List of Newsletters
To subscribe this Food Safety Newsletter,
Click here fore more information and Register today!!
Food Safety Training Class Schedule
and Advanced HACCP San Francisco, CA, August 2 - 4
HACCP Houston TX , August 16 and 17
IL, August 30 and 31
Angeles, CA. September 9 and 10
New Jersey, September 13 and 14
IL, September 27 and 28
CA., October 4 and 5
AZ, October 11 and 12
IL, October 25 and 26
Redondo Beach, CA, November 4-5, 2010
with 5th International Conference
IL. November 29 and 30
Angeles, CA, December 6 and 7
CA, December 13 and 14
FSIS does not
"target" ground buffalo or bison for E. coli O157:H7 testing
Posted on July 8, 2010 by Bill Marler
FSIS Directive 10,010.1 states in part:
Products Not Subject To FSIS Sampling
?Ground buffalo or bison is also not a raw ground beef product subject
to this FSIS verification sampling.
Not testing Buffalo or Bison seems a bit curious given that we have
now had at least two recalls in the past three years, and given that
Buffalo and Bison are known carriers of E. coli O157:H7.
In July 2007, Custom Pack, Inc., recalled approximately 5,920 pounds
of ground beef and buffalo products because they may be contaminated
with E. coli O157:H7. Each package bore the establishment number ¡°Est.
5650¡± inside the USDA mark of inspection. The ground beef products were
produced between June 1 and June 13, 2007, and were distributed to restaurants
and institutions in Nebraska. The ground buffalo patties were produced
on June 7, 2007, and distributed to restaurants and institutions in
Now in July 2010, Rocky Mountain Natural Meats is recalling approximately
66,760 pounds of ground and tenderized steak bison products after FSIS
became aware of the problem during the course of an on-going investigation
into a cluster of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses in Colorado with illness
onset dates between June 4, 2010 and June 9, 2010. Working in conjunction
with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food
and Drug Administration, the Colorado Department of Public Health and
Environment and the New York Department of Health, 5 case-patients have
been identified in Colorado as well as 1 case-patient in New York with
an indistinguishable PFGE pattern. FSIS determined that there is an
association between the ground bison products and the cluster of illnesses
in the state of Colorado. These products were distributed to retail
establishments nationwide and food service distributors in Utah, Arizona,
and Nevada and of course Colorado and New York.
The products subject to recall bear the establishment number ¡°EST. 20247¡±
inside the USDA mark of inspection. These products were produced between
the dates of May 21, 2010 through May 27, 2010.
FDA: New Final Rule to Ensure Egg Safety, Reduce Salmonella
Illnesses Goes Into Effect
SILVER SPRING, Md., July 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The U.S. Food
and Drug Administration says that as many as 79,000 illnesses and 30
deaths due to consumption of eggs contaminated with the bacterium Salmonella
Enteritidis may be avoided each year with new food safety requirements
for large-scale egg producers.
The new food safety requirements will become effective on July 9, 2010,
through a rule for egg producers having 50,000 or more laying hens --
about 80 percent of production. Among other things, it requires them
to adopt preventive measures and to use refrigeration during egg storage
Large-scale egg producers that produce shell eggs for human consumption
and that do not sell all of their eggs directly to consumers must comply
with the refrigeration requirements under the rule; this includes producers
whose eggs receive treatments such as pasteurization. Similarly, those
who transport or hold shell eggs must also comply with the refrigeration
requirements by the same effective date.
Egg-associated illness caused by Salmonella is a serious public health
problem. Infected individuals may suffer mild to severe gastrointestinal
illness, short-term or chronic arthritis, or even death. Implementing
the preventive measures would reduce the number of Salmonella Enteritidis
infections from eggs by nearly 60 percent.
Salmonella Enteritidis can be found inside eggs that appear normal.
If the eggs are eaten raw or undercooked, the bacterium can cause illness.
Eggs in the shell become contaminated on the farm, primarily because
of infection in the laying hens.
"Preventing harm to consumers is our first priority," said
Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., commissioner of food and drugs. "Today's
action will help prevent thousands of serious illnesses from Salmonella
The rule requires egg producers with fewer than 50,000 but at least
3,000 laying hens whose shell eggs are not processed with a treatment,
such as pasteurization, to comply with the regulation by July 9, 2012.
Producers who sell all their eggs directly to consumers or have less
than 3,000 hens are not covered by the rule.
Under the rule, egg producers whose shell eggs are not processed with
a treatment, such as pasteurization must:
¡¤ Buy chicks and young hens only from suppliers who monitor for Salmonella
¡¤ Establish rodent, pest
control, and biosecurity measures to prevent spread of bacteria throughout
the farm by people and equipment
¡¤ Conduct testing in the
poultry house for Salmonella Enteritidis. If the tests find the bacterium,
a representative sample of the eggs must be tested over an eight-week
time period (four tests at two-week intervals); if any of the four egg
tests is positive, the producer must further process the eggs to destroy
the bacteria, or divert the eggs to a non-food use
¡¤ Clean and disinfect poultry
houses that have tested positive for Salmonella Enteritidis
¡¤ Refrigerate eggs at 45
degrees F during storage and transportation no later than 36 hours after
the eggs are laid (this requirement also applies to egg producers whose
eggs receive a treatment, such as pasteurization).
To ensure compliance, egg producers must maintain a written Salmonella
Enteritidis prevention plan and records documenting their compliance.
Egg producers covered by this rule must also register with the FDA.
The FDA will develop guidance and enforcement plans to help egg producers
comply with the rule.
During the 1990s, the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture implemented
a series of post-egg production safety efforts such as refrigeration
requirements designed to inhibit the growth of bacteria that may be
in an egg. While these steps limited the growth of bacteria, they did
not prevent the initial contamination from occurring.
The new rule is part of a coordinated strategy between the FDA and the
USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The FDA and the FSIS
will continue to work closely together to ensure that egg safety measures
are consistent, coordinated, and complementary.
In addition to the new safety measures being taken by industry, consumers
can reduce their risk of foodborne illness by following safe egg handling
practices. The FDA reminds consumers to buy eggs that have been refrigerated,
make sure eggs in the carton are clean and not cracked, and cook eggs
and foods containing eggs thoroughly.
coli Lawsuit Filed Against Rocky Mountain Natural Meats by Pritzker
BusinessWire ¡¤ Thursday, Jul. 8, 2010
A woman from Lakewood, Colorado, who was hospitalized for an infection
of E. coli O157:H7 after eating bison meat has filed a lawsuit against
Rocky Mountain Natural Meats, Inc. of Henderson, Colorado, the processor
of the meat.
The woman is represented by Pritzker Olsen law firm in the lawsuit filed
by local counsel on July 8, 2010, in Jefferson County District Court.
According to the complaint, the woman purchased the bison product at
a King Soopers grocery store in Lakewood, Colorado.
Health officials used pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) to confirm
that the strain of E. coli that infected the woman was genetically indistinguishable
from a strain isolated from other people in Colorado. According to the
complaint, health officials then concluded that the woman was part of
an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to Rocky Mountain Natural Meats bison
meat that now has six confirmed cases, five in Colorado and one in New
¡°This outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 linked to bison meat is a wake-up
call,¡± said Fred Pritzker, the attorney representing the E. coli victim.
¡°In the past and currently, bison meat has not been subject to the same
E. coli O157:H7 testing requirements as ground beef. Many people assume
that bison meat is safer than beef, but that reputation needs to be
In response to the outbreak investigation, Rocky Mountain Meats recalled
66,000 pounds of ground buffalo and bison steaks on July 2 that it said
may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, a potentially deadly bacterium
that is banned in ground beef. The recalled meat was sold under the
following brands: Great Range, Nature¡¯s Rancher, The Buffalo Guys and
Rocky Mountain Natural Meats.
¡°This outbreak and subsequent recall were preventable,¡± stated Pritzker.
¡°It is in the best interest of consumers and the bison industry to require
E. coli testing for bison products.¡±
Is Food Irradiation
by Alisha Prakash | Jul 12, 2010
Part I in a two-part series on food irradiation, with a focus on the
science behind the technology.
With summer underway, barbeque season is in full swing. For some, that
means a fresh salad, for others it means grilled chicken, and for others
it's biting into a juicy hamburger. Not to mention the spices that go
on top as a marinade! The majority of these people will wash their lettuce
and spinach before tossing their salad and grill their chicken and hamburger
till it looks good and ready. Ninety-four percent of people will not
use a temperature thermometer when cooking. And, most likely, none of
these individuals will get a food borne illness from the food. In fact,
most will continue to simply wash their lettuce and grill their beef
and chicken the way they have been doing (without a thermometer) and
will remain safe.
However, Ron Eustice, Executive Director of the Minnesota Beef Council,
argues that this is not good enough. For those individuals, who are
unaware of the ideal cooking temperature for a hamburger, there can
be an additional measure undertaken to ensure food safety, he says.
Enter: Food Irradiation.
The Science Behind the Science
For years, there has been a host of misinformation swarming around the
topic of food irradiation, its process and its effects on food. But,
with words like ionizing radiation, gamma rays, x-rays, and electron
beam transfer, you're bound to get a quizzical look from the public
here and there. Let's break it down for all of you that are not so technology
and science savvy.
Food irradiation, in simplest terms, is a process that can eliminate
disease-causing pathogens. It exposes food items, either packaged or
in bulk, to varying doses of high-energy, invisible radiation. The process
kills harmful microorganisms by disrupting their DNA, so they can no
longer reproduce. Smaller doses can modify sprouting and ripening, while
higher doses can potentially alter molecules in microorganisms, which
can lead to a decrease in food spoilage and foodborne illnesses like
E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Listeria, and more. According to Mike Osterholm,
Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP)
at the University of Minnesota, "food irradiation is a dosage-related
phenomenon, just like milk pasteurization. You can go all the way from
killing the pathogens, which would be the minimum pasteurization level,
to complete sterilization, which kills everything that is alive in that
Products such as ground beef, poultry, and produce, like spinach and
Indian mangoes, and even spices are among the many food items that currently
undergo food irradiation. Today, any food product that is marketed in
supermarkets is required to include a Radura symbol.
The Upside vs. The Flip Side
"If we had the use of widespread irradiation today in red meat
and poultry, and some areas of vegetable production, we would save many,
countless lives every year, among people who die needlessly because
of foodborne disease," Osterholm says in support of food irradiation.
According to Eustice, food irradiation is the most effective technology
that has the potential to reduce or eliminate harmful foodborne pathogens.
According to a 2008 presentation, Eustice claimed that E. coli O157:H7
levels are reduced from 99.99 percent to 99.9999 percent after irradiation,
Salmonella levels are reduced from 99 percent to 99.9 percent after
irradiation, and Listeria pathogens are reduced from 99.9 percent to
99.99 percent after irradiation.
While cooking food to an ideal temperature can also remove harmful bacteria,
Eustice argues that the consumer does not know proper cooking temperatures
for many foods that are susceptible for pathogenic bacteria. "Every
food item has a different temperature that would kill potentially pathogenic
bacteria. The cooking temperature for poultry is different than the
cooking temperature for ground beef" Eustice says. "And, ninety-four
percent of people do not use a thermometer on a regular basis."
Due to faulty equipment, lack of knowledge of the different temperatures
to kill bacteria in particular food items, and often simply lack of
equipment, Eustice proposes irradiation as an additional tool of food
Among the other benefits, Eustice suggests that food irradiation eliminates
insects in fruits and vegetables, delays ripening of fruits and vegetables,
extends freshness, and all the while, food is left virtually unchanged
with no loss in vitamins or minerals.
While some opponents argue that extending the shelf life of many food
products is unnatural and unhealthy, proponents, like Eustice, state
that it is in fact beneficial economically, as well as from a social
welfare standpoint. According to Eustice, 30 to 40 percent of the food
in India is wasted before it ever gets to the people. "We know
that India has a tremendous need to feed the expanding population, but
when many food items do not get to the consumer because they spoil in
transit or in warehouses that is a catastrophe--not only for that country,
but also for those hungry people," Eustice says. "We've got
a population in this world that will reach 9 billion people by the year
2050. We have approximately 6 billion today. We do not have more land.
We will have less land in the future. We have to use technology that
is available to us today to increase food production to feed another
3 billion people within our lifetime."
Opponents argue that by extending the shelf life of food products, people
are prone to eating unnatural food. According to Osterholm, however,
spoilage isn't the problem. "The problem is the loss of that food,"
Osterholm says. "Removing spoilage bacteria has very little to
do with health. It has everything to do with the amount of product consumed."
Food irradiation is environmentally friendly, proponents also argue.
"We use water to grow food, we use input such as fertilizer to
make the crop grow, we use labor, we use petroleum to transport the
crop to the market," Eustice says. "And 30 to 40 percent of
the product actually goes out the back door and it is put in a trash
bin and then eventually in a landfill--that is a tremendous cost to
our environment. Food irradiation can double or triple the shelf life
of most of the food items. To me, that's the most environmentally friendly
technology that we have."
Other processes that are known to kill microorganisms include steam
pasteurization. While pasteurization adds a thermal level of disinfection
to a carcass of some product, irradiation is a cold process. According
to Osterholm, the water activity or the steam increases the lethality
due to the given temperature. "The term steam pasteurization is
a misnomer," Osterholm says. "Pasteurization is a process
where you make the assumption that all potential pathogens are either
destroyed or at least rendered incapable of reproducing by some host.
In this case, steam pasteurization reduces, and in some cases, it reduces
substantially the amount of bacteria in the carcass or any other surface
that the steam past is applied. But, it does not eliminate it. It gave
people a false sense of security that somehow that organism was now
And, the benefits don't stop there. According to a recent taste-test
conducted by the Minnesota Beef Council in Korea, people were unable
to distinguish a difference between irradiated food and non-irradiated
products. In fact, the Beef Council has conducted numerous taste studies,
including one with the Food Irradiation Processing Alliance, where they
tested irradiated spinach. "People preferred the irradiated spinach
to the one over the non-irradiated in some cases," Eustice says.
"It is impossible for the average person to distinguish the taste
between irradiated food and non-irradiated food when the manufacturer
follows the guidelines and recommendations for the proper dosage, like
anything else," Eustice says.
It is also important to note that according to Eustice and studies carried
out by the Beef Council, irradiated food items do not lose vitamins.
Like any process, including cooking, canning, and freezing, nutritional
content is lost. According to the FDA, the nutritional loss from irradiation
is insignificant. And, in the case of fruit, some irradiated fruit can
be shipped riper, and thus results in higher vitamin A and C content,
Eustice stated in a 2008 presentation. "It is a very environmentally
friendly technology that will do for ground beef and produce and other
foods what pasteurization did for milk," Eustice says.
Food irradiation is permitted in more than 40 countries. Among the number
of groups that support food irradiation are the American Medical Association,
World Health Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
Institute of Food Technologists, U.S. Food and Drug Administration,
as well as every scientific and medical organization. "[Food irradiation]
has unanimous endorsement of the scientific and medical communities.
There is no other technology that has unanimous endorsement," Eustice
Irradiation the Future? Part II
by Alisha Prakash | Jul 12, 2010
Part II in a two-part series on food irradiation. On foodborne illness
outbreaks caused by ground beef, fresh leafy greens, and spices--all
foods that could arguably be made safer through irradiation--and the
future of the technology and its impact on the safety of the food supply.
Part I focused on the science behind the technology.
In the last several years, there have been a series of recalls and media
cases due to contaminated meat. In 1998, Sara Lee had to recall millions
of pounds of meat after a number of people died in a Listeria outbreak.
In 2000, a three-year-old girl passed away in Milwaukee after eating
watermelon that was cross-contaminated with E. coli O157:H7-contaminated
beef tri-tip. And, let's not forget Stephanie Smith, the 20-year-old
dancer who contracted E. coli and was left paralyzed after eating a
hamburger at a family barbeque in 2007. Smith developed hemolytic uremic
syndrome (HUS) and spent nine months in the hospital, including two
months in a medically induced coma. All this from a hamburger.
Most recently in the news, a Colorado company has issued a recall of
66,000 pounds of ground bison meat after federal agricultural officials
linked it to E. coli. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that
the recalled bison meat was sold in supermarkets nationwide between
May 21 and May 27.
"I personally have cared for a little girl who died of Hemolytic
Uremic Syndrome (HUS) from eating a hamburger," epidemiologist
Harry Hull says. "It just tears up my heart every time I think
about it. Those kinds of things are by and large, avoidable. There are
kids dying every year in this country unnecessarily because we don't
irradiate ground beef."
Some symptoms of E. coli include bloody diarrhea, stomach cramps, and
in most severe cases, red blood cells can fracture and disintegrate,
causing the kidneys to shut down, according to Hull. Children, pregnant
women, and older men and women are more prone to foodborne illnesses.
Ron Eustice of the Minnesota Beef Council claims that there has been
an increase in the amount of samples positive for E. coli O157:H7 during
the last three years. The number of positive samples in 2010, he says,
is greater than the number of positive samples in 2009. "We've
got to educate our consumers to cook their hamburgers to 160 degrees,
to use a temperature thermometer or as an additional tool, to use food
irradiation to make sure that that hamburger is safe," Eustice
says. "It is an additional tool to help to protect the lives of
our consumers, to protect the lives of our children, and vulnerable
Ground beef and meat have been a source of E. coli illnesses for years.
As these incidents continue to increase and filter through the media,
people are looking towards irradiation more and more.
Today, fresh and frozen ground beef is available at thousands of supermarkets
nationwide. Frozen irradiated patties are available through mail-order,
home delivery. Omaha Steaks and Schwan's both produce irradiated beef.
"I love nothing more than eating a good hamburger. I'm a real Iowa
kid. Today you can engineer in hamburger production a very high level
of safety," Mike Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious
Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota,
Lettuce & Spinach
When asked if they remember an E. coli outbreak from recent history,
many consumers are quick to recall the 2006 E. coli outbreak traced
to Dole baby spinach in which 204 people became ill with E. coli infections
and three people--two elderly women and a young boy--died. Recently,
Ready Pac Foods Inc. has recalled hundreds of baby spinach packages
in California, Washington, and Arizona, due to fear that the company's
spinach may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. No illnesses have
been found in connection with this recall.
Due to a number of outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 several years back,
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in August of 2008
that it will allow the irradiation on fresh iceberg lettuce and spinach
to kill bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella. While some critics
argue that the technology would remove essential vitamins and create
incentive for farmers to slack on sanitation, many suggest that irradiation
is precisely the answer. According to Bill Marler, a nationally known
food safety advocate and attorney who represents victims of foodborne
illness outbreaks, irradiation will kill bacteria inside and outside
of the edible plant tissues that regular washing will not likely eliminate.
Marler also suggests that food irradiation will enhance food safety,
prevent illnesses, outbreaks, and recalls. "Irradiation is not
a replacement for good agricultural practices and management practices
on the farm and during harvest, transportation, and processing,"
Some critics associate "irradiation" with "atomic"
and "nuclear", generating a level of uncertainty and hesitance
on the process, especially for produce items. According to experts like
Marler, the primary reason consumers might not buy irradiated foods
is lack of information about the risks and benefits and often, even
When Eustice gives lectures on irradiation, he has the crowd complete
a survey about their attitude towards irradiation before and after they
have all the information. "We move from 50 to 60 percent of positive
attitudes before to as high as 80 or even 90 percent positive after
they've had some information," Eustice says. "We know that
there's 10 to 15 percent of the population that are negative towards
not only irradiation, but every technology that's out there. There are
simply anti-technology people."
Experts like Osterholm suggest that often it's not a lack of information,
but simply misinformation. "There is so much misinformation spread
out there by people who really don't have consumers at heart--they have
their own personal agendas," Osterholm says. They don't have to
be accountable for why parents learn why their child is not only infected
by E. coli infection and has HUS, but is about to die. These people
don't have to deal with that. And, for those of us that do, we see such
a needless waste of life because of this misinformation about food irradiation."
According to Eustice, one-third, or 175 million pounds, of the commercial
spices that are marketed in the United States today are irradiated.
Unlike meat and produce, which are required to come with a Radura label,
spices have no such condition. Irradiated spices do not need to be labeled
if they are used as ingredients in other food products. "[Spices]
are a very small part of the mix. They're mostly used as an ingredient
in sausages and salami and other products," Eustice says.
Earlier this year, Daniele Inc., a Rhode Island company, recalled its
pepper-coated salami products after state and federal public health
officials identified the pepper the company used to coat the products
as the source of a nationwide Salmonella outbreak. At least 272 people
became ill with Salmonella after consuming the products. For years,
spices have been irradiated in the United States, but the process has
been hidden. Due to use of spices as ingredients in other foods, especially
ready-to-eat foods, irradiated spices have not been marketed to the
public. According to the FDA regulations, such products don't have to
be labeled as containing irradiated ingredients.
While a large amount of commercial spices are irradiated today, McCormick
& Co. is one major seller of retail spices that does not use irradiation
on any of its consumer products. According to a 2010 article in CIDRAP,
Laurie Harrsen, a company spokeswoman said that McCormick's uses steam
sterilization and has no plans of irradiation, due to the belief of
insufficient consumer acceptance of the process. The company does, however,
use irradiation if specifically asked to do so by an industrial food
Aside from irradiation, steam sterilization and fumigation are used
to kill microorganisms in spices. But, according to Eustice, there's
a growing movement towards irradiation of spices. "It's the most
effective technology in that it does not change the flavor of the spices
where any type of a heat treatment could effect the quality and the
flavor of those spices," Eustice says.
Where the Future Lies
Today, more than 40 countries use food irradiation as an additional
tool for food safety. And, while there are still those who remain skeptical
about the process, there has been a 300 percent increase in the amount
of irradiated produce that's being marketed in the United States in
the last two and a half to three years, according to Eustice. "Three
years ago, 10 million pounds of irradiated produce was being marketed
and consumed in the U.S. Today, it's is 30 million pounds of irradiated
produce," Eustice says.
And, the market continues to expand across borders. Many international
countries, such as Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, as well as Mexico
and India are marketing irradiated food items in the U.S.
"I hope over time that it becomes the norm," Osterholm says.
"We have to do a lot of educating to the public so that they become
more rational about what's happening. I think we also really need to
help educate policy makers and leaders about why if they were to take
certain steps to ensure that food irradiation was more routinely used,
we can have dramatic reduction of illnesses."
Osterholm also suggests that we take the statistics and data on the
number of outbreaks and deaths and use it to improve the system and
prevent it from ever happening again. "We do very little with the
data we collect in this country on foodborne disease occurrence. It
is a systematic way, bringing back that into everyday food production,
food delivery, food consumption, and making certain we do everything
we can to eliminate the possible sources," Osterholm says.
For now, while food irradiation continues to grow nationwide, it remains
a controversy among consumers.
"For many people, foodborne disease will be an inconvenience, for
some it'll be a serious illness and for others, it'll be a death sentence,"
Osterholm says. "I think we have a hard time conveying to the public,
go ahead, eat everyday and enjoy your food, and now occasionally you'll
get foodborne disease if you are careless about how you prepare your
food or if the product you purchase is contaminated at the source and
there is nothing you can do about it."
Eustice has had his mother-in-law over for dinner once a week for years.
When it's hamburger night in the Eustice household, Ron serves his mother-in-law
only one kind of hamburger. "For the last ten years, the only kind
of ground beef that has been served in our home is irradiated ground
beef," Eustice says. "In fact, that's what I'm having for
The Legal Implications of Secondary Infections
by Dave Babcock | Jul 12, 2010
When contaminated food is placed into the stream of commerce, it is
not only those who consume the food who will become injured. For every
serving of lettuce or ground beef contaminated with E. coli O157:H7
and each serving of sprouts or peanut butter contaminated with Salmonella,
there is a significant chance that someone beyond the consumer of the
product will fall ill. Along with the diarrhea and vomiting that accompany
food poisoning comes the spread of the bacterial or viral pathogen that
caused the original illness. This, in turn, leads to additional infections
in those with contact with the sick person or their surroundings, including
family members, co-workers, school, and daycare mates.
This phenomenon is referred to as "secondary infection" and
is very common. Person-to-person transmission of foodborne pathogens
is both common and exceedingly well-documented.[1,2] Secondary transmission
cases are well understood in the scientific community to be an inevitable
part of any foodborne illness outbreak. Epidemiologists who have
worked with us at Marler Clark have estimated to me that at least one
in ten cases in an outbreak is likely to be a secondary infection.
What then are the legal consequences that flow from secondary infection?
The short answer is that the producers and sellers of contaminated food
are no less liable to victims of secondary infection than they are to
those who actually purchased and ate the food.
The first legal hurdle for a secondary infection victim was cleared
nearly one hundred years ago, when the requirement of "privity"
was removed from claims of injury from products. Under the old privity
requirements, only those who had a direct contractual relationship to
the seller (i.e. the buyer) had the legal right to make claims. Under
such a requirement, even a consumer of contaminated food who was not
the direct purchaser would have been without remedy. Famed New York
judge Benjamin Cardozo did away with this requirement in the case of
MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co. (1916), involving a car's defective wheel.
Judge Cardozo's ruling only directly impacted New York law, but other
states followed. In Washington, the lack of a privity requirement is
spelled out directly by statute. "A claim may be asserted under
this chapter even though the claimant did not buy the product from,
or enter into any contractual relationship with, the product seller."
More recently, manufacturers and sellers of contaminated food have attempted
to argue that they cannot be held liable where the victim had no direct
contact with the product. In a case tried by the attorneys at Marler
Clark, this argument was rejected on appeal by the Washington Courts.
The victim in the case was a four-year-old girl who suffered an E. coli
O157:H7 infection (and developed hemolytic uremic syndrome). The source
of the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak was ground beef in a taco-meal, but
the victim did not eat the meal. Rather she had repeated contacts with
two children who ate the meal, one of whom became infected. The defendant
argued to the appeals court that it could not be held liable where the
injured party had no actual contact with the defective product (i.e.
the taco meal). The court disagreed. The court likened the girl's claim
to a victim in a previous case that had been injured while assisting
the victim of someone injured in an accident caused by a defective motorcycle.
The court explained the reasoning in allowing both claims under product
"There, as here, [the claimant] had no direct contact with the
[product] . He was neither a driver nor a passenger. He was not struck
by the [motorcycle]. The court nonetheless held there were no policy
reasons demonstrating [the defendant's] 'liability should be cut off
as a matter of law.' Nor do we find any policy reasons to end the [defendant's]
liability here. The [Product Liability] Act does not limit "claimants"
to those who have direct contact with the product. Indeed, the Act broadly
defines the class of persons who may bring a product liability claim."
Almquist v. Finley Sch. Dist. No. 53, 114 Wn. App. 395 (Wash. Ct. App.
Defendants are likewise very unlikely to be successful with arguments
based on the legal concept of "foreseeability." It is unlikely
that the foreseeability of particular harm and injury can be a defense
in a product liability claim. Even if the defense is generally available,
however, it would not be successful in the secondary infection context;
as such outcomes are entirely predictable.
Secondary infections are a predictable outcome of the sale of contaminated
food. A person sickened as the result of a secondary infection that
can demonstrate the product source of the original illness has a claim
that is well founded in both law and science.
1. See e.g. K. Ludwig, "Outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 Infection
in a Large Family," Eur. J. Clin. Microb. Infect. Dis. Vol. 16,
at 238-41 (1997)
2. P. Rowe, "Diarrhea in Close Contacts As a Risk Factor for Childhood
Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome," Epidem. Infect. 110:9-16 (1993).
3. See E. Belongia, et al., "Transmission of Escherichia coli O157:H7
Infection in Minnesota Child-Care Facilities," JAMA, at 887 (Feb.
17, 1993) (describing the inevitable spread of illness from primary
to secondary cases).
Hydrocarbons in Cereal Stoke New Debate Over Food
By ELANA SCHOR
Published: July 13, 2010
When Kellogg Co. pulled about 28 million cereal boxes from store shelves
last month, the company said only that an "off-flavor and smell"
coming from the packaging could cause nausea and diarrhea. But the culprit
behind the recall is a class of chemicals now making news in the Gulf
of Mexico: hydrocarbons, a byproduct of oil.Skip to next paragraph
The nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) reported yesterday that
the hydrocarbon methylnaphthalene, which the government has yet to evaluate
for human carcinogenicity, was behind the recall. For EWG and other
public-health advocacy groups, the appearance of a chemical missing
consistent risk data in popular products such as Apple Jacks strengthens
the case for food safety reform -- an issue that remains stalled in
"There are potentially many thousands of chemicals that could leach
out of these materials into our food," said Jane Houlihan, EWG's
vice president for research. "In this case, methylnaphthalene and
other hydrocarbons are what Kellogg's is saying publicly about what
ended up in their cereal. They need to be more forthcoming about what
exactly they found."
A food-safety bill passed by the House one year ago this month gives
the Food and Drug Administration power to order mandatory recalls, rather
than voluntary efforts such as the one initiated with Kellogg. But that
legislation sits in limbo in the upper chamber as industry groups chafe
at Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) bid to ban another chemical with
an unclear safety history, bisphenol A, from food containers.
Sarah Klein, an attorney at the Center for Science in the Public Interest,
said the mandatory recall provisions in the pending food-safety measure
would provide greater consumer protections in the case of packaging
hazards such as the Kellogg case.
But, she added, "in this particular instance, it's clear that FDA
needs to take a closer look at the packaging of consumer products and
this chemical that's been identified as a problem."
Kellogg consulted independent toxicologists and chemists before pinpointing
"elevated levels of hydrocarbons, including methylnaphthalene,"
as the source of the smell and flavor defects in the cereal, company
spokesman J. Adaire Putnam said via e-mail.
The paraffin wax at issue in the June 25 recall is FDA approved and
"commonly used as a protective coating for foods including cheese,
raw fruits and vegetables," he added. "We have verified that
the elevated levels of hydrocarbons are not present at harmful levels.
We are working with our supplier to ensure that this situation does
not happen again."
Putnam declined to name the other hydrocarbons found in the cereal boxes
and to state whether the company would back EWG's call for increased
FDA testing of food packaging.|
Scott Openshaw, a spokesman for the Grocery Manufacturers Association,
declined to comment on the specifics of the Kellogg case but affirmed
the food industry's support for packaging safety. "We take that
responsibility very seriously," Openshaw said in an e-mail. "Food
and beverage companies all adhere to strict manufacturing practices
to assure that food packaging is safe."
Agencies cite lack of data
In its report, EWG noted that U.S. EPA and the Agency for Toxic Substances
and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a division of the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, have both cited a lack of data in declining
to rule on the human carcinogenicity of methylnaphthalene.
EWG also played up the contrast between a Kellogg statement that the
substances prompting the recall are frequently used in food packaging
and a 2005 ATSDR conclusion that "you are not likely to be exposed
to [methylnaphthalene] by eating foods or drinking beverages."
The advocacy group urged Kellogg to release its third-party testing
of the recalled cereal boxes and recommended stricter food safety laws,
though it did not directly call for Senate passage of the food-safety
One House Democrat, however, linked the Kellogg case to the pending
bill in the immediate wake of the cereal recall. "When foods that
are popular among kids are being recalled in large volumes, it is clear
that our food safety system is not working," Rep. Rosa DeLauro
of Connecticut said in a statement last month.
Try to Explain E. coli in Produce
by Laurel Curran | Jul 13, 2010
A new field study by UC Davis scientists has measured the incidence
of E. coli O157:H7 in the feces of Northern California wildlife. This
study, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found E. coli O157:H7 in some wildlife
stool samples. However, these samples may not be enough to explain the
numerous E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks in leafy greens over the past decade.
This study was designed in response to the massive spinach E. coli O157:H7
outbreak of 2006 in which over 200 people were sickened across the country
and three people died.
Tim York, Chairman of the Board of Advisors of the Center for Produce
Safety opened the Produce Research Symposium in May by emphasizing the
impact the 2006 outbreak had on the produce industry. Jim Prevor reported
York's opening remarks on his blog: "Those of us in agriculture
and particularly those in the Salinas Valley will never forget where
we were that night either... for as Kennedy's death changed the course
of history, San Benito spinach and September 14, 2006, changed the course
of history for the produce industry."
This outbreak prompted a number of studies designed to figure out how
lethal strains of E. coli contaminate leafy produce.
In 2008 the UC Davis study team began testing stool samples for most
mammals native to the northern California farming region. The research
team collected over 1,100 samples from animals such as feral pigs, mice,
crows, coyotes and cowbirds.
Robert Mandrell, a principal investigator in the studies and research
leader with the USDA Center for Produce Safety and Microbiology Research,
concluded, "The fact that we have identified two bird species with
an incidence of E. coli O157:H7 of more than 3 percent, feral swine
with about a 4 percent incidence, and several coyotes and rodents that
tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 suggests there are at least several
sources of pathogen movement in this region."
Researchers say it is difficult to determine if wildlife is the direct
source of contamination for Salinas Valley produce. They think that
environmental factors such as draught, heavy rainfall, and wind are
also playing a part. Additional studies are being conducted on the reptiles
and amphibians of the region, as well as weather and watersheds.
Mandrell explained that his team has collected over 11,000 samples so
far from wildlife, water, and soil. Team members are currently trying
to connect the dots between these samples and the many natural environmental
factors native to the "salad bowl" region.
They believe that wind, rainfall, precipitation, and distance from watersheds
to crops all play into the movement of dangerous E. coli strains, and
are working to find patterns throughout the enormous data sets they
have collected through their multi-million dollar study.
At this point, no single area of study has produced a conclusive set
of answers. In Mandrell's words, "We are looking at the ranches
and watersheds and wildlife around these regions, getting an idea about
how things are moving through this environment. We are analyzing E.
coli in water, wildlife, and livestock and using microbial source tracking
to connect the strains."
What do their findings so far tell us about E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks?
Mandrell responded, "It appears that big outbreaks result from
a convergence of unusual and random events. Now we don't always know
what all those are, but if we think back to the spinach outbreak of
2006, certainly there were some record high temperatures during planting
and prior to harvesting. There certainly was wildlife intrusion. There
was a convergence of multiple things that shouldn't happen."
He continued, "Everybody is starting to realize that maybe unusually
heavy rainfall prior to planting could be an issue in terms of where
water is routed."
Some of these factors can be controlled in an effort to reduce contamination.
For instance, many farmers are blocking wildlife from their crops. "The
industry is certainly aware of most of the problems, certainly keeping
wildlife such as pigs, deer, and small rodents out."
However, some things are harder for farmers to manage. "Birds are
extremely difficult to control," Mandrell explained.
When asked about what else the industry can do to avoid contamination
Mandrell said, "I think there is a certain randomness to this,
but I would say certainly when we have abnormally high rainfall maybe
the industry needs to be extra vigilant."
Mandrell believes that E. coli O157:H7 may be naturally embedded into
the California environment. This claim begs the question, does he think
E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks in leafy produce can be avoided? When Food
Safety News asked Mandrell he replied, "I think that's a loaded
question. At this point you can definitely minimize the risk of outbreak.
People are going to have to come together and brainstorm. We are trying
to provide information that can be useful and give some direction for
At this point, it seems like it may be extremely difficult to completely
eliminate any chance of contamination in produce. Mandrell says, "Zero
tolerance for an industry that is outdoors is very difficult. Everyone
wants to try and have sterilized produce grown and this will be extremely
hard. But the farmers, they are trying."
His studies involved the cooperation of many different farms. Over 38
private properties were involved with one study, but Mandrel stressed
the importance of confidentiality.
When asked if he felt the industry was cooperating with the team's research
Mandrell said he felt the industry has tried. "They feel put upon;
the ones who are cooperating, I really give them credit. Some don't
want to cooperate because it is so sensitive for them, but overall,
I have been very pleased with the industry's cooperation."
The intensive sampling study Mandrell has been working on will finish
up around early October of this year, but scientists will continue animal
stool sampling on a much smaller scale with a possible focus on birds
Mandrell thinks that conclusions in the form of formal reports and papers
will be released over the next couple of years. "We put so much
effort and money into this but it is still just a snapshot," he
said. Scientists agree that long-term studies on weather patterns may
unearth more answers.
If there is a chance that E. coli O157:H7 may be embedded in parts of
the northern California's agricultural environment, Mandrell's team
hopes their studies will provide the industry with direction towards
radically reducing and eventually eliminating the environment's risk
Opposing view on food safety: Don't bar animal antibiotics
Wednesday, 14 July 2010 00:08
By Howard Hill
July 12, 2010
First and foremost, America's livestock farmers use antibiotics to keep
their animals healthy and, in turn, to produce safe food for consumers.
And, contrary to the opponents of modern food-animal production, antibiotics
are not being given excessively to pigs and cattle, and their use in
livestock production is not the likely cause for an increase in antibiotic
resistance in humans.
In fact, according to top scientists with the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, there are no scientific
studies linking antibiotic use in livestock production with antibiotic
resistance in people. In one survey, the results of which were published
in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, experts estimated that
96% of human antibiotic resistance occurs because of human uses of antibiotics.
A 2006 report from the Institute of Food Technologists concluded: "Eliminating
antibiotic drugs from food-animal production may have little positive
effect on resistant bacteria that threaten human health."
The U.S. pork industry believes that more research must be conducted
on the causes of antibiotic resistance before any antibiotics are banned
or restricted from use in food-animal production. Who knows? The risk
of not using antibiotics could outweigh any risk of using them.
There's evidence that might be the case. A recent study by Dr. Scott
Hurd, associate professor at Iowa State University's College of Veterinary
Medicine and former U.S. Department of Agriculture deputy undersecretary
for food safety, found that when pigs have been sick during their lives,
they have a greater presence of food-safety pathogens on their carcasses.
An Ohio State University study found that "antibiotic-free"
pigs kept outdoors had a higher incidence of the sort of diseases and
parasites that can be transmitted between animals and humans than pigs
raised indoors that received antibiotics.
All antibiotics used in food-animal production have gone through a rigorous
U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval process, which includes determining
their safety for animals, humans and the environment. All are administered
under an animal health plan developed by a veterinarian to ensure animal
Taking away important animal health products would be bad for animals,
bad for farmers and bad for consumers.
Dr. Howard Hill, a veterinarian, is a director of the National Pork
Nanotech in Our
Food: Should We Be Afraid?
Jul 14 2010, 9:29 AM ET |
Nanotechnology involves the ability to control matter at the scale of
a nanometer?one billionth of a meter. The world market for products
that contain nanomaterials is expected to reach $2.6 trillion by 2015.
So says a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO): Nanotechnology:
Nanomaterials Are Widely Used in Commerce, but EPA Faces Challenges
in Regulating Risk. GAO-10-549, May 25, 2010:
GAO identified a variety of products that currently incorporate nanomaterials
already available in commerce ... [in] food and agriculture ...The extent
to which nanomaterials present a risk to human health and the environment
depends on a combination of the toxicity of specific nanomaterials and
the route and level of exposure to these materials. Although the body
of research related to nanomaterials is growing, the current understanding
of the risks posed by these materials is limited.
The effects of nanotechnology
on the environment are regulated by the EPA (Environmental Protection
Agency), which is why this report targets recommendations to EPA.
Shouldn't some of those recommendations be directed toward FDA, the
agency that regulates food safety? Maybe GAO needs to do another report?
In the meantime, the European Food Safety Authority is preoccupied with
issues related to the safety of food nanotechnology: The risk assessment
framework for nanotechnology in Europe?like so much else connected to
the technology?appears to be in its infancy but developing at a rapid
pace ... Nano knowledge gaps have led some to call for a ban on the
use of nanomaterials in food products until their safety has been fully
established. One area of concern is whether nanoparticles can migrate
from packaging materials into foods.
In seeking to assess nanomaterials, the food safety body repeatedly
used phrases such as "specific uncertainties", "limited
knowledge" and..."difficult to characterise, detect and measure"
in relation to toxicokinetics and toxicology in food. Likely usage and
exposure levels are also largely a mystery.
The European Food Safety Authority says that lack of knowledge means
that risk assessment of risk assessments must be done on a "cautious
case-by-case approach." Last April, the European Parliament's environment
committee said nanotech products should be withdrawn from the market
until more is known about their safety. In June, that committee added
that nanotech foods should be assessed for safety before they are approved
for use and labeled.
Doesn't that sound reasonable? Let's hope it's not too late to put such
constraints in place, and in the U.S., too.
Standards Should Be Based On Sound Science
Performance standards should be based on sound science, be achievable
and have a significant and quantifiable positive impact on public health,
something that has thus far not been accomplished, says AMI in comments
submitted today in response USDA FSIS Docket No. FSIS-2009-0034: New
Performance Standards for Salmonella and Campylobacter in Young Chickens
and Turkey Slaughter Establishments.
¡°Indeed, publicly available data show the prevalence of Salmonella on
raw meat and poultry products has been significantly reduced since the
standards were implemented, but the incidence of salmonellosis in the
human population show no quantifiable improvement during the same time
period. The agency¡¯s belief that implementing stricter performance standards
will decrease human illnesses is theoretical. The lack of improvement
in human illness since the performance standards were fully implemented
in 2000 does not support the agency¡¯s theory,¡± AMI¡¯s comments state.
AMI urged FSIS to conduct a comprehensive scientific and technical review
of the new performance standards for Salmonella and Campylobacter in
young chickens and turkey to determine the impact of the revised standards
on public health before they are implemented in federal establishments.
Specifically, AMI encouraged the agency to examine why the Salmonella
performance standards have not been successful in having a significant
and quantifiable improvement of public health.
¡°AMI supports achievable performance standards based on sound science
that significantly improve public health through quantifiable metrics,¡±
the comments conclude. ¡°Standards that do not meet these criteria could
place unnecessary hardships on businesses and may not be the best focus
and application of food safety resources. The agency should understand
the possible improvement and impact on food safety as measured by the
HHS¡¯s Healthy People goals before proposing changes to the Salmonella
performance standards and in the development of the Campylobacter performance
Voiced for UK Food Standards Agency
by Laurel Curran | Jul 15, 2010
On Monday reports began pouring out of England about Health Secretary
Andrew Lansley's intention to disband the Food Standards Agency and
redistribute its responsibilities between existing government departments.
His setting this proposal on the table instigated an enormous international
debate about the pros and cons of the measure.
There has been an outpouring of support for the Food Standards Agency
from every corner of Britain, including messages of support from some
The Food and Drink Federation represents the UK's biggest manufacturing
sector. A few groups the federation represent include: Campells Soup,
Coca Cola, General Mills, Jelly Belly, Kelloggs, Kraft, Nestle, Pepsi,
Quaker Oats and Tropicana. This group released a statement yesterday
voicing its disdain towards the assumption that it--and groups like
it--opposed the existence of the agency.
"Recent reports about the future remit of the Food Standards Agency
have suggested that food manufacturers are lobbying to close down the
[agency]. As the voice of the UK food and drink manufacturing sector,
[the Food and Drink Federation] has consistently supported the need
for an independent, well funded food safety regulator. The [Food Standards
Agency] has been highly effective in regulating food safety in the 10
years since its creation, ensuring that consumer confidence in the food
we eat has grown significantly," the group's press release said.
This statement likely surprised some analysts who reported earlier this
week that the food industry may have been behind the proposed breakup
of the agency. Some suggested that the move to disband the agency was
in response to backlash the government received from the food industry
for its proposed "traffic light" system, which involved a
labeling system in which healthy products would be labeled with a green
traffic light, middle-of-the-road ones with a yellow, and unhealthy
products with a red light. Big business interests reportedly spent over
$1.2 billion to defeat the measure, though it enjoyed widespread popularity
Another organization, the Institute of Food Science and Technology--the
leading independent qualifying agency for food professionals in Europe--released
a statement as well. "In reality, the demise of the [Food Standards
Agency] would be regarded by many as a loss--not only by the general
public but also by the food industry itself," the institute said
in a statement.
The statement continued, "The [Institute of Food Science and Technology]
has seen the [Food Standards Agency] working very closely with the food
and beverage industry over the past few years as a way to enable it
to deliver its key strategic goals and, in particular, to ensure the
industry delivers the highest standards of food safety that the general
public can rely upon. The adversarial style of relationship suggested
in these early reports is neither accurate nor particularly helpful."
The Food Standards Agency was created in 2000 after a massive outbreak
of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, more commonly known as Mad Cow
Disease. The agency restored consumer confidence in food by regulating
the food industry. It employs 2,000 people with a budget of over $170
million a year.
"During its existence the [Food Standards Agency] has provided
coherent strategy and direction around key food issues such as reductions
in the levels of saturated fat and salt, reductions in foodborne diseases
such as Campylobacter in chicken as well as regulating food business
operators. These are all still very live issues and the functions of
the [agency], in whatever form, will continue to be needed in the future.
Very few in the sector will see the breakup of the [agency] as a positive
step," the Institute's statement concluded.
The BBC reported that yesterday during a questioning session at the
British House of Lords, Oxford Professor Lord Krebs asked the current
health minister how the proposed break up was a good move. The minister,
Lord Howe, responded, "No decisions have yet been taken but we
are examining the matter closely."
The government is expected to make a final decision about the fate of
the agency before October.
The Food Standards Agency Traffic Light promotional ad was released
in January 2007 on YouTube.
Salmonella Outbreak Growing Steadily
by Suzanne Schreck | Jul 15, 2010
The Kenosha County Health Department has confirmed that 26 people have
recently become ill with confirmed Salmonella infections in what appears
to be a Salmonella outbreak tied to a common source.
The Baker Street Restaurant & Pub located at 6208 Green Bay Road
in the Wisconsin city has been closed by the health department and could
be the source of the Salmonella outbreak, although the health department
has not released a statement regarding the restaurant's closure, according
to the Kenosha News.
Tom Stemple, an employee of Tricoli Restaurants, which owns the Baker
Street Restaurant & Pub, told the Knosha News that a number of people
who had eaten at the restaurant were sick with Salmonellosis, the illness
caused by the ingestion of Salmonella bacteria, and that the restaurant's
owner was contacting restaurant employees to ensure they were tested
"He's gathering everyone together, trying to interview them to
help find out the source of this," Stemple said. "He's trying
to sort things out so that he can help protect everyone --his employees
and the public."
The outbreak investigation is ongoing, with the number of confirmed
ill individuals increasing daily.
Salmonella infection causes severe abdominal cramping and diarrhea,
which can become bloody. Symptoms typically appear between 6 and 72
hours after the ingestion of Salmonella bacteria and include diarrhea,
abdominal cramps, fever, nausea, and/or vomiting. In mild cases diarrhea
may be non-bloody, occur several times per day, and not be very voluminous;
in severe cases it may be frequent, bloody and/or mucoid, and of high
Numerous Salmonella outbreaks have been traced to the consumption of
foods purchased from restaurants. The sources of such outbreaks include
cross-contamination, contamination of food by ill food workers or service
staff, and Salmonella-contaminated eggs, meat, and produce. Occasionally,
investigators from public health departments and environmental health
agencies are unable to determine how restaurant food came to be contaminated
with Salmonella, and outbreak sources are unknown.
ist of Newsletters
To subscribe this Food Safety Newsletter
(C). All rights reserved FoodHACCP.com.