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Food Safety News Featured Article: Nuts! How to Crack an E. coli Case
Source :
By Drew Falkenstein (10, Mar, 2011)

Loosely defined, epidemiology is the study of diseases and conditions as they move through populations of people, one objective being to identify the source of injury so that the cause can be eliminated. Ross Anderson's article today in Food Safety News, spawned by the hazelnut E. coli outbreak, is a good primer on the science:
Seven sick people, most of them middle-aged men, scattered across three states. As epidemiology goes, that's not much to go on.
To track outbreaks of foodborne illness, the "epi" sleuths usually need numerous sick people, preferably concentrated in one or two areas. Larger "clusters" of illnesses greatly improve the chance of figuring out what made everybody sick.
But you go with what you got, says Josh Rounds, a staff epidemiologist at the Minnesota Department of Health in St. Paul. And just three weeks ago, in mid-February, what the MDH had was three cases of E. coli O157:H7 in Minnesota, three more in neighboring Wisconsin, and one in Michigan. Three of the case patients had been hospitalized.
None of the sick knew each other, nor had they eaten at the same restaurant or church potluck. They live hundreds of miles apart. Yet lab tests showed they had contracted the same strain of E. coli, so they were all contaminated by a single source. Minnesota launched its investigation, and Rounds got the job.
Step One: "Team D," short for Diarrhea, students in public health studies at nearby University of Minnesota, who work part time for the state health department. Most work in the evenings, working the phones, interviewing people who have been ill. Each interview follows the same format - a 12 page questionnaire, inquiring what victims ate before they got sick.

Teavana Corporation Voluntarily Recalls Organic Herbal Tea Due to Possible Salmonella Contamination
Source :
By Claire Mitchell (08, Mar, 2011)

On March 3, 2011, FDA announced that Teavana, an Atlanta-based corporation, was issuing a voluntary, nationwide recall of 2,659 pounds of Peppermint Organic Herbal Tea produced by Aromatics Inc., located in Basin City, Washington.
The recall of the tea, which was distributed nationwide in Teavana retail stores and through mail and Internet orders, was due to a potential Salmonella contamination. According to the FDA news release as well as a report published this morning by the News Desk at Food Safety News:
[t]he recall was as the result of a batch sample testing program by the Company after it received a notification of possible contamination by the vendor, which revealed that the finished products contained the bacteria. The Company has ceased the production and distribution of the product as the FDA and the Company continue their investigation as to the origin of the contamination.
In its own press release, Teavana explained that Aromatics, Inc. is the exclusive producer and distributor of Teavana's Peppermint Organic Herbal tea.
Teavana has more than 150 retail stores in 35 states and Mexico. Typically, the Peppermint Organic Herbal Tea is measured to customer's orders in stores and sold in 2 oz., $4.30 pre-packaged pouches by mail order or via the Internet. In addition, there are no lot/batch identifying markings on the store or ecommerce packaging. According to the company's records, retail store stock of the product was sold between Dec. 4, 2010 and Feb. 16, 2011. Mail order and Internet stock was sold between Nov. 30, 2010 and Feb. 16, 2011.
Although there have been no illnesses linked to this voluntary recall reported to date, it is still important to remember that Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. According to FDA:
Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis, and arthritis.
The company is urging consumers who purchased Peppermint Organic Herbal Tea to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. Moreover, Teavana noted that "any potential health risk can be significantly reduced by following the brewing instructions, which are printed on the package or available online."
Consumers may also contact Teavana Customer Service at 1-877-832-8262 (Monday through Friday from 8.30 a.m. to 6 p.m., EST) for instructions on how to return the product or any further inquiries.

Botulism warning issued for watermelon jam

Source :
By CBC news (08, Mar, 2011)

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control is warning that jars of watermelon jelly that were sold at charity booths around B.C. last summer could contain botulism.
A rare case of botulism on Vancouver Island has sparked a recall of 120 ml jars of the jelly made by Jamnation Fine Foods, according to Sion Shyng, a food safety specialist at the BCCDC.
"The jelly was sold through the British Columbia Huntingtons Research Foundation charity booths in Duncan, and may also have been sold in other parts of province," explains Shyng.
"We're concerned that this product may still be in the homes of consumers as jellies can be stored and consumed long after they are purchased."
The BCCDC is currently working with B.C. Health Authorities and the B.C. Ministry of Health Services to ensure the recalled product is removed from distribution and is investigating any possible cases of illness.
Botulism cases are rare in B.C. accorrding to the BCCDC. Symptoms include blurred vision, slurred speech, and muscle paralysis. Anyone with concerns should call their physician.

Seafood restaurant passes food safety inspection, though several problems observed
Source :
By Andrew Benedict-Nelson (04, Mar, 2011)

A local seafood restaurant recently passed its Harris County food safety exam, but inspectors observed several problems.
The Captain Al Seafood restaurant, located at 8529 C.E. King Parkway in Houston, was inspected on Jan. 13. It received a score of 11 demerits out of a possible 100. An establishment must earn 20 demerits or more to be considered "of concern" and in need of a follow-up visit.
Among the violations observed by county officials was a failure to comply with "good hygienic practices" rules. This can refer to a variety of problems, including open beverage containers in the kitchen, unsafe hand-washing practices, and eating, drinking, or smoking in unapproved areas. It is among the violations that the county website says are commonly associated with food-borne illness by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The inspectors also noted problems with the restaurant's thermometers and pointed out the potential for the cross-contamination of raw and cooked food.
This kind of score is not unusual for Captain Al. The establishment also received an 11 in June 2010. The August inspection was better, with just four demerits, but in November 2010 the restaurant received 16 demerits and inspectors requested a follow-up inspection. Captain Al scored three demerits in that visit five days later.

Kellogg's to stop recycled cereal boxes over ink cancer link
Source :
By Ruki Sayid, Daily Mirror (09, Mar, 2011)

KELLOGG'S is to axe cereal boxes made from recycled cardboard after scientists found old ink in packaging is linked to cancer.
The breakfast giant, which makes ¡©Corn Flakes and Rice Krispies, is looking at alternatives after the warning and may switch to foil inner bags to keep cereal free from the chemicals.
Weetabix is also considering new packaging after a Swiss study found that in 75% of boxes made from recycled newspaper, potentially toxic mineral oils could seep into cereals.
Researchers, led by Dr Koni Grob at Zurich's Food Safety Lab, labelled the new findings "frightening".
Dr Grob said studies on rats highlighted possible health dangers, adding: "One is the chronic inflammation of various internal organs and the other one is cancer."
Kellogg's said there was "no immediate concern", adding in a statement: "We are working with our suppliers on new packaging which allows us to meet our environmental commitments but will also contain ¡©significantly lower levels of mineral oil."
Weetabix said that while there was no "risk to consumer health" it was working with packaging suppliers for alternatives.

Industry and regulators taking steps to tackle mineral oil risk from packaging
Source :
By Rory Harrington (09, Mar, 2011)

The paper and packaging industries are taking a hands-on role in exploring ways to curb the presence of mineral oils in the manufacture of their products, said a leading trade body.
The Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI) outlined the complex nature of the problem - and what it is doing to address the issue - in the wake of intense media speculation yesterday over the potential health threat from the toxic substance leaching from packaging.
Traces of mineral oil in food are thought to arise by their migration from the inks present both on the printed surface of the packaging and in recycled fibre, principally newspapers, used in the production of packaging.
It emerged that a number of leading breakfast cereal companies, including Kellogg and Weetabix, are changing their packaging in a bid to limit consumer exposure to the mineral oils. The possible health threat from mineral oils in food packaging surfaced last year after a Swiss study by Dr Koni Grob found that almost three quarters of 119 food products from a German supermarket contained mineral oils levels exceeding the EU safe level of 0.6mg/kg by more than 10 times.
While long term exposure to mineral oils has been linked to the chronic inflammation of various internal organs and cancer, consumers who eat balanced diets are not believed to be at risk, said Grob.
The UK Food Standards Agency said yesterday it was "not aware of any firm evidence to suggest that there are food safety risks related to mineral oils in recycled food packaging" and said there was no need for immediate action.
Industry action
CEPI managing director Teresa Presas told that while there were no toxicological studies yet available paper and packaging players were taking the matter "very seriously".
"Industry has been investigating this and we are doing everything we can about the issue," she said. "Eliminating the root cause is the most sustainable option and we have been in dialogue with stakeholders about the phasing out materials containing mineral oils by taking steps such the reformulation of inks"
The CEPI chief said packaging companies were committed to using mineral-oil free inks and, where possible, using recovered paper types with "minimum mineral oil content". But Presas cautioned that such changes in technology would take time.
Complex problem
Part of the difficulty in addressing the issue is that mineral oils enter the food supply via a variety of routes - with the problem not just confined to recycled cardboard. Traces of the chemical have also been detected in virgin fibre and even in fresh, unpacked food.
"Mineral oil migration is complicated as it comes from a number of sources," said Presas. "It comes from the corrugated outer boxes used to transport food, secondary packaging, inks as well as recycled fibre."
One industry insider said that some food companies are unwilling to share the higher cost of mineral-oil free inks with packaging suppliers, which may also be discouraging, take up in some quarters.
CEPI said it had published voluntary standards for paper-based food contact materials to "minimise any incidents and to take corrective measures as science develops".
Regulatory radar
The matter is well and truly on Europe's regulatory radar with the UK FSA investigating the extent of the chemical's presence in packaging.
The issue is certain to be discussed at an industry workshop on non-plastic food contact materials host by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) being held today. The Parma-based safety watchdog is due to deliver an opinion on mineral oils later in the year.

Home Food Safety Program Supports 2010 Dietary Guidelines' Focus on Food Safety as Part of a Healthy Eating Plan
Source :
By American Dietetic Association (09, Mar, 2011)

CHICAGO, March 8, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Each year, about 76 million people get sick, 325,000 are hospitalized and 5,000 die from foodborne illness. Ensuring food is safe to eat is -- a critical part of healthy eating, according to the newly released 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The American Dietetic Association and ConAgra Foods' public awareness campaign Home Food Safety supports the Dietary Guidelines' emphasis on the importance of food safety and the role each individual plays in keeping foodborne illness out of our homes.
"The staggering number of cases of foodborne illness underscores the need for further exploration of our four
simple tips," said registered dietitian and ADA Spokesperson Ruth Frechman.
Home Food Safety educates consumers about how foodborne illness in the home is a serious health issue, and provides simple solutions and tips so Americans can easily and safely handle food in their own kitchens. Aligned with the four basic food safety principles recommended by the Dietary Guidelines -- CLEAN, SEPARATE, COOK and CHILL -- the following tips from Home Food Safety can reduce the risk of foodborne illness:
1.Wash hands often.
2.Keep raw meats and ready-to-eat foods separate.
3.Cook to proper temperatures.
4.Refrigerate promptly to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
CLEAN: Wash Hands Often
ADA and ConAgra Foods' Home Food Safety program stresses the importance of "proper" hand washing to eliminate cases of foodborne illness and significantly reduce the spread of the common cold and flu. Wash hands for at least 20 seconds before and after preparing food - especially after handling raw seafood, meat, poultry or eggs - and before eating. Hand-washing is also important after going to the bathroom, changing diapers, coughing or sneezing, tending to someone who is sick or injured, touching animals or handling garbage.
Besides the importance of washing hands, the Dietary Guidelines remind consumers that all kitchen surfaces
(including appliances, refrigerators and freezers), all produce (even if you plan to peel and cut before eating) and even reusable grocery bags and lunchboxes need to be washed thoroughly. For example, the insides of microwaves often become soiled with food, allowing bacteria to grow. Washing the inside and outside, including handles and buttons, can prevent foodborne illness.
SEPARATE: Keep Raw Meats and Ready-to-Eat Foods Separate
When juices from raw meats or germs from unclean objects accidentally touch cooked or ready-to-eat foods (such as fruits or salads), cross-contamination occurs. Remember to always use separate, clean cutting boards for raw meat, poultry and seafood, and another for ready-to-eat foods. Never place cooked food back on the same plate or cutting board that previously held raw food.
The Dietary Guidelines reiterate the importance of keeping foods separate before, during and after preparation. Always place raw fish, seafood, meat and poultry in plastic bags, and keep them separate from other foods in your grocery cart and bags. Store raw fish, seafood, meat and poultry on a shelf below the ready-to-eat foods in your refrigerator.
COOK: Cook to Proper Temperatures
Fish, seafood, meat, poultry and egg dishes should be cooked to the recommended minimum internal temperatures to destroy any potentially harmful bacteria. Use a food thermometer to ensure food is safely cooked and kept at safe temperatures until eaten. For packaged foods, follow cooking instructions carefully, and clean food thermometers with hot, soapy water before and after each use.
ADA and ConAgra Foods applaud the Dietary Guidelines for stressing how cooking temperatures also apply to microwave cooking. A microwave can cook unevenly and leave "cold spots" where harmful bacteria can survive. According to the Dietary Guidelines, "When cooking using a microwave, foods should be stirred, rotated and/or flipped periodically to help them cook evenly. Microwave cooking instructions on food packages always should be followed."
CHILL: Refrigerate Promptly to 40 Degrees Fahrenheit or Below
The Home Food Safety program reminds consumers to refrigerate foods quickly and at a proper temperature to slow the growth of bacteria and prevent foodborne illness. Keep your refrigerator at 40¡ÆF or below and your freezer at 0¡ÆF or below, and always use refrigerator and freezer thermometers to monitor these temperatures.
The Dietary Guidelines also reiterate that perishable foods are no longer safe to eat when they have been in the danger zone of 40-140¡ÆF for more than two hours (or one hour if the temperature was above 90¡ÆF). "When shopping, the two-hour window includes the amount of time food is in the grocery basket, car and on the kitchen counter."
Guidelines for At-Risk Populations
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines stress the Home Food Safety program's message about how higher-risk populations like pregnant women, very young children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems or certain chronic illnesses can be at far greater risk of developing serious illness if contracting food poisoning. "Once contracted, these infections can be difficult to treat, can reoccur and can even be fatal for these individuals," Frechman said.
According to the Dietary Guidelines, at-risk individuals need to take special precautions to avoid unpasteurized
(raw) juice or milk, or foods made from unpasteurized milk, like some soft cheeses such as Feta and queso blanco. Additionally, raw sprouts can carry harmful bacteria and should be avoided. The Dietary Guidelines also
recommend that consumers reheat deli and luncheon meats and hot dogs to steaming hot in order to kill Listeria-
the bacteria that causes listeriosis.
"Foodborne illness is a serious issue for Americans. Fortunately, taking simple steps like those found on can significantly reduce this risk and help keep families healthy and safe," said Joan Menke-Schaenzer, chief global quality officer for ConAgra Foods.
A downloadable chart of safe minimum internal temperatures of foods and more information on preventing foodborne illness can be found at
Interviews with ADA Spokespeople and English and Spanish public service announcements can be secured by contacting
The American Dietetic Association is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. ADA is committed to improving the nation's health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the American Dietetic Association at
ConAgra Foods, Inc., (NYSE: CAG) is one of North America's leading food companies, with brands in 97 percent of America's households. Consumers find Banquet, Chef Boyardee, Egg Beaters, Healthy Choice, Hebrew National, Hunt's, Marie Callender's, Orville Redenbacher's, PAM, Peter Pan, Reddi-wip, Slim Jim, Snack Pack and many other ConAgra Foods brands in grocery, convenience, mass merchandise and club stores. ConAgra Foods also has a strong business-to-business presence, supplying frozen potato and sweet potato products as well as other vegetable, spice and grain products to a variety of well-known restaurants, foodservice operators and commercial customers. For more information, please visit us at

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