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Sprouts Outbreak Toll Now at 112 in 18 States
Source :
by Mary Rothschild (07, Jan, 2011)
The outbreak of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- linked to Tiny Greens alfalfa sprouts at Jimmy John's restaurants may have sickened as many as 112 people in 18 states and the District of Columbia, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.
The previous tally had been 94 sick people in 16 states and Washington D.C.
In its update on the investigation, the CDC said the illnesses were reported from Nov. 1, 2010 through Jan. 4, 2011 and there may still be more to count. Illnesses that occurred after Dec. 13 might not yet be reported due to the typical lag time between when a person becomes ill and when the infection is confirmed, which averages from 2 to 3 weeks.
More than half the patients live in Illinois, where 59 people have been identified with the outbreak strain of Salmonella. There have also been 22 cases in Missouri, 10 cases in Indiana, three in Pennsylvania and in Wisconsin, two in Massachusetts and single cases in California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, New York, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Because this Salmonella serotype is common, the CDC cautions that some of the cases identified may not be related to this outbreak.
Illness onset dates range from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24. The youngest victim was a year old and the eldest 75. Sixty-eight percent of the patients are females. Twenty-four percent were hospitalized.
The Illinois Department of Health first identified the cluster of illnesses and determined that many of those who were sick had eaten sandwiches at various Jimmy John's restaurants. The chain suspended serving sprouts at their Illinois franchises.
Local, state and federal health officials and regulators linked the outbreak to Tiny Greens Organic Farm alfalfa sprouts and a mix of alfalfa, radish and clover sprouts the grower calls "spicy sprouts." The sprouts, which have been recalled, were distributed not only to Jimmy John's but also to other restaurants, farmers markets and grocery stores, the CDC report states.
The FDA and state investigators are still trying to determine how the sprouts became contaminated.

New Law in US Aims to Increase Food Safety
Source :
By Jim Tedder (10, Jan, 2011)

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.
The United States is making the first major changes in its food safety rules since the nineteen thirties. A new law called the Food Safety Modernization Act will govern all foods except meat, poultry and some egg products.
It calls for increased government inspections of food processors. And it lets the Food and Drug Administration order the recall of unsafe foods. That agency has only been able to negotiate with manufacturers to remove products from the market.
The new law also increases requirements for imported foods.
But the law excludes small farmers and processors from the same rules as large producers. And it does not require sellers at farmers markets and food stands to meet the highest requirements. That pleases Susan Prolman, director of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
SUSAN PROLMAN: "A one-size-fits-all approach would have put small farmers and ranchers out of business or prevented them from providing locally produced, healthy fresh food to consumers who want it."
The Consumer Federation of America says it is generally pleased with the new law. So is much of the food industry.
But Republican Representative Jack Kingston of Georgia questioned whether enough people get sick from food to justify the spending. The legislation could cost the government almost one and a half billion dollars over five years. That includes the cost of more inspectors.
Last month, federal officials lowered their estimates of how many Americans each year get sick from food. The new estimates are forty-eight million, or one in six people. One hundred twenty-eight thousand are hospitalized. And three thousand die.
The old estimates included seventy-six million illnesses and five thousand deaths. Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made their last estimates in nineteen ninety-nine. Officials say the difference is largely the result of improvements in data and research methods.
They say the two estimates cannot be compared to measure trends. Yet one thing has not changed.
About eighty percents of illnesses spread by food are still listed as having been caused by "unspecified agents." In other words, no one really knows which bacteria, viruses or other organisms were responsible.
But in cases with a known cause the experts say salmonella is responsible for more than one-third of hospitalizations. And it causes more than one-fourth of deaths.
The findings appear in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.
And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson and Steve Baragona. I'm Jim Tedder.

Godstone Farm admits E. coli outbreak liability
Source :
By Jeremy Hillman (11, Jan, 2011)
A Surrey petting farm has admitted liability for an E. coli outbreak in which 93 people were infected, say lawyers for some of those affected.
A total of 76 children under the age of 10 became ill after they contracted the infection at Godstone Farm, Surrey, in the summer of 2009.
Some children suffered kidney failure and spent weeks in hospital. They may need kidney transplants in the future.
Law firm Field Fisher Waterhouse said the farm was not disputing liability.
Twins Aaron and Todd Furnell, from Paddock Wood, both suffered acute kidney failure after contracting E. coli following a trip to the open farm near Redhill.
Aaron needed a feeding tube for liquids for several months and both children may need kidney transplants in the future.
'Long-term health'
Their mother, Tracy Mock, said: "I am very pleased that we have been successful in this case.
"As a family we have suffered significant pain and distress and may still not know for many years to come the long-term consequences for the twins' health.
"In the light of the farm's decision, we can take comfort in the fact that Todd, Aaron and the other children affected by this will have the financial support they need to deal with their current health problems and any that arise later in their lives."
Field Fisher Waterhouse personal injury lawyer Jill Greenfield said: "Godstone Farm's confirmation that they will not contest the claim is a welcome decision for all families involved in the outbreak.
"To have toddlers seriously ill on dialysis, as many parents did, is simply horrific. Many of the children now have compromised kidney functioning.
"We will only know the long-term implications when the children get older. Only then will it become apparent whether or not their kidneys can continue to cope as they grow."
Godstone Farm shut on 12 September 2009, four weeks after the first case of E. coli was reported.
In a statement, Jackie Flaherty, owner of the farm, said: "All issues surrounding the E. coli outbreak in 2009 are being handled by the farm's insurers, so I am afraid I cannot comment further on the legal aspects.
"However, in the last 15 months the children involved have never been far from our thoughts and prayers, particularly those who spent time in hospital.
"We sincerely hope that all the children have made a full recovery."
She added: "We would like to thank the families and schools who have visited the farm in the past year for their fantastic support and encouragement."

Food allergies may cause more ER visits than previously thought
By Caroline Scott-Thomas (10, Jan, 2011)

Food allergies send many more Americans to emergency rooms each year than previously thought, according to new research published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
The most common allergies among children are cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soybeans and wheat, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), while the most common among adults are peanuts, tree nuts, fish, crustaceans, mollusks, fruits and vegetables.
This latest research, led by Sunday Clark of the University of Pittsburgh, found that acute allergic reactions to foods accounted for about 203,000 hospital emergency department visits each year from 2001 to 2005, including about 90,000 for probable anaphylaxis.
"These results suggest that the number of US ED [emergency department] visits for food-related acute allergic reactions may be significantly higher than estimated in previous reports," Clark wrote.
Previous estimates of how many allergic reactions led to emergency department visits have been much lower. One study conducted in the late 1990s suggested that there were about 29,000 hospital visits each year for food allergy-induced anaphylaxis, while another study estimated that about 125,000 Americans were hospitalized because of food allergies in 2003, and about 14,000 of those cases involved anaphylaxis.
The authors of this latest research - basing their findings on data from two large emergency department-based cohort studies and the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS) - said that their numbers were higher because of the wider data used, although they added that it is also possible that there has been an increase in the number of Americans with food allergies.
"Recent concerns about the increasing prevalence of food allergy support further research on time trends in ED use for food-related acute allergic reactions," they wrote.
According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about three million children had food allergies in 2007, up 18 percent from a decade earlier.

Bugs Through the Ages: The Foodborne Illness Fight

by Ross Anderson (03, Jan, 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 fever.
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 Albert.
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.

EU says German food safety laws are effective

Source :,,14760732,00.html
By Joanna Impey (10, Jan, 2011)

The European Commission has said that banning German imports after the recent dioxin scare would be an overreaction. High levels of the carcinogen dioxin were found in German eggs after animal feed was contaminated with industrial oils.
Frederic Vincent, spokesman for European Union Health Commissioner John Dalli, said Monday that banning German imports of pork and poultry products was unwarranted: "It is a disproportionate reaction compared to the existing situation in Germany," Vincent said.
In Italy, authorities called for new EU rules to allow for the country of origin to be specified on all fresh food labels - a requirement that was introduced for beef after the "mad cow" epidemic that hit Britain in the 1990s.
"We will reflect on the issue and see whether it is feasible," Vincent said.
Suspect exports have been reported in the Netherlands, Britain and Italy, and contaminated products have also found their way to France and Denmark.
Critics are calling for stricter regulations and penalties to prevent such food scares happening again.
German news magazine Der Spiegel said in Monday's edition: "The latest dioxin case shows that those responsible have learned too little from previous food scandals… the monitoring system is too lax."
So how does Germany's food safety mechanism compare to that of other member states?
Responsibility of member states
EU guidelines are designed to prevent food contamination, although their rules are not binding: it's the individual member states that are responsible for controlling what enters the food chain and protecting consumers.
Europe's food production and processing systems are highly integrated, meaning that food contamination scares can spread rapidly to several EU countries. In this instance, eggs from German farms affected by dioxins were found to have entered the UK in liquid egg from the Netherlands.
The EU requires that controls are thorough and independent. As of 2007, every member state has had to produce a national control plan. In the current dioxin scare in Germany, the manufacturer was given the task of conducting tests on their own produce, but it is alleged that the firm did not pass on the results of the tests to government authorities.
German authorities alerted the European Commission to the contaminated feed problem at the end of December 2010, which set off a rapid response system in other member states.
Terry Donohoe from the UK's Food Standards Agency says the European-wide alert system works very well.
"In this case, the necessary action was taken certainly within the UK," Donohoe told Deutsche Welle. "I understand that the German authorities in conjunction with the European Commission are taking all steps necessary to identify any other products that may have been implicated."
"We were able to identify the implicated product very quickly and work with the retailers who'd received those products to remove them from the shelves," Donohoe added.
"If there are areas where controls could be tightened, then that is an appropriate lesson to learn," Donohoe said. "But the fundamental rules are still there."
The Food Standards Agency is a UK body which works through local authorities to ensure the rules are enforced. It is up to food suppliers to ensure that products they put on the shelves are fit to be eaten. Manufacturers are also required to keep records of the provenance of their products.
Federalized system
Similar rules apply in Germany, but it's the responsibility of each federal state to carry out food checks. German agriculture ministry spokesman Robert Schaller says each individual state monitors food suppliers and producers.
"That has the huge advantage that you can tackle an issue on the ground more quickly and more precisely," Schaller said. "But the disadvantage is that problems aren't dealt with at the same speed across the board, and there are also some discrepancies in terms of the regulations."
According to Schaller, 80 to 90 percent of all food laws in Germany are based on European guidelines. He says the food safety mechanisms function well in Germany, and maintains they were effective in the recent dioxin scare.
A fellow spokesman for the German agriculture ministry, Holger Eichele, agrees with Schaller. "The Commission has praised the measures put into place in Germany and confirmed their effectiveness," Eichele said.
He added: "We are making clear that at no point did German exports pose any health risk."

Bison Ranchers Bullish; E. coli Question Remains

Source :
by Dan Flynn (11, Jan, 2011)

America's bison ranchers are bullish about 2011.
They are coming off their best year ever, with prices in the range of $3.25 per pound for slaughter bulls being about 35 percent higher than a year earlier.
Consumer demand drove 92,000 bison to slaughter in 2010, up about 77 percent over the number processed in 2009.
America's bison herd, stretched across every state, numbers about 500,000 head. Bison ranchers are competing this week in the national bison competition at the National Western Stock Show now underway in Denver.
The National Gold Trophy Bison Sale is scheduled for Saturday, Jan 12.
The only part of the bison story that is not filled with optimism is the recall last June 30 of 33 tons of bison meat by Henderson, CO-based Rocky Mountain Natural Meats. It remains a current recall, according to the USDA's Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS).
A cluster of five O157 cases in Colorado were linked by FSIS to ground bison products in the recall. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta has not published a report on the outbreak, which also included a victim in New York State.
A request for more information from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on the bison-related outbreak went unanswered on the last day of Gov. Bill Ritter's term in office.
Rocky Mountain Natural Meats is a 15-year-old company that currently employs about 80 people. It supplies bison to major grocery store chains under its Great Range brand.
Unlike beef and pork slaughterhouses, bison processors "volunteer" for USDA inspection and must pay for the service. However, bison is not subjected to the same type of E. coli O157:H7 testing, as is the routine in beef slaughterhouses.
Bison is inspected under the Federal Meat Inspection Act to determine its healthfulness and fitness as human food. Without USDA inspection, bison could not be sold across state borders.
On its website, Rocky Mountain says it does test daily for E. coli O147:H7.
Bison and beef cattle share the same risks for O157. A 2004 North Dakota State University study found the levels of E. coli on pre-hiding bison carcasses at 88 percent, and 11.3 percent on chilled carcasses.

Haiti's cholera outbreak has not peaked: WHO
Source :
By News Staff (11, Jan, 2011)

Cholera has already claimed more than 3,600 lives in Haiti, but the outbreak still hasn't reached its peak, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.
WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told reporters in Geneva that the illness has infected at least 171,000 but the death rate still hasn't fallen enough.
She said the illness currently has a 2.2-per cent mortality rate. That's way down from the nine per cent from late last year. But the rate still needs to drop to less than one per cent in order for officials to declare the peak of the outbreak reached. Officials don't expect that to happen for a few more weeks at least, she said.
"There will be certainly many more cases of cholera in Haiti, it's certain. But what is sure is that fewer people will die," she said.
Matthias Schmale, an International Federation of the Red Cross undersecretary-general, told reporters Tuesday that officials worry the disease is still spreading. He ntoed "if we had the magic solution, we would be doing it."
The cholera epidemic began in October 2010, fuelled by poor sanitation and poor access to clean water and hand soap. The outbreak spread to every section of the country by December.
Chaib said that some rural areas that are difficult to access now record more than 100 new cases a day. The disease has also spread to the neighboring Dominican Republic, and isolated cases have been found in the United States.
Some in Haiti have blamed the outbreak on United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal, because the first cases were found near their base in Haiti. While the UN has rejected any idea the base was involved, saying its sanitation was airtight, it has appointed an independent panel to investigate the source of the outbreak.

Family sues over local's Listeria death
Source :
By Ron Maloney (07, Jan, 2011)

SEGUIN - A Seattle law firm that specializes in food poisoning cases has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the family of a Seguin man who reportedly died of Listerosis last June after eating celery packed at a since-closed Bexar County produce plant.
The suit, filed on behalf of the family of Hermilo "Milo" Castellanos Sr. and his widow, Elizabeth, seeks unspecified damages on behalf of the family and the estate, alleging that when Milo Castellanos, 81, was under treatment for another condition in the Methodist Health Care system, he ate celery packaged at Sangar Fresh Cut Produce on South Zarzamora that was contaminated with the Listeria bacteria.
An outbreak officials say was connected to the plant last spring and summer resulted in 10 cases of Listeriosis - four of them fatal, including the Castellanos case.
State officials closed the Sangar plant in October after announcing a determination that chopped celery processed there and bagged for distribution to schools, hospitals and restaurants was contaminated. The plant has disputed the allegations.
Attorney David Babcock, who is an associate with the Seattle-based food safety law firm, Marler Clark, said he wasn't at liberty to discuss the claim past the seven-page filing submitted to the Bexar County District Clerk.
In that complaint filed by Marler Clark and Dallas-based Payne Mitchell Law Group, it is alleged that while hospitalized for treatment of an unspecified illness in May, 2010, Castellanos ate some of the celery in question. He was discharged from the hospital, and just days later returned with severe gastrointestinal symptoms. Over the coming two weeks, his condition worsened.
"On June 15, 2010, Mr. Castellanos died as a result of the Listeria monocytogenes infection that resulted from his consumption of Sangar produce," the suit stated. "At the time the food product left control of the defendant, it was defective and unreasonably dangerous in that it was not adequately manufactured or marketed to minimize the risk of injury or death."
Babcock's boss, Bill Marler, said Sangar Fresh Cut Produce violated its duty to Castellanos.
"Sangar Fresh Cut Produce had a responsibility to Mr. Castellanos, his wife, and anyone who was a consumer of its produce to provide a safe and unadulterated product," Marler said in a written statement. "Unfortunately in this case, Sangar failed to do so and the results were multiple and unnecessary deaths of people like Hermilo Castellanos."
Listeriosis is an infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium, Listeria monocytogenes. It is dangerous and often fatal for the elderly. Listeriosis can also cause pregnant women to give birth to stillborn babies.
Castellanos was a lifelong resident of Guadalupe County who worked for Central Freight Lines. After retirement, he volunteered at First United Methodist Church.
Castellanos and his wife were married for 58 years.
Babcock said they would have been married for many more had Castellanos not taken ill with Listeriosis.
"He expected to be around for a long time," Babcock said.

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