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CDC: Food-borne Illnesses Underreported
Source of Article:
Improved Investigation and Analysis Would Reduce Toll of Food-borne Disease
By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD
June 11, 2009 -- Most food-borne illnesses that sicken millions of people in the U.S. annually and kill thousands are preventable, and the toll could be reduced with better reporting and analysis by health officials, the CDC says.
The agency reports in its June 12 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that norovirus and salmonella were the leading causes of food-borne disease outbreaks in 2006, the latest year for which statistics are available.
Better surveillance and investigation could help control disease by pinpointing causes, such as improper food handling practices, the report says.
Ian Williams, PhD, chief of the OutbreakNet team at the CDC, tells WebMD that only a tiny fraction of food-borne illnesses are reported or recognized.
"Most cases are not associated with outbreaks, so this is just the tip of the iceberg," he says. "The interesting thing is that most cases are sporadic and aren't part of outbreaks. So what outbreaks do is provide a window in, to see what's going on in the larger picture. With most sporadic cases, we never figure out what causes them, that's why we need more emphasis on identification and analysis."

Williams says to get better data, local health authorities must do a better job of identifying causes.
"In order to track this we need the infrastructure at the state level to investigate and find out causes of outbreaks," Williams tells WebMD. "Also, the regulatory structure needs to be put in place to find out the causes and put programs in place to prevent the outbreaks to begin with."
Noroviruses are a group of related viruses that cause acute gastroenteritis, generally characterized by diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Salmonella are bacteria that can cause diarrhea (which may be bloody), vomiting, nausea, fever, and abdominal cramps.

Outbreaks of Food-borne Diseases
In 2006, there were 1,270 reported food-borne disease outbreaks, resulting in 27,634 illnesses and 11 deaths. Of the outbreaks, 624 had a confirmed cause; 54% of the time it was norovirus, the CDC says. Eighteen percent were salmonella outbreaks.
Most illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths caused by food-borne illnesses are not recorded. But the CDC estimates that such diseases sicken 76 million Americans per year, cause 300,000 hospitalizations, and cause 5,000 deaths.
Food-borne outbreaks of norovirus occur most often when infected food handlers fail to wash their hands well after using the toilet, the CDC says in a news release. Food-borne outbreaks of salmonella commonly occur when foods that have been contaminated with animal feces are eaten raw or insufficiently cooked.
In 2006, the food commodities associated with the largest number of illnesses were poultry (21%), leafy vegetables (17%) and fruits or nuts (16%).
The food commodity categories defined by the CDC are fish, crustaceans, mollusks, dairy, eggs, beef, game, pork, poultry, grains/beans, oils/sugars, fruits/nuts, fungi, leafy vegetables, sprouts, vine/stalk vegetables, and root vegetables.
"Determining the proportion of outbreak-associated cases of foodborne illness due to the various food commodities is an important step," Patricia M. Griffin, MD, chief of the CDC's Enteric Diseases Branch, says in a news release. "Identification of particular food commodities that have caused outbreaks can help public health officials and the food industry to target control efforts from the farm to the table."
She cautions, however, that only a small proportion of food-borne illnesses occur as part of recognized outbreaks. Some outbreaks aren't detected, investigated, or reported because many states lack the resources.
The authors write that timely reporting of results of investigations is an important step in efforts to better understand and define the epidemiology of food-borne disease in the U.S. and to identify gaps in the food-safety system.
Many food-borne illness cases are neither recognized nor reported, the CDC says, and thus are not recognized by health officials.
"Outbreak investigations, especially multistate outbreaks, can rapidly strain public health system resources," the authors write. "Enhancing capacity at local, state, and federal levels could make outbreak detection and investigation even faster."
A recent salmonella outbreak that sickened hundreds of people in the U.S. and Canada was traced to peanuts in Georgia. The outbreak was blamed for some deaths, though the exact number is not known.

September 2008 Aunt Mid¡¯s Lettuce E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak Linked to Santa Barbara Farms
Source of Article:
On September 15, 2008, Ingham County Health Department (ICHD) was notified that nine students of Michigan State University (MSU) were seen in the emergency department over the weekend with gastrointestinal symptoms of abdominal pain, diarrhea, and bloody diarrhea. Lab cultures had confirmed that at least two of them were positive for E. coli O157:H7. The ICHD then launched an investigation with help from the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH), and both the United States & Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA).

Over the ensuing days it became clear that the outbreak was not limited to MSU. While at MSU, the reported number of E. coli O157:H7 cases had risen to 18 (3 confirmed, 15 probable), there were also a reported 12 cases at Lenawee County Jail (5 confirmed, 7 probable). In fact, by September 29, a total of 26 confirmed cases of E. coli O157:H7 with the same genetic fingerprint had been reported to MDCH, from eight Michigan counties. Additionally, nine individuals in Illinois and three from the Province of Ontario had also been identified with the same genetic strain of E. coli O157:H7.

By this point, there was also strong epidemiological evidence linking the outbreak to institutional size, bagged iceberg lettuce. Two separate case-control studies had been conducted by MDCH at MSU and the Illinois Department of Public Health, and both implicated iceberg lettuce as the source of contamination. As a result, the MDA coordinated a traceback investigation of iceberg lettuce and found that the common supplier of all iceberg lettuce to MSU, the Lenawee County Jail, a restaurant in Illinois, as well as other foodservice locations identified by ill individuals, was Fresh-Pak Inc., distributed under the name, ¡°Aunt Mid¡¯s.¡±

The MDA subsequently conducted product and environmental sample testing at Aunt Mid¡¯s. Though the tests did not find E. coli, testing was on current products, not on products from the outbreak timeframe. Lettuce from the outbreak timeframe was not available for testing during the investigation due to the perishable nature of the product.

Meanwhile, the toll of people affected by the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak had increased. By October 3rd, Michigan had identified 34 cases in nine counties with the same PFGE pattern by two enzymes. This included: nine students from MSU (Ingham County), five inmates at the Lenawee County Jail, three students at the University of Michigan and one in Washtenaw County, five in Macomb County, five in Wayne County, three in Kent County, and one each in St. Clair, Oakland, and Genesee Counties. The onset dates of symptoms of these confirmed genetically linked E. coli O157:H7 patients ranged from September 8 to 19.

The epidemiological investigation by MDA, which had already identified Aunt Mid¡¯s as the common supplier of iceberg lettuce, soon revealed the likely origin of the contamination Using illness dates, ship dates, and delivery dates, the MDA was able to narrow the origin to California. The California Department of Public Health then assisted the investigation by surveying 15 possible supplier farms. By October 10, Michigan and California had both traced the lettuce supplied to the initial cases to Santa Barbara Farms in Santa Barbara, California.

IFT Awards focus on food safety and technology
Source of Article:
By Mike Stones reporting from IFT, 09-Jun-2009
Scientists and academics who focused on improving food safety were among those celebrated with Achievement Awards at the Institute of Food Technology Annual Meeting and Food Expo, Anaheim, California.
Of the 11 award winners, seven merited an award for their contribution to food safety through innovation in the food technology or processing sectors.

Award winners
Arun Bhunia, professor of food microbiology, Perdue University, Indiana, received the Research and Development Award for his contribution to the early detection of food borne pathogens to cut the risk of disease outbreaks. Bhunia and his colleagues developed biosensor tools for on-site testing of foods.

Anna Resurreccion, professor Georgia University, won the Bor S Luh International Award after co-ordinating the work of academics, government officials and industry representatives to improve peanut processing technologies in Southeast Asia. Her team developed a process to eliminate the potent carcinogen aflatoxin from peanut products which was used in the Philippines and Thailand. The research was also used to develop and commercialise products such as vitamin A-fortified peanut butter to remedy severe nutrient deficiencies of people living in the Philippines.

Manuel Castillo, assistant research professor at the Kentucky University, landed the Samuel Cate Prescott Award. This was after developing novel sensors and measuring devices that help food manufacturers to improve the process control, production efficiency and quality control of their products. Castillo also developed a lab-scale milk coagulation tester that is able to accurately measure the milk clotting of rennet to International Dairy Federation standards.

George Flick, university distinguished professor at Virginia Tech, won the Myron Solberg Award for research on seafood pasteurisation. His work led to the development of a process used worldwide that allows seafood to be safely stored for several years.

The South Atlantic Area Food Science Research Unit of North Carolina State University received the Food Technology Industrial Achievement Award. This was in recognition of the process it developed for continuous flow microwave sterilisation of low acid food and biomaterials.

Rakesh Singh, professor and head of food the Food Science department at Georgia University won the Elizabeth Fleming Stier Award. His research revealed the role of reaction kinetics in predicting the quality of processed foods. This has helped in the development of aseptically produced products such as banana puree, orange juice and soymilk.

Daryl Lund, emeritus professor Wisconsin University, received the Nicholas Appert Award for his work on the fouling of food contact services and microwavable food processing.

Meanwhile, Kathryn Kotula, senior investigative food scientist, Investigative Food Services, won the Carl R Fellers Award for her work advising companies involved in litigation and arbitration cases concerning outbreaks of food-borne illnesses and product spoilage.

Keeping small businesses in business without sacrificing food safety
Source of Article:

One of the problems facing regulators and the meat industry is how to implement effective food safety processes in small and very small plants.
Many of the food safety technologies that have emerged over the past 15 years are expensive and engineered for large volume plants. These include systems that are essential for control of pathogens during the slaughter process (i.e. thermal pasteurization of carcasses).
Food safety requirements are identical for all companies, big and small. It is important that small businesses have access to affordable food safety technologies that allow them to meet regulatory and consumer requirements and still remain viable.
Small businesses actually have some advantages over large companies in terms of implementing changes. The decision making process is less complicated and small companies can usually act more quickly. It is also often easier to accommodate process changes in smaller plants. Some of the most innovative food safety systems have been implemented by small businesses.

Clearly, there are competitive and consumer benefits associated with maintaining a large number of meat and poultry companies. Despite trends in concentration, there are still several thousand active meat processing companies in the United States. These companies provide tens of thousands of jobs and in many cases anchor the communities where they are located. Consumers enjoy a wide variety of products because the industry is not limited to a handful of large companies.

Small businesses will remain viable only if technology providers make the effort to engineer food safety technologies so they are not limited to large volume plants and provisions are made that make necessary food safety innovations affordable. The federal government and state governments could make technologies more affordable by providing tax credits and other incentives for small businesses that make food safety related investments.

Compromising on food safety is not an option. Meat and poultry products must be safe for consumers regardless of whether products are produced by the largest company or the smallest company. By helping small businesses implement safe food processes and stay in business, everyone benefits.

No risk in short term from 4-methylbenzophenone, says EFSA
Source of Article:
By Rory Harrington, 12-Jun-2009
The short-term consumption of breakfast cereals contaminated with previously reported levels of the 4-methylbenzophenone (4MBP) poses no risk to human health, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has said.
The European food safety watchdog delivered its verdict yesterday on the chemical, which is used in printing inks for food packaging, but said further study may be necessary if the substance continued to be employed.

An EFSA spokesman told ¡°We were not aware that 4MBP was being widely used in food packaging before it was flagged up in March. If companies continue to use it, then a more in-depth risk assessment may be needed.¡±

The body carried out the risk assessment after the spotlight fell on the chemical following a spate of contamination incidents earlier this year. In February, the German authorities notified the European Commission (EC) of the migration of 4MBP from packaging into certain cereal products at a concentration of 798 micrograms/kg. The Belgian Authorities also provided data later the same month, reporting concentrations of the chemical in cereals up to 3729 ¥ìg/kg.

The EC¡¯s Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) subsequently set a maximum level for the presence of 4MBP at 0.6mg/kg of food.

EFSA¡¯s CEF panel, which examines food contact materials, reached its latest conclusion after re-assessing the toxicological data on the similar substance, benzophenone. The panel was also tasked with evaluating whether the existing Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) for benzophenone and hydroxybenzophenone could also be applied to 4MBP. It also examined the case for re-assessing the TDI for benzophenone and hydroxybenzophenone.

An EFSA statement said: ¡°The Panel considered the safety threshold for benzophenone which was used as the basis of EFSA¡¯s urgent advice to the Commission in March to be very cautious, as it was based upon adaptive (i.e. reversible) changes reported in experimental animals as a result of their exposure to benzophenone rather than adverse effects as such. However, the Panel considered that this approach was reasonable given the lack of data available and the short deadline.¡±

The CEP members decided it was necessary to set a new TDI for benzophenone of 0.03mg per kilogram of bodyweight. This was based on a higher threshold which the panel considered to represent the intake level beyond which benzophenone could be harmful. Hydroxybenzophenone has been excluded from this TDI due to a lack of data, added the experts.

Safety: Majority in U.S. feel food industry doesn¡¯t do enough
Source of Article:

On the heels of the largest product recall in U.S. history, an American Society for Quality 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 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 believes 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.

Concern Over Product Recalls Remains High
Ninety-three percent of adults are aware of instances of food recalls due to health and safety concerns in the last three years. This is up from a 2007 Harris Poll showing 79 percent were aware of food recall occurrences in the last three years.

Food recalls have become even more of a serious concern for adults (47 percent) vs. the 2007 Harris Poll data (29 percent). A total of 92 percent of Americans are at least somewhat concerned about recalls.
When recalls on brands adults usually purchase do occur, 47 percent would temporarily purchase another brand and then purchase the recalled brand once it was safe. This is down from 55 percent in 2007.
Twenty-seven percent of adults would avoid using any brand made by the manufacturer of a recalled product. This is up from 21 percent in 2007.
Wilson also says ¡°The cost of a recall does not just concern lost revenue and charges for the recall but also in loss of respect for the brand or the product. In this way, all members of the food chain are hurt by the actions of bad players. A majority of recalls can be prevented with due diligence by all parties, including following their implemented control systems and communicating with the other segments of the food chain.¡±

About the study
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. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, contact Lynda Nicely at 414-298-8789 x7587.

About ASQ
ASQ,, has been the world¡¯s leading authority on quality for more than 60 years. With more than 90,000 individual and organizational members, the professional association advances learning, quality improvement and knowledge exchange to improve business results and to create better workplaces and communities worldwide. As a champion of the quality movement, ASQ offers technologies, concepts, tools and training to quality professionals, quality practitioners and everyday consumers, encouraging all to Make Good Great. ASQ has been the sole administrator of the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award since 1991. Headquartered in Milwaukee, ASQ is a founding partner of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), a prominent quarterly economic indicator, and also produces the Quarterly Quality Report.

Poultry Is No. 1 Source of Outbreaks, Report Says
Feeling sick? If so, the cause might have been bad chicken.
Poultry was the most commonly identified source of food poisoning in the United States in 2006, followed by leafy vegetables and fruits and nuts, according to a report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The report is the first effort by federal researchers to identify how most people in the United States become sickened by contaminated foods. Its findings, while not surprising, were welcomed by food-safety advocates.

¡°It¡¯s a nice first step,¡± said Donna Rosenbaum, executive director of the nonprofit Safe Tables Our Priority. ¡°The problem is that it¡¯s based on a very small data set.¡±
After a concerted campaign by the federal Department of Agriculture to improve the safety of chickens, the number of people sickened by contaminated poultry in 2006 declined compared with an average of the previous five years, according to C.D.C. researchers.

But problems persist. Most of the poultry-related illnesses, the centers found, were associated with Clostridium perfringens, a bacterium that commonly causes abdominal cramping and diarrhea usually within 10 to 12 hours after ingestion. The spores from this bacterium often survive cooking, so keeping poultry meat at temperatures low enough to prevent contamination during processing and storage is critical.
Researchers counted leafy vegetables, fungi, root vegetables, sprouts and vegetables from vines or stalks as separate categories. Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group, noted that if all of the produce categories were combined, outbreaks associated with vegetables would have far exceeded those in poultry.

¡°We¡¯re very glad that C.D.C. is finally coming out with good food attribution data,¡± Ms. DeWaal said. ¡°It clearly shows the need for improvements, not only at F.D.A. but at U.S.D.A.¡¯s food safety programs as well.¡±
A bill that would substantially reform the food safety program at the Food and Drug Administration edged a step closer to a vote on Wednesday during a markup session at the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health. A companion measure is being considered in the Senate. Margaret A. Hamburg, the F.D.A. commissioner, said last week that she supported the legislation, although she had asked for some changes.

While poultry is the most common source of illnesses among the 17 different foods tracked by federal officials, the C.D.C. found that two-thirds of all food-related illnesses traced to a lone ingredient were caused by viruses, which are often added to food by restaurant workers who fail to wash their hands. Such viruses often cause what many people refer to as a ¡°stomach flu,¡± one to two days of nausea and vomiting that is unrelated to the flu virus.
Salmonella, the bacteria found in nationwide outbreaks of contaminated peanut butter, spinach and tomatoes, was the second-leading cause of sole-source food illnesses, the centers found.
While dairy products accounted for just 3 percent of traceable food-related outbreaks, 71 percent of these cases were traced to unpasteurized milk, the researchers found.

The findings resulted from an analysis of reports of food-related illnesses submitted to the C.D.C. by state and local health departments. Although the system is the best available, it is far from perfect. Most of the estimated 76 million cases of food-related illnesses a year go unreported in the United States. And of those that are reported, most are not thoroughly investigated.

FDA creates Transparency Task Force
Source of Article:
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has created a Transparency Task Force and announced a public meeting to solicit recommendations on ways in which the FDA can make useful and understandable information more readily available to the public. The Transparency Task Force will be chaired by FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein and will include the Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs, Chief Scientist, Chief Counsel, and Center Directors. The Transparency Task Force's mission is to:

Seek public input on transparency issues;
Recommend ways FDA can better explain its operations while protecting confidential information;
Identify information FDA should provide about specific operations and activities;
Identify barriers to providing useful and understandable information;
Identify tools and new technologies for informing the public;
Recommend changes to current operations; and
Recommend legislative or regulatory changes needed to improve transparency.
The task force will submit a written report with its findings and recommendations to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg approximately six months after it convenes. The Commissioner will then confer with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sibelius. The public meeting will be held on June 24, at the National Transportation Safety Board Conference Center in Washington, DC. The FDA is requesting those who wish to attend to register electronically at by June 17. Interested persons may also submit written or electronic comments to the FDA no later than August 7, 2009. The FDA also plans to hold a second public meeting in the fall of 2009.

Deal Clears Way for Food-Safety Bill in House
(Wall Street Journal)
The House took the first step toward passing legislation aimed at plugging holes in the nation's food-safety system, after lawmakers reached a compromise over user fees and other requirements.
The legislation would boost the authority and funding of the Food and Drug Administration. It would impose a $500 annual registration fee on every food facility to increase funds for the FDA's food-safety operations, and would require the food industry to make it easier for the FDA to track tainted products.
The measure cleared the Energy and Commerce Committee's health subcommittee Wednesday on a unanimous voice vote. Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D., Calif.) said the full committee will likely vote on it next Wednesday.
To win support of Republicans and the food industry, Democrats agreed to halve the registration fee to $500 and add a cap so no single company would be charged more than $175,000. The industry, which has argued that using the fees expressly to pay for inspections could create a conflict of interest, will have a say?through public hearings?on how the FDA should spend the money. And instead of imposing a sweeping record-keeping requirement, Democrats agreed to ask the FDA to first study how the industry should maintain records, and the costs and benefits associated with it.

"Serious, substantive progress has been made," said Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, the Energy and Commerce Committee's ranking Republican. Still, he said, Republicans will work to change some provisions of the legislation. The bill doesn't address meat, poultry, dairy and eggs, which are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.Food-safety legislation has also been introduced in the Senate. It is unclear when senators might take up their bill, which has bipartisan support. 6-10-09

U.S. Needs Canada-Style Food Regulator, Campbell¡¯s Conant Says
Source of Article:
By Alan Bjerga
June 9 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. should abandon its two- regulator format for food and adopt a one-agency model like Canada¡¯s, which would be more effective than product-label laws, Campbell Soup Co. Chief Executive Officer Doug Conant said.
Food-safety checks done by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency at Campbell Soup¡¯s Toronto plant are more efficient than those conducted at the company¡¯s six domestic plants by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, Conant said in prepared remarks scheduled to be delivered today at 7 p.m. at the Canadian Embassy in Washington. A copy of his speech was obtained by Bloomberg News.

¡°If the government of Canada can monitor the safety of its food products with one single food-inspection agency, why can¡¯t the United States?¡± Conant said. ¡°The structure and framework of food safety in Canada is something we can learn from as we look at the makeup and coordination of our own food safety agencies.¡±

The two U.S. agencies have differing levels of funding and responsibility, and each has a separate system for monitoring food safety, said Conant, who runs the world¡¯s largest soupmaker. The FDA regulates about 80 percent of the domestic food supply, while the USDA reviews the safety of about 20 percent of the food supply, including meats, he said.

Lawmakers are currently considering several food-safety proposals, with a goal of passing a comprehensive measure this year. President Barack Obama¡¯s budget proposal would provide a 19 percent spending increase for the FDA, including $259 million more for food-safety, while boosting funding for the USDA¡¯s inspection programs by 7.2 percent to $992 million, according to figures from the White House.
About 76 million people in the U.S. are sickened by food- borne illness each year and 5,000 die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Campbell, based in Camden, New Jersey, rose 4 cents to $28.95 a share at 4:15 p.m. today on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares have fallen 3.5 percent this year.

AMI Expresses Concerns Regarding Food Safety Enhancement Act Of 2009
Source of Article:
AMI President and CEO J. Patrick Boyle expressed concern over the proposed Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 that is scheduled for markup by this week, and requested, in a letter to House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman and Ranking Member Joe Barton, further review and discussion before proceeding with the legislation.

¡°The meat and poultry industry is intensely regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and inspected establishments are subject to daily scrutiny, often using multiple inspectors,¡± Boyle said. ¡°Although sections of the bill may be viewed by some as necessary and appropriate for FDA-regulated products, those same or similar provisions, if applied to the meat and poultry inspection system, would be a step backward. To this end, AMI is troubled by the potential precedents the bill could set for products regulated by the USDA.¡±

A significant concern with the bill, Boyle noted, is the control government would have over a company¡¯s HACCP program. The proper role of government is to verify that companies have conducted a proper hazard analysis, identified the hazards reasonably likely to occur in their operations and develop and implement an appropriate HACCP plan to control those hazards.

¡°We do not believe it is the proper role of the government to establish the hazards and mandate preventive controls,¡± Boyle said.

Other sections of the bill Boyle suggested warrant further review include: user fees to pay for food safety inspection services; the ¡®full pedigree¡¯ traceability required by the bill; the empowerment of FDA to mandate a recall and impose civil penalties; and the changes the bill would make to policies with respect to how FDA determines whether a substance is generally recognized as safe.

Dioxins in food chain linked to breastfeeding problems
Source of Article:
By Rory Harrington, 10-Jun-2009
Dioxin exposure through the food chain during pregnancy could explain why some women have trouble breastfeeding or produce too little milk, new research suggests.
A study from the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), in the United States, has found that contact with the toxic chemical harms the cells in rapidly changing breast tissue that occurs during pregnancy.
While the results have only been demonstrated in mice so far, researchers believe their investigations may help to address an issue that affects between three and six million women worldwide.

Role of environmental contaminants
B. Paige Lawrence, Ph.D., associate professor of Environment Medicine and of Microbiology and Immunology at URMC, said: ¡°The cause of this problem is unclear, though it has been suggested that environmental contaminants might play a role. We showed definitively that a known and abundant pollutant has an adverse effect on the way mammary glands develop during pregnancy."
The group said that most people are exposed to dioxins through diet. The majority of dioxins are generated by the incineration of municipal and medical waste ? especially certain plastics ? and these enter the food chain when air emissions settle on food crops and pastures where livestock graze.
Humans are said to ingest dioxins mostly through eating meat, dairy products and shellfish. The chemical settles in the fatty tissues where ¡°natural elimination occurs very slowly¡±, said the URMC reseachers. The typical daily exposure is thought to be low but this has already been linked to health problems such as possible impairment of the immune system and developing organs, added a statement from the group.

New findings
In 2004, Lawrence¡¯s laboratory discovered that dioxin hampers the normal development of mammary glands during pregnancy ? but factors such as the underlying mechanisms for this and when exposure during pregnancy was most significant remained unclear.
However, findings reported in Toxicological Sciences this week demonstrated that dioxin ¡°has a profound effect on breast tissue by causing mammary cells to stop their natural cycle of proliferation as early as six days into pregnancy, and lasting through mid-pregnancy¡±, said Lawrence. Tissue samples taken from mice showed a 50 percent decrease in new epithelial cells that help to protect or enclose organs, she added.

This is significant, said Lawrence, because mammary glands have a high rate of cell proliferation, especially during early to mid-pregnancy when their most rapid development occurs. Researchers also found that dioxin causes other problems with the breast such as altering the induction of milk-producing genes, which occurs around the ninth day of pregnancy.

Timing irrelevant for humans
The timing of dioxin exposure also seemed to be significant, the study noted. Results showed early exposure may give time for the cells to recover. But Lawrence stressed that while understanding of the timing of exposure was important for reseach purposes it was ¡°irrelevant for humans, who cannot really control their exposure to dioxins".
She added: ¡°Our goal is not to find a safe window of exposure for humans, but to better understand how dioxins affect our health. We hope this study raises awareness about how our food sources can increase the burden of pollutants in the body.¡±

BOTULISM: Rare disease among infants was caught in time to save a life
Source of Article:
By Sandra G. Boodman
Published: June 6, 2009

During the awards banquet honoring her father, Terri Sebelin grew increasingly uneasy. Sebelin, a first-time mother, had her 3-month-old son, Garrett Perschy, in tow, and he was sick. The baby had a slight fever and seemed restless. He was also drooling, which the pediatrician told Sebelin, a registered nurse, meant that he was teething. Sebelin thought that odd because she couldn't feel any tooth buds. Her mother, a retired nurse who had raised seven children, was skeptical, too.

"All during dinner people kept coming up and asking me what was wrong with the baby," Sebelin recalled of the events of the Memorial Day weekend in 1999. She watched closely as friends and relatives passed her son around, noticing at one point that "it looked like they were passing around a rag doll." She tried not to overreact; she had talked to the doctor several times that day and had been assured that the problem didn't sound serious.

A few hours later, after another call to the pediatrician, who instructed Sebelin to take the baby to a nearby emergency room, the family arrived at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, Pa. Garrett was admitted, and the ER doctor told her he probably had croup. Sebelin and her mother doubted that, too: Garrett wasn't coughing. "I know you don't have croup," Sebelin wrote that night in her journal.

She was right. Less than 24 hours later, her baby was gravely ill, and doctors were frantically ruling out one diagnosis after another. It took an astute specialist to figure out what was wrong, a cause so unlikely that the doctor who made the diagnosis had never seen a case before -- and hasn't since. But diagnosis was only part of the problem. At the time there was only one experimental drug to treat Garrett's illness, and getting it to Allentown required the approval of federal officials. That process would take days -- time the baby clearly did not have.

Ten years later, pediatric neurologist Martha Lusser vividly remembers her tiny patient. Lusser said she believes Garrett's ailment is "clearly less well recognized than it should be" and remains easily overlooked by pediatricians. She is convinced that some fatalities attributed to sudden infant death syndrome were probably caused by the extremely rare problem she diagnosed in Garrett.

Until that weekend, Garrett had been a normal, healthy baby, according to Sebelin, who lives in Palmerton, a small town about 30 miles north of Allentown.

The day before the Sunday banquet, she had noticed he was constipated; she had taken him to a local mall in the morning, where he began to seem out of sorts. She later discovered he was running a slight fever, common when babies are teething. By the time she got to Lehigh Valley Hospital 36 hours later, his fever was gone but he seemed utterly wrung out.

At the hospital, doctors ran some tests and, after listening to his lungs, decided he didn't have croup. The staff thought he might have a virus and told his parents he would probably be discharged the next morning.

By then, Sebelin remembered, he was much sicker.

The hospital staff began an urgent search for a cause. A spinal tap ruled out meningitis. Garrett showed no signs of child abuse, such as retinal hemorrhages or broken bones. Toxicology tests to check for the presence of drugs or poisons came back negative. Both a CT scan and an MRI showed nothing wrong with Garrett's brain, such as a tumor. He no longer had a fever, his blood counts were normal and there were no signs of an infectious disease. One doctor said he suspected Garrett might have a rapidly progressive neuromuscular disorder but had no idea what the disease might be.

"We thought he was going to die," Sebelin recalled. Mystified, the staff called in Lusser.

She examined the baby, noting his floppiness, the way his pupils reacted to light, the reports of drooling and the history of constipation -- the last scarcely unusual, but an important clue.

In Lusser's opinion, all signs pointed to infant botulism, a malady she had never seen in more than 20 years of practice. The only way to be sure was through a stool test that had to be sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The more immediate problem was treatment. In 1999, the only drug for infants with the illness was a tightly controlled investigational compound called BabyBIG (Botulism Immune Globulin Intravenous). Garrett's best hope for survival was an immediate transfer to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, which could get the drug on an expedited basis and had treated other victims of infant botulism. Lusser quickly arranged it, and the baby was whisked away by ambulance, accompanied by his terrified parents.

Infant botulism occurs when a baby less than a year old ingests spores of Clostridium botulinum bacteria, which is present in honey -- the reason it should never be fed to babies younger than 12 months. The bacteria produce a toxin that breeds rapidly in an infant's immature digestive tract, impairing the ability to move, eat or breathe, according to a 2002 article in the journal American Family Physician. (The other form of botulism, which can occur from home-canned foods, affects older children and adults.) BabyBIG, developed by researchers at the California Department of Public Health, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2003 and is administered to about 100 victims of infant botulism each year in the United States.

Although doctors kept asking Sebelin if she or anyone had given Garrett honey, she was adamant that he'd never ingested it. The only other way he could have been exposed was through soil containing the bacteria. Pennsylvania, Lusser knew, is a hot spot for botulism, as are Arizona, California and Utah.

She concluded he was probably exposed when he came in contact with his father, a telephone lineman, before he showered after work, or with his grandfather, an avid gardener.

Lusser said her suspicions the baby had infant botulism, later confirmed by the CDC, were bolstered by the pattern of weakness and droopy eyelid; the drooling, which indicated a loss of muscle control, not an incipient toothache; and constipation, which is among the first signs of the illness. "Recovery is 100 percent if this is diagnosed and treated early, and babies don't suffer brain damage," she said.One of Sebelin's most vivid memories occurred in the intensive care unit at Children's Hospital after her son got his first intravenous dose of BabyBIG. "He got it at 10 a.m., and by 1 p.m. he opened his eyes and then raised his little arm," she said.After eight days, the baby was transferred back to Lehigh Valley Hospital for a week, then discharged. His extremely unusual illness did not affect his development, his mother said. He recovered fully without incident and recently celebrated his 10th birthday.
"My mother and I both knew something was wrong," Sebelin said. "But we certainly didn't think it was this."

Obama hasn¡¯t named USDA food safety undersecretary
Source of Article:
Jerry Hagstrom,Agweek
Published: 06/08/2009
WASHINGTON President Obama has not nominated an Agriculture Department undersecretary for food safety because the administration has had a hard time finding a candidate who has not engaged in lobbying, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said June 4.

Speaking to reporters after appearing before the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee on the fiscal year 2010 budget, Vilsack said the administration wants to follow its own rule ¡°to make sure people haven¡¯t had lobbying experience¡± and is thoroughly vetting all candidates. Lobbyists say it is hard for USDA to fully participate in congressional consideration of the food safety reform and modernization bill without an undersecretary in place. USDA handles food safety for meat, poultry and eggs and the undersecretary for food safety sets policy and handles international food safety relations.

At the hearing, Vilsack said he is coordinating broadband policy with Commerce Secretary Locke and that he hopes that by the end of June he can issue rules for applications for the broadband loans and grant program contained in the economic stimulus package. Vilsack confirmed the agency is hiring 40 people to handle broadband applications.

Several senators complained about Obama¡¯s proposal to phase out direct payments to farmers with sales of more than $500,000 and to cut conservation programs. Vilsack said the administration made the proposals to come up with $1 billion to increase the budget for child nutrition programs. But he added that the administration will work with Congress to find savings in other ways.

FDA awards grants to three states to enhance food and feed safety

Source of Article:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently enhanced its food and feed protection initiatives with the award of three one-year Food Safety and Security Monitoring grants totaling $1 million to the states of Arkansas, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. The funds support cooperative agreements designed to create a national integrated food safety system through enhanced federal and state collaboration in food emergency response activities. The three states each received $350,000 to fund Food Emergency Response Network (FERN) chemistry laboratories. FERN labs are essential to the FDA¡¯s regulatory efforts and the grants may be used for facility upgrades, training in current food testing methodologies, increased laboratory sample analysis capacity, and other activities. In the event of a large-scale event affecting food or food products, the grant recipients may be required to perform selected analyses of food samples collected by the FDA or provided by other government agencies through the FDA.

¡°We are excited to partner with these states as they perform such critical roles in ensuring food safety,¡± said Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., Commissioner of Food and Drugs. ¡°The FDA is committed to investing in efforts that will better protect American consumers from food safety and food defense threats.¡±

Harvard study confirms health risk from BPA leaching
Source of Article:
By Mike Stones, 25-May-2009
Critics of the chemical bisphenol A or BPA have received powerful new ammunition in the form of a study from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) which confirmed that the substance can leach from polycarbonate drinking bottles into humans.
The study revealed that participants who drank for a week from polycarbonate bottles and baby bottles showed a two-thirds increase of BPA in their urine.

According to HSPH: ¡°The study is the first to show that drinking from polycarbonate bottles increased the level of urinary BPA, and thus suggests that drinking containers made with BPA release the chemical into the liquid that people drink in sufficient amounts to increase the level of BPA excreted in human urine.¡±

Cardiovascular disease
BPA, used in the manufacture of polycarbonate and other plastics, has been linked to cardiovascular disease and diabetes in humans and disrupted reproductive development in animals. The chemical is commonly found in drinking bottles, baby bottles and sipper cups as well as dentistry composites and sealants and in the lining of aluminum food and beverage cans. Karin B. Michels, associate professor of epidemiology at HSPH and Harvard Medical School and senior author of the study, commented: ¡°We found that drinking cold liquids from polycarbonate bottles for just one week increased urinary BPA levels by more than two-thirds. If you heat those bottles, as is the case with baby bottles, we would expect the levels to be considerably higher. This would be of concern since infants may be particularly susceptible to BPA's endocrine-disrupting potential."

Harvard College students were recruited for the study which was conducted in April 2008. The 77 participants began the study with a week of drinking all cold beverages from stainless steel bottles in order to minimize BPA exposure. They were then given two polycarbonate bottles and asked to drink all cold beverages from the bottles during the next week. Urine samples were provided throughout the trial.

Polycarbonate bottles
¡°The results showed that the participants' urinary BPA concentrations increased 69% after drinking from the polycarbonate bottles,¡± said HSPH. ¡°Previous studies had found that BPA could leach from polycarbonate bottles into their contents; this study is the first to show a corresponding increase in urinary BPA concentrations in humans.¡± BPA levels might have been higher had students drunk hot liquids from the bottles, the researchers note. Canada banned the use of BPA in polycarbonate baby bottles last year and some polycarbonate bottle manufacturers have voluntarily eliminated BPA from their products. Further research is needed to explore the effect of BPA on infants and on reproductive disorders and on breast cancer in adults, concluded the study.
The study appears on the website of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives and is available at .

FDA looking abroad to boost food, drug safety
Source of Article:
By TOMOKO A. HOSAKA 11 hours ago
TOKYO (AP) ? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has expanded offices around the world and heightened contacts with counterpart agencies in order to improve product safety for Americans at home, a senior agency official said Wednesday.
Globalization has transformed the food supply as well as the manufacturing process of drugs and cosmetics, said Dr. Murray Lumpkin, the FDA's deputy commissioner in charge of international programs.
"What we now recognize ... is that in order for us to do a better job at home, we have to do a better job with our counterpart agencies around the world," he told reporters at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.
Over the last several months, the FDA has established its first overseas posts in China, India, Latin America and Europe.
"It shows our agency evolving from a very domestically focused agency historically to one now that realizes that it does have a place in a much more complex regulatory world," said Lumpkin, in Tokyo for an annual meeting with Japanese officials.

Its international foray represents a significant shift in strategy for the agency, which until now relied extensively on border inspections to identify unsafe goods. Inspection is a critical part of the process, but it can no longer serve as the first line of defense, Lumpkin said.
The agency's reputation has been tarnished in recent years, in part due to recurring outbreaks of food-borne illnesses that have undermined confidence in its oversight. Food scares out of China, including tainted milk products and pet food, have led U.S. lawmakers to call for greater regulation.
Dr. Margaret Hamburg, confirmed as head of the FDA in mid-May, has said she wants to restore public confidence in the agency by putting science first and running an open and accountable operation.

Infusion, irradiation may improve chicken meat safety
Source of Article:
(, May 27, 2009)

FAYETTEVILLE, ARK. An infusion of a mixture of organic acids and extracts from plants combined with a dose of irradiation may significantly reduce pathogenic bacteria in and on chicken breast meat, according to researchers at the University of Arkansas System¡¯s Division of Agriculture.
The researchers found they could reduce E. coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella Typhimurium in the chicken breast by infusing combinations of organic acids, specifically acetic, citric, malic and tartaric ? into the meat. The experiments also were performed with extracts from green tea and grape seeds in combination with the acids.
Three of the organic acids - malic, citric and tartaric - were effective against Salmonella Typhimurium and E. coli O157:H7. With irradiation factored in the results were significant against all of the pathogens.
"We want to determine the least amount of plant extracts that we can use and the least amount of irradiation dosage to get the best inhibitory effect," said Navam Hettiarachchy, the food science professor who supervised the project.
Previous research conducted by Ms. Hettiarachchy¡¯s team showed that extracts from grape seed and green tea reduced Listeria monocytogenes to undetectable levels when applied in combination with nisin. The researchers also are using the plant extracts to serve as antioxidants.
The research is continuing, but Ms. Hettiarachchy said a poultry company has already expressed interest in the project¡¯s findings. Irradiation has not yet been applied widely in the United States as many companies have worried about potential resistance among consumers.

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