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disease threat to global health security -WHO
By Rory Harrington, 07-Jan-2010
Related topics: Quality & Safety
Foodborne diseases are a risk to global health security and any solutions
to bolster food safety must be international ones, a World Health Organisation
(WHO) report has said.
The paper, due to be delivered at the WHO¡¯s executive meeting later
this month, has declared that recent scandals involving chemicals such
as melamine and dioxins, as well as microbial contaminations of food
products with traditional or new pathogens highlight the world-wide
nature of the problem.
It outlines food and water-borne diarrhoeal illnesses present a ¡°growing
public health problem¡± that claim 2.2m lives annually ? with 1.9m of
these children. The health body said that many communicable diseases
? including emerging zoonoses ? are transmitted through food. It also
cautions that many other diseases such as cancers are linked with chemicals
and toxins in the food supply.
¡°The spread of pathogens and contaminants across national borders means
that foodborne diseases now threaten global public health security,¡±
said the report.
Incidences of foodborne diseases are likely to be exacerbated by the
effects of climate change due to the ¡°faster growth rates of micro-organisms
in food and water at higher temperatures, potentially resulting in higher
levels of toxins or pathogens in food¡±, said the WHO secretariat. The
increased hazard posed by newly emerging zoonoses could be particularly
acute, it added.
Moves towards improving food production and distribution will only benefit
those lacking food security and/or suffering from malnutrition if they
are accompanied by progress in the safety and quality of food, said
the authors. Not only are foodborne illnesses a danger to human health
but they also pose a threat to economic growth in developing countries.
The report underlines that while ¡°many or most human infectious diseases¡±
in recent decades have come from animals, the transmission of these
infections has ¡°often been through food and food preparation¡±. Acute
respiratory syndrome, BSE and highly pathogenic avian influenza are
three major examples cited.
The report emphasises that as foodborne diseases recognise no national
boundaries, efforts to combat them must be co-ordinated across governments
and sectors ? since risks to food safety may originate in any link in
the food production chain ? including the environment, animal feed,
production and retailing, preparation practices and the consumer¡¯s kitchen.
¡°A prerequisite for food safety will be efficient multi-sectoral collaboration
between all relevant partners at the international and national levels,
with systematic mainstreaming of food safety into food systems and nutrition
policies and interventions,¡± said the paper.
International agreements on food safety management that include general
scientific principles and collaboration across sectors are vital. Such
an approach in surveillance systems could prevent or facilitate early
detection of diseases and may also ¡°significantly reduce their incidence
in the medium to long-term¡±, predicted the WHO.
The body outlined a raft of initiatives and groups it has set up to
help realise these goals ? including the International Food Safety Authorities
Network and the Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group.
Sound scientific risk assessment must form the basis of policy formation
to manage food safety and protect consumers, the body concluded. It
added it was investing in new ways of ¡°ensuring international provision
of scientific advice, avoiding the waste of resources caused by repetitive
assessments in countries or regions¡±.
From The Editor
by Dan Flynn | Jan 03, 2010
In the eight day period from Christmas Eve to New Year's Day we have
seen the worst performance out of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's
Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC) we can remember.
On Christmas Eve, FSIS announced that Oklahoma-based National Steak
& Poultry was recalling 248,000 pounds of so-called "non-intact"
steaks that were "blade tenderized." The beef was connected
to illnesses of E. coli O157:H7 in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan,
South Dakota and Washington.
There it stood over the long Christmas weekend. No list of restaurants
could be obtained from FSIS, CDC, or National Steak. The long list of
steak products with its various codes and letters gave clues because
it included items like "Carino's Boneless" and "Moe's
In the movie "Jaws" the town fathers opt not to warn the public
about the mammoth shark because they do not want to ruin the tourist
season. FSIS reportedly began its investigation on Dec. 11, but managed
to time the recall when it would get the least attention.
Such timing is suspicious on its face. Whether FSIS and/or National
Steak was motivated by wanting to not impact the holiday business of
the various chain restaurants involved, I do not know.
The other possibility--sheer incompetence--is depressing. From his resume,
its does not look like Jerold Mande, the acting Under Secretary for
Food Safety, ever previously supervised much more than someone to make
copies or get his coffee.
Making FSIS dance probably requires some considerable management skills.
The National Steak recall quickly had another hot aspect to it as we
learned food safety advocates had warned the Secretary of Agriculture
about how "non-intact" steaks can become contaminated through
the tenderization process. Secretary Tom Vilsack never responded to
the warning. (See "USDA Warned of Risky Steak Last June,"
Dec. 28, 2009)
At Food Safety News, we began going through those six states to get
answers about how many illnesses were involved. It was the only route
to information, as it seemed no one was home at CDC. State health departments
were all doing business as usual.
Just when we'd concluded there were seven people in six states who had
become ill with E. coli illnesses after eating steaks associated with
the outbreak, CDC weighed in with a short but troubling addition to
the official information.
Sixteen, not six states were involved in the outbreak, and 19 people
were sickened. When did it grow to 16? "It was always 16,"
the CDC spokesman said.
When we asked about anything else, including how the recall announcement
went out missing ten states; we were told to talk to FSIS. It was not
talking and we still do not know.
At about the same time, National Steak said the recalled steaks had
been primarily distributed to three chain restaurants (Moe's Southwest
Grill, Carino's Italian Grill, and KRM's, which operates 54th St. Grills
in Kansas City and St. Louis areas).
Neither FSIS nor CDC has provided any additional information. There
is no list of the ten additional states. FSIS maintains that no retail
outlets are involved even through the last time we checked by every
definition restaurants are retail establishments. (See "Steak Distribution
Remains A Mystery," Dec. 31, 2009)
Instead of providing someone empowered to speak with the media, National
Steak provided nothing but an endless loop of recorded messages.
Olive Garden restaurants, which freely told us they had received beef
from National, and Moe's, which remained available, were the only actors
in this troubling little drama that remained available. Testing found
no E. coli in the beef sent to either Olive Garden or Moe's.
So, it has been a frustrating eight days for us. My guess is that at
both CDC and FSIS way too many people were given the same holiday time
off that the President was obviously enjoying. That's a management problem.
And let's hope that's all it is. It's too freighting to think that FSIS
could really be a wholly owned subsidiary of the American Meat Institute.
Food Safety News
- Emerging Food Safety Issues for 2010
Posted on December 31, 2009 by Bill Marler
Over at Food Safety News, we have been working on what we think are
the issues that face the Food Safety community in 2010:
The U.S. Congress and Legislatures in most of the 50 states will all
be back in session as 2010 begins. In Washington D.C., work should resume
on food safety reform. To get through to the President's desk, the Senate
must adopt S. 510, conference with the House, and then see the compromise
bill passed by both houses.
If all that takes until spring, look for the President to sign the bill
in the First Lady's new White House Kitchen Garden.
State laws are always all over the map, and 2010 will be no different.
Look for some agricultural states to follow Georgia in making it a felony
to knowingly ship contaminated food.
Look for several states to close loopholes that are used to peddle overpriced
raw milk to an unsuspecting public while advocates push for more liberal
laws so raw milk can be sold with fewer restrictions.
Regulations & Enforcement
The major regulatory decision that could come down in 2010 is the one
that would make all enterohemorrhagic shiga toxin-producing serotypes
of Escherichia coli (E. coli), including non-O157 serotypes, adulterants
within the meaning of the Federal Meat Inspection Act (21 U.S.C. ¡× 601[m]).
Seattle food safety attorney Bill Marler and some of the victims of
non-O157 E. coli infections, who he represents, petitioned the U.S.
Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Food Safety and Inspection Service
(FSIS) for the regulatory change. Not since President Bill Clinton's
FSIS declared E. coli O157:H7 an adulterant after the 1993 Jack-in-the-Box
outbreak has there been such a dramatic action out of the agency that
regulates big beef.
About 2,700 state and local health agencies are the foundation of the
food safety regulations and enforcement system. The Center for Science
in the Public Interest has been tracking those agencies, and recently
reported the number of outbreak investigations is falling and the number
of investigations where the source is identified is dropping.
The investigative capacity of these important agencies is unlikely to
increase during 2010, a year that will see state budgets more hard-pressed
than at any time since the Great Depression. Most state and regional
agencies count on their Legislatures for their budget support.
As 2009 ended, Brazil-based JBS rescued Pilgrim's Pride from bankruptcy
court, making its creditors whole. In doing so, it joined Tyson and
Cargill in the top three of the U.S. meat industry. (See "JBS Takeover
of Pilgrim's Pride Approved," Oct. 17, 2009).
Together the three behemoths control more than 80 percent of the U.S.
meat market, and unlike times in the past, it is a nameless, faceless
industry sector. Whether anyone in the Cargill, Tyson, and JBS line-up
steps up in 2010 will be interesting to watch.
Since 2007, there's been an explosion in the number of pounds of beef
recalled for E. coli O157:H7 contamination. The industry's only answer
has been its petition for whole carcass irradiation without labeling.
Antibiotic-resistant Salmonella showing up in ground beef brings more
silence and kicking the dirt by big meat. And how about your odds of
getting out of any grocery store in America with a chicken that is NOT
contaminated by either Salmonella or Campylobacter or both?
With such a line-up of major issues negatively impacting the industry,
some think 2010 will be the year big meat re-tools and steps forward
with some new leadership.
This is a subject that should make the hair on the back of your neck
Superbugs, bacteria that are resistant to normally prescribed antibiotics,
are increasingly in the news. For example, late in 2009, came the report
that a new E. coli strain has "emerged with rapid global speed."
Superbugs are the flip side of the coin to the low dose use of antibiotics
in animal feed to promote the growth of pigs, sheep, chickens, and cattle.
As long ago as 1963, British researchers linked drug resistant strains
of Salmonella to antibiotics fed to cattle.
Out West last summer, people who ate ground beef produced by Denver-based
King Soopers and Fresno-based Beef Packers Inc. were infected with strains
of Salmonella that did not respond to normally prescribed antibiotics.
This means treatment, if possible, starts to get very costly. Longer
hospital stays were required for those Colorado victims last summer,
and it will cost $150 per day, per person to treat victims of ST131
if it ends up running wild throughout the third world.
Also in 2009, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-MA, and Sen. Olympia Snow,
R-ME, introduced the "Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment
Act," which in two years would end animal use of antibiotics deemed
"important to human health."
FDA, which 50 years ago approved the use of antibiotics in low doses
to help animals grow faster, could conceivably impose a ban on its own.
That could be on the table in 2010.
In 2009 the local food movement in the United States picked up a major
benefactor, First Lady Michelle Obama. It was not long after her interest
was known, that the entire U.S. Department of Agriculture joined in
with its "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" program.
In fact, USDA did do much more than some re-branding and re-organizing
itself for a new constituency--all those small, local, and organic farmers
who want to sell their goods to nearby folks.
By measures available, growth in farmers markets and in so-called Community
Supported Agriculture (CSAs), the local food movement is real.? In cities
and suburbs, people love going to the nation's nearly 5,000 farmers
markets, many held on Saturday mornings during the growing seasons.
And buying some "shares" from a CSA farmer in the winter can
get you deliveries of a basket of fruits and vegetables all summer.
Keeping your dollars flowing in your local community is almost always
a good idea.
Under the Farm Bill, USDA is even going to allow some state-inspected
slaughter houses to sell across state lines in 2010.
For sure, 2010 will be another year of growth for local food. Will it
embrace its responsibility for food safety and come to understand that
standards and regulations are in its best interest? This is a time of
change and reform, and local food needs to be at the table, not sneaking
out the back door.
Large unemployment throughout the country is also giving the local food
movement an opportunity to be responsible in another way--getting leftovers
to food banks. Just do it safely!
Since some states--like Texas--have made Hepatitis A vaccines mandatory
for school children, there has been a dramatic disease reduction. Similar
reductions might be in the offing if vaccine trials conducted in 2010
First on the non-human front, vaccines for E. coli in cattle are going
to be tested in a big way by the two companies that are out front in
the research. They are Willmar, MN-based Epitopix and Canada's Bioniche
The two companies should know by year-end if they have an economically
viable vaccine, one that might reduce E. coli O157:H7 in cattle by 65
to 75 percent.
In human drug trials should be a vaccine against the pathogen Campylobacter
jejuni, at the U.S. Naval Medical Research Center in Silver Spring and
Canadian scientist Mario Monteiro. It has successfully protected against
infection in monkeys and is now slated for human clinical trials.
Then there's Dr. Mahdi Saeed's vaccine for Enterotoxigenic E. coli,
the bug responsible for traveler's diarrhea that has killed millions
of children in the third world. The Michigan State University researcher's
vaccine has such promise it was picked by Discovery Magazine as one
of the top 100 stories of 2009.
If any of these vaccines are successful, it will be a top story for
In late 2009, the "Import Safety Commercial Targeting and Analysis
Center" (CTAC) was opened by the Department of Homeland Security
(DHS) to make sure food imported to the U.S. is safe.
Imported food and its safety are going to get a lot of attention in
2010. The Import Safety CTAC came out of the President's Food Safety
Working Group, which is charged with advising on how to "modernize
the beleaguered U.S. food safety system."
Food imports, especially fresh produce from outside U.S. borders, are
coming in for attention after the past few years of spectacular growth.
In 2008, Chinese imports reached $5.2 billion, making China the third-largest
source of U.S. food imports. About 41 percent of this import value was
from fish and seafood, most of it farm-raised. Juices and pickled, dried,
and canned vegetables, and fruit accounted for the other 25 percent.
According to the USDA, about 60 percent of all American apple juice,
50 percent of garlic, 10 percent of shrimp and 2 percent of catfish
are imported from China.
A July 2009 report by the Economic Research Service of the USDA said
it is often difficult to ensure that suppliers in far-flung locations
operate according to the high U.S. safety standards and tight quality
The Produce Traceability Initiative is the grower-vendor answer to events
like the outbreaks involving spinach and (FDA thought) tomatoes. With
bar codes and radio frequency tags and ways to link all the information
in the supply chain, those behind traceability want to be able to drive
to the specific field, walk down the right row, and reach over and pick
up whatever the problem is.
They want a system with no fuss, no muss that will prevent financially
devastating recall costs and outbreaks that make more people sick. They've
been at it for a couple of years now and the next important deadline
is approaching in Oct. 2010 when it is supposed to be possible to read
the labeling involved.
The industry wants FDA to enforce the so-called "one up and one
down" requirements of the PTI, but not impose anything that's not
already in the plan. FDA opted to end 2009 without putting out its own
traceability regulations on the table.
On occasion, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg has been critical of
volunteer food safety efforts. So the tension of birthing fresh produce
traceability is sure to carry into the 2010.
It will be the subject on a Jan. 21-22 summit conference in Denver being
organized by the Colorado Springs-based Traceability Institute LLC.
"The reason we set up this summit is we see a huge need by vendors
of the traceability system for some kind of communication within the
whole supply chain," Cristian Barcan, managing partner and founder
of the Traceability Institute told the industry publication, The Packer.
There was a lot of talk during all the health care debating about "bending
the cost curve." With too many Americans unable to even bend over,
it's doubtful we are going to bend that cost curve at anytime soon and
what they call the "Standard American Diet (SAD)" is a major
contributor to this sad reality.
In 2010, we are predicting more attention to the American diet than
ever before. It will come from the food industry, consumer groups, and
government. The problem is clear.
The SAD is high in animal fats, high in unhealthy fast food, high in
saturated and hydrogenated fats, low in fiber, high in processed foods,
low in complex carbohydrates, and low in plant-based foods.
The medical community often points out that people in countries that
eat the reverse of the SAD--high in plants, high in complex carbohydrates,
and high in fiber--are experiencing lower cancer and heart disease rates
It could cause debate over just what is a foodborne illness?
recall sparks tenderization debate
By Caroline Scott-Thomas, 04-Jan-2010
A multi-state beef recall in the US has led to renewed focus on mechanical
tenderization as a possible cause of increased E. coli risk in beef
and pork products.
The US Department of Agriculture¡¯s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS)
recalled 248,000 pounds of mechanically tenderized beef products from
Oklahoma-based National Steak and Poultry on December 24 after they
were linked to 21 illnesses across 16 states.
Mechanical tenderization involves inserting hundreds of tiny needles
into tougher beef products to physically break up muscle fibres, and
it is also used to inject marinades into pork. It is alleged that the
process could transfer any E. coli bacteria that may be on the surface
of meat into its core, meaning that consumers would need to heat the
product to at least 160¡ÆF (71¡ÆC) to ensure the bacteria are killed.
The paths made by the needling process are imperceptible after the meat
is cut, and currently the USDA does not require that products carry
labels specifying that they have been mechanically tenderized.
But the recall has led to calls for labeling, including from Rep. Rosa
DeLauro, who said in a statement: ¡°USDA has been aware of the E. coli
risks associated with mechanically tenderized steaks as early as 1999,
but has refused to act. The USDA should move immediately to require
labeling that clearly identifies mechanically tenderized beef and pork
products for all processing facilities, retailers and consumers.¡±
Consumer groups, including the Safe Food Coalition and the Consumer
Federation of America, have also called for labelling of mechanically
tenderized meat in the wake of the current outbreak.
However, the American Meat Institute (AMI) has defended industry¡¯s use
of tenderizing techniques, saying that tenderized meat is ¡°comparable
in safety to steaks that have not been mechanically tenderized¡±.
¡°All steaks in retail stores ? whether blade-tenderized or not ? must
bear safe handling labels instructing consumers how to cook and handle
them to ensure they are safe when served,¡± it said.
The AMI said that the safety of tenderized meat has been thoroughly
tested, including by the FSIS, which said in 2008 that E. coli risk
is not significantly increased depending on whether a beef steak is
intact or not.
The AMI added: ¡°Because blade-tenderized steaks have been found to be
comparable in safety, we don¡¯t believe that special labeling declaring
the mechanical tenderization process will provide meaningful or actionable
information to consumers.¡±
The FSIS said affected products bear an "EST. 6010T" establishment
label and packaging dates "10/12/2009," "10/13/2009,"
"10/14/2009," or "10/21/2009."
In a statement posted on its website, National Steak and Poultry said:
¡°We take the safety and wholesomeness of our products very seriously
and that¡¯s why we are working with the USDA to conduct this recall.
This is the first recall in our company¡¯s nearly 30-year history.¡±
A full list of the recalled products can be found online here .
in China Likely Knew of Bad Milk
SHANGHAI -- New signs emerged that Chinese health authorities suspected
a Shanghai dairy was producing milk tainted with deadly melamine well
before the first public announcements last week that it had been shut.
State media announced on New Year's Eve that Shanghai Panda Dairy Co.
had been closed, its milk products recalled from around the country
and three top executives arrested.
Tuesday, local media reports and remarks by industry executives suggested
that authorities were aware of problem milk at Shanghai Panda weeks
or months before the recall.
The use of melamine, a pesticide that can mimic the properties of protein
in milk, was long an open secret in China's dairy industry. But after
six babies died and 300,000 were poisoned from melamine-tainted milk
in 2008, authorities pledged that food safety would be a priority. Since
then, Chinese courts sentenced two people involved in tainted-milk incidents
to death and several others to lengthy jail terms.
Getting a clear picture about the Shanghai Panda case has proved difficult.
The only public notices of a problem appeared in state media reports.
On Tuesday, officials of the Shanghai Bureau of Quality and Technical
Supervision, the local health bureau and other Shanghai agencies all
said they had no authority to comment on the case and instead directed
questions toward one another.
Among the signs that authorities were probing Shanghai Panda before
Thursday's announcement was news that several government agencies were
involved in the extensive investigation and three company executives
were being prosecuted.
Also, on Tuesday, the newspaper 21st Century Business Herald reported
industry participants were aware of melamine use by Shanghai Panda as
early as April 2009. The paper, which didn't identify its sources, said
that in November China's minister of health, Chen Zhu, referred to melamine
tainting by the company during an internal meeting of Communist Party
officials. Those comments, the newspaper reported, prompted Wenzhou-based
Zhejiang Panda Dairy Products Co. in early December to announce on its
Web site that, while its name was similar to Shagnhai Panda, the two
companies aren't related.
Fires GM, Chef At Denver Airport
by Dan Flynn | Jan 06, 2010
LSG SkyChefs has fired its general manager and head chef at Denver International
Airport and has torn out the pipes and drain that were contaminated
with the stubborn Listeria bacteria.
The world's largest airline food service, owned by the German airline
Deutsche Lufthansa AG, is working against the clock to be ready for
the next time the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) inspects
its Denver facilities.
That's because LSG lost "approved status" for its flight kitchens
at DIA after FDA found live and dead roaches and tests came back positive
for Listeria bacteria.
On Dec. 23rd, Food Safety News became first in the world to report on
LSG's problems at Denver. FDA reduced LSG to "provisional status"
in a formal Warning Letter issued on Dec. 10th.
The airline catering company must pass the re-inspection or it could
fall to "Use Prohibited" or "Not Approved" status.
That would prevent LSG from selling food to airlines. It must regain
its "Approved" status.
In addition to the firings, LSG decided that chemical treatments to
the kitchen floor drains were not effective in eradicating Listeria.
It opted for structural changes, removing old pipes and drains and installing
FDA's Denver District Director H. Thomas Warwick, Jr. told news services
that his inspectors will be immediately re-inspecting the facility,
and in fact, that may have begun on Monday.
Beth Van Duyne, spokesman for the international company, has insisted
from the beginning the company was taking FDA's findings very seriously
and would be doing whatever it takes to pass the next inspection.
The last inspections were in September and October when FDA officials
visited the airline kitchen, taking samples from various locations inside
the processing facility.
"Our FDA laboratory analyses of these environmental samples (FDA
Sample #531908) revealed that three swab sub samples collected from
floor locations in the hot kitchen area were found positive for Listeria
monocytogenes," Warwick wrote.
Van Duyne said all the positive samples came from drains, and that no
positive results were returned from any food or food preparation surfaces.
LSG's flight kitchen is located in a building that was constructed at
about the same time the airport was built. It is located on East 75th
It was there that FDA investigators "observed numerous live roaches,
dead roaches, and other insects, as well as food, and other debris,
in various locations..."
Roaches were found in places like the cart wash area, and the silverware
area as well as in the hot kitchen and dish washing machine area. There
were gaps under the garbage room, receiving dock, and outbound dock
doors, which are openings for pests.
FDA also did not like the way LSG was stacking wet containers, as it
promotes bacteria growth.
Van Duyne is confident LSG will pass the next inspection. There have
been no illnesses associated with the facility.
DIA is America's fourth largest airport.
ban holds lesson
07 January 2010 01:55
December 31, 2009 Feedstuffs Foodlink
December 31, 2009
Denmarka?Ts ban on low-level antibiotic use for farm animals was supposed
to improve the effectiveness of human drugs and lead to a healthier
human population, but after a decade of data collection, the question
remains whether that goal is achievable.
The findings within the Danish human health care sector are being closely
monitored in the U.S. as pressure mounts to similarly limit antibiotic
use in farm animals here.
Margaret Mellon of the Union of Concerned Scientists is among those
who believe the removal of low-level antibiotics will help prevent the
emergence of "superbugs" in people.
"When continually exposed to antibiotics, bacteria develop resistance
to the drugs. Adding antibiotics to animal feed in CAFOs (concentrated
animal feeding operations) turns these massive, overcrowded facilities
into prime breeding grounds for antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which
can move to humans through food, air and water. Then, when people get
sick from these resistant bacteria, antibiotics are less effective,"
Mellon said in a statement issued last year in support of legislative
efforts to withdraw antibiotics from use on the farm.
The Obama Administration also has indicated support for ending the non-therapeutic
use of seven antibiotics for growth promotion and feed efficiency (Feedstuffs,
July 13, 2009).
In July, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, principal deputy commissioner of the
Food & Drug Administration, said FDA now believes the judicious
use of antibiotics requires that "all medications for prevention
and control should be under the supervision of a veterinarian."
Still, the critical question at hand is whether Denmark has seen an
actual improvement in the ability to control human disease and minimize
This past September, House Agriculture Committee chairman Collin Peterson
(D., Minn.) was part of a congressional delegation that traveled to
Denmark to meet with government officials, industry representatives
and Danish farmers.
Upon his return, Petersen issued a statement that said, "We didn't
come back with a definitive answer on this complicated issue because
we found no scientific evidence that reducing antibiotic use in agriculture
has resulted in public health benefits in Denmark."
Even proponents of limiting antibiotic use concede that there is no
evidence, to date, that enterococci of foodborne origin pose a direct
threat as a human pathogen. The Danish experience has resulted in an
increase in the number of human cases of salmonellosis and campylobacter,
and that pattern can be seen across Europe despite continent-wide antibiotic
With campylobacter, the evidence shows that there is little connection
between the use of animal drugs and resistance in people. In fact, the
bacteria's rate of resistance against the human antibiotic erythromycin
has gone unchanged for a decade.
A four-fold leap in the rate of resistance in people against other antibiotics
that are used only sparingly in Danish food animals has left some scientists
suggesting that, perhaps, something besides animal use is to blame.
Most recently, a finger was pointed at disinfectants used in hospitals
as possibly being associated with rises in bacterial resistance.
No success has been reported in Europe's efforts to eliminate Enterococcus
faecium that are resistant to vancomycin, the animal form of the antibiotic,
which Europe banned more than a decade ago. Over the past seven years,
the incidence of vancomycin-resistant bacteria in hospital patients
has fallen in only three countries while increasing significantly in
six others and remaining unchanged in the rest.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has praised Denmark as being a "success"
in restricting on-farm antibiotics, but in doing so, WHO has been careful
to define that success by simply saying Denmark had "achieved a
reduction in the reservoir of resistant microorganisms in food animals."
WHO said nothing about drug-resistant bacteria on the human side of
The level of drug resistance in strains of enterococci that are unique
to animals did decline in those bacteria sampled from livestock as a
result of the ban. Those findings are of little surprise to the U.S.
livestock industry and scientists, who say it is normal to see a drop
in resistance once the pressure from antibiotic use is removed.
From an animal welfare standpoint, some argue that the ban is a setback
considering the higher incidence of sickness and mortality in some animals.
Danish officials acknowledged an increase in pig mortality and illness
in the first few years following the ban on low-level antibiotic use.
Health and productivity did eventually return to the Danish herds, which
was attributed to better management at the farm level.
Overall, the ban prompted higher production costs for Danish pork producers.
Those farmers who could afford its implementation survived the transition,
but a number of small Danish farmers who raised pigs went out of business.
By 2015, it is projected that the number of Danish pork producers will
be at about 5,000, down from 25,000 producers in 1995.
As the U.S. pursues efforts to counter political pressure against antibiotic
use in farm animals, it must be remembered that disease and animal suffering
are synonymous, said Dr. John Waddell, a veterinarian from Sutton, Neb.
Waddell said it can be argued that antibiotic use is hugely beneficial
to public health.
"Since the Danish ban on antibiotics, the number of foodborne illness
cases has risen. Even at best, per capita numbers have not decreased.
Therefore, there's at least a 'reasonable certainty' that any public
health benefit from reducing antibiotic use would be offset by eliminating
production efficiencies that make protein more affordable and, thus,
improve the overall quality of diets," he said.
There also is a growing body of evidence that points to the possibility
that antibiotics may actually help keep consumers safe by preventing
Risk assessment expert Dr. Tony Cox has mathematically modeled the human
illness rates attributed to food poisoning -- both antibiotic resistance
and susceptibility. He determined that for each day someone is sick
because the use of antibiotics in chicken contributed to their treatment
being less effective, 4,000 others are spared a day of illness because
antibiotics reduce the risk of food poisoning.
At the farm level, a 2008 study at The Ohio State University found that
54% of hogs raised on antibiotic-free operations were infected with
salmonella, compared to only 39% in conventional operations.
U.S. Department of Agriculture research conducted in 2002 found that
cattle fed neomycin sulfate for 48 hours, held for the mandatory 24-hour
pre-slaughter drug withdrawal and then shipped to market shed significantly
fewer Escherichia coli O157:H7 than their pen mates that did not receive
Waddell said as a veterinarian, his role -- along with his producer
clients -- is to promote public health.
food safety policy under scrutiny again
January 8, 2010
Fresh questions have been raised about China¡¯s food safety policy after
it emerged that officials waited almost a year before going public with
its latest probe into alleged melamine contamination in milk.
According to local reports, Chinese officials waited 11 months before
revealing that they were investigating another alleged case of melamine
being used in milk production.
Food safety authorities in Shanghai last week announced they had shut
down the Shanghai Panda company after discovering it was selling milk
included in the 2008 scandal that should have been destroyed.
dairy industry was brought to its knees in 2008 when 300,000 babies
were taken ill and six died after drinking melamine-tainted Sanlu-brand
Shanghai Panda was
one of the nation¡¯s smaller dairies among 22 companies originally implicated
in the 2008 scandal, which was briefly shut by quality inspectors.
that officials began investigating the company as early as February
last year but was allowed to resume production after promising to improve
understood to have started again two months later and three unnamed
company executives were detained and formally arrested in June.
China Daily said
it was told by a quarantine official that the case was withheld because
it was under criminal investigation by police, adding that the Chinese
government was informed ¡°immediately¡± after the case was found and all
harmful products were seized. However, it is not clear when officials
started any recalls.
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¡®too secretive¡¯ about research into nanotechnology
By By Rick Pendrous, 08-Jan-2010
Food manufacturers¡¯ reluctance to disclose what research they are carrying
out on products using nanotechnology risks a public backlash similar
to that which occurred against genetically modified (GM) foods, warned
the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee.
In its report, Nanotechnologies and Food published today, the UK Committee
is highly critical of the food industry for failing to be transparent
about its research into the uses of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials.
The group also urged the government and Research Councils to adequately
fund research into potential health and safety risks arising from the
use of nanomaterials in the food sector. In particular, it is concerned
about significant gaps in the understanding of how nanomaterials impact
toxicologically on the human body and the associated risks.
Chairman of the Committee Lord Krebs said: "The use of nanotechnologies
in food and food packaging is likely to grow significantly over the
next decade. The technologies have the potential to deliver some significant
benefits to consumers but it is important that detailed and thorough
research into potential health and safety implications in this area
is undertaken now to ensure that any possible risks are identified.¡±
It noted that transparency is key for ensuring public trust in both
food safety and scientific developments, and argued that, although there
is no evidence that the use of nanotechnologies in food currently presents
a threat to consumer safety, food companies¡¯ failure to publish or discuss
details of their research is likely to undermine public confidence in
"The food industry was very reluctant to put its head above the
parapet and declare openly what kind of research was going on to develop
the use of nanotechnologies in food,¡± said Krebs. ¡°Part of the reason
for that is the food industry got its fingers burned over the last round
of novel technology, namely GM technology. So their attitude is to keep
a very low profile and not to talk too loudly about what they may or
may not be doing.¡±
Online nano register and confidential database
Rather than seeking a legal requirement for the labelling of foods containing
nanoparticles in the EU ? similar to that required for foods containing
genetically modified organisms ? the Committee wants the Food Standards
Agency (FSA) to supervise a publicly available online register of food
and food packaging containing nanomaterials in products that are already
on the market. ¡°It¡¯s not clear what value labelling would be to the
consumer,¡± said Krebs.
"The public can expect to have access to information about the
food they eat, but it is equally important that that information should
be comprehensive and balanced,¡± he added. ¡°That is why we consider the
right approach to providing information about nanomaterials in the food
sector is through a public register, rather than by the blanket labelling
of nanomaterials which may not be helpful in assisting consumers to
make informed choices."
But this view is unlikely to find favour with consumer groups and may
prove to be at odds with the outcome of the European Commission¡¯s consultation
on nanotechnologies, which ends on February 19. This may well call for
labelling to be required by law.
However, in addition
to a voluntary publicly available register, the Committee also wants
another mandatory confidential database of all research on nanotechnology
in the UK to be created and managed by the FSA to inform risk assessment.
This second list would be confidential to protect companies¡¯ commercial
interests, said Committee chairman, Lord Krebs.
Call for clear definition
The Committee also called for nanomaterials to be defined clearly in
food legislation to ensure their use in food is subject to appropriate
risk assessment procedures. It recommended that regulatory definitions
should use a ¡®change in functionality¡¯ ? based on how a substance interacts
with the body ? as the criterion that distinguishes a nanomaterial from
its larger form, to make sure that any nano-sized materials with novel
properties are included, rather than the current definition of those
below 100nm [nanometres] in size.
Another reason for this definition, said Krebs, was to distinguish between
engineered nanoparticles and those naturally occurring in foods, such
as ricotta cheese, chocolate and ice cream. ¡°We are talking about a
diversity of entities, some naturally occurring, some engineered; some
persistent, some degraded rapidly inside the body,¡± he added.
Coli O157:H7 Outbreak Results in Beef Recall for 248,000 Pounds of Meat
Published: December 29th, 2009
Following reports of E. coli food poisoning in at least six states,
the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)¡¯s Food Safety and Inspection
Service announced the recall of nearly 250,000 pounds of beef on Christmas
The beef recall involves a variety of products from National Steak and
Poultry, of Owasso, Oklahoma. The action was taken as a result of an
investigation into a cluster of food poisoning illnesses that were connected
to the O157:H7 strain of E. coli and tracked back to the National Steak
and Poultry beef products.
Beef product E. coli cases has been identified in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas,
Michigan, South Dakota and Washington. The number of victims affected
by the food poisoning outbreak has not been released.
The recall affects 248,000 pounds of a large variety of National Steak
and Poultry non-intact steak products that have been blade tenderized.
Recalled products include boneless sirloin steak, boneless beef tips,
sirloin tips, bacon wrapped beef fillets, beef shoulder marinated tender
medallions, beef trimmings, sirloin Philly steak, beef sirloin tri tip,
skirt steak and skirt steak pieces. The beef products were sold under
the National Steak and Poultry, EGN, KRM, Moe¡¯s and Carino¡¯s labels.
A full list of the recalled products is available on the FSIS recall
All of the recalled beef has the establishment number ¡°EST. 6010T¡± inside
the USDA mark of inspection on the labels and packaging dates of ¡°10/12/2009,¡±
¡°10/13/2009,¡± ¡°10/14/2009,¡± or ¡°10/21/2009.¡± The products were sold
to restaurants nationwide.
E. coli O157:H7 is one of the more common causes of food poisoning in
the United States. When left untreated, it can lead to dehydration and
potentially life-threatening illness. While most healthy adults recover
within a few week from E. coli food poisoning, young children and the
elderly could be at risk for more severe illness. If the toxin enters
the blood stream, E. coli could also lead to kidney failure known as
Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome (HUS).
beef infects 21 people in 16 states
Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Twenty-one people in 16 states have been infected in recent days with
a potentially lethal strain of E. coli bacteria, after consuming beef
in restaurants supplied by the same Oklahoma meat company, federal officials
The outbreak spurred the company, National Steak and Poultry, to voluntarily
recall 248,000 pounds of beef Dec. 24. The products, which range from
steaks to sirloin tips, were packaged in October and shipped to restaurants,
hotels and institutions nationwide, according to the company.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service
has only a partial list of restaurants that received the potentially
tainted beef, including two chains, Moe's and Carino's Italian Grill,
primarily in the West and Midwest.
The recall is considered a "class 1" or a "high health
risk" by the USDA, which regulates the meat industry, because among
the pathogens that can harm human health, E. coli O157:H7 is one of
the most lethal. Even for those who survive, there can be long-term
Nine of the 21 sickened have been hospitalized, the USDA reported. The
department has identified cases in six states -- Colorado, Iowa, Kansas,
Michigan, South Dakota and Washington
The agency said the contamination appears to have begun with tainted
beef used for chopped steak that was "co-mingled" with other
products in the plant. Jerry Mande, the USDA's deputy undersecretary
for food safety, said the investigation is continuing. A telephone message
left for the company was not returned.
The outbreak is
considered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency
that tracks national illness outbreaks, to be relatively small. But
it is significant because it is at least the fourth associated with
mechanically tenderized beef since 2000.
Mechanical tenderization softens tough cuts of beef by hammering the
meat with metal needles or blades that break up muscle fibers and connective
tissue. It is often used to improve the tenderness of roasts and steaks
that are cooked at a processing plant before being sent to restaurants.
In the meat industry, it is referred to as "needled" meat.
Consumer advocates say mechanical tenderization poses contamination
risks in meats that are served rare, such as steaks, because it can
bring bacteria from the surface of meat to the center of the cut. A
rare steak may be cooked enough so that bacteria on the surface are
killed but those inside the meat survive.
"This is something that's been coming along. It's not an overnight
problem," said Carol L. Tucker-Foreman of Consumer Federation of
America, part of a coalition that wrote to Agriculture Secretary Tom
Vilsack in June to express concern about mechanically tenderized meat.
"The USDA has been looking at this for a long time. . . . People
have proposed ways to address it and nothing was done about it in the
Clinton administration, the Bush administration and now the Obama administration."
At a minimum, the government should issue guidelines to consumers and
the restaurant industry that specifically address mechanically tenderized
meat, and the products should be labeled because consumers cannot detect
whether a cut of meat has been "needled," she said. "Retailers
should have to label mechanically tenderized meat and say 'Don't eat
this product rare.' "
Mande said the USDA agrees that the public needs better information
about the risks of mechanically tenderized beef, and the agency is considering
labeling and education efforts.
But James H. Hodges, executive vice president of the American Meat Institute,
said in a statement that mechanically tenderized beef carries no greater
risk than other meat and that special labels are unnecessary.
Remain in Steak E. coli Outbreak
by Dan Flynn | Jan 05, 2010
A dozen days have passed since the Christmas Eve beef recall by Oklahoma-based
National Steak and Poultry and still basic information has not been
Not only has the federal government not named all of the 16 states involved,
but also National Steak has not disclosed a complete list of restaurants
receiving the contaminated blade-tenderized steaks.
National Steak recalled 248,000 pounds of beef on Dec. 24, and later
said most of it went to Moe's and Carino's, national restaurant chains,
and the owner of Missouri's 54th St. Grills, Kansas City-based KRM.
Nine people have been hospitalized in Iowa, Michigan, Kansas, South
Dakota, Washington, and Colorado after being struck down with E. coli
O157:H7 associated with the recall.
National Steak shipped the sirloin steaks and sirloin tips to restaurants,
hotels and institutions nationwide, but has not released a complete
list of those receiving the contaminated product.
The only national restaurant chain to step forward on its own to acknowledge
that National Steak is one of its suppliers was Darden Restaurants,
which owns the Olive Garden chain.
"None of the product supplied to Olive Garden tested positive for
any contaminant, " said Mark Jaronski, director of media and communications
for Darden. "In keeping with our industry-leading food safety practices,
however, we removed the entire product from our restaurants immediately
upon being notified by the supplier on Christmas Eve. It's important
to point out that this was a regional issue for Olive Garden and not
Applebee's, supplied by National Steak in the past, has not responded
to inquiries by Food Safety News about its possible involvement in the
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service
originally said the recall involved six states, but that was apparently
wrong from the start. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
(CDC) in Atlanta said the actual number of states involved was 16--and
had been since day one.
Although most of the recalled steaks went to restaurants that are retail
establishments, FSIS has said on its website that no list of retailers
will be made available. Nor has CDC provided a report on the outbreak
neither listing the other ten states involved nor providing any demographic
information about the victims.
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