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Food Safety Bill Signed into Law
by Helena Bottemiller | Jan 05, 2011
Using 15 pens, President Obama signed the long-awaited FDA Food Safety
Modernization Act into law Tuesday evening.
The legislation, widely hailed as the most sweeping update to U.S. food
safety law since the Great Depression, survived a constitutional slip-up,
repeated filibuster threats, fierce debate over controversial amendments,
and managed to advance amidst a jam-packed legislative agenda in one
of the most productive Congresses in recent history. In the last 18
months, food safety legislation cleared the Senate twice and the House
The legislative saga ended quietly Tuesday after the president returned
from a family vacation in Hawaii. He signed the bill into law--along
with a stack of others, including bills aimed at improving shark conservation,
pedestrian safety, and science education--with no formal signing ceremony
I ndustry, public health, and consumer groups praised the signing.
Pam Bailey, president & CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association,
thanked the president for signing the bill to strengthen the U.S. food
"Today's bill signing marks a historic moment for our country--as
it represents the most comprehensive reform of our nation's food safety
laws in more than 70 years," said Bailey in a statement. "This
landmark legislation provides FDA with the resources and authorities
the agency needs to help strengthen our nation's food safety system
by making prevention the focus of our food safety strategies, and will
help restore the public's faith in the safety and security of the food
"The food industry applauds Congress for the passage of historic
food safety legislation and is grateful to the President for his signature
today," added GMA chairman of the board, chief executive officer
of Del Monte Foods Richard Wolford. "I am proud of the food industry
for its support of landmark food safety legislation and our efforts
to protect consumers and provide them a safe food supply."
As Food Safety News recently reported, supporters of the new law are
gearing up to fight for the funding to implement the provisions in a
contentious budgetary landscape.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT),
a longtime advocate of food safety reform and outgoing chair of the
subcommittee that oversees FDA's budget, pushed back against reports
of GOP plans to block significant funding increases.
"It is disturbing that there will be an effort by Republicans to
cut FDA funding and thus prevent this landmark new law from being implemented
adequately," said DeLauro in a statement Monday. "In the same
week that Republicans announced their intention to cut FDA funding for
the new food safety law, it was announced that a salmonella outbreak
involving alfalfa sprouts had sickened nearly 100 people in at least
15 states. Without appropriate funding levels, the FDA Food Safety Modernization
Act would not be as effective in protecting our food supply and saving
Longtime proponent of the legislation, John Dingell (D-MI), echoed the
call to fund the bill.
"This law is long overdue," said Dingell, citing the new Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention estimate on annual foodborne illnesses
and deaths in the U.S. "Now we must take the next step to ensure
that the new authorities are fully funded to ensure the FDA can do its
work to protect the American people."
The new law will give FDA expanded authority over approximately 80 percent
of the food supply--not including USDA-regulated meat and poultry products--by
giving the agency mandatory recall power and expanded access to food
safety records. FDA will be required to increase the frequency of food
facility inspections (currently a facility might be inspected once a
decade). Growers and food manufacturers will also be required to implement
food safety plans and foreign facilities importing food to the U.S.
will have to meet the same standards.
Food Safety Issues for 2011
by Dan Flynn
Congress and the States
Last year, waiting and watching for the 111th Congress to hatch a new
food safety bill was the dominant food safety news story.
Congress will continue to make food safety news in 2011, but mostly
through oversight and appropriations activities.
The window that was open for reform in the last session of Congress
has now closed. No single federal food agency will be created, and USDA's
regulation of beef, pork, poultry and egg production will go unchallenged.
States are antsy about a number of food safety issues. More exemptions
from regulation of small scale food producers, more loopholes for raw
milk, and more pressure to accept state-inspected small meat plants
are all possibilities for statehouse action.
Regulations & Enforcement
After the poor job it did implementing the new egg rule in 2010, the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be closely watched as it
puts the FDA Food Safety and Modernization Act into effect.
FDA will have a skeptical Republican majority in the House of Representatives
looking over its shoulder.
In taking on new powers and responsibilities, doubling the number of
staff working on food enforcement, and further extending its reach over
importers, the inward-looking FDA could have more outward challenges
than it can easily handle.
At USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, the new Under Secretary
for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen will be tested.
In 2010, FSIS began treating one non-O157 enterohemorrhagic shiga toxin-producing
serotype of Escherichia coli (E. coli) as an adulterant. That means
if E. coli tests are positive for either O157:H7, which has been considered
an adulterant in meat for the past 15 years, or 026, which was responsible
for a 8,500 pound recall last August by Cargill, the meat should be
However, FSIS has yet to rule on a petition calling for a half dozen
non-O157 strains of E. coli, including 026, to be formally declared
as adulterants in meat. That hot potato is now on Hagen's desk.
FSIS, under the 2008 Farm Bill, is suppose to take over regulation of
catfish from FDA, but the Obama Administration has been dragging its
feet, reportedly over fears of upsetting Asian trade partners. Congress
is, however, keeping the heat on to have its way, and Hagen will find
herself in the middle of that dispute.
Also in the Farm Bill was a provision calling for FSIS to find a way
to allow state-inspected meat plants to sell their products beyond state
boundaries. Regulations to make that happen have yet to be issued by
That's also on Hagen's to-do list.
Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, is charged in the new Child Nutrition
Bill with establishing nutritional standards for the nation's schools
in 2011. The standards he sets will apply to all food in the school,
including the vending machines, if the schools want an increase in their
federal lunch subsidy.
With the military and the schools paying attention to healthy food,
it's clear the nation's obesity problem has gone critical.
First Lady Michelle Obama, with her "Let's Move" campaign
and the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, is helping to make this
After finally getting an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) out to
cover genetically modified alfalfa, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
followed up in late 2010 with an open letter to those interested in
GM crops. He wants everybody to get along.
Or as Vilsack put it, he wants "a new paradigm of coexistence and
USDA's problem with GM crops has been process. Its Animal and Plant
Health Inspection Service has deregulated GM plants without enough study
to pass a smell test by federal judges, leaving the products snarled
Vilsack's letter, however, defended USDA's process decision and said
he has no doubts about the safety of the GM crops.
If in 2011, Vilsack can use his call for "common ground" to
bring about a fair and predictable process, maybe he could get this
issue out of the courts.
Modernization Act Passes, But at What Cost?
By Katharine Shilcutt,
Yesterday afternoon, President Obama signed what's being called "one
of the most expansive food regulation bills in living memory,"
the Food Safety Modernization Act (FMSA), effectively creating a new
arm of the Food & Drug Administration that will allow the agency
to actively attempt to prevent outbreaks of foodborne illnesses instead
of simply responding to them.
Although only 5,000 people a year die from outbreaks such as these --
remember the E. Coli-infected spinach that killed five people back in
2006? -- a stunning 76 million people get sick from eating contaminated
food each year in the United States. Seventy-six million. Per year.
To this end, the FMSA -- formerly (and more popularly) known as Senate
Bill S. 510 -- seeks to actively prevent such outbreaks from occurring,
and that begins with holding food companies and manufacturers accountable
for any contamination of their products as well as inspecting both domestic
and imported food on a regular basis. And, for the first time ever,
the FDA will finally be able to force recalls of contaminated food.
As Lauren Marmaduke put it last month, "all recalls to date have
Jean Halloran, the director of food policy initiatives at Consumers
Union, put it best when she was quoted by Consumer Reports yesterday:
It's a great day for consumers. When common foods like spinach and peanut
products have to be pulled from stores because people are dying, clearly,
there's a problem. This legislation will go a long way toward making
our food safer.
But what of the supposed "dark side" of the food safety bill?
The side that its opponents claim will destroy the organic farming movement
in the U.S.? The side that claims seed banks will become illegal? The
side that has set up agricultural biotech conglomerate Monsanto as the
Emperor Palpatine behind this new bill?
Well, it turns out that none of that is really true. While those with
their own backyard gardens or hobbies of collecting and planting heirloom
seed varieties will most definitely not be impacted by the bill, there
was initial concern for small farms, especially those which grow their
In response to a national outcry against the bill's potential inclusion
of small farms -- especially the types of local, organic farms that
supply goods to farmers' markets and restaurants like Haven and t'afia
-- Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana who runs a farm himself,
placed an amendment in the bill that exempts these smaller farms in
two ways: Farms that sell their products within a 275-mile radius and
that make less than $500,000 annually in sales are not expected to comply
with the new FSMA.
The greater concern at hand now is the money that it will take to enact
the bill itself and how effective it will ultimately be. Estimated at
$1.4 billion to implement, Jeff Winkler of the Daily Caller stated yesterday
that "opponents of the act say it will prove to be regulation overkill
and only assist larger, cash-flush food producers and distributors in
edging out smaller and specialty operations."
Food companies will also likely start spending larger sums of money
in areas such as records retention and preparation as well as legal
counsel to advise them on new standard operating procedures and to advise
the companies if or when the FDA wants access to those records or their
facilities. Needles to say, this cost will eventually be passed on to
It's these rises in costs -- taxes to pay for the FDA and higher food
costs at grocery stores and restaurants -- which is ultimately the most
disappointing aspect of the bill, especially in today's economy. But
is that a cost we're willing to pay for increased safety?
empowered to help fight food-borne illness
From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110105/POLITICS03/101050338/FDA-empowered-to-help-fight-food-borne-illness#ixzz1ACcbOe1F
Washington— When salmonella-laced peanut products sickened hundreds
during a recent scare, President Barack Obama said consumers should
be able to have confidence that their government will keep peanut butter-eating
children safe — and that included his daughter Sasha.
"That's what Sasha eats for lunch probably three times a week,"
Obama said then. "And you know, I don't want to have to worry about
whether she's going to get sick as a consequence to having her lunch."
Obama made improving food
safety a priority shortly after taking office in 2009. On Tuesday, he
got a chance to allay people's fears about the safety of their food.
He signed a $1.4 billion overhaul of the food safety system, giving
Washington new power to increase inspections at food processing facilities
and force companies to recall tainted products.
Congress passed the bill overhauling the food safety system at the end
of last year to respond to several serious outbreaks of E. coli and
salmonella poisoning in peanuts, eggs and produce in the past few years.
A half-billion eggs were pulled from supermarket shelves in August.
Last March, it was hydrolyzed vegetable protein — a key ingredient in
dozens of processed foods. Before that, it was raw cookie dough linked
to E. coli bacteria, peanuts and peanutbutter, imported seafood, spinach,
tomatoes, pistachios and peppers.
In one of the most recent cases, two Iowa farms, Wright County Egg and
Hillandale Farms, recalled about 550 million eggs last summer after
learning they may have been linked to a salmonella outbreak. More than
1,500 people were sickened.
But outside of such outbreaks, salmonella is always occasionally present
in the roughly 80 billion eggs sold in their shell in the U.S. each
year. The harmful bacteria typically contaminate 1 out of every 10,000
to 20,000 eggs.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1
out of 6 people are sickened by food-borne illness every year. Each
year, about 128,000 are hospitalized, and about 3,000 die.
Two years ago, the Peanut Corporation of America issued a recall for
products it had made over the past six months, after five people had
died and more than 400 had fallen ill with salmonella poisoning as a
result of contamination. Two weeks later, the recall was extended to
more than 400 consumer products made since Jan. 1, 2007. The company's
factory in Blakely, Ga., which was the source of the contamination and
is now closed, packed peanut butter in bulk and supplied some of the
largest food makers in the nation.
From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110105/POLITICS03/101050338/FDA-empowered-to-help-fight-food-borne-illness#ixzz1ACcYa1E8
safety still a concern despite fewer cases
By TIFFANY WRIGHT
The number of foodborne illnesses has dropped from 76 to 48 million
from more than a decade ago, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control, but food safety still remains a concern.
Figures released by the CDC show that about 48 million people, or one
in six Americans, become ill from contaminated food each year.
These numbers are lower than CDC previously estimated in 1999, said
Catherine Cutter, an associate professor of food science at Penn State
University. While there has been a drop in the actual number of foodborne
illness cases monitored by the CDC over the last decade, the decrease
may be attributed to better data collection.
The report states that of the 48 million people who get ill, about 128,000
are hospitalized and 3,000 die from contaminated foods.
Rhonda Beckner, nursing coordinator at the Somerset Hospital emergency
room, said food poisoning and illnesses are common cases at the hospital.
Symptoms can vary, but most commonly are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea,
abdominal cramping and discomfort.
Some people may experience a fever and infants can have poor feeding
habits or are not as active as they usually are,” Beckner said.
The CDC reports that most of the cases were cause by seven pathogens
including common ones like Salmonella and E. coli.
Salmonella was the leading cause of foodborne illness resulting in hospitalizations
and deaths, Cutter said.
This week, a meat supplier in California recalled more than 34,000 pounds
of organic ground beef products that could be contaminated with E. coli,
according to the U.S. Department of Agricultures Food Safety and Inspection
Most illnesses are determined by a farm to fork” process, according
to Cutter. Special care is needed when handling food whether in the
field by farmers or in the kitchen by consumers.
Individuals working in every segment of the food chain must be knowledgeable
about handling food properly, she said. They must understand how they
can reduce the risk of foodborne illness.Cutter suggests consumers remember
four principles of food safety: clean, separate, cook and chill.Beckner
said that foodborne illness can be treated with antibiotics, Tylenol
or fluid hydration.
CDC officials have said that the newest foodborne illness numbers are
a result of improved surveillance, better criteria for determining an
actual food-related case and exclusion of international travel-related
illnesses. 1999 2010
Illness 76 million 48 million
Hospitalized 325,000 128,000
Death 5,000 3,000
Host Safe Ground Beef Production Workshop February 2-3 in Kansas City
Monday, January 3, 2011
Safe ground beef production will be the focus of a new
American Meat Institute Foundation (AMIF) Ground Beef Production for
Safety Workshop, February 2-3, 2011, at the Marriott Country Club Plaza
in Kansas City, Missouri.
A recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, comprised of the
Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine
and National Research Council, concluded that preventing future foodborne
illness outbreaks depends upon two key factors: eliminating contamination
during beef production and ensuring that meat is properly handled, stored
and cooked before it is served.
In addition, the report stated that some of the current requirements
were founded on expert opinion and industry practices where the scientific
basis was unclear. The committee recommended that requirements be based
on standards supported by the International Commission on Microbiological
Safety of Foods, the Codex Alimentarius Commission and the Research
Council report An Evaluation of the Role of Microbiological Criteria
for Foods and Food Ingredients. It also suggested that the Agricultural
Marketing Service (AMS) analyze data from the suppliers’ bacterial testing
to evaluate the safety requirements over time and use statistical methods
to set testing sample and lot sizes.
This workshop will address the reports concerns, and will be led by
industry experts who will share their experiences and knowledge on the
production of ground beef products within a preventative food safety
system. During this workshop, participants will hear detailed case studies
about ground beef production and food safety challenges and how companies
have tackled them.
The workshop agenda is structured to permit extensive discussion with
fellow attendees in an effort that participants return to their companies
armed not just with theory, but with practical, new ideas and information
that can be implemented.
Topics include: achieving regulatory compliance, design of ground beef
patties, understanding risk developing a supplier specification, verification
and testing and lot and traceability.
Speakers scheduled to lead discussions during the workshop include:
Tim Biela, executive vice president of food safety and quality, AFA
Brian Covington, director of global regulatory affairs, Keystone Foods,
Dean Danilson, Ph.D., vice president, fresh meats quality assurance,
Tyson Foods, Inc.
Scott Goltry, vice president of food safety and inspection services,
American Meat Institute
Brenden McCullough, vice president of technical services, National Beef
Packing Co., LLC
Angie Siemens, Ph.D., vice president, technical services, Cargill Meat
the Food Safety Culture
MANHATTAN, Kan.How businesses and organizations operate above and beyond
minimal food safety regulations and inspections, or their food safety
culture, often is overlooked, according to a new study published in
the journal Food Control.
Researchers at Kansas State University examined three food safety failures,
including a 2005 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in Wales that sickened 157
and killed one; a 2008 Listeria outbreak in Canada that sickened 57
and killed 23; and a 2009 Salmonella outbreak in the United States linked
to peanut paste that killed nine and sickened 691.
The findings demonstrate creating a culture of food safety requires
application of the best science with the best management and communication
systems, including compelling, rapid, relevant, reliable and repeated
food safety messages using multiple media is the key to enhancing food
Operators should know the risks associated with their products, how
to manage them, and most important, how to communicate with and compel
their staff to employ good practicesit's a package deal," the researchers
The researchers suggest the following tips to creating good food safety
Know the risks associated with the foods they handle and how those should
Dedicate resources to evaluate supplier practices;
Stay up-to-date on emerging food safety issues;
Foster a value system within the organization that focuses on avoiding
Communicate compelling and relevant messages about risk reduction activities,
and empower others to put them into practice;
Promote effective food safety systems before an incident occurs; and
Don't blame customers, including commercial buyers and consumers, when
illnesses are linked to their products.
Bugs Through the Ages: The Foodborne Illness Fight
by Ross Anderson | Jan 03, 2011
A new year is supposed to inspire us all to ponder our future in the
context of our past. In the case of foodborne illness, that takes us
back some 23 centuries to the spring of 323 BC. In just a few years,
Alexander the Great and his army had conquered much of the ancient world
when they stopped to rest for a while in Babylon, about 50 miles south
of present day Baghdad.
According to Greek historians, the 32-year-old ruler was staying at
the Palace of Nebuchadnezzar when he developed a bad stomachache. Over
the next few days, he stayed in bed, suffering recurring bouts of fever,
abdominal pain and chills. The illness worsened steadily until, on June
11, he died.
For centuries, historians suspected he was poisoned by his rivals. But
more recently, doctors at the University of Maryland studied the historical
accounts of his symptoms and death and concluded that the emperor probably
died of water or foodborne illness--possibly Salmonella typhi, or typhoid
They summarized their argument in a 1998 article in the prestigious
New England Journal of Medicine.
Chances are nobody will ever be able to prove or disprove the theory.
But, either way, the mere possibility helps illustrate the fact that
foodborne illness is nothing new, that Salmonella and other toxic microbes
have been around at least as long as there were people available to
infect and sicken.
As with the Macedonian emperor, the consequences have frequently been
fatal. Based on historical accounts, scientists have recognized symptoms
of foodborne illness in the deaths of countless historical figures,
from King Henry I of England to English novelist Rudyard Kipling, and
from pioneer flier Wilbur Wright to Queen Victoria's consort, Prince
Several U.S. Presidents are on the list, including Zachary Taylor, who
was sickened and died from Salmonella or other foodborne microbes after
eating potato salad and other picnic food at a groundbreaking ceremony
for the Washington Monument.
Each case is a reminder that Salmonella and other microbes are equal
opportunity pathogens that blithely transgress lines of race, age, gender
and class. They infect the old and young, Eastern and Western, rich
and poor alike.
Scholars, for example, believe that the fledgling English settlement
at Jamestown, Virginia, was ultimately done in not by hostile Indians
nor by mosquitoes, but by repeated outbreaks of Salmonella typhi.
Wars have always been friendly to foodborne illness, probably because
maintaining hygiene is more difficult with large groups of people who
have other priorities. American soldiers fighting in the Spanish-American
War were far more likely to succumb to typhoid than to enemy fire. More
than 20,000 recruits contracted the disease and thousands died, many
of them while training in southern states.
At the same time, the British lost 13,000 troops to typhoid during the
South African War of 1899-1902--far more than they lost in battle.
Even the notorious Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692 may have been rooted
in foodborne illness. Some years ago, a New York scientist theorized
that the strange behavior of the alleged "witches" -- delirium,
convulsions and odd speech -- was caused by ergot, a toxic fungus that
infects rye grain, frequently with bizarre consequences. Outbreaks of
ergotism, characterized by violent muscle spasms, hallucinations, and
vomiting were common in Europe at the time, and could explain much of
the mass hysteria that led to a tragic chapter in early Colonial life.
Outbreaks of foodborne illness probably date to the Stone Age. The difference
today is that scientists and public health officials around the world
have understood what causes them, and how to prevent them.
Still, hardly a day passes without new outbreaks of old pathogens, each
one testing our ability to learn from a few thousand years of experience.
CBS Reports Terrorists Might Target Food
by Mary Rothschild | Dec 22, 2010
CBS News reported it first on Monday night--that U.S. officials had
gotten wind of a terrorist plot to slip poisons into hotel and restaurant
salad bars and buffets in multiple locations during a single weekend.
Tuesday other news organizations chimed in, repeating the CBS assertion
that intelligence reports indicated ricin or cyanide would be used to
mimic food poisoning but also to create maximum uncertainty and fear
about the safety of the U.S. food supply, further damaging the already
CBS cited an anonymous source who called this a credible threat and
said Department of Homeland Security officials, as well as officials
with the Food and Drug Administration and Department of Agriculture,
had briefed some members of the restaurant and hospitality industry.
A spokesman for Homeland Security, however, declined a CBS request to
comment on speculation about specific plots, saying only that the U.S.
has "engaged in extensive efforts for many years to guard against
all types of terrorist attacks, including unconventional attacks using
chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear materials."
The spokesman stressed that terror groups have long stated their intention
to try to carry out unconventional attacks that might be relatively
small but that would aim to be highly disruptive.
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