List of Newsletters
To subscribe this Food Safety Newsletter,
fore more information and Register today!!
groups slam USDA egg graders at farms in recall
By Alison Young, USA TODAY
U.S. Department of Agriculture staff regularly on site at two Iowa egg
processors implicated in a national salmonella outbreak were supposed
to enforce rules against the presence of disease-spreading rodents and
other vermin, federal regulations show.
Though USDA says its authority was limited, the agency's egg graders
were at Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms at least 40 hours a week
? including before the outbreak ? inspecting the size and quality of
eggs inside processing buildings.
USDA regulations say buildings and "outside premises" must
be free of conditions that harbor vermin, but the agency takes a narrow
view of its responsibilities. Under the USDA's unwritten interpretation
of the regulations, egg graders only look for vermin inside the specific
processing building where they are based, said Dean Kastner, an assistant
USDA branch chief in poultry grading program.
The agency interprets outside premises as only the area immediately
around the processing building's loading dock and trash receptacle,
Salmonella can be spread by rodents and wild birds. Outbreak investigators
from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week released reports
documenting filthy conditions in and around egg laying barns at the
two companies, including rodents, rodent holes, wild birds, flies and
Hillandale Farms spokeswoman Julie DeYoung said the barns at its facility
are about 50 feet from the processing building. At Wright County Egg,
the laying barns are 50 feet apart and connected to the processing plant,
said spokeswoman Hinda Mitchell.
Food safety watchdogs question whether USDA egg graders should have
noticed the vermin problems cited by the FDA, potentially preventing
the recall of a half billion eggs and an outbreak that is linked to
about 1,500 reported illnesses.
"In light of what FDA saw, why didn't these guys see the same thing
in terms of raising red flags?" asked Tony Corbo of Food &
Water Watch, a food safety group.
Carol Tucker-Foreman, an assistant Agriculture secretary under President
Carter, said egg graders view the companies ? not consumers ? as their
"clients." The graders are part of an industry-funded program
in USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service, which promotes products.
"In this case it appears they did not do a good job for their clients
because this (the outbreak and recall) presumably would not have happened
had the grading people followed their own regulations," said Tucker-Foreman,
now a food policy fellow at the Consumer Federation of America.
USDA spokesman Caleb Weaver said egg graders have no authority to look
at the laying barns, even though they are connected to the processing
Kastner and Weaver said they didn't know whether graders had identified
any rodent issues in the areas of the facilities they considered under
their watch. Their daily inspection reports are still being gathered,
The FDA, which is responsible for regulating the safety of eggs that
are in their shells, has said new regulations that took effect in July
will help prevent future outbreaks. The agency says it will inspect
600 of the largest egg processors over the next 15 months. Bills in
Congress would expand FDA's food safety authority.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who chairs the House Appropriations Agriculture subcommittee,
last month sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asking,
among other things, about the egg graders' awareness of conditions at
Wright County Egg. She's waiting on answers.
"It has never been more clear that we need to pass strong FDA food
safety legislation this year," said DeLauro, D-Conn. "In the
long term, a single food agency is needed that focuses exclusively on
protecting our food supply." Responsibility for food safety is
currently spread across 15 agencies, she said.
Vilsack said in a statement to USA TODAY that the egg outbreak situation
shows the "critical need" to make improvements in the nation's
food safety system. "USDA has been working to close gaps and improve
the safety of the meat, poultry and processed egg products over which
we have authority and the FDA is taking action to address the fact that
they have not had all of the tools needed to prevent outbreaks in areas
where they have authority, such as shell eggs," he said.
Regulations are only as good as their enforcement, said Doug Powell,
an associate professor of food safety at Kansas State University. "It
goes back to the responsibility of whoever is producing the food,"
he said. "How do you establish a corporate culture where people
pay attention to food safety?"
Blocking E. coli
Bacteria Before They Move In
By Rosalie Marion Bliss
September 7, 2010
A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist and his colleagues
have discovered key gene and chemical interactions that allow Escherichia
coli (E. coli) O157:H7 bacteria to colonize the gut of cattle. The animals
not only host, but can shed the deadly human pathogen.
Many E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks have been associated with contaminated
meat products and cross contamination of produce crops. Because the
bacteria do not cause cattle to show clinical symptoms of illness, and
due to other unknown variables, they can be hard to detect within cattle
and the environment.
The researchers, including USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
animal scientist Thomas S. Edrington, reported how the E. coli sense
a key chemical that plays a critical role in allowing the bacteria to
colonize inside the cattle's gastrointestinal (GI) tract. ARS is USDA's
principal intramural scientific research agency. This research supports
the USDA priority of ensuring food safety.
Edrington is with the ARS Food and Feed Safety Research Unit in College
Station, Texas. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences, was conducted at the University of Idaho, Moscow,
Idaho, campus. It involved researchers from several universities and
was headed by Vanessa Sperandio, who is with the University of Texas
Southwestern Medical Center, in Dallas.
To proliferate, E. coli express genes differently based on their environment,
such as outside the cattle host, inside the cattle rumen, or even at
the end of the cattle GI tract. Having a better understanding of when,
why and how these bacteria colonize could lead to practical applications
in the future, according to Edrington.
The researchers showed that "quorum sensing" chemicals called
acyl-homoserine lactones (AHLs), which are produced by other bacteria,
are present within the bovine rumen but absent in other areas of the
cattle GI tract. AHLs are important because E. coli harbor a regulator,
called SdiA, which senses these AHLs and then prompts the E. coli to
attach and colonize.
Limiting production of the SdiA chemical, or blocking bacterial reception
of the AHLs, may eventually lead to new strategies for keeping E. coli
from attaching inside the animal.
A Salmonella Victim's Statement to the Senate
by Barb Pruitt | Sep 09, 2010
First, let me make it clear that I have no authority or expertise in
the field of foodborne illnesses, however; I am a survivor of Salmonella
poisoning and can speak from experience. I speak for ALL that have experienced,
could experience, or have died from food poisoning. In addition, I speak
for those that are left disabled for life, such as me, due to the inadequacies
and failures within our food industries. I choose to be the voice for
If I were to personally stand before you today, I would implore you
to please pursue the vote for the Food Safety Modernization Act (S.
510). The Act will enable increased authority for the FDA and food regulations
will be more effective. What I like best is that the Act would require
preventative programs. It is clear that the regulations we currently
have in place are not followed nor are they effective. The Food Safety
Modernization Act would provide necessary modification of and improved
regulations. Food poisoning is preventable, let us enforce it.
As citizens, we should not be fearful of the food that we consume. We
are hard working Americans who spend our hard working money on life's
necessities--FOOD. We should NOT under any circumstances fear the consumption
of our food; we assume and TRUST that our food is prepared with quality
and that it is SAFE. No one ever assumes that their next bite of food
may sicken them or worse yet kill them, leaving families destroyed and
experiencing financial devastation with medical bills.
The failure in our system is that producers focus on quantity rather
than quality. They have the ability to focus on quantity rather than
quality because our current structured food regulations are failing.
We have the power to change that. We must stand together and apply strict
regulations and by all means ENFORCE them. We have to give authority
where necessary to preserve human life and quality of life.
When a food product is produced and sent to the public, when tainted,
millions of unsuspecting people may be facing a death sentence or lifetime
disabilities. It is not like a piece of clothing that has been sewn
incorrectly so therefore it is sold at a discount store. This is food
we are talking about. Our food, more often than not, is not tested for
quality until it is consumed by the public. There is no taking it back
once it has been eaten and someone falls prey to illness.
Every case of foodborne illness is a case of a failure in our food industry
regulations and a lack of regard for human life as producers are able
to ignore current regulations and push for quantity rather than quality.
It is sad that we have come to the point of actually having to babysit
our food supply, not only on a local level but worldwide; we must also
be strict with our incoming food as well. All food must be produced
with the mindset that EVERY human life is valuable.
I urgently ask you to please vote on this Act and pass it. Stronger
regulations, increased involvement from authorities, and preventative
programs are a necessity. I know I am but only one voice, but I hope
that I am ultimately a strong, and unfortunately very experienced, voice.
Our First Engineered Entree?
by Ross Anderson | Sep 09, 2010
In a nation that loves big stuff--from cars and certain body parts--you'd
think people would be pretty excited about a new line of fast-growing
And especially when the genetically
modified (GM) fish pronounced safe last week by the Food and Drug Administration
is being billed as cheaper to produce, therefore cheaper for the consumer.
But most of the excitement
that greeted the FDA assessment was not what the promoters would have
wished for. Many environmental and health groups remain deeply suspicious
of bioengineered foods.
The analysis was "misguided
and dangerous," says the Center for Food Safety. Federal tests
were "insufficient in determining the long-term, unforeseen consequences"
of genetic engineering, says Wenonah Hauter, director of Food &
Such responses come as no
surprise to the scientists and entrepreneurs in Massachusetts who have
been working for a couple of decades to develop the genetic salmon technology.
Few issues generate more controversy among environmentalists than the
idea of genetic engineering of food.
GM foods such as soy and
corn and other grains have been in our food supply for many years. But
the modified salmon promoted by AquaBounty Technologies of Massachusetts
promises to be the first bioengineered animal protein--the first main
The salmon technology dates
back more than 20 years, when a researcher in Newfoundland froze a tank
of flounder. To his surprise, the fish survived, and further research
led scientists to discover an "antifreeze gene" that is part
of the DNA of cold-water fish.
Scientists initially hoped
to use that gene to develop a strain of Atlantic salmon that could be
farmed in icy Canadian waters. As gene-splicing techniques were developed,
they learned that the same gene also controlled the rate of growth.
When injected into salmon
eggs, the gene alters the way the fish's natural hormones work, allowing
it to grow to market size in half the time of normal farm fish. That
discovery was patented and now AquaBounty Technologies, of Waltham,
Mass., could receive the FDA's go-ahead to start producing the transgenic
fish, now using a gene from Chinook salmon and the antifreeze "promoter"
from another cold-water fish, the ocean pout.
The technology has many other
potential applications, says Elliot Entis, the Harvard-educated seafood
entrepreneur who has spent nearly 20 years promoting the idea.
For genetic engineers, fish
offer a number of advantages over most other animals. A spawning salmon
produces thousands of eggs, which do not have to be carried by the mother.
That greatly simplifies the task of implanting and cultivating fish
So, when scientists implanted
the antifreeze gene in Atlantic salmon back in the 1990s, they essentially
created a new species. But the newly created fish is identical to normal
salmon--with the exception of one gene out of approximately 40,000 that
comprise the creature's DNA.
That single gene "allows
the fish to reach market weight in half the time of traditional Atlantic
salmon," says Dr. Ronald Stotish, the AquaBounty CEO.
That fast growth cuts the
company's overhead costs by half, which gives them a huge economic advantage
in a competitive market now dominated by Chilean and Norwegian salmon
But the critics believe that
the gene also creates a whole set of uncertainties and potential threats
to human health or to the environment. Hauter, of Food & Water Watch,
warns that the fish have not been adequately tested for allergies or
She cites a recent study
that claims transgenic salmon could have a greater effect on the environment.
In particular, environmentalists warn that GM fish will inevitably escape
into the open sea and compete with native fish.
Anticipating those arguments,
AquaBounty says it will produce only female fish and all their fish
will be biologically sterile--incapable of reproducing. In addition,
they will raise their fish in enclosed, land-locked hatcheries where
fish can't escape into the environment.
Entis, a former AquaBounty
CEO, still serves on the company board and finds himself swimming upstream
as an unofficial spokesman for the embattled bioengineering industry.
People are predisposed to
fear anything new--especially when it involves food and health, he says.
"I'd like to get rid
of words like "genetically modified,'" he says. "But
The industry's challenge,
he says, is to help people understand that genetic modification occurs
constantly in the natural world. Evolution continues to occur as a series
of genetic mutations. Most of those mutations fail, but those that succeed
lead to new and more successful genetic strains.
"Over the centuries,
we have been creating food hybrids using traditional methods--including
the majority of fruits and vegetables we eat today. And often those
hybrids have crossed species lines."
Bioengineering is a more
powerful and precise form of hybridizing, because it condenses a process
into a much shorter time frame, Entis says. It can get salmon to grow
faster, or make wheat more resistant to disease, or increase the nutritional
value of rice.
"We should not condemn
or be fearful of the technology," he says. "We need to use
it to our advantage and to the advantage of the environment."
In the case of salmon, Entis
argues that bioengineered salmon, produced in the U.S., will use less
fish food, and less energy for transportation. It also adds to food
safety, he says, because the hybridized salmon will be produced in land-locked
and regulated plants, so any tainted product can be quickly and easily
traced back to its source.
None of this satisfies the
critics. "What about the masses of corporations that will no doubt
race to produce GM fish in the crowded open ocean facilities they already
utilize?" asks Wenonah Hauter. "These fish will likely escape
from their floating pens."
Entis can only sigh. "At
the end of the day, our salmon is still a salmon," he says.
County Egg, on behalf of thousands of sick people: thanks for caring
Posted on September 4, 2010 by Drew Falkenstein
The CDC's most recent case count in the egg outbreak rose to 1,469 the
other day. It seems to have been understood from the beginning that
prolific contamination in the facilities at Wright County Egg, resulted
from inattentiveness, at best, and blatant disregard, at worst, in the
production environment. As more evidence comes in, one has to begin
wondering when punitive damages might come into play.
Here are some of the FDA's findings to date:
Chicken manure located in
the manure pits below the egg laying operations was observed to be approximately
4 feet high to 8 feet high at [multiple]locations. The outside access
doors to the manure pits at these locations had been pushed out by the
weight of the manure, leaving open access to wildlife or domesticated
Un-baited, unsealed holes appearing to be rodent burrows located along
the second floor baseboards were observed.
Dark liquid which appeared to be manure was observed seeping through
the concrete foundation to the outside of the laying houses at [multiple]
Standing water approximately 3 inches deep was observed at the southeast
corner of the manure pit located inside Layer 1 ? House 13.
Un-caged birds (chickens having escaped) were observed in the egg laying
operations in contact with the egg laying birds at Layer 3 ? Houses
9 and 16. The un-caged birds were using the manure, which was approximately
8 feet high, to access the egg laying area.
Layer 3 ? House 11, the house entrance door to access both House 11
and 12 was blocked with excessive amounts of manure in the manure pits.
There were between 2 to 5 live mice observed inside the egg laying Houses
1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, and 14.
Live and dead flies too numerous to count were observed at [multiple]
locations inside the egg laying houses. The live flies were on and around
egg belts, feed, shell eggs and walkways in the different sections of
each egg laying area. In addition, live and dead maggots too numerous
to count were observed on the manure pit floor located in Layer 2 ?
And the hits keep on coming. A married couple, Deanna and Robert Arnold,
former employees at Wright County Egg, appeared on CBS's "The Early
Show" this morning to discuss some of the inexcusable safety violations
that occurred at Wright County Egg during their tenure there. A few
repacking old eggs as fresh
live cats, live mice, dead mice, chicken bones, live chickens, dead
the company routinely took eggs returned by grocery stores and repackaged
them as fresh
Robert Arnold: "The stuff that I seen there, you come to work in
the morning, you'd see -- supposedly it was all cleaned up and you would
see egg yolk underneath the belts mixing up with the grease from the
gears and stuff. You would see old eggs getting repacked and putting
today's date on them. When I'd question that, it was, 'Oh, we do that
all the time. Just go back to work."
Mr. Arnold also stated that he wouldn't eat eggs from the plants he
worked in. "It's like somebody going to the candy store and getting
a chocolate bar that's like two months older. I mean, it should have
been taken off the shelf," Arnold explained.
Wright County Egg issued its own response to Arnolds' claims, saying,
"Anytime there is a perceived issue on our farm, we expect our
employees to immediately bring it to our attention, so that we may address
it appropriately and swiftly. That is our policy, and that is their
responsibility. To the best of our knowledge, no concerns were ever
When told of Wright County Egg saying "no complaints were ever
raised" by himself or Deanna, Robert replied, "You sit there
and you tell a supervisor, 'This ain't right. You know, we're putting
old eggs into the containers. We're putting today's date on them.' That's
as far as it went. (They'd say) 'Robert, you just - OK, that's just
the way it is. Go back to work and finish out your day,' and that's
as far as it goes.
My guess is that more and more problems will continue to come out of
the woodwork for Wright County Egg. Their history, and the evident food
safety violations that laid the foundation for this outbreak, are too
alarming to believe otherwise.
ist of Newsletters
To subscribe this Food Safety Newsletter
(C). All rights reserved FoodHACCP.com.