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2010 Food Safety Training Class Schedule
Basic and Advanced HACCP San Francisco, CA, August 2 - 4
Basic HACCP Houston TX , August 16 and 17
Basic HACCPChicago, IL, August 30 and 31
Basic HACCPLos Angeles, CA. September 9 and 10
Basic HACCPCamden, New Jersey, September 13 and 14
Chicago, IL, September 27 and 28
Basic HACCPVisalia, CA., October 4 and 5
Basic HACCPYuma, AZ, October 11 and 12
Basic HACCPChicago, IL, October 25 and 26
Redondo Beach, CA, November 4-5, 2010
with 5th International Conference

Basic HACCPChicago, IL. November 29 and 30
Basic HACCPLos Angeles, CA, December 6 and 7
Basic HACCPVisalia, CA, December 13 and 14

FSIS does not "target" ground buffalo or bison for E. coli O157:H7 testing - Why?

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 Colorado.
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 and transportation.
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 in eggs."
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 bacteria

¡¤ 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.

Bison E. coli Lawsuit Filed Against Rocky Mountain Natural Meats by Pritzker Olsen Attorneys
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 York.
¡°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 re-examined.¡±
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 The Future?
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 product."
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 safety.
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 eliminated."
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 says.

Is Food 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.
Ground Beef
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 adults."
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, says.
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," Marler says.
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 misinformation.
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 customer.
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 dinner tonight."

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.[3] 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." RCW 7.72.010(5).
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 liability law:
"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. 2002)
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 Safety
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 the Senate.
"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 legislation.
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.

Researchers 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 the industry."
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 or geese.
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 to consumers.

Opposing view on food safety: Don't bar animal antibiotics
Wednesday, 14 July 2010 00:08
USA Today
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 well-being.
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 Producers Council.

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.

AMI: Performance Standards Should Be Based On Sound Science
07/14/2010 07:41AM
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 standards.¡±

Support 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 unexpected places.
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 among consumers.
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.

Kenosha 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 for Salmonella.
"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 volume.
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.

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