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of Food Safety Modernization Act (Senate debate pending)
Posted on April 12, 2010 by Drew Falkenstein
Not exactly fresh out of committee, but out of committee nonetheless,
senate bill 510 (a/k/a the Food Safety Modernization Act) makes its
way to the senate floor soon, possibly this week. The full senate debate
and subsequent vote is certainly timely, as just today Michael Moss
was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his story on Stephanie Smiths E.
coli O157:H7 illness and Linda Rivera's long-awaited emergence from
a Nevada hospital where she has spent almost a year after also being
infected by E. coli O157:H7. Stephanie was sickened by a hamburger made
by Cargill, and Linda by contaminated cookie dough made by Nestle.
The Food Safety Modernization Act is truly an important piece of legislation,
in that it affects every citizen of this country, and even some abroad,
on a daily basis. The bill substantially modifies the Federal Food Drug
and Cosmetics Act, and generally gives the Food and Drug Administration
better authority and ability to monitor the safety of our food supply,
and take quicker and more effective action for food companies that don't
adequately protect against foodpoisoning risks.
Among other, more specific, things, the Food Safety Modernization Act:
Amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) to expand the
authority of the Secretary of Health and Human Services (the Secretary)
to regulate food, including by authorizing the Secretary to suspend
the registration of a food facility.
Requires each food facility to evaluate hazards and implement preventive
Directs the Secretary to assess and collect fees related to: (1) food
facility reinspection; (2) food recalls; and (3) the voluntary qualified
Requires the Secretary and the Secretary of Agriculture to prepare the
National Agriculture and Food Defense Strategy.
Requires the Secretary to: (1) identify preventive programs and practices
to promote the safety and security of food; (2) promulgate regulations
on sanitary food transportation practices; (3) develop a policy to manage
the risk of food allergy and anaphylaxis in schools and early childhood
education programs; (4) allocate inspection resources based on the risk
profile of food facilities or food; (5) recognize bodies that accredit
food testing laboratories; and (6) improve the capacity of the Secretary
to track and trace raw agricultural commodities.
Requires the Secretary, acting through the Director of the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to enhance foodborne illness surveillance
Authorizes the Secretary to order an immediate cessation of distribution,
or a recall, of food. Requires the Administrator of the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) to assist state, local, and tribal governments
in preparing for, assessing, decontaminating, and recovering from an
agriculture or food emergency.
Provides for: (1) foreign supplier verification activities; (2) a voluntary
qualified importer program; and (3) the inspection of foreign facilities
registered to import food.
Link made between listeriosis cases and deli meat
By Sarah Schmidt, Canwest News ServiceMarch 12, 2010
Ontario's chief medical officer confirmed Friday a "genetic fingerprint"
between two recent listeriosis cases and contaminated deli meat produced
at a federally regulated meat plant -- the first such match since Canada
was rocked in the summer of 2008 with a deadly outbreak.
Arlene King said public health officials in Ontario have linked two
cases of listeriosis to a genetic match from Siena-brand prosciutto
cotto cooked ham, recalled Thursday, which covers products with best
before dates of March 8 and 22 from delis and grocery stores in three
"Both individuals reported eating food products from the company.
They were hospitalized but they are now recovering at home," said
The genetic fingerprint is also a match to a Siena-brand mild cacciatore
salami, said King, who also revealed the number of Ontarians who have
fallen ill from listeriosis this year is higher than normal.
Usually, there are about 40 cases annually. To date, there have already
been 14 cases reported, she said. Ten of the 12 other cases do not appear
to be related, while lab results for the other two are still pending.
"At this point in time, we do not know what the source of infection
is in the majority of these individuals, and we may never know,"
she said. "Whether or not all of those, or any of those . . . are
linked to any kind of common source is unknown at this point."
In the meantime, King warned people not to consume the two products,
manufactured by the Toronto-based Siena Foods Ltd. "They both have
the exact same genetic fingerprints as two listeriosis cases in Ontario,"
The salami, recalled jointly last December by the Canadian Food Inspection
Agency and Siena Foods, was distributed in Ontario and Quebec and may
have been distributed nationally. The prosciutto was distributed in
Ontario, Quebec and Alberta, according to CFIA, which alerted consumers
to the contaminated meat late Thursday.
The Public Health Agency of Canada could not immediately say whether
any listeriosis cases in other jurisdictions are under investigation
for a link to Siena meats. Alberta's Ministry of Health on Friday said
there are no known cases in that province, but public health officials
are aware of the situation and will continue to monitor it.
The Ontario match is the first since the massive Maple Leaf recall in
2008. Twenty-two people -- most of them elderly Canadians living in
provincial long-term care facilities or hospitals -- died after consuming
deli meats contaminated with listeria produced at a government-inspected
Maple Leaf plant in Toronto.
Siena Foods did not return phone calls made by Canwest News Service
This most recent announcement follows an effort by the PHAC and CFIA
to rehabilitate their images in the wake of the 2008 listeriosis outbreak.
CFIA said Friday there was "increased regulatory scrutiny"
at the Siena plant in Toronto as a result of the salami recall on Dec.
21, 2009. This included a hold-and-test policy, instituted after the
Maple Leaf outbreak, where officials hold and test certain finished
products before allowing them to be distributed to the marketplace.
In this instance, certain Siena products were held and tested until
the policy was lifted in February.
The Siena prosciutto would have been sold to consumers after Jan. 11,
Small Farms Balk
at Food-Safety Bill
By JEAN SPENCER
WASHINGTON?Congress's food-safety fight is nearing an end but small
farmers still have a bone to pick with the legislation.
The Senate version of a food-safety bill has attracted broad bipartisan
support and is expected to pass easily soon after Congress returns from
recess next week. Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, a co-sponsor, predicted
it would be "on the president's desk by May." But small farmers
worry the measure's fees and inspection requirements would be ruinously
expensive and are pushing for exemptions.
"I know people who have been small farmers for 25 to 30 years who
are looking to get out of the business because food safety is becoming
so alarmist," said Mary Alionis, whose eight-acre Whistling Duck
Farm in Grants Pass, Ore., sells produce to farmers markets and restaurants.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are
an estimated 76 million U.S. cases of food-borne illness annually, resulting
in 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths.
A report by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human
Services issued Wednesday said the Food and Drug Administration inspected
fewer than one-quarter of U.S. food-production facilities annually and
failed to take regulatory action against more than half of those that
violated standards in fiscal year 2007.
Mr. Harkin, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee,
which unanimously approved the Senate's version of the bill in November,
said the FDA "needs additional resources to keep the food on our
A salmonella outbreak involving peanut products last year seemed to
put food-safety legislation on a fast track. But after the House passed
a version of the bill in July, the companion measure got hung up in
Senate jurisdictional disputes, then was shunted aside by health-care
Both House and Senate versions of the bill would require more FDA inspections
of farms, food production and processing facilities, give the agency
enhanced authority to order recalls, and force better recordkeeping
as food moves from farms to store shelves. The aim is to prevent widespread
outbreaks of food-borne illnesses and give the FDA more resources to
trace those that occur to their source.
Big food companies generally support the bill, judging the added expenses
it would bring to be small compared with the potential financial damage
of a vast product recall. But smaller producers say the bill's stepped-up
inspection requirements and provisions allowing the FDA to issue preventive
recalls would put too big a financial burden on them.
"Small farm groups seriously have problems with this bill,"
said Deborah Stockton, executive director of the National Independent
Consumers and Farmers Association, a coalition of small farmers. "We
are not afraid to stand up to it."
Ms. Alionis of Whistling Duck Farm estimated that costs associated with
the food-safety legislation could slice 5% off her $200,000 annual profit.
John Ikerd, emeritus professor of agricultural economics at the University
of Missouri, Columbia, said the bill's impact on smaller producers "could
be a blow to the whole local food movement." He said food-safety
requirements should be tailored to reflect the volume of food produced.
That doesn't sit well with some big producers. "Our view is that
everyone should have to meet guidelines of food safety no matter where
they are and what they grow," said Scott Faber, vice president
for federal affairs of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which
represents big producers including General Mills Inc. and Coca-Cola
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D., Conn.), a longtime advocate of tougher food-safety
laws, said the legislation already addresses smaller producers' concerns.
For instance, farms selling products directly to consumers from a fruit
stand or farmers market would be exempt from some fees and requirements.
"We've made all kinds of accommodations to small farmers so that
they are not put at risk," she said.
Raw Milk Permit Suspended
by Suzanne Schreck | Apr 09, 2010
The Pennsylvania Department
of Agriculture announced Thursday that it had suspended the permit allowing
Pasture Maid Creamery in New Castle, PA, to sell raw milk for human
consumption. The move came Monday after testing revealed Campylobacter
in the creamery's raw milk.
Campylobacter is found in a wide variety of healthy domestic and wild
animals including cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, ducks, geese,
wild birds, dogs, cats, rodents, and marine mammals. The bacteria usually
live in the intestines as part of the animal's normal flora, and is
shed in feces. Most Campylobacter species do not cause any signs of
illness in the animal host.
Ingestion of Campylobacter bacteria by humans causes diarrhea, nausea,
vomiting, abdominal pain, headache, and muscle pain. Symptoms typically
appear two to five days after exposure. Most cases are mild, do not
require hospitalization, and are self-limited; however, Campylobacter
jejuni infection, or campylobacteriosis, can be severe and life-threatening.
Campylobacteriosis may cause appendicitis or infect other organs. It
can also enter the blood stream. Guillain-Barre syndrome is a severe
complication of campylobacteriosis that can lead to paralysis. An estimated
one in 1,000 cases of Campylobacter infection results in death.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, at least six people
became ill with campylobacteriosis after consuming raw milk from Pasture
Maid Creamery in February.
Freezing raw milk will not kill Campylobacter; anyone who has purchased
raw milk from Pasture Maid Creamery is urged to discard the milk. Anyone
ill with symptoms of campylobacteriosis should contact their health
care provider and report their illness to the Pennsylvania Department
a Hand Washing Plan
by O. Peter Snyder, Jr., Ph.D. | Apr 09, 2010
Hand washing is a significant
food safety risk. If not done properly, many people can be exposed to
bacterial, viral, and parasitic pathogens that can cause illness. Of
the estimated 76 million foodborne illnesses annually, an estimated
70 percent are caused by improper hand and fingertip washing. The following
presentation will discuss the food and non-food sources of pathogens
and types of bacteria on found on hands and fingertips, with attention
given to Staphylococcus aureus. It will discuss the ineffectiveness
of germicidal soaps and alcohol rubs as a replacement for hand washing
and the use of a fingertip rinse in the kitchen when hand washing is
not a convenient option.
The tested hand / fingertip wash procedure featured in this presentation
is two-fold: 1) the double wash when a food handler comes into the kitchen
from an outside location such as the toilet and 2) the single wash,
which can be used in the kitchen. The procedure is analyzed in terms
of the input (level of hazard on fingertips prior to washing), the increase
of the hazard, if any, during the process minus the necessary reduction
in order to achieve a Food Safety Objective. A detailed description
and pictorial flow of the hand wash procedure are presented. The double
wash makes use of the nail brush on fingertips and soap and flowing
water, which removes pathogens by friction and dilution, followed by
a regular wash with soap and flowing water and paper towel dry. The
single wash is simply the second part of the double wash.
There is discussion of the misconception of glove use and when gloves
can be effectively used.
Hand and fingertip washing should be a part of a food manager's Active
Managerial Control plan. How to implement a hand wash plan is presented.
View Handwashing Slideshow: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/Handwashing-Presentation-MDH-4-6-10.pdf
Food safety proctor
accused of letting students cheat
By Lisa Jennings
ORLANDO, Fla. (April 12, 2010) The food safety credentials of 27 foodservice
workers in central Florida were revoked recently because of alleged
improprieties by the proctor who administered their exams.
The foodservice workers are not accused of wrongdoing, but will be required
to retake the test to become certified, the National Registry of Food
Safety Professionals said last week.
The incident is the latest example of the National Registry¡¯s attempt
to crack down on what some say is a growing number of people attempting
to cheat the system under growing pressure to improve food-safety standards.
Under the laws of 20 states, restaurant operators must have at least
one employee who has passed an accredited food-safety certification
exam. Another 36 states have at least one jurisdiction with similar
requirements. The National Registry is one of three groups accredited
to develop the food-safety certification exams as well as to approve
and oversee the proctors who administer the test.
The proctor under investigation is an employee of a central Florida
county school system, who taught a food-safety certification class on
According to the allegations, most of the students in the food-safety
class took the test in class, as is required. But for students who missed
the test date, the proctor allegedly e-mailed the live test to them.
They returned answers, which the proctor filled onto the test form.
The improper practice, which may have gone on for several years, not
only allowed students to cheat, it also compromised the safety of the
exam questions, said Larry Lynch, president and chief executive of the
As a result, the organization has had to spend about $100,000 replacing
the exam questions because they were potentially widely exposed. Lynch
said the students believed they were taking the test legitimately.
¡°This alleged breach has significantly inconvenienced many innocent
people and created an unnecessary financial burden for a number of food
establishments and other businesses," Lynch said. ¡°But what we
all should have is zero tolerance for any conduct that jeopardizes public
health in any way, shape or form.¡±
Last year, a similar incident in California resulted in the invalidation
of more than 730 certificates held by foodservice workers there.
That incident, which involved improprieties by three exam givers, caused
San Francisco public health officials to call for stricter oversight
of the food-safety certification process, which many say is key to preventing
¡°This is happening with greater frequency,¡± Lynch said. ¡°As the certification
becomes more highly regarded, it becomes more popular for people to
attempt to game the system.¡±
By: Richard Raymond
Too many times in this blog's string of responses I keep reading "just
cook it", as if that were the answer to the problem of food borne
Handling and cooking raw meat and poultry correctly would go a long
way in reducing incidences of food borne illnesses, but in this day
and age of more people dining out, more meals being prepared by schools
and other organizations, a more diverse population of the US with language,
cultural, educational and economic barriers to the receiving of and
following safe food handling messages, "just cook it" just
does not show an understanding of the problem we face.
The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), fortunately, does
understand the need to educate consumers and the difficulty in reaching
out to people in a fashion that will get the desired response. That
desired response is a body of consumers empowered with the knowledge
to safely handle food in its preparation stages, thus providing the
best line of defense against illnesses.
FSIS just conducted a Food Safety Education Conference at Atlanta, Georgia,
March 23-26, 2010. Interest was so high that with over 700 registrants,
registration was closed long before the conference even convened. Four
years ago a similar conference by FSIS had over 600 persons attend.
That conference, in Denver, focused on how to reach at risk audiences
on food safety education. This most recent conference title was "Advancements
in Food Safety Education: Trends, Tools and Technologies" and it
is evident that the goal for this conference was to explore more effective
ways to reach every consumer, every retailer and every out of home provider
of food to the general public. The agenda can be seen at www.fsis.usda.gov/atlanta2010.
Social media tools such as Face Book, You Tube, LinkedIn and Twitter
were discussed and used to follow the conference proceedings. Consumer
behavior patterns and social marketing were explored, as was how to
make recall information more pertinent to consumers. The need to engage
with the medical community and food workers are not new subjects, but
the "how to BETTER engage" was an important agenda item. How
to make instructions on frozen and microwaveable products more meaningful
and understandable was debated. Lastly, how to expand partnerships and
increase collaboration was considered.
"Just cook it" is a lousy defense of an industry, and a worse
statement to make when something goes wrong in the production system
and causes illnesses. A gathering such as the one FSIS just hosted with
support and collaboration from many other organizations, too numerous
to mention here, is the kind of proactive steps we need to help reduce
food borne illnesses. I can't wait to read the transcripts once they
are posted?I hope the "just cook it" crowd will also read
them and learn.
over marketing tainted beef
By Peter Eisler, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON ? Beef containing
harmful pesticides, veterinary antibiotics and heavy metals is being
sold to the public because federal agencies have failed to set limits
for the contaminants or adequately test for them, a federal audit finds.
A program set up to test beef for chemical residues "is not accomplishing
its mission of monitoring the food supply for ¡¦ dangerous substances,
which has resulted in meat with these substances being distributed in
commerce," says the audit by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's
Office of Inspector General.
The health effects on people who eat such meat are a "growing concern,"
the audit adds.
The testing program for cattle is run by the USDA's Food Safety and
Inspection Service (FSIS), which also tests meat for such pathogens
as salmonella and certain dangerous strains of E. coli. But the residue
program relies on assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency,
which sets tolerance levels for human exposure to pesticides and other
pollutants, and the Food and Drug Administration, which does the same
for antibiotics and other medicines.
Limits have not been set by the EPA and FDA "for many potentially
harmful substances, which can impair FSIS' enforcement activities,"
the audit found.
The FSIS said in a written statement that the agency has agreed with
the inspector general on "corrective actions" and will work
with the FDA and EPA "to prevent residues or contaminants from
entering into commerce."
Even when the inspection service does identify a lot of beef with high
levels of pesticide or antibiotics, it often is powerless to stop the
distribution of that meat because there is no legal limit for those
In 2008, for example, Mexican authorities rejected a U.S. beef shipment
because its copper levels exceeded Mexican standards, the audit says.
But because there is no U.S. limit, the FSIS had no grounds for blocking
the beef's producer from reselling the rejected meat in the United States.
"It's unacceptable. These are substances that can have a real impact
on public health," says Tony Corbo, a lobbyist for Food and Water
Watch, a public interest group. "This administration is making
a big deal about promoting exports, and you have Mexico rejecting our
beef because of excessive residue levels. It's pretty embarrassing."
Some contamination is inadvertent, such as pesticide residues in cows
that drink water fouled by crop runoff. Other contaminants, such as
antibiotics, often are linked to the use of those chemicals in farming.
For example, the audit says, veal calves often have higher levels of
antibiotic residue because ranchers feed them milk from cows treated
with the drugs. Overuse of the antibiotics help create antibiotic-resistant
strains of diseases.
"Beef farmers and ranchers pride themselves on producing a safe
and wholesome product, and anything less is unacceptable," says
Meghan Pusey, a spokeswoman for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
"We remain committed to working with industry and government partners
to eliminate rare safety incidences from a meat supply that is extraordinarily
safe by any nation's standards."
Others say legislative action is needed, especially to curb problems
with antibiotic residues.
The audit "shows clearly the need for quick action by Congress
to place some reasonable limits on the use of antibiotics in farm animals,"
says Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., who has more than 100 co-sponsors
on her bill to ban seven types of antibiotics from being used indiscriminately
in animal feed. "If we don't remedy this problem, who knows what
kind of havoc these residues will have on our bodies."
Tainted Meat Reaching Consumers
by Helena Bottemiller | Apr 14, 2010
Veterinary drugs, pesticides,
and heavy metals are making it onto our plates via meat, according to
a federal audit released this week.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of the Inspector General
(OIG) report concludes that the agencies responsible for monitoring
harmful residues are "not accomplishing" their mission.
"Together, [USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service], FDA, and EPA
have not established thresholds for many dangerous substances (e.g.,
copper or dioxin), which has resulted in meat with these substances
being distributed in commerce," says the audit, which identifies
lack of agency commitment and poor interagency coordination as key issues.
The OIG also found that FSIS does not attempt to recall meat, even when
its tests have confirmed the "excessive presence of veterinary
"Not only does overuse of antibiotics help create antibiotic-resistant
strains of diseases, but the residues of certain drugs and heavy metals
can have potentially adverse health consequences if they are consumed
in meat," OIG reported. The audit offers the following table, which
lists five drugs and substances found in meat and their potential health
effects (click to enlarge): http://www.foodsafetynews.com/assets_c/2010/04/drug-side-effects-2287.html
Harmful residues can find their way into meat in a variety of ways.
If drugs are used on a sick animal and adequate time does not elapse
between when the drugs are withdrawn and the time of slaughter, the
drugs may be found in the animal's meat. If there are pesticides in
the feed, pesticide residues can likewise continue on through the food
The report explains the findings are particularly troubling because
dangerous residues cannot be cooked out. "While cooking meat properly
can destroy [pathogens] before they are consumed, no amount of cooking
will destroy residues. In some cases, heat may actually break residues
down into components that are more harmful to consumers. Since consumers
have no easy way of protecting themselves against the residues of harmful
substances in their food, it is important that the national residue
program's controls be as robust as possible to prevent meat contaminated
with harmful substances from reaching the kitchen table."
"The implications of this audit are huge," said Congresswoman
Louise Slaughter (D-CA), the only microbiologist serving in Congress,
who has become a champion for curbing the routine, or subtherapeutic,
use of antibiotics in agriculture.
"Americans expect our government to protect the public health,"
she said. "Overuse of antibiotics on farms leads directly to antibiotic-resistant
pathogens. In addition, antibiotic and other residues in meat can cause
potentially severe health consequences. I am pleased to see that the
OIG is taking this issue seriously, and I expect that the Department
of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Environmental
Protection Agency will take swift and aggressive action to improve oversight
of meat safety."
"It's unacceptable. These are substances that can have a real impact
on public health," Tony Corbo, a lobbyist for Food and Water Watch,
told USA TODAY Tuesday. "This administration is making a big deal
about promoting exports, and you have Mexico rejecting our beef because
of excessive residue levels. It's pretty embarrassing."
The OIG report says FSIS, EPA, and FDA need to expand the number of
substances tested for, improve the methodology for sampling hazardous
residues, determine more efficient ways of approving newer methods of
testing for drug residues, and collaborate to set tolerances for additional
FSIS did not dispute any of the OIG's findings or recommendations.
The entire report is available here: http://www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/24601-08-KC.pdf
consumer protection: FDA fails to check food makers for years
2010-04-14 13:06:32 (GMT)
(JusticeNewsFlash.com - Justice News Flash, Personal Injury)
Legal news for consumer protection attorneys. The FDA leaves many food
manufacturing plants unchecked for years.
Consumer protection attorneys- The FDA has failed to conduct inspections
at many food-manufacturing plants, raising the risk of food borne illness
Washington, D.C.?Over the last four years, the U.S. food supply has
been inundated with outbreaks of food-borne illnesses in an abundance
of foods, which may be attributed to the dwindling Food and Drug Administration¡¯s
(FDA) review of food manufacturing plants. Government investigators
stated that many facilities have gone over five years without being
checked by federal inspectors, as reported by MSNBC.
With the drop of inspections of our nations food supplying plants, the
likelihood of an outbreak of food borne diseases are rising, thus putting
the pubic at risk. A report by the Department of Health and Human Services¡¯
inspector general is making people think twice about the safety of our
food. Since 2006, high-profiled outbreaks involving foods like lettuce,
peppers, peanuts and spinach has plagued the news. The diseases have
caused the U.S. to spend $152 billion in health-related expenses every
The report found that food safety violations were not always properly
addressed by the FDA. ¡°FDA can assign a facility with the most serious
food safety or regulatory infractions an official action indicated (OAI)
classification, which warrants agency action to ensure the violation
is fixed. But FDA took no regulatory action against 25 percent of facilities
it assigned an OAI classification in fiscal 2007. Additionally, 36 percent
of facilities with an OAI classification did not receive any follow
up from FDA to ensure the violations were corrected.¡± according to the
The report indicates that a dwindling FDA workforce and resources are
responsible to the lax inspections. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC) http://www.cdc.gov/ estimates that 76 million people
across the U.S. get sick every year with food borne illnesses, which
5,000 resulting in deaths.
Misdiagnosed in 2 out of 3 Cases
A new generation of sophisticated allergy tests reveals that peanut
allergy is often misdiagnosed. Two out of three diagnosed patients would
be able to eat peanut without any problems at all. This according to
a Swedish study conducted by Karolinska Institutet in collaboration
PORTAGE, Mich.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Allergy to peanuts is one of the most
common and feared food allergies. Due to its infamously severe reactions,
peanut allergy has always been associated with a deep anxiety, especially
in parents of peanut allergic children. Now, a recent study makes it
possible to give a majority of these parents some reassuring news.
¡°However, using these new ImmunoCAP¢ç tests, we were able to distinguish
what peanut protein each patient was actually allergic to. This made
it possible for us to see which one of them were allergic to the ¡®birch
pollen similar¡¯ Ara h 8, and find the cross reaction.¡±
¡°Many people are being told that they are allergic to peanut, that they
must avoid them and all foods that might contain them at all cost, are
actually not allergic to the nut at all,¡± says Swedish scientist, Professor
Magnus Wickman at Sachs¡¯ Children¡¯s Hospital and Karolinska Institutet,
Stockholm, Sweden. ¡°In fact, our findings show that two out of three
that are considered allergic to peanut only experience mild symptoms,
if any symptoms at all. The reason is that these patients are not allergic
to peanut, but to birch pollen.¡±
¡°There are several different proteins in peanut that can give rise to
allergic reactions. One of them, Ara h 8, is very similar to one of
the proteins responsible for birch pollen allergy,¡± adds Dr. Wickman.
¡°What we are seeing in these patients is a mild birch pollen like reaction
as a result of peanut consumption, what we call a ¡®cross-reaction.¡¯
Unfortunately, a routine allergy test, either in the skin or the blood,
cannot tell the difference and pinpoints the patient as allergic to
both peanut and birch pollen.¡±
The problem is in the limitations of today¡¯s routine allergy tests.
Normally, either a skin prick test is performed by introducing a small
amount of the suspected allergen into the skin, or a basic blood test
for antibodies to the allergen extract is carried out. While these tests
have great utility, the problem is that neither of them can determine
exactly which specific protein(s) in the extract is giving rise to the
allergic reaction. To do this requires a closer look at allergy on the
molecular level, at exactly which protein is causing the reaction, by
testing each component separately. This is a rapidly growing area in
allergy diagnostics called molecular allergology, or molecular allergy.
¡°Normal tests based on natural extracts from peanut or birch can only
tell that the body is reacting to something in this complex mixture.
Molecular allergy can precisely identify the protein that is giving
rise to the reaction, making it possible to investigate the cause of
allergy, discover false allergies, and find unexpected cross-reactions,¡±
says Dr. Wickman.
This is the aim of the BAMSE project, a 10-year study of over 4,000
children born between 1994 and 1996, from which this latest finding
is released. The study is conducted by Karolinska Institutet in cooperation
with Phadia who developed this new type of ImmunoCAP¢ç Allergen Component
¡°At first, as many as 7.5 percent of the children seemed allergic to
peanut at age 8, based on routine tests,¡± says Dr. Wickman. ¡°However,
using these new ImmunoCAP¢ç tests, we were able to distinguish what peanut
protein each patient was actually allergic to. This made it possible
for us to see which one of them were allergic to the ¡®birch pollen similar¡¯
Ara h 8, and find the cross reaction.¡±
¡°Clearly, these children should have been diagnosed with birch pollen
allergy and not with a potentially life-threatening peanut allergy,¡±
says Magnus Wickman. ¡°In light of these new findings and the new available
allergy tests, my advice to parents of peanut allergic children is to
contact their physician and ask for additional laboratory testing using
allergen component testing.¡±
ImmunoCAP¢ç Allergen Component tests are widely used and widely available
in Europe, but in the United States are available to allergy specialists
only through the Phadia Immunology Reference Laboratory (www.pirllab.com)
as a Laboratory Developed Test while Phadia works with the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration to move towards clearance for ImmunoCAP Allergen
Components. With Allergen Components, allergists can test patients for
reactions to specific protein components of allergens.
Allergists who wish to order ImmunoCAP Allergen Component profiles,
obtain supplies for shipping, or ask questions about the program can
call PiRL Customer Service at 1-800-346-4346.
Phadia is the global leader in allergy, asthma and autoimmunity diagnostics.
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Decline in Foodborne Illness
Posted on April 15, 2010 by David Babcock
How about a little good news for a change? The CDC announced today,
in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the results of
a study indicating a decline in the incidence of a number of high-profile
In comparison with the first 3 years of surveillance (1996--1998), sustained
declines in the reported incidence of infections caused by Campylobacter,
Listeria, Salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC)
O157, Shigella, and Yersinia were observed.
On the other hand, incidence of Vibrio infection continued to rise.
In addition, vulnerable populations, in particular the young and those
of advanced age, continued to suffer disproportionate effects of foodborne
illness: "For most infections, reported incidence was highest among
children aged <4 years; the percentage of persons hospitalized and
the case fatality rate (CFR) were highest among persons aged ¡Ã50 years."
The CDC also provided incidence rates, per 100,000 population for several
pathogens, for 2009, encompassing a total of 17,468 culture confirmed
illnesses in the tracked pathogens:
Salmonella (7,039; 15.19).
Campylobacter (6,033; 13.02).
Shigella (1,849; 3.99).
Cryptosporidium (1,325; 2.86).
STEC O157 (459; 0.99).
STEC non-O157 (264; 0.57).
Vibrio (160; 0.35).
Listeria (158; 0.34).
Yersinia (150; 0.32).
Cyclospora (31; 0.07)
Gain in Senate Food Safety Battle
by Helena Bottemiller | Apr 15, 2010
An update on the pending
food safety bill, with an outline of key amendments and discussion on
the proposed exemption for small farms
Several amendments aimed at lessening the impact on small farms will
be adopted in the final version of the food safety bill headed for the
Senate floor next week, a key sustainable agriculture group announced
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) reported that
"several very important breakthroughs on important improvements"
for its constituents will be included in the manager's amendment, a
package of changes agreed upon by both sides before floor debate.
The group has been working closely with Senate staff to address widespread
concern in the small, organic, sustainable agriculture communities about
the impact the pending FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) would
have on the growing local food movement.
With key changes in the works, the group may be able to get behind the
legislation, NSAC spokeswoman Aimee Witteman told Food Safety News.
"Assuming there are no new surprises in the bill and once information
is shared about the outcome of the negotiations over Senator Brown's
traceback provision [see below], we can support the bill as amended,"
said Witteman in an email yesterday.
According to NSAC, the support for changes has "picked up speed
in the past week" with a floor vote imminent. The group reported
that the following changes have been agreed to (it's important to note,
the final language has not been worked out):
-The amendment sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) pertaining
to farms that engage in value-added processing or that co-mingle product
from several farms will be included in the final bill. It will provide
the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with the authority to either
exempt farms engaged in low or no risk processing or co-mingling activities
from new regulatory requirements or to modify particular regulatory
requirements for such farming operations. Included within the purview
of the amendment are exemptions or flexibilities with respect to requirements
within S. 510 for food safety preventative control plans, and FDA on-farm
-The amendments sponsored by Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) will also
be included in the final bill. These amendments, intended to reduce
unnecessary paperwork and excess regulation, pertain to both the preventative
control plan and the produce standards sections of the bill. FDA will
be instructed to provide flexibility for small processors including
on-farm processing, minimize the burden of compliance with regulations,
and minimize the number of different standards that apply to separate
foods. FDA will also be prohibited from requiring farms and other food
facilities to hire consultants to write food safety plans or to identify,
implement, certify, or audit those plans. With respect to produce standards,
FDA will also be given the discretion to develop rules for categories
of foods or for mixtures of foods rather than necessarily needing to
have a separate rule for each specific commodity or to regulate specific
crops if the real food safety issue involved mixtures only.
-The amendment sponsored by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) to provide
for a USDA-delivered competitive grants program for food safety training
for farmers, small processors and wholesalers will also be part of the
final bill. The training projects will prioritize small and mid-scale
farms, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, and small food
processors and wholesalers. In order to comport with the FDA-specific
nature of the overall bill, the farmer training grant program will be
provided via a memorandum of understanding between FDA and USDA, but
will then be administered by USDA's National Institute for Food and
Agriculture. As is the case for all of the provisions in S. 510, funding
for the bill and for this competitive grants program will happen through
the annual agriculture appropriations bill process.
-The effort championed by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to strip the
bill of wildlife-threatening enforcement against "animal encroachment"
of farms will also be in the manager's package. It will require FDA
to apply sound science to any requirements that might impact wildlife
and wildlife habitat on farms.
Negotiations are ongoing over an amendment proposed by Senator Sherrod
Brown (D-OH) to amend the traceability and recordkeeping section of
the bill, according to NSAC's update. "We hope to be able to report
on the results of that discussion in the coming days," the group
Strong disagreement over small farm exemptions
The most contentious amendment in consideration (pdf), proposed by Senator
John Tester (D-MT), to exempt food facilities with under $500,000 gross
sales from preventative control plan requirements, and traceback and
recordkeeping provisions, will not be part of the manager's amendment,
but will be debated separately when the bill is brought to the floor.
Tester's language has strong support within the sustainable ag community.
In the past week alone, dozens of different action alerts were circulating
the internet urging family farmers and supporters of the burgeoning
local food movement to call their Senators on behalf of Tester's amendment.
Roland McReynolds, executive director of the Carolina Farm Stewardship
Association--a group that has actively organized to press North Carolina
Senators to support changes to the bill--said Tester's amendment is
the "simplest solution for promoting a healthy, safe food supply."
But, many in the food safety community dispute the claim that locally
grown, sustainable food is safer, and want to see new federal regulations
apply to all producers, regardless of size.
"The concept that small, local, organic equals safe and that large,
global, multinational is unsafe is wrong," said David Acheson,
former associate commissioner of foods at FDA, adding that he has seen
no solid evidence that unconventionally-grown food is microbiologically
safer. Acheson thinks Tester's proposal goes too far. "It is asking
for trouble...and it is not sound public health policy," he said.
Tony Corbo, a lobbyist for Food & Water Watch, also expressed very
strong reservations about the proposal, pointing out that, based on
the 2007 Agriculture Census released by the USDA last year, nearly 95
percent of domestic farms would be exempt.
Corbo also noted the exemption could have unintended consequences on
the safety of imported food. "If you exempt domestic farms that
earn below $500,000 annual income from the bill's provisions, you would
also have to exempt any foreign farm below that income level as well--so
cheap and unsafe imports could enter our food supply," he said.
Many of the key groups in the Make Our Food Safe coalition, a campaign
made up of consumer, public health, and industry groups pushing for
the passage of a strong FDA food safety bill, chose not to comment on
the changes until final language is agreed upon.
David Plunkett, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Science in
the Public Interest (CSPI), who is familiar with the negotiations, indicated
yesterday that Senate staff are continuing to work on a compromise.
"Stakeholders have been briefed on the broad outlines of the agreements
and it appears the offices negotiating the bill want to find good agreements
that preserve the bill's public health focus while addressing any legitimate
concerns of small and sustainable agriculture," he said.
Both the House and Senate version of the bill--the House passed a food
safety reform bill in July--give FDA mandatory recall authority, require
more frequent inspections, and ask food facilities to implement food
Raw Milk Website
by Zach Mallove | Apr 15, 2010
In the last month alone, two of the largest distributors of raw (unpasteurized,
unprocessed) milk in the Northwest, PCC Natural Markets and Whole Foods,
announced plans to discontinue the sale of raw milk altogether. The
reason, they said, was that many experts, including government officials
and scientists, warn that raw milk is a high risk food that potentially
contains a wide variety of harmful bacteria--including Salmonella, E.
coli O157:H7, Listeria, Campylobacter and Brucella--that may cause illness
and possibly death.
State laws in California, Washington state, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut,
however, allow raw milk and raw milk products that meet state standards
to be sold in retail stores. And proponents say it is more nutritious,
tastes better, and is no more harmful than pasteurized milk.
In 2009, two leading public health agencies, the American Veterinary
Medical Association (AVMA) and the International Association for Food
Protection (IAFP), held informational sessions to discuss emerging issues
surrounding the increasing popularity of raw milk. After examining the
scope and complexity of the debate, many participants felt that there
was a need for a website entirely devoted to raw milk. Last night, such
a website was launched.
The site, http://www.realrawmilkfacts.com, is designed to serve as a
clearinghouse for scientific studies, presentations, commentaries, regulations,
and position statements on the topic. Developed and reviewed by scientists
and health educators in universities, government, industry, and trade
organizations, the site offers news, Q&A, personal stories, and
lucid analysis of the real risks and benefits of raw milk.
Michele Jay-Russell, Co-Organizer of the American Veterinary Medical
Association Raw Milk Symposium and President of the American Association
of Public Health Veterinarians, said discussions during the session
were the inspiration for creating a new Website.
"We continued to exchange information after the meeting, and created
a place online where consumers interested in natural foods and health
could obtain factual information about the benefits and risks related
to raw milk," Jay-Russell said.
Bill Marler, managing partner of Marler Clark, the Seattle-based food
safety law firm, said the site is an amazing collaboration of experts,
academics, and scientists.
"Marler Clark was proud to support the work of everyone who participated
in putting the site together," he said. "Special thanks go
to our clients who were willing to share their stories of the real risk
of raw milk."
By LISA SANDERS, M.D.
Published: April 5, 2010Linkedin
Dr. Kurtland Ma found the
young man lying on the stretcher in the quiet of the predawn night.
He was surprised by how healthy the patient looked: he had learned over
the first year of his residency training that those who came to the
Jacobi Medical Center emergency room in the Bronx at that hour were
often the very sickest patients.
The thin chart reported that the patient came to the E.R. because he
was having trouble walking. He had a headache; he felt weak and dizzy,
and yet his vitals and initial blood work were completely normal. He
was a puzzle, the senior resident told him as she handed Dr. Ma the
chart. ¡°I have no idea what¡¯s going on with this guy,¡± she told Dr.
Ma. ¡°But he is probably going to need a head CT.¡±
The patient was 28 and said he was healthy until three days ago, when
he and his girlfriend went to the Bahamas to celebrate his birthday.
After a long day of swimming and snorkeling, they decided to try a restaurant
they had heard good things about. They both ordered seafood ? she had
the red snapper, he the barracuda ? and then went out dancing. Out on
the dance floor the patient doubled over, caught off guard by an intense
pain that knifed through his gut and took away his breath. He stumbled
to the bathroom. The abdominal cramps and diarrhea came in waves. He
kept thinking it would pass, but it didn¡¯t. Finally he decided to go
back to the hotel.
As they walked through the streets crowded with other vacationers, his
girlfriend teased him for letting a little bug ruin his birthday. But
by then all he wanted was to lie down and go to sleep. Once in bed,
sleep was elusive. His body ached with fever, and the cramping and diarrhea
kept sending him to the bathroom. Finally he woke his girlfriend and
told her he had to go to the hospital.
They were in the tiny emergency room in the Bahamian hospital when the
vomiting started. Relentless heaves racked his body long after all he¡¯d
consumed had been eliminated. The rest of the night was a blur of tests
and treatments punctuated by slowly diminishing waves of pain and nausea.
The Bahamian doctors returned to the patient¡¯s bedside frequently. He
was feverish and even the lightest pressure on his abdomen was excruciating.
Was this appendicitis? Hepatitis? Or just a bad case of food poisoning?
The CT scan showed a normal appendix. The blood tests showed no signs
of hepatitis or any other infection. The antinausea medication stopped
the vomiting and slowed the diarrhea.
This was probably food poisoning, a doctor told the exhausted patient.
Most food poisoning is caused by ingested bacteria ? E. coli, salmonella
or staphylococcus aureus. Seafood-related food poisoning is often linked
to a less well-known bug ? Vibrio parahaemolyticus, although that bacteria
is usually killed by cooking. Had they eaten sushi? No, their food was
well cooked, the girlfriend assured him. The doctor shrugged. Generally
it doesn¡¯t make sense to try to identify the bug because the treatment
tends to be the same no matter what you¡¯ve got, he told the couple.
The most important thing was to avoid becoming dehydrated, and this
patient was getting plenty of fluids.
By morning, the patient felt a little better. He was given a prescription
for an antibiotic and something for the nausea and sent back to recover
in his hotel. He slept for the next two days. Finally the patient felt
well enough to venture out. As he dressed he noticed that his hands
seemed clumsy. And his feet felt as if they were asleep, as if he were
walking on a shifting carpet of tiny nails.
He wasn¡¯t sure he could eat. His girlfriend bought him a smoothie from
a juice stand. The fruit drink smelled delicious, and his stomach rumbled
eagerly. He took a sip and immediately spit it out. The icy cold drink
felt as if it had come straight off the stove ? as if it were boiling
hot rather than freezing cold. He took another sip. His mouth burned.
It felt too hot to swallow. At this point, the patient decided he¡¯d
had enough, and the couple soon flew back to New York. The young man
dropped off his girlfriend at home and continued on to the Jacobi emergency
Dr. Ma was taking notes as the patient told his story, but when he mentioned
this strange reversal of hot and cold, the doctor gasped. ¡°I know what
this is!¡± he shouted, interrupting the patient¡¯s story. ¡°I know what
this is!¡± And with that he ran down the crowded hallway to where the
attending physician and senior resident were sitting. ¡°He doesn¡¯t need
a head CT! He has ciguatera poisoning.¡±
Ciguatera poisoning comes from eating fish that has been contaminated
with a toxin produced by an organism that grows on reef algae in some
infested tropical waters. Because the toxin is stored in fat, its concentration
increases as it moves up the food chain from the little fish who eat
the tainted algae to the larger, predatory fish, like shark, snapper,
grouper and barracuda, and from there to the human consumer. Unlike
most other causes of food poisoning, this toxin is colorless and odorless
and isn¡¯t destroyed by cooking.
The illness was first described in 1774 by a surgeon¡¯s mate on the crew
of Captain Cook¡¯s South Pacific exploration aboard the HMS Resolution.
The crewman, John Anderson, documented the symptoms described by several
shipmates who had eaten a large fish caught in the tropical waters.
There was ¡°a flushing heat and violent pains in the face and head, with
a giddiness and increase in weakness; also a pain, or as they expressed
it, a burning heat in the mouth and throat.¡± Many since then have described
the rapid onset of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea ? similar to other
types of food poisoning ? but followed by the kind of strange neurological
symptoms this patient had. Alterations in sensation ? like the numbness,
tingling and the bizarre hot-cold reversal ? are most common and most
characteristic. The toxin can sometimes affect the heart ¡©? causing
it to beat too slowly or irregularly. It is rarely fatal, but there
is no effective treatment, and the symptoms can persist for weeks, sometimes
months, occasionally years.
It was a great diagnosis, the senior doctor told Dr. Ma. But how did
he know? It was easy, Dr. Ma told his doctor-teachers. He took care
of a family with ciguatera poisoning several months earlier. A whole
family had eaten barracuda for their Christmas dinner. They came to
the hospital a few hours later, after the nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
had given way to these strange neurological problems. He¡¯d never forget
Dr. Ma went back to the patient¡¯s room. He apologized for his unexpected
exit and began to explain the illness and where it had come from. Although
the pathology of this poison is still not well understood, current thinking
is that the toxin damages the protective sheath covering the nerves,
causing the sheath to swell and compress the delicate tissue it¡¯s supposed
¡°Even before they told me, I knew it had to be the fish ? the barracuda,¡±
the patient told me sadly. Barracuda has recently been identified as
a common source of the toxin, and the C.D.C. now advises against eating
the fish, especially when it¡¯s been caught in the Caribbean. These days
ciguatera is not just a tropical threat. In the U.S., it has become
one of the most common fish-related illnesses as the waters off the
coasts of Florida, Texas, South Carolina and most recently North Carolina
become warm enough to host these once tropical organisms.
It has been more than six months since the patient returned from the
Caribbean, and he still has not fully recovered. He can eat again ?
he lost 20 pounds in the first few weeks of the illness. He still has
occasional numbness and weakness. The patient sighed: ¡°And it was such
good fish too. I ate a lot of it.¡±
Lisa Sanders is the author of ¡°Every Patient Tells a Story: Medical
Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosis.¡±
on beef are lax, inspector general says
From Dugald McConnell, CNN
April 14, 2010 2:30 a.m. EDT
Washington (CNN) -- The U.S. government is not fully guarding against
the contamination of meat by traces of antibiotics, pesticides or heavy
metals, a new report warns.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's
inspector general said federal agencies have failed to set limits on
many potentially harmful chemical residues, which "has resulted
in meat with these substances being distributed in commerce."
When it comes to pesticide
traces, only one type is tested for, according to the report. There
are also no set limits for some heavy metals, like copper.
In 2008, Mexican authorities
turned away an American shipment of beef, because it did not meet Mexico's
limits when tested for copper traces. But the very same rejected meat
could be sold in the United States, since no limit has been set, the
That example shows "the
government has fallen down on the job here," said Tony Corbo of
the consumer advocacy group Food and Water Watch.
"Some of the residues
that the inspector general cited could be carcinogenic, as they accumulate
over a period of time in the body," he said.
The study focused on contamination
by chemical residues, rather than bacteria. While bacteria like E. coli
and Salmonella can cause an illness that is acute but brief, chemical
residues are more like to build up over time, and no amount of cooking
will destroy them.
The USDA pledged to "swiftly
implement the corrective actions" recommended by the inspector,
which including testing for more kinds of residue and setting limits
on how much of each substance is allowable. A department spokesman pointed
out that this kind of fix, which is expected to require coordination
with the FDA and the EPA, was one of the main reasons President Obama
created a Food Safety Working Group last year.
The National Cattlemen's
Beef Association said in a statement, "We fully support the critical
role of the federal government in ensuring beef safety."
"While the U.S. beef
supply is extraordinarily safe by any nation's standards," it added,
"the beef industry is constantly looking for ways to improve the
systems that ensure the safest product possible for our consumers."
The study, first reported
by USA Today, also says that when cattle test positive for residue,
it is difficult to track back where it came from because it often passes
through several buyers and sellers.
The American Meat Institute said that problem "underscores the
need to implement comprehensive livestock traceback procedures,"
with a national animal identification system.
CNN's Brian Todd contributed to this report.
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