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New Salmonella 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 research on?
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 organisms.
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 vaccines?
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.

Prevent 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 it was:
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) states unequivocally:
"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 costs.

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 government.
The current campylobacter outbreak linked to Forest Grove Dairy in Middlebury, Indiana may be an example of circumstances that could support criminal prosecution. As 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
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 aging standard.
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 value.
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 to consumers."
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 gut-colonising Salmonella.
The discovery could represent the first of a novel class of antimicrobial agents.
"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 worse.
"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 said.
"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.

FDA pressured 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," he said.
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 restaurants."
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 office.
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

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 Web site.
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 dish.
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 unaccounted for.
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 personal threats.
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 to Hengyang.
Last Wednesday, officials from the Hengyang law enforcement team on agriculture smashed up two small illegal workshops where the peas were made.
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 calcium.
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 farm.
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 predicted."
"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 states.
"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."

Should 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 its conclusion.
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 regulation.
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

HACCP advice 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 themselves.
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 to HACCP.
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.

Report breaks 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 practices.
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 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,¡±,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 commerce.
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.

Salami Maker 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 salami.
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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