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Vaccine In Works
by Suzanne Schreck | Mar 29, 2010
Brooke Deatherage received her Ph.D. in microbiology from the University
of Washington in December of 2009 for her work with Salmonella. Since
the publication of her first article, "Biogenesis of Bacterial
Membrane Vesicles," in the June 2009 issue of Molecular Microbiology,
Deatherage has built upon this knowledge to move closer to developing
a new Salmonella vaccine.
Food Safety News recently sat down with Deatherage to discuss her research
on Salmonella and vaccine development.
Q: How did you determine which serotype(s) of Salmonella to focus your
A: When a mouse becomes infected with Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium
(S. Typhimurium), it exhibits a typhoid fever-like response similar
to what a human would experience if infected by S. Typhi, or the response
an immunocompromised person would have when infected with S. Typhimurium.
In individuals that are immunocompromised, without the proper immune
system mechanisms to respond to a gastrointestinal infection, a systemic
disease develops. This systemic disease is difficult to treat, and is
contributing significantly to Salmonella-related deaths. For these reasons,
we are interested in studying S. Typhimurium in the mouse model in order
to understand systemic infections in humans.
Q: How closely are S. Typhi and S. Typhimurium related? Will the vaccine
be effective against both Salmonella serotypes?
A: S. Typhi and S. Typhimurium are very closely related on a genetic
level, but they have very different host specificities. S. Typhi is
a human-restricted pathogen, while S. Typhimurium is more promiscuous
and can infect a wide range of hosts. The reason for this difference
isn't fully understood. The design of this vaccine, which includes antigens
from the bacterial cell surface that are similar between S. Typhi and
S. Typhimurium, has the potential to confer some immunity against both
Q: Salmonella bacteria are constantly undergoing slight mutations that
make them distinguishable from one another through genetic testing.
We've seen strains of Salmonella Typhimurium implicated in foodborne
illness outbreaks that vary only slightly. Will the vaccine be effective
against all strains of S. Typhi and S. Typhimurium, or will it need
to be "tweaked" occasionally to protect against different
strains, like the regular flu vaccine?
A: The basis for this vaccine is somewhat different from what is used
in vaccines such as the influenza vaccine. We are using a non-viable
part of the Salmonella surface that is released during growth of the
bacterial cells, called membrane vesicles. They literally "bleb"
off the cell surface like a bubble. You can imagine these vesicles to
look like miniature versions of a Salmonella cell on the surface, with
all the important antigens that our bodies would respond to during infection.
However, they don't have any of the interior contents, like DNA, that
a bacterial cell would have and therefore they are not alive, and importantly,
they cannot cause disease. The majority of the abundant protein antigens
on the surface of S. Typhimurium and S. Typhi are very similar and well
conserved, so it is less likely that these important antigens would
vary enough that tweaking of the strain or membrane vesicles would be
necessary to achieve protective immunity.
Q: Your vaccine could be considered a subunit vaccine, meaning it uses
bacterial parts instead of live cells to generate immunity. How does
this type of vaccine differ from live attenuated or killed whole-cell
A: The underlying mechanism of vaccination relies on administration
of bacterial or viral antigens into our bodies which stimulate various
parts of our immune systems to generate responses such as antibodies.
Armed with these antibodies and/or other cells that "remember"
the vaccine components, we are better able to quickly respond to an
infection if we are faced with that organism later.
From microbe to microbe, the type of response that is necessary to protect
us from infection varies. For some infections, a killed whole cell vaccine
(in which, for instance, bacterial cells are heated or chemically treated
so they lose viability) is very effective. However, for protection against
Salmonella infections, the best immune response is generated following
infection with a live "attenuated" version of the bacteria.
This basically means the bacterial cells have a defect that makes them
grow slower in the host, providing the host an opportunity to respond
to the infection that otherwise may grow too quickly out of control
to cause disease. The problem with this is that attenuated organisms
can still cause disease in immunocompromised hosts. So, for Salmonella
infection, the immunocompromised population is already more susceptible
to systemic disease, and can't be given the most effective vaccine (live
attenuated), requiring us to think about an alternative mechanism of
generating protective immunity in these individuals.
Our approach has been to use membrane vesicles, which aren't viable
and contain important antigens (bacterial "subunits") that
the immune system of humans and mice would normally respond to during
immunization or infection. This type of "subunit" vaccine
has proven effective in our studies with Salmonella, and other groups
have had success with membrane vesicle-based vaccines in other host-pathogen
systems as well.
Q: What stage of trials are you in? Will you test on humans soon?
A: All of our studies have been in the mouse model of S. Typhimurium
infection, which is a first step in understanding what type of immune
responses are generated to this vaccine, the tolerability of the sample
during immunization, and whether the vaccine generates an immune response
that is protective against subsequent challenge. At this point, we don't
have immediate plans to move into human testing. Rather, we are trying
to better understand the detailed mechanisms by which membrane vesicles
generate immune responses in order to make the best possible vaccine.
Although we haven't entered human trials, there is a relatively long
history of clinical trials in humans using membrane vesicles from Neisseria
meningitidis serogroup B, which is another organism that is difficult
to vaccinate against using typical methods. These trials are ongoing
with much success in countries where this organism causes extensive
disease (meningitis) and death.
Deatherage and colleagues are continuing studies in the field of membrane
vesicle-based vaccination against Salmonella, with plans to publish
on these findings soon.
Outbreaks: Send Sick Foodhandlers Home
by Drew Falkenstein | Mar 26, 2010
Sick foodhandlers. It's a problem nationally at many restaurants, and
is the source of many outbreaks of foodborne disease. Currently, in
the Shigella outbreak linked to a Subway restaurant in Lombard, Illinois,
sick foodhandlers are believed to have been the cause of the outbreak.
As in the Lombard Subway outbreak, when sick foodhandlers are, in fact,
the cause of an outbreak, the results can be widespread contamination
of many different foods, leading to many illnesses.
On March 5 2010, the DuPage County Health Department announced that
investigating the cause of a cluster of gastrointestinal illnesses primarily
among customers of a Subway restaurant located at 1009 E. Roosevelt
Road in Lombard. Restaurant ownership and corporate representatives
have been cooperating with health officials, and the Lombard restaurant
has been closed pending further results of the investigation. It has
been determined that some of the illnesses were caused by shigellosis,
an infectious disease caused by a group of bacteria called Shigella.
The investigation is ongoing and the health department is working closely
with the Illinois Department of Public Health toward control and prevention
of disease transmission. As of the afternoon of March 4, the health
department has received multiple reports of illness possibly associated
with food consumption from this Subway location. To date, eight cases
of shigellosis have been laboratory-confirmed. Four cases have been
hospitalized, with at least one case discharged and recovering at home.
The outbreak has since grown to include at least 113 confirmed illnesses.
Likely, this number only scratches the surface when it comes to counting
all outbreak victims. The number is more likely upwards of 200 to 300,
if not more.
The Lombard Subway outbreak is reminiscent of another major Chicago-area
outbreak. In June and July 2003, The Lake County Health Department concluded
its investigation into a Salmonella outbreak at a Chili's restaurant
located in Vernon Hills, Illinois. By the end of the investigation,
Lake County had received over 300 reports of illness from patrons of
the restaurant; of those, 141 people tested positive for Salmonella
javiana, which was the outbreak serotype. In its preliminary report
on the cause of the outbreak, Lake County found that restaurant employees
had used poor sanitation and food handling practices, including operating
without hot water for an entire day, and operating without any running
water whatsoever for the lunch rush on another day. More importantly--at
least to the point of this article--Lake County stated that 28 Chili's
employees had tested positive for Salmonella.
Time will tell exactly how egregious the errors were at the Lombard
Subway. Certainly, the outbreak included the "perfect storm"
of dangerous circumstances: sick foodhandlers having contact with lots
of sandwich ingredients that would not be cooked, or subjected to any
other measure intended to kill harmful bacteria. The unfortunate result
in both the Lombard Subway outbreak and the Vernon Hills Chili's outbreak
was likely millions of dollars in medical costs, lost wages, and other
incidental expenses to outbreak victims dealing with severe illness.
In outbreak litigation, we rarely encounter the argument that the defendant
didn't know better. We certainly didn't hear or entertain that argument
in litigation over the Chili's outbreak, and we likely won't see it
in the Subway outbreak either. The reason, of course, is that the State
of Illinois, and likely every other state in the country, speaks very
clearly on the issue of employees who work while ill. ILCS Section 750.500(a)
"No person, while affected with a disease in a communicable form
that can be transmitted by foods or who is a carrier of organisms that
cause such a disease or while afflicted with a boil, or infected wound,
or an acute respiratory infection, shall work in a food service establishment
in any capacity in which there is a likelihood of such person contaminating
food or food-contact surfaces with pathogenic organisms or transmitting
disease to other persons."
One thing that restaurants can do to guard against foodhandler-caused
outbreaks is to have a sick leave policy. The policy must not only forbid
working while ill with any symptoms of gastrointestinal illness or influenza,
but also provide for compensation to employees who elect to do the right
thing and stay away from work while ill.
Unfortunately, these outbreaks are evidence that restaurants are not
getting the message about sick employees--even large operations like
Chili's and Subway who undoubtedly have heavy-handed franchise agreements
about what individual locations can and cannot do. In the wake of the
H1N1 scare, an interview occurred on Chicago Public Radio that is right
on point . . . and also a little concerning. The following is a selection
of a few short, highly relevant comments from the interview:
HILL: 'I'm here in the middle of busy food court. It's lunch time. People
all around me are eating their fried chicken, burritos, hamburgers,
pretty much anything you can name. I don't know the specific situations
of the people who work here, who make all this food, but I know a ton
of people in the food industry don't get paid sick days.'
?LAKIN: 'I've had lots of different jobs, as a line cook, as a sous
chef, as an executive chef.' That's Eddie Lakin. He counts 15 years
in the food service business. ??
LAKIN: 'I've never had paid sick time, even as a corporate employee,
even as a salaried person with paid vacation days; I've never had a
job with a sick day or a personal day.'
The Institute for Women's Policy Research--an advocacy group--looked
at job benefits nationally. It found as many as 85-percent of food service
workers don't have paid sick days--the worst showing for any group.
By comparison, ONLY about 16 percent of people in the legal profession
don't get paid when they call in.
Eddie Lakin says there've been plenty of times where he and his restaurant
co-workers, have gone into work sick. Part of it, he says, is an unwritten
rule in professional kitchens.
LAKIN: 'You don't call in sick unless you are too sick to stand up.'
Lakin says some workers, especially those who get paid by the hour,
come in because they need the money. Others don't want to give the boss
a reason to think they aren't committed to the job, which isn't a bad
instinct. Dr Tom Smith is with the National Opinion Research Center
at the University of Chicago.
SMITH: 'We found that one out of every six workers have actually been
fired, demoted or otherwise punished for taking time off because they
weren't covered by paid sick days.'
According to Smith's research, which looks at workers broadly not just
the food industry, people without paid sick days are more likely to
go to work when they feel like crap. Sixty-eight percent of people without
paid sick days have gone in with a contagious illness like the flu.
The recession and tenuous labor market add to the pressure."??
Food for thought for any restaurants that want to avoid losing everything
in a major outbreak of foodborne disease.
Florida Senate Passes Tomato Safety Bill
by Michelle Greenhalgh | Mar 26, 2010
The Florida Senate passed a bill to ensure the safety of tomato crops
Tuesday, two years after a Salmonella scare connected to Florida tomatoes.
Craig Meyer, deputy commissioner at the Florida Department of Agriculture
and Consumer Services, explained that the measure is another in a series
of industry and regulators' efforts designed to set minimum food safety
standards. He noted that Florida's comprehensive program has surpassed
those in other states over the past few years.
Meyer said the bill authorizes the Department of Agriculture and Consumer
Services to inspect tomato farms, greenhouses, and packing facilities
and will add enforcement powers while legally "fine tuning"
what has come before.
"We are the leader in this field," Meyer told the Bradenton
newspaper. The Florida Senate Bill 350 passed by a 35-1 vote and now
will go to the House, where a similar measure, House Bill 69, awaits
floor action. Officials indicated it is expected to pass.
These bills come after the 2008 federal investigation of Salmonella
outbreaks originally blamed on contaminated tomatoes. Investigators
eventually found that Mexican jalapeno peppers were the culprit. The
case went on for so long that local tomato producers were hurt financially
even though not a single Florida tomato was found to be contaminated.
Florida has 32,400 planted acres of tomato crops. 11,200 of these acres
fall within the Manatee County boundaries, department public information
director Liz Compton told the Bradenton Herald.
Local tomato farmers strongly support the bill as it sets standards
that would apply to everyone who grows, distributes, or handles tomatoes.
"The bill enhances what we as a county and others have been practicing
for quite a few years," said Tony DiMare, vice president of DiMare
Ruskin Inc. DiMare claims around 5,000 acres of tomato farmland in Manatee
County and a packing operation in Hillsborough County.
Officials said the bill would require each tomato business to pay a
flat inspection fee of $100 annually that will go towards administrative
Raw Milk: is it a viable Constitutional issue or simply
a matter of consumer safety?
Posted on March 28, 2010 by Drew Falkenstein
Sue Wallis, a Wyoming Republican legislator, recently introduced a bill
called the Wyoming Food Freedom Act, which, in Wallis's words, "seeks
to clarify the fundamental right of Wyoming citizens to eat whatever
they want to eat."
Ron Paul, libertarian-minded republican congressman from Texas undoubtedly
would have supported Mrs. Wallis's bill, had he been a Wyoming legislator.
He didn't say as much, but he did recently introduce a bill into the
federal Congress, HR 778, that sought "To authorize the interstate
traffic of unpasteurized milk and milk products that are packaged for
direct human consumption," seeking to override the current prohibition
against the interstate sale and shipment of raw milk. Congressman Paul
stated, in support of the bill,
"I urge my colleagues to join me in promoting consumers' rights,
the original intent of the Constitution, and federalism by cosponsoring
my legislation to allow the interstate shipment of unpasteurized milk
and milk products for human consumption."
The bill was referred to committee after introduction, where it did
not get a second sponsor and thus died a timely death.
There is, in fact and law, no "fundamental right to eat whatever
we want," and no indication in the federal Constitution that the
founders intended such a right to be implicit in the Bill of Rights.
In fact, these legislative attempts are a little ironic, considering
that their sponsors, Mrs. Wallis and Mr. Paul, are undoubtedly strict
constructionists when it comes to constitutional interpretation. Indeed,
the only inference as to the founders' intent that can fairly be drawn
from the Constitution is that Congress is well within its rights to
outlaw the interstate sale and shipment of raw milk.
The decidedly moralistic, and sometimes even religious, undertones with
which the arguments over the exploding raw milk war are framed are insensible
and largely irrelevant. There is no legal support for them, much as
there is no legal impediment to the several states and Congress's legal
authority to regulate raw milk.
It is astonishing that proponents of raw milk are willing to put their
livelihoods, financial well-being, and potentially even their personal
freedom at stake over this cause. Setting aside the risk that the raw
milk poses to consumers, the other shoe will drop at some point, and
the states and federal government will begin enforcing, not just with
civil penalties but also with criminal prosecution, those who elect
to break the law by selling raw milk in states that prohibit it and
distribute raw milk across state lines, which is forbidden by the federal
The current campylobacter outbreak linked to Forest Grove Dairy in Middlebury,
Indiana may be an example of circumstances that could support criminal
prosecution. As AnnArbor.com reports, the Dairy received a warning letter
from the Food and Drug Adminstration in 2007 warning it of violations
of federal code. The letter on the FDA's site references 21 CFR 1240.61
on the mandatory pasteurization of milk delivered into interstate commerce.
Though it is heavily redacted, the letter reads as follows:
"The regulation prohibits the delivery into interstate commerce
of [redacted] and [redacted] in final package form for direct human
consumption unless they have been pasteurized. The [redacted] and [redacted]
you produce in [redacted] and distribute to [redacted] and [redacted]
for further distribution to their [redacted] is in final package form
for direct human consumption."
Despite the redactions, it is clear that the FDA explicitly warned the
Dairy that it was violating federal law in producing and selling raw
milk for consumption by citizens of other states. Further, the milk
was distributed under the guise of a cow-share agreement, which is arguably
in violation of state law on the distribution and sale of raw milk.
The raw milk debate is certainly not going away anytime soon. Although
it is likely to fall on deaf ears, maybe the right approach would be
to allow consumer health and safety to drive laws on the subject, rather
than arguments about fundamental freedoms, God's will, and Constitutional
rights that do not exist.
A Clash Over Unpasteurized Milk Gets Raw
FDA Cites Risks of Drinking Unprocessed Dairy Products Despite Advocates'
Claims of Improved Taste and Nutrition
By LAURA LANDRO
The battle over unpasteurized milk products is heating up.
Advocates of fresh-from-the-farm unprocessed foods tout "raw"
milk as the ultimate health food, claiming it is rich in disease-fighting
nutrients and healthy enzymes that are lost in pasteurization. But public
health officials are unequivocal that the risks of fresh milk far outweigh
any benefits, and that pasteurization?heating milk at temperatures high
enough to kill harmful bacteria?is the only way to ensure its safety.
Now amid new reports of illnesses linked to raw milk the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration
are stepping up efforts to warn consumers of the dangers, and urging
states to strengthen their regulations to minimize the hazards of raw
milk. The FDA is also reviewing its policy covering hard cheeses made
from raw milk, which are currently approved for sale if aged 60 days.
A federal microbiology advisory committee has raised questions about
whether that is sufficient to kill pathogens, as long believed.
On Friday, the FDA reported 12 new cases of illness in the Midwest linked
to raw milk from a dairy contaminated with a dangerous bacterium, campylobacter.
"Raw milk is inherently dangerous and should not be consumed by
anyone, at any time, for any reason," says John Sheehan, director
of the FDA's division of plant- and dairy-food safety.
At least one major retailer, Whole Foods Markets Inc., is pulling raw
milk from its shelves in four states, citing high costs for liability
insurance because of the potential risks of selling raw milk and different
state regulations that make it a challenge to create a national raw
milk standard for its stores. State officials in Connecticut linked
a 2008 outbreak of the bacterial infection E. coli 0157 to raw milk
sold by a dairy that supplied a Whole Foods store there.
Although the FDA bans interstate sale of raw milk for human consumption,
its sale is legal in 28 states, where statutes govern how it is processed
and may require warning labels about its risks. Bills to legalize it
are pending in Georgia and Wisconsin, and advocates are lobbying for
similar measures in other states. In some states where sale is not legal,
consumers can buy into "cow-sharing" agreements with farmers
that allow them to buy a share in the cow or herd and pay a fee for
an allocation of the milk it produces. Mr. Sheehan of the FDA has urged
states to ban such programs.
Between 1998 and 2008, there were 85 outbreaks of human infections resulting
from consumption of raw milk reported to CDC, including a total of 1,614
reported illnesses, 187 hospitalizations and two deaths. Illnesses and
deaths have also been linked to the consumption of fresh cheese made
from unpasteurized milk, notably the Queso Fresco style cheeses popular
in Hispanic communities.
While state laws covering the sale of fresh cheese vary, the FDA says
soft cheeses such as Camembert and Brie from raw milk are unsafe to
eat, as are butter, yogurt and other products made from unpasteurized
cow or goat's milk. That goes for many cheeses in France and elsewhere
in Europe, though products imported into the U.S. must meet the 60-day
Even healthy cows with no symptoms of disease can harbor harmful bacteria,
according to Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the CDC's food-borne and
bacterial diseases division. It may colonize in their udders and be
excreted during milking. Milk can also be contaminated by the farm environment,
where bacteria from manure can spread and cause disease, he says.
Know the Risks
What to keep in mind when considering raw-milk products.
The sale of raw milk is legal in 28 states, where statutes govern how
it is processed and may require warning labels about its risks.
Between 1998 and 2008, there were 85 outbreaks of human infections resulting
from consumption of raw milk reported to the CDC, including 1,614 reported
illnesses, 187 hospitalizations and two deaths.|
Hard and grating cheeses, such as cheddar and Parmesan, from raw milk
are OK to eat. But the FDA says soft cheeses, such as Camembert and
Brie, from raw milk are unsafe to eat, as are butter, yogurt and other
food made from unpasteurized cow or goat's milk.
While pregnant women, children and the elderly are especially vulnerable,
many victims of outbreaks around the country in recent years have been
healthy young adults.
Kalee Prue, a 29-year old Connecticut mother of one, says she believed
in the benefits of raw milk but became ill soon after drinking some
purchased at a Whole Foods in Connecticut linked to the E. coli outbreak.
She was eventually diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can
be caused when an E. coli infection produces toxic substances that destroy
red-blood cells and damage the kidneys. She has undergone blood transfusions
and is at risk for long-term kidney complications that may require a
transplant. Her attorney, William Marler, says she has incurred over
$230,000 in medical bills, and he is in discussions with Whole Foods
to see if the matter can be resolved without a suit.
Ms. Prue, for her part, says even if there are healthy properties in
raw milk, "there are other ways to get the benefits that raw milk
has to offer, and it just isn't worth the risk."
Whole Foods declined comment on Ms. Prue's case.
Before 1938, when pasteurization was widely adopted, cow's milk accounted
for about 25% of all food- and water-borne disease outbreaks. But with
the growing popularity of raw milk products, "people don't remember
the bad old days," the CDC's Dr. Tauxe says. "Pasteurization
was one of the triumphs of public health that protected many people
and saved many lives."
Raw-milk advocates believe that pasteurization kills healthful vitamins,
minerals and enzymes in milk, as well as beneficial bacteria. Dr. Tauxe
says that pasteurization does lead to slight changes in taste, but that
even a small vitamin loss has no significant impact on overall nutritional
Sally Fallon Morrell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, which
promotes the consumption of "nutrient-dense whole foods,"
including raw milk, says the risks described from the CDC and FDA are
"way overblown" and that the there is ample evidence that
raw milk has many health properties. Ms. Morrell says as many as three
million people a year consume raw milk products in the U.S.
The Washington, D.C.-based foundation has been waging a pitched battle
against the CDC and FDA, attempting to debunk reports of outbreaks and
creating a rebuttal to a presentation Mr. Sheehan made to state health
groups. Mr. Sheehan's response: Claims of the safety and benefits of
raw milk are "false, devoid of scientific support, and misleading
Farms and dairies where such products are sold are regulated by state
laws that require regular inspections to make sure milk processing facilities
are clean and milk is properly chilled after milking. At the Grassfields
farm in Coopersville, Mich., where 150 families belong to a cow-sharing
program called Green Pastures, the farm is inspected by the state regularly,
according to Betsy Meerman, whose family owns the farm. The farm also
sends raw milk samples monthly for lab tests, and Ms. Meerman says there
has never been a positive result for four types of bacteria. Cows are
checked weekly for mastitis, an infection of the mammary glands that
FDA officials say can also cause the spread of bacteria to milk. The
Green Pastures Web site says it treats infections when they occur with
"herbs, homeopathy, tinctures, prayer and vitamins."
Retailers say they are aware of the controversy and are careful about
their suppliers. "It's legal in our state and as long as a raw
milk producer passes inspection by our health authorities, that producer
might be a potential source of raw milk," says Diana Crane, director
of sustainability at PCC Natural Markets in Seattle, Wash.
Michele Jay-Russell, a researcher and veterinarian at the University
of California, Davis, recommends that consumers looking for health benefits
from "good bacteria" try less risky products such as probiotic
yogurts and kefirs made from pasteurized milk, or take nutritional supplements.
'Hormone therapy' may treat food-borne infections
ANI, Mar 29, 2010, 02.21pm IST
In the gut, decoding hormonal messages that help to reduce the production
of lethal toxins by pathogenic bacteria, could be a better way to treat
serious food-borne infections where antibiotics do more harm than good,
according to scientists.
Vanessa Sperandio said that gut bacteria, including harmful strains
of Escherichia coli and Salmonella that cause food poisoning, detect
and respond to adrenaline released by the host, through a sensor called
QseC embedded in the bacterial surface.
When adrenaline binds to QseC, it is like toppling the first tile of
a complex domino arrangement - it triggers a chain of events that can
ultimately result in the production of toxins. Sperandio's group at
the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center have identified
a molecule, called LED209, which stops adrenaline binding to QseC.
Blocking binding prevents the signalling events inside the bacterium,
reducing toxin production and also hindering bacteria from attaching
effectively to the epithelial cells that line the gut.
When given orally to infected mice, LED209 could reduce the number of
The discovery could represent the first of a novel class of antimicrobial
"QseC is a very attractive drug target because it is present in
at least 25 important animal and plant pathogens but not in mammals.
This means that drugs targeting this sensor are less likely to be toxic
and have the potential to be broad-spectrum (effective against several
types of infection),¡± said Sperandio.
She added that alternative treatments are needed for pathogenic E. coli
and Salmonella infections, as antibiotic treatment can make the illness
"Conventional antibiotics can trigger the SOS response in bacteria
that actually enhances virulence. LED209, unlike antibiotics, does not
kill or hinder E. coli growth and consequently does not promote expression
of shiga toxin - which is the bacterium's defence mechanism. Instead,
LED209 decreases expression of genes that encode this toxin," she
"What is more, because this signalling system does not directly
influence bacterial growth, inhibiting it may not exert a strong selective
pressure for the development of resistance,¡± she added.
The findings were presented at the Society for General Microbiology's
spring meeting in Edinburgh.
to combat rising 'food fraud'
By Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
The expensive "sheep's milk" cheese in a Manhattan market
was really made from cow's milk. And a jar of "Sturgeon caviar"
was, in fact, Mississippi paddlefish.
Some honey makers dilute
their honey with sugar beets or corn syrup, their competitors say, but
still market it as 100 percent pure at a premium price.
And last year, a Fairfax man was convicted of selling 10 million pounds
of cheap, frozen catfish fillets from Vietnam as much more expensive
grouper, red snapper and flounder. The fish was bought by national chain
retailers, wholesalers and food service companies, and ended up on dinner
plates across the country.
"Food fraud" has been documented in fruit juice, olive oil,
spices, vinegar, wine, spirits and maple syrup, and appears to pose
a significant problem in the seafood industry. Victims range from the
shopper at the local supermarket to multimillion companies, including
E&J Gallo and Heinz USA.
Such deception has been happening since Roman times, but it is getting
new attention as more products are imported and a tight economy heightens
competition. And the U.S. food industry says federal regulators are
not doing enough to combat it.
"It's growing very rapidly, and there's more of it than you might
think," said James Morehouse, a senior partner at A.T. Kearney
Inc., which is studying the issue for the Grocery Manufacturers Association,
which represents the food and beverage industry.
John Spink, an expert on food and packaging fraud at Michigan State
University, estimates that 5 to 7 percent of the U.S. food supply is
affected but acknowledges the number could be greater. "We know
what we seized at the border, but we have no idea what we didn't seize,"
The job of ensuring that food is accurately labeled largely rests with
the Food and Drug Administration. But it has been overwhelmed in trying
to prevent food contamination, and fraud has remained on a back burner.
The recent development of high-tech tools -- including DNA testing --
has made it easier to detect fraud that might have gone unnoticed a
decade ago. DNA can be extracted from cells of fish and meat and from
other foods, such as rice and even coffee. Technicians then identify
the species by comparing the DNA to a database of samples.
Another tool, isotope ratio analysis, can determine subtle differences
between food -- whether a fish was farmed or wild, for example, or whether
caviar came from Finland or a U.S. stream.
The techniques have become so accessible that two New York City high
school students, working with scientists at the Rockefeller University
and the American Museum of Natural History last year, discovered after
analyzing DNA in 11 of 66 foods -- including the sheep's milk cheese
and caviar -- bought randomly at markets in Manhattan were mislabeled.
"We put so much emphasis on food and purity of ingredients and
where they come from," said Mark Stoeckle, a physician and DNA
expert at Rockefeller University who advised the students. "But
then there are things selling that are not what they say on the label.
There's an important issue here in terms of economics and consumer safety."
It is not clear how many
food manufacturers, importers and retailers are testing products, but
large companies with valuable brands to protect have been increasingly
using the new technology, said Vincent Paez, director of food safety
business development at Thermo Fisher Scientific, which sells some of
the equipment and performs laboratory analysis, including DNA testing.
Still, of the hundreds of customers who bought 10 million pounds of
mislabeled Vietnamese catfish -- including national chains and top rated
restaurants -- only one or two caught the deception, said Assistant
U.S. Attorney Joseph Johns, who prosecuted the Fairfax fish importer.
"It was the rare exception, not the norm," he said.
Heinz USA and Kraft Foods, two giant food makers with well- established
internal controls, nevertheless fell victim to "Operation Rotten
Tomato," a conspiracy in which the scion of a California farming
dynasty was indicted this month. He was accused of disguising millions
of pounds of moldy tomato paste as a higher- grade product and selling
it to foodmakers.
And E&J Gallo, the nation's largest wine seller, sold 18 million
bottles of Red Bicyclette Pinot Noir between 2006 and 2008 that had
been filled in France with wine made from cheaper merlot and syrah grapes,
according to a French court that last month indicted a dozen of its
citizens in a scam dubbed Pinotgate.
At the FDA's first public meeting on food fraud last year, groups across
the industry complained that it is not doing enough.
"If it's not going to hurt or kill someone, FDA's resources are
limited enough that they can't take time to address it," said Bob
Bauer, a spokesman for the National Honey Packers & Dealers Association
and the North American Olive Oil Association.
Both groups have petitioned the FDA to set standards for honey and olive
oil, which would make it possible for companies to sue competitors that
sell an adulterated product. The olive oil industry has been waiting
for FDA to act on its request since 1991; major honey and beekeeping
groups have been waiting since 2006. An agency spokesman said those
requests are pending.
One longtime crabmeat seller on the Chesapeake Bay said he has complained,
without results, to the FDA for years about a competitor who imports
cheap crab and repackages it as Chesapeake blue crab, a different species
that can be sold for twice or three times the price.
The National Seafood Inspection Laboratory, part of the Marine Fisheries
Service, randomly sampled seafood from vendors between 1988 and 1997;
it found that 34 percent had been mislabeled and sold as a different
species. In 2004, scientists at the University of North Carolina estimated
that 77 percent of snapper sold in the United States is mislabeled.
"With the recession, people are trying to make money in any way,
shape or form," said William Gergits, a co-founder of Therion International
LLC, which specializes in DNA-based testing services. "Southeast
grouper and red snapper fisheries here are limited. If you think about
all the restaurants in Florida, there's not enough supply to go to those
Despite growing imports, the FDA inspects just 2 percent of fish coming
into the United States from other countries.
The agency wants to create
a surveillance system that would alert regulators to likely fraud, said
Jennifer Thomas, director of enforcement at FDA's Center for Food Safety
and Applied Nutrition. She said the FDA regularly swaps intelligence
with two other agencies that share responsibility for catching seafood
fraud. It has also bought a $170,000 DNA sequencer for its Seattle field
She pointed to several FDA actions against food fraud in recent months,
including the first debarment of a seafood importer, suggesting that
may be a deterrent.
Peter Xuong Lam, president of Virginia Star Seafood Corporation of Fairfax,
was convicted last year of selling the mislabeled catfish. Ten other
individuals and companies were also charged. Lam was sentenced to five
years in prison and is barred from importing food into the United States
for the next 20 years.
Authentification should be a standard practice throughout the food industry,
Stoeckle said: "If it's simple enough that high school students
with some supervision can do it, it moves out of the research application
to something you can do regularly."
Recycled Cooking Oil Found to Be Latest Hazard in China
By DAVID BARBOZA
Published: March 31, 2010 Linkedin
SHANGHAI Regulators are investigating
whether restaurants throughout China are creating food hazards by cooking
with recycled oil, some tainted with food waste, and prominence given
to the issue in the state-controlled media suggests that the problem
could be widespread.
The State Food and Drug Administration issued a nationwide emergency
notice telling health bureaus to investigate the sources of cooking
oil in mid-March. The notice came shortly after a professor and a group
of students at Wuhan Polytechnic University announced that they had
found widespread use of recycled oil in their region in an undercover
investigation. The professor, He Dongping, asserted that recycled oil
was being used to prepare 1 in 10 meals in China. Regulators are now
searching for illegal oil recycling mills, and some health bureaus have
begun releasing the names of restaurants and food establishments that
were found to be using questionable oil.
Last November, regulators in southern China raided several workshops
for turning discarded waste ? possibly even sewage ? into cooking oil.
China has repeatedly been hit by food safety scandals over the past
few years, including contaminated milk, eggs and animal feed and the
selling of diseased pigs. In 2007, the head of the State Food and Drug
Administration was executed for failing to properly police the country¡¯s
food and drug industry, and China announced a major food safety crackdown.
But this week alone, state newspapers have reported that regulators
found ¡°unsafe artificial green peas¡± in Hunan Province and some 20,000
pounds of ¡°toxic vegetables¡± in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Those
vegetables had excessive pesticide residues, according to a government
In the case of the green peas, two illegal food workshops were caught
processing dried snow peas and soybeans with chemicals and bleach to
produce the appearance of more expensive green peas.
In the city of Chengdu, in southwestern China, food safety officials
released the names of 13 restaurants that were found to be using illegal
cooking oil. The restaurants specialized in hot pot, a popular simmered
City residents voiced anger at Chengdu regulators for having delayed
the release of some of the names of the implicated restaurants, according
to the English-language newspaper China Daily.
Here in Shanghai, regulators have warned that illegal cooking oil could
be a problem because a large portion of restaurant food grease goes
Professor He declined to be interviewed this week. China Daily quoted
one of his colleagues as saying that the authorities had pressured the
professor to stop talking to the media, and that he had also received
Huang Fenghong, deputy director of the Oil Crops Research Institute
at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said the use of illegal
cooking oil was a serious problem in China.
¡°Some low-end restaurants establish stable buy-and-sell relationships
with underground oil recyclers,¡± he said in a telephone interview this
week. ¡°Some oil recyclers just dig out the oil from drains, because
high-end restaurants seldom sell that drainage oil.¡±
Bao Beibei contributed research.
Fake green peas
latest food scandal
By Wang Yan (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-03-31 07:40
BEIJING: Unsafe artificial green peas were found in Hunan province earlier
this month, making the list of toxic food products in the country even
longer, according to the local food safety watchdog.
The problematic green peas appeared in the provincial capital of Changsha
and Hengyang city, a local newspaper reported over the weekend.
"The peas were an unnatural color and had a penetrating odor. After
20 minutes of cooking, the peas did not turn soft but the water turned
green," the report said.
The peas were first seen on March 17 during a regular pesticide residue
check in a Changsha farmers' market. From March 17 to 19, local food
safety officials conducted field research and sourced the peas back
Last Wednesday, officials from the Hengyang law enforcement team on
agriculture smashed up two small illegal workshops where the peas were
A video provided by a local TV station showed the manufacturing process
of the peas.
Bags of dried snow peas and soybeans were thrown into water-filled jars.
With the help of light green colorant and sodium metabisulfite, a food
additive used as a bleach and preservative, the previously wizened dry
peas came out plump and fresh green.
However, the use of the light green colorant is forbidden in farm products,
since it could cause cancer, the report said. Similarly, excessive intake
of the sodium metabisulfite can hinder the human body's absorption of
The processing of the peas is highly profitable, said Peng Xingguo,
owner of one such illegal workshops. Peng's workshop had been running
for three years before it was exposed.
"One jin (0.5kg) of snow peas could turn to 1.7 jin after processing,
and 1 jin of soybeans would be 1.8 jin. I can make 1.5 yuan (20 cents)
with each jin of the green peas processed. About 1,000 kg are sold every
day," Peng said in the video.
The news is not new, as similar media reports appeared in 2005, 2006
and 2007, said Sang Liwei, a Beijing-based food safety expert.
"Such toxic artificial green peas have been found in Hunan and
Guangdong before, but it looks like the news didn't catch enough attention
from the officials," Sang said on Monday.
In China, officials call it a "food safety incident" only
after a death is reported.
"In cases like this, where the danger only lies in possible long-term
diseases caused by the misuse of additives, it's not surprising to see
lagged handlings," he said.
76 Groups Implore
USDA to Keep Out Canada's Mad Cows
Washington, DC, March 30, 2010 (ENS) - Seventy-six organizations representing
tens of millions of Americans today sent a letter to the U.S. Department
of Agriculture asking that the agency immediately strengthen U.S. border
protections to keep out cows from Canada with mad cow disease.
The letter is in response to the disclosure this month of Canada's 18th
case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE, also known as mad cow
disease, in a Canadian-born animal.
The fatal disease in cattle causes a spongy degeneration of the brain
and spinal cord. Humans can be infected by eating brain or spinal cord
tissue of infected animals. The infectious agent is not a bacteria or
virus but misfolded proteins known as prions.
On February 25, 2010, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed
the 18th case of BSE in a 72 month-old cow found dead on an Alberta
The case was detected through Canada's national BSE surveillance program
but was not made public on the CFIA website for two weeks. It was finally
posted on March 10, hours after a press release was distributed by the
advocacy group, Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers
of America, known more simply as RCALF USA.
USDA regulations permit live Canadian cattle born after March 1, 1999,
to be imported into the United States without mandatory BSE testing.
This means that the infected cow would have been eligible for import
into the U.S. cattle market had it been alive. The dead cow was the
11th case of BSE in a Canadian cow that met USDA's age requirements
to enter the United States.
The letter says regulations in Europe and Japan are stricter, so U.S.
beef consumers are at greater risk than consumers in those countries.
The letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack states, "Mr. Secretary,
above all other considerations, the health and safety of the people
of the United States and United States' livestock must come first -
first before trade and first before international relations."
R-CALF USA and the other groups who signed the letter fear that USDA's
relaxed import standards are putting not only U.S. beef consumers at
risk, but also the U.S. cattle herd and the livelihoods of independent
U.S. cattle producers.
USDA first relaxed U.S. safeguards against BSE in 2005, and then further
relaxed those safeguards in 2007 with its over-30-month rule (OTM Rule),
which facilitates the importation of Canadian cattle born after March,
1, 1999, and beef from Canadian cattle of any age. The cut-off age of
30 months was set because below this age the BSE risk is "exceedingly
low," said the agency.
At that time, Canada had detected only three BSE-positive animals born
after March 1, 1999, but as of March 10, 2010, Canada has detected 11
BSE-positive animals born after that date - all of which met USDA's
age requirement for export to the United States.
"We are asking the administration to immediately reverse this reckless
and unscientific approach to the dangers of BSE by withdrawing the OTM
Rule that basically eliminated the United States' only defense against
the introduction of BSE into the United States - its import restrictions
that prohibited the importation of cattle old enough to have been exposed
to the disease," said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.
"We, the undersigned, urge you to take immediate action to, at
the very least, restore for the United States the protections against
the introduction and spread of BSE that were in place before USDA began
to systematically dismantle its BSE-related border restrictions,"
the letter states. "We respectfully implore you to, as a first
step, immediately overturn the OTM Rule."
Bullard said, "USDA can no longer ignore the empirical facts that
show Canada's ongoing BSE problem is far more serious than the agency
"Unfortunately, USDA, it seems, has decided that measures other
than border restrictions are adequate to protect against this always
fatal disease, yet we cite page after page after page of various violations
over the past several years - in both U.S. slaughter facilities and
U.S. feed production facilities - that continue to put the general public
at risk and our U.S. cattle herd at risk," Bullard pointed out.
Scientists have concluded that mad cow disease is spread when cattle,
who are normally herbivores, are fed the remains of other cattle in
the form of meat and bone meal. Between 460,000 and 482,000 BSE-infected
animals had entered the human food chain before controls on high-risk
feed were introduced in 1989.
Although the feed controls are supposed to eliminate high-risk parts
from entering the animal and human food chains, the letter lists 13
recall incidents over the past five years involving more than 144.5
million pounds of beef that violated the USDA's regulations for preventing
mad cow disease. Carcasses were sold with high-risk parts such as spinal
columns or tonsils attached.
R-CALF USA warns that this evidence undercuts USDA's assumption that
BSE risk pathways to humans have been effectively eliminated.
In addition, a feed manufacturing firm was cited this year by the FDA
for manufacturing and distributing adulterated animal feed to nine states:
Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, Washington, California,
and Oregon; yet nowhere was specified exactly how long this manufacturer
had been distributing the adulterated feed.
"These were just the incidents that were caught and likely represent
only a fraction of the cattle that were processed without complying
fully with required BSE mitigation measures. Thus, there likely are
hundreds of thousands of U.S. consumers who have purchased beef that
likely was not subject to U.S. mitigation measures," the letter
"This ongoing, potential human exposure to BSE is unnecessary and
can and should immediately be avoided by prohibiting the introduction
of cattle and beef from Canada where the BSE agent is known to have
recycled in that country's feed system through at least all or part
of 2004, and where it likely continued to recycle at least until Canada
implemented its upgraded feed ban in mid-2007," the groups wrote.
Bullard said, "We are hopeful that Secretary Vilsack will respond
favorably to the tens of millions of Americans represented by the groups
joined in the letter by immediately restoring our border restrictions
to prevent the introduction of BSE from Canada."
the FDA more closely regulate GRAS?
Posted on March 29, 2010 by ePerspective
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration appears ready to take another
look at how it regulates GRAS.
The federal Government Accountability Office¡¯s February report on FDA¡¯s
oversight of food ingredients and food contact materials that are considered
¡°Generally Recognized As Safe¡± (GRAS) revisits some important bedrock
concepts about how food is regulated in the United States, and soon
may lead to some changes in FDA¡¯s approach.
Conceptually, GRAS status has a certain degree of elegance. It is a
state of nature, a status that needs no government confirmation, and
the legal basis for the use of many food ingredients and food contact
substances. That makes regulatory oversight harder, perhaps, but it
doesn¡¯t necessarily lead to safety concerns.
GRAS status is a state of nature in that a particular use of a food
ingredient is either GRAS or isn¡¯t GRAS, and it doesn¡¯t matter if anyone
has said so, especially the FDA. GRAS status of a use of a food ingredient
or food contact material depends on whether relevant experts agree that
the use is safe and generally recognized as such among themselves and
other similar experts, based on generally accepted and available information
(or that it has been safely used in food since before 1958). A company
has no obligation to ask FDA¡¯s concurrence or even give FDA notice of
It¡¯s a fascinating concept to build into a legal framework for assuring
the safety of the food supply, and perhaps uniquely American in its
flavor, because its conceptual core is freedom rather than government
And it¡¯s probably safe to say that FDA just doesn¡¯t like that. Why?
Because FDA is generally uncomfortable with incomplete information,
given that Congress expects the agency to be responsible overall for
the safety of the food supply.
Remember, though, that the realm of GRAS substances is one of relatively
low safety risks. It¡¯s a solid assumption that companies¡¯ GRAS analyses
are conducted in good faith, considering the risks of customer and international
standards, public relations damage, and even potential civil liability.
So now comes the GAO report, in which it reviewed how FDA keeps tabs
on GRAS substances in and on food. GAO made six recommendations to FDA,
including figuring out a way to require companies to give FDA notice
of their independent GRAS determinations and post them publicly (FDA
says that idea might not work, since the public might mistake a listing
for an FDA blessing). GAO also recommended that FDA undertake a more
systematic approach to post-marketing safety re-evaluations, and FDA
agrees that would be a good idea. (GAO gave FDA a look at the report
in draft form, then published FDA¡¯s reactions together with the report.)
GAO also wants FDA to take an especially close look at engineered nanomaterials
that a manufacturer determines to be GRAS, and FDA agrees, saying it
will issue guidance soon to help manufacturers evaluate GRAS status
for uses of such materials.
Perhaps the biggest news coming out of FDA¡¯s responses to the report
is that FDA says it will finally start making a final rule version of
the 1997 proposed rule that explains to companies how to submit GRAS
Notices for FDA review. Though since 1997 the rule has been in ¡°proposed¡±
form, ever since its publication, industry and government have been
operating under it as if it were final. When it finalizes the rule,
FDA says it will address GAO¡¯s recommendation that it offer some parameters
for choosing experts to review GRAS status to avoid conflicts of interest.
Eric F. Greenberg
for packaging makers
Published in Packaging World Magazine, April 2010 , p. 18
Written by Eric F. Greenberg, Attorney-at-Law
When the subject is HACCP, what¡¯s a maker of food packaging to do?
The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points concept has spread in
recent years into more and more food processing realms, and new legislation
might soon require it for essentially all foods. But that¡¯s food. What
about makers of food packaging? They have one foot in each world, since
packaging is sometimes thought of like any other food ingredient, and
sometimes not. What should be their stance on HACCP?
For many companies, the answer is easy: If the customer insists that
I run my plant via a well-designed HACCP plan, then I do. Others might
put HACCP in place voluntarily as a selling point, similar to getting
ISO certification and the like.
But in recent years, as food safety has bubbled to the top of FDA¡¯s
list of concerns, and more food makers have been pressuring their packaging
makers to provide assurances, it¡¯s become clear that packaging makers
need help in development of HACCP plans.
Enter the Food Safety Alliance for Pack-aging, a division of the Institute
of Packaging Professionals. [The author is IoPP¡¯s General Counsel -
Ed.] Wynn Wiksell, General Mills¡¯ manager of packaging QRO, was a key
driver, chairing the group and helping grow it. This recently formed
group has issued model HACCP plans for a variety of packaging operations
to help packaging makers create acceptable plans. FSAP was formed by
consumer packaged goods companies, then added food safety associations
in the U.S. and Canada and packaging trade groups and packaging suppliers
HACCP gives an operation a systematic way to impose controls against
the most serious potential hazards. It calls for the company to analyze
its processes to identify those most serious hazards and designate them
critical control points, then create parameters to assure the hazard
is averted, and document that the parameters are adhered to each time
the process is undertaken. Regular reviews and improvements to the plan
are part of the program, as well. It¡¯s required for fruit and vegetable
juices, seafood, and USDA-regulated meat and poultry. Low- and high-acid
canned foods are regulated under a system that is conceptually similar
The basic design of all six of FSAP¡¯s model HACCP plans is essentially
the same. All include: assembling a multidisciplinary HACCP team; writing
product descriptions; identifying target audiences; creating and verifying
process flow diagrams; identifying hazards; performing hazard analyses;
determining whether CCPs exist for the processes; using of CCP decision
trees; if applicable, establishing CCPs, monitoring procedures for CCPs,
corrective action for deviations; and verifying the HACCP plan.
FSAP¡¯s models note that the most common area for packaging industry
CCP¡¯s is ¡°allergen issues due to mixed labels or materials.¡± The models
suggest programs to mitigate potential problems, such as: verifying
label design/segregating varying label designs; keeping printing plates
and other print media separate from other production orders; clearing
the production line of materials, labels, and containers prior to beginning
another production run; segregation of materials; and segregation of
pallets and packing labels.
Melissa Calicchia, M.S., of Food Safety Solutions, Inc., a California-based
technical consulting firm and independent laboratory, frequently works
with food companies and others to develop, validate and improve their
HACCP programs. She is generally complimentary of the FSAP models for
food packaging makers, noting that they are especially strong in addressing
potential allergen issues. ¡°The models are meaningful and would be very
important for packaging manufacturers all over the country to refer
to, to understand their risks, and control them,¡± she says.
Graham Packaging¡¯s manager of global sustainability and regulatory compliance,
Suzanne Matuszewski, was an early FSAP organizer and proponent of developing
these plans. To her way of thinking, packaging suppliers are part of
the food industry, and applying HACCP to packaging operations borrows
a proven method of control from the food industry. ¡°Packaging suppliers
need to work with their food customers to make sure every link in the
food supply chain is solid,¡± she says. She advises packaging makers
who create HACCP plans to ¡°Strive for continuous improvement once you
do.¡± Her own company, which has followed HACCP in its own operations
for some time, plans to revisit its plan with particular attention to
the advice in the FSAP model plans.
down sources of foodborne illness outbreaks
By Danielle Koagel
March 31, 2010
A new report by The Alliance for Food and Farming identifies produce
as the source of approximately 12 percent of foodborne illness outbreaks,
linking 88 percent of outbreaks to meat and processed foods.
The report analyzes Centers for Disease Control data associated with
foodborne illness outbreaks and produce. The analysis shows 12.3 percent
of all foodborne illness outbreaks from 1990 to 2007 were associated
with produce. Slightly more than 10 percent of all identified outbreaks
were associated with improper handling after leaving the farm and 2.2
percent were associated with the growing, packing, shipping or processing
of produce. The majority of the foodborne illness outbreaks, 88 percent,
were from non-produce food items.
The Alliance for Food and Farming, a non-profit organization comprised
of farmers and farm groups from throughout the U.S., commissioned an
independent scientific expert to conduct the analysis and identify where
the contamination of produce occurred.
This is the second time the Alliance for Food and Farming has conducted
a review of the CDC databases. The last time was based on data from
1990 through 2004. Both reports show similar findings, which indicates
illnesses associated with produce are still low despite recent outbreaks.
The report concludes that improvements are still necessary when it comes
to training and educating both consumers and restaurant employees on
safe handling of produce.
Findings show that 65 percent of outbreaks traced back to a produce
item can be attributed to improper handling in a restaurant, most likely
the result of cross contamination or improper employee hygiene. Mishandling
at community events caused 14 percent of the produce-related outbreaks,
followed by mishandling in the home which represents 13 percent of outbreaks
associated with produce.
The report also calls for improvements to limit on-farm contamination
through applied research and increased oversight of food safety processing
The Alliance for Food and Farming points to several new programs that
address food safety on the farm including those that involve mandatory
government oversight of food safety practices.
¡°Farmers are responding by enhancing their food safety practices to
protect public health as well as their own economic interests,¡± said
Ed Beckman in a press release, who noted that members of his organization,
the California Tomato Farmers, along with tomato farmers around the
country, suffered significant financial losses when tomatoes were erroneously
targeted in a highly publicized 2008 salmonella outbreak. The real culprit
was later identified as imported peppers from Mexico.
Beckman emphasized it is crucial that government reporting provide more
accurate and detailed information about foodborne illness outbreaks.
¡°The kind of information contained in this new Alliance for Food and
Farming report is currently not easily accessible through the Centers
for Disease Control databases,¡± he said. ¡°We are calling on all segments
of the produce industry to come together to work with CDC and FDA so
that everyone is clear about objectives on how best to measure progress
toward reducing foodborne illness from all sources.¡±
The Alliance for Food and Farming notes there are several programs focused
on providing improved food safety throughout the produce supply chain.
The National Restaurant Association provides education and information
on food safety to its members and its ServSafe program is designed to
train and certify restaurants and their employees on proper handling.
Another program, the Partnership for Food Safety Education and its FightBAC
campaign is focused on educating consumers about proper handling of
foods in the home. The federal government also has a website at www.foodsafety.gov
to provide consumers with information on safe food handling and government
food safety programs.
Earth Times. ¡°Alliance for Food and Farming report identifies sources
of foodborne illness outbreaks,¡± http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/alliance-for-food-and-farming,1225497.shtml#ixzz0jmML1C5C;
29 March 2010.
IN-MI Raw Milk
Trade May Be Over
by Dan Flynn | Apr 01, 2010
The raw milk supplier to the coop now at the center of a growing Campylobacter
outbreak in southeastern Michigan decided recently to stop distributing
product across state lines three years after federal officials found
the dairy was breaking the law by putting its raw milk into interstate
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in a Feb. 8, 2007 "Warning
Letter", said the Forest Grove Dairy "distributes unpasteurized
raw milk and cream in interstate commerce, in finished form for human
consumption." If so, that would mean the dairy was violating the
federal Public Health Service (PHS) Act.
The Indiana-based Forest Grove Dairy, located in Middlebury, supplied
raw milk to the Michigan-based Family Farm Cooperative at Vandalia,
where a couple dozen people who drank the unpasteurized product have
recently fallen ill with campylobacteriosis, the illness caused by the
ingestion of Campylobacter bacteria.
But now after the outbreak the flow of raw Hoosier milk to Michigan
has been shut off.
"Forest Grove Dairy has experienced increasing pressure from FDA
over the past week, and notwithstanding the private nature of our herd
lease and share arrangement, these pressures embody serious risks,"
said the Michigan coop in an email to its 250 members telling them their
raw milk source was cut off.
It only takes an hour or less to drive across the state line to Middlebury,
IN from Vandalia, MI. But crossing that line is what put the raw milk
into interstate commerce, violating federal law.
The Indiana Board of Animal Health, the Michigan Department of Agriculture,
and FDA jointly investigated the Forest Grove Dairy in 2007.
"The milk and cream you produce in Indiana and distribute to Cooperatives
in Michigan and Illinois for further distribution to their Co-op members
is in final package form for direct human consumption," Joann M.
Givens, FDA's Detroit wrote the owner of the Forest Grove Dairy.
The only labeling now on the raw milk is apparently contained in a green
and white plastic cap, which reads: "FOREST GROVE DAIRY, MIDDLEBURY,
INDIANA; RAW COW'S MILK, WARNING-NOT PASTEURIZED, 128 FL OZ." The
FDA letter indicated that might not be sufficient.
Now three years later, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH)
reports that in addition to the 12 confirmed cases of Campylobacter,
12 other potential cases are currently involved in testing. No one has
required hospitalization. Ages of the outbreak victims range between
two and 51 years.
"Raw or unpasteurized milk and dairy product may carry many types
of disease-causing germs such as Campylobacter, Salmonella and E. coli,
said Dr. Gregory Holzman, chief medical executive for MDCH. "People
need to be aware that raw milk and raw dairy products have not been
heat treated or pasteurized to kill germs."
Campylobacter is a bacterial illness that causes diarrhea (often bloody),
fever, and abdominal cramps 2-5 days after exposure. Illness may persist
for one to two weeks. Some people require treatment. The elderly, infants,
and those with weak immune systems are more likely to have a severe
or enduring illness.
Persons who are ill with these symptoms and have consumed raw milk recently
should consult with their medical provider and ask about being tested
for Campylobacter infection.
Campylobacter illness is a reportable communicable disease.
The FDA's 2007 "Warning Letter" raises the question of whether
more aggressive federal action then could have prevented the current
outbreak. At the time, raw milk advocates mounted a campaign charging
FDA with "intimidation" of the dairy and coop, and making
claims that herd share agreements were outside federal jurisdiction.
Selling raw milk is illegal in Michigan.
The Family Farm Cooperative, which through its attorney Steve Bemis
claims there is no evidence that its raw milk products are causing the
illnesses, runs a cow share system. Coop members pay a $25 annual fee
and an $8 per gallon "handling fee" for their raw milk supply.
The Niles Daily Star reports that Richard Hebron, who runs the Coop,
had a run-in with the law in 2006. State police stopped him on a highway
in Ann Arbor and seized 453 gallons of raw milk and later executed warrants
to search his home and computer.
He was, however, back in business a week later as Michigan opted not
to challenge the legality of the cow share program.
FDA is currently seeking a permanent injunction against California-based
Organic Pastures to prevent that company to distributing any of its
raw milk products across any state lines. See FDA Attempts to Corral
Raw Milk Producer, Dec. 17, 2009.
Sues Pepper Suppliers
by Zach Mallove | Apr 01, 2010
In the last two months, Daniele International Inc. has recalled 1.4
million pounds of its ready-to-eat meats because they became contaminated
with Salmonella Montevideo, a strain now responsible for an outbreak
that has infected 252 people in 44 states and the District of Columbia
since July 4.
According to Daniele, the company has suffered significant profit loss
since the onset of the outbreak. Lawsuits filed against Daniele by sickened
customers are on the rise (Seattle-based food safety law firm Marler
Clark has filed two lawsuits thus far and represents 17 victims of the
outbreak), and although the company has implemented a new food safety
system, public trust in the company remains low.
Citing present and future monetary losses, Daniele filed suit Tuesday
against Wholesome Spice and Seasonings Inc. and the Mincing Trading
Corp., two of Daniele's largest pepper suppliers. In 2009, Daniele purchased
50,000 pounds of pepper from Wholesome and 40,000 pounds from Mincing,
the suit says.
The lawsuit claims that Daniele was forced to recall 1.4 million pounds
of its products and refund $1.5 million to customers because it used
pepper to coat some of its meat products, such as its Italian-style
In early March, the Rhode Island Department of Health and other health
officials linked the Salmonella Montevideo outbreak to black pepper
used by Daniele, and the United States Department of Agriculture found
that the contaminated black pepper and crushed red pepper had been produced
by Wholesome and Mincing. According to the company's website, Daniele
has since terminated its relationship with the two suppliers, and now
uses only irradiated spices.
Based on these findings, Mincing recalled 20, 25, and 50-pound cartons
of its black pepper and Wholesome recalled the ground red pepper, crushed
red pepper, and whole black pepper it sold to Daniele.
Specifically, the suit accuses the spice manufacturers of negligence
and breach of contract.
"The hallmarks of success in the specialty food industry are quality
and reputation," the suit says, something the pepper suppliers
damaged by selling Daniele the contaminated spice.
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