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WHO Warns of 'More Serious' Food Safety Problem in Japan?
By Lisa Flam (21, Mar, 2011)

With elevated amounts of radiation detected in some produce and milk in Japan, the World Health Organization said today that the food safety situation there "quite clearly" is more serious than it first believed.
The Japanese government halted shipments of milk from one area of the country and spinach from another on Sunday, according to The Associated Press, and two other crops -- canola and chrysanthemum greens -- were also found to be tainted.
While the World Health Organization was initially concerned about produce originating from within 18 miles of Japan's crippled nuclear plant, which has leaked radiation, milk from cows farther away and spinach from about 75 miles away was affected, Peter Cordingley, the Manila-based spokesman for the organization's office for the Western Pacific, told CNN.
"Quite clearly, it is not what we thought in the early stages. It is more serious," he said. "We have seen Japanese people in grocery stores paying close attention to where their produce is coming from, and we think this is a wise practice."
Tsunami Relief: Network for Good
The organization thought any food contamination problems would be limited. "It's safe to suppose that some contaminated produce got out of the contamination zone," Cordingley told Reuters.
The radiation has left food shoppers wary.
"It doesn't look like a short-term issue," Phil Knall, who lives in Tokyo, told CNN. "I'm definitely concerned about the food that is going to be shipped out from now. I'm definitely thinking about it."
Fears about the food and drinking supply have grown in the days after the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan, which damaged multiple reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant and caused some radiation to leak.
There's no sign that tainted Japanese food has reached other countries, Cordingley told Reuters, though China and South Korea have toughened inspections of imported foods from Japan, and some companies were dropping Japanese food from certain areas.
China will monitor imported food for radiation, Reuters reported, citing the Chinese state news agency, Xinhua.
"Japan's nuclear leak has sounded an alarm bell for the international community about the safety of nuclear energy," Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said in a speech today, Reuters reported.
And South Korea, which had been inspecting fresh produce from Japan, said it would expand monitoring to include processed and dried foods from the country, the news agency said.
Japanese authorities were handing out bottled water to people in a village about 20 miles from the nuclear plant, because the tap water was found to have radioactive iodine-131, The Wall Street Journal reported. The level would be harmful over time but was not high enough to cause an immediate health risk, authorities said.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the water was OK to use for bathing and other non-consumption purposes, CNN reported. "This level is reportedly going down now," he said.
Edano also reiterated his belief that the amount of radiation found in food, though higher than legal limits, does not pose an immediate health threat, but would be more worrisome if eaten repeatedly over a lifetime, CNN reported.
The concern was great enough for some Asian stores and restaurants to drop food from Japan from their offerings.

FDA Will Monitor Japanese-Made Drugs as Well as Food for Radiation
Source :
By Katherine Hobson (21, Mar, 2011)

The FDA is going to monitor pharmaceuticals made in Japan - as well as food products - for any signs of elevated radiation levels, a spokeswoman for the agency tells us.
On Thursday we reported that the FDA would monitor future imports of fish, other food products and raw materials that originate or pass through Japan in transit to the U.S. Pharmaceutical products will also be monitored, the spokeswoman says.
Imports from Japan make up only a small fraction of the roughly $300 billion the U.S. spends on prescription drugs every year.
Internally, Japan is halting some food shipments after detecting higher-than-normal levels of radiation in spinach, rapeseed and milk. The government also found abnormally high radiation in tap water in certain areas. Levels aren't enough to immediately threaten health, but the water could be harmful if it were consumed over a long period of time, a health ministry official told the WSJ.
Seafood, snack foods and processed fruits and veggies are the most common food imports from Japan, which make up less than 4% of food imported to the U.S. from all sources.
Despite the hullabaloo over radiation, the primary public-health threat in Japan stems from the devastation wrought by the earthquake and tsunami - not the nuclear-plant disaster, Forbes's The Medicine Show blog reports.

New EU figures reveal big increase in listeriosis cases in 2009
Source :
By Guy Montague-Jones (23, Mar, 2011)

Listeria infections in the EU were up 19 per cent in 2009, resulting in 270 deaths from listeriosis, according to a new report.
The annual figures on food borne pathogens from European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) gave a mixed picture of food safety progress in Europe.

Listeria infections increased the most in 2009, rising to 1645 confirmed cases. EFSA said 270 people died as a result from listeriosis, representing a 17 per cent fatality rate.
ECDC told that work is planned to review existing Listeria controls and assess risk factors.
"At present, the risk of exposure to Listeria is controlled by EU-wide microbiological criteria for restricted levels of Listeria bacteria in ready-to-eat food products.
"However, these criteria are to be reviewed while more studies are needed to assess other factors (like consumption habits of elderly) that may influence on the risk of infection."
Campylobacteriosis cases in humans were also up in 2009, increasing 4 per cent to 190,566. The pathogen Campylobacter, which is most commonly found in raw poultry meat, can cause diarrhea and fever. It is the most reported disease that is transmitted from animals to humans.
Salmonella success story
More encouragingly, the number of Salmonella infections in humans fell for the fifth year in a row. Salmonellosis cases, which usually involve fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps, fell 17 per cent in 2009 to 108,614.
John Dalli, Commissioner in charge of Health and Consumer Policy said: "The EU has made great strides in its battle against Salmonella and the consistent fall in the number of cases is testament to the strong, comprehensive measures put in place by the Member States to tackle this disease."
The joint EFSA and ECDC report said the European Commission reduction targets for Salmonella are most likely to be the main reason for the reduced number of cases.
The 2003 Regulation (EC) No 2160/2003 paved the way for control programmes and targets that made Salmonella a priority.
The figures in the report relate to 2009. EFSA said the figures are released now because they are first collected by member states are then compiled and sent to EFSA before being analysed and collected into a single report.

Canadian inspection agency gets additional $100 million
Source :
By Sarah Schmidt, Postmedia News (23, Mar, 2011)

The Conservative government pledged Tuesday to boost spending on Canada's food inspection system by $100 million over the next five years.
The additional money for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is needed to fix problems flagged in 2009 after a deadly listeriosis outbreak, the government said.
Independent investigator Sheila Weatherill identified a series of food-safety gaps in Canada -including a void in leadership within the federal government -that helped contribute to a listeriosis outbreak in 2008 that left 22 Canadians dead.
They had all consumed tainted deli meats produced at a federally inspected plant in Toronto, operated by Maple Leaf Foods.
"This initiative will enable the government to complete its response to all of the recommendations of the Weatherill Report through targeted investments in inspector training, additional science capacity, and electronic tools to support the work of front-line inspectors," the budget states.
Before Tuesday's announcement, the CFIA expected a decrease in its budget for work on food safety and nutrition risks for the upcoming fiscal year compared to two years ago.
In 2009-10, the agency spent $270.5 million on food safety and nutrition risks.
The CFIA's main estimates for 2011-12, published in February, estimated $258 million for food safety and nutrition risks.
Tuesday's $100-million pledge over five years to improve food inspection capacity comes after the government allocated another $75 million in 2009 to help implement Weatherill's recommendations.
That was shared among CFIA, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada. Following this initial investment in 2009, meat inspectors complained there still weren't enough front-line inspectors at processing plants.

14 Ill in E. coli Outbreak Tied to Beef Bologna
Source :
By Mary Rothschild (23, Mar, 2011)

Fourteen people in three states have been sickened with E. coli O157:H7 in an outbreak linked to beef bologna.
As a result, the Pennsylvania-based Palmyra Bologna Co. is recalling approximately 23,000 pounds of Lebanon bologna that may be contaminated with E. coli, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced Tuesday.
Lebanon bologna is named after a county in Pennsylvania. It is a fermented, semi-dry sausage similar in appearance to salami.
In a news release, FSIS said the four case patients are from New Jersey, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. The onset of their illnesses ranged from Jan. 28 to Feb. 2. FSIS was notified of the outbreak cluster on March 10 and has been working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state public health partners in investigating the outbreak.
This is not the first foodborne illness outbreak associated with the Palmyra company's sausage.
In 1995, 26 people became ill with Salmonella Typhimurium in south central Pennsylvania in an outbreak traced to the consumption of Lebanon bologna.
Because the product is not heat treated to temperatures that would kill dangerous bacteria in the raw meat, a combination of process controls must be followed to ensure that the product is safe to eat. Regulators investigating the 1995 outbreak said poor record keeping prevented them from evaluating the manufacturer's processes.
In the current recall, the product packaging for consumers involves the following:
--6-ounce packages of "SELTZER'S BEEF LEBANON BOLOGNA" with lot code "01351" and best-by date of "Apr. 20 2011" printed on the package.
--12-ounce packages of "SELTZER'S BEEF LEBANON BOLOGNA" with lot code "01351" and best-by dates of "Apr. 20 2011" or "Apr. 21 2011" printed on the package.
--16-ounce packages of "SELTZER'S BEEF LEBANON BOLOGNA" with lot code "01351" and best-by date of "Apr. 22 2011" printed on the package.
Each package bears a label with establishment number "EST. 474" inside the USDA mark of inspection, in addition to lot code "01351" and the best-by date as noted above. The recalled products were produced in December 2010 and shipped to distribution centers in California, Colorado, Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania for further distribution to retail stores.
The product packaging for retailers includes:
--Whole chub packages of "SELTZER'S BEEF LEBANON BOLOGNA" with lot codes "01351" or "06337" and best-by date of "Feb. 14 2011," "Feb. 15 2011," "Feb. 16 2011," or "Feb. 28 2011" printed on the package.
--Half chub packages of "SELTZER'S BEEF LEBANON BOLOGNA" with lot codes "01351" or "06337" and best-by date of "Apr. 6 2011," "Apr. 7 2011," "Apr. 16 2011," or "Apr. 19 2011," printed on the package.
--12-pound bulk boxes of sliced "SELTZER'S BEEF LEBANON BOLOGNA" with lot code "01351" and best-by date of "Apr. 21 2011" printed on the package.
Each package bears a label with establishment number "EST. 474" inside the USDA mark of inspection, in addition to either lot code "06337" or "01351." They were sold to retailers and may have been further sliced and repackaged at retail. The products being recalled were produced in December 2010 and sent to distribution centers in California, Colorado, Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania for further distribution to retail stores.
When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on FSIS' website.
E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and in the most severe cases, kidney failure.

George Packing hazelnuts suspected in E. coli outbreak
Source :
By Amanda Newman (12, Mar, 2011)

Hazelnuts packed by Newberg-based George Packing Co. were recalled last week after being linked to several cases of E. coli in the Midwest, but so far it's unclear where and when the nuts became contaminated.
In fact, it wasn't until Wednesday that the nuts were positively identified as containing the bacteria and George Packing officials say that while they have cooperated with the investigation from the start, they are still not convinced all the E. coli cases were caused by hazelnuts.
Los Angeles-based repacking company DeFranco & Sons issued the voluntary recall March 5 after their products were linked to seven cases of E. coli that surfaced over December and January in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The company recalled bulk and consumer-packaged in-shell hazelnuts and mixed-nut products containing in-shell hazelnuts.
All the hazelnuts subject to the recall came from George Packing and bore the Sunripe brand name, said Richard DeFranco, an owner of the repacking company. But as of Thursday, none of the recalled nuts had been located and the scope of the recall could not be identified.
"We're one of the smallest players on the totem pole and we don't sell too much," DeFranco said. "So far, nothing's come back ... it's pretty vague right now."
He said the company is scarcely even receiving calls about the recall.
Siobhan DeLancey, spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health and agricultural agencies in the affected states to investigate the E. coli outbreak, said in an e-mail that the investigation is ongoing and there is currently little information available.
The nuts subject to the recall were primarily distributed in Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, she said. According to the FDA, ,they may also have been distributed elsewhere in the United States and in Canada.
George Packing has come under fire this week based on media reports that the company had refused to provide the FDA with a list of its farmer suppliers, but company officials said that information is inaccurate and misleading.
"The FDA, by law, has to give us written notice of what they were looking for," said Shaun George of George Packing, explaining the delay - which he said lasted maybe a day - in the company's releasing the supplier information. The company complied with the investigation and gave investigators full access to their plant from the start, he said, but wouldn't involve their suppliers until the correct legal procedures had been followed. The FDA has since sent the formal letter and the information was released, George said.
DeLancey declined to comment on that situation. She said the FDA can demand records if there is a threat of a "serious adverse health consequence or death to humans or animals," but couldn't say whether the FDA had made that request.
Confirmation of the nuts' contamination came Wednesday with a notice from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) that its laboratory had confirmed E. coli contamination of in-shell hazelnuts collected from the home of an ill Minnesota resident.
The Minnesota Department of Health confirmed that the bacteria found on the hazelnuts tested in the lab matched the DNA fingerprint of the bacteria that caused the illnesses. MDA traced the product to a Dec. 9, 2010, shipment from DeFranco & Sons.
However, George said he has been told that the ill person whose nuts were tested did not have the same strain of E. coli as the others and he continues to hope Oregon hazelnuts will be cleared in the outbreak.
DeFranco & Sons has recalled nuts it distributed from Nov. 22 to Dec. 22, but Richard DeFranco said it will be difficult to find the nuts in question. As they are considered largely a holiday product, many have already been sold to consumers. The remainder are mostly being sold in bulk, loose-pack bins and may have been combined with other nut products, which makes identification difficult.
He said he has no idea at what point of the harvesting, packing and distributing process the nuts might have been contaminated. Nuts at the DeFranco & Sons and George Packing facilities have been tested for the bacteria, but the results in both cases were negative. DeFranco & Sons and George Packing officials said neither company has had issues with E. coli contamination in the past.
George said that although investigators were at his company's plant all week, "it doesn't look like the FDA is very interested in George Packing right now."
He explained that the bacteria was a bovine derivative E. coli usually associated with feed lots primarily found in the Midwest. "We're trying to find out in what point in the process there might have been feed lot contamination," he said, later adding, "It does look like more and more evidence is pointing away from hazelnuts altogether."
According to the FDA, young children, frail or elderly people and others with weakened immune systems are most at risk for serious and possibly fatal infections from E. coli. Symptoms include diarrhea and abdominal cramps. The illness can result hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure, but according to the CDC no cases have been reported in connection with the outbreak.
The FDA became aware of the outbreak in late February. They have shared information about the situation with Canadian authorities, as two cases of E. coli illnesses have been identified there; the Canadian illnesses had not been linked to the Midwest cases as of Monday.
The Willamette Valley is home to 99 percent of the nation's hazelnut industry. In 2010, the industry saw $34.2 million in gross sales, with hazelnuts hitting a near-record price of $1.07 per pound, according to an Oregon State University report.

Cheese Factory Halts Production Due to E. coli Risk
Source :
By Bill Marler (19, Mar, 2011)

The Tillamook Cheese Factory halted production and stopped serving food Friday and Saturday after fecal coliform and E. coli bacteria were found in the local water supply. The Kilchis Regional Water System, which includes the cheese factory, Bay City, Northwood, Latimer and Juno, was under a boil water alert after the contaminants were detected March 17.
"The presence of fecal coliforms and E. coli bacteria indicates the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes," the Tillamook County Emergency Management statement read. "Microbes in these wastes can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, or other symptoms."
Drinking the water without first boiling it could pose a special health risk for infants, young children, and people with compromised immune systems, according to the statement. The boil water alert ended Saturday afternoon. TCEM released a statement assuring residents the water was safe to drink. The Tillamook Cheese Factory was open throughout the duration of the boil water alert, but did not serve food and retained only limited staff on the premises.

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