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6/24
2011
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New World-wide E. coli O104:H4 Numbers - As many as 44 dead, 3,798 sickened with 865 with HUS
Source : http://www.marlerblog.com/legal-cases/new-world-wide-e-coli-o104h4-numbers---as-many-as-44-dead-3798-sickened-with-865-with-hus/

By_ Bill Marler ( 23, June , 2011)

As of a few moments ago, the European Union reports a total of 862 HUS cases, including 30 deaths, and 2,930 non-HUS cases, including 13 deaths (see table for distribution per country) linked to E. coli O104:H4 contaminated organic bean sprouts. Germany reports eight additional HUS cases and two new HUS deaths. It also reports 79 additional non-HUS STEC cases and one new non-HUS death. Sweden reports three additional non-HUS STEC cases that visited Germany mid-May. The latest known date of onset of diarrhea for cases is June 16 (see partial Epi-curve from New England Journal of Medicine article) . So far, there have been five confirmed cases (Three with HUS) in the United States connected to the outbreak. Those cases are in Michigan, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and North Carolina. There is also a possible Arizona death linked to the outbreak.
We have been retained by families impacted by this outbreak.

DeLauro Presses OMB on Non-O157 E. coli
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/06/rep-delauro-presses-omb-on-non-o157-e-coli/
By_ Helena Bottemiller (23, Jun , 2011)

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) is asking the White House Office of Management and Budget to move on a proposal to allow USDA to regulate additional strains of E. coli, beyond the most well-known E. coli O157:H7.
DeLauro sent a formal letter Wednesday to the director of OMB, Jacob Lew, calling for action on the Food Safety and Inspection Service proposal to regulate six more dangerous strains of E.coli. The FSIS proposal under review at OMB has not been made public, but food safety experts expect that the proposal could declare the "Big Six" adulterants or require testing or other interventions.
"This proposed rule has the potential to protect the health of American consumers from preventable and costly foodborne disease because of certain E. coli serotypes," writes DeLauro, noting that since USDA declared E. coli O157:H7 a pathogen in 1994, it has become clear that there are additional strains of disease-causing E. coli that are hazardous to public health. The CDC estimates that the six Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STECs) under consideration cause approximately 113,000 illnesses and 300 hospitalizations annually in the United States.
DeLauro points to "devastating health consequences" associated Shiga toxin-producing E. coli: Severe abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, kidney failure, and blindness, as well as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which is recognized as the leading cause of acute kidney failure in young children, including infants.
"I am disturbed by the reports that suggest OMB has held up action on this proposal and even more concerned about reports that the Agency may be working to indefinitely delay consideration or fundamentally change the proposal at the urging of those who argue that the action is a threat to financial interests," continues DeLauro in the letter. "As the public health agency of the USDA, FSIS should not be deterred from its work to protect the public health from known risks in the meat and poultry supply."
On a call with reporters last week, DeLauro said she was personally pressuring OMB to move forward on the proposal. "It's a rule that quite frankly is sitting at OMB," said DeLauro, who accused the meat industry of fighting the rule.
"We know what's happened in Germany ... it's a different strain," she added, when asked about the catastrophic Germany E. coli O104:H4 outbreak "We need to be aggressively looking at the other strains."
The foodborne illness crisis in Germany, which is now the most deadly on record, comes on the heels of an E. coli O111 outbreak last month in Japan. That outbreak -- which sickened 90 people, left 23 with hemolytic uremic syndrome, and killed four -- was tied to a raw beef dish called yukhoe, similar to tartare, popular at barbecue restaurants.
"The tragedies in Germany and Japan should serve as a wakeup call to governments and businesses worldwide. The U.S. is seeing more and more E. coli outbreaks from non-O157 strains," said Bill Marler, managing partner at Marler Clark (publisher of Food Safety News) in a recent statement. Marler's firm originally petitioned FSIS to regulate STECs in October 2009.
In Northeast Tennessee, federal and state public health officials are investigating outbreaks involving E. coli O157:H7, E. coli O103, and E. coli O169.

New Salmonella Test Improves Food Safety
Source : http://www.foodproductdesign.com/news/2011/06/new-salmonella-test-improves-food-safety.aspx
(22, Jun, 2011)

bioM?rieux unveiled VIDAS¢ç UP Salmonella (SPT), a new food-safety testing technology for targeted capture and detection of Salmonella in food and environmental samples that uses a simple, one-step sample preparation delivers results in as little as 19 hours as compared to reference methods that require up to three days.
The new VIDAS SPT assay utilizes recombinant bacteriophage (phage) protein technology that can detect low levels of contamination by Salmonella and is one of the most rapid and easy-to-use diagnostic tools available for the screening of Salmonella in environmental samples, standard and large-size food samples. The new solution complements the company's VIDAS E. coli O157 (including H7) phage technology for the detection of Escherichia coli O157:H7.
"The issue of food safety is a significant public health concern globally, and food producers and manufacturers are in need of more advanced, comprehensive and science-based approaches to ensuring the safety of their products," said Jean-Marc Durano, corporate vice president, Industrial Microbiology, bioM?rieux. "VIDAS SPT, the latest addition to the VIDAS UP range, provides optimum performance to help simplify agri-food laboratories' workflow and deliver rapid information to maximize the overall efficiency of food production."
Dr. Lawrence Goodridge, associate professor of food microbiology, Colorado State University, said food pathogen detection methods utilizing bacteriophage technology can provide food producers with the ability to detect bacterial pathogens present in their products with unprecedented speed and reliability, which is critical to reducing the magnitude and severity of foodborne illness caused by the consumption of foods contaminated with dangerous bacteria."

Quality of nano toxicity data is 'not great', says expert
Source : http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/On-your-radar/Food-safety/Quality-of-nano-toxicity-data-is-not-great-says-expert
By Elaine Watson (22, Jun, 2011)

The limited nature of many toxicity studies into engineered nanoparticles used in the food and dietary supplements industry makes it very difficult to draw firm conclusions about their safety, according to one expert in the field.

Speaking at the IFT show last week, Dr Bernadene Magnuson, senior scientific and regulatory consultant at Cantox Health Sciences International, said an analysis of 30 studies toxicity studies into engineered nanoparticles highlighted gaps in the research and methodological problems.
For example, most in vivo tests were high, single-dose, acute studies, which were of "limited relevance to food exposure", which should examine the impact of repeated low doses over a long period of time, she argued.
"There are a few short-term repeated dose studies, but no long-term, chronic studies. In general, the reliability of the data from nanomaterial toxicology studies is not great.
"We need to improve characterization and the quality of the studies," added Magnuson, a toxicologist best known for her work on assessing the safety of aspartame.
Testing methodologies must be validated
Meanwhile, many in vitro test results were equally unreliable because the nanomaterials in question could interfere with optical or other detector measurements and with colorimetric and fluorometric dyes used in cell cytotoxicity tests, she pointed out. "They can also interfere with assays for measurement of reactive oxygen species."
Some nanomaterials could also adsorb essential growth factors and nutrients from the growth media, "leading to non-specific indirect growth inhibition and apparent cytotoxicity", she added.
"You have to ask: Did the nanomaterial interfere with the assay itself? These tests must be validated."
What was missing was reliable data on the detection and quantification of nanomaterials in tissues, especially those with multiple components that may not be stable in vivo, she said.
More research looking at the incorporation of nanomaterials in food matrices was also needed to find out whether they adhered to proteins or other food components in ways that could not be predicted from studying them in isolation, she said.
"We need studies on the effect of food matrices on the bioavailability of nanomaterials."
Nanotechnology definitions
Several factors needed to be taken into consideration when considering whether a nanomaterial potentially raised any safety issues, she said, notably persistence/bio-accumulation in the body, anti-microbial activity; level of reactivity, complex morphology; and interaction with biomolecules such as proteins.
Therefore, the recent guidance document from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which said regulators would consider a range of factors as well as size in assessing nanomaterials, was welcome, she said.
"It's really useful to have something in writing."
FDA on nano labeling and legislation
Whether labels were advisable to alert consumers to products made using nanotechnology was a more difficult question, she said. "Then the scope of any legal definition would become very important. If you were just looking at size, you'd have to label milk, which would be very confusing to the consumer."
When asked by FoodNavigator-USA.com whether a legal definition of nanomaterials was expected soon, or whether the FDA believed a nano labeling regime was required, a spokesman said it was too early to say.
He added: "At this time, the agency is seeking public comment on the points to consider presented in the draft guidance. We will consider all public comments in determining any follow-up actions on this draft guidance, including the agency's consideration of any regulatory definitions in the future."
On labeling: "FDA will continue to evaluate the need for, and appropriateness of, any labeling statements related to nanotechnology on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with its existing labeling regulations and policies."
As to whether the current regulatory regime addressed concerns about the safety of nanoparticles, he said: "FDA believes that its existing statutory authorities are adequate to regulate the use of nanotechnology in FDA-regulated products."


What's your favourite food? See how they change from country to country
Pasta has been ranked as the most popular food in a report by Oxfam into global food trends and concerns
Source : http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/jun/22/global-top-foods-list-by-country
By_ Ami Sedghi (22, June, 2011)

Pasta, it seems, is the dish of the day according to a report published by Oxfam examining favourite foods across the world.
As part of their Grow campaign Oxfam undertook global research and polled over 8,000 participants across 17 countries from a variety of social and economical backgrounds to summarise attitudes towards foods.
Although 'Other' was by far the most common response to being asked for a favourite food, pasta ranked top. Pasta was closely followed by rice, pizza, chicken and meat. Junk food also made an appearance on the list with KFC coming in as a more popular answer than cod, fajitas and gnocchi. The poll includes answers such as 'Indian' and 'Chinese' as no boundaries were set for answering to allow for cultural differences, according to Oxfam.
The breakdown of most common answers by country show the individual differences between countries, those from the UK ranked steak as their favourite food whereas the US placed pizza as their number one favourite. In comparison, Pakistani nationals favoured vegetables and Australia went for chocolate above other favourites pasta and steak.
Developing nations were the most likely to report not having access to enough food each day, especially high in Tanzinia and Kenya. The report also showed that oil and transport costs were highly attributed to affecting food supply - 41% of South Africans surveyed put this the highest above actions of big companies and consumer demand.
High food prices seemed also to be a big pressure globally, with 15 of the 17 countries, reporting this as their highest concern in choosing food. The Philippines and India however are more likely to choose food by the health impact, as 61% and 57% respectively, ranked this as their highest concern when choosing food for themselves and their family. The table for this reports total mentions rather than one answer.
In contrast, respondents in Russia chose the safety of food as their main concern. This interactive by Paddy Allen shows top favourite foods by country. Although it is difficult to gage global food trends with a small sample, the report does highlight some issues apparent across the world concerning the access and attitudes to foods.
The tables below show some of the responses of the report including the total favourite food list of the all countries and also some of the responses to questions asked by Oxfam concerning current food issues. The spreadsheet also includes responses to further questions used in the report.

Taiwanese soft drinks industry braces itself for DEHP fallout
Source : http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/Quality-Safety/Taiwanese-soft-drinks-industry-braces-itself-for-DEHP-fallout
By_ Guy Montague-Jones (21,Jun,2011)

Sales of soft drinks in Taiwan could fall 20 per cent in 2011 after high numbers of products became contaminated with the plastics additive DEHP.
Big and small brands alike were hit by the contamination scandal as it was found that two major local food additive suppliers had added DEHP to a widely used clouding agent. DHEP is a potential carcinogen - prolonged exposure to which has been linked to fertility problems.
The immediate fallout has been significant. Taiwan has recalled nearly half a million bottles of sports drinks and fruit juices, and China has banned 948 products imported from the country. Other countries in the Asia-Pacific region have also introduced bans.
Commercial impact
The longer term commercial impact of the DEHP scandal in Taiwan is likely to become clearer in the coming months but initial estimates suggest it could be major.
"Industry sources estimate the island's retail sales of soft drinks could fall by 20 per cent in 2011 compared to 2010, equating to a net loss of $540m," said Euromonitor analyst Hope Lee.
And because Taiwan busily trades with its neighbours, other countries in the region could also be hit.
Lee told this publication: "It may affect soft drinks sales in China, Macau, Hong Kong - the Greater China region¡¦ The fact that the tainted products are from established brands/manufacturers made the situation worse."
Food safety reform?
The scale of the DEHP crisis has raised questions about food safety in Taiwan and led to various suggestions for reform.
Lee said legislators have called for criminal punishment for those knowingly adding health-threatening substances to food. Other suggestions include compulsory reporting of DEHP and better mechanisms for food safety management.
But questions hang over the ability and willingness of the Taiwanese government to implement reforms.
Lee said: "Do they have enough resources to test new chemicals arising and help set up a better food safety mechanism given that the market is fragmented? Will manufacturers stick to the rules strictly when more paperwork/bureaucracy or costs are expected to grow given that lots of foods and beverages are seasonal?"

Artificial meat could slice emissions, say scientists
Lab-grown meat would generate a tiny fraction of emissions associated with conventional livestock production
Source : http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jun/20/artificial-meat-emissions
By _Fiona Harvey ( 20, June, 2011)

Meat grown artificially in labs could be a greener alternative for consumers who cannot bear to go vegetarian but want to cut the environmental impact of their food, according to new research.
The study found that growing meat in the lab rather than slaughtering animals would generate only a tiny fraction of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with conventional livestock production.
The researchers believe their work suggests artificial meat could help feed the growing world population while reducing the impact on the environment.
According to the analysis by scientists from Oxford University and Amsterdam University, lab-grown tissue would reduce greenhouse gases by up to 96% in comparison to raising animals. The process would require between 7% and 45% less energy than the same volume of conventionally produced meat such as pork, beef, or lamb, and could be engineered to use only 1% of the land and 4% of the water associated with conventional meat.
"The environmental impacts of cultured meat could be substantially lower than those of meat produced in the conventional way," said Hanna Tuomisto, the researcher at Oxford University who led the study.
"We are not saying that we could, or would necessarily want to, replace conventional meat with its cultured counterpart right now.
"However, our research shows that cultured meat could be part of the solution to feeding the world's growing population and at the same time cutting emissions and saving both energy and water. Simply put, cultured meat is potentially a much more efficient and environmentally friendly way of putting meat on the table."
Aside from its predicted environmental benefits, lab-cultured meat should also provide cheap nutrition, and would help improve animal welfare as well as potentially taking huge pressure off farmland around the world.
Animal protein is an increasing part of diets, as millions of people in rapidly emerging economies such as China and India are drawn out of poverty and become able to afford more meat in their diets. The pressure this creates has been an important factor in rapidly rising grain prices, deforestation in the Amazon, increasing water scarcity and rising pressure to find new farmland, leading to "land grabs" where countries such as China buy up farmland in poorer nations.
Tuomisto predicts that if more resources are put into the research, the first commercially lab-grown meat could be available within five years. The first samples are likely to be like mincemeat in texture, while producing steaks could take at least five years longer.
"We can demonstrate that it is possible, but it is expensive. Getting to [commercial production] depends on more money being put into this research," she said.
The anti-meat organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is already funding research into the technique.
The Oxford-led research, to be published in Environmental Science & Technology, was funded by New Harvest, a non-profit research organisation working to develop alternatives to conventionally produced meat. An earlier version of the study was presented at a conference last year.
The study showed some of the complex implications of tissue engineering. For instance, it would take more energy to produce lab-grown chicken than it does for poultry, but would only use a fraction of the land area and water needed to rear chickens. But the research did not take into account other effects such as transport and refrigeration.
The research team based their calculations on a process using the bacterium Cyanobacteria hydrolysate as a nutrient and energy source for growing muscle cells.

Germany: 3,408 infected with E.coli
Source : http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43438527/ns/health/
By_ Kirsten Grieshaber (17, Jun, 2011)

New sicknesses are still being reported in the European E. coli outbreak that has killed 39, but Germany's national disease control center said Friday indications are that the crisis is tapering off.
The number of reported infections in Germany, the epicenter of the outbreak, is now up to 3,408, including 798 people who have developed a serious complication that can lead to kidney failure - about 100 more overall cases than the day before - the Robert Koch Institute said.
Still, Robert Koch spokeswoman Susanne Glasmacher said all evidence is that the outbreak remains on the decline.
"It sometimes takes days until we get reports about infected persons," Glasmacher said. "In general we can say that the number of infected persons is continuing to go down."
Thirty-eight people have died in Germany and one in Sweden in the epidemic, which was traced last week to sprouts from a farm in northern Germany.
According to the World Health Organization more than 100 people have been infected in 13 other European countries, Canada and the U.S.
Germany's health minister has warned that although the outbreak is abating, more deaths are possible.
On Friday, health officials in the Netherlands said a strain of E. coli found on Dutch beet sprouts last week has not been seen before in the country and that researchers sent samples for further analysis to labs in Italy and Denmark.
Nobody appears to have been sickened by the strain, the Dutch Food Safety Authority said.
Dutch Health Minister Edith Schippers said the fresh round of tests will likely take weeks.

Audit Finds Lapses in FDA Imported Food Recalls
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/06/government-audit-finds-failures-in-fda-import-recalls/
By_ Helena Bottemiller ( 22, Jun, 2011)

Officials at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have made some serious missteps trying to keep potentially hazardous imported food off the market, according to a new government audit.
The FDA did not always follow its own procedures to ensure foods were effectively recalled, a new report by the Health and Human Services Inspector General found. The document, released Tuesday, examined 17 import recalls from 2007 and 2008 and found multiple failures by FDA and foreign food firms.
"FDA's guidance for developing and implementing food recalls was not adequate to ensure the safety of the Nation's food supply because it was not enforceable," reads the report, noting that before the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law in January 2011, FDA did not have mandatory recall authority. "In addition, FDA did not always follow its own procedures for ensuring that the recall process operated efficiently and effectively."
Of the 17 recalls scrutinized, 7 were for Salmonella, 5 were for Listeria monocytogenes, 4 were for potential contamination with botulinum toxin, and 1 was for unacceptable lead levels in beverage pitchers. The products involved include cantaloupe, frozen mussel meat, fish, cheese, and sesame seed.
The audit found that firms did not promptly initiate recalls. In two examples, there was a lag time of 28 and 102 days between when FDA became aware of contamination problems and a recall. Even more worrisome, in 13 of the 17 recalls, firms did not submit essential information about the contaminated product.
In response to recalls, FDA did not conduct inspections or obtain complete information on the contamination incidents in 14 of the 17 incidents. In 13 of the 17 cases, FDA did not witness the disposal of the products or obtain required documentation that the food items had been properly disposed of.
Democratic lawmakers pointed to the report as reason to boost resources for FDA. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) said the agency needed funding to improve recall response.??"This report shows compellingly that FDA must take far stronger and faster action to protect American consumers by getting contaminated food imports off the market," said Harkin, in a statement Tuesday. "Recalls must be started more rapidly and FDA needs to follow up more carefully to make sure the recall actually happens."
"Congress greatly strengthened FDA's hand to enforce food recalls in the Food Safety Modernization Act, but regrettably FDA's ability to carry out that law and the recommendations in this OIG report will be badly impaired if FDA is starved of critical funding as the House's agriculture appropriations legislation would do," added Harkin, a key backer of the sweeping new food safety law, which for the first time grants FDA mandatory recall authority, and asks the agency to improve food import oversight.
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) echoed similar concern about FDA funding, citing the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Control statistics on foodborne illness in America: 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths annually.
DeLauro said that while the new bill is "a great first step" toward reforming the dilapidated food safety system -- deemed a high risk area by the Government Accountability Office -- the latest report "clearly shows that there is room for significant improvement in the FDA's recall of unsafe food, specifically imported food."
"That is why I am so concerned with the drastic budget cuts included in the House majority's budget for FY 2012," said DeLauro, the former chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees FDA's budget. The agriculture appropriations bill that passed the House last week cuts $280 million from FDA, $87 million of which will impact food safety programs at the agency.
"I believe that we need to invest in the FDA to protect the health of consumers and the safety of our food products," said DeLauro, in a statement. "But these cuts will tie the FDA's hands, restricting their oversight and effectiveness, and asking them to do more with less--this is about life and death. We must do better."
The report recommends that FDA consider the results of the review as it moves to implement the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act and that the agency simply stick to following its own procedures for monitoring recalls. FDA agreed with the recommendations in the audit.

New ConAgra system tackles raw flour risks
Source : http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/On-your-radar/Food-safety/New-ConAgra-system-tackles-raw-flour-risks
By_ Caroline Scott-Thomas (21,Jun,2011)

ConAgra Mills has introduced a new treatment and delivery system for flour intended to mitigate the food safety risks associated with raw flour without affecting gluten functionality.
Speaking with FoodNavigator-USA at IFT in New Orleans last week, ConAgra said that there is strong demand for safer flour for use in food products that rely on the end consumer cooking them properly at home, such as cookie dough or pot pies, which need to be cooked thoroughly before consumption. However, although heat treatment of flour may kill pathogens, it can also affect the performance of gluten and the appearance of baked goods.
ConAgra's new SafeGuard system for flour includes a 'pasteurization-like' all-natural heat treatment processing step to ensure it is safe to eat - but also includes checks and strict processes at every stage of the delivery chain, from milling, to post-treatment handling, to specially sanitized tankers, all the way through to delivery at a food manufacturer's facility, the company said.
Senior director of quality at ConAgra Foods Kent Juliot said: "One of the things the food industry often chooses to ignore is that flour is a raw agricultural product. But the majority of flour goes through a baking kill step¡¦We asked, how do we help that part of the industry where we are relying on the consumer to do the right thing, when often they don't?"
President of ConAgra Mills Bill Stoufer added that with increasingly complex supply chains, how a product is delivered throughout that chain has become increasingly important to ensure food safety and prevent recalls.
"The cost comparison relative to a big problem is nothing," he said - adding that it is also not expensive compared to other safety solutions - and testing for flour safety is a rising demand from major food manufacturers as they seek to ensure the integrity of their brands.
"You are always better off leading with disruptive technology than following with disruptive technology," Stoufer said.
Juliot added: "Transportation is a big part of it. We work directly with customers to ensure delivery is a safe process too."

Salmonella, Listeria Top List of Foodborne Killers
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/06/salmonella-listeria-biggest-foodborne-killers/
By_ News Desk ( 20, Jun, 2011)

Salmonella and Listeria continue to be the leading cause of death from foodborne illness in the United States, according to a study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.
The statistics come from an analysis of FoodNet data from 1996 to 2005. FoodNet is a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention foodborne illness surveillance system in 10 states.
From 1996 to 2005, FoodNet recorded 215 Salmonella-caused fatalities and 168 Listeria-caused deaths out of the 121,536 cases of lab-confirmed bacterial infections transmitted through food, the authors said.
The highest mortality rates were among adults older than 65 for all pathogens except Shigella, which most affected children under 5.
Listeria was the most lethal of the foodborne pathogens, with the highest case fatality rate, followed by Vibrio, E. coli O157, Salmonella, Campylobacter and Shigella.

Michigan Herd Share, Raw Milk and Q Fever don't mix well
Source : http://www.marlerblog.com/case-news/michigan-herd-share-raw-milk-and-q-fever-dont-mix-well/
By_ Bill Marler ( 23, June, 2011 )

This morning the Michigan Department of Community Health announced that three people in Livingston County Michigan have been diagnosed with of Q fever after drinking raw milk from a dairy herd share program. All three, women in their 30s or 40s, acknowledged obtaining raw milk from the "as yet named" farm. One of the women required prolonged hospitalization for Q fever meningitis.
Q fever is caused by the bacteria Coxiella burnetii, an organism common in farm animals. Infected animals shed the organism in their bodily fluids and people can become infected when they consume raw milk containing by the bacteria. The symptoms of Q fever, a reportable communicable disease in Michigan, can include high fevers (up to 104-105F), severe headache, joint and body aches, fatigue, chills/sweats, non-productive cough, chest pain, nausea and vomiting.

E. coli Outbreak in Alabama Tied to Waterpark?
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/e-coli-outbreak-in-alabama-tied-to-waterpark/
By_ David Babcock ( 23, June, 2011)

There are reports this evening of an outbreak of E. coli (presumably E. coli O157:H7) infections in Alabama tied to the "Splash Park" at the Opelika Sportsplex and Aquatics Center in Opelika, Alabama. The Alabama Department of Public Health is advising parents of children that visited the the Splash Park between June 12 and June 20 to "be alert for symptoms of illness. If a child has nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or abdominal cramps parents should seek medical attention for their child."
According to the report Dr. Mary McIntyre, medical officer of the Bureau of Communicable Disease, said:
Based on what we know now, four children who were in the Splash Park between June 12 and June 18 have been hospitalized at East Alabama Medical Center with gastrointestinal illness.
The park has been closed since June 20. Water samples from the park are being tested, and two children have reportedly tested positive for E. coli. (Again, no conclusive word if it is E. coli O157:H7)
Previous outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 have been tied to waterparks. Marler Clark represented seven children who became ill with E. coli infections, some with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), after playing in pools at the White Water Park outside of Atlanta, Georgia, in June of 1998.
In the 1998 Georgia outbreak there were ultimately 26 culture-confirmed E. coli cases identified.

Death of Arizona Man Possibly Tied To German Sprouts E. coli Outbreak
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/death-of-arizona-man-possibly-tied-to-german-sprouts-e-coli-outbreak/
By_ Colin Caywood (23, June , 2011)

The death of an Arizona man who traveled to Germany recently may be linked to the huge E. coli O104:H4 sprouts outbreak, according to CDC officials investigating his death. As reported by JoNel Aleccia at MSNBC.com:
The man, who was older than 65, died in mid-June, according to Arizona health officials. The Northern Arizona resident had developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, a severe side effect of E. coli infection that can lead to kidney failure, which raised suspicions that his illness was connected to the European outbreak.
If confirmed, the man's death would be the first in the U.S. tied to the outbreak.
The death is among five confirmed cases and one suspect case of STEC 0104:H4 in U.S. residents, including four who recently traveled to Germany and one who contracted the infection from a traveler.
Post-diarrheal hemolytic uremic syndrome (D+HUS) is a severe, life-threatening complication that occurs in about 10 percent of those infected with E. coli O157:H7 or other Shiga toxin- (Stx-) producing E. coli. D+HUS was first described in 1955, but was not known to be secondary to E. coli infections until 1982. It is now recognized as the most common cause of acute kidney failure in infants and young children. Adolescents and adults are also susceptible, as are the elderly, who often succumb to the disease.

As Germany Outbreak Ebbs, Questions Linger
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/06/as-germany-outbreak-ebbs-questions-linger/
By_ Ross Anderson (23, Jun, 2011)

After eight weeks, more than 3,700 illnesses and 40 deaths, Germany's E. coli outbreak is finally waning, but health officials and scientists around the world remain fixed on followup investigations and analysis, anxious to answer some of the crucial questions raised by Europe's worst epidemic of food poisoning in recent memory.
Among the questions they're asking:
What is this bug?
Genetic sequencing by two different labs identified the offending microbe as E. coli O104:H4, which carries the same virulent shiga toxin as the more familiar E coli O157:H7. But little is known about this microbe, and scientists are anxious to learn more about it. Stay tuned.
Why does it appear to be more toxic than other E. coli? In an epidemic of E. coli O157:H7, health authorities expect between 5 and 10 percent of the cases to come down with the serious complication call hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Germany reports 857 cases of HUS --- three times the normal rate.
It is possible that far more people were sickened, but weathered the diarrhea and recovered without seeking treatment, officials say. Or it could be that German doctors were using different criteria to define HUS, which is essentially a complication of E. coli sickness. Yet the staggering number of deaths would seem to support the German count of 850 HUS cases.
The other theory: This strain is dangerously more toxic than strains that U.S. officials have dealt with. And that is not what officials want to hear.
Either way, what is the risk that this bug will emerge in the U.S.? In the long run, it's highly probable, experts say.
Food is now a world commodity, routinely shipped around the globe. A microbe that contaminates food in Germany will inevitably cross the Atlantic, and vice versa.
And that may depend in part on how the German sprouts became contaminated, according to Dr. John Kobayashi, a widely respected epidemiologist at the University of Washington. If contamination occurred at the German farm, via an employee or farm animal, then the infection might be contained - though some 3,700 sick people, and perhaps thousands more that were not diagnosed, have become potential carriers.
"But if the seeds were contaminated, then we should be very concerned," Kobayashi warned. And, based on experience with sprouts, that scenario appears more likely. Sprout seeds are prone to contamination, which can survive washing by "hiding" in the microscopic crevices on the surface of the seed. And if the seeds used at the German farm were the culprit, then contaminated seeds could have been sold and used in other sprout operations.
Why was such a huge outbreak contained to one region?
Most food poisoning outbreaks are relatively small - five or ten people who fall sick after one evening at a local restaurant or church potluck. That's been changing, because of huge food conglomerates that distribute products coast-to-coast, and because of genetic technology that makes it possible to recognize and regional and national outbreaks and trace them to a source--be it ground beef, peanut butter or raw cookie dough.
Given that, epidemiologists were surprised to learn that the German outbreak was caused by sprouts from a single farm. "It seems strange that the cases are so focused in Germany," said Kobayashi. "With central contamination, I would expect wider distribution, especially in European countries ... Could it be that the implicated food was distributed only within Germany?"
How did German health authorities get sidetracked onto cucumbers?
Experts say Germany's outbreak was worsened by the fact it took weeks to identify the source. And they remain puzzled by why it took them so long.
From early in the outbreak, they questioned the response at the Robert Koch Institute, the German equivalent to the Centers for Disease Control in the U.S. In the U.S., the standard response to an outbreak is to quickly interview the sickened people, quizzing them about what they have eaten over the previous days and weeks, and where they obtained it. Using standard questionnaires, investigators try to zero in on common denonminators: Did all or most of the victims eat ground beef or chicken or salad? Did they all eat at the same restaurant?
Since virtually all the sick people lived in or had visited northern Germany, investigators should have been able to quickly identify one or more suspect foods, experts say. The greater the number of cases, the easier it should be to find the source.
Timing is crucial, says Dr. Kirk Smith, who directs foodborne illness operations for the Minnesota Department of Health. "The longer you wait, the more people forget and the less likely you will get clear data."
Meanwhile, every day of delay allows the contaminated food to remain in the marketplace, sickening more people.
RKI's own report last week acknowledged that its surveillance system was "not sufficient for an adequate response." Under the German system, local physicians may take up to a week to report food poisoning cases to state authorities, who may take another week to alert national authorities. As a result, it was three weeks before RKI began interviewing patients.
And when they did begin their investigation, RKI decided that the evidence pointed to salad fixings - especially cucumbers. That meant it was another week or more before they corrected themselves and zeroed in on sprouts - which are notoriously susceptible to contamination.

Q&A: Dr. Robert Tauxe on the Outbreak in Germany
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/06/outbreak-an-interview-with-dr-robert-v-tauxe/
By_ Daniel B. Cohen (22, Jun, 2011)

As of Tuesday, the toll in the outbreak of E. coli O104:H4 in Germany was 3,697 illnesses, 856 cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and 40 deaths.
Major Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) outbreaks in the past have been transformative events for epidemiology and approaches to food safety. An hour-long conversation last Thursday with Dr. Robert V. Tauxe, deputy director, Division of Foodborne, Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases NCEZID (National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, helped put the outbreak in a broader perspective. A review of the major points follows:

DC: Would you put the German STEC E. coli outbreak in context, compared to the U.S. and other outbreaks?
RT: This is an astoundingly large and severe outbreak, particularly in regards to seriousness of health consequences.
The largest single U.S. outbreak due to STEC E. coli, in that case due to O157:H7, was the West Coast outbreak due to ground beef, hamburger, in 1993. That had 750 patients presenting with bloody diarrhea, 44 HUS cases and four deaths.
The outbreak in Germany is on a much larger scale, at least an order of magnitude worse.
The largest total number of patients in a STEC outbreak is still O157:H7 in Sakai City, Japan. This was in 1992, had over 7,000 cases, with about 121 HUS cases and three deaths. The outbreak was attributed to radish sprouts produced by one facility.
The STEC E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks have changed the way epidemiology is carried out over the last 30 years.
For example, in the U.S. we developed PulseNet, for rapid reporting and identification of dispersed clusters of E. coli, in response to the West Coast outbreak.
The Japanese developed their entire field epidemiology program in response to Sakai City. CDC helped them in their investigations, and then Dr. John Kobayashi became one of their lead consultants for developing field epidemiology. Dr. Kobayashi was the state epidemiologist for Washington state who worked with CDC on the 1993 hamburger outbreak the West Coast.
Later, the Japanese and others also started their own PulseNet system. The current outbreak may also lead to significant changes in Germany in the future.

DC: Is O104:H4 significantly more virulent, with worse health outcomes, due to being a Shiga toxin-producing STEC and an enteroaggregative strain?
RT: It's actually not clear to me yet that O104:H4 is significantly more virulent. There were certainly a lot of severe cases. There may have been a much larger number of milder cases than was recorded, of people who were ill, but did not seek care.

DC: The German hospitals and health authorities were preparing for a second wave of patients, which might have developed from human-human disease transmission. What do you expect, now?
RT: It does not look like there will be a second wave. The number of new cases seem to be diminishing. In particular there has not been much evidence of human-to-human transmission. I have only heard of a very few possible cases, but even these were either unconfirmed or anecdotal.

DC: Wouldn't you expect more human to human transmission with STEC in the background of enteroaggregative E. coli strains [EAEC or, in Europe, EAggEC] with their human reservoirs, not cattle, and human-to-human transmission?
RT: Now we enter into one of the more esoteric areas of E. coli knowledge and microbiology.
The enteroaggregative E. coli are much less well studied. It is more a question of how much we do not know about them as a group than predicting possible behavior of this particular STEC EAEC, based on generalizations.
EAECs have mostly been reported as causing diarrhea in children in the developing world, though they can also cause relatively mild diarrheal illness in the U.S. [1].
There can be child-to-child transmission, for example. But even concepts such as having a reservoir restricted to humans is not actually proven. It hasn't been looked for extensively in possible animal reservoirs, so I am not confident that there isn't one.
In addition, the EAECs are a complex of subgroups. Each subgroup, as a class, may have very different behavior.
Finally, the O104 STEC E. coli are a very rare serotype themselves, (when E. coli are categorized by their immunological or antigenic properties and classified as strains). So O104:H4 STEC may have unusual behavior even for one of the sub-groups of EAEC.

DC: How was the outbreak strain detected and characterized as an EAEC as the outbreak developed? There were a number of news reports and notifications about fast genomic characterization?
RT: The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) posted the basic descriptive markers of the outbreak strain quite early.
There are people whose whole lives are dedicated to understanding E. coli, and who could look at the basic markers and interpret them. The Shiga toxins and toxin genes were clearly there, but it was missing the markers for adherence and other factors that are usually found in normal STEC.
Instead they saw something unexpected, the adherence factor markers that are common in the EAEC strains were present.
The actual analysis of the outbreak strain as it occurred in real time was driven by classic and modern microbiology, not by determination of the whole genome sequence.
We have seen this combination of STEC and EAEC described before, although very rarely and without this kind of impact, so it was something people already knew to look for. And there have been reports of O104 strains and even of O104:H4 before.
In general, it is thought the Shiga toxins are moved by phage transfer, especially within E. coli types [2]. It could be more common a combination than we know about now.

DC: What has been the CDC's role during the outbreak in Germany?
RT: When there is an outbreak in another country we contact them to offer consultation and advice, and we also offer to send an outbreak investigation team, if requested. In this case no team was sent. Our most important role was in preparing the U.S. itself, by the rapid notification and alerts to public health and other agencies in all 50 states and U.S. territories.
We did use the German investigations' questionnaires to interview the four patients in the U.S. and return that information to them.
In general, the CDC partners with other agencies such as the FDA and USDA and state public health agencies when there is a foodborne or other outbreak in the United States. When a foodborne outbreak is within one state, that state health agency takes the lead. When it is a multistate outbreak, the CDC takes the lead.
We also take a long-term perspective on developing effective strategies for prevention, detection, and control. For example, we have worked quite hard to improve the prevention of E. coli O157:H7, on the one hand, and especially the detection and reporting as well as prevention of the non-O157:H7 STEC strains, the "non-O157's" in shorthand.
O157:H7 is looked for routinely. So it is significant that the number of cases due to O157:H7 in the United States is down by about 50 percent, which, was included in our report in MMWR (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report) last week, [3] which was the annual FoodNet report card on food safety in the U.S.
At the same time as E. coli O157 is going down, the non-O157 STEC are going up, because detection is improving. In, fact, last year was the first year that the non-O157s had more cases reported than the O157s. It sounds bad, but it is good in the sense that we know we are getting more reports on the non-O157s and that people are looking for them.
We have seen significant non-O157s in the United States, of many serotypes. If a health agency hospital or other medical facility can culture stool samples in standard media, they can also do a rapid test for Shiga toxin. If this is positive, they can send the culture media on for serotyping and further identification at a state public health agency, and sometimes samples are forwarded to the CDC.
Improving the surveillance and detection for the non-O157s, in general, should also improve capacity for O104:H4. However, state public health agencies are generally stressed and facing budget cuts.

DC: You have been involved in foodborne outbreaks for a long time. How comprehensive is the association of sprouts from one farm with the whole (German) outbreak?
RT: There are three lines of very convincing evidence that seem conclusive to me.
The first comes from the epidemiological studies of large groups that ate at specific restaurants at the same time, some of whose members became ill. Field epidemiologists used the menu-directed protocols interviewing patients about which item they ordered, so patients only had to remember which meal they ate. They interviewed the restaurant managers to find out the ingredients of each menu item, and then analyzed the interview results by ingredient. The case-control odds ratios were overwhelming for sprouts as a factor, and 100 percent of ill diners had eaten sprouts.
The second line of evidence came from the trace-back efforts, that showed that this and many other affected restaurants all got their sprouts from one producer/supplier.
The third line of evidence was the consistency with a large and comprehensive national case-control study, which did find an association with sprouts, along with other salad vegetables.
In addition, there is the fact that several of the workers at the sprout farm became ill. They received sprouts for free as part of their employment. However, only one was shown to have the outbreak strain, and their illnesses came in the middle of the outbreak.

DC: So are bean sprouts the cause of the outbreak, as has been in some German press reports? And if so, which ones since any legume species could get included as 'beans' in translation?
RT: I think the RKI is sticking with "sprouts" for now without identifying which type of sprouts. Many of the sprouts, perhaps most of them, are sold or used in meals as mixtures of several different types of sprouts, so it would be difficult to determine which type or types of sprouts had the outbreak strain from the outbreak epidemiology alone.
Sprout production can be ideal for the multiplication of pathogens under the same conditions which are ideal for seed to sprout in. So a contamination introduced into a sprout facility can be multiplied by the sprouting process itself.
How the sprouts at this farm got contaminated is still a question. One of the possibilities is that seeds of a particular lot were contaminated. We've had Salmonella outbreaks due to contaminated seeds used in sprouts in the United States.
Unfortunately, it has also been shown that bacterial pathogens can last for years on or in dry seeds. How the seeds get contaminated in the first place is another question. It might happen during seed production.
The Germans are almost certainly looking at types of seeds or specific seed lots for the outbreak pathogens. But there are so many types of sprouts and therefore seeds involved, as well as particular seed lots, that this is likely to take some time.
And contamination may not have come through seeds.

DC: So as of now is there a leading suspect for the type of sprout that may have been involved based on past experience?
RT: No.
DC: Thank you for taking the time to discuss the outbreak status.
--------------------------------------------------------
[1] Under conditions of poverty and/or lack of access to medical care in developing countries, diarrheal diseases from multiple causes can lead to severe outcomes and deaths for infants and young children. In the German O104:H4 cases there is an unusual dominance of adult cases and severe outcomes due to HUS. -- DC.

[2] Multiple drug resistance, characteristic of many STEC strains, can move by plasmid transfer, fairly promiscuously. -- DC

(3) Vital Signs: Incidence and Trends of Infection with Pathogens Transmitted Commonly Through Food --- Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, 10 U.S. Sites, 1996--2010. MMWR Weekly June 10, 2011 / 60(22);749-755.

Tennessee Virginia E. coli O157:H7, E. coli O103 and E. coli O169 Outbreak Hits 17
Source : http://www.marlerblog.com/case-news/tennessee-virginia-e-coli-o157h7-e-coli-o103-and-e-coli-o169-outbreak-hits-17-2/
By_ Bill Marler (19, June, 2011)

According to Mac McLean, an E. coli outbreak involving E. coli O157:H7, E. coli O103 and E. coli O169 and outbreak that's plagued Northeast Tennessee since mid-May has sickened two more people - bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the eight-county Northeast Tennessee region so far this year to 15.
On June 5, a 2-year-old girl and her 5-year-old brother from Dryden, Va., were rushed to the Johnson City Medical Center's Pediatric Intensive Care Unit after they developed an E. coli infection. The girl died at the hospital that day while her brother was sent to another hospital for further treatment and later released.
Even though no common links have been found, the health officer said he is treating the situation like an outbreak because the dates these symptoms started showing up are in such a small period of time. He hopes test results from the two new cases that are due back next week will help his office solve the puzzle.

Can Technology Rescue the Sprouts Industry?
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/06/can-technology-rescue-the-sprouts-industry/
By_ Cookson Beecher (20, Jun, 2011)

While scientists are scrambling to pinpoint the cause of the E. coli outbreak linked to bean and seed sprouts in northern Germany, a veteran sprouts system designer believes he has developed the technology that can produce "the perfect sprout."
As of June 20, the outbreak had killed 40 people and sickened 3,598.
"If this technology had been used in the EU, those people would still be alive. I have no doubt about it," Lincoln Neal, president of Tennessee-based Quicksilver Automated Systems (www.qasc.com/index.html), told Food Safety News.
According to the company's website, Quicksilver provides state-of the art purification, propagation and processing systems for the largest sprout companies in North America.
Neal thinks the pathogen that caused the E. coli outbreak in Germany likely came in on the seeds, a conjecture that echoes warnings to sprout growers from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that seeds are most often the source of most sprout-associated outbreaks.
For that reason, the agency recommends that sprout growers soak the seeds in a strong disinfecting solution, such as 20,000 ppm calcium hypochlorite, before sprouting them.
But Neal, a mechanical systems designer with a focus on disinfection, who describes himself as "a bit of a germophobe," said soaking the seeds in a strong disinfecting solution at the onset just isn't enough because the pathogens can lodge themselves into cracks and crevasses in the seeds.
Those cracks and crevasses, which he said in the microscopic world can be as large as the Grand Canyon, can provide safe harbor for the wily pathogens.
To make things more challenging yet, the seeds have a "somewhat oily surface" that can repel water. As a result, the surface tension on the outside of the seed can prevent the disinfectant from going into the cracks and crevasses in the seeds.
Neal compares that situation to the water that pools into droplets on the surface of a freshly waxed car.
He warns that if a sprout grower only disinfects the seeds at the beginning of the sprouting process, pathogens could still be lurking in the seeds, especially since sprout growers typically soak their seeds in disinfectant for only about an hour.
Neal also said that contrary to what some people in the industry assert, bacteria such as E. coli can not only hide in the microscopic cracks but can also get inside the sprouting seeds through those cracks.

Neal believes that the solution to that dilemma is easy enough: Use a method that sanitizes the seeds as they're sprouting.
"We focus on the first 24 to 36 hours," he said of his method
According to the company's information about its Emerald Purifier/Sprouter, the equipment can get rid of embedded pathogens inside the seed shell by repeatedly flushing the inside of the seed hull with disinfectant solution at the moments it "changes, opens, 'morphs,' and detaches to release the sprout.
"Bacteria-occupied air cups and pockets are flushed out and disinfected," says the company literature. "Full automatic wash cycles occur as the seed pops open and the microbes become exposed."
"We go in when the seed is changing and by doing that we can get into the seed," Neal said. "The machine persistently and automatically washes the product."
Neal said that if the pathogens aren't caught early on in the process, they can get into the sprouts themselves and that no amount of spray misting a disinfectant onto them can reach every square micron of the sprouts.
"Nipping it in the bud early on in the process is essential," he said, adding that persistent disinfection doesn't erode the nutritional value of the seeds and "is in full accord with the life process of the sprouts."
"It doesn't compromise germination or weaken it," he said.
Looking at another FDA guideline for producing sprouts that involves testing the spent irrigation water that has flowed over the seeds, Neal sees drawbacks. FDA's thinking behind that approach is that if there were any pathogens on the seeds themselves, they would multiply under the warm, moist conditions the seeds are sprouted in. If the testing, which typically occurs 48 hours into the sprouting process, reveals the presence of pathogens, then that batch can be thrown away, thus keeping it out of the marketplace.
But Neal said that as valuable as testing is, sprouting is a "hurry-up" sort of industry when it comes to shipping the fresh sprouts out to customers. For that reason, sometimes the sprouts are sent out before the test results of the spent irrigation water come back.
And even if a test-and-hold approach were adopted, Neal said that if the pathogens are deep inside the seed, the water won't be able to reach them. They could actually be trapped and not be able to get out.
"It's rare, but it could happen," he said.
Then, too, Neal said that even with the safeguards many sprout growers are using, including FDA's guidelines, a sobering fact keeps emerging: "Somehow these pathogens are getting by these sprouters."
"That's why I think upfront methods must be incorporated," he said. "You've got to come in again and again and again to get the pathogens out. You have to be persistent -- more persistent than the microbes. They've got brilliant programming in them to stay alive."
These pathogens can be virulent. According to the FDA, a single surviving bacterium in a kilogram of seed can be enough to contaminate a whole batch of seeds.
Neal, who says he was called upon by the industry in 1985 to develop a sprout manufacturing package, has focused on modernizing an industry that had previously been more of a "flower-child kind of business."
Fast forward to the present, and Neal says he's probably designed more sprouting equipment "than anyone on the planet."
Back then, immediate questions before him were "How can this problem be solved?" "And where are these pathogens coming from and what's allowing them to proliferate."
When evaluating the potential of his equipment to produce the perfect sprout, Neal said there are no "absolutes in microbiology."
"But if the sprout growers follow our methods and don't cheat, they can virtually eliminate the pathogens," he said.
A blast of heat
Sydney Chang, owner of Chang Farm in Masachussetts, has invested many years of his life and many hundreds of thousands of dollars to expand and modernize his sprouting operation.
He started with a 7,200 square foot facility in 1993, added another 6,400 square feet in the late 1990s, and another 31,000 square feet last year.
"Sprouts are popular and healthy food," he said. "If demand for them wasn't growing, I wouldn't be spending the money to do this."
He relies on a heat pasteurization system widely used in Japan -- but "still unique in this country" -- that entails dipping the seeds in very hot water.
"It's a quick kill," he said, referring to pathogens that cause foodborne illnesses. "The hot water kills them on the surface of the seeds and if they're under the surface."
The water temperature the seeds are dipped in reaches 176 degrees, which is above the heat resistance of pathogens such as E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria.
He described the seed pasteurizer, which he bought from Daisey Machinery Co. in Japan, as "an expensive piece of equipment."
"But I want to invest in food safety," he said.
According to Daisey Machinery, heat pasteurization is a "natural and very effective" way to disinfect the seeds, which allows the seeds to be sanitized without the use of chemicals that could be harmful to the people operating the plant or to the environment.
With worker safety in mind, Chang also soaks the seeds in a chlorinated solution, but not at levels as high as recommended by the FDA. But he pointed out that FDA accepts those lower levels because the seeds have also been "heat pasteurized."
Chang Farm currently sells several hundred thousands pounds of bean sprouts a week.
Instead of growing different crops of sprouts all in the same room, Chang has nine different sprouting rooms and harvests one room a day, which he says avoids the possibility of cross-contamination.
The growing containers are also steam cleaned after they're washed.
Worker sanitation is another important part of the food-safety equation, with food-safety reviews held monthly. The farm also has food-safety specialists with advanced degrees on staff.
In addition, the sprouting facility has automatic door sanitizers that spray disinfectants on the floor where equipment and people enter.
"We have a modern state-of-the-art facility," Chang said. "Everything is designed with sanitation in mind."
Referring to the investment his farm has made in achieving this, Chang told Gazettenet.com in 2009 that it represents the family's life savings, and a generous loan from the bank.
"We've put all of it in one basket in this business: me, my brother, my father, my mother, my wife. We want to give sprouts a good name. We're serious about this business."
What about irradiation?
Greg Henderson, editor and associate publisher of Drovers CattleNetwork, rankles at charges made against livestock production that link it to E. coli contamination of raw vegetables, including sprouts.
He said that while "many pundits seem eager to vilify livestock production, they don't seem nearly as interested in telling the American public that technology has a solution for much of our E. coli contamination."
That solution is irradiation and it's currently underused, Henderson said in a June 13 commentary titled "Want safe food? Technology has a solution."
Henderson describes irradiation as a process that exposes food to ionizing radiation to kill bacteria such as E. coli, as well as contaminants such as viruses and insects, and points out that it has been approved in 40 countries.
Even so, he said, it has not been widely adopted.
"That's because of public perception," he said, referring to fears of what he describes as an "extremely low level of radiation" that appear to be a "greater concern than our fear of E. coli and a host of other contaminants."
Pointing to the E. coli outbreak in Germany, Henderson said it should spur interest in irradiation.
"Let's stop pointing fingers and start irradiating our food," he said.
According to the USDA, combining chlorination and irradiation can be an effective way to kill E. coli and Salmonella on alfalfa sprouts.
In 1999, USDA Agricultural Research Service scientists Donald W. Thayer, Kathleen T. Rajkowski and William F. Fett found that a treatment of irradiation and chlorine solution not only killed both organisms, but extended the shelf life of sprouts from about five days to more than a week.
In the tests, they used the same dose of irradiation as approved for irradiating meat. They also subjected the alfalfa seeds to various levels of chlorinated water.
According to the research results, the best way to eliminate pathogens would be a combination of irradiation and sanitation treatments. That's because sprouts can be contaminated internally, which would prevent a surface disinfectant from working effectively.
But Quicksilver's Lincoln Neal told Food Safety News that if the seed is irradiated sufficiently to kill foodborne pathogens, the seed germ (the heart of the seed for germination) almost invariably will be damaged.
"The results are compromised germination and dead seed," he said. "Dead matter and weakened sprouts are less resistant to pathogens--thus arguably taking the infection issue back to square one."
He also said that while irradiating finished sprouts can kill pathogens - it also kills and weakens the sprouts--again, decreasing resistance to pathogens that might be introduced during the interim to consumption. And again, arguably back to square one.
"And yes, selling a live food dead would surely tend to squelch the "sizzle" of appeal in the eye of the typical sprouts consumer," he said.
Organic sprouts
Although the sprout farm in Lower Saxony state in northern Germany that has been indicated as the source of the E. coli-contaminated bean and seed sprouts is described as an organic farm, Mark Kastel, founder of The Cornucopia Institute, said that the problem in Germany is primarily about sprouts, not organic agriculture.

"People are using the term "organic farm," Kastel said, "when the real elephant in the room -- where the pathogens are originating -- is not being discussed."
He also said that according to recall data, of the 10 sprout recalls in the United States in the past 2.5 years (since April 2009), nine occurred because conventional sprouts tested positive for foodborne pathogens. In other words, 90 percent of the recalls involved conventionally grown sprouts.
German authorities have not yet discovered exactly where the pathogens that contaminated the sprouts from the organic farm linked to the outbreak came from.
Because the potentially fatal forms of E. coli are shed in animal feces, fresh vegetables are generally kept far apart from animals to prevent E. coli contamination.
Although organic and conventional sprouts are generally produced the same way, organic sprouts must be grown from certified organic seeds.
Testing the sprouts
FDA spokesman Douglas Karas said that for most foods, the FDA's motto is "You can't test your way to safety."
He pointed out that having the right practices up front to minimize or prevent contamination are "the best bet" compared to testing the finished product. That's because testing some of the finished product can give a grower a false sense of security about an entire batch if a piece or package tests negative.
Karas said that's why the FDA recommends testing the water that has flowed through the entire lot of sprouts because it's a good indicator of what's in the sprouts overall, not just in a select sample. In addition, that sort of testing provides results before the product is shipped out, which allows growers to dump out contaminated batches.
Another logistical fact is that testing the sprouts involves smashing them up to release the pathogens. Obviously, if growers were to test all of their finished sprouts, they'd have nothing to send to market.
Once the sprouts are in "market channels," such as at distribution centers, the USDA's Microbiological Data Program can test alfalfa and clover sprouts by using a system that involves putting the sprouts in a bag with broth and pummeling them. MDP's lead microbiologist Shanker Reddy told Food Safety News that if pathogens are present, the process releases them from the sprouts, and stringent tests can be used to detect and identify them.
The benefit of MDP's testing is that it can help keep contaminated products out of the marketplace -- a far better approach to food safety than trying to track down the source of an outbreak after contaminated sprouts, or other fresh produce -- have been bought and eaten.
This testing by MDP has been the basis of many sprout recalls.
As for whether consumers can protect themselves by washing the sprouts they bring them home, FDA researchers have found that if foodborne pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella are on the finished sprouts, washing them only minimally decreases the amount of contamination.
Eating sprouts: yes or no?
According to the FDA, the United States has received no shipments of sprouts or sprout seeds from Germany and Spain since at least last October.
In response to the recent E. coli outbreak in Germany, the International Sprout Growers Association said in a June 11 press release that it wants to reassure consumers that it appears to be a localized event and one that isn't affecting consumers worldwide.
The association "highly recommends" that the investigations into finding the source of the outbreak continue.
"By so doing, we can all benefit and further the efforts to make sprouts and all other raw foods the safest they can be," says the press release.
At the same time, the association recommends that consumers continue to enjoy what it describes as the "the great health benefits, variety and taste of sprouts."
It invites consumers to learn more about sprouts and their health benefits, as well as recipes featuring sprouts, by going to its website.
In the U.S., the FDA recommends that children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems not eat any kind of raw sprouts. It also recommends cooking sprouts thoroughly to reduce the risk of illness.

Family of Ohio Salmonella Victim to File Lawsuit
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/06/family-of-ohio-salmonella-victim-to-file-lawsuit/
By_ News Desk ( 20,Jun, 2011)

The family of a woman killed in an Athens, Ohio Salmonella outbreak will file a lawsuit Monday against the Athens-based restaurant Casa Lopez.
The suit is the second filed by Seattle-based food poisoning law firm Marler Clark on behalf of individuals made ill in a 2010 Salmonella outbreak.
According to the complaint, the 82-year-old Athens resident ate with her family at Casa Lopez on April 30, 2010 where she and her son shared the "Special Dinner for Two". The next day both experienced severe gastrointestinal symptoms. While the son eventually recovered, his mother spent seven weeks in and out of hospitals and care centers, enduring a number of medical complications, including severe bodily swelling and a stroke, before passing away on June 22, 2010.
In May of 2010 the Athens Health Department began recording a higher than normal incidence of Salmonella infections, prompting an investigation that linked Casa Lopez to the outbreak.
Health officials observed what they said were a number of food safety violations, including improper temperatures for hot and cold food holding, no soap available at the employee hand washing station, no date markings on any food, and raw food stored above uncovered prepared food.
All together, 56 people were sickened from eating or being exposed to food from Casa Lopez. Marler Clark is the sponsor of Food Safety News

Four Ill with E. coli After Visiting Animal Farm
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/06/four-ill-with-e-coli-after-visiting-animal-farm/
By_ News Desk (18, Jun, 2011)

Two children and two adults became ill from E. coli infections after visiting an animal farm run by the city of Everett in Washington state.
The Daily Herald of Everett reported that one child required hospitalization but has since been discharged. One of the adults worked at the farm. The E. coli serotype was not been identified.
The Animal Farm at Forest Park, which gets about 25,000 visitors a year, is run by Everett's parks department and features sheep, calves, piglets, chickens, goats, ducks, a horse, a pony and rabbits, according to the newspaper.
Animal farms and petting zoos are a common source of exposure to disease-causing pathogens. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 1996 and 2010 approximately 150 outbreaks of disease in the U.S. were linked to animals in farms open to the public.
?In England, almost 100 people -- including 76 children under the age of 10 -- were sickened by E. coli O157:H7 contracted at a public farm in Surrey in the summer of 2009. That same year, an outbreak in Colorado originating at the National Western Stock show led to 30 illnesses and 9 hospitalizations.
In 2003 United States Department of Agriculture study of more than 20 county fairs found E. coli O157:H7 in 13.8 percent of beef cattle, 5.9 percent of dairy cattle, and slightly smaller percentages of sheep, pigs and goats -- nearly the same percentages found in animals in feed lots.
Last month, new guidelines on how to prevent the spread of disease from animals to humans in public settings such as animal farm, petting zoos and county fairs were issued by the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians.
The most crucial step in avoiding zoonotic disease is washing one's hands as often as possible after handling farm animals, says the report.

Grade School Parent Sickens Class with Raw Milk
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/06/grade-school-parent-sickens-class-with-raw-milk/
By_ Dan Flynn ( 18, Jun, 2011)

Fourth graders at a Raymond, Wisconsin elementary school got a painful lesson earlier this month. They drank unpasteurized milk at a North Cape Elementary School event on Friday, June 3 and by Monday 16 individuals -- students and some adults -- were suffering from diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, and vomiting from Campylobacter infections.
The raw milk was one parent's contribution to the school event.
The parent, whose name was not disclosed, runs a licensed farm -- also not identified -- that is in good standing with the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection. Donating raw milk is not illegal, and the parent will not face sanctions nor will the dairy suffer a blemish on its record.
Wisconsin health authorities, however, confirmed that the milk was the source of the outbreak.
In a joint statement issued late Friday, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) and the Western Racine County Health Department (WRCHD) said : "Laboratory test results show that the Campylobactor jejuni bacteria that caused diarrheal illness among 16 individuals who drank unpasteurized (raw) milk at a school event early this month in Raymond was the same bacteria strain found in unpasteurized milk produced at a local farm."
The WRCHD said stool samples submitted by ill students and adults were sent to the State Laboratory of Hygiene, where they tested positive for the bacteria. Wisconsin's Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) food inspectors said milk samples collected from the bulk tank at the farm also tested positive for Campylobacter jejuni.
Further testing by the State Hygiene lab showed the bacteria from the stool samples and the milk samples were a genetic match. Additionally, interviews with event attendees revealed that consuming the unpasteurized milk was statistically associated with illness.
Health officials said this combination of laboratory and epidemiologic evidence indicates that the illnesses were caused by the unpasteurized milk consumed at the school event.
Campylobacter jejuni bacteria can cause diarrhea, which can be bloody, abdominal cramping, fever, nausea and vomiting. Rarely, an infection may lead to paralysis after initial symptoms have disappeared. Campylobacter can be transmitted by consuming food contaminated directly or indirectly by animal feces or handled by someone with the infection who has not adequately washed hands after using the bathroom.

 




6th
International Conference for
Food Safety and Quality

November 8-9, 2011
Holiday Inn Chicago O'Hare Hotel
5615 North Cumberland Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60631

Major Topic: Detection Methods for
Microbiological/Chemical Hazards for Food Safety and Quality


Registration

Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Conference Place: Holiday Inn (Conference Room)

7:00 - 8:30 Registration and Breakfast (Juice, Tea, Coffee) and Poster Display
(***Exhibitors displaying time : 7:00-9:00 AM***)

8:40 - 9:00 Opening Announcement


Program
Section A. Importance of Detection Methods for Food Safety and Quality

9:00 - 9:50 - The Importance of detection methods for food safety and quality

Michael Doyle
University of Georgia



9:50 - 10:40 - Advanced Detection methods for food safety and quality


Mansel Griffiths
University of Geulph
Editor of AEM



10:40 - 11:00 -
Coffee Break in Exhibitors' Section


11:00 - 11:50 - Current Foodborne Outbreak and legal issues


William D. Marler, Esq.
MarlerClark attorneys at Law



11:50 - 12:00: Exhibitos Presentation and GROUP PICTURE

12:00 - 1:00: Lunch buffet will be supported (Holiday Inn, Dinning Room)


Section B. Detection methods for Food Allergen Residues

1:00 - 1:50 - Detection of Food Allergen Residues in Processed Foods and Food Processing Facilities

Stephen Taylor
University of Nebraska
Director - Food Allergy Research and Resource Program



1:50 - 2:20 - Rapid Testing for Allergen Control Programs
Presentation by Ryan Waters
Charm Science

2:20 - 2:30 - Break / Visit Companies' Booth


Section C. Molecular/Immunoassay methods for Detection of Microbiological and Chemical hazards

2:30 - 3:10 - Costco Way for Food Safety and Quality

Robin Forgey
Food Safety Quality Manager
Costco



3:10 - 3:50 -
Novel biosensor technologies for high throughput screening of pathogens and toxins

A. Bhurnia
Professor, Purdue University

 


3:50 - 4:10- Innovative detection methods with immunoassay based method
Presented by SDI




4:10 -4:30 - Novel nucleic acid testing methods for industrial applications
Presented by Roka Bioscience



4:30 - 5:30 - Panel Discussion (All key speakers will be joined)

Stan Bailey
2008 IAFP President, bioMerieux





5:30
- Adjourn



Wed. November 9, 2011
Conference Place: Holiday Inn (Conference Room)

7:00 - 8:30 Registration and Breakfast (Juice, Tea, Coffee) and Poster Display
8:40 - 9:00 Poster Competition Award



Section D. Importance of conventional/biochemical detection methods for Food safety and Quality

9:00 - 9:40 - Rapid Methods/Automation and a Look into the Future

Daniel Y.C. Fung
Director of Rapid Methods and Automation in Microbiology Workshop (KSU)
Professor, Kansas State University



9:40 - 10:20 -
Rapid Methods and Automation Workshop for 30 years

P.C. Vasavada
Director of Rapid Methods and Automation in Microbiology Workshop (UW)
Professor, University of Wisconsin



10:20 - 10:40 - Coffee Break in Exhibitors' Section

10:40 - 10:50 - Presentation Title from Company presentation

bioMerieux

11:00 - 11:30 - New demands for Rapid and Automative Detection Methods for Food Safety

Stan Bailey
2008 IAFP President, bioMerieux

 

11:30 - 12:00 - Rapid methods for monitoring microbial numbers for food industries

Gregory Siragusa
Senior Principal Scientist
Danisco USA

 

12:00 -12:20 - Innovative methods for detection of microbiological/chemical hazards for food safety

Dupont Qualicon


12:20 - 1:30
- Lunch buffet will be supported (Holiday Inn, Dinning Room)


Section E. Impacts of Advanced/Conventional Detection methods on Food Industries

1:30 - 2:10 - Impact of detection methods for food industries

Robert Koeritzer
2006 AOAC President




2:10 - 2:30 - Application of several detection methods for Food industries

remel

2:30 - 2:40 - Coffee Break in Exhibitors' Section

2:40 - 3:10 - The importance of detection procedures for food safety by 3rd party

Erdogan Ceylan
Director, Silliker



3:10 - 4:00 Application of Rapid Methods for Food Industries

Paul Hall
IAFP President (2004)
President, AIV Consulting LLC.


4:00 - 4:30 - Attendees' Certificate / Adjourn







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