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Dangerous chemicals in food wrappers likely migrating to humans: U of T study
University of Toronto scientists have found that chemicals used to line junk food wrappers and microwave popcorn bags are migrating into food and being ingested by people where they are contributing to chemical contamination observed in blood.
Perfluorinated carboxylic acids or PFCAs are the breakdown products of chemicals used to make non-stick and water- and stain-repellant products ranging from kitchen pans to clothing to food packaging. PFCAs, the best known of which is perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), are found in humans all around the world.
"We suspected that a major source of human PFCA exposure may be the consumption and metabolism of polyfluoroalkyl phosphate esters or PAPs," says Jessica D'eon, a graduate student in the University of Toronto's Department of Chemistry. "PAPs are applied as greaseproofing agents to paper food contact packaging such as fast food wrappers and microwave popcorn bags."
In the U of T study, rats were exposed to PAPs either orally or by injection and monitored for a three-week period to track the concentrations of the PAPs and PFCA metabolites, including PFOA, in their blood. Human exposure to PAPs had already been established by the scientists in a previous study. Researchers used the PAP concentrations previously observed in human blood together with the PAP and PFCA concentrations observed in the rats to calculate human PFOA exposure from PAP metabolism.
"We found the concentrations of PFOA from PAP metabolism to be significant and concluded that the metabolism of PAPs could be a major source of human exposure to PFOA, as well as other PFCAs," says Scott Mabury, the lead researcher and a professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Toronto.
"This discovery is important because we would like to control human chemical exposure, but this is only possible if we understand the source of this exposure. In addition, some try to locate the blame for human exposure on environmental contamination that resulted from past chemical use rather than the chemicals that are currently in production.
"In this study we clearly demonstrate that the current use of PAPs in food contact applications does result in human exposure to PFCAs, including PFOA. We cannot tell whether PAPs are the sole source of human PFOA exposure or even the most important, but we can say unequivocally that PAPs are a source and the evidence from this study suggests this could be significant."
Regulatory interest in human exposure to PAPs has been growing. Governments in Canada, the United States and Europe have signaled their intentions to begin extensive and longer-term monitoring programs for these chemicals. The results of this investigation provide valuable additional information to such regulatory bodies to inform policy regarding the use of PAPs in food contact applications.
The study was conducted by Jessica D'eon and Scott Mabury of the University of Toronto's Department of Chemistry and is published today in Environmental Health Perspectives. Research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

State Vet: Maine's Salmonella Prevention Program is Working

11/05/2010 11:15 AM ET

Don Hoenig told Maine lawmakers that salmonella has not been found in any building on Maine egg farms in over a year.

State Veterinarian Don Hoenig says the state's comprehensive program to prevent salmonella contamination at egg farms has paid off.
"The result of it is, we have not had a positive building in over a year," he told lawmakers. " We've achieved a measure of success, we're cautiously optimistic that we're on the right track--I don't know for sure that we are--but the vaccination seems to have been a key component of the control program."
Hoenig says after the salmonella outbreak in Iowa this summer, he found himself answering more and more questions from national reporters about Maine's egg inspection program. He told members of the Legislature's Agriculture Committee that's when he realized just how good Maine's program is.
Hoenig says the state program is being looked at as model by other states.

A close encounter with China¡¯s sewer-oil trade
by Andrew Stein
25 Oct 2010 7:20 AM
For months I had been hearing about a black-market sewer-oil industry, but the thought was just too difficult to digest. Living in a state of incredulity seemed like a good alternative to a compulsively upset stomach. That is, until I caught the aforementioned sewer-oil fisherman red-handed (literally, with a red flashlight in hand to distinguish swill-oil from plain sewage in the dark of the night).
I tried to talk with him but he eluded me, moving quickly down the street from sewer cover to sewer cover, skimming used oil from the sewer and plopping it in a large bucket. When I asked what he would do with it, he simply replied, "It will be reused."
Now, I'm all for recycling. But there must be less gross -- and unsanitary -- ways to handle it.
Feeling swill
Earlier this past year, headlines buzzed with news about hazardously unsanitary Chinese cooking oil. He Dongping, professor of food science engineering at Wuhan Polytechnic University, sparked the flames. His investigative study found that 10 percent of meals cooked across China use oil that has been reprocessed from discarded kitchen waste. This oil, called swill-oil, often contains high levels of aflatoxin -- a toxic fungus and notoriously potent carcinogen.
Swill-oil makes its way back to people's plates from two chief sources: the market and the drain.
Most food in China is stir fried in a wok with oil; personal ovens are rarer than restaurants that don't use MSG. With more than 1.3 billion people producing thousands of tons of waste-oil every day, a dirty black market has formed around this slippery commodity.
Restaurants could dispose of their excess oil in a sanitary way using government-provided services. But ... they don't.
Why? The government-run services cost money. And what business playing by modern capitalist rules wants to pay for a government service when they could instead get paid to use a private service that provides them the same benefits?
"Restaurants have to pay a certain fee if they hire the city's sanitation workers, whereas selling kitchen waste to private parties can make up to 10,000 yuan ($1,500) every year," the director of the Wuhan Airui Biodiesel Company told China's Xinhua News Agency. According to this report, "a large restaurant is capable of making 2 million yuan ($294,117) per year just by selling its kitchen waste."
These private companies take waste oil and refine it using machines or simple methods. The result is a substance that by appearance and smell alone is difficult to distinguish from store-bought cooking oil, but in actuality is very toxic.
So not only are restaurants incentivized to sell their used oil to private contractors, but they're also incentivized to buy the processed-oil back. The price of swill-oil is "half that of ordinary cooking oil," noted the government mouthpiece China Daily. According to He Dongping, the swill-oil industry turns a profit of 1.5-2 billion yuan annually. "The profit margin is almost 200 percent. It's easy to understand why the business is so hot."
In an industry with huge profit margins, every bit of slop oil counts. Large quantities of oil get washed off kitchen utensils and flow down the drain. And by drains, I mean sewers.
This past summer when I was in Yunnan Province, I had a conversation with a concerned government official about controlling sewer oil.
"Why doesn't the government do something about it?"|
"It's difficult," he replied. "We don't have much power over the situation. There's no specific law that forbids this type of activity, and we don't have adequate resources to properly enforce this kind of law."Although China's FDA equivalent issued a nationwide notice about the swill-oil situation in March, it seems that there isn't much this local government is able to do about the situation.
Since then, there have been several crackdowns in China. The New York Times reported that in the city of Chengdu, food safety officials named 13 restaurants that had been found to be using illegal cooking oil. While this news shows ostensible progress, there are far more than 13 restaurants across China using swill-oil, and in a country with a quickly evolving legal system, the tangibility of a law prohibiting this activity is uncertain.
Nonetheless, the Chinese government seems to be concerned with this development. Since detecting and identifying the use of illegal cooking oil is tough, "there is an urgent need to improve kitchen waste recycling procedures to prevent the continued use of such oil in food production," said China Daily.
One way that the government might improve such procedures is to get people using the systems that currently exist. You'll remember that the public sector does provide sanitation services, but that no one uses them because of their cost. The private sector -- the swill-oil producers -- is succeeding due to its market savvy-behavior. If the public sector coughed up some cash for using its services, too, it might gain more control over the situation.
The majority of swill-oil in the market comes directly from restaurants, so the swill-oil industry would shrink considerably if restaurants could be persuaded to sell the bulk of their used oil to public sanitation services. As for the sewers, I'm sure that a few audacious men and women would still go fishing for oil -- but if sewers were the only place swill-oil was coming from, it would be much easier for authorities to focus their attention.
Grease these palms
To depose the swill-oil mafia of their current stranglehold of the used oil market, the government will have to absorb the approximately 1.5 billion yuan industry. Here's how it could do so:
Biodiesel: Recycled waste-oil can be used sustainably for fuel in the form of biodiesel. Local Chinese sanitation departments could team up with public transportation departments and make massive bus fleets bio-friendly.
Roof Bio Coating: A new polymer for roofs that helps regulate building temperature can be made from used cooking oil. China is building at an unparalleled rate. Using recycled materials will help offset the environmental impact of the country's nationwide construction craze.
Soap: Can swill-oil actually produce soap to clean our bodies? Beijing Forestry University researchers say yes.
China's state-owned enterprises are quite adept at turning profits, so the government could create lucrative, sustainable, and sanitary industries from the country's swill-oil problem. That kind of recycling would be a lot more appetizing.

Companies behaving badly: FDA has warned Baugher before about its processing of unpasteurized juices
Posted on November 4, 2010 by Drew Falkenstein
A Westminster, Maryland company called Baugher Enterprise Inc has been linked to an outbreak of at least 7 E. coli O157:H7 illnesses associated with the consumption of unpasteurized apple cider. Three of the victims have been hospitalized.
Foodpoisoning and E. coli outbreaks are bad enough. They really make you mad when the company has been warned before that it's processing methods aren't sufficient to ensure that contaminated products don't reach the consumer market. The following letter, dated July 11, 2006, is from the FDA to the President of Baugher Enterprise, Inc:
Mr. Allan Baugher, President
Baugher Enterprise, Inc.
1236 Baugher Road
Westminster, MD 21158-3604
Dear Mr. Baugher:
The Food and Drug Administration inspected your firm, located at 1236 Baugher Road, Westminster, MD, on March 14 -April 3, 2006. We found that you have serious violations of the juice Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulation, Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 120, and the Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulation for foods, Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 110 (21 CFR 120 & 110). In accordance with 21 CFR 120.9, failure of a processor of juice products to have and implement a HACCP plan that complies with this section or otherwise operate in accordance with the requirements of Part 120, renders the juice products adulterated within the meaning of Section 402(a)(4) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act), 21 U.S.C. ¡× 342(a)(4). Accordingly, your apple cider products are adulterated, in that they have been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have been rendered injurious to health. You may find the Act, the Juice HACCP regulation and the Juice HACCP Hazards and Controls Guidance through links in FDA's home page at|
Your significant violations were as follows:
1. You must have a written HACCP plan to control any food safety hazards that are reasonably likely to occur, to comply with 21 CFR 120 .8(a). However, your firm does not have a HACCP plan for your Unpasteurized Apple Cider to control the food safety hazard of pathogens. Furthermore, your firm does not have a written Hazard Analysis to determine whether there are food safety hazards that are reasonably likely to occur, and to identify control measures that you can apply to control those hazards, for the Unpasteurized Apple Cider that you process.
2. You must have sanitation control records that document monitoring and corrections, to comply with 21 CFR 120.6(c). However, your firm did not maintain sanitation control records for the safety of water; the condition and cleanliness of food contact surfaces; the prevention of cross contamination from insanitary objects to food, food packaging material, and other food contact surfaces, and from raw product to processed product; the maintenance of hand washing, hand sanitizing, and toilet facilities; the protection of food, food packaging materials, and food contact surfaces from adulteration with contaminants; proper labeling, storage, and use of toxic compounds; control of employee health conditions; and, exclusion of pests.
This letter may not list all the violations at your facility. You are responsible for ensuring that your processing plant operates in compliance with the Act, the juice HACCP regulation (21 CFR Part 120) and the Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulation (21 CFR Part 110). You also have a responsibility to use procedures to prevent further violations of the Act and all applicable regulations.
We may take further action if you do not promptly correct these violations. For instance, we may take further action to seize your product(s) and/or enjoin your firm from operating. You should respond in writing within fifteen (15) working days from your receipt of this letter . Your response should outline the specific things you are doing to correct these violations.
You should include in your response documentation such as HACCP and verification records, or other useful information that would assist us in evaluating your corrections. If you cannot complete all corrections before you respond, you should explain the reason for your delay and state when you will correct any remaining violations.
Please send your reply to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Attention: Randy F. Pack, Compliance Officer at the address above. If you have questions regarding any issue in this letter, please contact Mr. Pack at 410-779-5417.
Evelyn Bonnin
District Director

Leafy greens present growing threat of food-borne illness, researchers say
Issue date: 11/4/10 Section: Food & Travel
By Steve Mills
Chicago Tribune
CHICAGO - A growing threat for food-borne illnesses comes attractively packaged, is stunningly convenient and is increasingly popular with shoppers looking for healthy meals: ready-to-eat leafy greens that make putting together a green salad as easy as opening a bag.
Though beef and poultry are a more frequent source of food-related outbreaks than produce, the number of outbreaks tied to lettuce, spinach and other leafy greens, whether fresh-cut or whole, has been rising over the last two decades, according to the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest.
On Tuesday, researchers with the group called leafy greens the riskiest food regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, with 363 outbreaks linked to those foods from 1990 to 2006. (Meat is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.)
The largest and most severe of these outbreaks came in September 2006, when bagged baby spinach tainted by E. coli bacteria sickened some 200 people and left three dead in 26 states. Last month, salmonella detected in testing prompted the recall of 1,715 cartons of bunched spinach sent to a dozen states.
"For a long time, produce was considered a safe item," said Jim Prevor, editor in chief of the food safety blog "But that's not really the case anymore."
Hoping to ensure greater safety and cut the number of food-related outbreaks, the Agriculture Department has launched hearings around the country aimed at developing national production and handling rules for leafy greens and other vegetables.
Although consumers can reduce their risk, such as by washing greens, experts say preventing outbreaks requires action by farmers and producers to avoid bacterial contamination at the source or during processing.
Greens are especially vulnerable for several reasons, including that they are grown so close to the ground, unlike, say, fruit from trees, and can be tainted by water runoff, a persistent source of contamination when it carries animal waste.

What makes fresh-cut greens more susceptible is also what makes them convenient: the cutting and bagging that eliminates much of the work of salad preparation. That processing allows pathogens to get into the leaves, where they can flourish. The machinery used and the mixing of greens from various farms contribute to those dangers, not unlike the risks associated with processing ground beef.
Even greens put through a chlorine wash can be contaminated.
"These items are grown outdoors in fields with dirt. It's probably impossible to grow them without contact with a food-borne pathogen," said Craig Hedberg, a professor at the University of Minnesota's school of public health.
That such healthy foods can cause illness when tainted should give urgency to efforts to improve the nation's food safety system and better eradicate contamination, advocates said.
"Consumers shouldn't change their diets to avoid these foods," said Sarah Klein, a staff attorney at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
"The bottom line is that consumers need help from the food industry and the FDA if they want to eat nutritious and safe foods, which is why these products need to be safe when they arrive in consumer and restaurant kitchens."
The center's researchers found that six outbreaks of disease and 598 illnesses were linked to greens in 1990. In 2006, the most recent data available, there were 49 such outbreaks and 1,279 illnesses.
The 2006 E. coli outbreak prompted growers and handlers of leafy greens in California, where most of the nation's lettuce and spinach is grown, to adopt a voluntary plan calling for tougher safety rules and regular inspections. Arizona, second to California in greens production, followed.
Now, a similar safety agreement may be crafted for green handlers nationwide.
"What we're seeing right now is a response to what happened in '06," said William Marler, a Seattle lawyer who is a leading plaintiff's attorney in food-borne illness cases.Among those stricken in that outbreak was Mary Ann Westerman of Mendota, Ill. After eating bagged spinach tainted by E. coli, she got sick with vomiting and diarrhea, suffered kidney failure and, three years later, still struggles with related health issues, said her daughter, Martha Porter-Fiszer.
"I had no idea what could happen when it's a serious pathogen," said Porter-Fiszer, of Park Ridge, Ill. "We ought to be able to have food without bacteria reach our store shelves."
Whether the safety moves in place in California and Arizona will work is open to question. Skeptics say they are little more than a public relations effort by an industry trying to battle bad publicity as the market for fresh-cut salads and fixings grows.
In addition, critics note that the mid-September spinach recall involved a company that has signed on to the California agreement.
Prospects for national safety rules geared toward larger farms have opened a divide between the big corporate growers and handlers and some smaller organic and family farms. Those farmers fear that new rules, even if voluntary, could add costs to their operations and put them at a competitive disadvantage while doing little to improve food safety.
"We're concerned that farmers we work with and represent will become second-class citizens in the marketplace," said Will Fantle of the Cornucopia Institute, a not-for-profit that advocates for small farmers. "We contend some of the bagged product is typically riskier than what you can buy at a farmer's market or directly from a farmer."
David Cleverdon, who grows organic greens at his Kinnikinnick Farm in Caledonia, Ill., said he already adheres to a number of rules to maintain his organic certification. So while he is concerned about the potential costs of new rules, he does not immediately balk at the prospect.
He said the problem is more with big corporate farms than small farmers like him.
"They're afraid of the PR and the liability," he said of big farm operators.
"So they're trying to protect themselves at the expense of the small farmer. That's who usually is hurt."

TV Was Kind to Tomatoes in '08 Salmonella Outbreak
by Dan Flynn | Nov 08, 2010

TV's role in the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak of 2008, which wreaked havoc with the nation's tomato crop, is the subject of a new academic study by Texas Tech University.
Published in the November issue of Food Protection Trends, produced by the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP), the study uses "framing theory" to examine how TV covered the S. Saintpaul outbreak as first tomatoes, then later jalapenos were thought to be responsible.
Titled "The Summer of Salmonella in Salsa: A Framing Analysis of the 2008 Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Tomatoes and Jalapenos," the study is based on 71 usable transcripts of news broadcasts on ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC from May 1 to Oct. 1, 2008.
Texas Tech researchers Erica Goss Irlbeck and Cindy Akers "found anti-government, pro-agricultural producers, and anti-Mexican produce imports were the most common frames presented by the networks."

"Specifically, CNN voiced strong disapproval for the manner in which the United States Food and Drug Administration and the Congress handled the crisis," says the study abstract.
The S. Saintpaul outbreak began in April 2008 with 57 reported cases in Texas and New Mexico. It went nationwide over the summer, eventually making at least 1,440 Americans ill in 43 states and the District of Columbia.
Scrambling to find the source of the outbreak, the FDA in the first week of June began warning the public not to eat raw red plum, red Roma, or round red tomatoes. The agency excluded some tomato growing areas from having anything to do with the outbreak, but the financial damage to the tomato industry was done.
In late July, FDA shifted the blame from tomatoes to jalapeno and Serrano peppers grown in Mexico. The Texas Tech researchers reported the tomato industry lost $250 million based on what growers thought was "flimsy evidence."

The TV study found CNN "was also very supportive of tomato growers financial distress while they were unable to market their crop."
"Many of the stories were simple, informational pieces informing the public about Salmonella's symptoms and preventive methods, varieties of tomatoes and peppers to avoid, and number of illnesses," the abstract continued. "In all, the researchers found most of the news coverage was based on the facts that were available at the time, however, some networks provided personal opinion and speculation."
Framing theory, according to the researchers, is a "central organizing idea or story line that provides meaning to an unfolding strip of events." TV journalists must "choose aspects of a perceived reality and place those aspects in more prominent places within the text," according to framing theory.
Foodborne illness outbreaks have been prominent in the news since the 2006 contamination of bagged spinach, the study says. The stepped up coverage has occurred even though "few reporters have science training and few scientists have training in communicating with the media in simple and clear language, which creates a problem when trying to tell food safety stories."
"The mystery of not knowing the true source of the Salmonella was a common element on all four networks. In 50 of the 71 stories, the unknown source of the Salmonella was a part of the story," the researchers wrote.

Texas Tech also looked at whom the TV networks turned to for interview sources. Appearing most often were FDA personnel, tomato growers, consumers, and politicians. Victims were interviewed on the air only twice.
Most often interviewed by the networks was David Acheson, then FDA's assistant commissioner for food protection, who appeared 23 times. The second most popular network TV interviewee was Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director for the advocacy group Science in the Public Interest.
DeWaal "appeared to be negatively biased in her views about the safety of the United States' food supply; however, her information was accurate."
Mexico was named as the probable source of the S. Saintpaul by CNN only 7 days after the initial FDA warning about tomatoes. "CNN did air some stories that were responsibly reported and based on the known facts at the time; most of the speculative stories were on 'Lou Dobbs Tonight.' "
oth CNN and CBS ran stories critical of FDA and the USA's food tracking system. Most stories were sympathetic to tomato farmers. Dobbs called upon Congress to impeach President Bush over the federal government's handling of the outbreak.

Chinese father punished for food safety activism
BEIJING (AP) A father who organized a support group for other parents whose children were sickened in one of China's worst food safety scandals was convicted and sentenced Wednesday to 2 1/2 years in prison for inciting social disorder, his lawyer said.
Zhao Lianhai had pushed for greater official accountability and compensation for victims and their families after the 2008 scandal that shocked China. His sentence appeared particularly severe because the case related to a public safety incident that the embarrassed leadership had pledged to tackle in a bid to restore consumer confidence.
"We'd expected it to be much less than that. It is such a harsh sentence," lawyer Li Fangping said. "The crimes he was accused of were nothing more than what regular citizens would do to defend their rights."
Zhao, a Beijing resident whose young son was among the nearly 300,000 children sickened by melamine-tainted milk, vowed to appeal and began a hunger strike to protest the verdict, Li said.
Zhao set up an online forum to share information about the poisonings in 2008 after his son, then 3, was diagnosed with kidney stones.
"When he heard that his sentence was two and a half years, he was appalled, and he pushed away a sign that was in front of him, and said, 'I'm not guilty. I want to appeal.' He tried to remove his prison uniform, and refused to be handcuffed," Li said.
Amnesty International condemned the sentence.
"We are appalled that the authorities have imprisoned a man the Chinese public rightly view as a protector of children, not a criminal," said Catherine Baber, the human rights group's Asia-Pacific deputy director.
Zhao, a former reporter and media advertising salesman, has been jailed since he was taken away by police in November 2009.
His sentence appears to be part of a trend of growing intolerance for government critics and independent social activists. Environmentalists, AIDS activists and lawyers who took on sensitive cases have disappeared, been locked up, or otherwise harassed, while this year's Nobel Peace Prize recipient, dissident writer Liu Xiaobo, is serving an 11-year prison sentence for subversion handed down after he co-authored a call for widespread reform of the authoritarian, one-party political system.
Li said prosecutors leveled three charges against Zhao: That he organized a gathering of a dozen parents of sick children at a restaurant, held a paper sign in front of a court and factory involved in the scandal as a protest, and gave media interviews in a public place.
Six children died and hundreds of thousands were sickened by baby formula tainted with melamine, which can cause kidney stones and kidney failure. The industrial chemical, used in the manufacture of plastics and fertilizer, was added to watered-down milk to increase profits and fool inspectors testing for protein.
Several dairy industry figures were prosecuted and punished, including three people given the death penalty.
The general manager and chairwoman of Sanlu, the company at the heart of the scandal, was given a life sentence. Dozens of officials, dairy executives and farmers have been punished for allowing the contamination to take place.

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