Comprehensive News List
General Food Safety News/ Outbreak News/ Recall News/ New Methods News/
/ On-Line Slides/ Job Information/Internet Journal of Food Safety



Sponsorship Q/A

Click here
to go
Main Page


Click here
to go
List of Newsletters

To subscribe this Food Safety Newsletter,
Click here


Job Opennings


Radiation and Japanese food safety
Source :
By Pauline Chiou (17, Mar, 2011)

My 10-month old daughter loves hard boiled eggs. I buy Japanese eggs to mix into her solids. Here in Hong Kong, I go to Japanese supermarkets to do my grocery shopping. I trust the quality. Then a relative from abroad called this week and asked if I was certain Japanese produce was safe.

Well, that's a tough question to answer at this point. I do know it's a question a lot of families are starting to ask.

Japanese food is hugely popular worldwide, stocking shelves at high-end stores around Asia and specialty shops in Europe and the U.S. Governments are taking precautions by doing thorough inspections of Japanese produce. Hong Kong's Center for Food Safety has already conducted radiation tests on at least 34 samples of fresh vegetables, meat and fish from Japan. The center reports all test results were satisfactory.

"As far as radiation is concerned, I think the most at-risk articles are those fresh products, perhaps dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables," said Dr. York Chow, Hong Kong's Secretary for Food and Health, at a news conference earlier this week. "In case we detect anything, of course, we will ban those products from Hong Kong."

Thailand's government is focusing on Japanese imports of meat, milk, fish and seaweed. A radiation physicist from the Office of Atoms for Peace has told CNN the agency will work with Thailand's Health Ministry to do random checks of imported food from Japan. On Tuesday, India also ordered radiation tests of Japanese food at its ports and airports. Only food originating from Japan after March 11 will be tested.

Paul Yang lives in Tokyo, where he grew up, and is a father with two young children. He and his wife are not changing their family's eating habits, he said.

"I am not worried about the safety of Japanese produce," Yang said. "The majority of farm produce and agricultural products come from warmer areas, therefore further away from the Fukushima area (where the nuclear reactor is)."

"Also, many of the products are labeled with their origin of production so we would know if it is from Fukushima. Right now, the radiation level within 20 to 30 kilometers (12 miles to 18.6 miles) of Fukushima is high, but as soon as you move away from the origin of radiation, the effects of it fall dramatically, actually exponentially," Yang says. "The closest location that produces significant amounts (of fresh produce) for Tokyo, for example, is Chiba or Ibaraki prefectures, which is approximately 150 to 200 kilometers (93 miles to 124 miles) from Fukushima."

While Yang is not worried, the perception of possibly tainted produce is already having a knock-on effect. Kirby Daley, senior strategist of Newedge Group, said this week on CNN's World Business Today program: "We're already hearing talk in our office about women stopping to buy Japanese cosmetics. We're talking about Japanese food imports being stopped and we're not going to be trusting the sushi.

"These are all anecdotal, but this is what will weigh on the economy for a long time," Daley said. "And the economy is not that strong to start with."

Peter McGuire, an independent market strategist based in Australia, says it's too early to say whether the quality of Japanese food will change because many products shipped before the earthquake are still on store shelves. "We just have to see the severity of this. It's so hard to speculate." One item that's selling out: Japanese baby formula. In Hong Kong, many parents bought extra boxes of the formula manufactured before Friday's earthquake and tsunami.

Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director of Center for Science in the Public Interest in the United States, answered various questions from CNN via email. She says she is not concerned about Japan's food safety for two main reasons: 1) Japan is a net importer of food and 2) Japan has one of the best food safety systems in the world.

De Waal also compared today's Fukushima situation with the 1986 Chernobyl accident and its impact on food.

"Following the 1986 Chernobyl accident, the U.S. tested nearly 8900 samples of both animal and non-animal based imported foods coming from the affected area over a five year period," De Waal said. "They found 1.4% (of imported foods) were contaminated above the regulatory limits, with the majority of these being in the animal products side. They also tested samples of food from U.S. Embassies in the region and found the highest numbers of positive samples in vegetables (both leafy and non-leafy), some fruit and spices.

"Chernobyl was a much worse disaster, as the cloud went over a large agricultural area of Europe. Therefore, these findings are illustrative of a worse case scenario, not the current situation involving food exports from Japan."

She does caution that the most vulnerable agricultural sectors during a nuclear emergency are dairy and vegetables. "It is important that all food animals in the affected areas be sheltered along with their food and water sources," DeWaal said. Cooking or boiling radiation-contaminated food does not make the food safe to eat, she said.

Most experts seem to be in agreement that the biggest confidence-builder is Japan's strict food regulations. Jean-Yves Chow, a senior food and agribusiness research analyst at Rabobank International, says Japan's food safety standards are "one of the highest in the world." But Chow does add, "In food safety, zero risk does not exist."

Food safety preparation for tsunami warnings along West Coast
Source :
(11, Mar, 2011)

With tsunami warnings and advisories issued for Hawaii and the U.S. West Coast, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is providing recommendations to residents in those areas to minimize the potential for foodborne illnesses due to power outages and other problems often associated with flooding. FSIS wants the public to be prepared in case of flooding and high surf.
"Possible flood waters and related disruptions to power can have a serious impact on food safety and could become a critical public health issue," said FSIS Administrator Al Almanza. "With a little bit of advance planning, people can make sure they have access to safe food and water even in the aftermath of a severe event."
Steps to follow to prepare for a possible weather emergency:
" Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer. An appliance thermometer will indicate the temperature inside the refrigerator and freezer in case of a power outage and help determine the safety of the food.
" Make sure the freezer is at 0¡ÆF or below and the refrigerator is at 40¡ÆF or below.
" Freeze containers of water for ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator or coolers after the power is out.
" Freeze refrigerated items such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately - this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
" Plan ahead and know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased.
" Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than 4 hours. Purchase or make ice cubes and store in the freezer for use in the refrigerator or in a cooler. Freeze gel packs ahead of time for use in coolers.
" Group food together in the freezer - this helps the food stay cold longer.
" Store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water in case of flooding.
Steps to follow after the weather emergency:
" Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water. Discard wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers.
" Thoroughly wash all metal pans, ceramic dishes and utensils that came in contact with flood water with hot soapy water and sanitize by boiling them in clean water or by immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water.
" Undamaged, commercially prepared foods in all-metal cans and retort pouches (for example, flexible, shelf-stable juice or seafood pouches) can be saved. Follow the Steps to Salvage All-Metal Cans and Retort Pouches in the publication "Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency" at:
" Use bottled water that has not been exposed to flood waters. If bottled water is not available, tap water can be boiled for safety. For more information on drinking water safely during weather emergencies, access the FSIS publication "Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency" at:
" Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
" The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) and the door remains closed.
" Discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers and deli items after 4 hours without power.
" Food may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40¡ÆF or below when checked with a food thermometer.
" Never taste a food to determine its safety!
" Obtain dry or block ice to keep your refrigerator and freezer as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time. Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18-cubic-foot full freezer for 2 days.
" If the power has been out for several days, check the temperature of the freezer with an appliance thermometer. If the appliance thermometer reads 40¡ÆF or below, the food is safe to refreeze.
" If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine its safety. If the food still contains ice crystals, the food is safe.
" When in Doubt, Throw it Out!

USDA Updates Salmonella Testing Standards
Source :
By Feed (16, Mar, 2011)

Some deficiencies corrected, but transparency a problem with new salmonella "report card"
Statement by Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Watch
Washington, D.C. - "Food & Water Watch is pleased that the USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service has finally updated the performance standards for salmonella in young chicken and turkey establishments, but there is more the agency should do to strengthen this program. We are also encouraged that FSIS has established a new performance standard for campylobacter in broiler chickens and turkey. Food & Water Watch identified deficiencies in the salmonella testing program in reports we released in 2006 and 2008. We are pleased to see that the agency has acted to correct some of these deficiencies in reporting testing results.
"In 1996, the federal government instituted major changes in the meat inspection system by creating the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system. Under HACCP, FSIS inspectors shifted to an auditing role and have less authority to require corrective action when they see a problem. As part of HACCP, the agency launched its salmonella testing program, which it touts as an indicator of the effectiveness of meat companies' food safety procedures. One of the tenets of the HACCP program was that microbial performance standards would be updated regularly. But the salmonella standard that is updated by today's announcement has been in use since 1998. We urge the agency to regularly revise the salmonella standard and new campylobacter standard in the future.
"In addition to updating the standards regularly, there is still more the agency should do. We are concerned that the agency's salmonella "report card" will not be as transparent as the one currently used on the agency's website. In fact, we urge the agency to post the results from all plants - those that fail to meet performance standards, as well as those that marginally pass and those that exceed the standard. A pass/fail listing is not good enough.
"The agency's decision not to post the results of campylobacter test results by plant will deprive the public of vital information about companies' progress in reducing this pathogen. Not releasing the plant specific results will force groups like us to use the Freedom of Information Act to seek these results and share them with the public.
"Even when companies fail to meet these performance standard, FSIS does not have the legal authority to shut down the plants or take other enforcement action. It is past time for the agency to seek legislation to make these microbial performance standards enforceable."

Drinking Raw Milk: More Details on the Risks
Source :
By Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (10, Mar, 2011)

Why focus on raw milk? What about other foods that have made people sick?
We get a lot of questions from people who are trying to decide whether or not to drink raw milk, and we want to provide them with science-based information on the risks of drinking raw milk.
I work with the group at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that investigates outbreaks of foodborne illnesses caused by germs like Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 (a dangerous form of E. coli). Over the years, we have collected extensive data based on experience investigating these outbreaks. Many different foods have been associated with recent outbreaks, such as unpasteurized juice and cider, eggs, and sprouts.
When determining if one food is riskier than another, it is important to understand how many people consume that food. For example, did you know that an estimated 4 percent of dairy products consumed in the United States are unpasteurized, based on a 2006-2007 FoodNet Population Survey, yet more than half of dairy-associated outbreaks are linked to raw milk products?
I know people who have been drinking raw milk for years, and it's never made them sick. Why is that?
Several things can affect whether or not a person becomes sick after consuming a contaminated food or drink. These include the number and type of germs contaminating the food or drink, as well as the immune defenses of the person who consumes the food or drink.
The presence of germs in raw milk is unpredictable. The number of disease-causing germs in the raw milk may be too low to make a person sick at first, but the germs may later multiply so that there are enough to make the same person seriously ill. As seen in these videos, for some people, drinking contaminated raw milk just once could make them really sick; for others, illness comes after years of drinking raw milk.
I've heard that raw milk has enzymes that kill dangerous bacteria. Is that true?
No, the enzymes in raw milk are not strong enough to kill dangerous bacteria. In the United States, pasteurization is the only method routinely used to eliminate disease-causing organisms in milk.
My farmer has set up humane and sanitary conditions for raising his animals and producing raw milk. His animals are really healthy. Doesn't this ensure that his milk is safe?
Even animals that appear healthy and clean may carry germs that can contaminate milk. Adhering to good hygienic practices during milking can reduce the risk of contaminating the milk, but it doesn't eliminate it. If the milk is raw, small numbers of bacteria might multiply and grow in the milk before someone drinks it. No matter what precautions the farmer takes, it's impossible to guarantee that raw milk is free of harmful germs.
What about raw milk that's been laboratory tested for bacteria?
Negative tests do not guarantee that raw milk is safe to drink. People have become very sick from drinking raw milk that came from farms that regularly tested their milk for bacteria, and whose owners were sure that their milk was safe.
What are the statistics on outbreaks of illness related to raw milk?
Among outbreaks of illness transmitted by dairy products reported to CDC between 1973 and 2008 in which the investigators reported whether the dairy product was pasteurized or raw, 82 percent were due to raw milk or cheese. From 1998 through 2008, 86 outbreaks due to consumption of raw milk or raw milk products were reported to CDC. These outbreaks resulted in 1,676 illnesses, 191 hospitalizations, and 2 deaths.
The data that concerns me the most is about the impact on children: among these 86 raw dairy product outbreaks, 79 percent involved at least one person under the age of 20. These illnesses, which are entirely preventable, can be severe or even life-threatening.
Keep in mind that reported outbreaks represent the tip of the iceberg. For every outbreak and every illness reported, many others occur, and most illnesses are not part of recognized outbreaks.
Can outbreaks be caused by pasteurized milk products?
Pasteurized milk and cheese products can cause outbreaks, but these are usually due to contamination that occurs after the pasteurization process. Also, the most common germ that affects pasteurized milk products is norovirus, which is typically spread from one person to another, not from animals to people. This is different from the germs that can most often contaminate raw milk like Salmonella and E. coli O157 H7, which are spread from animals to people. Also illness from norovirus typically lasts for only 2 days, whereas illness from Salmonella and E. coli is usually more serious.

Mineral oil risk: Nestle looks for new recycled paper grades

Source :
By Jane Byrne (14, Mar, 2011)

Nestl? said it is collaborating with paper manufacturers to evaluate different approaches for developing "new grades of recycled paper" in light of concerns about migration oil leakage into foods from packaging using newspaper based recycled board.
One promising approach is a better selection of waste material to exclude newsprint, said Hilary Green, head of R&D communications at the Swiss food giant, who added that the potential risk posed by mineral oils leaching from recycled cardboard into foods has been on the radar of packaging scientists at Nestl? "for some time".
And Nestl?, she told today, has applied internal standards to ensure that such migration is avoided.
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.
The BBC reported last week that other breakfast cereal manufacturers - Weetabix, Kellogg's and Jordans - have all taken steps to change to recycled packaging that does not contain inks and chemicals used in newspaper production amid migration concerns.
And, according to the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI), the paper and board sectors are investigating ways to phase out materials containing the mineral oils.
Recycled packaging policy
Nestl?, commented Green, promotes the use of recycled paper/board and other materials from sustainable resource where it makes sense and when there is no risk of migration that would pose a risk to human health or have a detrimental effect on the food.
And, continued the R&D spokesperson, it has had a policy on the use of recycled paper/board in contact with food for over 10 years, which is "continually updated as new knowledge becomes available.
Green added: "Nestl?'s policy is to use recycled paper/board only from post industrial waste from the first recycling step (virgin fibre) or higher grades for packaging that is in direct or indirect contact with dry food (and no fat on the surface)."
In addition, she said that Nestl? recommends the use of low migration inks where there is no barrier material such as aluminium foil protecting the product and that it does not allow the use of recycled paper/ for packaging foods that have a fatty surface such as chocolate unless there is a functional barrier between the foodstuff and the paper/board.
Potential health hazard
Research published last year from Dr Koni Grob at a government-run food safety laboratory in Zurich showed the possible health threat from mineral oils coming from inks and chemicals used in newspaper production.
He found that 75 per cent of 119 food products from a German store contained mineral oils. Of these, most exceeded the EU safe limit of 0.6mg per kg by more than 10 times. But items left on the shelves for longer periods could eventually exceed limits by up to 100 times, estimated Grob. Mineral oils were also found to penetrate some inner linings.
Long term exposure to mineral oils has been linked to the chronic inflammation of various internal organs and cancer but consumers who eat balanced diets are not believed to be at risk, said Grob.

More than you ever wanted to know about food poisoning, like E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, Campylobacter, Botulism, etc.

Source :
By Bill Marler (13, March, 2011)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 48 million-foodborne illness cases occur in the United States every year. At least 128,000 Americans are hospitalized, and 3,000 die after eating contaminated food. Here are some of the main players:
Botulism is a rare but potentially life-threatening bacterial illness. Clostridium Botulinum bacteria grows on food and produces toxins that, when ingested, cause paralysis. Botulism poisoning is extremely rare, but so dangerous that each case is considered a public health emergency. Studies have shown that there is a 35 to 65 percent chance of death for patients who are not treated immediately and effectively with botulism antitoxin.
Campylobacter jejuni is the most common cause of bacterial foodborne illness in the United States. Over 6,000 cases of Campylobacter infection were reported in 2009 alone, but many cases are not reported to public health authorities. A 2011 report from the CDC estimates that Campylobacter causes approximately 845,000 illnesses in the United States each year.
Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) is a spore-forming, gram-positive anaerobic bacillus that produces two toxins: toxin A and toxin B. These toxins typically cause gastrointestinal disease, often with severe complications. In rare cases, C. difficile-associated disease can be fatal. Although C. difficile bacteria can be present in human intestinal tracts and cause no clinical symptoms (a condition called colonization), some individuals with C. difficile colonization are at increased risk of becoming ill. The most common risk factor for C. difficile-associated disease is exposure to antibiotics, especially those with broad-spectrum activity.
Clostridium perfringens are bacteria that produce toxins harmful to humans. Clostridium perfringens and its toxins are found everywhere in the environment, but human infection is most likely to come from eating food with Clostridium perfringens in it. Food poisoning from Clostridium perfringens fairly common, but is typically not too severe, and is often mistaken for the 24-hour flu.
Cryptosporidium parvum, also known as "Crypto," is a parasite found in food and water that has been contaminated by feces from humans or animals. It is highly resistant to normal levels of chlorine, and can survive in pools and drinking water. People usually get cryptosporidium from swallowing contaminated water, eating contaminated food, or coming into contact with contaminated feces. Ingestion of as few as two to ten cryptosporidium oocysts, or parasites, can cause infection.
Escherichia coli (E. coli) are bacteria that live in human and animal intestines. Shiga toxin-producing strains of E. coli, or STECs, are responsible for most food-related E. coli infections. E. coli O157:H7 and other STECs like E. coli O145 and E. coli O121:H19 produce a toxin called Shiga toxin, which causes illness in humans. E. coli bacteria do not make animals such as livestock and deer, which harbor the bacteria in their intestines, ill.
Hepatitis A is the only common foodborne disease preventable by vaccine. It is one of five hepatitis viruses that infect the liver. While hepatitis B and C can turn into chronic hepatitis, hepatitis A generally does not; although it can lead to liver failure and death. Hepatitis A is rare in the United States, with 30,000 to 50,000 cases occurring each year. However, in most other countries, poorer sanitation systems lead to easier transmission of the disease, and therefore more cases.
Listeria is a bacterium that causes a serious infection called listeriosis. Around 300 deaths are caused by Listeria infection each year, according to estimates from a 2011 CDC report. Listeria bacteria are most commonly found in raw foods. Vegetables can be contaminated by soil and water carrying bacteria. Listeria is also found in raw animal products, such as meat and cheese.
MRSA, or Methicilin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is the form of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (or "staph") that is resistant to antibiotics. Originally a disease contracted only in hospitals, it is now originating in the community as well, and has recently been cited as a source of foodborne illness. About one percent of the population carries MRSA, and the disease infects 32 per 100,000 people in the United States. Around 6 in 10,000 people die from it each year.
Norovirus is the leading cause of gastroenteritis, or what we commonly think of as stomach flu symptoms. It causes 23 million cases of gastroenteritis per year, or over half of all gastroenteritis cases in the U.S., and is the second most common virus after the common cold. Norovirus is usually transmitted from the feces to the mouth, either by drinking contaminated food or water or by passing from person to person. Because noroviruses are easily transmitted, are resistant to common disinfectants, and are hard to contain using normal sanitary measures, they can cause extended outbreaks.
Salmonella is the second most common intestinal infection in the United States. More than 7,000 cases of Salmonella were confirmed in 2009; however the majority of cases go unreported. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 1 million people in the U.S. contract Salmonella each year, and that an average of 20,000 hospitalizations and almost 400 deaths occur from Salmonella poisoning, according to a 2011 report.
Shigella is the bacterium that causes the disease shigellosis, also known as bacillary dysentery. Shigella is one of the most easily transmitted bacterial diarrheas, since it can occur after fewer than 100 bacteria are ingested. While reported cases of Shigella range between 14,000 and 20,000 annually, with the majority of these cases occurring between July and October. Shigella Sonnei is the most common type of Shigella. It accounts for over two-thirds of cases of shigellosis in the United States.

South Carolina firm recalls spaghetti and meatball entrees
Source :
By 49 News Report (14, Mar, 2011)

Nestle Prepared Foods Company, Gaffney, S.C., establishment, is recalling approximately 10,260 pounds of frozen spaghetti and meatball entrees that may contain foreign materials, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced Monday.
The products subject to recall include:
o 9.5-oz. packages of "Lean Cuisine Simple Favorites, Spaghetti with Meatballs."
The packages bear the establishment number "P-7991" and the case code "0298595519P" and a best before date of November, 2011 printed on the side of the package, underneath the ingredient listing. The spaghetti and meatball products were packaged on Oct. 25, 2010, and shipped to distributors and retail stores east of the Rocky Mountains.
The problem was discovered after the company received complaints from consumers in Minn., S.D. and Wisc., upon finding hard plastic in the product. FSIS has not received any reports of injury at this time. Anyone concerned about an injury from consumption of this product should contact a healthcare professional.
FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers.
Consumers and media with questions about the recall should contact Rox O'Hearn, Manager of Marketing Communications at (440) 264-5170, or Bonita Cleveland, Consumer Services Manager, at (440) 264-5194.
Consumers with food safety questions can "Ask Karen," the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from l0 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day.

Main Page
Sponsorship Qustions

ist of Newsletters

To subscribe this Food Safety Newsletter

Copyright (C). All rights reserved