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Nestle 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 Burlington, Wis.
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 said Thursday.
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," she said.
"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."

WY Cottage 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 the study.
"[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 linked.
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 person.
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, "I was astounded they moved that quickly. I was impressed." Oops there they've done it again.
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 health.
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 produce item.
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 1998.
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 issues.
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 certain problems.
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 says.

FSIS to 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 documents.
"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 Interventions
02/22/2010 02:19PM
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." (31 seconds)
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, or go to the Beef Industry Food Safety Council's Web site at
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 approval.

Antibiotics 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 said.
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 antibiotics.
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."

China melamine-tainted 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.
Renal abnormalities
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.
Broader implications
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 been destroyed.
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

Daly: Milk 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 consideration.
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 is made.
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.

New human 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 far.
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," he said.
"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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