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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
Hoenig says the state program is being looked at as model by other states.
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.
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
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.
behaving badly: FDA has warned Baugher before about its processing of
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 www.fda.gov.|
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
greens present growing threat of food-borne illness, researchers say
Issue date: 11/4/10 Section: Food & Travel
By Steve Mills
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
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 perishablepundit.com.
"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
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
"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
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
"They're afraid of the PR and the liability," he said of big
"So they're trying to protect themselves at the expense of the
small farmer. That's who usually is hurt."
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
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
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.
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.
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
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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