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Company recalls ground beef due to possible E. coli contamination
By the CNN Wire Staff, (06, Feb, 2011)

Washington (CNN) -- A California company has recalled more than 3,000 pounds of fresh ground beef patties and other packages of ground beef products that may be contaminated with the E. coli bacteria, the U.S. Agriculture Department said Saturday.
The department's Food Safety and Inspection Service said it became aware of the problem "when contacted by another federal regulated establishment who believed they had received suspect product."
American Food Service of Pico Rivera recalled the products, which were produced on January 31, the USDA said in a press release.
The products subject to recall bear the establishment number "EST. 1913" inside the USDA mark of inspection. They were sent to restaurants throughout Southern California.
Some of the products may be frozen and in restaurant freezers, the department said.
E. coli can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration and in severe cases, kidney failure. Babies, seniors and people with weak immune systems are the most susceptible.
It was not clear Saturday whether anyone had been sickened by the recalled products.

Taco Bell Sued Following Salmonella Outbreak
By Jessica Belsky, (03, Feb, 2011)

Taco Bell has been in a lot of hot water recently. The company's "beef" taco filling is allegedly only 36 percent actual beef and a law firm filed a class action lawsuit against the fast food chain (not for money, just for correct labeling) because of it. Taco Bell followed up the allegations with a cocky "Thank You for Suing Us" ad campaign that wasn't all that convincing and comically received praise from animal rights' group PETA for its "meat" that's supposedly nearly meat-free.
Now another lawsuit sits in Taco Bell's lap, or rather in Yum Brands, Inc.'s lap, the company that owns Taco Bell (as well as fine food establishments like Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut). The lawsuit is also against Chicago Diversified Foods Corporation, the franchiser of a Taco Bell Restaurant. According to Food Safety News, a Michigan man who got sick after eating beef tacos (or should we say "beef" tacos) is seeking money to compensate him for his losses.
In June, Gary Erdman ate four tacos and later became ill (more ill than anyone should get after eating four Taco Bell tacos). Erdman was diagnosed with Salmonella Baildon, which is a rare strain of Salmonella. Food Safety News also points out that 155 people in 21 states were affected by a Salmonella outbreak traced back to Taco Bell food.
First fake beef, now fake beef with a side of Salmonella. Tu quieres, Taco Bell? Anyone?
It's high time that Taco Bell is held accountable for cleaning up its act. Sign our petition demanding truth in labeling from the company.

Norovirus Outbreak Reported At Cincinnati School
CINCINNATI -- An outbreak of a nasty virus has kept dozens of children home from one Cincinnati school in the last few weeks.

The Cincinnati Health Department confirmed students at Mt. Airy Elementary School began complaining of vomiting, diarrhea and cramps -- symptoms associated with the norovirus -- in mid-January. Since then, between 150 and 200 cases have been reported.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that norovirus spreads from person to person, through contaminated food or water, and by touching contaminated surfaces.
The Health Department said the school is doing everything it can to make sure surfaces inside the school and school buses are scrubbed down to stop the virus' spread.
"The problem is even after the symptoms are gone, the shed of the virus continues up to 30 days," said Dr. Marilyn Crumpton with the Health Department.
The school sent two letters home to parents warning of the virus -- one last week and another Wednesday.
Crumpton said parents should keep their kids home for at least 48 hours, with at least 24 hours with no symptoms and without taking medication.
The norovirus has become infamous in the past few years due to well-publicized outbreaks on cruise ships.
Signs and symptoms of norovirus infection include:
Abdominal pain
Abdominal cramps
Watery or loose diarrhea
Weight loss
Low-grade fever
The CDC says that while the virus can be debilitating, it rarely causes serious problems. Doctors warn to guard against dehydration, especially among the very young and very old.

More sick in salmonella custard outbreak
By abc, (9, Feb, 2011)

South Australia Health says 13 more people have fallen ill with salmonella, which could be linked to three types of custard-filled pastries made in Adelaide.
Seventy-four people have now become ill with the same strain of salmonella, with 29 admitted to hospital.
Some custard-filled products from Vili's and St George Cakes and Gelati were recalled after being associated with the salmonella outbreak.
SA Health spokesman Kevin Buckett says it is unclear whether the latest cases are linked with the pastries.
Dr Buckett says authorities have not found any of the bacteria in the Vili's product.
But he says two products from St George Cakes and Gelati have returned positive salmonella readings.
"I have to stress that we've not been able to identify any bacteria at all in the St George Cakes and Gelati's manufacturing premises, or for that matter in Vili's," he said.
"We've just found it in those two particular products at the retail level."

Don't fumble when it comes to Super Bowl snack food safety
(5, Feb, 2011)
Dept. of Ag offers food safety tips for Big Game
Don't let a Packer backer snack attack take you out of the game. That's a word of warning from Wisconsin's fun-loving-but-careful food safety experts.
MADISON - Don't let a Packer backer snack attack take you out of the game. That's a word of warning from Wisconsin's fun-loving-but-careful food safety experts.
Food scientists at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection's food safety division remind Rodgers revelers and McCarthy munchers to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
But what's hot and what's cold?
Hot foods need to be kept at 135 degrees F. or higher to keep bacteria at bay, and cold foods need to stay at 41 degrees F. or colder. That's hard to assure through the pregame buzz, the game itself, the half-time show, and the post-game second-guessing. So food safety gurus offer a simple three-step plan:
Put hot foods out at 135 degrees or warmer and put cold foods out at 41 degrees or colder.
Leave them out four hours - no longer.
Then throw them out.
Slow cookers and electric roasters may be hot enough to maintain a temperature of 135 degrees. Chafing dishes are harder to maintain at a constant temperature; they usually depend on having enough water in the pan surrounding the food container, and keeping the fuel burning under them. For cold foods, ice may be up to the task if you're diligent about replacing it. Food bowls should be set in ice with just enough water so the ice is evenly distributed, keeping the food uniformly cool.
But unless you have thermometers in the foods and want to keep checking them throughout the party, it's best not to rely on electricity, Sterno®, and ice to keep food safe.
Put out the chips and salsa, the cheese and sausage, the cookies and other non-hazardous foods first. Bring out the hot and cold foods when all your guests have arrived, note the time, enjoy the party.
And when the party's over, or four hours have passed, dump what's left of the hots and the colds.

How to Prevent Food Poisoning
By Jennifer Derrick, (8, Feb, 2011)

Two weeks ago I got food poisoning.
I got it from a deli sandwich that either had bad mayo or meat on it. This wasn't a little, twenty-four hour case of food poisoning, either. This was a full-blown-week-long-have-to-go-to-the-doctor-because-I'm-dangerously-dehydrated kind of food poisoning. Let me tell you, it wasn't fun. (Although losing eleven pounds in a week was kind of thrilling.) Aside from being miserable it was expensive, what with the doctor's visits, medications, and missed work.
The only way I could have prevented this unpleasantness was to have stuck with my frugality and not eaten out that day. But, since it was a small celebration, I went. Unfortunately, the person who was celebrating chose the restaurant and it didn't have that great of a sanitation grade. I didn't want to rock the boat, so I went along and I paid the price. This isn't to say that you should never eat out, but there are some ways to prevent or reduce your risk of getting food poisoning and thus incurring the misery and expenses involved.
Wash everything: Wash all of your produce when you get it home, even things that are "pre-washed." The washing it got at the factory may not have been sufficient to remove all bacteria.
Check sanitation grades: When eating out, check the sanitation grade of the restaurant. The higher the better.
Don't eat anything that's expired: Once food is past it's expiration date, be very careful. Some foods can be eaten after they've technically "expired," but others go bad fast. If it smells off or has a strange taste, toss it.
Be picky about restaurant food: When eating out, decline things like mayonnaise, mayo based dressings, and egg or mayo based salads. Many restaurants do a good job with these items, but these items are also great breeders of food borne bacteria. If they are not properly refrigerated at all times, it's very easy for them to develop illness causing bacteria.
Cook everything thoroughly: Cook everything to it's recommended temperature. Eating raw or undercooked food is begging for food poisoning.
Clean your hands, counters, utensils, and cutting boards thoroughly after preparing meats and other risky foods: And don't use the knife or cutting board you used for meat for other things without thoroughly cleaning them first. If possible, keep two cutting boards and use one for meat and the other for everything else. And wash your hands before eating!
Be careful when thawing food: Don't thaw it on a counter or outside. Put it in the fridge or use the microwave.
Promptly refrigerate leftovers: Don't leave them on the counter or picnic table for hours. Get them in the cooler as soon as possible.
Get food home in a hurry: Do your grocery shopping last so your meats, cheeses. and dairy products get into the fridge promptly. Don't go grocery shopping and then run five more errands before heading home. This is particularly true in the summer heat.
Go with your gut: If it looks funny, smells bad, or tastes strange, throw it away or, if at a restaurant, send it back and ask for something else. Don't be shy about protecting your health.
Don't be afraid to ask to go to a different restaurant: This was my tragic mistake. I knew the place we were going wasn't that great as far as sanitation goes, but I didn't want to say anything. I should have asked if there was somewhere else we could go. If, despite your best efforts, you suspect you have food poisoning, get to the doctor immediately. Like an idiot, I waited too long and it took more time (and money) to get me back to normal. You may not be able to prevent every case of food poisoning, but taking some simple precautions can keep you from enduring what I just did.

Proposed Republican cuts to FDA, USDA could slow new food safety rules
By Virginia Chamlee (09, Feb, 2011)

In an effort to cut $58 billion from the federal budget for the second half of Fiscal Year 2011, House Republicans released a budget proposal late last week, one provision of which would mean steep cuts for food safety programs at both the FDA and USDA. Critics argue the reductions could cause a major hold-up on recently enacted food safety laws. #
According to the Republican plan, 14 percent, or $3.2 billion, would be chopped from the budgets of the USDA and FDA. #
In January, Rebecca Rimel, president and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts, and Pamela Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, wrote an op-ed piece for The Hill on the need for more FDA funding to ensure food safety. In the piece, the two called the recently enacted Food Safety Modernization Act a landmark for the food safety industry: #
The legislation marks the most sweeping reform of food safety oversight in more than 70 years. Although it will greatly improve our ability to detect and respond to outbreaks of foodborne illness, the new law is historic because Congress has made the prevention of food contamination the central focus of the nation's food safety strategies. The days when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will do little more than respond to outbreaks are over. #
Cuts to the FDA will undoubtedly mean more of a struggle in enacting the Food Safety Modernization Act. #
In an interview with Southeast AgNET, American Farm Bureau Budget Specialist Pat Wolff argued that the proposal will do little in the way of saving money: "Agriculture's a small part of the federal budget, so you could take huge cuts out of agriculture and still not have that big of an impact on the bottom line." #
Though obviously concerned about the potential budget losses, Wolff said the cuts are not a sure thing: "We have to remember that there are two bodies to the United States Congress. The House is moving very fast and very aggressively to reduce spending. The Senate's taking a little slower, more perspective approach to it. So … just because one body says 'it'll be' doesn't necessarily mean that's how it'll turn out." #
Those dissatisfied with the cuts won't be going down without a fight. The Alliance for a Stronger FDA, a nonprofit group, has three full days of meetings lined up this week in D.C. According to its website, the group plans to meet with members of the Agriculture Appropriations subcommittees, to "raise concern over potential cuts to FDA's budget."

Mold, Insects Found at PA Canning Factory
By Dan Flynn, (09,Feb, 2011)

Mold, maggots and flies were found during a federal inspection of a Pennsylvania canning factory.
In a Feb. 2 warning letter, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) details multiple problems at Furman Foods Inc., which cans products like Rally's Chili and Furmano's Dark Red Kidney Beans.
FDA said the acidified and low-acid canned food manufacturing facility in Northumberland, PA was subjected to inspection last Aug. 30 through Sept. 10.
"The inspection determined that your facility produced acidified and low-acid canned food products and revealed that you have significant violations of the Acidified Foods, Low-Acid Canned Foods, and Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulations..." says the warning letter.
FDA analyzed samples of Rally's Chili that were found with "a hard swell, viable unspecified mold, seam defect, air bubbles, and food trapped within seam wall." It had concerns about the pH levels.
"As a manufacturer of acidified and low-acid canned food products, you are required to comply with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act) and the federal regulations relating to the processing of acidified and low-acid canned food products," the warning letter added.
FDA said the canning facility might require an emergency permit for low-acid canned foods and acidified foods.
"We have received your September 23, 2010, written response to the FDA Form 483, Inspectional Observations issued to your firm on September 10, 2010. Our comments regarding the adequacy of the actions you took to correct the objectionable conditions and practices observed during the inspection are detailed after each violation that is noted below," FDA added.
Among the significant violations were:
oNo acidified food expert to schedule processes for Rally's Chili with Beans.
oInsufficient testing and examination of pouches to protect them from leakage and contamination.
oThe closing machine required tests at sufficient frequencies. FDA found pouches of Furmano's Dark Red Kidney Beans and Furmano's Pinto Beans with swells, splits, leaks and over rough seals and puncture-like wounds.
oNot making sure work-in-progress is not leading to contamination. FDA said, "Your workers used power wash hoses to clean the floors and conveyor belts below and adjacent to the tomato lines. The force of the spray caused the water to aerosolize and come into contact with the peeled tomatoes on the conveyor above the cleaning area."
oWastewater discharge from the retort system was observed over-flowing the discharge pit while production was underway.
oLack of pest control as evidenced by maggots, crawling insects, and flies in pallets used to move product. No. 10 cans of Dark Kidney Beans in the warehouse were swollen and covered with maggots and flies.
"We acknowledge that these products were voluntarily destroyed on September 20, 2010. Further, your firm's September 23, 2010 response identifies the need to begin weekly inspections of the entire warehouse in order to identify and remove containers that have any insect activity and to bring this to the immediate attention of Furman's Pest Professional for the appropriate action," FDA added.
The canning factory was given 15 working days to resolve its production woes.

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