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Lombard Subway faces 34 cases in Shigella outbreak

Posted on March 15, 2010 by Drew Falkenstein
The Subway restaurant located on Roosevelt Road in Lombard, Illinois is at the epicenter of a major shigella outbreak that began in late February and continued into early March. Latest reports estimate the number of confirmed cases in the outbreak at around 50, but there are surely many, many more people who have been sickened in the outbreak. We have been contacted by the families of 34 people who have family members sickened in the outbreak, and are litigating the individual claims of all 34 people. We have filed two cases thus far, on behalf of the son of Ron and Sarah Bowers, and Barbara Romero. Tomorrow, we will file suit on behalf of Mike Carpino, another victim of the outbreak.
The Subway outbreak is an unfortunate set of circumstances. The nature of the product, and how the finished sandwiches are ultimately produced, with hand-to-food contact with virtually every individual sandwich component, means that there are multiple opportunities for insidious bacteria from an infected worker to contaminate the food. And without a kill step, there is virtually no way to rid the food of bacteria once it becomes contaminated.
These circumstances have been brought to bear in a big way against the people of Lombard Illinois. If there are an estimated 50 confirmed illnesses, there are likely hundreds of people who have contracted Shigella but simply have not been confirmed positive by stool test.

Over 40 claims currently pending in Subway Shigella outbreak
Posted on March 17, 2010 by Drew Falkenstein
At Marler Clark, we represent foodpoisoning victims from across the country. Many of our foodpoisoning clients are people sickened with bacteria and viruses like E. coli, Salmonella, campylobacter, Hepatitis A, norovirus, and of course Shigella. As has been widely publicized, a major outbreak has occurred at the Subway restaurant on Roosevelt Road in Lombard, Illinois. The outbreak has likely left hundreds of people ill, including over 40 people who have contacted our firm for representation in claims against the restaurant.
The Lombard Subway shigella outbreak prompts a basic question: why is this outbreak so large? Why have so many people fallen ill? Answers will come, as the Dupage County Health Department continues its investigation into the circumstances and causes of the outbreak. But there are certain, readily apparent circumstances that have likely contributed to the large scale of the outbreak.
The nature of the product, and how the finished sandwiches are ultimately produced, with hand-to-food contact with virtually every individual sandwich component, means that there are multiple opportunities for insidious bacteria from an infected worker to contaminate the food. And without a kill step, there is virtually no way to rid the food of bacteria once it becomes contaminated. See complete article.
We will have to wait for the results of Dupage County Health Department's investigation before knowing for sure what failures occurred at Subway restaurant to cause such a large outbreak. Notably, however, the restaurant has been closed for some time now, which is not something that always happens in restaurant outbreak situations. Generally, the closure of a restaurant is an extreme step taken when the investigating health department believes that there is the potential for environmental contamination--i.e. contamination of surfaces and equipment, likely from ill employees and poor sanitation practices--at the restaurant.

Illness tally in Shigella outbreak at 78


Published: March. 18, 2010 at 11:36 AM
LOMBARD, Ill., March 18 (UPI) -- An official in DuPage County, Ill., says a total of 78 people have fallen ill due to a Shigella outbreak at a sandwich shop in the Chicago suburb of Lombard.
DuPage County Health Department spokesman David Hass said 11 people were hospitalized due to illnesses from the outbreak as of Wednesday, with 10 of those individuals already being discharged, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The condition of the 11th patient, as well as the other reported victims, was not specified.
Hass said the investigation into the outbreak at the Subway restaurant in Lombard is ongoing. The eatery is currently closed.
Shigella, a genus of bacteria, can infect humans, causing symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps and vomiting


No link between Siena meats and Canadian Listeria deaths
By Rory Harrington, 16-Mar-2010
Consumers in Canada have been warned not to eat Siena Foods cooked ham on fears of Listeria monocytogenes contamination - but five recent deaths in Ontario are not thought to be linked to the produce.
The Ontario state body leading the investigation told that while there had been a spike in cases in the last two months, no links have been established between the firm¡¯s meat and five listeria deaths in the province this year.
The alarm was raised late last week when the Ontario Ministry of Health, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and the company itself warned against eating Siena Brand Prosciutto Cotto cooked ham sold after January 11, 2010 with best before dates of March 8 and March 22, 2010.
Dr. Arlene King, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health said the recall had been made after it was confirmed the genetic fingerprint of the Siena product was a match to two listeriosis cases in the province. Both individuals had been hospitalized but now recovering after being discharged. The genetic fingerprint was also a match to Siena Brand mild cacciatore salami that was recalled in December.
No link to five deaths
The Ministry said there had been a higher-than-normal number of listeriosis cases in the province so far this year with more than a dozen cases already reported ? including five fatalities. There are usually about 40 cases annually in the state.
¡°Ontario has 14 cases of listeriosis so far this year,¡± Ontario Health Ministry spokesman Andrew Morrison said. ¡°Unfortunately, five cases out of the 14 have died, but it is important to note that none of the deaths are linked to Siena products at this time. There is no food consumption history nor lab data supporting a link to Siena products at this time outside of the two cases with matching ¡®DNA fingerprints¡¯ that we reported on Friday.¡±
Ten of the other 12 remaining cases all have different DNA patterns and do not appear to be linked in any way to one another - while laboratory results are still pending for the remaining two cases. All cases involve adults.
The company has ceased production of its Toronto plant and is working with CFIA inspectors to sanitise the facility.

Sick at a restaurant? Don't count on the court
Date: Thursday Mar. 11, 2010 3:03 PM PT
Lawsuits against restaurants for alleged food poisoning have little chance of success in court, says a lawyer who has defended fast food chains.
Most people don't collect evidence from the restaurant or samples of their suffering, or even go to a doctor -- essentials to convincing a judge -- and a lack of evidence dooms their claims from the start, said Bernard Buettner of Harper Grey LLP.
"We're left in the courts with a more stringent standard of proof than what you and I might apply at a cocktail party," said Buettner.
Someone thinking of suing must prove that their illness comes from contaminated food they ate at a restaurant, he said. Although it sounds common sense, there are many barriers to having such a case work, he said.
For a start, most of us eat more than one meal a day, and it's difficult to prove that any particular meal caused a problem.
Many don't go to their doctors and get a medical opinion before the symptoms subside, which can be crucial evidence in a court.
People rarely collect evidence of their illness, such as vomit or stool. And unless they took a doggy bag home they will have eaten any other evidence.
Without all that, said Buettner, their sicknesses "could just as easily have been the flu."
Those are the kinds of barriers Maple Ridge resident Karl Bindseil faced when he fell ill in 2004. He has colitis -- a debilitating inflammation of the digestive tract -- that stops him from working.
"The pain was so bad I was screaming," he told CTV News. "It was that bad."
Bindseil claimed in court that his doctor told him it was food poisoning and may have been related to a set of burgers that he and some friends consumed at a Delta McDonald's.
"(The doctor) said you can get this from water, or fast food, and I said, I just ate at McDonald's two days ago. He said, that's probably where you go it," said Bindseil.
But in court, McDonald's argued there were no other complaints of food poisoning at the restaurant. Another doctor argued that Bindseil had a pre-existing condition of colitis, and said any bacteria found in Bindseil's stool wasn't likely to be connected to the McDonald's burger. Bindseil didn't present any sample of what he ate.
On a balance of probabilities, the judge could find no link between the food Bindseil ate and his illness.
"The timing of his illness and the symptoms suffered by the other patron witnesses raises suspicions about the food," wrote Justice Janet Bruce. "However, this circumstantial evidence is not sufficient to establish on a balance of probabilities that either the food was contaminated or that the food poisoning caused Mr. Bindseil's colitis."
McDonald's refused to comment on the lawsuit.
Vancouver's health inspectors say that if you get sick, you should call them right away. Inspectors can take samples of a restaurant's food and also inspect the business and shut it down if there are serious health concerns.
"If we get called we'll investigate," said Nick Losito, Vancouver Coastal Health's director of health protection.
They will post the shutdown on their website, which means bad word of mouth can scare restaurantgoers away, and hurt the restaurant in the pocketbook, said Losito.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Jon Woodward and Mi-Jung Lee

Brown works to add teeth to proposed food safety bill
By TERRICHA BRADLEY ? News Journal ? March 12, 2010

MANSFIELD -- The issue of food-borne illnesses is making waves on the national scene again this week. It's a topic north central Ohio residents know well.
In 2008 six people in eastern Crawford County were diagnosed with food-borne illnesses. Four more cases took place in Ashland County.
In 2009, the Galion Health Department had 30 suspected cases of foodborne illness, but Environmental Health Director Stephanie Zmuda said none of them were confirmed.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed comprehensive food safety legislation last year. However, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, announced Wednesday he is working for swift approval of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, while seeking to make improvements to the bill.
"Too many Ohio families are already struggling to put food on the table. They shouldn't also have to worry about the safety of that food," Brown said. "But we've seen a flood of imported food from countries that ignore food safety, and our own system has not been able to keep pace with changes in food production.
Brown is the author of the Food Safety and Tracking Improvement Act (S. 425), which would establish a nationwide tracking system through the FDA to identify and track the sources of tainted food.
While the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act would allow FDA to establish a traceability system that applies to raw agricultural commodities, it would not allow FDA to track processed foods.
Brown is working to expand the traceability system from only produce to all FDA-regulated foods, give the FDA new enforcement authority, and prevent imported foods from entering the U.S. if they do not comply with traceability requirements.
"We must do a better job of preventing, detecting and minimizing foodborne illnesses," Brown said.
Recent Ohio Department of Health data showed in 2008 more than 1,900 Ohio maladies stemmed from a foodborne illness. An estimated 76 million people in the U.S. get sick each year with foodborne illness and 5,000 die, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Brown's bill is working through Congress amid another investigation of tainted food -- this time for a flavor enhancing ingredient (hydrolyzed vegetable protein). No illnesses have been associated with the recall, according to the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The FDA has listed more than 100 recalled products dating to September, including two flavors of Pringles potato chips, Cheeseburger and Taco Night, that were recalled this week.
The pending legislation would increase the frequency of plant inspections and strengthen record-keeping requirements and food traceability systems, while giving the FDA the authority to issue mandatory recalls of tainted foods. It would also require heightened scrutiny of food imports, which account for an increasing share of U.S. food consumption.

China vows further food safety clampdown
By Rory Harrington , 12-Mar-2010
China has said its aim this year on food safety is to avoid any major contamination crises as it continues to struggle to impose national standards on food producers and processors.
Announcing the latest in a string of safety initiatives, a leading government official said it would intensify scrutiny on the food supply chain in a bid to prevent or catch tainted products reaching food processors.
Vice Minister of Agriculture Wei Chao'an said this week that agricultural officials at all levels are working this year "to prevent any large-scale food safety crises¡± by clamping down on thousands of farms ? particularly those involved in the production of dairy products.
Assurances from Chinese authorities that it had improved its food safety system after the introduction of a new law last summer and the formation of a number of new committees have been undermined by the continuing appearance of melamine-tainted products in recent months. The dairy products, contaminated with the industrial chemical, were left over from the 2008 scandal that killed six and sickened 300,000.
Poor supervision
Wei said China was working to bring more farms under better supervision, a challenge in a vast country where some rural areas are still very poor.
"Our agricultural products overall are safe and of high quality, but we must also recognize that while we transition from traditional to modern farming, many of our operations remain scattered, production methods are still backward and our supervision lags behind," he added.
A government statement issued this week promised to "implement quality and safety monitoring programs targeting raw and fresh milk, and strengthen supervision of purchase stations for raw and fresh milk." It also vowed to release national quality standards for dairy products this year.
Officials also mentioned an incident in late February, when the southern Hainan Province took emergency measures to stop toxic cow peas from entering the market after about 3.5 tonnes of cow peas found were tainted with a poisonous pesticide.
¡±To prevent such incidents and help ensure food safety, the country plans to increase the frequency of food tests and inspections - especially for dairy products and other high-risk food,¡± said the official statement.

FDA mulls safety crackdown for spices
By Lyndsey Layton
The Washington Post

Posted: 03/14/2010 01:00:00 AM MST
WASHINGTON ? The Food and Drug Administration is re-examining the safety of a culinary staple found in every restaurant, food manufacturing plant and home kitchen pantry: spices.
In the middle of a nationwide outbreak of salmonella illness linked to black and red pepper ? and after 16 separate U.S. recalls since 2001 of tainted spices ? federal regulators met last week with the industry to study the problem.
Americans consumed on average about 3.5 pounds of spices in 2008, up from 1.2 pounds in 1966, USDA records show.
Jeff Farrar, FDA associate commissioner for food safety, said the government wants the industry to do more to prevent contamination. That would include using one of three methods to rid spices of bacteria: irradiation, steam heating or fumigation with ethylene oxide, a pesticide.
Except for red chile peppers, garlic and onions, most spices sold in the United States are grown overseas, harvested by farmers from small plots of land or grown wild and gathered from different areas, where pollution and water problems can create contamination hazards.
"You can import shoes, tables, lamps and chairs from anywhere in the world and you kind of know what you're going to get," said Paul Kurpe of Elite Spice Inc. in Jessup, Md.
"But when you import food, you're importing their habits, traditions and their standards of food safety."

U.S. forcing more meat inspections in Canada

By Sarah Schmidt, Canwest News Service March 16, 2010
OTTAWA -- The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is scrambling to maintain an increased presence at dozens of large meat-processing plants after auditors from the United States Department of Agriculture found inspections were too infrequent to meet U.S. food-safety standards, newly released internal records show.
News of ongoing resource problems at CFIA comes as public-health authorities are carrying out a high-profile listeriosis investigation involving tainted meat at a federally inspected Toronto processing plant operated by Siena Foods Ltd.
The ramped-up inspection cycle of at least one visit for every 12 hours of production was instituted last November so operators in Canada, including Siena Foods, could continue to export their products to the United States. These plants are also authorized to distribute their products across the country.
Siena Foods has now been blamed for producing tainted salami and prosciutto dating back to last December that put two people in the hospital. Both have since recovered from their bout of listeriosis, Ontario¡¯s chief medical officer said Friday while confirming the genetic match to the Siena meat.
Since then, Siena Foods Ltd. and CFIA has announced the recall of three additional Siena meat products for possible listeria-monocytogenes contamination ? Siena-brand Coppa, Prosciuttini and Prosciuttini Hot in packages weighing approximately 300- to 400-grams, with best-before dates of June 20, 21 or 22 of this year.
The company also stopped production at its facility this weekend and is working with CFIA inspectors to sanitize the plant.
This is the first time a facility has shut down since Canada was rocked in the summer of 2008 with a deadly listeriosis outbreak linked to Maple Leaf Foods deli meats.
The additional inspection coverage for 80 plants, instituted just weeks before the first Siena recall in December, ¡°will allow us to better meet the USDA¡¯s technical requirements for products exported to the U.S.,¡± Cameron Prince, CFIA¡¯s vice-president of operations, wrote to meat-inspection staff last November.
The correspondence and a two-page backgrounder, detailing how no meat inspector ¡°will be required to work an unreasonable amount of overtime per workday or per week,¡± was obtained by the agriculture union of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
President Bob Kingston said the ramped-up inspections at meat-processing plants, including the Siena facility, were instituted after being notified of system-wide shortcomings last fall by auditors of the USDA¡¯s Food and Inspection Service.
¡°The USDA stepped in, and said, ¡®What¡¯s going on, it¡¯s always been a requirement, why aren¡¯t you doing it?¡¯¡± he said of a 12-hour inspection cycle.
¡°They have to do every 12 hours to have access to the U.S. market. It¡¯s as simple as that. There¡¯s no work around that, they can try and talk the Americans out of it. If that¡¯s their goal, it¡¯s not been successful.¡±
After initially relying on volunteers to work overtime at plants to meet the demands of the U.S. regulator, the extra shifts are now mandatory because of a chronic shortage of meat inspectors, said Kingston.
¡°Our members have had it. They need some relief here.¡±
In the internal memo to staff, Prince said the agency recognizes it ¡°will need to hire additional inspection staff¡± to meet the U.S. rules.
¡°The CFIA continues to explore funding options as we refine how we deliver these food safety enhancements. In the short term, we will be looking to our current inspection staff to work hours in addition to their regularly scheduled shifts.¡±
In a statement, the agency said there is an additional $13-million in this year¡¯s budget to hire new staff meet the USDA 12-hour rule, which it considers a reinterpretation of policy. This means CFIA can hire approximately 100 new inspectors for meat and poultry facilities over the coming year.
This is above and beyond the 70 inspectors, to be hired over the next years. Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced those new hires in response to a scathing report into the state of food safety in Canada, carried out by independent investigator Sheila Weatherill in the wake of the August 2008 listeriosis outbreak.
In her final report released last July, Weatherill painted a picture of over-burdened meat inspectors.
In response to a query about the new demands placed onCFIA, the USDA¡¯s Food Safety and Inspection Service in a statement said it conducts annual audits ¡°to ensure that any nation exporting meat to the U.S. have a meat-inspection system that is equivalent to that in the U.S.¡± and ¡°to assess whether it is being effectively implemented. We are in the process of analyzing information from our most recent Canadian audit.¡±

E coli O157:H7 testing by industry revisited
By Richard Raymond
Food (Safety) Fight

In my most recent blog, I indicated that slaughter establishments were using third party labs to test for E. coli O157:H7, and that FSIS did not have access to those results. And that was probably why the OIG was asked to assist at Huntington Meats. I was told in a friendly email that "the thrust of your blog may be a bit off the mark---we already share." It was pointed out that any and all establishment test results for adulterants have always been available to be shared with plant inspection personnel. I trust my source, so I now stand corrected.
But we still have the fact that the industry, in the face of increasing numbers of recalls and outbreaks, is relying more and more on in-plant testing and outside labs. It has been "hypothesized" that the primary slaughter establishments spend $27 million to $30 million per year testing for pathogens. The amount of profit lost by diverting presumptive positive product to cooking or rendering is a number kept very close to the vest and not available for sharing, but it is plain to see that industry is committed to producing a safe product at great cost to their bottom line. That is why they want the additional interventions?they would save money spent on testing in the long run, money that could be used for even more interventions.
One controversial aspect to industry doing its own testing and diverting is that if a product comes up presumptive positive industry does not usually run the testing through the next steps to see if it will be confirmed O157 or not. Instead, they divert that product to cooking or rendering, removing it from the fresh, raw meat cases at retail. This is all consistent with FSIS policy, a policy I approved of when in DC and still do today.
It is my firm belief that if policy was written requiring industry to follow up on all presumptive positives we would have better prevalence data, but at what cost? Industry would either do less testing and divert less possibly contaminated product, or eat the additional cost, leaving fewer funds to pay for new, innovative interventions. Either way, the consumer is the ultimate loser unless FSIS could find the funds (not likely to happen) to replace much of the testing that industry in now performing and paying for. Sometimes status quo just isn't all that bad.
I don't like either option, how about you?

FDA targets processing of spices in bid to make supply safer
By Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 14, 2010
The Food and Drug Administration is reexamining the safety of a culinary staple found in every restaurant, food manufacturing plant and home kitchen pantry: spices.
In the middle of a nationwide outbreak of salmonella illness linked to black and red pepper -- and after 16 U.S. recalls since 2001 of tainted spices -- federal regulators met last week with the spice industry to figure out ways to make the supply safer.
Jeff Farrar, the FDA's associate commissioner for food safety, said the government wants the spice industry to do more to prevent contamination. That would include using one of three methods to rid spices of bacteria: irradiation, steam heating or fumigation with ethylene oxide, a pesticide.
"The bottom line is, if there are readily available validated processes out there to reduce the risk of contamination, our expectation is that they will use them," Farrar said. But the FDA cannot currently require it.
Legislation pending in Congress would require food companies to take steps, such as treating raw spices, to avoid contamination. The measure would also mandate that importers verify the safety of foreign suppliers and imported foods. The House overwhelmingly approved the bill last year, but it has stalled in the Senate. Recent spice recalls have involved contamination with salmonella, a group of bacteria that live in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals, including birds. Most healthy people infected with salmonella recover within days, but the illness can be serious and even fatal for small children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
The ongoing outbreak of salmonella illness connected to black and crushed red pepper, which sparked a recall of those spices as well as salami products made with them, has been linked to 249 illnesses in 44 states and the District of Columbia. No deaths have been reported.
The long shelf life of spices and their widespread use make it difficult for health officials to detect an outbreak of illness and connect it to a particular spice.
Consumers often associate salmonella with poultry, meat and other moist foods. But microbiologists say that the bacterium can survive in dried spices for years and that it is tougher to kill in a dry environment.
Also, it takes only a small amount of salmonella in a dry environment to cause human illness, said Linda Harris, a microbiologist at the University of California at Davis.
Americans are eating more spices, consuming on average about 3.5 pounds in 2008, compared with 1.2 pounds in 1966, Agriculture Department records show.
Contamination of raw ingredients has long been a problem in the spice industry, according to Cheryl Deem, executive director of the American Spice Trade Association. "The vast majority of spices are cultivated outside of the U.S., where processing methods often result in contamination," she said.
Except for red chili peppers, garlic and onions, most spices sold in the United States are grown overseas, including in India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Egypt, Grenada, Sri Lanka, Spain, Morocco, Turkey, Brazil and China.
In developing countries, many spices are harvested by farmers from small plots of land or grown wild and gathered from different areas, where pollution and water problems can create contamination hazards.
"You can import shoes, tables, lamps and chairs from anywhere in the world and you kind of know what you're going to get," said Paul Kurpe of Elite Spice Inc. in Jessup, Md. "But when you import food, you're importing their habits, traditions and their standards of food safety."
Some say the spate of recalls over the past decade does not necessarily mean the contamination problem is growing.
"In the last 15 years, food safety is just at an increasingly higher level of awareness," Harris said. "We've got increased testing, increased detection methods. I don't think what we're seeing is necessarily a true increase in prevalence. I think it's an increase in our ability to detect."
Steve Markus, director of food safety and commercial products at Sterigenics Inc., the biggest food irradiation company in the country, said about half of the nation's spices are irradiated.
But he said nearly all companies using irradiation sell to industrial customers. No retail spice company uses irradiation because federal law requires disclosure of irradiation on the label, and the industry thinks consumers will not buy those products."If the labeling issue would go away, I think there would be a high interest to go to irradiation," Markus said, adding that irradiation is the cheapest and most effective method to decontaminate spices.
Roger Lawrence is vice president for quality control at Maryland-based McCormick's, the world's largest spice company. In its 121 years in business, it has never pulled a spice product from the market because of bacterial contamination, he said. McCormick's has built a comprehensive system that begins with educating its overseas growers about safe agricultural practices and ends with treatment of its finished product, he said. The company uses a mixture of steam treatment and ethylene oxide fumigation for the spices sold to retailers and irradiates only a small portion of spices for industrial customers at their request, he said.
Harris, who is scheduled to address the spice industry at its annual meeting next month, said her message is simple.
"With every outbreak, with every recall, you need to sit back, pull your food safety team together and look at what you're doing, even if it's to reassure yourself that you've got adequate controls in place," she said. "The spice industry in its entirety should be reevaluating food safety."

Canadian Cattle Producers Willing to Make Changes to Prevent E. coli O157 Contamination on their Farms
-survey conducted for Bioniche Food Safety-
BELLEVILLE, ON, March 16 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ - Bioniche Life Sciences Inc. (TSX: BNC), a research-based, technology-driven Canadian biopharmaceutical company, today announced that a survey conducted among a random sample of 771 Canadian beef and dairy farmers in all regions of Canada showed that the majority are willing to implement changes on the farm to prevent contamination by E. coli O157.
Bioniche Life Sciences Inc. has developed and licensed (in Canada) the world's first vaccine to reduce the shedding by cattle of E. coli O157. Econiche(TM) received full licensing approval from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in October, 2008 and is available for unrestricted use by Canadian cattle producers and their veterinarians. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) cleared the path for a conditional license for the vaccine in February, 2008, and the Company is awaiting issuance of that license.
In the independently conducted survey, just over half of the producers surveyed expressed a willingness to vaccinate, but there was sensitivity to the potential cost of a vaccination program. Those surveyed believe the cost of a national vaccination program, if it were to be implemented, should be shared between government and producers, with 88% of respondents expressing willingness to vaccinate if the vaccine was provided free of charge. Their main reasons for supporting vaccination were: Food safety, the potential impact of recalls, and access to export markets.
"The use of chlorinated water, bacteriophages and probiotics help control the organisms, but vaccination provides the greatest reduction in fecal shedding," said Dr. Roy Lewis, a large animal veterinarian in Westlock, Alberta (in the January, 2010 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine). "With the vaccine, you are hitting the problem at its very source, before the bacteria numbers get too high."
Added Dr. Lewis: "Vaccination, together with all the other preventive steps, will hopefully keep this dreaded disease to a minimum and keep consumer confidence in our beef as high as possible."

Econiche is a Canadian discovery developed by Bioniche Life Sciences Inc. The vaccine has the potential to significantly reduce the amount of E. coli O157 shed into the environment by beef and dairy cattle. This organism does not cause illness in cattle, but cattle are the primary reservoir for it. Most strains of E. coli are harmless but some, like O157:H7, can cause severe illness and even be fatal when ingested by humans from contaminated meat, vegetables or water. Vaccination of cattle with Econiche can help reduce the risk of food and waterborne contamination with E. coli O157.

On-farm interventions to reduce the shedding of E. coli O157 by cattle, such as simple vaccination of cattle with Econiche, have the potential to reduce food and water contamination and the consequences associated with human infection with the deadly bacteria.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) developed a risk assessment method to estimate how much human illness caused by E. coli O157 can be prevented through the use of "pre-harvest interventions" such as vaccination (Streamlined Analysis for Evaluating the Use of Preharvest Interventions Intended to Prevent Escherichia coli O157:H7 Illness in Humans, Foodborne Pathogens and Disease, Volume 6, Number 7, 2009). Researchers created two economic production functions where the input was the number of vaccinated cattle and the output was human illness prevented. Although this was a hypothetical case study, it showed that, "... vaccinating the entire U.S. herd at a cost of between $2.29 and $9.14 per unit (depending on overall effectiveness of the vaccine) would be a cost-effective intervention for preventing E. coli O157:H7 illness in humans."

Human exposure and infection with E. coli O157:H7 can result in serious health consequences, including abdominal pain and severe bloody diarrhea. In severe cases, kidney damage can occur and progress to serious complications and even death. In one of the reported outbreaks, in Nestle Toll-House cookie dough, 76 persons from 31 states in the U.S. have been infected with E. coli O157:H7, with 35 of these hospitalized and 11 with Haemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) (see below).

Econiche is manufactured in the Bioniche production facility in Belleville, Ontario, where a $25-million expansion is taking place, supported by the Ontario and Canadian governments. Vaccine supply will be limited during this manufacturing expansion period.

About E. coli O157:H7
An estimated 100,000 cases of human infection with the E. coli O157:H7 organism are reported each year in North America. Two to seven per cent of those people develop haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a disease characterized by kidney failure. Five percent of HUS patients die, many of them children and senior citizens, whose kidneys are more sensitive to damage.
In addition to being infected by contaminated food or water, individuals can become infected from E. coli O157:H7 by visiting animal exhibits. Petting zoos, fairs, and agricultural exhibits provide many possible routes of transmission for E. coli. Direct animal contact is the obvious route, but contact with contaminated products (e.g., sawdust, shavings, soiled clothing or shoes) can also lead to human infection.

About Econiche
Econiche received international recognition in September 2007 by the Animal Pharm Industry Excellence Awards as the best new veterinary product for livestock globally. The vaccine has been developed by a strategic alliance formed in 2000 between the University of British Columbia (UBC), the Alberta Research Council (ARC), the University of Saskatchewan's Vaccine & Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO), and Bioniche, which holds the rights for worldwide commercialization of the vaccine. The vaccine prevents the E. coli O157 bacteria from attaching to the intestines of vaccinated cattle, thereby reducing their reproduction within the animal, and reducing the amount of bacteria that can be released through cattle manure in the environment. More than 30,000 cattle have been involved in clinical testing of the vaccine.

About Bioniche Life Sciences Inc.
Bioniche Life Sciences Inc. is a research-based, technology-driven Canadian biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery, development, manufacturing, and marketing of proprietary products for human and animal health markets worldwide. The fully-integrated company employs approximately 190 skilled personnel and has three operating divisions: Human Health, Animal Health, and Food Safety. The Company's primary goal is to develop proprietary cancer therapies supported by revenues from marketed products in human and animal health. Bioniche has been named one of the Top 50 Best Small and Medium-Sized Employers in Canada for 2009. For more information, please visit

Except for historical information, this news release may contain forward-looking statements that reflect the Company's current expectation regarding future events. These forward-looking statements involve risk and uncertainties, which may cause, but are not limited to, changing market conditions, the successful and timely completion of clinical studies, the establishment of corporate alliances, the impact of competitive products and pricing, new product development, uncertainties related to the regulatory approval process, and other risks detailed from time to time in the Company's ongoing quarterly and annual reporting. SOURCE Bioniche Life Sciences Inc.

Targeted antibiotics tackle bacterial resistance
new approach to combating antibiotic resistance draws on lessons learned from targeted therapies for cancer.

Staff Writers (Australian Life Scientist) 16/03/2010 12:38:00

Antibiotic resistance is increasing to such a level that there are fears that within 20 years antibiotics will cease to function, an eventuality that could take us back to the days before penicillin.
Compounds that block the bacteria's pathogenicity instead of killing them outright may be a solution to this confounding problem.
The lack of effective antibiotics has become more and more acute as the number of bacterial strains resistant to antibiotics has increased.
One of the companies that working on new ways to fight against the pathogenic bacteria is Creative Antibiotics based in Umea in Sweden.
The company was founded in 2000 under the name Innate Pharmaceuticals, with the intention to commercialise research from the Univeristy of Umea, Karolinska Institute and Univeristy of Stockholm.
CEO, Ulf Boberg, compares the company¡¯s compounds with the targeting antibodies used to treat cancer today.
These compounds neutralise only disease-causing bacteria without harming harmless strains, just as targeted antibodies do not affect healthy cells.
¡°The medical industry has long hoped to cure infectious diseases by finding a common target of all disease-causing organisms. But this success has proven elusive,¡± says Boberg.
¡°Therefore we have chosen one compound that strikes against a target that exists in some disease-causing bacteria but not in all.¡±
The target structure he refers to is type III secretion system, T3SS, which can be likened to a trunk or a syringe, and is found in most of the gram-negative bacteria that cause disease in humans, including: Salmonella, Shigella, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Yersinia, Chlamydia and some E. coli.
The bacteria uses this system to protect itself from the human body¡¯s immune system.
The bacterium sticks the syringe into the immune cell when it comes into contact with the cell and it injects various toxins, which allows the bacterium to evade the immune system and to continue to infect new cells and proliferate.
Although the various gram-negative bacteria cause completely different diseases, T3SS functions in the same way in them all, which makes the structure an ideal target for new antibiotics.
These substances inhibit bacterial pathogenicity, virulence, without killing them or affecting their growth.
¡°There is obviously no guarantee that there won¡¯t be resistance to these substances, but because T3SS is only present in pathogenic bacteria, the risk is considerably lower than for today's antibiotics," says Boberg.
Creative Antibiotics currently has two lead compounds in the preclinical phase. One of those is tested in two different projects: one to prevent infections in burns and the other to treat sexually transmitted diseases.
The compound, INP314, has orphan drug status in Europe and it is used for the treatment of burn patients infected with the Pseudomonas bacteria.
Since Pseudomonas also causes severe and often fatal lung infections in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD, and cystic fibrosis, there is hope that the substance can be used to help these patients.
INP314 was developed in collaboration with an American research group during the project for the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.
Studies done so far indicate the compound could block Chlamydia infection in the vagina. There are also results suggesting that the compound may have an inhibitory effect on infection with gonorrhea and herpes.
The third project with the company's virulence blocking compound is conducted under license by Indian Syngene.
The goal is to develop a treatment for diarrheal illnesses caused by Salmonella, Shigella, Yersinia or E. coli bacteria that are all present with T3SS.
The next step with all projects is to move to animal studies. If they succeed, chances are that the treatment will also be efficacious in humans, as the virulence blocking compounds strike against bacteria and not against endogenous proteins.
Boberg has high hopes that animal studies will therefore be more predictive than usual.
¡°The development of resistance is an enormous problem,¡± he says. ¡°If the development continues as such, we are in danger of being without antibiotics in 20 years, so if we succeed, it is certainly of immense importance to society.
¡°I do not want to speculate on whether we will succeed with our compounds or not, but it is much too important and interesting not to be fully tested.¡±

Study Finds Arsenic in Apple Juice
by Helena Bottemiller | Mar 16, 2010
A study released yesterday found over 25 percent of apple juice boxes tested contained concerning levels of arsenic, a heavy metal known to cause various types of cancer.
Florida's St. Petersburg Times commissioned an independent lab to test several nationally-recognized brands--Motts, Apple & Eve Organics, Walmart's Great Value, Nestle's Juicy Juice, Minute Maid, Tree Top, Target's Market Pantry--as well as a Tampa Bay company that supplies schools in the area.
The Times reported Monday that samples from three brands--Motts, Apple & Eve Organics, and Walmart's Great Value label--were found to have arsenic levels above the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) level of concern.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has an established limit for arsenic in drinking water: 10 parts per billion (ppb), the same standard set by the World Health Organization. The FDA does not have a similar limit for fruit juice, but, according to the Times, the agency told fruit juice companies that arsenic levels over 23 parts per billion (ppb) would be at a "level of concern."
Motts, Apple & Eve Organics, and Walmart's juice were found to contain between 25 and 35 ppb of arsenic. Juicy Juice, Minute Maid, Tree Top, and Target's Market Pantry did not surpass the FDA's so-called "level of concern" for juice, but each surpassed the EPA's allowable limit for arsenic in drinking water, with 12 to 24 ppb.
Only the Tampa brand, which supplies directly to local schools, was found to have undectable levels of the heavy metal.
Though the study's findings will likely be alarming to many consumers, especially those with young children, FDA officials are not currently concerned about the public health risk.
"We don't have any evidence at this point to say that we feel there's a risk issue that you need to be mindful of," said P. Michael Bolger, FDA's chief of chemical hazards assessment, told the Times.
Although arsenic is naturally occuring, prevalent element, and minimal exposure cannot be avoided, there is strong public health evidence that suggests it is a good idea to limit arsenic intake.
How does arsenic get into apple juice?
Because arsenic is found in soil and ground water, there is bound to be trace levels of it in most food and beverage products, but not all of that arsenic is naturally occurring. Arsenic-based herbicides were commonly used in U.S. agricultural production until 1970, when more effective chemicals became available (though the chemical is still used in domestic chicken feed as a growth enhancer).
According to Charles Benbrook, a leading scientist at the Organic Center in Oregon, arsenic-based chemicals are still being used on many apple orchards abroad, and past chemical use on the fields can cause arsenic contamination.
"If the orchard was planted on a field that was treated six or eight or 10 times over the last 30 years, it would build up to a high level," explained Benbrook.
Over 60 percent of apple juice, made from concentrate, consumed in the U.S. is made from apples grown in China and much of the rest is made from apples grown in Chile, Argentina, and Turkey, according to the Times.
Several leading arsenic scientists believe additional precautions should be taken to minimize arsenic levels in juice, which is widely consumed by young children especially vulnerable to exposure.?
"(Juices) ought to meet the drinking water standards," Allan Smith, director of the Arsenic Health Effects Research Program at the University of California Berkeley told the Times. "If they don't, that's where the pressure should go."
For more information on arsenic exposure, see the Department of Health and Human Services Website.

Wisconsin Raw Milk Bill - Senate Bill 434 - Should Fail
Although I agree that consumers should be able to buy raw milk from a well-regulated, inspected farm - "know your farmer" - like what is done in California and Washington presently. However, I believe that the law needs a warning that is much more stringent than the law now envisions. I think this is what should be posted on the farm and the raw milk container:
"WARNING: This product has not been pasteurized and may contain harmful bacteria (not limited to E. coli O157:H7, Campylobacter, Listeria and Salmonella). Pregnant women, infants, children, the elderly and persons with lowered resistance to disease (immune compromised) have the highest risk of harm, which includes Diarrhea, Vomiting, Fever, Dehydration, Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, Reactive Arthritis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Miscarriage, or Death, from use of this product."
Finally, why should raw milk be treated differently than pasteurized milk, hamburger or peanut butter? Why should a raw milk farmer be immune from liability, but a pasteurized dairy be subject to my ability to sue them on behalf of an injured consumer? If the farmer wants to argue that the consumer is at fault for consuming a product that may well be contaminated, that farmer can presently raise that defense under our civil law. If food is sold that is contaminated the manufacturer - whether Cargill or Farmer Bob - needs to be responsible to the customer. Raw milk outbreaks have happened and have caused extensive damages. Those victims should not be left with thousands or millions of dollars in damages because the product they consumed was raw milk. This is a bad bill as written. It should not pass as is.
Here is the full Senate Bill 434

Bill would expand recall notification; could fine processors, retailers
By Rita Jane Gabbett on 3/17/2010
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday proposed the Consumer Recall Notification Act, which would require notices posted on shelves at food retailers where recalled foods are sold; require that recall notices are sent directly to grocery store members and "loyalty card" users; and ensure that Class I recall information is distributed to health workers.
"In America, in 2010, it is unconscionable that we don't have an effective way to communicate foodborne illness outbreaks to consumers and health departments," said Gillibrand in a statement. "It's spreading too many diseases and costing too many lives."
Under the proposed legislation, facilities that have distributed foods subject to a Class I recall would be required to notify stores and restaurants within 24 hours of the public announcement of the recall. Facilities that do not notify stores and restaurants would be subject to a $1,000 penalty per missed notification.
The stores that received products must then post a notice on the shelf unit or freezer case where the contaminated product was sold so that consumers are aware that they might have previously purchased a recalled product.
The bill also proposes stores that track purchases through customer loyalty cards or membership cards must use that information to notify customers when they have purchased a recalled product. Stores that do not notify customers of Class I recalls would be subject to a $100 penalty per customer.
Finally, the bill would instruct FDA to distribute advisories when there is a Class I recall to states, local health departments and frontline health professionals, such as emergency departments and pediatricians.
A spokeswoman for Gillibrand confirmed to Meatingplace the legislation would apply to USDA-regulated meat and poultry as well as FDA-regulated foods.

Delauro sees U.S. food safety law in 2010
Christopher Doering and Roberta Rampton
Wed Mar 17, 2010 5:35pm EDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congress will pass a new law to overhaul the antiquated U.S. food safety system by the end of the year, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, an influential House lawmaker, said on Wednesday.
The first major reform of the system in 50 years could be followed by another close look at how meat and poultry are inspected, and the changes may create friction with trade partners, said the chairman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.
"I have every confidence that we are going to pass food safety legislation and this legislation is going to get to the president for a signature and that that's going to happen this year," said Connecticut Democrat DeLauro, who was speaking at the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit.
The House passed its bill last July. But a companion Senate bill has been held up by work on healthcare and financial regulatory reform. It also has been stalled by the U.S. Trade Representative's office, which wants to ensure reforms do not contravene trade agreements, DeLauro said.
"Trade should never trump public health," she said.
DeLauro, an advocate for tougher food safety laws, said her subcommittee will hold hearings in the next couple of months to examine whether new trade agreements negotiated by the United States should include food safety provisions.
"We need to do something before the agreement is put into place that guarantees that the product and its process and its manufacture is equal to the process that exists in the United States," she said.
DeLauro's subcommittee effectively banned U.S. imports of Chinese chicken for two years, sparking a WTO complaint.
Three pending U.S. trade deals have been held up by the Obama administration, which has insisted agreements must protect worker rights and the environment.
The Food and Drug Administration, which oversees 80 percent of the U.S. food supply, has made "impressive strides in rectifying their problems," DeLauro said.
But more needs to be done, she said, citing recent recalls of foods made with a common flavoring contaminated with salmonella [ID:nN04182896] and a recall of more than 1 million pounds of sausages and salami.
Since 2006, the U.S. food supply has been battered by high-profile outbreaks involving lettuce, peppers, peanuts and spinach. Foodborne illnesses cost the United States $152 billion in health-related expenses each year, according to a recent study.
An estimated 76 million people in the United States get sick every year with foodborne illness and 5,000 die, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"It's amazing that until people start to die we don't take notice of the difficulties that are out there," DeLauro said.
The new law considered by Congress would give FDA mandatory recall authority, increase the frequency of food inspections and require food safety plans for foodmakers.
Lawmakers next need to look at the role of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is charged with inspection of meat, poultry and eggs, DeLauro said.
An independent expert panel should examine whether the USDA food system needs reform, following a similar review of the FDA which made recommendations to Congress, she said.
The panel should address potential conflicts faced by the USDA, which promotes as well regulates food, she said.
Overlapping jurisdictions should also be examined, she said, citing an recent salami recall, where USDA oversees meat while FDA regulates the ingredient that spurred the recall.
"You've got the salami scare, and it may be the peppers in the salami (that are contaminated), but USDA does the salami and FDA does the peppers," DeLauro said.
"It is madness to think this is the way we ought to do business."
(Additional reporting by Charles Abbott in Washington and K.T. Arasu in Chicago; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Richard Chang)

Basic Food Flavors denies wrongdoing in HVP recall
By Caroline Scott-Thomas, 17-Mar-2010
Basic Food Flavors, the company behind the ongoing HVP recall, has broken its media silence, denying allegations that the company knew its products contained salmonella but distributed them anyway.
Two weeks ago, Basic Food Flavors issued a recall of all hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) in powder and paste form that it has produced since September 17, 2009. No illnesses have been associated with the recall at this stage, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said the risk is low, because most of the products containing the common flavor enhancer would be cooked after the ingredient was added, destroying salmonella. However, ready-to-eat products pose a greater risk, and the complexity of the supply chain means that the number of recalled products is expected to balloon.
Basic Food Flavors, which until now has not responded to media calls for comment, said the FDA and the press, covering FDA reports, have wrongly implied it knowingly distributed salmonella-tainted products. The company said that after it was notified that one production lot had tested positive for salmonella, it concluded that only that lot was contaminated and notified the only customer to which it had been shipped.
Basic Food Flavors told in a statement: ¡°While it is unclear whether FDA is suggesting in the Form 483 that Basic Foods knowingly shipped adulterated product, the language used by the agency and reported by the press has created that implication. We, therefore, consider it important to clarify that Basic Foods has not knowingly shipped into commerce any product the Company believed had the potential to contain Salmonella.¡±
The FDA¡¯s form 483 ? the inspection report issued to the firm ? said: ¡°After receiving the first private laboratory analytical results [dated January 21] indicating the presence of Salmonella in your facility, you continued to distribute HVP paste and powder products until 2/15/2010. Furthermore, from 1/21/2010 to 2/20/2010, you continued to manufacture HVP paste and powder products under the same processing conditions that did not minimize microbial contamination.¡±
¡®Immediate actions¡¯
Basic Food Flavors said that repeated positive tests for salmonella at the plant were not a result of the pathogen spreading, but due to the company deliberately testing those areas that were most likely to be contaminated. And contrary to the FDA inspection report, Basic Food Flavors said it ¡°implemented immediate corrective actions¡± to address the discovery of salmonella at the plant.
The company was first notified of a possible contamination through the FDA¡¯s Reportable Food Registry, when a customer found salmonella in HVP by routine testing and filed a report on February 5.
Basic Foods said it and one of its customers analyzed data on 150 different production lots and that apart from the lot recalled on September 17, all have tested negative for salmonella. The company began notifying its customers of a recall on February 26, and the FDA publicly announced the recall a week later.
Media freeze
Basic Food Flavors has been uncommunicative with the media during the recall, but David Wood, the company¡¯s sales and marketing manager, told that he had hoped that not speaking with the press would help publicity of the recall to pass quickly.
¡°Quite honestly, we didn¡¯t bother answering the press because we just wanted it to go away,¡± he said. ¡°¡¦It¡¯s working. It¡¯s beginning to die down.¡±
The recall affected ¡°only 10,000lb of 10 million,¡± he said, equivalent to 0.1 percent of the HVP produced by the company.

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