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2009
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Federal Study Shows Mercury in Fish Widespread
Source of Article: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,540961,00.html
Thursday, August 20, 2009

No fish can escape mercury pollution. That's the take-home message from a federal study of mercury contamination released Wednesday that tested fish from nearly 300 streams across the country.
The toxic substance was found in every fish sampled, a finding that underscores how widespread mercury pollution has become.
But while all fish had traces of contamination, only about a quarter had mercury levels exceeding what the Environmental Protection Agency says is safe for people eating average amounts of fish.
The study by the U.S. Geological Survey is the most comprehensive look to date at mercury in the nation's streams. From 1998 to 2005, scientists collected and tested more than a thousand fish, including bass, trout and catfish, from 291 streams nationwide.
"This science sends a clear message that our country must continue to confront pollution, restore our nation's waterways, and protect the public from potential health dangers," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement.
Mercury consumed by eating fish can damage the nervous system and cause learning disabilities in developing fetuses and young children. The main source of mercury to most of the streams tested, according to the researchers, is emissions from coal-fired power plants. The mercury released from smokestacks here and abroad rains down into waterways, where natural processes convert it into methylmercury ? a form that allows the toxin to wind its way up the food chain into fish.
Some of the highest levels in fish were detected in the remote blackwater streams along the coasts of the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana, where bacteria in surrounding forests and wetlands help in the conversion. The second-highest concentration of mercury was detected in largemouth bass from the North Fork of the Edisto River near Fairview Crossroads, S.C.
"Unfortunately, it's the case that almost any fish you test will have mercury now," said Andrew Rypel, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Mississippi who has studied mercury contamination in fish throughout the Southeast. He said other research has shown mercury in fish from isolated areas of Alaska and Canada, and species that live in the deep ocean.
Mercury was also found in high concentrations in western streams that drain areas mined for mercury and gold. The most contaminated sample came from smallmouth bass collected from the Carson River at Dayton, Nev., an area tainted with mercury from gold mining. At 58 other streams, mostly in the West, the acidic conditions created by mining could also be contributing to the mercury levels, the researchers said.
"Some ecosystems are more sensitive than others," said Barbara Scudder, the lead USGS scientist on the study.
All but two states ? Alaska and Wyoming ? have issued fish-consumption advisories because of mercury contamination. Some of the streams studied already had warnings.
"This is showing that the problem is much more widespread," said Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst for the Environmental Working Group, which has pushed for stronger advisories on consumption of mercury-laden fish and controls on the sources of mercury pollution. "If you are living in an area that doesn't have a mercury advisory, you should use caution."
Earlier this year, the Obamaadministration said it would begin crafting a new regulations to control mercury emissions from power plants after a federal appeals court threw out plans drafted by the Bush administration and favored by industry. The Bush rule would have allowed power plants to buy and sell pollution credits, instead of requiring each plant to install equipment to reduce mercury pollution.
The EPA also has also proposed a new regulation to clamp down on emissions of mercury from cement plants.

Marler Op-ed ? Open Letter to an Under Secretary for Food Safety ? FSIS ? The End of E. coli Conservatism

Source of Article: http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/
Posted on August 18, 2009 by Bill Marler
In April 2007, Rick Perlstein penned a piece entitled ¡°E. coli Conservatism.¡± His bottom line was the ¡°Conservatism has been killing Americans. The recent food safety crisis is only one case study.¡± Perhaps he is in part right. However, whatever the political reasons for the ¡°food safety crisis,¡± it has been long in coming and the system needs to be fixed.
E. coli is a powerful and deadly bacterium. You cannot see it, taste it, or smell it. 250,000 E. coli bacteria will fit on the head of a pin. Ten to 50 will kill your child or your grandmother. Most likely due the expertise of Children¡¯s Hospitals, and other top medical centers around the country, deaths at times are avoided, however, often not before Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) nearly kills. HUS, a complication from an E. coli infection, can cause severe damage to kidneys, intestines, liver and pancreas. Falling into a coma and suffering further from cognitive impairment are all too common.
I have seen the inside of too many of those Intensive Care Units with families who are scared senseless as they watch their child or mother shutdown. For 16 years, this has been my world. When I was an undergraduate, I read Upton Sinclair¡¯s, The Jungle. That book took the American public on a tour of the contaminated underbelly of the meat industry and they were sickened. It led to the Pure Food & Drug Act and the Federal Meat Inspection Act, versions of which are still in place today.
Until 1993, I thought?because of those laws?that the United States had a safe and secure food supply. But, then came the Jack-in-the-Box E. coli outbreak. It killed four, and sickened hundreds, including many who were gravely ill with HUS and related complications. Many of those victims became my clients. Once again, there was a public outcry for safe meat. The Food Safety & Inspection Service responded by creating and aggressively enforcing the Mandatory Risk Management System. Based on research and practices of the U.S. Space Program, the risk management system established checkpoints at every phase of meat processing.
Although, the presence of some E. coli in hamburger was defined as an adulterant under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, I continued to sue ¡°Big Meat¡± as most of my clients up to 2002 were children who were made sick by eating E. coli contaminated meat. I recovered over $350 million during this period from the meat industry and the restaurants they supplied in verdicts and settlements on behalf of those clients. In 2003 recalls of meat laced with E. coli began to decline. 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 ? related illnesses drop 48% between 2002 and 2006.
But then came Spring 2007. E. coli, which begins its life in the hindgut of a cow, mounted a surge on its home court. And, it came back with a vengeance. Forty-four million pounds of beef have been recalled in 25 incidents. All over the country, slaughterhouses, packing and distribution centers, retail outlets, and restaurants were once again testing positive for E. coli and people-mostly children-were getting seriously sick. The American meat supply, which had again been touted as safest in the world, tumbled back into disarray. But, why?
As with any unexplained mystery, theories abound. Could it really just be meat industry complacency? Did everyone respond to the good numbers in 2006 by taking a long nap? Did meat processors slack off?consciously or unconsciously?and relax their testing procedures? Did government regulators take a few years off?
Or could it be better reporting? Doctors are more aware of E. coli now, and perhaps when patients present symptoms of food poisoning; tests are more likely to be ordered. When the presence of E coli is found and reported, a recall is triggered.
There¡¯s always global warming. Seriously though ? very smart people have posited that droughts in the southeast and southwest have launched more fecal dust into the air, which then finds its way into beef slaughtering plants. It has also been suggested that the rainfall in other areas created muddy pens?an ideal environment for E. coli.
Why not blame high oil prices? High prices have fueled the growth of ethanol plants. These plants are often built next to feedlots, and a byproduct of the ethanol production process?distiller¡¯s grains?is considered an excellent and cheap alternative to corn for cattle feed. Unfortunately, research associates the use of distiller¡¯s grains as feed with an increase in the incidence of E. coli in the hindguts of cattle.
Another controversial issue may affect the meat supply. The New York Times reported that immigration officials began a crackdown at slaughterhouses across the country in the fall of 2006. Experienced?albeit undocumented?workers have been cleared out and replaced with unskilled, inexperienced labor.
And then there¡¯s Darwin. Another theory holds that interventions have caused the wily E. coli microbes to adapt, selecting pathogens that are more resistant to detection or intervention. E. coli back in our meat cannot be tolerated. Summer has always been kind to the E. coli bug. More than 5.6 million pounds of E. coli contaminated beef has been recalled in 2008, most supplied by Nebraska Beef Ltd., via the Kroger Grocery chain. All of which was responsible for a multi-state outbreak of E. coli that again is filling up the ICU¡¯s in Hospitals in the seven states.
What is being done? Honestly, not much. Congress has held some hearings, but the only new reform is that the names of retail stores that received meat and poultry involved in recalls with high health risk will be made public. Good as far as it goes.
However, despite 76,000,000 American¡¯s being sickened, 325,000 hospitalized and 5,000 deaths each year, food safety did not make it as a Presidential campaign issue. Congress, Democrats and Republicans, have about run out its clock. But E. coli is back in our meat and we better care.
Solutions? Improve surveillance of bacterial and viral diseases. First responders - ER physicians and local doctors - need to be encouraged to test for pathogens and report findings directly to local and state health departments and the CDC promptly. Right now, for every person counted in an outbreak there are some 20 to 40 times those that are sick but never tested. The more we test, the quicker we know we have an outbreak and the quicker it can be stopped.
These same governmental departments, whether local, state or federal, need to learn to ¡°play well together.¡± Turf battles need to take a back seat to stopping an outbreak and tracking it to its source. That means resources need to be provided and coordination encouraged so illnesses can be promptly stopped and the offending producer - not an entire industry - are brought to heal.
Require real training and certification of food handlers at restaurants and grocery stores. There also should be incentives for ill employees not to come to work when ill. We should impose fines and penalties on employers who do not cooperate.
Stiffen license requirements for large farm, retail and wholesale food outlets, so that nobody gets a license until they and their employees have shown they understand the hazards and how to avoid them.
Increase food inspections. While domestic production has continued to be a problem, imports pose an increasing risk, especially if terrorists were to get into the act. Points of export and entry are a logical place to step up monitoring. We need more inspectors - domestically and abroad - and we need to require that they receive the training in how to identify and control hazards.
Reorganize federal, state and local food safety agencies to increase cooperation and reduce wasteful overlap and conflicts. Reform federal, state and local agencies to make them more proactive, and less reactive. This too requires financial resources and accountability. We also need to modernize food safety statutes by replacing the existing collection of often conflicting laws and regulation with one uniform food safety law of the highest standard.
There are too few legal consequences for sickening or killing customers by selling contaminated food. We should impose stiff fines, and even prison sentences for violators, and even stiffer penalties for repeat violators.
We need to use our technology to make food more traceable so that when an outbreak occurs authorities can quickly identify the source and limit the spread of the contamination and stop the disruption to the economy. When I buy a book on line I can track it all the way to my mailbox. We must be able to do the same with our food.
Promote university research to develop better technologies to make food safe and for testing foods for contamination. Provide tax breaks for companies that push food safety interventions and employee training. Greatly expand irradiation of raw hamburger and other high-risk products.
Improve consumer understanding of the risks of food-borne illness. Foster a popular campaign similar to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which uses consumer power to promote a no-tolerance policy toward growers and companies that produce tainted food.
The time has come to act and not continue simply to react. Consumers, Farmers, Suppliers, Manufacturers, Retailers, Regulators and Politicians need to work together to make our food supply safe, profitable and sustainable. When a quarter of our population is sickened yearly by contaminated food, when thousands die, we do not have the ¡°safest food supply in the world. We should, must and can do better.

USDA still considering calling E. coli-positive primals adulterated

Source of Article: www.meatingplace.com
By Rita Jane Gabbett on 8/20/2009
USDA has not closed the door on the possibility of defining primal beef cuts that test positive for E. coli O157:H7 as adulterated, a USDA official told participants at a conference in Chicago on E. coli O157:H7 prevention hosted by North American Meat Processors Association.
Dan Engeljohn, deputy assistant administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service's office of policy and program development, said USDA is still debating whether or not to define all beef cuts that test positive for E. coli O157:H7, regardless of the intended use of the product, as adulterated. Currently, testing and enforcement focus largely on beef destined to be ground.
Other considerations
Englejohn also outlined other policy considerations regarding raw beef. Among them are procedures for using testing data compiled by further processors that implicate a sole-source supplier of product that tests positive for pathogens to help the agency trace the pathogen back to the originating slaughter facility.
He said the agency is also looking at ways to ensure that suppliers and product types are listed in USDA's STEPS database.
USDA is also currently validating methodology for discerning which of the six serogroups (O26, O103, O111, O121, O45 and O145) of non-O157 Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli (STECS) are present in testing samples.
Engeljohn went on to say the agency is looking at issuing FSIS criteria for assessing prudent high event day determinations. He noted that while 100 percent testing at large slaughter operations are bound to produce some positives during the day, a large number of positives in a short amount of time are a red flag that interventions are not working or workers are not properly implementing those interventions.
Also, still on the drawing board are N60 labeling criteria. Draft guidelines on allowing slaughter plants to label their beef destined for further processors as tested using the stringent N60 process were issued last November for public comment.
FSIS has also started to design a post-hide/pre-evisceration baseline performance standard, according to Engeljohn.
In a review of recent recall data, Engeljohn noted that two recent beef recalls stemmed from Salmonella contamination. He suggested that while Salmonella efforts have traditionally focused on poultry, this pathogen is a threat that beef processors should also give more attention to going forward.
Regarding USDA's recently announced bench trim testing program, one processor asked if bench trim destined for cooking would be tested. Englejohn said if a processor has sufficient controls in place to prove clearly that the bench trim is going into fully-cooked products, that bench trim will not be subject to testing.

Safety Zone
By: James Marsden
Send James a Tip
How about looking inside USDA for Food Safety czar?
Source of Article: www.meatingplace.com
(The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author.)
It's time to fill the position of Undersecretary for Food Safety.
We are 7 months into the Obama administration and still don't have an Undersecretary for Food Safety. One of the reasons is the difficulty in finding a qualified individual who wants the job and meets the administration's stringent ethics requirements. At this point, the search has focused on individuals outside of USDA. It may be time to consider looking inside USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service for the best qualified person to fill this important job.
At the recent NAMP E. coli meeting, I had the opportunity to introduce Dr. Dan Englejohn, Deputy Assistant Administrator for the FSIS Office of Policy and Program Development. During the introduction, it occurred to me that Dan is uniquely and ideally qualified to serve as the Undersecretary for Food Safety.
Here are some of the things that make him the best choice for this key position:

1. He is experienced with the workings of USDA. Dan has worked for USDA since 1979 in various roles of increasing responsibility.

2. There is no one who has contributed more to promote the cause of food safety than Dr. Englejohn. He has the vision to make real advances in public health policy.

3. Throughout his career, he has managed to maintain the respect and trust of consumer groups, industry trade associations and the public health community.

4. His educational background includes B.S. and M.S. degrees in Animal Science, with a Specialty in Meat Science/Muscle Biology from the University of Illinois, Urbana, IL, and a Ph.D. in Nutrition from Howard University, Washington, DC with a specialty in Human Experimental Nutrition

5. He is an experienced manager who currently serves in the Senior Executive Service at USDA in the policy office of FSIS, the Department's public health regulatory agency.

6. He oversees the risk management activities associated with meat, poultry, and processed egg products - and leads the strategic planning efforts involving the development of food safety regulations.

7. He represents FSIS on the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods and is the FSIS spokesperson on food irradiation issues.

8. He serves as an adjunct assistant professor of nutrition on the graduate faculty at Howard University and teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses on human nutrition.

Dr. Englejohn has many more achievements that are too lengthy to include in this blog.
I believe that we have a convergence of events that provides a unique opportunity to make real improvements in food safety. We need an Undersecretary for Food Safety who is the best qualified person for the job. It is difficult to imagine a better choice than Dr. Englejohn.

Cattle production systems does not affect E. coli prevalence

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

(8/24/2009)

A new study suggests that when compared to conventionally raised beef cattle, organic and natural production systems do not impact antibiotic susceptibility of Escherichia coli O157:H7. This discovery emphasizes that although popular for their suggested health benefit, little is actually known about the effects of organic and natural beef production on foodborne pathogens. The researchers from Kansas State University detail their findings in the August 2009 issue of the journal Applied & Environmental Microbiology.
Increased outbreaks of foodborne illness, as well as the growing awareness and popularity of organic and natural foods, have forced many cattle farmers to adopt new production methods to meet consumer demand for safe and healthy beef. Organic food sources receive only certified organic feed, are raised without the use of antibiotics, hormones and other veterinary products, and are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Natural production guidelines completely restrict the use of antibiotics and hormones but do allow non-organic food sources and are only regulated by the brand name owner.
Cattle are major reservoirs of E. coli O157:H7 and their feces are the main source of food and water contamination that lead to foodborne illness in humans. In the study, fecal samples were collected from organically and naturally raised cattle and tested for the presence of E. coli O157:H7. Results showed prevalence rates of 14.8% in organically raised and 14.2% in naturally raised cattle. These E. coli O157:H7 levels were comparable to those previously identified in conventionally raised cattle, the researchers said. Additionally, the minimum inhibitory concentration of a variety of antibiotics for E. coli O157:H7 isolates were analyzed to determine the effects of all three production systems and no significant difference in antibiotic susceptibility was noted.
"The prevalences of E. coli O157:H7 that we observed in organically and naturally raised beef cattle were similar to the previously reported prevalence in conventionally raised cattle," the researchers said. "No major differences in antibiotic susceptibility patterns among the isolates were observed."
The article citation is S. Reinstein, J.T. Fox, X. Shi, M.J. Alam, D.G. Renter and T.G. Nagaraja. 2009. Prevalence of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in organically and naturally raised beef cattle. Applied & Environmental Microbiology 75(16):5421-5423.

Cattle production systems does not affect E. coli prevalence

Another Nail in the Grass Feed Beef is better than Grain Feed Beef

Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/2009/08/articles/lawyer-oped/another-nail-in-the-grass-feed-beef-is-better-than-grain-feed-beef-coffin/
As I wrote a year ago in a blog post, "Grass-Fed vs Grain-Fed Beef and the Holy Grail: A Literature Review," several people have commented that switching from grain to grass feeding could be one of the solutions to the problem with foodborne pathogens in cattle and other livestock. Quotes like these are becoming more common on the Internet and in recent media reports:

¡°Products from grass-fed animals are safer than food from conventionally-raised animals.¡± Eatwild, 2008.
¡°Research has shown that the strains of E. coli most devastating to humans are the product of feedlots, not cows. This is due to the animals being forced to eat an unnatural diet, and not their natural choice, grass.¡± Grass-Fed Beef: Safer and Healthier, Animal Welfare Approved, June 15, 2008.

I did an extensive literature review and simply did not find support for the belief that switching from grain to grass for cattle feed would make the world a bad place to be pathogenic E. coli. Now comes an article by S. Reinstein, J.T. Fox, X. Shi, M.J. Alam, D.G. Renter and T.G. Nagaraja. 2009, ¡°Prevalence of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in organically and naturally raised beef cattle. Applied & Environmental Microbiology 75(16):5421-5423,¡± which states:

"The prevalences of E. coli O157:H7 that we observed in organically and naturally raised beef cattle were similar to the previously reported prevalence in conventionally raised cattle," the researchers said. "No major differences in antibiotic susceptibility patterns among the isolates were observed."

Now, before the internet erupts into a belief culture war between grain feeders and grass feeders, I am not saying that the cows themselves may not well be better off eating grass and roaming the range, and I am not saying that feedlots miles wide are not environmental hazards, but I think we need to face the fact that grain vs grass does not mean ¡°E. coli.¡±
Posted on August 24, 2009 by E. coli Lawyer

ARS: Chatter of foodborne pathogens examined 20 Aug 2009
Source of Article: http://www.pigprogress.net/news/ars-chatter-of-foodborne-pathogens-examined-3311.html
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists are finding ways to protect livestock and human health by quelling the cellular chatter of a common foodborne pathogen.
The complex cellular signaling and communication that takes place between bacteria and host is called "crosstalk." ARS microbiologists Brad Bearson and Shawn Bearson are learning how to interpret the crosstalk between domestic swine and Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium (S. Typhimurium), which can cause gastrointestinal illness in livestock and humans.
Brad Bearson works at the National Soil Tilth Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, and Shawn Bearson works at the ARS National Animal Disease Center, also in Ames.
The researchers studied how S. Typhimurium responds when it is exposed to norepinephrine, a hormonal neurotransmitter. In mammals, norepinephrine secretion increases when stress levels increase-a situation swine commonly face during transport.
The work revealed that S. Typhimurium is able to respond to norepinephrine by increasing bacterial movement (motility). The scientists also found that phentolamine, a compound already used medicinally in humans, eliminated the pathogen's norepinephrine-enhanced motility.
In E. coli, a protein called "QseC" is involved in the bacterial response to norepinephrine by enhancing the bacterium's motility and virulence. So the team developed a strain of S. Typhimurium with a genetic mutation that inactivated the QseC protein, and found that motility levels were lower in the mutant S. Typhimurium strain than in the wild-type strain.
Furthermore, swine inoculated with this mutant strain had significantly decreased levels of S. Typhimurium colonization in their gastrointestinal tracts. They also shed notably fewer pathogens-a finding with potential implications for food safety, since even asymptomatic pigs can carry and shed S. Typhimurium that can then infect other swine nearby.
The researchers also identified key S. Typhimurium genes involved in the pathogen's ability to acquire iron from norepinephrine within the host environment to support its own growth.
The research was published in the scientific journals Microbial Pathogenesis and Microbes and Infection.
Read more about this research in the August 2009 issue of Agricultural Research magazine, available online at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/aug09/swine0809.htm.

Tobacco Plants Yield First Vaccine For Dreaded 'Cruise Ship Virus'
Source of Article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090818130418.htm
ScienceDaily (Aug. 24, 2009) ? Scientists have used a new vaccine production technology to develop a vaccine for norovirus, a dreaded cause of diarrhea and vomiting that may be the second most common viral infection in the United States after the flu. Sometimes called the "cruise ship virus," this microbe can spread like wildfire through passenger liners, schools, offices and military bases.
The new vaccine is unique in its origin ? it was "manufactured" in a tobacco plant using an engineered plant virus. Researchers are enlisting plants in the battle against norovirus, swine flu, bird flu, and other leading infectious diseases. This plant biotechnology opens the door to more efficient, inexpensive ways to bring vaccines quickly to the public, especially critical in times when viruses mutate into unpredictable new strains, said Charles Arntzen, Ph.D., who reported on the topic today at the 238th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
"The recent outbreak of H1N1 influenza virus has once again reminded us of the ability of disease-causing agents to mutate into new and dangerous forms," Arntzen points out. "It will be at least six months until a vaccine for this new strain will be available, and it will take even longer to create large stock piles of vaccine. For a case like the H1N1 influenza virus, you want to be able to move very rapidly and introduce a commercial vaccine in the shortest possible time. We think we have a major advantage in using engineered plant viruses to scale-up vaccine manufacture within weeks instead of months."
Noroviruses are always mutating, making it a moving target for vaccine developers. Arntzen says this has presented an obstacle for big pharmaceutical companies who might have considered developing a vaccine. Production costs can skyrocket when a single disease may frequently require new vaccines that must be developed and tested for safety and effectiveness. As a result, vaccines do not exist for many diseases that sicken enormous numbers of people each year. Arntzen notes that plant biotechnology could create a cheaper, quicker vaccine manufacturing technique uniquely suited to combat mutating viruses like norovirus and the flu.
Norovirus temporarily disables its victims, giving them severe diarrhea or nausea for up to three days. While not as life-threatening as the flu, Arntzen says it is equally important.
"It essentially closes down wings of hospitals, schools, day care centers and homes for the elderly. In the case of the military, it can shut down an entire ship and delay military operations while there is a cleanup in process. Because the disease spreads so rapidly, the major economic consequences are caused by the disruption of normal daily life and commerce," says Arntzen.
Norovirus will continue to evolve new strains, so Arntzen's team designed a vaccine manufacturing process quick enough to keep up with it and other shape-shifting viruses.
"With plant-based vaccines, we can generate the first gram quantities of the drug and do clinical tests within eight to 10 weeks¡¦ We could easily scale that up for commercial use in a two to four month period," explains Arntzen.
Plant-based vaccine production also offers cost advantages. Building greenhouses is more cost effective than the sterilized facilities, expensive manufacturing technology and stainless steel tanks required for the insect or mammalian cell cultures used in most traditional vaccines.
"The other cost advantages relate to vaccine purification and formulation. Purification from plant extracts is simpler because there are no infectious agents to clean up. There are no viruses in plants which can infect humans, so you don't have to worry about viral removal," notes Arntzen.
The team re-engineered plant viruses to produce high levels of specially designed "virus-like" nanoparticles in tobacco plants. At about 25 nanometers in diameter, the particles are about the same size as the norovirus, but they consist only of the outer surface protein ? the portion of the virus recognized by the human immune system. The particles contain none of the infectious material of the original virus, but they stimulate a robust immune response to fight off an actual infection.
To battle each new strain of the norovirus and to keep full resistance to older strains, Arntzen says the vaccine could be administered as a booster every 12 to 18 months. After successful experiments in mice, his team is developing a nasal delivery system for the virus-like particles. Arntzen expects to start clinical trials in late 2009 or early 2010.
Several companies, most notably pharmaceutical heavyweight Bayer, are investing in new facilities to create plant-based vaccines for cancer, as well as other pharmaceutical proteins. He suggests the first plant-based vaccines should be publically available within four to five years.
"Mammalian and insect-based vaccines are tried and true ? some have barely changed in nearly 60 years," says Arntzen. But that doesn't necessarily mean they are the best in terms of manufacturing costs or flexibility. It simply means that the industry is not accustomed to using plant biotechnology.
"Among other factors, the uncertainty on how such products would be viewed in the FDA approval process has created uncertainty in big pharma companies, and uncertainty is often a 'kiss of death' in product development that can involve hundreds of millions of development cost." But, he adds, "the current pipeline of new products now working their way to FDA approval is sure to change these opinions in coming years."
Adapted from materials provided by American Chemical Society.

New study exposes high levels of mercury in freshwater fish
Source of Article: http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/Quality-Safety/New-study-exposes-high-levels-of-mercury-in-freshwater-fish
By Guy Montague-Jones, 24-Aug-2009
US consumers who eat average amounts of fish could be exposed to levels of mercury that exceed the EPA criterion for the protection of people, according to a new study.
Scientists at the US Geological Survey sampled fish in 291 streams across the US and found mercury in every one. About a quarter of the fish were found to contain enough mercury to push consumption of the metal above the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended limit of 0.33ppm in people who eat about two fish meals a week.
Health
Mercury in fish has been a public health issue for some time. The FDA says the metal can build up in the blood stream provoking reproductive problems in women and damaging the development of the nervous system in children. The regulator therefore recommends that people limit their fish consumption to about two meals a week.
As well as investigating the extent of the mercury problem in fish, the latest study from the US Geological Survey identified causes and highlighted geographical variations.
It said that some of the highest levels of contamination were found in the south and south east of the US in states such as North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana.
Causes
The reason for this is not high levels of pollution but rather the abundance of wetlands and forests, which USGS scientist Lia Chasar said aids the conversion of mercury to the toxic form, methylmercury.
People are not, however, exempt from blame because the original source of the mercury is emissions from industry that are then dumped in waterways by the rain. Coal-fired power plants and mining plants are the biggest sources of mercury emissions.
Reacting to the study, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said: ¡°This science sends a clear message that our country must continue to confront pollution, restore our nation¡¯s waterways, and protect the public from potential health dangers.¡±
As well as uncovering the amount of mercury in fish, USGS scientist Barbara Scudder said the study would help decision makers better predict levels of mercury and methylmercury in different streams with comparable environmental settings.
But Scudder refused to comment as to whether the research should lead to changes in recommended fish consumption levels.

Lingering nightmare

Source of Article: http://www.tulsaworld.com/news
A hard-working Grove man's health has never recovered from the rare and virulent bacteria.
His entire life, Kenneth Birkes has worked seven days a week from dawn to dark.
Then he ate a meal in honor of his father's 85th birthday at Country Cottage in Locust Grove. It was Sunday, Aug. 17, 2008.
Five days later, Birkes fell ill. The 61-year-old Grove man hasn't worked since.
"There were seven of us who ate there that day. I was the only one in the family that got sick," he said. Family members tried comparing what each had eaten, but Birkes said he "got a little of everything" at the restaurant's popular buffet.
On the same Sunday the Birkes family ate at the restaurant, 26-year-old Chad Ingle and his wife, Cindy, arrived from church for Sunday dinner. The young RCB Bank teller and his wife had just married in June.
As usual that Sunday, Country Cottage was packed. Over the years, the place had become a kind of tourist destination in that part of northeastern Oklahoma.
By all accounts, the food was great that day and the blue country house welcoming.
"It was good," Birkes said. "We ate there quite a bit."
Wednesday
Five days later, the idyllic scene evolved into a nightmare. People all over northeastern Oklahoma were falling ill with severe stomach cramps and diarrhea. Nobody knew why at first, or how they were all connected.
Ingle had become ill Wednesday night and sought medical help at Integris Mayes County Medical Center.
Then Birkes found himself getting sick on the job.
"I was up in Kansas to get a drilling rig out in the country," he said. "It hit me so quick."
He had just put the rig on a trailer and driven to the town of Edna, all the while calling his wife to tell her he needed help.
"That's really the last thing I remember," Birkes said. His wife initially took him to a hospital in Coffeyville, Kan., but he continued to get worse. He didn't wake up until six weeks later at St. Francis Hospital.
Friday
By that Friday evening, St. Francis Hospital had begun to see patients with similar symptoms ? many of them children. Ingle was one of those transported by ambulance to the Tulsa hospital, which had perplexingly become the central site for patients.
"We never could figure that out," said Lynn Sund, St. Francis senior vice president and chief nurse executive.
Staff there and ambulance crews began to notice that most of the patients coming in were from the far northeastern corner of Oklahoma or had traveled through there recently, she said.
That night, both St. Francis and EMSA's Medical Emergency Response Center contacted the Oklahoma State Department of Health about the cluster of patients coming in with similar symptoms from the same area of the state.
"That cued everybody there must be something happening in that geographic area," said DeAnna Osborn, infection control nurse at St. Francis.
The state Health Department's acute disease division jumped into action that night, said Laurie Smithee, an epidemiologist who heads the unit.
The team quickly put together a questionnaire and began calling people who were hospitalized to ask where they had been and what they had eaten in the last week. They also began surveying other hospitals to determine if other patients were out there.
Late that night, in a conference with her team to compare notes, the arrow began to point to Country Cottage. Six of the first eight patients interviewed said they had recently eaten there.
"We definitely had heightened concerns, but we said, 'Do we have enough evidence to tell them to close their doors?' " Smithee said.
At that point, they didn't. The team asked the Mayes County sanitarian to investigate and inspect the restaurant on Saturday. He did, but there was no indication anything was wrong there.
Sunday
On Sunday, Ingle died.
That's when Locust Grove Mayor Shawn Bates heard the news. He knew many of the ill.
"I felt sick. Sick for everybody who was sick and sick for the young man who died," he said. "I was thinking, 'How bad is this going to be?'"
On Monday the state ordered the restaurant closed.
Later, the state Health Department team confirmed that the source of contamination was Country Cottage.
"Early on, we were able to point to the restaurant with barely a shadow of doubt," Smithee said.
The following days
The hospital's pediatric dialysis units filled quickly. Both pediatric and adult intensive care units were reaching capacity. "Our patient numbers were climbing," Sund said. Two children were sent to an Oklahoma City hospital for dialysis, and four adults were placed in other hospitals, she said.
By the time everyone was counted, 49 adults and 20 children had been hospitalized at St. Francis. Thirty-five people were seen in the hospital's emergency room and didn't need inpatient care. And 98 patients were seen at outpatient facilities, Sund said.
Just five days after being notified there was an outbreak of some kind, the state Health Department had a definitive answer on what had caused it.
According to tests by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the outbreak was caused by E. coli O111, a rare and virulent bacteria. And it was the worst outbreak ever seen in the U.S. caused by that particular strain.
'Never be answered'
The next months were consumed with trying to find out how the contaminant got in the restaurant and whether it was spread through food, well water or by a food preparer. Unfortunately, that question will never be answered, Smithee said.
"It is not unusual to not specifically find the organism," she said. "There were so many food items at least 50 items on the buffet. By the time people got sick, all that food was long gone."
Finally, on Saturday, Nov. 22, the Country Cottage reopened for business after rigorous testing by health officials.
"Daily life has gone on. We want to get back to normal, but we can't forget," Bates said. "We're still tender for those who lost a loved one and for those who were sick and will never be the same."
Ingle's wife has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the restaurant. And Birkes is among a group of clients of Seattle attorney Bill Marler asking for a settlement from the restaurant's insurance company.
"If they turn us down, we have no choice but to sue the restaurant and the owners for the policy and all personal assets," Marler said.
Birkes said he went from making $12,000 a month to nothing.
"This pretty well wiped us out," he said. After three months in the hospital, he had to learn to walk again. Now, he has migraines four days a week and is only able to go three hours at a time before needing to rest.
"I'm still alive, and that's all that matters," Birkes said.
Country Cottage no longer has a line of people wrapped around the block to eat there.
"It's not like it was a year ago. It will never be the same," Bates said.

FOOD SAFETY MANAGER - New Seasons Market - Portland, OR

New Seasons Market is looking for an outgoing, energetic, friendly person to become our Food Safety Manager. This position is responsible for overseeing the development of the New Seasons Market Food Safety Program.
Food Safety Manager responsibilities: Your work will include: Recommending and implementing improvements in practices, procedures and equipment as it relates to food safety. Oversee staff development and training in all aspects of food safety. Conduct in-house food safety inspections. Ensure compliance with all federal, state and local food safety regulations. Work with vendors to improve practices in maintaining a safe food supply.
Other Duties: Partner with the marketing department in representing New Seasons Market to the public and industry. Assist in store remodels, plan reviews and new store or kitchen openings. Assist with improvements in housekeeping practices. Perform cost/benefit analysis for improvements to food safety.
Qualifications and Experience: The successful candidate will possess the following: Bachelor's degree in food science, micro-biology or related field. Minimum 3 years experience in food safety inspection or related position. HACCP trained or certified. Excellent oral and written communication skills. Demonstrated ability to work independently. Proven organizational, project and time management skills as well as follow through and attention to detail. Demonstrated proficiency using Microsoft Office Suite. Ability to adapt and enjoy working in the company culture of New Seasons Market. Previous public speaking experience is a plus. Ability to travel regularly to all New Seasons Market locations.
Please mail your resume including salary history by September 4, 2009 to:
Attn: Food Safety Manager position
New Seasons Market Inc
2004 N. Vancouver
Portland, OR 97227
New Seasons Market Inc. is a locally owned grocery store chain with great benefits and we are dedicated to creating the best possible workplace. We are an equal opportunity employer committed to our staff being a reflection of the local community. We currently have 9 stores in the Portland area. Please visit our website: www.newseasonsmarket.com to learn more about us.

Director, Quality - McDonald's Corporation
TO APPLY ON LINE FOR THIS POSITION PLEASE GO TO www.aboutmcdonalds.com

About McDonald's Corporation:
McDonalds is the largest and best-known global foodservice retailer with more than 30,000 restaurants, serving 46 million customers each day in 118 countries. We plan to expand our leadership position through great tasting food, superior service, everyday value and convenience. Fortune Magazine released its 2007 list of America's Most Admired Companies ranking McDonald's Corporation as one of the top companies in the Food Services Industry category. Fortune Magazine also named McDonald's to the 2007 list of Global Top Companies for Leaders. This prestigious recognition speaks to the long history McDonald's has in the area of developing our people. In addition, our key attributes of reputation rankings on Social Responsibility, Financial Soundness, People Management, Quality of Management and Quality of Products/Services all rank in the top 10.
McDonald's is one of the most valuable brands in the world. Join our Worldwide Development and find out firsthand why Fortune Magazine calls us one of America's most admired and top leader producing companies.
About the Department:
The Quality Systems team is responsible for food safety, quality, nutrition, emerging issues, and areas related to sustainable supply. We work with our suppliers to ensure continuous enhancements of the systems that deliver quality and safety and protect the brand.
POSITION PURPOSE:
Defines timely and relevant quality, food safety, and regulatory standards and expectations within which the broader Quality Systems team operates. Determines category-specific supply chain quality, food safety, and regulatory compliance expectations (from farm to finished product) in partnership with suppliers and external category experts. Oversees evaluation and assessment of suppliers within the category to ensure compliance with food safety and product quality expectations and to determine future capabilities and needs required to support McDonald's strategic goals. Consults with suppliers to develop specific improvement plans in order to meet said expectations and build enhanced capabilities required to address McDonald's emerging needs. Serves as a category technical expert to advise and/or support internal/external safety and quality brand-related initiatives. Key system stakeholders include McDonald's suppliers, owner/operators and other extra-departmental corporate entities.
Principal Accountabilities:
In addition to following McDonald's policies and procedures, principal accountabilities include, but are not limited to:
Strategy and Innovation
* Provides leadership and direction to suppliers in the development of category strategic plans that are aligned with and support our business needs
* Explores and recommends high-potential innovations in product, process and technology
Consultation
* Partners with external food safety stakeholders (e.g., Regulatory Agencies, Consumer and Research Organizations, Trade Associations) to identify potential gaps, and develop and exchange industry best practices
* Serves as an expert resource to suppliers to support and direct them in developing and maintaining appropriate quality and food safety programs
* Establishes and participates in forums (technical or industry councils) for the purpose of driving continuous improvement
* Supports overall brand McDonald's quality initiatives led by other functional departments (e.g., communications and marketing)
* Provides product safety and quality expertise during support of initiatives led or managed by other functional departments (e.g., US Operations, Menu Management, Worldwide Supply Chain Management)
Policy and Standards
* Develops specific product quality and safety policies and standards
* Monitors regulatory requirements, provides leadership and direction to internal and external stakeholders during proposed rulemaking, and collaborates with others to influence policy when appropriate
* Consistently reviews and challenges our expectations and standards to advance food safety and quality
Category Management
* Establishes McDonald's supplier quality, food safety, and regulatory-related expectations from farm to finished product through collaborative work involving the suppliers and other internal/external experts
* Approves raw material sourcing practices based upon prescribed food safety and quality requirements
* Ensures McDonald's priorities and areas of focus are effectively communicated to suppliers
* Initiates product/process improvement plans with suppliers based upon accurate, relevant and current data (e.g., process capability, consumer feedback, emerging issues, public health concerns)
* Responsible for developing, revising and reissuing product specifications
* Establishes and/or directs councils, meetings, or other necessary forums for design and development of improved plans (e.g., product improvements, innovations) further mitigating safety and quality risks
Process Quality and Supplier Performance
* Leads the evaluation of suppliers to understand the level of performance against expectations and future capabilities to support McDonald's strategic goals (e.g., strategic planning, skill-building/talent acquisition)
* Ensures supplier development and implementation of targeted safety and quality processes to deliver a finished product that meets McDonald's defined standards
* Ensures suppliers have well defined strategic plans and are pursuing capability-building initiatives to meet McDonald's emerging business needs
Nutrition and Labeling
* Directs supplier conformance to established nutrition program and product labeling requirements
New Product Development
* Supports new product/supplier development to ensure the smooth transition of products into our restaurants
* Provides direction and input regarding safety and quality requirements for testing new products
Protects the Brand
* Significant accountability to collaboratively develop, communicate and implement programs that mitigate food safety risks¡¯ inherent or otherwise
* Assess and articulate the effectiveness of measures affording brand protection to internal and external stakeholders
* Develops and leverages external networks to influence industry practices
Leverages Resources
* Defines and develops technologies that facilitate measuring and monitoring supplier performance and adherence to product specifications
* Determines need for and identifies the necessary external resources required to achieve product category-dependent or -independent goals



Experience - External:

Position Requirements:
Undergraduate Degree: Animal Science, Biology, Food Science or related field.
Graduate Degree Preferred but not required
At least 7-10 years of experience of food processing or manufacturing plant experience.
Demonstrate leadership in the areas of food safety and plant regulatory affairs
HACCP Certification from a nationally / internationally recognized and accredited HACCP training firm a plus
Possess a thorough understanding of manufacturing facilities
Must have strong organizational and leadership skills
Able to work with cross functional departments within the organization
Good problem solving skills and corrective action/resolution skills
Strong computer skills with experience using Word, Excel, Access, Power Point.
Strong verbal and written Communication skills required
Must be a self-starter and self-motivated
Experience in working in a strong team environment
Strategic Partnering is a must
Must be a self-starter and self-motivated
Experience in leading and developing teams
Must have the ability to function within a team oriented environment and collaborate on multidisciplinary efforts

Manager, Quality Systems-Restaurant Food Safety - Mcdonald's Corporation
Vist our web-site at www.aboutmcdonalds.com to apply for position on line

About McDonald's Corporation:
McDonalds is the largest and best-known global foodservice retailer with more than 30,000 restaurants, serving 46 million customers each day in 118 countries. We plan to expand our leadership position through great tasting food, superior service, everyday value and convenience. Fortune Magazine released its 2007 list of America's Most Admired Companies ranking McDonald's Corporation as one of the top companies in the Food Services Industry category. Fortune Magazine also named McDonald's to the 2007 list of Global Top Companies for Leaders. This prestigious recognition speaks to the long history McDonald's has in the area of developing our people. In addition, our key attributes of reputation rankings on Social Responsibility, Financial Soundness, People Management, Quality of Management and Quality of Products/Services all rank in the top 10.
McDonald's is one of the most valuable brands in the world. Join our Worldwide Development and find out firsthand why Fortune Magazine calls us one of America's most admired and top leader producing companies.
About the Department:
The Quality Systems team is responsible for food safety, quality, nutrition, identifying and managing emerging issues, and areas related to sustainable supply. We work with our suppliers to ensure continuous enhancements of the systems that deliver quality and safety and protect the brand.
POSITION PURPOSE:
Leads the development, implementation and communication of McDonald's Restaurant food safety policies, standards and systems (impacting 14,000+ restaurants) to protect and enhance Brand McDonald's. Responsible for food safety review and approval for new or changing equipment, products, or procedures that impact McDonald's at the restaurant level. Defines required food safety support roles in the regions and orchestrates the appropriate resources for their training and communication. Responsible for establishing food quality priorities and recommendations for the appropriate functions through analysis of system and consumer quality and safety data. Key internal stakeholders include US Menu Management, Equipment Development, Operations Development and Deployment, and Training, Learning & Development.
Principal Accountabilities:
In addition to following McDonald's policies and procedures, principal accountabilities include, but are not limited to:
Strategy and Innovation
* Develops strategic plans for advancing restaurant food safety and quality systems based on changing needs of the business
* Explores and recommends high-potential innovations in process, procedure and technology
Consulting
* Partners with external Food Safety stakeholders (e.g., Regulatory Agencies, Consumer and Research Organizations, Trade Associations) to build relationships, identify industry gaps, and exchange best practices
* Serves as a technical subject-matter expert to US Communications and Legal on food safety related issues and incidents with Brand implications
* Partners with Menu Management and other US Quality Systems personnel to establish microbiological specifications and food safety guidelines/procedures for new products
* Serves as a resource to other Quality Systems Leads on food-safety related programs and initiatives
* Consults with Regional staff to resolve local and state health department issues
Policy and Standards
* Develops or updates restaurant food safety standards and procedures to meet McDonald's brand goals
* Monitors industry, societal and regulatory changes, and emerging issues, to ensure food safety standards and restaurant policies and procedures are appropriate
* Leads the development or refinement of restaurant procedures and tools to ensure that food safety-related procedures are communicated and executed in the restaurants (e.g., Execution Manuals, ROIP Verifications, Operations & Training Manual)
* Partners with Government Relations to influence policy, published guidelines or recommendations, and proposed local, State and Federal legislation
* Reviews changes to employee and manager training materials and tools (e.g., Food Safety booklet, Manager and Crew Training, ROIP, Operations & Training) to ensure that key food safety content is complete and accurate
Implementation
* Ensures timely distribution of food-safety communications to internal and external stakeholders
* Consults with and provides training for regional food safety staff to assure proper implementation of food safety procedures
* Works with the National Supply Chain Leadership Council Quality Sub-team to incorporate feedback from Owner Operators into new policies and procedures, and to test said procedures in restaurants
* Works with Operations, NABIT and Food Improvement Team to recommend the implementation of new or enhanced McDonald's food safety policies, standards and systems
* Responsibility for managing food safety-related data tracking systems
Restaurant Performance
* Monitors and communicates restaurant food safety performance and identifies trends and opportunities for improvement
* Establishes system targets for continuous improvement in the area of food safety in our restaurants
Protects the Brand
* Significant accountability to reduce and mitigate food safety risk resulting from restaurant-related practices
* Develops restaurant-level food safety risk mitigation plans and programs and ensures they are communicated to the system
* Partners with Legal to investigate and effectively resolve customer and brand-related food safety issues
Leverages Resources
* Identifies potential funding needs for research or innovations related to food safety in the restaurants
* Recommends resources (e.g., regional staff) required for effective implementation of food safety practices
* Leverages field food safety network to gain intelligence related to food safety process implementation and compliance with standards
* Leverages external food safety expertise (e.g., Regulators, Trade Associations, Academia) to advance food safety within McDonald's and assure compliance.



Experience - External:

Minimum Requirements:
Undergraduate Degree: Animal Science, Biology, Food Science or related field.
Graduate Degree Preferred but not required
At least 5-7 years of experience of food processing or manufacturing plant experience.
Demonstrate leadership in the areas of food safety and plant regulatory affairs
HACCP Certification from a nationally / internationally recognized and accredited HACCP training firm a plus
Possess a thorough understanding of manufacturing facilities
Must have strong organizational and leadership skills
Able to work with cross functional departments within the organization
Good problem solving skills and corrective action/resolution skills
Strong computer skills with experience using Word, Excel, Access, Power Point.
Strong verbal and written Communication skills required
Must be a self-starter and self-motivated
Experience in working in a strong team enviornment
Strategic Partnering is a must


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