,000 children published in the May 2007 issue of Clinical and Experimental Allergy found that children who drank raw milk were less likely to have asthma and hay fever. Still, both reports warned that raw milk often harbors pathogens, and neither recommended consumption of raw milk as a preventative measure.
While there are no laws against drinking raw milk straight from the source, the government banned interstate sales more than two decades ago, leaving states to decide what to do when consumers within their borders want to buy raw milk. Twenty-three states ban the sale of raw milk for human consumption; the rest allow the purchase under certain conditions. In Maryland, a farmer who is caught selling raw milk runs the risk of jail. In California, raw dairy products are sold in some grocery stores. In Illinois, consumers can buy straight from the farm if they bring their own containers. In Virginia, it's legal to drink raw milk only from a cow that you own.
Raw-milk advocates like Fallon, who swears by raw milk for her own family, contend that pasteurization greatly reduces vitamin C and affects B6 and B-12 and beneficial bacteria such as lactobacillus. Sheehan does not argue with the fact that pasteurization destroys some vitamins and enzymes, but he calls the losses insignificant.
One possible alternative for aficionados of the local and natural: Drink very fresh milk from a well-run local dairy that doesn't practice homogenization (a process that breaks up and blends in the fat molecules to prevent cream from rising to the top) and uses a pasteurization process done at a relatively low temperature for a long time. "This method eliminates harmful bacteria with minimal impairment of flavor," says Anne Mendelson, a culinary historian and author of Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages.
Hockman-Nicholas, 67, has been drinking raw milk her entire life and says she has never been sick from it. Nor, she says, has she had a complaint from any of her customers, who pay about $80 up front and $28 per month for a cow share that produces 1 gallon of raw milk per week. Because she runs a grade A dairy, the top level for dairy farmers, the milk is tested frequently for quality by the state, and the facility is inspected regularly by the Virginia Department of Agriculture for the sanitation of the equipment and surroundings. The farm is also USDA-inspected. Hockman-Nicholas's cows are routinely tested for tuberculosis and brucellosis (they've never come up positive, she says). And bacteria levels in the milk are monitored.

But microbiologist Kathryn Boor, chair of the food science department at Cornell University, calls raw milk "a dangerous choice." Boor grew up on a dairy farm, drank raw milk as a child, and is willing to grant it some of the credit for her robust health. "Although my family is still in the dairy business, there is not a single person who still drinks" raw milk, she says. "There have been no conclusive studies to show the health benefits. And the risks of exposure to harmful bacteria very clearly can cause illness to death."

Raw Oysters Linked to Recent Illness: Recall Advised Source of Article: http://www.emaxhealth.com/
Submitted by Ramona Bates MD on Mar 23rd, 2009

A recent outbreak of Norovirus has been linked to raw oysters. The Food and Drug Administration( FDA) is advising a recall of oysters harvested between Feb. 24 and March 17, 2009, from Mississippi Area 2C, located in the Mississippi Sound portion of the Gulf of Mexico near Pass Christian, Miss. They are advising retailer and food service operators not to offer these oysters for sale. They are advising that consumers who may have purchased these oysters not to eat them.
If you are unsure as to the origin of your purchased oysters, you are advised to contact the place where you purchased the oysters and ask if they are from the affected area mentioned above. Retailers and food service operators can check the tag or labeling that should accompany all raw molluscan shellfish to verify its origin.
Approximately a dozen individuals have reported becoming sick after eating raw oysters consumed in a restaurant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department and Tennessee Department of Health confirmed that the patients were infected with norovirus.
Norovirus is a foodborne pathogen that can cause acute gastroenteritis in humans. The symptoms of norovirus illness begin suddenly, most often in 24 to 48 hours after ingestion of the virus, but they can appear as early as 12 hours after exposure. The gastrointestinal symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and some stomach cramping.
In addition to gastrointestinal symptoms, infected persons may have a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness. In most the illness is self-limiting with symptoms lasting for about 1 or 2 days. Children tend to experience more vomiting than adults.

People infected with norovirus are contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill until at least 3 days after recovery. Some people may be contagious for as long as 2 weeks after recovery. It is particularly important for people to use good hand washing and hygiene after they have recently recovered from norovirus illness.
People with weakened immune systems, including those affected by AIDS, chronic alcohol abuse, liver, stomach or blood disorders, cancer, diabetes, or kidney disease should never consume raw oysters, regardless of where the oysters are harvested.

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