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confirms salmonella found at plant
Published: Feb. 19, 2010 at 11:47 AM
BURLINGTON, Wis., Feb. 19 (UPI) -- A Nestle spokeswoman said salmonella
was found in a batch of chocolate morsels manufactured at a plant in
Laurie MacDonald said a sample of the morsels tested positive for salmonella
a couple weeks ago. She said a recall was not necessary since the tested
batch was never distributed for sale, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
MacDonald assured the public the plant underwent an intense cleaning
after the positive test to prevent the possibility of a salmonella outbreak.
"We have rigorous quality assurance protocols and procedures in
place, which include testing of product during our manufacturing process,"
"As part of our extensive quality procedures, we also tested product
manufactured before and after this single positive sample, and all product
tested negative. Quality is our number one priority and this is example
of our extensive procedures at work."
USDA-FDA joint statement on produce safety
Posted on February 19, 2010 by Drew Falkenstein
Yesterday, the USDA and FDA released a joint statement on their intent
to coordinate efforts to achieve better produce safety. See Salinas
Valley, Leafy Green Vegetables, and E. coli for a description and summary
of the problem. The joint statement reads as follows:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration
are working together to achieve the goals of enhancing the safety and
quality of fresh produce in ways that take into account the wide diversity
of farming operations. We are committed to leveraging the expertise
of our partner agencies and working together to ensure that our current
produce safety and quality activities are complementary and consistent.
While USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is in the midst of
evaluating a proposed marketing agreement for the leafy green industry,
the FDA is currently developing a proposed produce safety regulation.
It is our expectation that these products will take into account the
diverse nature of farming operations and that any marketing agreement
would conform to any regulations that may be promulgated by FDA.
The success of these efforts depends on the feedback and comments we
receive from growers and other produce safety stakeholders. AMS will
continue to review the comments that have been submitted to USDA on
the proposed marketing agreement. To further inform its planned rulemaking,
the FDA is announcing today the establishment of a docket to receive
information about current practices and conditions for the production
and packing of fresh produce and practical approaches to improving produce
safety. The FDA will work with AMS to have the testimony from the AMS
hearings placed in the FDA docket for consideration by the FDA. The
FDA encourages all interested persons to submit information they believe
will inform the development of safety standards for fresh produce at
the farm and packing house, as well as strategies and cooperative efforts
to ensure compliance with those standards.
DNV and Michigan State University Release Initial
Findings of U.S. Food Safety Survey
Consumers alter shopping habits based on food safety concerns and express
confidence in the idea of labeling products with evidence of independent
food safety certification.
Houston (PRWEB) February
17, 2010 -- A study being conducted by Michigan State University (MSU)
on behalf of DNV finds that US consumers are highly aware of food safety
issues and they have high recognition of third party certification as
an effective signal of food safety assurance. The consumers strongly
prefer to see products labeled as safety certified. "Consumers
are not only aware of food safety issues they are actually changing
their shopping habits due to food safety concerns," says Dr. Chris
Peterson, director of the Product Center at MSU. "Nearly half of
the consumers we surveyed indicated a change in shopping patterns."
These and other findings are the results of over 400 consumers surveyed
across the country representing a wide variety of demographics, education
and income levels. Under the guidance of the MSU team, the surveys were
conducted online by an independent research firm. "We are conducting
a two-phase study with MSU," says Kathy Wybourn, director of food
safety solutions for DNV. "This first phase reflects consumer perceptions
of food safety and third party food safety certification. We are moving
into phase two where we'll be interviewing various food industry professionals
to get their pulse on the business processes and various auditing schemes
that relate to food safety." In addition to indicating a high sensitivity
to food safety issues, US consumers say they want to see evidence on
product labels that the food they are buying has passed some kind of
independent safety certification process. Moreover, slightly more than
one third of consumers indicate a willingness to pay a premium, upwards
of 30 percent more. "It is interesting and important to note that
higher price alone is not a direct signal of safer food," says
Dr. Peterson. "Even brand name recognition is not the most powerful
indicator of safety. Voluntary third party certification compares favorably
with mandatory government inspection and slightly ahead of traceability
labeling in the mind of the consumer. In fact, most consumers would
advise the food industry to invest proportionately more in certification
programs than in government inspection or traceability." Phase
two of the food safety and safety certification research study is expected
to be completed in mid April with findings available shortly thereafter.
"All the efforts of the food industry are, ultimately, focused
on the consumer and in the case of food safety we need to understand
how the consumer evaluates safety signals and where they place their
trust," says Ms. Wybourn." A certification label has strong
positive meaning to the consumer in regard to food safety, and that
conclusion itself is a signal to everyone involved in the food supply
chain, be it growers or manufacturers or retailers, to intensify efforts
to adopt clear and meaningful independent safety certification."
Foods Bill Passes out of Committee
by Suzanne Schreck | Feb 20, 2010
Food products produced in un-licensed kitchens that have not been inspected
by public health inspectors or certified as meeting food safety standards
may soon be available at farmers' markets, roadside stands, and through
on-farm sales in Wyoming.
House Bill 54, the Wyoming Food Freedom Act, passed out of a Wyoming
House committee Thursday with a 6-3 vote. The bill, introduced by Rep.
Sue Wallis, R-Recluse, exempts all "cottage foods", or foods
prepared in home kitchens, including potentially hazardous foods such
as dairy products, canned foods, and sauces, from regulation.
This is the third legislative session in which Wallis has introduced
a bill exempting cottage foods from regulation. Two years ago, Wallis
introduced a similar bill. It did not pass through the Legislature,
so last year she introduced a modified version, which exempted only
non-hazardous foods, such as jams, cookies, and bread, from regulation.
?This second bill passed, and as a result on July 1, 2009 it became
legal to sell non-hazardous home-produced foods at roadside stands and
farmers' markets. Prior to the passage of the new bill, homemade foods
could only be sold at religious or charitable events if the seller's
kitchen was not inspected and licensed. ?
While potentially hazardous foods have been exempted from sale thus
far, critics fear an increased risk for foodborne illness outbreaks
if House Bill 54 is passed into law.
In January, members of the Wyoming Governor's Council on Food Safety
planned to send letters to Gov. Dave Freudenthal and legislators cautioning
against an expansion of the cottage foods exemption. ??Opposition to
Houe Bill 54 comes not only from the council, but from public health
officials, who have criticized the bill and those that came before it.
Those in opposition to the bill support the inspection and licensing
process because it allows inspectors to help cottage businesses minimize
the risk of distributing foods contaminated with foodborne pathogens,
which cause foodborne illness. ??Maintaining a clean kitchen and properly
handling ingredients are key to preventing foodborne illness.
Norwalk virus may thrive in icy lakes: Researchers
By Tom Blackwell, National Post February 22, 2010
Norwalk virus, a gut-wrenching fixture of Canadian winters whose source
and seasonal nature have long been a mystery, may originate in drinking
water drawn from lakes whose cool winter temperatures keep the microbe
nicely preserved, suggests a new study.
University of Toronto researchers, comparing Norwalk outbreaks to river
water flow and lake temperatures, theorize that a near-endless "feedback
loop" sends the virus from human waste to surface waters, then
to water treatment plants that are unable to eliminate the bug, and
finally back into household faucets.
The theory, if proven, raises the question of whether tap water should
be treated with ultraviolet exposure, virtually the only way to kill
the hardy viruses, the researchers say.
The scientists stress that their hypothesis is just that, and needs
to be confirmed by more study. But if it is, it would underline the
risks Canadians still face from their aquatic environment, long after
menaces like typhoid have been removed from the water supply, they say.
"We're very lucky: We live in a high-income country, we have schools,
buildings that don't fall down, sewers, water treatment," said
David Fisman, the University of Toronto epidemiology professor who headed
"[But] I sometimes wonder if having that infrastructure makes it
feel like we are buffered against what happens to our environment....
If you have a very contaminated environment, it becomes very difficult
to buffer yourself."
The group's "novel concept" would seem to gibe with what is
already known about noroviruses, said Dr. Allison McGeer, an infectious
disease specialist at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital. The question --
if the theory is confirmed -- is whether it would be worthwhile to invest
the money needed to implement ultraviolet water treatment, a costly
venture, she said.
"It's a really difficult balance," said Dr. McGeer. "For
the majority of people it's extraordinarily unpleasant but not serious.
But in people who are vulnerable for one reason or another, it can be
fatal. It's not necessarily a trivial problem."
First identified in the early 1970s, noroviruses account for 68 to 90%
of known gastroenteritis outbreaks, causing diarrhea, vomiting and stomach
cramps, and affects more than 23 million North Americans annually, according
to Dr. Fisman's paper, just published in the journal EcoHealth.
The U of T group set out to explore why the virus occurs mostly in one
season, an unexplained trait it shares with many other infectious diseases.
They compared the timing of 253 suspected Norwalk outbreaks in the Greater
Toronto Area from 2005 to 2008 with environmental data such as weather,
UV levels, temperatures in Lake Ontario and flow in the Don River, which
cuts a swath through the centre of Toronto.
They found that drops in lake temperature were very closely related
to outbreaks, and day-to-day increases in river flow were somewhat less
They theorize that norovirus is shed by people with the illness and
ends up in the Don when storm conditions overwhelm the sewer system
--and boost river flow. The microbe then surges into the lake, where
it is protected by the refrigerator effect of cold water. The city draws
its drinking water from Lake Ontario, but current treatment methods
do not eliminate noroviruses, allowing the pathogens to be delivered
back to residents' homes, where the loop begins again, the paper suggests.
Once an outbreak starts, transmission occurs rapidly from person to
The exact hypothesis would not work for all cities, Dr. Fisman acknowledges.
The idea of natural water bodies acting as a reservoir, however, especially
when winter weather keeps the water cool, could be a factor in many
places, he said.
Dr. McGeer suggested the theory of cold water as a source for norovirus
has its limitations, though, noting that there is no evidence of Norwalk
outbreaks originating in water parks.
Oops. They've done it againˇ¦.and again
Food (Safety) Fight
By: Richard Raymond
(The views and opinions expressed
in this blog are strictly those of the author.)
When the USDA announced they were not going to act on AMI's petition
to allow low dose, whole carcass irradiation to be used as a processing
aid because processing aids were under close scrutiny right now (because
of a NY Times article on ammonia treated beef) I questioned if making
policy decisions based on media stories was how it should be done.
Now we have announcements coming out that the USDA will overhaul the
National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and begin increased testing for
pathogens and has even asked the NAS to review the NSLP's ground beef
purchasing program. This announcement followed by a very few days a
story in the USA Today that stated national fast food restaurant chains
had higher purchasing specs than the NSLP. To quote Elizabeth Weise
from USA Today in an interview on Meatingplace.com, "I was astounded
they moved that quickly. I was impressed." Oops there they've done
Secretary Vilsack was quoted as saying: "Nothing is more important
than the health and well-being of our nation's school children."
Would that protection only apply to the noon meal?
What has not been elaborated upon in all this fuss are two very important
points. First is that the NSLP ground beef is already under enhanced
inspection and scrutiny compared to the ground beef supplied to the
retailers where you and I buy this product.
Second, while 15% of ground beef is purchased by the NSLP, most of that
product, according to my AMS source, is pre-cooked under commercial
specs. The final validated lethality step in place for the NSLP is not
in place at home. Therefore, the possibility of "our nation's school
children" contracting a food borne illness from eating ground beef
in school is already greatly reduced from their risk of contracting
a food borne illness from eating ground beef at home, at church, at
a fund raiser, or even at Grandma's house.
Mr. Secretary, why is protecting kids ages 5-18 from a bad school lunch
more important than protecting me and my 2 year old Grandchild when
we eat at home?
New threshold for food safety
On Friday, the first of four national stakeholders' discussion series
took place at Wegmans Conference Center in Chili.
Karen Miltner - Staff writer
Living - February 23, 2010 - 5:00am
McClatchy News Service
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced earlier this year that
it's moving forward with creating national mandatory safety standards
for the growing, harvesting and packaging of fresh fruits and vegetables.
As far as the government is concerned, encouraging Americans to eat
more fresh fruits and vegetables is a matter of public health, as consumption
helps prevent chronic diseases, fight obesity and promotes general good
But when a produce-related food-borne outbreak occurs, public health
is threatened both in the short and long term, as it is a hard job for
federal, state and local agencies to track and recall tainted produce.
And it takes consumers a long time to regain trust in the offending
Just think back to 2006, when bagged fresh spinach led to an E. coli
outbreak that killed three people and sickened more than 200.
To help prevent future outbreaks, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
announced earlier this year that it's moving forward with creating national
mandatory safety standards for the growing, harvesting and packaging
of fresh fruits and vegetables.
These rules would hopefully unify the complicated, onerous and expensive
patchwork of federal, state and private industry guidelines that growers
large and small currently follow, says Jim O'Hara, director of the Produce
Safety Project, a Pew Charitable Trusts initiative at Georgetown University
that supports the FDA regulations.
"Growers call it audit fatigue; they have to comply with different
metrics for different buyers," he says.
More importantly, said O'Hara, the FDA will gather the latest scientific
data available to create those rules, which has changed drastically
since its initial voluntary produce safety guidelines were issued in
The FDA is working in tandem with the U.S. Department of Agriculture
to create these rules and is seeking input from the public before it
issues a draft proposal, which is at least a year away, according to
Michael Taylor, the FDA's senior adviser to the commissioner on food
On Friday, the Produce Safety Project and Cornell University invited
FDA and USDA officials along with local growers, extension agents, food
retailers and consultants for the first of four national stakeholders'
discussion series. Three other meetings are scheduled in Georgia, Ohio
and Maryland in coming weeks.
The day-long meeting took place at Wegmans Conference Center in Chili
and drew about 100 people. Four topics most relevant to produce safety
at the farm level were discussed: compost; irrigation and water quality;
farm worker health and hygiene; and wildlife and environmental conditions.
Having the government set standardized federal rules is not without
huge hurdles and challenges.
For one, such rules would have to be flexible enough to address different
growing regions and conditions, different crops, and differently sized
farm operations and practices.
In the Northeast, for example, compost standards would have to take
into account the region's cool and humid climate, which affects the
time it takes for waste matter to decompose.
The rules would also have to be crop specific, as water that comes in
direct contact with lettuce leaves must pass more stringent microbial
scrutiny than water that touches only the root system, where it would
not come in contact with the edible portion of the plant.
Another daunting consideration is the lack of scientific data or general
consensus of that data to support recommended practices.
Some Good Agricultural Practices (called GAPs) guidelines call for testing
irrigation water but then fail to explain to growers what those test
results mean or how to react to them. In some cases, it's not even clear
what the best indicator organisms are to measure the risk level for
A third concern expressed by growers at Friday's discussions is the
need to balance available resources with safety benchmarks. For example,
while potable water from municipal sources may offer the highest level
of safety, its cost and limited supply, factored in with the abundance
of water from other sources, calls for growers to consider what is an
acceptable level of risk.
"The Northeast uses a lot of surface water at farm level. To change
that would be a huge economic issue," says Tom Facer of Farm Fresh
First, a Wayne County company that supplies raw produce to processors.
Legislating certain issues seems unnecessary to some growers. For example,
Jill MacKenzie of Whittier Fruit Farm in Ogden says a rule that requires
her to keep deer out of her orchards would be both impossible and irrelevant,
as wildlife doesn't pose safety issues for her crops anyway. For her
farm, worker hygiene is the most critical factor of food safety, and
other federal regulations already address those needs, such as having
hand-washing facilities available.
Robert Hadad of Cornell Vegetable Program sees many growers worry about
meeting certification standards, but once they go through a program
such as the USDA's Good Agricultural Practices program, they find it's
not as scary as they feared.
In any case, he sees such federal regulations as "a huge undertaking"
that is far more complicated and involved than the National Organic
Program, which took years to develop and implement.
"Most growers are doing a really good job at keeping food safe.
They eat what they grow as much as they sell to consumers," he
fast track petition on non-O157:H7 E. coli
By Rita Jane Gabbett on 2/23/2010
USDA's Food Safety and Inspection
Service has approved for expedited review a petition by food safety
lawyer Bill Marler that it issue an interpretive rule declaring six
non-O157:H7 serotypes of E. coli adulterants.
FSIS was responding to Marler's Dec. 14, 2009 request, in which he sought
expedited review because he said the requested action would prompt better
monitoring of all enterohemorrhagic E. coli, thus decreasing foodborne
contamination. The request included journal articles and other supporting
"Based on the information provided in your petition, we have determined
that it qualifies for expedited review. Therefore, FSIS is reviewing
your petition ahead of other pending petitions that request actions
that are not related to food safety," FSIS Assistant Administrator
Philp Derfler wrote in response to Marler's petition.
Derfler went on to say, "ˇ¦although FSIS is evaluating your petition
ahead of other pending petitions, the Agency intends to carefully consider
all relevant data made available to the Agency on non-O157:H7 STEC to
determine how it should address the presence of these microorganisms
in or on the products it regulates."
On Oct. 17, 2007, USDA, FDA and the Centers for Disease Control held
a public meeting to solicit input on whether non-O157 Shiga toxin producing
E. coli should be considered adulterants.
Derfler said FSIS has been working since that meeting with USDA's Agricultural
Research Service to develop a validated laboratory method to detect
and isolate certain non-O157:H7 STEC groups of public health importance.
"Because policy development related to non-O157:H7 STEC is among
FSIS's highest priorities, the Agency's laboratories have expedited
their efforts to complete this effort."
He added, however, that FSIS cannot reach a decision on the petition
until it has developed the laboratory capacity to detect and isolate
various non-O157:H7 STEC groups.
Marler said in his law firm's Food Safety News newsletter he is preparing
a letter to FSIS that will demonstrate the availability of the necessary
lab capacity, saying that FDA already has a test specifically designed
to detect non-O157:H7 STEC that was developed by its own Center for
Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
Upcoming Beef Safety Summit To Focus On Pre-Harvest
Since 2003, one annual event has brought every segment of the beef industry
together in one room to help bring better focus on beef safety. This
year's Beef Safety Summit, which is partially funded through the beef
checkoff, will be held March 3-5 in Dallas, Texas.
Jeff Clausen is a beef producer from Carson, Iowa, and chairman of the
industry's Joint Beef Safety Committee. He says the summit is important
because safety of beef products is absolutely critical to both beef
consumers and the people who help produce it.
Clausen 1: "Beef safety is one of those areas where you increase
beef demand by having beef safety. But if you have a recall or something
that jeopardizes that perception of beef safety, then demand is affected
dramatically. So it's important that we build and maintain consumers'
trust in our beef safety." (23 seconds)
Clausen says much had been done on in-plant beef safety by the Beef
Industry Food Safety Council even before the summit was first established.
Clausen 2: "A lot had already been done, and a lot of focus was
there, and they were just fine tuning a lot of that. And now, last year
- and this year especially, they're going to have a special session
on pre-harvest interventions. And that will involve some vaccines that
are being used for e. coli and salmonella, and just some other things
that we can do before those cattle actually enter into the harvest facility."
According to Clausen, the summit's sessions are heavy with information,
and there isn't much need for additional motivation for attendees.
Clausen 3: "People are motivated because it's their livelihood.
If we don't provide a safe product, then our businesses are in jeopardy,
because of the beef demand. The motivation is just to better their operations
and to provide that safe, nutritious and enjoyable product to the consumer,
and that they can be confident that it is safe." (25 seconds)
Checkoff dollars, which have
been in shorter supply in recent years because of a shrinking cattle
supply, are efficiently used through this safety summit and other beef
safety efforts, Clausen says.
Clausen 4: "Those checkoff dollars are leveraged with $350 million
that the beef industry spends annually on beef safety, and that's just
vital to beef demand." (14 seconds)
For more information on the industry's beef safety efforts, visit www.MyBeefCheckoff.com,
or go to the Beef Industry Food Safety Council's Web site at www.bifsco.org.
Source: Melissa Slagle, The Beef Checkoff Program
The Beef Checkoff Program was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill.
The checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported
cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and
beef products. States retain up to 50 cents on the dollar and forward
the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research
Board, which administers the national checkoff program, subject to USDA
Found to Aid Reduction of E. coli in Swine
Released: 2/24/2010 12:00 AM EST
Source: University of Arkansas, Food Safety Consortium
Newswise - Animal producers know that the current trend is to discourage
the continued use of antibiotics in livestock. But recent Food Safety
Consortium-supported research at Iowa State University shows that antibiotics
may be helpful in reducing the pathogen E. coli O157:H7 among swine.
Nancy Cornick, the ISU associate professor of veterinary microbiology
who conducted the study, noted a 2001 survey that showed 80 percent
of producers treated their swine with antibiotics, mostly for disease
prevention and growth promotion. In her study, Cornick examined the
usage of three particular antibiotics - tylosin, chlorotetracycline,
and bacitracin methylene disalicylate - that are generally used at dosages
to encourage growth promotion.
Cornick's project showed that the pigs that were fed the diet supplemented
with chlorotetracycline and tylosin shed significantly less E. coli
O157:H7 than did pigs that were fed antibiotic-free diets. "The
antibiotics I chose were the ones that were most commonly added at subtherapeutic
doses, which is what they're usually looking for with growth promotion,"
Cornick noted that many veterinarians favor an end to administering
subtherapeutic antibiotics because they aren't used for disease treatment
or disease prevention. The problem, she explained, is that incidents
of disease in swine may increase when producers stop using the subtherapeutic
E. coli O157:H7 is well known as a significant cause of foodborne illness
in meat that comes from cattle, but the pathogen is not as prevalent
in swine. Studies in recent years have found reports linking pork products
to outbreaks of human disease caused by E. coli O157:H7. Cornick acknowledged
that such incidents are rare, but the potential problem is worth keeping
on food producers' radar.
Cornick pointed to the case of feral pigs in California that were suspected
along with cattle of contributing to E. coli O157:H7 contamination in
a vegetable field in the Salinas Valley in 2006. "I would argue
that those feral pigs were probably exposed to fewer antibiotics than
conventionally raised swine," Cornick said. "That may be a
reason that they were colonized by the E. coli O157:H7."
Even without E. coli O157:H7 being a widespread occurrence in pigs,
Cornick believes the potential makes it a problem worth investigating.
With low level fecal shedding, the pigs can transmit the pathogen among
each other. If usage of antibiotics drops off, Cornick wonders if there
would be a corresponding increase of E. coli O157:H7.
"Maybe there would be," she said, "or if I can find another
reason why E. coli O157:H7 isn't in swine then maybe that's something
cattle producers can use as a management strategy."
milk health threats assessed
By Rory Harrington, 24-Feb-2010
Tens of thousands of Chinese children sickened by melamine-tainted milk
showed signs of kidney damage months afterwards - with the potential
for long-term harm a serious concern, said new research.
Scientists from Peking University in Beijing reached their conclusion
after examining ultrasound images of almost 8,000 children under the
age of three living near the rural headquarters of Sanlu Group, the
company at the centre of the 2008 scandal.
An estimated 300,000 children were sickened and six died as a result
of consuming dairy products laced with melamine. The industrial chemical
was added to thousands of tonnes of watered-down milk to fool inspectors
testing for protein content and increase profits in one of the most
high-profile contamination issues in recent years.
The research, by Jian-meng Liu et al, appears in the Canadian Medical
Association Journal. It raises the possibility that 36,000 children
could have suffered "renal abnormalities" for up to six month
after drinking contaminated milk.
The paper, entitled Urinary tract abnormalities in Chinese rural children
who consumed melamine-contaminated dairy products: a population-based
screening and follow-up study, said that the long-term effects remain
unknown and called for more research into the matter.
"The potential for long-term complications after exposure to melamine
remains a serious concern," said the study. "Our results suggest
a need for further follow-up of affected children to evaluate the possible
long-term impact on health, including renal function."
After carrying out ultrasound screenings of 7,933 children, the researchers
found 48 were suffering from kidney stones or swollen kidneys. The researchers
monitored most of these children at intervals of one, three and six
months and found that "renal abnormalities" remained in 12
percent of the children.
The scientists said the results may have implications for the broader
population of children who had exposure to melamine.
"Among the 300,000 affected children, although they don't have
symptoms, maybe 12 percent will have abnormal ultrasound images after
six months," said researcher Dr Liu Jianmeng.
One of the major strengths of the study is that it focused on the main
distribution areas of Sanlu products, whose population probably had
the highest exposure to melamine in the world, said the researchers.
"Therefore, the estimated prevalence of renal damage in our study
represents the risk of renal damage in a population after heavy exposure
to melamine", they added.
However, Liu said, that some limitations in the study - such as not
all children in the area were screened - could have led to a slight
overestimation on the prevalence of such abnormalities.
Dr Peter Ben Embarek, a World Health Organization food safety expert
based in Beijing, told the Associated Press: "There is a need for
these types of follow-up studies to better understand what the long-term
effect is of high exposure to melamine."
Chinese authorities recently launched another food safety crackdown
after contaminated milk products confiscated during the scandal began
to resurface. Last week, the Government said all such product had now
Source: Canadian Medical Association Journal. Urinary tract abnormalities
in Chinese rural children who consumed melamine-contaminated dairy products:
a population-based screening and follow-up study. Authors: Jian-meng
Liu, Aiguo Ren, Lei Yang, Jinji Gao, Lijun Pei, Rongwei Ye, Quangang
Qu , Xiaoying Zheng
pasteurization has not outlived its usefulness
Published: Feb 25, 2010 1:10 pm - 0
By Russ Daly
Special to the Farm Forum
There may be nothing modern Americans take more for granted than safe
food. Yes, food-borne illness still occurs. But think back to your last
visit to the grocery store. Did you ask yourself, "Am I-or one
of my kids-going to get sick from this?" 150 years ago, it may
have been the first thing on your mind. But today your questions are
about price, brand name, or convenience. Food safety? Probably not a
What a luxury that is! A luxury that's been afforded to us by the collective
advancements in food science, microbiology, and human and veterinary
medicine that began at the very dawn of agriculture.
Since its perfection in the 1880's, one of the most successful of those
advances is pasteurization. When scientists discovered that briefly
heating raw milk to high temperatures killed bacteria causing human
illness, it represented a real triumph of public health. Pasteurization
took care of not only tuberculosis and brucellosis, big public health
concerns back then, but also the everyday contaminants like e. coli
and salmonella that could make people sick. Today, many foods undergo
pasteurization-from apple juice to the eggs from which your ice cream
Pasteurization is not a complete assurance of milk safety. Testing procedures
are in place to detect pesticide and antibiotic residues, for example.
Nor is pasteurization a substitute for sanitary milking practices or
milking ill cows. A visit to a modern dairy will demonstrate the attention
paid to cleanliness in the milking process - all the way from the cow
to the bulk tank. Somatic cell counts, an indicator of udder health
and milk quality, are continually monitored. If they're too high, the
milk cannot be sold.
Now, in the eyes of some, pasteurized milk is becoming branded as something
quite unnatural. The story goes that pasteurization creates such undesirable
changes in milk that something once considered so wholesome is now somehow
unhealthy. Pasteurization does change the nature of milk. It reduces
bacterial and viral populations, and disrupts some enzymes. Some feel
these changes hold importance. Anecdotes abound from well-meaning individuals
believing that pasteurized milk caused (and/or raw milk cured) any number
of modern ailments in themselves or their children.
The bad news is that for each of those stories, there's at least one
about a person falling ill from a pathogen they encountered through
raw milk. In the latest year for which reports are complete, raw milk
accounted for the majority (71%) of dairy-related foodborne illnesses.
E. coli O157, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Listeria all were implied
in outbreaks resulting in 11 people being hospitalized and 1 person
dying (MMWR Weekly, June 12, 2009).
Much is made of the fact that farm families producing raw milk regularly
drink it and do not fall ill. That may be due to scrupulous milking
practices or-as I suspect-due to the fact that they are regularly exposed
to and have an active immunity against those potentially dangerous organisms
through their daily activities. Can we assume the same immunity is present
in consumers from town? More importantly, does a young child or elderly
grandparent have the immune system that can deal with these pathogens
that others might be able to handle? Many documented foodborne illnesses
occur in those age groups, groups for which raw milk is often touted
as therapeutic. People should be able to drink raw milk if they know
and accept the risks. But that choice needs to be well-informed, especially
a choice made for another - like a child.
This isn't a big-farm, little-farm issue. Cows, no matter whether it's
one cow on pasture or a hundred in a free-stall barn, produce manure.
Organisms from that manure can contaminate udders or the hands of milkers-invisibly.
Despite our best efforts at clean milking, it's still possible for those
organisms find their way into milk. That's where pasteurization holds
its role-as the only dependable way to take care of those bacteria that
slip through the system.
Whether your choice is raw milk or pasteurized, that choice is made
possible because you are standing on the shoulders of the science and
technology that has created history's safest food supply. Turning away
from that technology will not make society healthier in the long run.
protection from old E. coli research
Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010
By Eric Sorensen, WSU science writer
PULLMAN - Some detective stories move forward, one lead taking an investigator
to the next until the case is solved.
Other times, the sleuth picks through past files, poring over old evidence
with new eyes.
That's what Tom Besser, WSU professor of veterinary microbiology, hopes
to do with the enigma of 0157:H7. Besser this month received $1 million
from the federal Agriculture and Food Research Initiative to see if
previous research into stopping the bacteria at its source - cattle
- may be more effective once different strains of the disease are considered.
The E. coli bacterium infects an estimated 70,000 Americans a year,
but researchers have yet to get a sure grip on preventing its spread.
Health experts have worked on reducing the infection rate through a
suite of improvements in meat handling and food preparation. But when
only 10 E. coli cells can make a person sick, vigilance only goes so
Reducing cattle infection
Besser hopes to stop the bacteria by focusing specifically on beef and
dairy cattle and the different types of E. coli they harbor. "Cattle
don't get sick from this," he said. "It doesn't bother them.
But that still doesn't mean we can't go into cattle and maybe do something
to reduce their infection rate with 0157. And we think if we do, then
depending on how important cattle are as a source for humans, the human
rate should go down too."So far, he has seen promising work in
reducing the rate with which cattle get infected. Vaccines, beneficial
bacteria or "probiotics," and certain feeds have had some
good results in reducing the numbers of infected cattle. Researchers
also have been struck by how much the bacteria seem to die off in the
winter but march back with great force in the summer months.Besser thinks
researchers might see even more striking results if they take different
E. coli strains into account.Two strains tend to be particularly infectious,
being found in 95 percent of human illnesses. These are called clinical
genotypes.Another group of three strains, the "bovine-biased"
genotypes, is found in only five percent of human illnesses.
Testing for particular strains
But as researchers have tested the effectiveness of different vaccines,
feeds and treatments, they didn't determine which of the strains were
involved, since the strain types had not been discovered when most of
the work had been done. "We've got 15 or 20 years of research on
0157:H7 in cattle and we don't have a clue in any of those research
projects whether we were measuring bovine-biased genotypes or clinical
genotypes," said Besser. "And those interventions that we
studied - the vaccines and the probiotics and the seasonal variation
and everything else - it would be really helpful to know whether the
bovine-biased genotypes behaved differently than the clinical genotypes
for those things."
A vaccine, for example, could cut incidence of 0157 in half. "That
could be really good if the half that it's cutting it by is mostly clinical
genotypes," said Besser.
But if the half being reduced is mostly bovine-biased genotypes, it
is only affecting the cause of a small percentage of illnesses.
"Then you're probably not affecting the human risk at all,"
"We've spent a lot of money over the years trying to investigate
feeds and management systems and manure handling systems," he said.
"Now that we know about these genotype differences, I want to go
back and say, 'Well, maybe some of those interventions that looked effective
really aren't very effective and we should write them off. Or maybe
some of them that didn't look very effective actually were much more
effective than we thought.' And I don't think this is a far-fetched
possibility. I think it's quite possible."
The three-year USDA grant will cover work in finding genetic markers
that clearly define differences in the five strains. Researchers will
then use the markers to take a new look at the effectiveness of different
treatments and strategies.
The grant also will involve an outreach program aimed at improving the
accuracy of 0157 information going to industry, health professionals,
the media and policy makers.
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