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The 'Holy Six' Strains of E. Coli That Many Experts Fear
Andrew Schneider Senior Public Health CorrespondentAOL News
Third of Three Parts
WASHINGTON (Sept. 28) -- Many food safety experts have long called for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to control six other strains of E. coli besides the banned E. coli 0157 strain found in food.
"Not all of these Shiga toxin-producing E. coli are created equal. Some of those six are just as dangerous as E. coli 0157," said Dr. David Acheson, former assistant commissioner for food protection at the Food and Drug Administration and the nation's first "food safety czar."

Escherichia coli bacteria, commonly known as E. coli, can cause food poisoning when present in large quantities.
The "holy six," as they're sometimes called, are the numbered E. coli strains other than 0157 that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found caused 70 percent of the illnesses that most frequently showed up in lab tests on sick people.
"There was no reason to pick six except that I looked at it and I said, 'You know, it's hard to remember more than six.' Six is a good number, but there are still some bad actors at 7, 8, 9, 10," Dr. Patricia Griffin, chief of the CDC's Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch, told AOL News.
So the six non-O157 strains that are sickening thousands a year are E. coli O26, O103, O111, O121, O45 and O145, and those are in order of frequency, the CDC physician said.

The question most often asked by the meat industry is that if there are so many debilitating strains of E. coli, why aren't the body counts higher.
The 30,000-plus annual illnesses and deaths that the CDC reports may be just the very tip of the iceberg that is E. coli, with the vast majority unreported or undetected. Like all other food-borne pathogen-sparked illnesses, the CDC says the actual number of cases could be 38 to 40 times the number reported.
Some people just duke it out with food poisonings, fighting the nausea, loose stools and dehydration, grabbing home remedies and over-the-counter medications. For those who seek medical care, most clinical laboratories conduct only the tests they are paid to perform, and when physicians send out stool samples for analysis, they often don't ask for tests for specific pathogens.
"If labs don't look for it, they won't find it, and CDC and the rest of the public health community won't know about it," Griffin said, adding that only a small percentage of clinical labs -- between 4 and 5 percent -- will routinely look for Shiga toxins in the stool of a person with diarrhea.
But the existence of these illness-causing strains is well known, even to the USDA.Sponsored Links

Its own scientists from the agency's Agricultural Research Service and the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center documented the non-O157 strains in 1,186 samples of beef trim imported to meet the U.S. demand for lean ground beef. The testing was done on meat from Australia, New Zealand, Uruguay and the U.S.
All the traditional food-borne bad boys were found in the samples, but in addition to the salmonella, canipvlobacter, listeria and E. coli, the scientists found 99 different strains of non-0157 Shiga.
Between 20 percent and 30 percent of the beef trim sampled was positive for non-0157, and 13 different strains or serotypes were identified, many, the scientists said, for the first time in meat.

Also in This Series:
USDA May Target 'Other' E. Coli:
Lawyer Puts Money Where Mouth Is:

Oz Pesticide Warning Untrue, Says Produce Industry
by Dan Flynn | Sep 30, 2010

If your kids were looking for reasons not to eat their fruits and vegetables, you better hope they were not watching the popular daytime TV show "Dr. Oz" last Friday.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, a cardiac surgeon from Cleveland, turned his Friday show into a warning about pesticides, labeling apples, spinach and peaches as among the "dirtiest fruits and vegetables."

The reality TV doctor received a swift response from the produce industry accusing him of being duped by the likes of the Consumer Union and the Environmental Working Group, which maintain "dirty dozen" lists of fruits and vegetables grown with the help of pesticides.

The lists are not "peer-reviewed" and reviewers have found them to be misleading and detrimental to public health because they discourage people from eating more fruits and vegetables when pesticide levels are too low to poise any risk, according to the produce industry.

Those were among the arguments leaders of four top fresh produce groups used in a letter to Oz on Tuesday. The groups protesting the Oz show represent farmers and marketers of both conventional and organic fruits and vegetables from through the U.S.

"You stated that consuming fruits or vegetables with pesticide residues would cause a person's heart to race eyes to dilate and asthma-like systems," the association leaders wrote. "Those statements are medically and scientifically invalid."

Signed by the executive officers of the Alliance for Food and Farming, Produce Marketing Association, United Fresh Produce Association, and Western Growers, the letter said U.S. standards for governing the use of pesticides are the most stringent in the world, even more stringent than those imposed by the European Union.

They said the country's problem is declining consumption of fruits and vegetables in an era of epic obesity. They said Oz was guilty of spreading false fears about "healthy wholesome fruits and vegetables."

Oz urged his viewers to buy frozen spinach over the fresh product, and pitched a recipe with white vinegar, baking soda, lemon and water to wash peaches that he said could have as many as 62 pesticides "on their fuzzy delicate skin..."

Oz did say onions, corn, and kiwi fruit were "some of the cleanest produce."

The "Dr. Oz Show" came to television after the physician proved to be a popular guest on the likes of the Oprah and Larry King shows. His programming is usually aimed at his audience of mostly women. What to do about menstrual cramps and how to pick up anti aging "secrets" at the local Dollar Store were other recent show topics for Oz.

USDA Pushes Forward on Several Food Safety Fronts
by Helena Bottemiller | Sep 30, 2010
CHICAGO--The U.S. Department of Agriculture is poised to move forward on a number of hot-button food safety issues in the next year, according to a top USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service official.
Non-O157 strains of E. coli, test-and-hold, the labeling of mechanically tenderized meat, and food safety plan validation are all on the agency's list of policies to tackle in the coming months, said Daniel Englejohn, assistant administrator for FSIS' Office of Policy and Program Development, before a meat industry conference this week.
Englejohn piggybacked on comments made recently by the USDA's new Under Secretary for Food Safety, Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, on the agency's position on the regulation of six disease-causing strains of E. coli beyond E. coli O157:H7. "As a government agency need to evolve our programs," said Englejohn, who added that FSIS is "actively" looking at the issue.
At a food policy conference in DC last week, in her first speech as under secretary, Dr. Hagen hinted that the agency would be reevaluating its policy on non-O157s. "At USDA we have a zero tolerance policy for the most well-known STEC, O157," she said. "But it's 2010--we know that others can cause equally severe disease."
"Our world changes every day, and the system we had 100 years ago wasn't meant to address emerging pathogens," she added.
Englejohn also told the industry conference, which was hosted by the North American Meat Processors Association, that the processors should expect the agency to move toward requiring better record-keeping for grinders on the retail level, improving the efficacy of meat sample collection and testing, and resolving the delayed "test and hold" petition for ground beef.
He also said petitions from consumer groups asking that the agency require labeling for non-intact, or mechanically tenderized, product would be addressed in the coming months.
Consumer groups have lobbied for labeling of non-intact meat products so that consumers know they must cook the product differently. For example, a non-intact steak could harbor pathogens internally in a way that an intact steak would not. Englejohn said the agency would likely initiate the rule-making process on the labeling issue in 2011.
Most, if not all, of the issues Englejohn discussed would be worked out through the formal federal rule-making process, allowing industry and academia as well as consumers to provide input on the policies.
One of the most contentious issues discussed during the meeting, which focused on E. coli reduction, was focused on clarifying the agency's draft guidance on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) validation. Released last March, the document, which appeared to pile on onerous testing requirements, sparked a firestorm among small and medium sized processors.
Englejohn reiterated that FSIS released the draft guidance to address "a widespread lack of understanding" of HACCP validation and that the document does not create any new regulatory requirements, but conceded that the it should be clarified and reworked. The agency has a lot of material to work with--it received over 2,000 comments on the document. Englejohn said it's unusual for the agency to get more than 50 comments on a proposed guidance, noting that the comments expressed a certain "rage" from the industry and are helping to guide the agency rework the document.
"FSIS, to its great credit, has been very open and engaged in the process," said Bob Hibbert, an attorney at K&L Gates who specializes in navigating USDA regulation. "I think it's fair to say that we'll end up with something that's more useful because of the dialogue." Hibbert said he believes FSIS' openness indicates how the agency will go about making policies in the future.
"Bad processes, in my experience, lead to bad results. Good processes lead to good results," he added.
"We believe [HACCP validation] is critically important for the agency to address, but it's important that we get it right," Englejohn. The agency expects to re-issue a draft of the guidance document this fall.

The cost of belated action on food safety
Posted on September 19, 2010 by Drew Falkenstein
The looming death of S. 510--a bill to modernize our decades old food safety system--is either economically or politically driven, likely a combination of both. The bill is a measure that should enjoy bipartisan support, but legitimate questions about the measure's funding have been raised, most notably by Tom Coburn, MD, republican senator from Oklahoma. Senator Coburn summarized his economic concerns about S. 510 recently in a statement on his website:
The legislation will cost $1.4 billion over 5 years. This cost does not include an additional $230 million in expenditures that are directly offset by fees collected for those activities (re-inspections, mandatory recalls, etc.). The total cost of the bill is over $1.6 billion over 5 years. Of these costs, $335 million are for non-FDA programs ? the food allergy grant program, implementation grants to assist producers, assistance grants to states and Indian Tribes.
If future appropriations do not add up to the amount CBO [Congressional Budget Office] is estimating, the likely result is that none of these provisions can be fully implemented, or worse, the FDA is forced to cut corners in other areas it regulates (drugs/devices/etc.) to fund this added regulatory burden on foods.
Without paying for this bill, at best we are just passing it for a press release, and at worst, we shackle the FDA with unfunded mandates.
Since it appears that we are again in planning mode for the next food safety bill, rather than planning for the implementation of S. 510, it is worthwhile to go back to the drawing board and consider all aspects of legitimate arguments both for and against a revision of our fragmented system.
Cost is, of course, as Senator Coburn says a very legitimate point to consider. 1.6 billion over 5 years is a lot of money. But also worthy of consideration is the cost of more inaction. Nobody--whether Senator Coburn or anybody else--can be pleased with what our current level of investment on food safety is buying us. Salmonella has sickened thousands of people this year, even without the massive outbreak and recall linked to Wright County Egg. E. coli outbreaks have fortunately not occurred with as much regularity this year, but one year's success may not be a trend. In other words, food safety remains a paramount concern to national public health, and its an issue that's not going away anytime soon.
So on the issue of cost: lest we forget, an interesting study was published this year by Robert L. Scharff on the total costs attriutable annually to foodborne disease. The study is not exact because it attempts to measure certain economic costs of foodborne illness that are not susceptible to precision estimating, such as pain and suffering and the cost of premature death. But the study also considers many costs that are, in fact, susceptible to precise calculation, and it does give voice to the other very real, though difficult to measure, costs of foodborne disease.
Scharff estimates that foodborne illness costs the United States $152 billion dollars every single year. Thus, using Scharff's study as a maximum cost figure, the $1.6 billion estimated by the Congressional Budget Office is 95 times LESS than the annual estimated cost of foodborne disease (a/k/a further inaction). The point is not that the $1.6 billion dollar cost of S. 510 needs to materialize from nowhere; it is that the cost of belated action, or worse yet further inaction, may be an even worse outcome.

CDC Reports 1,519 Salmonella Illnesses linked to Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms
Posted on September 10, 2010 by Bill Marler
The CDC reports that from May 1 to August 31, 2010, approximately 1,519 illnesses were reported that are likely to be associated with this outbreak.
In addition, the FDA is nearing completion of initial investigations at both of these firms in Iowa. The investigations involve sampling, records review and looking for potential sources of contamination, such as feed. FDA¡¯s inspectional observations, in addition to sample results, indicate substantial potential for Salmonella to have persisted in the environment and to have contaminated eggs (see 483 Inspectional Observations on the Egg Recall).
The CDC warns:
Don¡¯t eat recalled eggs. Recalled eggs might still be in grocery stores, restaurants, and consumers' homes. Consumers who have recalled eggs should discard them or return them to their retailer for a refund. (see searchable database of products affected by the recall is available to consumers).
And, Individuals who think they might have become ill from eating recalled eggs should consult their health care providers.

AP Exclusive: Back to work after salmonella case
WASHINGTON ? The peanut industry executive whose filthy processing plants were blamed in a salmonella outbreak two years ago that killed nine people and sickened hundreds more is back in the business.
Stewart Parnell, former president of the now-bankrupt Peanut Corp. of America, is working as a consultant to peanut companies as the federal government's criminal investigation against him has languished for more than 18 months, The Associated Press has learned.
Parnell, who invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying before Congress in February 2009, once directed employees to "turn them loose" after samples of peanuts had tested positive for salmonella and then were cleared in a second test, according to e-mails uncovered at the time by congressional investigators.
In an interview with the AP, Parnell expressed exasperation and said he wants the pending criminal investigation resolved ? one way or another.
"They just say we're still investigating," Parnell said. "I feel like I wish they'd come on and do what they're going to do. I'd like to get this behind me."
Parnell also said he has been directed by his lawyers not to discuss his case with family members of the nine people who died in the salmonella outbreak blamed on his processed peanuts.
"My lawyers will not let me say anything or I'd be in front of every one of them personally," Parnell said.
Republican Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, who brought a jar of Parnell's peanuts to the congressional hearing last year and asked him if he would eat them, said Wednesday that he hopes a thorough investigation is being conducted.
"Families that lost loved ones in this preventable outbreak deserve some sense of justice, especially as those responsible are continuing on with business as usual," he said. "This sure doesn't sound like swift and certain justice, which is disappointing for all sides."
Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak, the Democratic chairman of the House Energy and Commerce investigations subcommittee, also on Wednesday urged the government to conclude the investigation as soon as possible.
Family members of some of the victims who died say they are eager to see Parnell behind bars.
"My God, when are we going to hold anyone responsible?" said Jeff Almer, whose mother, Shirley Almer, was the first known death from the outbreak in Minnesota. "So far to this day, nothing's happened to this man. I think every person in America who was affected by this, every family who lost someone, deserves to hear the truth from this guy."
A federal judge in Virginia earlier this month approved a $12 million insurance settlement for Almer's family and more than 100 other salmonella victims.
Randy Napier's mother died in Ohio after eating peanut butter linked to Parnell's peanuts.
"He's still walking the streets almost two years later, whereas my mother is lying 6 feet under," Napier said. "It's just not fair. If the (Food and Drug Administration) does not go after Stewart Parnell, the message they are sending to the industry is don't worry about it, ship it. He should not be anywhere near the food industry."
There is nothing illegal about Parnell's return to the food industry since the FDA's criminal investigation has yet to bring any charges against him or his associates. The FDA referred questions about the case to the Justice Department, which declined to comment.
The recall of Peanut Corp.'s peanut products was one of the largest in history. FDA inspectors found remarkably bad conditions inside Parnell's processing plant in Blakely, Ga., linked to the salmonella outbreak, including mold and roaches. Even President Barack Obama expressed concern at the height of the product recalls, noting that his daughter Sasha eats peanut butter for lunch as often as three times a week.
Parnell's lawyer, William Gust, says Parnell's consulting began when Lynchburg, Va.-based Peanut Corp. of America sold its peanut-making equipment after filing bankruptcy. Investors who bought the equipment asked for Parnell's advice about where to resell it, and he has advised peanut companies too, brokering equipment sales. One company he has consulted for is Citation Snack Processors in Greensboro, N.C.
Parnell said he isn't paid for the consulting, though his lawyer said he is "trying to earn a living" with the work.
"He has been in the business a long time, a lot of people know him, not withstanding the salmonella issue," Gust said. "This salmonella issue has basically destroyed his whole family."

It's unclear why the government probe has taken so long or whether it is still in the hands of the FDA or the Justice Department, which would prosecute the case. The FDA traditionally conducts investigations and then hands such cases over to Justice Department prosecutors.
Parnell's legal limbo comes amid a congressional debate over a bill that would give the FDA more power and more money to inspect food facilities, trace illnesses back to their source and take action against unscrupulous food manufacturers. Spurred by the peanut outbreak during President Barack Obama's first weeks in office, the White House has pushed the bill and said food safety overhaul is a priority.
Despite Obama's backing, the bill's future is uncertain. The House passed the bill last year, but it has stalled in the Senate and few measures are expected to be signed into law before the November elections.
While the agency would not comment on the case, Deputy Commissioner for Foods Michael Taylor said in a statement that the FDA is trying to use the tools it has to prevent future outbreaks.
"The peanut outbreak serves as a harsh reminder of why food safety legislation is so vital," Taylor said.

Almer, Napier and other family members of people sickened by foodborne illness are in Washington this week pushing for the bill. Almer says he lives with a lot of anger toward Parnell.
"I will be a thorn in this guy's rear end until he's in prison," he said.

Lactic acid bacteria may cut acrylamide formation
By Nathan Gray, 10-Sep-2010
A Norwegian company has developed a new method that claims to be 90 per cent effective in reducing acrylamide formation during food production.
The method, which uses specially developed food grade lactic acid bacteria, was developed by Norwegian research company Zeracryl AS, and may reduce the formation of acrylamide during industrial production of potatoes and coffee.
The Zeracryl method claims to offer ¡°the most cost-effective efficient way for the food industry to reduce the amount of the toxic substance acrylamide in fried food¡±, and has already attracted the interest of industry giants Nestle, and Norwegian potato producers Hoff AS and Maarud.
¡°Acrylamide is formed as a reaction between the amino acid asparagine and simple sugars... Put simply, the lactic acid bacteria remove these compounds and inhibit the formation of acrylamide,¡± explained Dr Hans Blom, CSO of Zeracryl AS.
Acrylamide is a suspected carcinogen that is formed by a heat induced reaction between sugar and the amino acid asparagine. The process ? known as the Maillard reaction - is responsible for the brown colour and tasty flavour of baked, fried and toasted food.
In 2002 Swedish researchers found the carcinogenic compound was present at high levels in many foods . The discovery grabbed international headlines, alarming consumers and food safety authorities globally.
Since then acrylamide has been the focus of much research, and had been found in many foods, including, bread, crackers, sweet biscuits, deep-fried products and coffee.
However, the main focus of research has been into the compound¡¯s effects on humans, and into improved production methods to reduce or remove acrylamide from foods.
Bacterial method
Dr Blom and his team found a method to limit the formation of acrylamide during the production of potato products and coffee using a ¡°specially formulated culture of food-grade lactic acid bacteria.¡±
The patented method is based on lowering the levels of reducing sugars (like glucose) present on the surface of food products to reduce acrylamide formation when the products are fried or heated.
In ongoing experiments, the team claim to have shown that 10 to 15 minutes¡¯ immersion in their lactic acid bacteria culture before cooking can reduce acrlamide formation.
The company says its methods have been proven effective in industrial settings, and can reduce acrylamide formation in the final product by almost 90 per cent.
Ongoing work
Although the Zeracryl method has gained interest from industry, Dr Blom says it will take regulatory action on acrylamide before manufacturers begin take reduction methods seriously.
¡°The industry is not going to implement large-scale measures to reduce or remove acrylamide until the authorities make it mandatory,¡± said Blom.
But with a major US study currently investigating the highest acrylamide tolerance threshold for humans, it may not be long until US and European food safety authorities to impose far stricter limits on acrylamide levels.
Zeracryl AS says it will continue to research lactic acid fermentation as a tool to reduce formation of acrylamide, in cooperation with Nestle, Hoff AS, Maarud, and the Norwegian research institute Nofima.

STECs ? are they adulterants or not? Source:

Safety Zone
By: James Marsden
September 13, 2010
STECs (Non-E. coli O157:H7 Shiga Toxin Producing E. coli strains) have recently been very much in the news.
The question is: Should they, like E. coli O157:H7 be declared as adulterants? I hesitate to take on this topic because it is controversial and divisive. However, there is, one point on which I believe there is consensus: everyone recognizes that STECs do pose a public health risk and need to be addressed.
On the question of whether STEC¡¯s should be classified as adulterants, it is important to consider that USDA already has the authority under the Meat Inspection Act to declare a meat product adulterated if ¡°it bears or contains any poisonous or deleterious substance which may render it injurious to health.¡± USDA demonstrated this authority two weeks ago in the recall of 8,500 lbs. of raw ground beef that was contaminated with E. coli O26.
Perhaps a better question should be: Does USDA¡¯s FSIS need to officially declare STEC¡¯s as adulterants in raw beef products in order to best protect the public health?
There are a few practical obstacles to this course, one being that only a few labs are equipped to test for STECs. Another obstacle is the unique legal standing that has been assigned to E. coli O157:H7 as the result of industry¡¯s challenge to USDA¡¯s decision to declare this pathogen an adulterant back in 1993. A federal court ruled in favor of USDA, specifically on the issue of E. coli O157:H7 in raw ground beef ? there is some question whether that ruling would apply to STECs?
The American Meat Institute in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Vilsack outlined eight actions that it believes should be taken by USDA to address STECs. (See Meatingplace article:.
These recommendations actually make a lot of sense, especially the suggestion that USDA should promulgate a long overdue regulation on E. coli in raw beef products. The only real difference of opinion between public health advocates and AMI is one of timing. AMI wants USDA to fully study the problem before addressing the adulteration question while many public health advocates take the position that STECs could be declared as adulterants while FSIS goes through the process of conducting risk assessments and rule-making. It is difficult to argue that we can afford to wait years before STECs are addressed or just react to cases and outbreaks as they arise.
Probably, the best course at this point would be to treat STECs exactly as we do E. coli O157:H7 because they have the same potential to cause serious disease and even death. This would not require a formal announcement by FSIS or even a major change in policy. An expansion of the current policies on E. coli O157:H7 should be sufficient (using the authority given to USDA under the Meat Inspection Act). Again, this is really nothing new. FSIS has the authority and responsibility to act when pathogens in meat and poultry products threaten the public health, regardless of whether they have been officially designated as "adulterants". Take the recent Salmonella recall in raw beef as an example.
The meat industry is already taking steps eliminate E. coli O157:H7 from beef carcasses, ground beef and other raw beef products. Presumably, the interventions used to inactivate the O157:H7 strain will also control STECs (although this needs to be confirmed).
USDA labs and other micro testing labs should develop procedures for testing STECs, including rapid methods. By expanding testing capabilities, USDA and industry can test for STEC¡¯s to verify that control measures are effective.
In a recent New York Times story on STECs, a spokesperson for AMI acknowledged the fact that STECs pose a public health risk, but stated that we are not in a crisis situation. I submit that we shouldn¡¯t wait for a crisis to deal with the problem. USDA and the meat industry should take steps now to minimize or eliminate the risk of STECs in meat products.

Survey: Political Pressures Hurt Food Safety
by Helena Bottemiller | Sep 14, 2010
One in four scientists and inspectors at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration surveyed by the Union of Concerned Scientists say they have personally experienced "instances where public health has been harmed by business withholding food safety information from agency investigators."
The survey, conducted by the Iowa State University Center for Survey Statistics, released by UCS yesterday indicates that large numbers of public health officials believe industry pressure has weakened food safety regulation.
"Hundreds of scientists and inspectors responsible for food safety have personally experienced political interference in their work, and that's bad for public health," said Francesca Grifo, director of UCS's Scientific Integrity Program. "Both the administration and Congress need to act."
The survey found that 38 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that "public health has been harmed by agency practices that defer to business interests." Twenty-five percent said they had personally experienced corporate interests forcing the withdrawal or modification of policies or other actions "designed to protect consumers."
According to UCS, the survey results were not all negative. A majority of respondents said that interference had decreased under the Obama administration. "However, the improvement was very small."
"A majority said specific reforms would make the nation's food safer," said Grifo in a statement yesterday. "Respondents overwhelmingly said establishing stronger whistleblower protections for inspectors and regulators would improve food safety."
UCS also pointed to a number of reforms supported by the majority of survey participants including: mandatory preventive controls at food facilities, improved traceability, and increased inspection frequency--all reforms included in the pending food safety bill.
"Food safety legislation is sorely needed, but the administration also could address some of the problems the survey identified by releasing the scientific integrity directive the president said he would release more than a year ago," said Grifo.
"A directive that provided better protection for whistleblowers, ensured scientists and inspectors the right to speak publicly about their work, and ordered agencies to release visitors logs documenting with whom management met would help improve food safety."
More than 1,700 FDA and USDA officials took part in the survey. According to UCS, most of the respondents had worked at their respective agencies for more than 10 years.
The results from the survey are available online here.

CDC¡¯s foodborne illness data is out of date, claims AMI Foundation
By Caroline Scott-Thomas, 14-Sep-2010
The American Meat Institute Foundation (AMIF) has called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to update foodborne illness data that it claims is out of date.
The CDC¡¯s estimates of the prevalence of foodborne illness are frequently cited by the news media, public health authorities, regulatory agencies, and others. It claims that approximately 76m Americans suffer from foodborne illness each year, and of those, about 325,000 are hospitalized and 5,000 die.
But the AMIF has challenged these statistics, saying they are based on figures from a 1999 report called ¡°Food-Related Illness and Death in the Untied States¡± and the food industry has since invested heavily in improving its food safety practices. The AMIF also claimed that the CDC promised to update this report and has been working on new data ¡°since before 2007¡±.
No one from the CDC was available to respond to a request for comment prior to publication.
AMIF¡¯s director of scientific affairs Betsy Booren said in a letter to the CDC: ¡°In order to improve food safety and further reduce the risk of foodborne illness, it is absolutely critical to have the most accurate estimation of foodborne disease as the cause of illness, hospitalizations and deaths.¡±
Booren pointed to the discrepancy between estimates of foodborne illness (about 76m a year) and actual cases of reported illness (about 100,000). This gap has been largely credited to widespread underreporting of foodborne illness.
However, the AMIF claims that allowances for underreporting are no longer valid, as public health reporting has improved since 1999.
¡°These 11-year old estimates also virtually ignore the newer, more accurate and specific methods of detecting microorganisms and the vast progress made by the food industry in improving the safety of their products over the last decade,¡± the foundation said.
The AMIF¡¯s letter to the CDC can be accessed online here : .

Researchers Find PCBs, Other Chemicals in Food
by Joy Paley | Sep 15, 2010

Scientists with the University of Texas School of Public Health have released a study on persistent organic pollutant (POP) levels in the U.S. food supply. The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives in June, showed that the chemicals are found in the many types of food even though their use has been banned. This study confirms the results of a European Union study on chemicals in food that was recently reported in Food Safety News.

Persistent organic pollutants are chemicals that do not break down in the environment; this is why they tend to end up in food, especially in animals higher up the food chain. Many POPs have had wide consumer and industrial use in the past 50 years, which explains their ubiquitous existence in soil, water, air, and food.

The scientists looked at levels of three major groups of contaminants, PFCs, PCBs, and pesticides. Perfluourinated Compounds (PFCs) were used in aerosols and sprays until they were recently phased out by manufacturers. Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) were used in industrial chemicals and electrical work until the 1970s, but they can still be found in humans and animals today. DDT, the miracle pesticide from the early to mid 20th century, is another type of persistent pollutant. All of these chemicals have been shown to have toxic affects, including decreased fertility, cancer, and hindered neurologic development.

All food samples were purchased from Dallas supermarkets. Thirty-one types of food, including produce, meat, and dairy, were tested for 32 pesticides, seven PCBs, and 11 different PFCs. These organic pollutants were found to be widespread in the different types of food. PFCs were found in 17 of the foods; six of the seven types of PCBs were found in salmon and canned sardines. Pesticides were found in 23 of the 31 foods tested.

The levels of chemicals varied dramatically in the different types of food. Foods with a high fat content had relatively high levels of pesticides. The highest levels of DDT were found in whole milk yogurt; the greatest numbers of PCBs found primarily in fish, especially salmon; and that there were PFOAs in more than one-half the samples, especially in olive oil. Concentrations of one type of pesticide, dieldrin, ranged from 0.028 nanograms per gram in whole milk to 2.3 ng/g in catfish fillets. When compared with produce and other types of meat, fish was usually found to have much higher levels of contaminants.

The researchers then looked at the overall consumption of different foods to calculate the daily intake of persistent organic chemicals for the average American. The total daily consumption of DDTs was 263 ng/day, mainly from dairy products. The daily consumption of other chemicals was lower, with PCBs at 33 ng/day. For all chemicals measured, however, the total daily intake was not higher than the EPA's reference doses or the European Union's highest acceptable level for pesticide contamination of food.

The researchers pointed out, however, that while the effects of each single chemical compound are known, there is no research on the effects of having a complicated mixture of many organic pollutants. In reality, it's unlikely that a person would find themselves exposed to only one of these chemicals. Potentially toxic interactions between the chemicals, even when present at lower levels, is an issue that has not been researched.

For the future, scientists in the study called for better monitoring and studying of chemical contaminants in food. Previous USDA studies have not tested the same foods from year to year, so comparing data has not been possible. In other studies, only one type of food had been tested, which did not allow researchers to get an idea of how much contaminant was being ingested overall.

At the end of their paper, the researchers warned about not only watching for these known contaminants, but also considering new organic pollutants that are entering the food system: "Our study shows that U.S. food is contaminated with a wide range of chemicals, including pesticides, PFCs, and PCBs, and that expanding the current monitoring beyond pesticides to include emerging pollutants is warranted."

Breakthrough method cuts E.coli detection time in ground beef ? research
By Rory Harrington, 13-Sep-2010
An innovative technique that employs a unique combination of already established instrumentation can significantly reduce the time taken to detect E.coli 0157:H7 in ground beef, said a new study.
The US group, lead by Lisa Mauer, said the method uses infrared spectroscopy to cut the time to identify E.coli to just hours instead of days as with current testing methods.
The associate professor of food science from Purdue University, told the breakthrough technique had the potential to become an industry standard and her team was already working on adapting it to detect other pathogens such as Salmonella.
Using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy FT-IR, Mauer said E.coli had been detected in ground beef in one hour compared to the 48 hours needed by conventional plating technology carried out in laboratories. She added the same labs could use the compact spectroscopy equipment to get results in a fraction of this time.
The technique is also able to differentiate between strains of E. coli 0157:H7, meaning outbreaks could be tracked more effectively and quickly. Current tests are multi-step and take almost one week to get results.
"Even with all the other bacteria present in ground beef, we could still detect E. coli and recognize different strains," said Mauer.
The study ? Detection of E.coli 0157:H7 from Ground Beef Using Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy and Chemometrics ? was published in the Journal of Food Science.
The research showed two methods for separating bacteria from ground beef for testing. An antibody-capture method, which binds bacteria to antibodies attached to magnetic beads, gave results in four hours, while a filtration method achieved results in about an hour.
Infrared spectroscopy could detect just one E. coli cell if the bacteria were cultured for six hours. Conventional plating techniques used for E. coli detection require culturing cells for 48 hours. The faster feedback is achieved as the FT-IR is able to read the E.coli¡¯s specific infrared spectrum by interpreting the combination of energy that has been absorbed and energy that has been reflected back when infrared light is scanned over a sample.
"Energy is only absorbed by certain components of a sample," Mauer said. "If that component or bacteria isn't there, the energy is reflected back."
The testing methods can also distinguish between living and dead E. coli cells, something current testing methods cannot. While dead cells are not harmful, their presence could indicate something about the quality of the product, said the study.
Industry opportunity
¡°The FT-IR technology has been used since the 1990s for pure samples,¡± explained Mauer. ¡°We have moved this forward by capturing bacteria from meat samples and analysing them. We have demonstrated the general principle works and that there is an opportunity for more rapid detection using instrumentation that is already available.¡±
Using samples from products, companies could build up a spectral library of micro-organisms and create a database. Subsequent tests would then be compared against the reference material to see if a micro-organism was present in the product, with the FT-IR being used as a micro fingerprint detection device, said Mauer.
Detection of E.coli 0157:H7 from Ground Beef Using Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy and Chemometrics by Reeta Davis, Joseph Irudayaraj, Bradley L. Reuhs, and Lisa J. Mauer is published in the Journal of Food Science Doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2010.01686.x

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