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Consumers reveal true value of foodborne illness reduction: Study
Source :
By Caroline Scott-Thomas (11, Feb, 2011)

Consumers are willing to pay more than government analyses suggest in order to reduce their risk of becoming ill from foodborne pathogens, according to a new study published in Food Policy
The researchers claim that basing cost-benefit analyses for potential ways to reduce the incidence of foodborne illness on how many illnesses and deaths such measures would prevent does not reflect actual benefit. They propose that the real value of any food safety procedure should be determined by how much consumers are willing to spend to avoid illness.
With this intention, Brian Roe, professor of agricultural, environmental and development economics at Ohio State University and Mario Teisl of the University of Maine, conducted surveys involving 3,511 individuals to find out how much more people were willing to pay for foods with a reduced risk of contamination with E. coli or listeria.
"We think what we are measuring is more realistic, as complete eradication is a highly unlikely outcome for any policy," Roe said. "We also are quite certain that our estimates of consumers' willingness to pay would be higher than what the USDA would calculate using its cost-of-illness approach."
The researchers found that Americans would be willing to pay around an extra dollar per year for a ten percent reduction in risk that they would get sick from eating a supermarket-bought hamburger that could be contaminated with E. coli. That is equal to about $305m for a ten percent risk reduction - compared to a 2008 US Department of Agriculture (USDA) analysis that estimated a $446m value for completely eradicating a specific type of E. coli contamination from all food sources.
"The [USDA] projections will estimate how many fewer people will die, how many fewer will get sick, and how do we assign benefit values to those improvements in the human condition," Roe said. "What we're saying is, let's think of a method where we can assign a value to that avoided case as well as one for a person who misses work and pays $20 to go to a doctor.
"To hedge their bets, would people be willing to pay $2 a year, $5 a year, to limit the odds they're going to get sick from 1 in 100 down to 1 in 1,000? That's the data you really want."
The researchers set up hypothetical scenarios about the purchase of either a package of hotdogs or a pound of hamburger. They set prices for the packages based on whether they were treated with ethylene gas processing or electron beam irradiation to reduce contaminants, or left untreated, and then described the probability that the food would be contaminated with either E. coli or listeria.
Respondents could choose to buy the food treated with the pathogen-reducing technology, buy their usual brand, or stop buying the product altogether. They found that consumers would spend more for the safer products, but only up to a certain amount.

Roe said that this cost-benefit assessment method measures the value to consumers of avoiding becoming ill, rather than just the cost of foodborne illness.
"If the food industry were forced to put technology in place that lowered the presence of E. coli and that ramped up prices to the extent where everybody had to pay about a dollar more out of pocket each year for hamburger, we're saying that, according to this model, that would be about an equal tradeoff for the US population. And if the technology costs only about 10 cents per person instead, that would seem like a good deal to most people," he said.

Oxygen absorbers rated above irradiation for almond shelf life
Source :
By Jane Byrne (11, Feb, 2011)

Greek researchers investigating the effect of irradiation, active and modified atmosphere packaging, and storage conditions on quality retention of raw, whole, unpeeled almonds find a method using only an oxygen absorber the most effective.
The authors, writing in the Journal of Food Science and Agriculture, concluded that non-irradiated almonds retained acceptable quality for around a year when stored at 20”ĘC with an oxygen absorber irrespective of lighting conditions and packaging material oxygen barrier.
They also concluded that lower doses of irradiation gave better sensory results than higher doses.
Irradiation and active packaging can be effective alternative technologies for pest control and inhibition of growth of aflatoxigenic Aspergillus species in almonds.
But, according to the literature insects are killed at a dose of 1 kGy, while doses between 3 and 5 kGy are needed to inhibit mycelium growth and toxin production of Aspergillus.
The researchers report that they had previously evaluated the short-term effect of irradiation dose on the quality of raw unpeeled almonds and found that they become organoleptically unacceptable at doses higher than 3.0 kGy.
Meanwhile, oxygen absorbers are also efficient for control of growth of aerobic microorganisms such as Aspergillus species and may still prevent damage caused by larvae and insects, note the authors
Almond kernels were packaged in barrier and high-barrier pouches, under nitrogen gas (N2) or with an oxygen (O2) absorber and stored either under fluorescent lighting or in the dark at 20”ĘC for 12 months.
Treatments included the following: raw, non-irradiated almonds under nitrogen or with an ZPT type O2 absorber; irradiated almonds at 1.0 kGy under nitrogen or with a ZPT type O2 absorber, and finally irradiated almonds at 3.0 kGy under nitrogen or with a ZPT type O2 absorber.
The authors also tested an experimental silicon oxide coated polyethylene terephthalate low-densitypolyethylene (PETSiOx// LDPE) laminate as an effective barrier for the protection of almonds.
In the case of modified atmosphere packaging, pouches were first evacuated and then immediately injected with N2 gas. The pouches were heat sealed using a vacuum sealer. In terms of active packaging, a ZPT type O2 absorber was introduced into each pouch and then the packs were heat sealed.
Control samples, said the authors, were prepared by packaging raw unpeeled almonds in glass jars flushed with N2 and stored at ?18”ĘC for up to 12 months.
They explained that at storage intervals of zero to 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 months of storage, three separate identical samples were withdrawn from each treatment for chemical and sensory analysis.
Quality parameters monitored were peroxide value, hexanal content, colour, fatty acid composition and volatile compounds. Of the sensory attributes colour, texture, odour and taste were evaluated, added the team.
The authors found that non-irradiated raw unpeeled almonds with the oxygen absorber could be classified as fresh even after 12 months of storage.
But they concluded that the peroxide value and hexanal increased with dose of irradiation and storage time.
Irradiation resulted in a decrease of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids during storage with a parallel increase of saturated fatty acids.
Volatile compounds were not affected by irradiation but increased with storage time indicating enhanced lipid oxidation, they reported.
For samples packaged under a N2 atmosphere, colour values decreased during storage with a parallel increase of redness resulting to gradual product darkening especially in irradiated samples, said the team.
"Irradiation substantially increased lipid oxidation during long-term storage even in the case of almonds stored under extreme protection, i.e. use of a high-barrier film combined with the oxygen absorber and storage in the dark," added the authors.

Guidelines on controlling E.coli 0157 cross contamination
Source :
By Rory Harrington (17, Feb, 2011)

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has issued guidelines for all food businesses on controlling cross contamination by E.coli 0157 between raw and ready-to-eat-foods.
E.coli bacteria
The agency said it had published the guide in response to serious outbreaks of the foodborne pathogen in Scotland in 1996 and Wales in 2005 which were triggered by cross-contamination violations.
Although E.coli is the key focus of the document, the measures will also help control other bacteria, such as campylobacter and salmonella. It not only contains guidance on compliance with Regulation EC No 852/2004 but also outlines a raft of best practice recommendations, said the food safety watchdog.
Physical separation
A major element in the guide is the principle of physical separation of so-called clean environments, where RTE foods are handled and stored, from other surfaces or equipment not designated for use in the clean area. Key to this is the use of separate equipment and utensils.
Complex equipment such as vacuum packers, mincing machines and slicers should never be used for both raw and RTE foods - and separate equipment should be provided, urged the paper.
Maintaining all surfaces, equipment clothes etc in clean areas as E.coli free is vital "because no further controls will prevent that contamination spreading within the clean area," said the report. "Food premises should be designed to enable adequate separation."
Handwashing and disinfection
Staff movement between RTE and raw food areas should be minimised and where it does occur strict handwashing controls must be implemented. Hygienic hand rubs and antiseptic gels should only be considered an additional precaution but not an alternative to handwashing.
Disinfectants and sanitisers must meet officially recognised standards and should be used as instructed by the manufacturer - but cannot be used as a substitute for physical separation.
But it added that "effective chemical disinfection is an essential prerequisite hygiene measure throughout the food industry”¦"
Documented procedures and control measures
Food business must employ "robust documented procedures" and strict supervision to ensure compliance with valid E.coli control measures. Breakdown in procedures should be treated as a "serious incident" and immediate steps taken to stop any potentially contaminated food from reaching leaving the premises.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in Canadian supermarket chicken - What about the U.S.?

Source :
By Bill Marler (14, Feb, 2011)

According to CBC Television, about 67 percent of (presumably Canadian) chicken has harmful bacteria. "Marketplace" researchers tested grocery store chicken for harmful, drug-resistant bacteria and bought 100 samples of poultry from supermarket chains in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. The samples included some of the "most familiar names in the poultry business," says CBC News.
Lab analysis of the chicken found that two-thirds, or 67 percent, had bacteria. But the surprise wasn't just the E. coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria found in the chicken. Rather it was that all of the bacteria were resistant to at least one antibiotic.
Even more frightening, the researchers found some of the bacteria had resistance to "six, seven, or even eight different types of antibiotics."
In interviews with "Marketplace," doctors and scientists said that the problem could be the result of chicken farmers giving too many antibiotics to their chickens, to make them stay healthy and speed up the growth process.
One wonders what a similar test would find in U.S. chickens? Sounds like I have might have a new project for 2011?

Final Alfalfa Sprouts Outbreak Toll: 140
Source :
By Mary Rothschild (17, Feb, 2011)

Half of those sickened in a multistate outbreak of Salmonella linked to alfalfa sprouts were from Illinois, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports in its final update on the investigation.
The final outbreak toll was 140 people in 26 states and the District of Columbia infected with the outbreak strain -- Salmonella serotype I 4,[5],12:i:-.
Seventy Illinois residents were among the outbreak victims, whose onset dates ranged from Nov. 1, 2010 through Feb. 9, 2011. There were 23 people in Missouri and 13 in Indiana identified with the outbreak strain, along with four in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania; two in Massachusetts, New York, Tennessee and Virginia; and single cases in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina and South Dakota, although the CDC cautions that because this is a fairly common Salmonella strain, a few of the illnesses might not have been related to the outbreak.
Case patients ranged in age from 1 to 85. Nearly a quarter were hospitalized.
Many of those who became ill in Illinois ate sandwiches containing sprouts at various Jimmy John's sandwich outlets, according to the CDC.
Collaborative efforts of local, state, and federal public health investigators and regulatory agencies linked the outbreak to sprouts served on the Jimmy John's sandwiches -- Tiny Greens alfalfa sprouts or a blend of alfalfa, radish and clover sprouts marketed as "Spicy Sprouts."
The CDC said the sprouts were also distributed to farmers' markets, restaurants and groceries in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Missouri and may have been distributed to other Midwestern states.
Tiny Greens Organic Farm of Urbana, IL, recalled specific lots of its sprouts on Dec. 29, 2010, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration identified the farm as the possible source of the outbreak, and advised consumers not to eat its products.
As reported in earlier investigation updates, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration later found that a sample of water run-off from the organic farm was contaminated with Salmonella that matched the outbreak strain, but product samples tested by FDA were negative.
Tiny Greens Organic Farm owner Bill Bagby objected to that report, telling a trade publication that the sample testing positive for the outbreak strain was collected outside his indoor growing operation, in runoff from the compost pile.
In its Form 483 report on the investigation, the FDA said inspectors found that Tiny Greens sprouts were being grown in "soil from the organic material decomposed outside" without any "kill step" to rid them of the Salmonella that led to the outbreak.
The inspection report also cited multiple other issues, including inadequate documentation of antimicrobial seed treatment, employee lunches in the sprouts cooler, work surfaces with questionable sanitation, condensation dripping from the ceiling, a water and sprouts test not validated for detecting Salmonella, and an amphibian/reptile housed in the reception area adjoining the production room.
The FDA frequently reminds consumers that sprouts are a known source of foodborne illness. Since 1996 there have been at least 30 reported outbreaks, mostly of Salmonella and E. coli, associated with different types of raw and lightly cooked sprouts. In many of the outbreaks, according to the FDA, the sprout seeds have been the source of the harmful bacteria.
The FDA advises children, the elderly, pregnant women, and persons with weakened immune systems to avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind (including alfalfa, clover, radish and mung bean sprouts). To reduce the chance of foodborne illness, cook sprouts thoroughly and request that raw sprouts not be added to food such as sandwiches.

Norovirus confirmed in Asheville VA patients
Source :|head
By staff reports (Feb, 2011)

OTEEN - Three patients at the Charles George VA Medical Center tested positive for norovirus.
Samples from five patients at the edical center's community living center were sent to the state laboratory in Raleigh after patients came down with a sudden onset of vomiting and diarrhea over the weekend. Three samples tested positive for the virus, which is often found on cruise ships.
The VA placed symptomatic patients in isolation and the common areas of the community living center are temporarily closed. Employees switched hand hygiene practices from alcohol-based foam to frequent hand washing with soap and water.
Caregivers and employees are also wearing appropriate protective equipment. The VA is also prohibiting visitation to the community living center.
Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that causes diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain. It can spread rapidly, especially in closed environments like nursing homes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

USDA to allow GMO corn for fuels, not food
Source :
By Kenneth Schortgen Jr (16, Feb, 2011)

The USDA announced recently that deregulation of Genetically Modified (GMO) corn can go forward to help in the processing of ethanol. The agency specified that the allowing of the GMO production would be dedicated towards fuel, not food, as Americans still have hesitantcy over eating GMO products.
In an article today from Natural News on this new ruling, the USDA seems to be more in the corner of alternative fuels than it does for the diets of Americans as corn prices skyrocket on the commodties market.

For starters, in a world where food prices are rapidly rising, where crops are failing due to radical weather events, and where food stockpiles are at their lowest levels in many decades, the idea of converting food to fuel is utterly ludicrous. Making matters even worse, there's the simple fact that the ethanol advocates simply refuse to admit: Growing corn for fuel consumes more fuel than it produces!
The whole corn-for-ethanol debacle is simply another government-run agricultural cluster shuck involving the wasting of billions of taxpayer dollars which disappear into the black hole of subsidies handed out to corn growers. The whole thing smacks of economic insanity combined with an almost alien view of the natural world. To look upon an acre of corn and think that it's supposed to be burned in combustion engines rather than consumed as nutrition represents a whole new level of mental illness -- an illness which has infected the minds of regulators and lawmakers.

It is always fascinating, and yet concerning at the same time, that the government would try to continue programs that are detrimental to the necessities of the American people, especially during times of economic hardship, and reduction in world food harvests.
The more corn that is planted for use as ethanol, and is less acreage to be used to feed people, and keep food prices down. The USDA may have made the right step in designating GMO corn for fuel use only, but they have not addressed the real concern over whether there will be enough food available at affordable prices to feed the nation.

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