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Update: Multistate Outbreak of Human Salmonella Montevideo Infections
Posted on February 11, 2010 by Bill Marler
CDC is collaborating with public health officials in many states, the
U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service
(FSIS), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the State of
Rhode Island to investigate a multistate outbreak of Salmonella serotype
Montevideo infections. Investigators are using DNA analysis of Salmonella
bacteria obtained through diagnostic testing to identify cases of illness
that may be part of this outbreak.
As of 9:00 pm EST on February
10, 2010, a total of 225 individuals infected with the outbreak strain
of Salmonella Montevideo, which displays either of two closely related
PFGE patterns, have been reported from 44 states and District of Columbia
since July 1, 2009. The number of ill persons identified in each state
with this strain is as follows: AK (1), AL (2), AZ (6), CA (30), CO
(4), CT (5), DC (1), DE (2), FL (3), GA (3), IA (1), ID (2), IL (15),
IN (3), KS (3), LA (1), MA (13), MD (1), ME (1), MI (4), MN (5), MO
(2), MS (1), NC (10), ND (1), NE (1), NH (2), NJ (8), NM (2), NY (18),
OH (9), OK (1), OR (9), PA (6), RI (2), SC (1), SD (3), TN (5), TX (7),
UT (9), VA (1), WA (17), WI (1), WV (1), and WY (2). Because the main
Salmonella Montevideo outbreak PFGE pattern is commonly occurring in
the United States, public health investigators may determine that some
of the illnesses are not part of this outbreak.
Salmonella Senftenberg, a
different serotype of Salmonella, has been found in food samples from
retail and a patient household during this outbreak investigation. PulseNet
identified 5 persons who had illness caused by Salmonella Senftenberg
with matching PFGE patterns between July 1, 2009 and today. Public health
officials have interviewed 4 of the 5 ill persons with this strain of
Salmonella Senftenberg and determined that one consumed a recalled salami
product during the week before their illness began. These five cases
are not included in the overall case count reported above.
Among the persons with reported
dates available, illnesses began between July 4, 2009 and January 24,
2010. Infected individuals range in age from < 1 year old to 93 years
old and the median age is 39 years. Fifty-three percent of patients
are male. Among the 166 patients with available information, 43 (26%)
were hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.
During January 16-21, 2010,
CDC and public health officials in multiple states conducted an epidemiologic
study by comparing foods eaten by 41 ill and 41 well persons. Preliminary
analysis of this study has suggested salami as a possible source of
illness. Ill persons (58%) were significantly more likely than well
persons (16%) to report eating salami. Additionally, 16 ill persons
have been identified who purchased the same type of sliced salami variety
pack at different grocery store locations before becoming ill; Two additional
ill persons have been identified who purchased a similar type of sliced
salami deli tray before becoming ill. These data suggest this product
is the source of some of these illnesses. This sliced salami variety
pack was recently recalled by Daniele International Inc. CDC and public
health officials in multiple states continue to interview ill persons
to ask them about the foods they ate during the week before they became
ill as well as to collect shopper card information.
On January 23, 2010, FSIS issued a news release that Daniele International
Inc. is recalling approximately 1,240,000 pounds of ready-to-eat varieties
of Italian sausage products (including salame/salami) in commerce and
potentially available to customers in retail locations because they
may be contaminated with Salmonella. On February 4, 2010, FSIS updated
its January 23, 2010 news release to include two additional salame/salami
products, adding approximately 23,754 pounds to the initial recall.
These products can have an extended shelf life of up to one year. The
manufacturer has voluntarily halted production of salami products.
This initial recall followed isolation of Salmonella in a private laboratory
from a retail sample of a salami product produced by Daniele International;
this product was different than the sliced salami variety pack purchased
at different grocery store locations by the 16 ill persons. FSIS reviewed
and affirmed these private laboratory results. The Salmonella strain
initially found by the private laboratory was different from the strains
causing the outbreak. However, the Washington State Department of Health
subsequently tested the bacterial culture provided by the private laboratory
(the salami was not provided) and identified two different Salmonella
serotypes, the strain found by the private lab and Salmonella Montevideo
indistinguishable from the outbreak strain and Salmonella Senftenberg.
In addition, the Iowa Department of Public Health and public health
officials in Plymouth County, Iowa investigated a patient with Salmonella
Montevideo infection indistinguishable from the outbreak strain and
discovered an open sliced salami variety pack frozen at the patient's
home. The patient had eaten this product before becoming ill. This sliced
salami variety pack was the same as that purchased by 16 other ill persons.
Using DNA analysis, the University of Iowa Hygienic Laboratory (Iowa's
public health laboratory) confirmed that the Salmonella isolated from
this leftover salami was indistinguishable from the outbreak strain
of Salmonella Montevideo.
On January 31, 2010, FSIS
issued a second news release that Daniele International Inc. has expanded
its recall to include more ready-to-eat (RTE) varieties of Italian sausage
products. Specific products include:
* Packages of ¡°DANIELE HOT
SOPRESSATA CALABRESE,¡± produced on 11/7/09, 12/16/09 and 12/18/09.
* Packages of ¡°DANIELE SOPRESSATA CALABRESE,¡± produced on 12/16/09 and
* Packages of ¡°BOAR¡¯S HEAD BRAND HOT SOPRESSATA CALABRESE,¡± produced
on 11/28/09, 12/9/09 and 12/14/09.
The recall was being expanded
as a result of a confirmed finding of Salmonella in an unopened salami
product reported by the Illinois Department of Public Health. The product
was sampled during the course of an ongoing investigation of a multistate
outbreak of Salmonella serotype Montevideo illnesses. The product tested
was not included in the previous recall (FSIS Recall 006-2010) issued
January 23, 2010, but is similar to products bought by customers who
later became sick and were identified as part of the Montevideo investigation.
The company believes that black pepper is a possible source of Salmonella
On February 4, 2010, FSIS
announced that Daniele International Inc. added two more products to
its list of recalled products. Specific products include:
* 3-ounce packages of ¡°DANIELE
NATURALE SALAME COATED WITH COARSE BLACK PEPPER.¡±
* Approximately 6-pound packages of ¡°DANIELE SALAME GRANDE COATED WITH
PORK FAT & PEPPER.¡±
Further testing is ongoing
at a state health partner laboratory, and might determine if the product
tested in Illinois contained the Salmonella Montevideo strain associated
with the multistate outbreak.
Daniele International Inc. has recalled ready-to-eat varieties of Italian
sausage products, including salami, which are regulated by the USDA.
Some of the products contain black pepper, which is regulated by the
Recent test results provided
by the Rhode Island Department of Health revealed that an opened container
of black pepper used in the manufacturing of at least some of the recalled
products was positive for Salmonella Montevideo and that the DNA fingerprint
matched the outbreak strain: http://www.ri.gov/press/view/10647 *.
The FDA is investigating
the supply chain of the black pepper used in the manufacturing of the
recalled meat products. The Agency has collected and is currently analyzing
black pepper samples. To date, all the samples collected and analyzed
by the FDA have tested negative for Salmonella, however, sample collection
and analysis continues.
CDC and its public health
partners are continuing the epidemiologic investigation to verify that
the outbreak is controlled. CDC, USDA-FSIS, and FDA continue to work
closely to identify the specific products or ingredients that became
contaminated and how the contamination occurred and to identify any
other food vehicles that may be involved.
Plans to Drop Program to Trace Livestock
By WILLIAM NEUMAN
Faced with stiff resistance from ranchers and farmers, the Obama administration
has decided to scrap a national program intended to
help authorities quickly identify and track livestock in the event of
an animal disease outbreak.
In abandoning the program, called the National Animal Identification
System, officials said they would start over in trying to devise a livestock
tracing program that could win widespread support from the industry.
The agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, will announce the changes on
Friday, according to officials at the Agriculture Department, who spoke
on condition of anonymity because the decision had not yet been made
The officials said that it would be left to the states to devise many
aspects of a new system, including requirements for identifying livestock.
New federal rules will be developed but the officials said they would
apply only to animals being moved in interstate commerce, such as cattle
raised in one state being transported to a slaughterhouse in another
It could take two years or more to create new federal rules, the officials
said, and it was not clear how far the government would go to restrict
the movement of livestock between states if the animals did not meet
basic traceability standards.
The system was created by the Bush administration in 2004 after the
discovery in late 2003 of a cow infected with mad cow disease.
Participation of ranchers and farmers in the identification system was
voluntary, but the goal was to give every animal, or in the case of
pigs and poultry, groups of animals, a unique identification number
that would be entered in a database. The movements of animals would
be tracked, and if there was a disease outbreak or a sick animal was
found, officials could quickly locate other animals that had been exposed.
But the system quickly drew the ire of many farmers and ranchers, particularly
cattle producers. Some objected to the cost of identification equipment
and the extra work in having to report their animals¡¯ movements. Others
said they believed the voluntary system would become mandatory, that
it was intrusive and that the federal government would use it to pry
into their lives and finances.
The old system received $142 million in federal financing, but gained
the participation of only 40 percent of the nation¡¯s livestock producers,
according to a report by the Congressional Research Service.
When Mr. Vilsack took over the Agriculture Department last year, he
began a series of public meetings on the identification program and
was bombarded by strident opposition.
Agriculture officials said that most details of a new system would be
worked out in the coming months through consultation with the livestock
industry and the states.
¡°It was just overwhelming in the country that people didn¡¯t like it,
and I think they took that feedback to heart,¡± said Mary Kay Thatcher,
public policy director of the American Farm Bureau Federation, which
had opposed the identification system. ¡°I think it¡¯s good they¡¯ve at
least said we¡¯re going to do something different.¡±
Carol Tucker Foreman, a food safety expert of the Consumer Federation
of America, agreed that the old system was not working and needed to
But she worried that a new
system that could have different rules in every state might not be effective.
¡°It¡¯s very, very hard to have an effective state-by-state program,¡±
shows China's food safety challenges
By GILLIAN WONG
The Associated Press
Thursday, February 4, 2010; 4:49 AM
BEIJING -- The resurfacing of tainted milk products in China highlights
the challenges of policing the food supply in a country where close
ties between local authorities and companies hamper regulation while
producers are undertrained, experts said Thursday.
The problems have dealt another blow to China's efforts to restore confidence
in its dairy supply after a massive contaminated milk scandal in 2008
left at least six babies dead and sickened 300,000 other children. At
the time, China promised sweeping changes and punished dozens of officials,
dairy executives and farmers. In November, it executed a dairy farmer
and a milk salesman.
But the penalties failed to deter others, and local governments with
close ties to dairy companies often shield them from being punished,
leading to the new misdemeanors, said a food safety expert at Renmin
University in Beijing.
"When companies violate the law, the government raises its stick
high, but lets it fall down softly," said Zheng Fengtian, an agricultural
economics and rural development professor. "The government coddles
those companies too much and considers more the economic and employment
impact that would occur if such companies suffer."
The 2008 scandal exposed the widespread practice of adding melamine,
a chemical normally used in making plastics and fertilizer, to watered-down
milk to increase profits and fool inspectors testing for protein. When
ingested in large amounts, melamine can cause kidney stones and kidney
At least five companies are believed to have resold milk products tainted
with melamine that were supposed to have been destroyed in the earlier
sweep, the Health Ministry said this week as it launched a new 10-day
crackdown on the dairy industry. The ministry has not said if anyone
was sickened by the latest contamination.
"Some companies and individuals are still ignoring the safety and
health of the mass of the population. Their hearts are full of greed,
and they committed crimes," the ministry said in a statement.
Three dairy plant managers and one milk powder dealer in central China
suspected of selling melamine-tainted milk products were the first known
arrests, announced Wednesday, in the crackdown after contaminated products
were recently found in several provinces.
The scandal, China's worst food safety crisis in years, prompted the
government to tighten regulations and vow to step up checks. But enforcement
is weakened when local governments place the interests of their local
dairies above regulation, allowing milk producers to be more daring,
another food expert said.
"Recently there are a lot of melamine problems happening because
people thought the crackdown on melamine is over and the milk powder
produced two years ago will soon be expired and there are people who
want to take the risk" of selling it, Chen Yu, a professor at the
Beijing Agro-Business Management University, told the Southern Weekend
The China Dairy Industry Association's chairman could not be reached
for comment Thursday.
The recent spate of tainted milk reports also underscores China's struggle
to effectively regulate a massive food industry full of small, scattered
China adopted a food safety law last summer that places more responsibility
on food producers to ensure their products are safe, but it will take
more time for the law to be fully implemented, said Dr. Peter Ben Embarek,
a WHO senior scientist on food safety based in Beijing.
"You have millions of food producers who all also need to be trained
and educated, in some cases in some very basic food hygiene and food
safety principles," Ben Embarek said.
"What is a little bit discouraging is to see that there are still
producers out there who have not understood the seriousness of tampering
with food safety and are continuing to put profits before safety in
their products," he said.
Concerns about tainted milk products peaked again early this year after
authorities in Shanghai said they secretly investigated a dairy for
nearly a year before announcing it had been producing tainted products.
The case was especially troubling because Shanghai Panda Dairy Co. was
one of the 22 dairies named by China's product safety authority in the
2008 scandal, with its products having among the highest levels of melamine.
In other recent cases, officials
in late January said tainted dairy products from three companies were
pulled from more than a dozen convenience stores around the southern
province of Guizhou. Officials said products recalled during the previous
scandal somehow made it back to the market.
requirements to assure school lunch safety
By Blake Morrison and Peter Eisler, USA TODAY
The U.S. Department of Agriculture
announced sweeping steps Thursday to "assure the safety and quality
of food" purchased for the National School Lunch Program.
The measures include tightening requirements on companies that supply
ground beef to schools, testing the beef more often and more thoroughly,
and improving communications within the USDA to "identify potential
food safety issues" before children get sick.
The initiatives come in the wake of a USA TODAY investigation that revealed
failures in government programs intended to protect students from food-borne
illnesses. More than 31 million children participate in the school lunch
The newspaper found that McDonald's and other fast-food chains are far
more rigorous than the government in checking for bacteria and dangerous
pathogens in beef. USA TODAY also found that the government lacks ways
to quickly alert schools when products have been recalled or implicated
in safety investigations.
The measures outlined Thursday are intended to address each of those
points, bringing the standards and testing protocols in line with those
used by the most selective restaurants and retailers. "It's a big
deal," food safety consultant David Theno said of the USDA measures.
He said the moves will push companies to "play to a higher standard"
if they want to continue to supply food to schools.
The USDA also pledged to review the safety records of its school lunch
suppliers more carefully and bar companies that have had repeated problems
with their commercial products.
Such a move could affect companies such as Beef Packers, a Fresno company
that recalled 826,000 pounds of ground beef last summer because it contained
a drug-resistant strain of salmonella. Public health officials warned
consumers to discard products from the company, which had a history
of salmonella problems, but USA TODAY found that the USDA paid Beef
Packers hundreds of thousands of dollars for 450,000 pounds of ground
beef made during the period covered by the commercial recall.
Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., praised the announcement. Miller, who
chairs the House Committee on Education and Labor, asked the USDA last
month to enlist the National Academy of Sciences in a food-safety review
? a move the USDA also announced Thursday.
Miller called the USDA announcement "a meaningful step" in
improving the school lunch program.
USDA ANNOUNCES FOOD SAFETY INITIATIVES FOR SCHOOL
LUNCH AND OTHER FOOD AND NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS
source: Multi-Agency Announcements Part of Ongoing Effort to Ensure
Safety of School Lunches
WASHINGTON, Feb. 4, 2010 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced
several new initiatives to assure the safety and quality of food purchased
by USDA for the National School Lunch Program and other food and nutrition
"Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our
Nation's school children," said Vilsack. "We must do everything
we can to ensure that our kids are being served safe, high quality foods
at school. Today's announcement demonstrates our commitment to constantly
improving the safety and quality of foods purchased by USDA."
The initiatives announced today are a combined effort of five USDA agencies
- the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), the Agricultural Research
Service (ARS), the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the Farm
Service Agency (FSA) and the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).
Secretary Vilsack announced the following initiatives by these agencies:
AMS will implement new food
safety purchasing requirements for its beef suppliers as a result of
a review of the beef purchase program conducted by FSIS and ARS. AMS
will continue its zero tolerance for Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7
for its products and will continue to use onsite meat acceptance specialists
and other control measures.
ARS and FSIS will provide technical assistance to AMS for School Lunch
and other Federal nutrition assistance programs.
In addition to the reviews by FSIS and ARS, AMS has asked the National
Academy of Sciences (NAS) to review the ground beef purchasing program.
By the summer, NAS will conduct a thorough evaluation of the scientific
validity of the current AMS technical requirements. This review will
include benchmarking AMS vendor requirements against recognized industry
leading programs that supply product directly to consumers.
AMS will increase information sharing with other agencies in order to
better monitor vendor performance and identify potential food safety
issues in the process. Information on in-plant enforcement actions,
positive pathogen test results, contract suspensions, recall notifications,
and more will be better shared between USDA agencies.
FSIS will work with AMS to review and evaluate meat, poultry, and processed
egg vendors as part of the AMS vendor eligibility process.
FNS will review and evaluate methods currently being used by state agencies
to communicate with schools and school districts regarding product recalls.
FNS will develop performance criteria for states that allows them to
provide rapid communication to schools and school districts. FNS will
provide financial assistance to states to allow them to upgrade the
speed and accuracy of their food safety messages.
FNS will also establish a Center of Excellence devoted to research on
school food safety issues in FNS child nutrition programs. Research
is needed in areas such as produce safety, proper cooling practices,
evaluation of in-school food safety programs, and the containment of
norovirus, which is the leading cause of foodborne illness in schools.
FSA is evaluating and strengthening current requirements and will amend
those requirements to better reflect compliance with Good Manufacturing
Practices and use of a verified Hazard Analysis and Critical Control
Points program. FSA will ensure that commercial suppliers are able to
provide a qualified level of food safety assurance for USDA programs.
These changes and continuous reviews will ensure that the food USDA
distributes to school children and others meets the highest quality
and safety standards.
USDA is an equal opportunity
provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination,
write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave.,
S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice), or
(202) 720-6382 (TDD).
China Finds 170
More Tons of Tainted Milk Powder
China finds 170 more tons of tainted milk powder that should have been
destroyed by was reused
By CARA ANNA Associated Press
BEIJING February 8, 2010 (AP)
The discovery has punched a 170-ton hole in China's promises to overhaul
its food safety system. Officials say they've found yet another case
where large amounts of tainted milk powder from the country's 2008 scandal
that should have been destroyed were instead repackaged.
China ordered tens of thousands of milk products laced with an industrial
chemical burned or buried after more than 300,000 children were sickened
and at least six died from the contamination. But, crucially, the government
did not carry out the eradication itself, and this month an emergency
crackdown has made it clear that tons of compromised products are still
on the market.
Tainted dairy has recently been found in China's largest city, Shanghai,
and in the provinces of Shaanxi, Shandong, Liaoning, Guizhou, Jilin
and Hebei. At least five companies are suspected of reselling tainted
products that should have been destroyed, the Health Ministry said last
week. The problem products uncovered in the 10-day emergency crackdown
have so far been limited to the domestic market.
The campaign is set to end
Wednesday, and it's not clear whether it will be extended. The country's
biggest holiday, the Lunar New Year, starts this weekend, and already
some offices are closing and millions of people are going on vacation.
The Health Ministry has not commented since the crackdown began, and
the China Dairy Association has remained quiet as well.
"The problem is, this is a product with a shelf life of several
years. It's very important that the product is not left unattended,"
said Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, a WHO senior scientist on food safety based
in Beijing. "There's always a risk it will find a way back into
The latest discovery underscores the difficulties of policing China's
smaller food producers, despite a sweeping new food safety law that
took effect last summer and promised stricter quality controls after
the 2008 scandal, which was China's worst food safety crisis in years.
In the wake of that crisis, China punished dozens of officials, dairy
executives and farmers, even executing a dairy farmer and a milk salesman.
But the government didn't destroy seized products itself. Instead, it
issued guidelines on how to destroy them, suggesting they be burned
in large-capacity incinerators or that small amounts be buried in landfills.
In the southern city of Guangzhou, however, the local government did
take over disposal after one garbage company poured tainted milk into
a city river.
China's new food safety law places even more responsibility on food
producers to ensure their products are safe, including introducing tough
new penalties for makers of unsafe products.
On Monday, with the announcement that more products contaminated by
the industrial chemical melmine had been found, it appeared the new
regulations had failed again. Officials issued a recall for more than
170 tons of milk powder tainted by the industrial chemical melamine
and closed two dairy companies in the northern region of Ningxia, the
China Daily newspaper reported.
The report said officials have already seized 72 tons of the powder
but were still looking for the rest, which had been sold by the Ningxia
Tiantian Dairy Co. Ltd. to five factories in the neighboring region
of Inner Mongolia and the bustling southern provinces of Guangdong and
The report said the tainted powder should have been destroyed in the
2008 scandal, but that an unnamed company gave it to Ningxia Tiantian
as a debt payment.
Zhao Shuming, secretary-general of the Ningxia Dairy Industry Association,
told the China Daily that said Ningxia Tiantian appears to have been
unaware the product contained melamine but should have known that the
repackaging itself, which usually involves changing production and sell-by
dates, was illegal.
Zhao told the paper that many small dairies, including Ningxia Tiantian,
don't have the technology to even test for melamine. When watered-down
milk is laced with the chemical, it appears to still be rich in protein
in quality tests that measure nitrogen, found in both the melamine and
"Flaws in the previous system led to the current chaos. What if
companies with tainted milk also hold back their stocks for this round
of checkups and reuse them later, just like what's happening now?"
the newspaper quoted him as saying.
Zhao spoke more carefully Monday, telling the AP, "We have strict
checks, and our client companies have strict checks, too."
Ningxia Tiantian has been shut down, and a second company, Ningxia Panda
Dairy Co. Ltd., was also ordered closed because of ties to a Shanghai
dairy found with tainted goods last year, the report said.
Online Chinese chat rooms were buzzing Monday over the latest tainted
milk finding, with many asking "Why are these things happening
But a large-scale drop in consumer confidence that happened in the 2008
scandal isn't likely this time, said Cindy Yang, a dairy analyst for
the Netherlands-based Rabobank Group in Shanghai.
"These companies are quite small ones," she said Monday, adding
that China's largest dairies put stricter safety measures in place after
feeling the bite of bad publicity ? and raised prices 20 to 30 percent
to pay for the better quality.
"You can't say that because of these cases, there's no trust in
the whole market," she said.
world health by unleashing waves of superbugs
China's reckless use of antibiotics in the health system and agricultural
production is unleashing an explosion of drug resistant superbugs that
endanger global health, according to leading scientists.
By Peter Foster in Beijing
Published: 6:25PM GMT 05 Feb 2010
Chinese doctors routinely hand out multiple doses of antibiotics for
simple maladies like the sore throats and the country's farmers excessive
dependence on the drugs has tainted the food chain.
Studies in China show a "frightening" increase in antibiotic-resistant
bacteria such as staphylococcus aureus bacteria, also know as MRSA .
There are warnings that new strains of antibiotic-resistant bugs will
spread quickly through international air travel and internation food
"We have a lot of data from Chinese hospitals and it shows a very
frightening picture of high-level antibiotic resistance," said
Dr Andreas Heddini of the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control.
"Doctors are daily finding there is nothing they can do, even third
and fourth-line antibiotics are not working.
"There is a real risk that globally we will return to a pre-antibiotic
era of medicine, where we face a situation where a number of medical
treatment options would no longer be there. What happens in China matters
for the rest of the world."
Particular alarm has been raised by resistance rates of MRSA in Chinese
hospitals, which has more than doubled from 30 per cent to 70 per cent,
according to Professor Xiao Yonghong of the Institute of Clinical Pharmacology
at Beijing University.
Last year researchers found a new strain of MRSA in Chinese pigs imported
into Hong Kong and called for urgent new studies into its potential
to infect humans after an infection of the new strain was confirmed
in Guangzhou, where many of the pigs were farmed.
A Beijing-based health expert with access to unpublished surveys showed
that the situation in China was actually worse earlier studies had indicated.
"The Chinese Ministry of Health has all the data," the expert
warned, "but they seem unable or unwilling to believe it. The situation
has global implications and is highly disturbing."
The Chinese Ministry of Health failed to respond to requests for an
interview or information by phone, email and fax over a three-day period.
New prescription guidelines to restrict antibiotic use being issued
by the Chinese Ministry of Health in 2004.
"The guidelines are not being followed effectively," added
Professor Xiao, "over just the last five years, for example, our
studies show the rate antibiotic-resistant E.coli has quadrupled from
10 per cent to 40 per cent."
Public health experts say the rampant over-use of antibiotics in China
is primarily caused by China's under-funded healthcare system where
hospitals derive up to half of their operating income from selling drugs.
In some cities, such as Chongqing, almost half of all drugs sold are
"In Chinese hospitals our data shows that 60 per cent of in-patients
are being prescribed antibiotics compared with the WHO guideline of
30 per cent," added Professor Xiao who also heads China's National
Antibiotic Resistance Investigation Network.
China's State Food and Drug Administration bans the sale of antibiotics
without prescription but a survey by the The Daily Telegraph found the
drugs were still easily obtainable over-the-counter.
Three out of five chemists agreed to sell antibiotics after a cursory
consultation with the 'patient' who complained of a sore throat.
At one outlet a pharmacist handed over a course of the second-generation
antibiotic, Cefuroxime Axetil, with minimal hesitation.
Asked if the sale could "get her into trouble" she said that
the pharmacy would get a doctor to write the prescription later to cover
their sales records. She added that even doctors from the nearby Capital
Institute of Pediatrics came to buy antibiotics without prescription.
"When the surveillance is strict, we won't risk selling antibiotics,"
Ms Zhang added. Asked to elaborate, she explained, "For example
during the 2008 Olympic Games period, we didn't sell them".
If I¡¯d only known then what I know now
Food (Safety) Fight
By: Richard RaymondJohn
Munsell often criticizes FSIS for not tracing back to the source when
a positive is found in ground beef product, and I often responded to
John that the Agency is doing its best under the difficult circumstances
of multiple sources going into the product. Turns out we are both a
little bit right and a little bit wrong.
I have only recently learned that it is Agency policy to attempt to
trace back to the source ONLY if there are illnesses involved in an
outbreak and that as the result of an extensive epidemiological investigation,
a product has been identified. It is Agency policy to not attempt to
trace back to the source if no illnesses are involved, and the only
evidence of contamination is a positive, routine FSIS sample. We can
debate the STEPS database, etc, but today I am talking about where the
rest of the contaminated lot went, and trace back activities as outlined
in Directive 10,010.1 Rev.2, Chapter 3.
By the time an outbreak has been investigated and the source food identified,
that trail is pretty cold and a lot of product has been sold and consumed.
On the contrary, if a routine FSIS product sample tests positive, it
seems there is a good chance part of the source materials would still
be intact at the processing plant and could easily be sampled. Then,
and only if this policy were changed could this happen, other plants
that had bought meat from the same lot from the source plant could be
notified and production halted and a possible recall initiated based
on focused sampling in other plants. But under the current policy, these
plants are not notified that they may have contaminated meat going into
their product, which is then being sold and consumed. The first key
to improving the public's health is prevention, and this seems like
a very good place to increase our efforts at preventing food borne illnesses.
Most grinders do not purchase a full lot from the slaughter facility,
so multiple grinders are often involved for each lot, 75% of tested
product is from a single source, and the average number of positive
tests per year by FSIS is around 50-60. Each one of those positives
is an opportunity to identify the source and prevent food borne tragedies.
I have not written about this before as I was trying to find the rationale
behind this policy. Besides the long standing aversion to "rolling
recalls", the only lead I could come up with was a rumor that trace
backs were a part of the large packers testimony and debate at the public
HACCP hearings back in the mid-90s, and that a compromise was reached
to "prevent double jeopardy" for the packers. Can anyone help
me out with the history here, and the science behind these confusing
The great food allergy myth: Many are just fantasies
that can wreck the way you eat and end up giving you a REAL illness
By Matthew Barbour
Last updated at 8:24 AM on 09th February 2010
A generation of Britons could be putting their health at risk by wrongly
self-diagnosing a food allergy or intolerance, one of the UK¡¯s leading
¡®Instead of having their condition medically diagnosed and treating
the root cause of their symptoms, millions of people are needlessly
cutting whole food groups out of their diet,¡¯ says Dr Carina Venter,
allergy specialist at the University of Portsmouth.
Up to 20 per cent of us now believe we have a food intolerance, she
says, with the real figure lying somewhere between 1 and 2 per cent.
¡®The health implications of limiting the diet in this way can be far
worse than food allergies or intolerances themselves - and it only takes
a few years of cutting food groups out to have a much longer-term impact.¡¯
Downfall: A woman stares at a single pea on her dinner plate. Many people
are wrongly diagnosing themselves with a food intolerance and cutting
whole food groups out of their diet
Doing this can have significant social implications as well - ¡®leaving
you unable to eat food at restaurants or other people¡¯s houses where
you¡¯re not 100 per cent sure of what¡¯s on your plate¡¯, she says. ¡®Food
isn¡¯t just fuel; meals and eating are a vital social element in our
She highlights the example of one woman who, 25 years ago, suffered
a severe tightening of her throat after eating a lemon, orange, melon
and lettuce salad. ¡®She cut them all out of her diet without seeking
proper medical advice.
¡®Yet when we tested her, we found she had no adverse reaction to any
of those foods. We gave her a glass of orange juice, the first she¡¯d
had in more than a quarter of a century, and she was absolutely delighted
she could safely have oranges.
¡®But as a result of her self-diagnosis she¡¯d spent years avoiding certain
meals and even going hungry to make sure she didn¡¯t encounter that same
reaction again, which is at best a waste and at worst a health issue
from missing out on all the fantastic nutrients in those foods.¡¯
It is likely that this patient had actually suffered an ¡®idiopathic
anaphylaxis¡¯, a random reaction to an allergen or stimulus that causes
blood pressure to drop and the airways to close suddenly. These one-off
reactions are far from rare, explains Dr Venter.
¡®The point is, we never doubted that she did suffer an anaphylactic
shock and although we haven¡¯t determined the cause, we¡¯ve enabled her
to get on with enjoying a fuller and more varied diet and getting the
nutritional benefit from this.¡¯
The problem of self-misdiagnosis is not helped by celebrity food fads,
such as the wheat-free and dairy-free diets followed by the likes of
Carol Vorderman and Victoria Beckham.
One recent U.S. study of girls aged between ten and 13 found more than
half who claimed to have milk intolerance had no problem whatsoever
digesting it - yet those who cut it from their diet were then getting
a quarter less of For their recommended daily calcium intake. This has
long-term health implications, says nutritionist Dr Judith Bryans, of
The Dairy Council.
The problem of self-misdiagnosis is not helped by celebrity food fads,
such as diets followed by Carol Vorderman and Victoria Beckham
¡®Adolescence is a critical period for laying the foundation for future
bone health, as at least 90 per cent of peak bone mass in girls is achieved
by 18 years of age,¡¯ she says.
¡®Milk and dairy foods are some of the best dietary sources of bone-building
nutrients such as calcium, phosphorous and protein.¡¯
Worryingly, the girls who thought they had a milk intolerance had significantly
lower spinal bone mineral content, a measure of bone strength.
¡®Food allergies and intolerances have become almost fashionable in recent
years due to increasing popularity of fad diets and poor examples set
by ill-informed role models in the public eye,¡¯ says Dr Bryans. ¡®This
study demonstrates the importance of clarifying misconceptions about
food and health from an early age.¡¯
For those who have a genuine intolerance, there is no denying it can
often be as debilitating as an allergy, although not as dangerous.
True allergies can occur after coming into contact with even trace amounts
of the culprit food, causing symptoms that are usually immediate and
¡®In an allergic reaction, the immune system produces IgE antibodies,
our defence against foreign substances perceived as harmful,¡¯ Dr Venter
In an allergic reaction, so many antibodies are produced that it causes
rashes, swelling or breathing difficulties and, in extreme cases, life-threatening
An intolerance, on the other hand, tends to be a more delayed adverse
reaction. It doesn¡¯t involve the immune system, but is often related
to the absence of specific chemicals or enzymes needed to digest a particular
food, or from reactions to naturally occurring chemicals in foods.
¡®Reactions can take up to a few hours or days to occur,¡¯ says Dr Venter.
In most cases, a significant amount of the trigger food must be ingested.
¡®However, food intolerances can often be equally distressing and have
an equally significant impact on quality of life, even though they may
not be life threatening. An adult with chronic diarrhoea, for instance,
might feel he or she can¡¯t safely leave the house.¡¯
¡®And because the reaction often isn¡¯t instant, it¡¯s harder to pinpoint
the root cause - which means there¡¯s even more need for professional
inquiry before rashly eliminating foods from the diet.¡¯
The plethora of self-tests available on the internet has exacerbated
the problem of people misdiagnosing themselves and then unnecessarily
changing their diets, says Dr Venter.
The only food intolerance test on the UK market that has passed clinical
trials and is approved by the charity Allergy UK is the York Test.
This measures Immunoglobulin E (IgG E) antibodies, which are produced,
it's said, when you're intolerant to a food.
But at ¡Ì265, it's far from cheap. And some doubt the science of such
¡®I am not convinced about the usefulness of these tests in diagnosing
food intolerances, because there is no evidence that the presence of
IgE antibodies in the blood indicates an intolerance and many tests
have not been fully validated in clinical trials,¡¯ says Dr Venter.
She¡¯s also concerned by the degree - in many cases, the lack - of support
for patients who want to ensure they have a nutritionally balanced diet.
If you think you have a food intolerance, she says to see your GP for
a referral to a dietitian. ¡®They will ask you to keep a food and symptoms
diary and, from that, to try to establish a pattern,¡¯ she says.
¡®Often you¡¯ll be asked to do a home trial of an elimination diet, followed
by reintroduction of the avoided foods one by one to see if any cause
a reaction. This is the only reliable way of diagnosing food intolerances
So if it's not an allergy, what's wrong with you?
Real symptoms: An allergy to dairy can cause hives, chronic itching
and projectile vomiting
ALLERGY SYMPTOMS: Hives, a red rash, lip/facial swelling, wheezing,
chronic itching, projectile vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps.
INTOLERANCE SYMPTOMS: diarrhoea, bloating.
COULD THE SYMPTOMS BE SOMETHING ELSE? The intolerance symptoms are similar
to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a common gut disorder. Canadian researchers
found IBS was the real problem in up to half of all diagnoses of dairy
IBS has no known cause or cure, but symptoms can be eased in most cases
by increasing the intake of soluble fibre (fruit, vegetables and wholegrains)
Another possible cause is ¡® resistance¡¯ starches, which are formed when
you reheat carbohydrates such as potatoes or pasta, says Dr Venter.
¡®The reheating process changes their composition, so they literally
resist digestion in the small intestine.¡¯
WHY YOU NEED A PROPER DIAGNOSIS: ¡®Cutting out dairy makes it harder
for children to get adequate amounts of protein and calcium,¡¯ says Dr
Venter. ¡®You can get these nutrients from other foods, such as tinned
salmon or sardines containing bones, or green leafy vegetables, but
they¡¯re often not child-friendly.¡¯
Adults may increase their risk of osteoporosis, while low levels of
calcium in the blood can result in muscle spasms.
ALLERGY SYMPTOMS: Hives, facial swelling, wheezing, chronic itching,
vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps.
INTOLERANCE SYMPTOMS: Aching joints, stomach ache, bloating, depression.
COULD THE SYMPTOMS BE SOMETHING ELSE? Much factory-baked bread contains
additives such as soya, cakes are full of sugar and most bread contains
yeast ? any of these can upset the digestive system, says Dr Venter.
Opt for good-quality wholegrain breads from a local baker who can tell
you exactly what¡¯s in your loaf, or make your own.
WHY YOU NEED A PROPER DIAGNOSIS: ¡®The main nutritional deficiency from
cutting out wheat is the B vitamins, essential for energy production
and a healthy nervous system,¡¯ says Dr Venter. ¡®Wheat is also a good
source of iron - a deficiency can affect your concentration and make
you more susceptible to infection.¡¯
ALLERGY SYMPTOMS: Heart palpitations, a sensation of intense heat and
crushing headaches - usually caused by a deficiency of the enzyme aldehyde
dehydrogenase needed to metabolise alcohol (an estimated 50 per cent
of Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans lack this enzyme).
INTOLERANCE SYMPTOMS: Facial flushing, sneezing and congestion.
COULD THE SYMPTOMS BE SOMETHING ELSE? Some people react to sulphites
and salicylates in wine.
These are substances found naturally in grapes, but that are also added
by wine makers to develop flavours. Symptoms of sulphite sensitivity
include wheezing, rashes and nausea, whereas salicylates can cause symptoms
similar to hay fever. Salicylates are also found in beers.
But you could also be reacting to the fish and dairy products often
used for fining wines, a process that removes any insoluble material
that may cause a wine to become, for instance, cloudy (these, along
with sulphites, have to be flagged up on the wine¡¯s label).
ALLERGY SYMPTOMS: Shock, tightened airways and loss of consciousness.
COULD THE SYMPTOMS BE SOMETHING ELSE? You might have just eaten fish
that¡¯s off (scromboid poisoning) - the British Nutrition Foundation
says almost half of all food poisoning cases are caused by raw or out-of-date
Dr Venter explains: ¡®Scrombroid poisoning causes red flushing, hives
and diarrhoea, as often seen in fish allergy - however, scrombroid poisoning
does not cause anaphylaxis. There is no such thing as fish intolerance,
as far as I know.
Sudden onset: King prawns pictured in sweet chilli sauce. Symptoms of
seafood allergy include shock and loss of consciousness
¡®Fish allergies tend to be severe, where people can react by merely
inhaling fish, or touching a work surface where fish was prepared,¡¯
she says. ¡®Also, you can be allergic to freshly cooked tuna but not
canned tuna, or cod but not salmon - it¡¯s often a very precise allergy.¡¯
WHY YOU NEED A PROPER DIAGNOSIS: Cutting all fish from your diet deprives
you of a prime source of lowfat protein, not to mention the hearthealthy
omega-3 oils in fatty fish such as mackerel or salmon (although there
are plant sources of omega-3s).
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1249475/The-great-food-allergy-myth-Many-just-fantasies-wreck-way-eat-end-giving-REAL-illness.html#ixzz0fHBKmm9h
new national food-safety campaign
By CARA ANNA (AP) ? 1 day ago
BEIJING ? China declared a new food-safety campaign Wednesday after
contaminated milk products from an earlier scandal showed up repackaged
in several places around the country, exposing weaknesses in the country's
promise to stop such problems from happening again.
Vice Premier Li Keqiang told the first meeting of a newly established
food-safety commission that "We should understand the foundation
for the country's food safety is still weak and the situation is grave,"
the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Wednesday.
Li promised to "thoroughly" investigate the re-emergence of
milk products tainted with the industrial chemical melamine, destroy
all the products and punish those responsible, Xinhua said.
The vow came two days after state media reported that officials recalled
170 tons of tainted milk powder in the northern region of Ningxia and
said almost 100 tons of the powder had not yet been found. Two dairies
An emergency 10-day crackdown on tainted milk products is set to end
Wednesday, and the Health Ministry did not say whether it will be extended.
The original milk scandal in 2008 sickened hundreds of thousands of
children, and at least six died.
China ordered tens of thousands
of milk products laced with the industrial chemical melamine burned
or buried. But the government did not carry out the destruction itself.
Some profit-hungry producers were accused of adding melamine to watered-down
milk to make it appear to still be rich in protein in quality tests
that measure nitrogen, found in both the melamine and protein. Health
problems from the chemical include kidney stones and kidney damage.
Tainted dairy products have recently been found in China's largest city,
Shanghai, and in the provinces and regions of Shaanxi, Shandong, Liaoning,
Guizhou, Ningxia, Jilin and Hebei.
At least five companies are suspected of reselling tainted products
that should have been destroyed, the Health Ministry said last week.
The problem products uncovered have so far been limited to the domestic
The Health Ministry has not commented since the new crackdown began,
and the China Dairy Association has remained quiet as well.
Food safety regulations
eat away at small farmer wallets
Alison Morrow Updated: 2/9/2010 7:07:14 PM Posted: 2/9/2010 6:32:12
Recent outbreaks of foodborne
illnesses have some grocery stores demanding tougher safety regulations,
but the standards may make it more difficult for East Tennessee farmers
to stay in business.
"We're trying to get ready for this food safety on fruits and vegetables,"
Steve Longmire said, pointing to construction on a new packing facility
for his Grainger County tomatoes.
Longmire remembers growing tomatoes with his grandfather.
His family has been in the tomato growing business since the 1940s,
but a lot has changed since then.
"All the plugs we do out there need to be this kind - weatherproof,"
That's because the facility needs to be hosed down daily in order to
pass a food safety audit now required by one of the vendors where Longmire
sells his tomatoes.
Another requirement is that produce cannot be exposed to open air once
"What they're doing on the front of the dock is enclosing it to
where the trucks, when they back up, won't be loaded into open air,"
The food safety audits are becoming a common requirement for major grocery
stores, following outbreaks of E. coli and salmonella.
The audits don't differentiate between large industrial farms and small
family farms like Longmire's, so small farmers are having to make major
changes to the way they've grown, packed, and sold their produce for
"They're looking at every single section of their operation and
basically having to change it," said Grainger County UT Extension
Agent Anthony Carver said.
For Longmire, it's coming at a baseline cost of $150,000, which doesn't
include hiring a new employee to oversee all the paperwork that's required.
"We're going to do whatever it takes to get in line with it, but
it's hard," Longmire said. "For years and years, we've looked
after our stuff. We're getting classified the same as a guy who grows
500 or 1,000 acres. Here we are growing 15 acres. To the best of my
knowledge, no one's gotten sick off our product and same with Grainger
Right now, all the work is a choice, but it may soon become mandatory
Both the U.S. House and the Senate are working on legislation that would
make food safety audits mandatory for everyone who sells produce.
"If this comes down to the small producers, they'll stop producing,
because they will not go into debt hundreds of thousands of dollars
to comply. They can't afford to do so and continue to be a farmer,"
India Suspends Introduction of GM Crop
by Zach Mallove | Feb 10, 2010
On Tuesday, India denied permission for commercial cultivation of what
would have been its first genetically modified (GM) vegetable crop.
Amid controversy and protest, the Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh
deemed BT brinjal--a strain of GM aubergine, or eggplant--unsafe for
immediate public consumption.
BBC News reported late yesterday afternoon that after much debate, Mr.
Ramesh decided more studies were needed to ensure GM aubergines were
safe for consumers and the environment. It is an issue that has severely
polarized the country, one that required several weeks for the Environment
Minister to make. He reportedly traveled the country, canvassing public
opinion and even consulting outside experts from the United States and
In the end, Mr. Ramesh placed an indefinite moratorium on cultivating
GM vegetables in India.
"Public sentiment is negative," he said. "It is my duty
to adopt a cautious, precautionary, principle-based approach. The decision
is responsible to science and responsive to society."
His decision, Mr. Ramesh said, would make "50 percent of India
happy, while 50 percent of India will be unhappy with me. I can't ignore
public opinion, but I can't ignore science either. I have to tread a
Champions of the crop argue that it contains a toxic gene that poisons
insect pests and will boost yields while reducing independence on pesticides.
They cite BT cotton, which India has grown widely since 2002, as a successful
"BT cotton has improved our life. Do not succumb to false propaganda--BT
will not harm anybody," one farmer told Ramesh.
"BT as a protein is highly degradable and doesn't persist in the
environment and hence is not a threat," said a pro-GM scientist.
"Chemical pesticides used in regular crops do more damage to the
However, many scientists have warned that not enough is known about
the effects of the new variety on human beings and the environment.
It is unclear how BT will affect the land and the biodiversity of the
country, they say, and the country's rural masses are angry at the prospect
of relying on overseas suppliers for expensive new seeds.
"By controlling the seeds these (GM companies) will control Indian
agriculture and the entire food system," said Balbir Singh Billing,
a farmers' union leader.
"This is potentially very dangerous," warned Pushpa Bhargava
of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, India's GM regulator.
"Once you release a GM crop, you can't recall it." He said
the safety data on BT brinjal was "unacceptable and incomplete,"
partly because it was supplied by Mahyco, an Indian partner of the American
GM giant Monsanto.
"These are the same companies that introduced fertilizers and pesticides,
suggesting we could not do without them," alleged Singh Billing.
"Now, because of the consequent ill effects, the same companies
want to introduce GM foods."
NEW YORK, Feb. 9, 2010
Animal Antibiotic Overuse Hurting Humans?
Katie Couric Investigates Feeding Healthy Farm Animals Antibiotics.
Is it Creating New Drug-Resistant Bacteria?
(CBS) "It's scary, I mean, you just can't describe it really,"
said Bill Reeves.
Two years ago, 46-year-old Bill Reeves, who worked at a poultry processing
plant in Batesville, Arkansas, developed a lump under his right eye.
"It went from about the size of a mosquito bite to about the size
of a grapefruit," he said.
CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric reports doctors tried several drugs
that usually work on this potentially deadly infection: methicillin
resistant staph or MRSA - before one saved his life.
"You go from a just regular day to knowing you may die in a couple
of hours," Reeves said.
He wasn't the only worker from this farming community to get sick. Joyce
Long worked at the hatchery, handling eggs and chicks. She got MRSA
at least a dozen times, and had to try several drugs as well.
"It was real painful. Shots don't help, because it's so infected,
it don't help much," she said.
Within weeks, 37 people at the hatchery got sick. They've filed personal
injury claims against the company, Pilgrims Pride, which has no comment.
This is not an isolated incident and chickens aren't the only concern.
A University of Iowa study last year, found a new strain of MRSA --
in nearly three-quarters of hogs (70 percent), and nearly two-thirds
of the workers (64 percent) -- on several farms in Iowa and Western
Illinois. All of them use antibiotics, routinely. On antibiotic-free
farms no MRSA was found.
Health officials are concerned if workers who handle animals are getting
sick - what about the rest of us? Drug resistant infections have sky-rocketed
over the past two decades, killing an estimated 70,000 Americans last
year alone. It's an emerging health crisis that scientists say is caused
not only by the overuse of antibiotics in humans, but in livestock as
well. Antibiotics fed to healthy animals to promote growth and prevent
"My fear is that one of these days we are going to have an organism
that's resistant to everything that we know, and we'll be left powerless,"
said Thomas Cummins, Batesville's chief medical officer.
"There are a lot of concerns about antibiotics being added to animal
feeds that may be contributing to MRSA as well as other antibiotic resistance,"
Cummins said. "Certainly the more bacteria are exposed to antibiotics
in any shape or form, the more tendency there is for resistance."
There are different types of drug-resistant bacteria. Some, like e coli
and salmonella, can be passed on to people by consuming undercooked
meat and poultry. Now, scientists are worried that Americans may be
acquiring drug-resistant MRSA - not from eating, but from handling tainted
meat from animals that were given antibiotics.
Evidence of MRSA has been found in the nation's meat supply. But it's
unclear how widespread it may be, because only a small fraction is tested
Shelley Hearne has studied the health effects of factory farming for
"How does this go from the farm to the meat counter, to having
an adverse effect on humans," Couric asked.
"If the bacteria becomes resistant to antibiotics, it can actually
spread in many ways," Hearne said. "It could be in the food
supply, but it also can be in waters that runoff in a farm. It could
be in the air. It can happen very quickly in many different ways. It's
why it's a practice that has to stop on the farms."
That practice occurs inside factory farms, where antibiotics help animals
absorb and process food so they grow bigger, faster - a selling point
pushed by the pharmaceutical industry. Because animals are packed into
confinement pens, antibiotics are also used to keep disease from spreading
Liz Wagstrom is a veterinarian with the National Pork Board.
"Some people say giving animals antibiotics to prevent illness
or promote growth is like putting antibiotics in a child's cereal,"
Couric said. "You know, save them so they'll work when they are
"I'd say we do strategically place them," Wagstrom replied.
"It's not an all day, every pig gets antibiotics every day of his
"So you don't think they're being overused by farmers anywhere
in this country," Couric asked.
Wagstrom replied, "the vast majority of producers use them appropriately."
But drug distributers and dozens of farm workers in four farm belt states
-Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma - told us antibiotic use to
promote growth is widespread on factory farms.
Former hog worker, Kim Howland took CBS News inside a factory farm in
Oklahoma where she worked two years ago.
"They administer drugs, you know, constantly, constantly, constantly,"
Howland said. "That's their fix for everything.
She said drugs like Tylan, Keflex, and Baytril, the same classes used
to treat everything from skin to respiratory infections in humans -
were given regularly to pigs that were not sick.
Her husband contracted MRSA and almost died.
"My conclusion was that I had carried it home," she said.
Dave Kronlage of Dyersville, Iowa says he uses antibiotics to accelerate
growth and fend off disease. But, he says, he does so responsibly.
"You never worry about giving them antibiotics and having them
develop bacterial disease that may be some sort of superbug for these
animals," Couric asked.
"No. No," Kronlage replied.
"How do you prevent that from happening," Couric asked.
"We don't always use the same antibiotics for one thing,"
Antibiotics, he says, keep the cost of meat at the supermarket lower
- and his profits higher.
"Why do you think antibiotics are so necessary for your bottom
line," Couric asked.
"Well, because the bottom line is how healthy you keep those pigs,"
Kronlage said. "The healthier those pigs are -- the bottom line
But the bottom line on antibiotic use in factory farming is this: no
one is really monitoring it.
Joshua Sharfstein, is the deputy director of the FDA.
"We want to put in place measures to reduce inappropriate use and
we want to see that those are working - in order to do that we have
to have a good surveillance system," Sharfstein said. "There's
no question that needs to be improved."
"I loved hog farming. And I miss it. I wish I could go back,"
Kim Howland said. "But until the walls come down and the roofs
come off, there's no chance."
Case for Antibiotic-Free Animals
Katie Couric Reports on Denmark's Ban on Antibiotics in Livestock
By Katie Couric
(CBS) They call it the "Danish Experiment" - a source of pride
for the country's 17,000 farmers. CBS Evening News Anchor Katie Couric
reports how unlike industrial farms in the U.S., which use antibiotics
to promote growth and prevent disease, farmers in Denmark use antibiotics
sparingly, only when animals are sick.
The experiment to stop widespread use of antibiotics was launched 12
years ago, when European studies showed a link between animals who were
consuming antibiotic feed everyday and people developing antibiotic
resistant infections from handling or eating that meat.
"We don't want to use more medicine than needed, and a lot of the
medicine that is given is not needed," said Soren Helmer. Helmer
is a second-generation pig farmer whose sows produce more than 30,000
pigs a year. When the ban started, he and his father thought the industry
"We thought we could not produce pigs as efficient as we did before,"
Helmer said. "But that was proven wrong."
Since the ban, the Danish pork industry has grown by 43 percent - making
it one of the top exporters of pork in the world. All of Europe followed
suit in 2006. But the American Pork Industry doesn't want to.
"What we've seen in Denmark and other countries is that they actually
have had some increases in cost of what it takes to produce a pig,"
said Liz Wagstrom, a veterinarian with the National Pork Board.
"So it's not that unqualified a success. If we did the same thing
in the United States, we would likely see small producers pushed out
of business, we'd have more sick and dying pigs, and none of that would
result in a benefit to the U.S. consumer."
Without growth-promoting antibiotics, it only costs $5 more for every
100 pounds of pork brought to market in this country.
That's a small price for public health, says Dr. Ellen Silbergeld, who
has been studying the antibiotic resistance link between livestock and
people for the past decade.
"I think the Danish and European experience indicate that there
will be real and measurable public health benefits," she said.
"There'll be improvements in food safety and actually in the prevalence
of drug resistant infections in people."
According to one study, when different countries introduced certain
antibiotics on farms, a surge occurred in people contracting antibiotic
resistant intestinal infections one to two years later. One infection,
Campylobacter, increased 20 percent in Denmark and 70 percent in Spain.
After the ban, a Danish study confirmed that removing antibiotics from
farms drastically reduced antibiotic-resistant bacteria in animals and
Danish scientists believe if the U.S. doesn't stop pumping its farm
animals with antibiotics, drug-resistant diseases in people will only
"It's not going to be a time bomb that goes off like this,"
said Dr. Frank Aarestrup, of the Danish Food Institute at the University
of Denmark. "It's something that's slowly getting more and more
complicated, more difficult for us to actually treat infections.
Some American food producers agree.
"It's just gone too far," said Stephen McDonnell, CEO Applegate
"What most bothers you about the way industrial farmers in this
country currently operate," Couric asked.
"We use too many antibiotics, we use too many growth promotants,"
McDonnell replied. "The singular focus is to create cheap meat.
That's not always the best thing for the health of the Americans who
"We think with some subtle changes - giving them more space, feeding
them a good diet, and not stressing them out by growing them too quickly
- you don't even need to use antibiotics," McDonnell added.
McDonnell helps farmers like Duane Koch kick the habit.
"How long have you been raising turkeys, Duane, without using antibiotics,"
"We started running without antibiotics roughly 14 years ago,"
"Does it make you feel better doing it this way," Couric asked.
"Yeah," Koch said. "Because really, from using the antibiotics
so long, a lot of them didn't work well any way anymore."
Today his 18 poultry farms scattered throughout Pennsylvania are more
profitable than when he used antibiotics.
Koch says it costs very little to convert a farm to antibiotic-free.
And it doesn't cost consumers much more either. People buying antibiotic
free turkey thigh meat will spend around $1.40 versus $1.20 for conventionally
Koch says higher-quality feed and improving living conditions, his birds
are naturally healthier.
Couric asked, "What's the importance of giving them more space?"
"That's just our natural growth promotants," he said. "By
giving them more space, we can get weights that are really close to
what they're getting, you know, with the growth promotants."
Because farmers are raising livestock successfully without growth-promoting
antibiotics - from Lebanon, Pennsylvania to outside Copenhagen - public
health officials in this country say this is an idea whose time has
"We have identified here that we're talking about a public health
issue, that the overuse of antibiotics on farms does pose a risk to
human health," said Joshua Sharfstein of the FDA.
The FDA has for the first time come out against using certain antibiotics
to promote growth in livestock.
And pending legislation in Congress would ban some types of antibiotics
used to treat humans from being administered to healthy farm animals.
Key Facts Disagree with CBS Evening News
By Pork news source | Thursday, February 11, 2010
Several key facts disagree with this week's CBS Evening News reports
on antibiotics, according to Scott Hurd, DVM, former USDA deputy undersecretary
of food safety. Notably, Hurd is now director of the World Health Organization's
Collaborating Center for Risk Assessment and Hazard Identification in
Foods of Animal Origin, College of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University
in Ames, Iowa.
He offers an account of the facts in order to expand the knowledge and
information regarding the use of antibiotics in livestock and how they
may affect the health of animals, people and food safety.
CBS: A University of Iowa study last year found a new strain of Methicillin-Resistant
Staph Aureus (MRSA) ? in nearly three-quarters of hogs (70 percent),
and nearly two-thirds of the workers (64 percent) ? on several farms
in Iowa and western Illinois. All of them use antibiotics, routinely.
On antibiotic-free farms no MRSA was found.
HURD: First, this was a very small pilot study, which sampled fewer
than 300 pigs. In it, only six farms used antibiotic-free production
methods. The implication that this type of production is always free
of MRSA is not true as there have been organic farms in other countries
that have been found to be 100 percent positive for MRSA. On the other
hand, in this Iowa study, some of the conventional farms that did use
antibiotics were 100 percent free of MRSA. Secondly, there were two
studies by the University of Iowa on MRSA in swine. The study that went
unreported by CBS found conventional farms with MRSA rates in pigs of
23 percent, not 70 percent. In personnel, the rate was 58 percent, not
What also was not communicated is that there are at least three general
categories of MRSA. 1) Virulent forms of MRSA are a serious human health
problem. These forms are most commonly found in healthcare settings
such as hospitals, dialysis centers and long-term care facilities and
are often referred to as healthcare- or hospital-acquired. They can
cause serious, invasive illness and even death, particularly in people
with weakened immune systems. 2) There are less virulent forms of MRSA
commonly found throughout the general population (25-50 percent of people)
that are also found in cats, dogs, horses and other animals. These are
typically referred to as community-acquired forms and are often linked
to shared areas, such as locker rooms. 3) A third form that is less
invasive than the healthcare-associated form has been recently identified
in European, Asian and North American swine farms. This livestock form
(strain 398) does not transmit as easily between people as the other
types. It has been found in some people who have close contact with
livestock (pigs, calves, and poultry), although there is no data to
indicate that these people have a higher-than-normal illness rate.
The type of MRSA that has been associated with livestock is unique (known
as strain 398). This strain has not been found in human disease surveillance
for MRSA conducted by either the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) or the University of Iowa hospitals. It is very unlikely
that the people interviewed for the CBS story had livestock-associated
MRSA. However, it¡¯s much more likely these people had the very common
community-acquired strain of MRSA from being in close contact with infected
people ? not animals.
The types of antibiotics used in modern pork production are not associated
with the development of MRSA. Methicillin has never been used in animals
in the United States.
Countries that have banned growth promotion uses of antibiotics, such
as Denmark, have similar levels of MRSA in their livestock herds. Additionally,
Denmark has been struggling with a major outbreak of human MRSA.
CBS: Health officials are concerned if workers who handle animals are
getting sick ? what about the rest of us? Drug resistant infections
have sky-rocketed over the past two decades, killing an estimated 70,000
Americans last year alone.
HURD: The drug-resistant infections referred to here have little, to
no, relationship to any antibiotic use in animal agriculture. The types
of drug-resistant infections that are lethal are often associated with
hospital-acquired infections ? and the antibiotic used in those facilities.
According to the FDA, resistance in food-borne illness is stable to
declining over the last several years. Scientific risk assessments conducted
by myself and others have shown a person is more likely to die from
a bee sting than have a few extra days of diarrhea due to a resistant
infection acquired from on-farm antibiotic use.
CBS: Antibiotic resistance is an emerging health crisis that scientists
say is caused not only by the overuse of antibiotics in humans, but
in livestock as well. Antibiotics fed to healthy animals to promote
growth and prevent disease.
HURD: Strategic use of antibiotics in animal agriculture prevents disease
and produces safer food. A side benefit of this use is faster growth.
Since antibiotics have been used in humans for more than 60 years and
in livestock for about 50 years, if there was going to be an epidemic
of resistance related to antibiotic use in agriculture it would have
occurred by now. The fact that it has not means that antibiotic use
in animals is not a major risk to human health.
CBS: "My fear is that one of these days we are going to have an
organism that's resistant to everything that we know, and we'll be left
powerless," said Thomas Cummins, Batesville's chief medical officer.
"There are a lot of concerns about antibiotics being added to animal
feeds that may be contributing to MRSA as well as other antibiotic resistance.
Certainly the more bacteria are exposed to antibiotics in any shape
or form, the more tendency there is for resistance."
HURD: While the types of antibiotics used in animal feeds do not contribute
to the development of MRSA, the concern over the development of antibiotic
resistance is why veterinarians and farmers have spent more than 20
years continually improving their antibiotic use. The results of these
improvements are evident in FDA-monitoring studies that show that resistance
in target pathogens is stable to declining.
Since antibiotics have been used in humans for more than 60 years and
in livestock for about 50 years, if there was going to be an epidemic
of resistance related to antibiotic use in agriculture it would have
occurred by now. The fact that it has not means that antibiotic use
in animals is not a major risk to human health.
CBS: There are different types of drug-resistant bacteria. Some, like
E. coli and salmonella, can be passed on to people by consuming undercooked
meat and poultry. Now, scientists are worried that Americans may be
acquiring drug-resistant MRSA ? not from eating, but from handling tainted
meat from animals that were given antibiotics.
HURD: Research demonstrates that when MRSA has been found in meat, it
is present in extremely low levels. Because of this, the United States
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the European Food
Safety Authority both conclude that the likelihood of MRSA being spread
by handling or eating meat is very low.
As always, when meat is handled and cooked properly, there is virtually
no risk of becoming sick from a food-borne pathogen.
CBS: Evidence of MRSA has been found in the nation's meat supply. But
it's unclear how widespread it may be, because only a small fraction
is tested for MRSA.
HURD: MRSA is not a food-borne illness, thus testing meat is unnecessary.
The CDC and the European Food Safety Authority agree that the risk of
MRSA from handling or eating meat is very low.
CBS: "If the bacteria becomes resistant to antibiotics, it can
actually spread in many ways," Hearne said. "It could be in
the food supply, but it also can be in waters that runoff in a farm.
It could be in the air. It can happen very quickly in many different
ways. It's why it's a practice that has to stop on the farms."
HURD: There is no evidence to support that these routes contribute to
the human health concerns around antimicrobial resistance. Food-borne
illness rates are declining, and resistance in those pathogens is stable
to declining. Environmental spread of these pathogens is largely theoretical.
CBS: Using antibiotics to help animals absorb and process food so they
grow bigger, faster is a selling point pushed by the pharmaceutical
industry. Because animals are packed into confinement pens, antibiotics
are also used to keep disease from spreading like wildfire.
HURD: Antibiotic use is one very important tool to maintain animal health
in farms of all sizes and structures. Other tools used include hygiene,
proper diet and nutrition, providing the proper environment and vaccination.
Antibiotics help the animals grow healthier, improve animal well-being
and help provide safe food.
CBS: But the bottom line on antibiotic use is this: no one is really
HURD: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates antibiotic
use in both humans and animals. The FDA inspects the feed mills that
would produce medicated feed. The agency also evaluates the safety of
antibiotics used in animals for human safety. And, the FDA works with
the USDA to conduct tests in processing facilities to make sure those
regulations for antibiotic use are followed. So, it¡¯s clearly a highly
regulated practice ? one the pork industry has shown a long history
of commitment to by demonstrating its ongoing compliance with those
regulations that help ensure safe food.
Source: Iowa State University
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