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Hang Over Safety Of Nation's Food Supply
Source : http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/02/24/134010447/questions-hang-over-safety-of-nations-food-supply?ps=sh_sthdl
By Joanne Silberner (24, Feb, 2011)
Just when you thought it
was safe to pull up to a table to eat, infectious disease expert Michael
Osterholm of the University of Minnesota says think again.
Sure, the FDA Food Safety Mobilization Act was signed into law in early
January. And double-sure, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
earlier this winter came out with lower estimates of how many people
wind up in the hospital - or dead - because of food they ate.
But there's a story behind those stories, Osterholm argues in a piece
just published by the New England Journal of Medicine.
First, the food safety legislation. After a tortuous, years-long ride
through Congress, interest groups ranging from food manufacturers to
consumer advocates finally cheered its passage.
But Osterholm - and others - point out that while the stars may seem
aligned, there's something missing: enough money for more inspections
of food processing plants and check-ups of food manufacturers' safety
plans. The Food and Drug Administration asked for $326 million for new
food safety activities in its next budget. But Republican leaders have
been expressing great reluctance about coming up with the dough.
And then there's the issue of how many people actually get sick. In
1999, the CDC estimated 76 million illnesses a year, 325,000 hospitalizations,
and 5,000 deaths. In the CDC's latest estimate published last month,
all the numbers are down: 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations,
and 3,000 deaths.
Hooray hooray? Nope, says Osterholm. Different methods and underlying
assumptions were used to come up with each set of numbers, and so "we
cannot draw inferences," he writes. And the CDC acknowledges the
different estimates can't be used to call a trend..
So with the FDA maybe not getting enough money to pay for the enforcement
of new food rules, and with food-borne illnesses maybe not down quite
as much as you might have first thought, what's an eater to do?
Same as it ever was - clean, separate, cook, and chill. That is, make
sure your food is prepared in a clean environment, don't use the same
tools to work with raw and cooked foods, cook to proper temperature,
and refrigerate promptly.
test for "cruise ship" virus
By Deborah Kotz February (23, Feb, 2011)
The Food and Drug Administration
today announced that it was allowing widespread marketing for a new
test to detect norovirus, which has been responsible for a number of
gastointestinal illness outbreaks in the Boston area in recent years.
The test called Ridascreen Norovirus 3rd Generation EIA assay can't
be used to identify, say, that nasty stomach bug you picked up from
who knows where. That's because it's "not sensitive enough for
use when only a single person has symptoms," according to a statement
from the FDA. The rapid test only detects the virus in an individual
stool sample about two-thirds of the time when it's actually present.
Where it could prove useful, however, is to quickly identify whether
norovirus is to blame for an illness outbreak on a cruise ship that
has sickened hundreds -- or in daycare centers or hospitals where norovirus
spreads on land. A test that can quickly detect about two-thirds of
the cases among a large group of people is still pretty good.
Norovirus can easily spread from person to person due to poor hygiene
like not washing hands properly -- including under fingernails -- after
using the bathroom and then preparing food. What's more, people remain
contagious for up to three days after their symptoms disappear, which
means they can still spread the virus through food preparation or coming
in close contact with others.
Warming may lead
to spurt in water-borne diseases
Source : http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/science/Warming-may-lead-to-spurt-in-water-borne-diseases/articleshow/7537431.cms
By (21, Feb, 2011)
WASHINGTON: Global warming
could spur the growth of toxic algae and bacteria in the world's seas
and lakes, with an impact that could be felt in 10 years, US scientists
said on Saturday. Studies have shown that shifts brought about by climate
change make ocean and freshwater environments more susceptible to toxic
algae blooms and allow harmful microbes and bacteria to proliferate,
according to researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
In one study, NOAA scientists modeled future ocean and weather patterns
to predict the effect on blooms of Alexandrium catenella, or the toxic
"red tide," which can accumulate in shellfish and cause severe
symptoms, including paralysis, in humans who eat the contaminated seafood.
"Our projections indicate that by the end of the 21st century,
blooms may begin up to two months earlier in the year and persist for
one month later compared to the present-day time period of July to October,"
said Stephanie Moore, one of the scientists who worked on the study.
But the impact could be felt well before the end of this century - as
early as 2040, she said at the annual meeting of the American Association
for the Advancement of Science.
"Changes in the harmful algal bloom season appear to be imminent.
We expect a significant increase in Puget Sound (off the coast of Washington
state where the study was conducted ) and similar at-risk environments
within 30 years, possibly by the next decade," said Moore. In another
study, NOAA scientists found that desert dust, which contains iron,
deposited into the ocean from the atmosphere could lead to increases
of harmful bacteria in the seawater.
Researchers from the University of Georgia found that adding desert
dust to seawater significantly stimulated the growth of Vibrios, a group
of ocean bacteria that can cause gastroenteritis and infectious diseases
tomatoes in 2008 salmonella outbreak
Source : http://southeastfarmpress.com/vegetables/study-vindicates-tomatoes-2008-salmonella-outbreak
By the United Fresh Produce Association (24, Feb, 2011)
In a study released in the
New England Journal of Medicine, scientists from the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention provided detailed evidence linking a nationwide
outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul in 2008 to jalape?o and serrano peppers,
and explained how tomatoes were mistakenly implicated in the early stages
of the investigation.
United Fresh Produce Association President and CEO Tom Stenzel provides
the following statement on the study:
"Members of the produce industry and consumers alike should be
both relieved and encouraged to see this information confirming the
source of the outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul in 2008. The study in
this week's New England Journal of Medicine underscores the fact that
temporal associations based on memories of what someone has eaten weeks
earlier can be useful, but not definitive, in these investigations.
"It's clear from the study that many sick individuals recalled
eating a salsa product, but failed to recognize the peppers that were
contained as an ingredient. By prematurely jumping to the conclusion
that tomatoes were causing the outbreak, officials may have unwittingly
allowed the outbreak to continue.
"We credit the CDC and Food and Drug Administration now for reporting
these findings, as an important lesson to be learned in outbreak investigations.
"The fresh produce industry is 100 percent committed to doing all
we can to prevent any contamination of any commodity from ever occurring.
But these are natural products grown outside in nature, often eaten
without cooking. In the rare case in which a problem does occur, we
stand ready to work with local, state and federal officials to bring
the most rapid identification, traceback and removal of a product from
"We are committed to bringing our very best scientific knowledge
and detailed understanding of growing areas, production processes and
distribution to help government officials quickly identify and remove
the real cause of any problem."
UK's E. coli
Safety Guidance Called 'Draconian'
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/02/uks-e-coli-safety-guidance-called-draconian/
By News Desk (18, Feb, 2011)
After the UK's Food Standards
Agency issued an official guidance this week, detailing the steps food
handlers need to prevent cross-contamination by E. coli O157 and other
bacteria, the head of a meat trade group called the standards "draconian."
The guidance was developed in the aftermath of lethal outbreaks of E.
coli O157 in Scotland in 1996, when 400 fell ill and 21 people died,
and in Wales in 2005, which sickened 157, most of them children, and
led to the death of 5-year-old Mason Jones. Both outbreaks were attributed
to cross-contamination from a lack of hygiene and improper food handling.
Professor Hugh Pennington's report into the 2005 E.coli outbreak and
public consultation were taken into consideration in developing the
However, Roger Kelsey, chief executive of the National Federation of
Meat & Food Traders said his organization had been disappointed
with the consultation process. ??Kelsey told Meat Trades Journal: "The
actual report and the implications of the recommendations are draconian.
It covers areas that can be addressed by adequate HACCP procedures."?
Some of the key measures highlighted in the guidance to control E.coli
o Identification of separate work areas, surfaces and equipment for
raw and ready-to-eat food.
o Use of separate complex equipment, such as vacuum-packing machines,
slicers, and mincers for raw and ready-to-eat food.
o Handwashing should be carried out using a recognised technique. Anti-bacterial
gels must not be used instead of thorough handwashing.
o Disinfectants and sanitisers must meet officially recognised standards
and should be used as instructed by the manufacturer.
Although E. coli contamination was the key focus of the guidance, FSA
noted that the measures will help to control other bacteria, such as
Campylobacter and Salmonella. The FSA said the guidance will also be
used by local authority food safety officers when inspecting food establishments.
developing 'rechargeable' antimicrobial layer for food processing surfaces
Source : http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/Processing/Scientists-developing-rechargeable-antimicrobial-layer-for-food-processing-surfaces
By Rory Harrington (24, Feb, 2011)
The germ-killing properties
of a prototype nano-scale antimicrobial layer for food handling surfaces
can be chemically 'recharged' every time it is rinsed with household
bleach, said US scientists.
A team from the University of Massachusetts Amherst is developing a
new method for modifying polymer and stainless steel processing surfaces
by adding a nano-scale layer of antimicrobial compound to common surface
in food processing plants - such as gaskets, conveyor belts and work
"This layer replenishes its anti-microbial qualities with each
repeated bleach rinse," head researcher Julie Goddard the researcher
told FoodProductionDaily.com. "So at the end of the day in a meat-packing
plant, for example, when employees clean their equipment, the regular
bleach rinse will re-charge the surface's anti-microbial activity. They
will not need to add any more steps."
Preliminary research had shown the technology realises a greater than
5-log reduction in gram positive and negative organisms such as Listeria
monocytogenes and E.coli, she added.
The team is seeking to incorporate unique chemical structures called
N-halamines onto a wide range of plastics and stainless steel surfaces.
These can complex with chlorine after being rinsed in bleach and are
able to regain antimicrobial activity repeatedly after subsequent rinsing.
The treatment does not affect the strength of tables or trays.
Goddard recently received a four-year, US$488,000 grant from the Department
of Agriculture's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative to develop
The scientist said they are attempting to maximise the layer's durability
by using covalent linkages to ensure the bonds holding the antimicrobial
agent on the surface of the food contact material are strong.
"As part of this project, we will demonstrate stability using a
number of rigorous tests including stability against mechanical abrasion,
like scrubbing with a cleaning brush, and chemical extractions like
cleaning solutions," said Goddard.
She added the goal of the project was to demonstrate the applicability
and robustness of the technique so that equipment and materials manufacturers
could use their results to design and sell new materials. In this way
the team believes the new method would cost industry less than incorporating
anti-microbial into equipment, such as an entire conveyor belt construction.
At present the technique is effective at the square-inch scale in the
laboratory with the major challenge to scale up the technology for commercial
food processing applications. The technology is already being applied
in hospital textiles whose anti-microbial properties are replenished
each time they're laundered in bleach, said the group.
Goddard stressed it was not a panacea for in-plant cleaning, but rather
another hygiene tool that could be both affordable and effective.
"It's not meant to replace thorough cleaning, which should always
be in place, but it's meant to add power to the process and a further
layer of low-cost protection against contamination," she said.
calls for Peanut Corp. investigation update
Source : http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/On-your-radar/Food-safety/Senator-Leahy-calls-for-Peanut-Corp.-investigation-update
By Caroline Scott-Thomas (24, Feb, 2011)
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has written to the Department of Justice
to demand an update on its investigation of former Peanut Corporation
of America president Stewart Parnell.
The Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) was the company linked to a
nationwide salmonella outbreak in 2008 and 2009 in which more than 700
people became ill and nine died. The outbreak also led to a massive
recall of peanut products - one of the largest food product recalls
in US history - and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigators
claimed that the company knowingly shipped tainted products.
The company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in February 2009, and Parnell
cited his Fifth Amendment right not to testify at a Congressional hearing
regarding the contamination that same month.
The US Attorney's Office says it has been investigating the company's
former CEO Parnell and other former executives at PCA for the past two
years, but no criminal charges have been brought to date.
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Leahy wrote: "Two
years ago, I wrote to the Department urging a full criminal investigation
into this matterˇ¦At the time, the Department was unable to comment with
specificity but confirmed that an investigation was ongoing and that
it was uncertain whether additional legal authorities were needed.
"ˇ¦My concerns remain that wrongdoers are disregarding the health
and safety of American consumers by choosing to sell contaminated products.
I hope that there has been a thorough criminal investigation into PCA's
conduct at the least, and that if appropriate, criminal charges are
aggressively pursued. To the extent possible consistent with ongoing
investigations, I request an update on the Department's investigation
into the PCA matter."
Leahy's letter comes on the heels of a demand from victims of the salmonella
outbreak and their families earlier this month that criminal charges
should be brought against Parnell.
the Heck is Botulism?
Source : http://www.botulismblog.com/
By Botulism Attorney (05, Feb, 2011)
Q: I read that there have
been cases of botulism in Pennsylvania. Isn't this a third world disease?
A: Although botulism is a rare condition in the United States -- with
about 110 cases reported annually -- it can and does occur worldwide.
Botulism is caused by a toxin made by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum,
which is common and may be found in soil and untreated water throughout
the world. The bacteria make spores which can survive for long periods
of time, however, if the spores are heated to 250 degrees for at least
five minutes they are destroyed, so proper food preparation (for example,
for home canning) is important.
People get sick from botulism toxin in one of three ways:
* Infants may ingest the bacteria, most commonly from being given honey
or corn syrup (sometimes on their pacifier). The bacteria may then take
up residence in the intestines and produce toxin. Almost three quarters
of the cases of botulism in the U.S. are in infants, with the highest
incidence in Utah, Pennsylvania and California, where Clostridium botulinum
spore counts in the soil are high. It is very unlikely for adults to
get botulism in this way since most normal adults' intestines are resistant
to colonization with this bacterium.
* The botulism toxin can be directly ingested from improperly prepared
foods. In fact, there are occasional outbreaks of botulism from poorly
prepared home-canned foods, improperly cured meats, smoked or raw fish,
honey or corn syrup. About a quarter of the botulism cases in the U.S.
are from this type of food poisoning. Although the toxin itself has
no taste or smell, some (but not all) strains of Clostridium botulinum
"spoil" the food, making it smell and/or taste bad and even
causing the can it is stored in to bulge.
* A small number of cases of wound botulism -- where the toxin enters
the body through a break in the skin -- are reported every year in the
U.S. Once inside the body, the toxin enters the bloodstream and then
binds to part of a specific type of nerve (the presynaptic terminal
in cholinergic nerves). This binding permanently disrupts the function
of these nerves; it takes months for them to produce new normally functioning
Since this is a poisoning and not an infection, there is no fever with
this condition. If it occurs from ingestion of the toxin or the bacteria,
gastrointestinal symptoms can occur.
The nerves affected can be those responsible for making the eyes move
and the pupils dilate or constrict, so vision problems are common.
Other nerves -- such as those responsible for speech, swallowing or
making the facial muscles move -- may be affected. As the toxin begins
to involve the nerves going to the muscles, the patient develops paralysis.
This is a descending paralysis with the arms affected before the legs.
When the muscles that allow the patient to breathe are affected, respiratory
failure can occur.
Depending on the amount of toxin present in the patient's system, symptoms
may progress from mild to severe (and life-threatening) over hours,
days or even weeks.
The first step in diagnosing botulism is considering the possibility;
a descending paralysis raises suspicion of this condition, as does respiratory
failure in an otherwise healthy infant. The diagnosis is confirmed by
demonstration of the toxin in the patient's blood. Even if this test
is negative in infants, finding spores in their stool confirms the diagnosis.
Finding the bacteria in a wound confirms the diagnosis in patients with
Since the disease can progress rapidly, treatment for botulism is initiated
even without confirmatory tests when the suspicion is high.
* The first step is supportive care; patients with respiratory failure
require intubation (a tube placed in their airway and a machine used
to breathe for them).
* Although wound botulism may benefit from antibiotics, the other types
do not and antibiotics are not indicated.
* Human antibody antitoxin is recommended for infants, and horse serum
antitoxin for those over age 1. The antitoxins may prevent more nerves
from being affected, but since the nerve damage is irreversible once
it has occurred, the patient will need supportive care until the nerves
repair themselves, often for months.
Less than 10 percent of treated adults die. The prognosis is even better
in appropriately treated infants, with less than a 1 percent mortality
rate. The milder the disease, the more likely the patient will completely
recover back to their baseline.
In order to prevent botulism, do not give honey or corn syrup to infants.
Be sure to prepare home-canned foods and home-cured meats correctly.
Throw away spoiled foods. Seek emergency treatment if you develop symptoms
suggestive of botulism poisoning.
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