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Pistachio Product Recalls: Salmonella - FDA

Raw nuts may be source of pistachio contamination

Source of Article:

4/03/2009-According to a USA Today article, the Salmonella contamination of pistachios at Calif.-based Setton Pistachio may have occurred when contaminated raw nuts got mixed with roasted nuts during processing. Kraft spokeswoman Laurie Guzzinati said her company¡¯s auditors ¡°observed employee practices where raw and roasted nuts were not adequately segregated and that could explain the sporadic contamination.¡± Roasting is supposed to kill the bacteria; however if it is done wrong if could be re-contaminated.

The Food and Drug Administration learned about the Salmonella when Kraft Foods Inc. notified the agency that routine product tested had detected the bacteria in roasted pistachios. Setton is now voluntarily recalling more two million lbs of its roasted pistachios, and has shut down the plant. The plant¡¯s products were shipped to 36 wholesalers, but it is unclear what those wholesalers did with the product?whether they were repackaged for consumers or whether they were sold to manufacturers.

US-wide pistachio recall shows how FDA should work, claim officials
Source of Article: http://www.foodproductiondaily.

By Caroline Scott-Thomas, 31-Mar-2009
A Californian company is recalling over a million pounds of pistachios distributed nationwide due to possible salmonella contamination.
Even as the massive salmonella outbreak linked to peanut products continues, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said that central-Californian based pistachio processor Setton Farms has voluntarily recalled its entire 2008 pistachio crop due to an unrelated salmonella contamination.
However, health officials have stressed that this is how the food safety net should work: By recalling products to prevent an illness outbreak, rather than reacting after an illness has spread.
FDA associate commissioner for foods David Acheson told reporters in a conference call: ¡°This recall was not triggered because of an outbreak, in contrast to the peanut butter. This is an example of the FDA getting out ahead of the curve.¡±
It is not yet clear how the pistachios came to be contaminated as they were roasted, which should kill salmonella. Officials have speculated that there could have been cross-contamination from raw pistachios at the plant.

Recall could expand
The FDA learned of the salmonella on March 24, when four different strains were discovered through routine tests carried out by Kraft Foods, leading to a voluntary recall of its Nature Nantucket trail mix.
A second recall linked to the plant came on Friday when the Cincinnati-based Kroger supermarket chain withdrew its own-brand pistachios. However, other pistachio-containing products such as cookie dough, confectionery and ice-cream could be affected by the recall, according to Jeff Farrar, chief of the food branch at the California Department of Health, which is working with the FDA in its investigation.

Awaiting test results
At this stage there is no indication that the product recall is linked to any incidence of illness, but FDA test results on Setton Farm¡¯s pistachios are expected in the next day or two, after which health authorities hope to know within a week whether there are matching strains on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention¡¯s database.

The plant chose to close last week, officials said, prior to which it sold pistachios to 36 wholesalers in 1,000lb to 2,000lb quantities.

Acheson said: ¡°The number of products that are going to be recalled over the coming days will grow, simply because these pistachio nuts have then been repackaged into consumer-level containers.¡±

Consumer advice
For now, the FDA is advising consumers to avoid eating pistachios and pistachio-containing products, but not to throw them out. It has also announced the launch of an interactive website of the same kind used during the peanut product recall which it said will become live once more information is available.
¡°We will be working closely with industry to try and get our arms around this as quickly as possible,¡± said Acheson.
Two people have contacted the FDA complaining of gastrointestinal illness that could have been caused by pistachios, but a link has not been confirmed.

Pistachio Salmonella Food Poisoning Scare Widens Recall
Source of Article:

April 3rd, 2009

Following a pistachio recall issued for about one million pounds of nuts, more than 77 products sold under 21 brand names have been recalled and the FDA has warned consumers to stop eating any products that contain pistachio, as they may cause salmonella food poisoning.

The pistachio recall was first announced on March 31, 2009, involving all nuts processed by Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella, Inc. at a plant in California. The nuts, both inshell and shelled pistachios, were mainly distributed in bulk bags to other manufacturers who used them in a variety of different products.

The salmonella contamination was found by Kraft in some of their ¡°Back to Nature¡± Trail Mix during routine testing procedures.

Although there have been no reported illnesses linked to the pistachio nuts, concerns about salmonella food poisoning have resulted in the FDA urging consumers to refrain from eating all pistachio, since the scope of the distribution of the nuts is not fully known at this time.

So far, around 77 different products sold under brand names like Frito-Lay, Fisher, Planters and Kraft, have been recalled, including standalone pistachio nuts, mixed nuts, trail mixes and other products containing pistachio nut, including cakes and ice creams.

Health officials have taken prompt actions to notify the public about the potential risks associated with the pistachios after a recent peanut butter salmonella outbreak resulted in hundreds of reported cases of food poisoning and led to the recall of nearly 4,000 products which received their peanuts from the same processing plant.

The FDA has established a website with updated information about the products involved in the recall at

While all of the recalled pistachios were processed at a plant in central California, the FDA has indicated that they are also looking into issues at a plant ini New York which is owned by the same parent company and shares certain staff with the California plant. Inspectors found cockroaches and rodent droppings during a visit to the New York plant last month.

Kraft At Crux Of Pistachio Recall; Hasn¡¯t Fully Audited Supplier In Almost Four Years
April 3, 2009 Source of Article:
Kraft occupies an odd position in this pistachio matter. It didn¡¯t grow or process the pistachios; it didn¡¯t even receive them or, initially, test them. Yet its policies on food safety and contacting government agencies have really been the catalyst for the whole matter.
We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to find out more:

Adrienne Dimopoulos
Senior Manager, Corporate Affairs Operations,
Kraft Foods
Northfield, Illinois

Q: How did Kraft identify the source of the contamination to be pistachios from Setton Pistachio?

A: During the testing of ingredients, the external manufacturer, Georgia Nut Company, discovered there was a small potential for Salmonella in a batch of pistachios supplied by Setton. Georgia Nut informed us that a spot test revealed Salmonella. They notified Kraft and together we contacted FDA.

We¡¯re proud of the comprehensive programs we have in place. Our quality control systems were effective in this instance.

Q: Did Kraft conduct its own independent testing to confirm these results?

A: We dispatched our own auditors out to Setton Pistachio. They were there for several days.

Q: What did Kraft learn during the audit?

A: We did our own observations and testing at Setton facilities¡¦ lots of environmental testing, ingredient and product testing. Auditors went over the entire facility to be sure food safety systems were in place. Kraft did a comprehensive audit.

Q: Did Kraft find Salmonella contamination in its testing at the Setton plant? Were you able to link the four Salmonella serotypes found during the Georgia Nut testing to the Setton facilities?

A: Georgia Nut Company discovered the Salmonella. I¡¯m not sure what Kraft¡¯s test results revealed. In their testing, Georgia Nut found Salmonella, called Kraft and then reached out to Setton, the supplier.

In my understanding of how product testing for pathogens works, you could have a whole batch of nuts and one little spot test comes back positive for Salmonella and the rest of the batch could be fine.

Q: How does Kraft know definitively that the contamination occurred at the Setton plant and not some time after it left the facility?

A: At Setton Pistachio, our auditors observed situations where raw and roasted pistachios were not properly segregated. This could explain the sporadic contamination. We saw raw and roasted product processed on the same line without proper sanitation in between the raw and the roasted products. It wasn¡¯t up to what we would want them to do.

Then the FDA did their own investigation and also determined potential risk for contamination.

Q: If March was the first time samples from Setton product came back positive for Salmonella, why are products from months earlier being recalled? And why is FDA telling consumers not to eat any pistachios period?

A: Setton Pistachio is not the only supplier out there, and not every code date is affected. We wanted to move as quickly as possible to remove any potentially contaminated product from store shelves. We didn¡¯t want to take any risks.

Q: Does Kraft conduct routine audits of its suppliers? Why wasn¡¯t Setton Pistachio operating up to Kraft¡¯s food safety standards?

A: We regularly do audits and conduct testing. We do audit our manufacturers and their suppliers. We share with them what processes we would like them to implement in their plants.

Q: So to clarify, Kraft did do audits of the Setton plant before this most recent visit?

A: We conducted a full audit of the Setton plant in December 2005, and visited the plant in December 2008 for a technical audit.

It¡¯s important to know an inspection is a one-point-in-time event. What becomes critical is consistent food safety processes in place during the manufacturing at all times.

Audits do not guarantee food safety. What makes it safer is larger protocols in place and comprehensive checks to insure the food safety system is working. We¡¯ll be evaluating frequency of audits.

We have an audit program to verify compliance. We require an external manufacturer to have a food safety plan in place; none is perfect, but when we have a situation like this we review it and learn how we can do it better.

Q: Did Setton Pistachio supply raw or roasted product to Georgia Nut Company? In what form did it arrive?

A: Setton supplied bulk roasted shelled pistachios processed and ready to go into products Georgia Nut Company manufactures.

Q: Is Kraft working with Setton Pistachio to address the problems?

A: Setton Pistachio is very committed to resolving this, and is a very solidly managed company. They¡¯re not by any means trying to shirk any of their role in this. They want to get this right.

There is always a temptation to clam up at a time like this. So we appreciate very much that Adrienne Dimopoulos and Kraft Foods are trying to provide some needed transparency in this very murky subject. We note eight key points from the discussion:

1) ¡°We¡¯re proud of the comprehensive programs we have in place. Our quality control systems were effective in this instance.¡±

Actually we are not really sure about that. So a test found one little spot of
Salmonella ? does that show a testing program is effective or that it just got ¡°lucky¡± and hit a spot. Presumably if we tested every pistachio nut every day, we would find pathogens every now and then ? maybe every hour. Is the testing program frequent enough to be statistically valid? If not, is ¡°effective¡± the right word for such a chance discovery?

2) ¡°I¡¯m not sure what Kraft¡¯s test results revealed.¡±

If Kraft¡¯s tests had shown positive results, it would have told the FDA, which would have included that in its statement. It is a safe bet that, so far, at least, no other confirmations have been found.

3) ¡°In my understanding of how product testing for pathogens works, you could have a whole batch of nuts and one little spot test comes back positive for Salmonella and the rest of the batch could be fine.¡±

We did a very thorough interview with Dr. Mansour Samadpour, an advocate for finished product testing. Much of it went to discussion of whether the testing was being done enough to be statistically meaningful. If, as Ms. Dimopoulos explains, one tiny spot on one pistachio could be positive while the thousands of pistachios surrounding that one are fine, how is it plausible that anyone is doing enough testing to get meaningful results? And if the results are not meaningful, isn¡¯t shutting down an industry a ridiculous overreaction?

4) ¡°At Setton Pistachio, our auditors observed situations where raw and roasted pistachios were not properly segregated. This could explain the sporadic contamination. We saw raw and roasted product processed on the same line without proper sanitation in between the raw and the roasted products. It wasn¡¯t up to what we would want them to do.

Then the FDA did their own investigation and also determined potential risk for contamination.¡±

This is a little unfair. Finding a plausible route for contamination is neither proof nor evidence that the contamination occurred that way. Perhaps it ¡°could explain¡± something but it doesn¡¯t preclude alternative explanations.

5) ¡°Setton Pistachio is not the only supplier out there, and not every code date is affected. We wanted to move as quickly as possible to remove any potentially contaminated product from store shelves. We didn¡¯t want to take any risks.¡±

Kraft is not responsible for the decisions of the FDA. But the FDA did not simply choose to pressure this one supplier for a recall; it decided to issue a recommendation not to consume. It intentionally did not choose to exonerate states such as Arizona and New Mexico ? as it did with tomatoes in the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak this summer.

It also didn¡¯t distinguish between processed products, where consumers might have trouble identifying the source of the pistachios, and jars or bags of pistachios that are easy to identify.

Finally it is treating a finding by one producer as statistically meaningful, when it is not.

We also question the FDA¡¯s reliance on a private company in this matter. Who is to say that a private citizen with a grudge couldn¡¯t one day implicate a person or company with the goal of ruining the company or a whole industry?

6) ¡°We conducted a full audit of the Setton plant in December 2005, and visited the plant in December 2008 for a technical audit.¡±

Gadzooks! 2005 for the last full audit?? Even the companies that have great reputations for food safety, such as Kraft, really don¡¯t do the job. Three-plus years is an eternity in the life of a factory.

7) ¡°It¡¯s important to know an inspection is a one-point-in-time event. What becomes critical is consistent food safety processes in place during the manufacturing at all times.

Audits do not guarantee food safety. What makes it safer is larger protocols in place and comprehensive checks to insure the food safety system is working. We¡¯ll be evaluating frequency of audits.¡±

Bottom line: If one wants ¡°consistent food safety processes in place during¡¦all times¡± and ¡°larger protocols in place and comprehensive checks,¡± one probably needs a comprehensive audit more frequently than every three years ? and who knows when Kraft would have come back were it not for this situation.

We thank Adrienne Dimopoulos and Kraft Foods for helping the trade to understand better what really has happened in this pistachio situation.

FDA: Don't eat California-grown pistachios
By Robert Miller
Staff Writer

Posted: 03/31/2009 08:05:39 PM EDT
Source of Article:

DANBURY -- At Hanna's Mideastern Restaurant and Market on Lake Avenue, pistachio addicts can choose: There's a glass canister filled with pistachios from Turkey, another with nuts from California.

Lately, store owner John Hanna said, the imports from Turkey have been his customers' favorites.

"They taste better,'' he said Tuesday.

But for the next few days, taste won't be the only consideration steering people away from the California varieties. The fear those home-grown nuts may be contaminated with salmonella should make people very wary of cracking their shells.

On Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the California Department of Health announced they were pulling two million pounds of pistachios grown by Setton International Foods of Terra Bella, Calif., off shelves because the nuts may be contaminated with multiple strains of salmonella.

Setton is the second-largest producer of pistachios in the U.S.

"Because the pistachios were used as ingredients in a variety of foods, it is likely this recall will impact many products,'' the FDA said in a press statement.

The agency said it "recommends that consumers avoid eating pistachio products until further information is available about the scope of affected products.''

The agency learned of the problem March 24, when Kraft Foods discovered its Back To Nature Trail Mix was contaminated with salmonella. Kraft then identified pistachios grown and sold by Setton as the source of the contamination.

Setton sells in-shell pistachios to wholesalers in bags weighing between 1,000 and 2,000 pounds. Different companies resell the pistachios under different names.

Setton also sells 9-ounce bags of Setton Farms pistachios as a retail product in seven Southern states.

Claudette Carveth, spokeswoman for the state Department of Consumer Protection, said Tuesday the state is now working with the FDA to learn whether any of these pistachios are sold in Connecticut.

Both the Stop & Shop chain and Stew Leonard's market said they were letting shoppers be guided by the FDA announcement, rather than taking products off their shelves.

"We haven't been informed whether our supplier is one of the ones,'' said Alvin Adams, store manager at Stew Leonard's.

Faith Weiner, spokeswoman for Stop & Shop, whose corporate headquarters is in Quincy, Mass., said the store is now searching to see whether any of its vendors use nuts from Setton, as well as monitoring further news from the FDA.

"It's too soon to tell,'' she said.

Salmonella is a group of bacteria found in the intestines of animals, including humans. Contamination usually results when animal feces containing the bacteria come in contact with food.

In recent months, salmonella and another bacteria, E. coli, have contaminated food that people eat regularly in the U.S. A salmonella contamination of peanuts and peanut butter has sickened nearly 700 people.

Dr. Joseph Fiorito, chief of gastroenterology at Danbury Hospital, said in most cases people who eat food contaminated with salmonella develop diarrhea. Some will also get nausea and vomiting, others fever and chills.

Almost all people recover after a few days, Fiorito said. But in perhaps 5 percent of cases, salmonella becomes a serious illness when the bacteria gets into the bloodstream.

The people most at risk from salmonella are the elderly, infants, and people with compromised immune systems. People taking antacids or antibiotics may also be more at risk, he said.

Fiorito said the several cases of E. coli and salmonella have shown the U.S. system of spreading the word about contamination works well.

"We're so much better than we used to be at picking them up and spreading information about them,'' he said. "Now there should be more pressure on the government to try and prevent them.''

NSF announces 2009 Food Safety Leadership Awards winners

Source of Article:

4/06/2009-NSF International, a not-for-profit public health and safety organization, has announced the 2009 recipients of the sixth annual Food Safety Leadership Awards. This award recognizes influential individuals that have demonstrated outstanding leadership in the food industry. The winners will be announced at the 2009 Food Safety Summit¡¯s opening night reception on April 27, 2009. Nominations for the awards for reviewed by an independent panel of experts in the food industry. This year, NSF presents a lifetime achievement award, one award in the education and training category, and four in the system improvement category.

Lifetime Achievement Award in Packaging and Distribution
Phillip Minerich
Vice President of R&D, Hormel Foods Corp.
Minerich and his team have initiated a new food safety project that explores new applications for existing technologies, including researching all types of food safety interventions internationally, analyzing and validating scientific claims, and identifying how it would be useful for Hormel Foods product lines. During this time, his team applied the science that involves using High Pressure Processing (HPP) to package protein products. This resulted in the development of Hormel Natural Choice meats. Today, because of Dr. Minerich¡¯s contributions, public health and food regulation agencies have better methods for contamination detection and communicating events happening at a rapid rate. A member of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), Minerich holds three patents for development of a pressure indicator for high hydrostatic pressure processing of foods, packaging methods and products, and a container for active microwave heating.

Awarded in Education & Training
Carl Winter
Dept. of Food Science and Technology, Univ. of Calif.
Over the past decade, Winter has developed a unique musical approach to spread critical food safety messages to hundreds of thousands of food safety educators, teachers, food handlers, health professionals, and consumers. Dr. Winter received a grant from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) as the Principal Investigator for the project ¡°Improving Food Safety Education through the Use of Music-Based Curricula.¡± Winter studies the effectiveness of incorporating music into food safety curricula that was developed for high school students, foodservice managers and supervisors, culinary arts teachers and students, family and consumer sciences teachers, and youth (8?12) enrolled in summer nutrition programs. Winter is a professional member of IFT.

Awarded for Systems Improvement, Water
The Coca-Cola Co.
To ensure a high standard of water, the main ingredient used in its products, The Coca-Cola Co. has moved beyond end-of-pipe treatment to modern risk management frameworks such as HACCP, a preventive approach used in the food industry to identify, reduce and eliminate potential food safety hazards. The company is also striving to promote Water Safety Plans as part of its Source Water Protection Standard, which requires each Coca-Cola division to develop a program that manages water quality and sustainability, and improves source water management practices across its expansive bottling system. By integrating this new approach, The Coca-Cola Co. has partnered with the International Water Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other agencies and universities dedicated to implementing risk management strategies that benefit consumers of piped water and packaged beverages. The company supports effective engagement of the world¡¯s largest beverage distribution system in water risk management schemes, from catchments to the tap or the bottle.

Awarded for Systems Improvement, Community
Greenville County Schools Food and Nutrition Services
Greenville County Schools
The Greenville County School Food and Nutrition Services implemented a Health Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) program in 86 schools and 12 satellite locations in the face of budget constraints, limited time, and the challenge of training 650 employees across various locations. This highly-motivated team of professionals conducted trainings every six weeks until every school was equipped with properly-trained food safety workers and an effective HACCP program. As a result of the training, the scores in food safety audits have increased 12 points over a two-year period and critical non-conformances have decreased by 79% in the same period. Greenville County Schools Food Nutrition Services is being commended for their effective implementation of wide-reaching food safety program that not only helped increase awareness of the importance of food safety and improved quality, but it also increased communications between management and personnel at all school levels.

Awarded for Systems Improvement
Joseph Reardon
North Carolina Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Joseph Reardon directed the Castleberry Recall, the first public health recall in over 30 years where Clostridium botulinum has been identified as a causative agent between canned product and foodborne illness. His exceptional work to mobilize and deploy over 1,000 state personnel to 16,000 facilities in 15 days was executed with the urgency and organization that is crucial to effectively managing a public health crisis. As a result, Reardon and his team removed 35,000 cans of product from the shelves within three short weeks. Reardon¡¯s staff provided a model for the prompt establishment of an Incident Command System during a food safety crisis through effective and streamlined communications and data collection using Web-based technology.

Awarded for Systems Improvement
Steve Robinson
Dole Fresh Vegetables
Steve Robinson is responsible for creating a groundbreaking food safety application that currently tracks freshly-harvested spinach from the point of harvest in the fields, through transport to processing and weigh scales, through weighing, through the flash cooling tubes, and into the cold storage warehouse. This food safety application for tracking food from its origins to shelf was found to reduce the amount of time it takes to trace a specific lot to its origin. Although Robinson concedes that this is not a permanent solution for preventing foodborne illness, it serves as an important safeguard to improve the response time and precise effectiveness to such threats, which could result in less people infected in the case of a foodborne illness outbreak. It also provides extensive operational feedback, which allows for process improvement, and a reduction in spoilage and recall volumes. Future plans call for extending the tracing system beyond the point of storage to include tracking the spinach all the way to the retail shelves.

Food Safety: majority of Americans feel industry doesn¡¯t do enough
Source of Article:

On the heels of the largest product recall in U.S. history, an ASQ survey reveals that although the majority of the food industry may be following safe production procedures, the majority of the public doesn¡¯t feel it does enough.

Food safety is still igniting widespread concern according to the survey of U.S. adults conducted by Harris Interactive¢ç on behalf of ASQ. ASQ conducted the survey to gauge how consumers feel about food safety, food recalls and where responsibility lies when it comes to tainted food. The survey finds:
? 93 percent of adults say food manufacturers, growers or suppliers should be held legally responsible when individuals are fatally sickened by tainted food.
? 61 percent of U.S. adults feel the U.S. food recall process is only fair or poor.
? 73 percent of adults say they are as equally concerned about food safety as the war on terror.
? 82 percent of adults believe that the food industry should be required to follow international standards on food safety.
¡°The United States overall does have a safe food supply,¡± said Steven Wilson, member of ASQ¡¯s Board of Directors and ASQ food safety expert. ¡°However, whether food manufacturers have process controls in place or not, some have plant sanitation issues that they need to address.¡± Wilson said there are also other issues to consider. ¡°The problem lies with a specific outbreak. Determining its root cause is often difficult and necessary, otherwise correcting the root cause and preventing future outbreaks can¡¯t be achieved.¡±

- Government¡¯s Role in Food Safety
Eighty percent of adults believe that the federal government should select the agencies that inspect the facilities of food manufacturers. Interestingly, less than half (48 percent) said that they actually trust the government¡¯s ability to ensure the safety of food products. Also, only half believe the federal government does a good job enforcing laws that ensure our nation¡¯s food supply is safe. This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of ASQ from February 25-27, 2009, among 2,078 adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

Antibiotic use addressed by U.S.D.A., academics
Source of Article:
(, April 06, 2009) by Bernard Shire

WASHINGTON ? "The rapid emergence of antibiotic resistant pathogens has major public health and social impact," said Dr. Hua H. Wang, a food scientist at Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, at a conference here addressing the growing tendency of disease-causing organisms to be able to resist antibiotic drugs and drug therapy meant to fight them, both in animals and humans.

The April 2-3 conference, "Minimizing Antibiotic Resistance Transmission Through the Food Chain," was jointly sponsored by the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Ohio State University Extension, and Ohio Agriculture Research and Development Center. Leading the conference, in addition to Dr. Wang, were Dr. John N. Sofos, Center for Meat Safety and Quality, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, and Dr. Thaddeus B. Stanton, of USDA¡¯s Agricultural Research Service, Ames, Iowa.

Dr. Wang said in the last couple of decades, an intensive discussion on the correlation between the use of antibiotics in human and veterinary medicine, food animal production, agriculture applications and the development of resistance in human pathogens has been a hot topic in science which has led to several government policy changes in both the E.U. and the U.S. "The problem of antibiotic resistance still exists," she said.

Speakers at the conference noted bacteria and other microorganisms causing infections are remarkably resilient and can develop ways to survive drugs meant to weaken them. This antibiotic resistance is due largely to the increasing use of antibiotics, although several speakers noted the problem is complex and can¡¯t be tied simply to this use. Speakers pointed out that that food-producing animals are given antibiotic drugs for important therapeutic, disease prevention or production reasons. However, these drugs can cause microbes to become resistant to medications used to treat human illnesses, ultimately making some human sicknesses more difficult to treat.

Does this mean antibiotic use in agriculture should be curtailed? That was the question addressed by keynote speaker Dr. Abigail Salyers, from the Department of Microbiology, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois. She said even though antibiotics are usually used at very low concentrations in agriculture, they can still select for antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

"The resistant bacteria then enter the food supply. A potential hazard of consuming such food is that resistant bacterial pathogens such as Salmonella typhinurium can cause disease," she said. "Another potential hazard seldom considered but probably more serious is the transfer of resistance genes from bacteria passing through the human intestinal tract to bacteria normally occupying that site. Such bacteria are common causes of post-surgical infections." There is not yet enough data to enable scientists to quantify the risks associated with such scenarios, but there is evidence such scenarios are possible, she added.

In speaking about antibiotic resistance in meats and other foods, Dr. Sofos pointed out antimicrobials find numerous beneficial applications in human, animal and plant health, as well as in food production. Their selective pressure, however, may lead to the emergence of resistant pathogen strains.

"Therefore, it is important to maintain the ability of pathogens to be affected by antimicrobials," he said. "The best approach to minimizing antibiotic resistance negative impact is through risk assessments. Major recommendations for control include prevention of disease; use of antibiotics of lesser importance to human medicine, and treatment with alternative methods, including vaccines."

Dr. Sofos noted in tracking resistance of Salmonella to antibiotics in eight beef plants, resistance occurred mostly on cattle hides, but only a small amount of resistance to antibiotics existed on beef carcasses. "There was more resistance by the Campylobacter pathogen in poultry," he noted. "Research should also focus on the potential of antibiotics to enter animal production environments through waste streams."

E. coli O157:H7 Season is Nearly Upon Us ? Will it be 2005 and 2006 or 2007 and 2008?
Source of Article:
The presence of E. coli O157:H7 in hamburger was defined as an adulterant under the Federal Meat Inspection Act in 1994. However, recalls of E. coli O157:H7 contaminated meat and related illnesses continued over the next decade to grow, as did my law firm. Oddly too, and with near regularity, E. coli O157:H7 recalls and illnesses seemed to begin in the Spring and peak in late Summer and Fall from 1993 through 2002.
After 24 million pounds of contaminated beef were recalled in 34 separate incidents in 2002, recalls dropped off to just over a million pounds a year for the next three years, and then to just 181,900 pounds in 2006. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention saw E. coli O157:H7 ? related illnesses drop 48% between 2000 and 2006.
The reality is that from 1993 through 2002, children sickened with E. coli O157:H7 tainted hamburger made up the bulk of my law practice. However, as E. coli O157:H7 hamburger recalls fell from 2003 through the end of 2006, I wondered if the law firm would survive. Springs just simply were not the same.
But then came Spring 2007. E. coli O157:H7, which begins its life in the hindgut of a cow, mounted a surge on its home court. And, it came back with a vengeance. Since the Spring of 2007, forty-four million pounds of beef have been recalled in 25 incidents due to E. coli O157:H7. And, I am now back in the meat business, and look to Spring not just for the beginning of hay fever season.
Now, Spring 2009 is upon us. In preparing for it, I had some research done on the ¡°seasonality¡± of E. coli O157:H7 in both humans and cattle and then say what was available in the literature as to the reasons behind it. Perhaps it does not fully explain what I experienced from 1993 though 2008, but it is a start. It is all about being prepared.

Seasonality in humans:
? A review of E. coli O157:H7 diarrhea in the US by Slutsker et al (1997) found that E. coli O157:H7 was isolated most frequently from patients during the summer months.
? Results from an epidemiological review of E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks in the US (1982-2002) showed that outbreaks involving ground beef peaked in summer months (Rangel et al, 2005)
? In a review of non-O157 STEC infections in the US from 1983-2002 revealed that these infections also were most frequent during the summer (Brooks et al, 2005)
? In Scotland, HUS and E. coli O157:H7 infections peaked in patients under 15 years of age in July/August, followed by a plateau from June to September (Douglas et al, 1997). Interestingly, the prevalence in Scottish beef cattle at slaughter was found to be highest during the winter, but the concentration of E. coli O157:H7 (number of bacteria shed in cattle feces) was highest during the warmer months (Ogden et al, 2004).

Seasonality in ruminants:
-? Numerous studies in cattle indicate that fecal shedding of E. coli O157:H7 is typically low in the winter, increases in the spring, peaks during the summer and tapers off in the fall (Edrington et al, 2006; Hancock et al, 2001; Hussein et al, 2005, etc.)
- Barkocy-Gallagher et al (2003) found that the prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 in cattle feces peaked in the summer, and prevalence on hides (a known risk factor for beef contamination) was highest from spring through fall.
- A survey of ground beef samples in the US showed that they were 3x more likely to be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 from June ? September (Chapman, et al 2001)
- A survey in the UK found that the majority of retail meats that tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 were collected between May and September.

Hypotheses on why there are seasonal differences in prevalence in both humans and cattle

Human factors:
- Differences in handling and cooking food, or differences in consumption patterns during the summer, especially ground beef (outdoor BBQs, picnics, summer camps)
-Higher prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 in cattle feces and hides entering the slaughterhouse
? More outbreaks linked to swimming pools, recreational water, and agriculture fairs during the summer

Animal factors:

- Speculation that temperature may affect shedding or survival in feces (warmer months promoting survival and/or growth of E. coli O157:H7).
- Studies by Edrington et al (2006 and 2008) suggested that day length and effects on hormones such as melatonin secretion from the gastrointestinal tracts may be the underlying mechanism for seasonality in cattle. The authors hypothesized that the seasonal variation is a result of physiological responses within the host animal to changing day-length. Hormones have been shown to play a role in the regulation of bacterial populations and host immunity.

CDC: Rocket Fuel Chemical Found in Baby Formula
(Associated Press)By Mike Stobbe

ATLANTA ? Traces of a chemical used in rocket fuel were found in samples of powdered baby formula, and could exceed what's considered a safe dose for adults if mixed with water also contaminated with the ingredient, a government study has found.
The study by scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked for the chemical, perchlorate, in different brands of powdered baby formula. It was published last month, but the Environmental Working Group ? a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization ? issued a press release Thursday drawing attention to it.
The chemical has turned up in several cities' drinking water supplies. It can occur naturally, but most perchlorate contamination has been tied to defense and aerospace sites.
No tests have ever shown the chemical caused health problems, but scientists have said significant amounts of perchlorate can affect thyroid function. The thyroid helps set the body's metabolism. Thyroid problems can impact fetal and infant brain development.
However, the extent of the risk is hard to assess. The government requires that formula contain iodine, which counteracts perchlorate's effects. The size of the infant and how much formula they consume are other factors that can influence risk.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, aware of the debate over perchlorate in food and water, has not recommended that people alter their diet or eating habits because of the chemical.
The study itself sheds little light on how dangerous the perchlorate in baby formula is. "This wasn't a study of health effects," said Dr. Joshua Schier, one of the authors.
The largest amounts of the chemical were in formulas derived from cow's milk, the study said.
The researchers would not disclose the brands of formula they studied. Only a few samples were studied, so it's hard to know if the perchlorate levels would be found in all containers of those brands, a CDC spokesman said.
"This study provides no data on potential health effects of perchlorate. Health authorities continue to emphasize that infant formula is safe," said Haley Curtis Stevens of the International Formula Council, which represent formula manufacturers.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it was considering setting new limits on the amount of perchlorate that would be acceptable in drinking water. A few states have already set their own limits.
The agency issued a statement Friday saying perchlorate exposure is a serious issue and "a top priority" for EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. EPA officials expect to announce a decision soon about future steps in dealing with the chemical.
The EPA has checked nearly 4,000 public water supplies serving 10,000 people or more. About 160 of the water systems had detectable levels of perchlorate, and 31 had levels high enough to exceed a new safety level the EPA is considering. 04-03-09


FSIS seen as 'Rodney Dangerfield' of food safety
Source of Article:
By Janie Gabbett on 4/6/2009

The Food and Drug Administration should give its food safety arm structural status similar to that USDA gives its Food Safety and Inspection Service, Carol Tucker-Foreman told the House Agriculture Committee.
At a food safety hearing last week, Tucker-Foreman, distinguished fellow at Consumer Federation of America's Food Policy Institute, said the lack of adequate food safety systems has become an emergency that Congress must address by enacting new laws that require the FDA to prevent foodborne illness rather than react to it.
Tucker-Foreman urged Congress to give FDA a separate organizational entity within HHS. She suggested Congress take a look at FSIS to see how important that separate organizational structure and institutional leadership can be.
"The position of Under Secretary for Food Safety is the highest ranking food safety officer in government," she said, adding that while FSIS still has its problems, it deserves more respect that it gets.
"I've come to think of the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the USDA as the Rodney Dangerfield of food safety," Tucker-Forman said. "It gets no respect despite having made major strides in the last 15 years to improve its food safety efforts."
She went on to say, "The agency is still burdened by operating under a seriously outmoded statute which does not give it authority to enforce its HACCP system effectively and lacks a trained staff of scientists and statisticians who can develop a risk-based inspection program. Adequate funding for inspectors is also critical so that the agency can meet its statutory obligation to maintain a federal presence in every plant every day."

USDA chief cites problems in food safety system
Source of Article:
Tue Mar 31, 2009 6:09pm EDT
By Christopher Doering
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. food safety system is divided by competing philosophies and a lack of accountability that make it harder to protect consumers, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on Tuesday as the country faced another food recall.
High-profile recalls since 2006 have led to vociferous calls by lawmakers, the Obama administration and consumer groups to reform the antiquated system.
In the latest outbreak, a California firm issued a nationwide recall of pistachios on Monday due to possible salmonella contamination, and health regulators told consumers to avoid all pistachio products for now.
"There is no question that whatever system is ultimately devised has to be a system that provides for specific accountability," Vilsack told a House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees USDA.
"It seems to me today we have competing philosophies" with the USDA focused more on prevention while the Food and Drug Administration targets mitigation due to a heavy workload and limited staffing, said Vilsack.
Fifteen federal agencies handle food safety including FDA, which handles about 80 percent of the food supply, and USDA, which is in charge of red meat, poultry and eggs.
"When you have 15 separate agencies in the federal government responsible for some part (of food safety), you've got way too many," said Vilsack, who supports a single food agency. Who do "you hold accountable when there is a problem?"
President Barack Obama announced a White House panel this month to improve food safety. He assigned Vilsack to head the group along with former Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius, his nominee for Health and Human Services secretary.

"We are in an emergency situation today," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who chairs the House subcommittee. She urged the working group to move quickly to propose reforms.
"This administration is going to have to weigh in on a direction to take before we put into place legislation that may not get us where we want to go in terms of food safety."
Lawmakers including DeLauro have introduced legislation this year to improve food safety oversight. The bills focus largely on giving the FDA more funding and power, such as the ability to conduct a mandatory recall.
In a separate hearing, Sebelius told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Tuesday that improving the nation's food safety required industry involvement as well as beefing up the FDA.
She also said it was too soon to talk about splitting FDA's food and drug safety responsibilities into two agencies as some critics have suggested.

Equipment blamed for botulism in food
Source of Article:
By Sandy Hodson and Tim Rausch| Staff Writers

The company running the Castleberry's plant when botulism toxin was found in its food products has filed suit against the manufacturer of its sterilization equipment.
Bumble Bee Foods filed the federal lawsuit in Augusta against Malo Inc. and Massmann Enterprises last week. Bumble Bee contends the toxic outbreak was caused by the companies' negligent design and maintenance.
Bumble Bee managed Castleberry's 15th Street plant for the Connors Bros. Income Fund. It sold the rights to make Castleberry's products to another company, which closed the Augusta plant in November.
Castleberry's had supplied jobs to area residents for 82 years. When the doors shut in November, 325 people lost employment.
The plant was shut down for two months in the summer of 2007 after the Centers for Disease Control said botulism toxin from its chili sauce sickened people in three states. The resulting recall would cost the company more than $38 million.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the botulism toxin resulted from poor maintenance on two cookers and inadequate management oversight.
In the lawsuit, Bumble Bee blames Malo and Massman, contending that a design flaw disguised a leaking valve in the sterilization equipment.

Supervalu executive proposes food safety changes
Source of Article:
(, April 03, 2009)
WASHINGTON Noting the complexity of modern food production practices, Dr. John H. Hanlin, vice-president of food safety for Supervalu Inc., Minneapolis, called for the realignment and modernization of the U.S. food safety system. Specifically, Mr. Hanlin said part of the program should be modeled after the U.S. Department of Agriculture¡¯s risk-based surveillance and enforcement program and focus on other agricultural commodities besides meat, poultry and eggs.

"In other words, expand U.S.D.A.¡¯s risk-based inspection system to include commodities that today receive minimal inspection due to budget challenges at the F.D.A.," he said in testimony at a hearing before the House of Representative¡¯s Agriculture committee.
He added that such a change would push food safety farther upstream in the supply chain and reduce overall public exposure to pathogens.

"What we propose ¡¦ is to focus U.S.D.A. risk-based efforts against improving the safety of all food commodities, particularly those commodities that are consumed in the raw state or those that are cooked or pasteurized and eaten without a further microbial inactivation step, e.g. peanuts, almonds, cooked chicken," he said.
Mr. Hanlin said he believed the proposed model would work if the nation created a single food agency or maintained dual jurisdictional responsibilities within the U.S.D.A. and the F.D.A.
"In a dual role we would envision F.D.A. providing the food safety leadership further down the supply chain, e.g. the manufacture of frozen pizza, entrees, canned soup, broths, sauces, snacks, seasonings, etc."
He said the proposed model would enable the agency (U.S.D.A.) to deploy resources against the greatest food safety risks.
"Imagine for a moment being able to redeploy the FTE resource currently inspecting a facility making a frozen, fully cooked, cheeseburger sandwich ¡¦ and re-training the inspector to inspect a peanut facility or a spinach farm just prior to the harvest," he said.
In closing, Mr. Hanlin said government and industry understand where the food safety risks are.
"We must look beyond the meat and poultry divide and focus on food safety systems across all categories of commodities using a risk-based approach," he said. "There is nothing more important than safe food to those of us in the food business and all of us as consumers."

Stronger oversight is a way to improve U.S. food safety
Source of Article:
April 2, 2009

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration was notified by Kraft Foods on March 24 that it had pistachios infected by salmonella. A week later, the American public heard about it and more than 2 million pounds of nuts were recalled. Today, coast-to-coast, it's hard to find a single package of pistachios in the stores.

The good news is that so far, no one has gotten sick. But the pistachio recall, like the peanut recall earlier this year, shows that the nation's food safety could be better. Under current law, Kraft was not required to notify the FDA about the pistachios. It's possible for companies to hide findings from state and federal officials, as Peanut Corp. of America did.

This time, a voluntary notice led to the roasted pistachios from Setton Pistachio of Terra Bell Inc. being recalled. Rather than wait for individuals or hospitals to report illness, the FDA was more aggressive and ordered a broad recall. According to the California Pistachio Board, the state supplies 99.9 percent of all U.S. pistachios.

About 76 million Americans a year are sickened by food-borne disease. About 325,000 are hospitalized and 5,000 die. Food-borne illnesses cost $44 billion a year.

The Department of Health and Human Services is applying laws that date to 1906 and 1938, with no system to coordinate them with advanced technologies and practices. Another problem is funding and staffing. The U.S. Government Accountability Office reports that the turnover rate in the FDA science staff is twice that of any other government agency. The inspection of imported food, including fresh fruit and vegetables, which account for 60 percent of the total, and seafood, of which 75 percent is imported, is spotty. Only 1 percent of all imported foods is currently inspected.

California Assemblyman Mike Feuer responded to the pistachio recall by pushing state legislation that would require regular tests at all California food processing plants and would mandate reporting of any contamination within 24 hours. In addition, plants will have to submit a plan to prevent contamination.

A non-profit think tank, Trust for America's Health, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation just issued a report urging creation of a separate food safety administration within Health and Human Services, with a deputy commissioner who has authority over all food safety issues, and making other recommendations.


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