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9/4
2011
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Will the Food Safety Modernization Act Help Prevent Outbreaks of Foodborne Illness?
Source : http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1109388
By_Michael R. Taylor, J.D.(Sep 1, 2011)
Large-scale outbreaks of foodborne illness have recently focused attention on the ability of the U.S. food-safety system to protect the public health. The nationwide outbreak of Salmonella enterica serotype Typhimurium infection associated with peanut products that is described by Cavallero et al. is one example.1 This contamination, which was ultimately traced to the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), took a high toll - 714 people were affected, about 200 were hospitalized, and 9 died. Investigators found multiple potential routes of contamination at PCA facilities, such as rain leakage and cross-contamination between raw and roasted peanuts. Although the outbreak was eventually contained, key parts of the food-safety system clearly failed.
There is a public health imperative to do better. The burden of foodborne illness is substantial: about 1 in 6 people in the United States get sick each year, 128,000 are hospitalized, and about 3000 die. We know that foodborne illness is not just a mild annoyance - it can lead to lifelong chronic diseases, such as arthritis and renal failure, and can cause death. Moreover, outbreaks can reduce consumers' confidence in the food supply and cause major economic disruptions for the food system.
Ensuring food safety is a difficult job. A global marketplace provides a diverse array of food products. Many processed foods are manufactured through complex technology. New strains of Escherichia coli are emerging - such as the O104:H4 strain in the recent German outbreak2 - and we're seeing unexpected pathogens in some food items, such as salmonella in nuts. Given our complex food-distribution channels, it's not easy to trace contaminated products to their source rapidly.
The challenge is great, but we believe we have a historic opportunity to reduce foodborne illness under the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Enacted on January 4, 2011, the FSMA gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) a modern mandate and toolkit to improve the safety of the country's food supply.
Most fundamentally, the law clarifies that people and businesses that provide food to the public, whether they produce, process, transport, or sell food, are responsible for taking the steps necessary to ensure that they've identified and controlled hazards that could make food unsafe. Though most companies take proper precautions, it takes only one uncontrolled situation to cause an outbreak. The FDA's core job under the FSMA is to set modern prevention-oriented standards and ensure high rates of compliance. Consumers have a responsibility to ensure food safety by properly handling, preparing, and storing food, but they should not be responsible for correcting mistakes that were made earlier in the farm-to-table chain.
The FSMA shifts our food-safety focus from reaction and response to prevention, so that prudent preventive measures will be systematically built into all parts of the food system. The law directs the FDA to issue a rule requiring comprehensive preventive controls for most facilities. In the future, each facility will have to produce a written analysis identifying the hazards associated with the foods it handles and the processes used to manufacture them. The required documentation will describe the controls the facility has implemented to prevent the identified hazards, including a plan for monitoring the controls and correcting problems when failures occur.
Preventive controls are not new in the food industry; many companies already employ them, and the FDA already requires them for foods such as juices, seafood, and shell eggs. But Congress has given the FDA an explicit mandate to use the tool more broadly. Details of the new requirements under the FSMA will be developed through the rulemaking process, and the public will have the opportunity to provide input (more information can be found at www.fda.gov/fsma).
The new law has provisions to help ensure that food from abroad is as safe as food produced domestically. Our food supply is global, with 15% coming from other countries, and the percentage is higher for certain commodities: 75% of our seafood, 20% of our vegetables, and 50% of our fruit is imported. The FSMA mandates a new safety system that makes importers accountable for verifying that the required controls are in place in foreign food facilities that export products to the United States. The FDA will continue to conduct electronic risk-based screening of all food shipments before they arrive in the country and conduct further analyses at the port of entry when warranted. But the requirement that importers perform verification activities will boost our assurance that imported food is safe.
The FSMA also provides the FDA with new inspection and enforcement tools to ensure that companies are carrying out their responsibilities and to keep contaminated products from reaching the marketplace. With the help of its state partners and others, the FDA will conduct more frequent and targeted inspections that will include verification that facilities are properly implementing preventive controls. We will have access to facilities' food-safety plans and the records they will be required to keep to document their implementation. With the FSMA's broad prevention framework, we will be able to develop new inspection approaches that better target facilities and products on the basis of risk. When a company fails to voluntarily recall unsafe food, the FDA has new authority to issue a mandatory recall. The law also gives the FDA more authority to prevent the release into the marketplace of adulterated or misbranded food, including potentially harmful food. In addition, if a food producer in another country does not permit the FDA to inspect its facility, the agency can refuse to allow food from that facility into the United States.
The FSMA also gives the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention new responsibilities to enhance federal, state, and local surveillance systems for foodborne illness so that we can identify and control outbreaks more quickly while gaining the scientific knowledge to prevent future ones. The FSMA implicitly recognizes the importance of good data to drive evidence-based interventions that could reduce illnesses. State and local health departments are responsible for a large proportion of these activities, and we must provide them with resources to do their job with modern methods.
Finally, we have a mandate from Congress to work more closely with our government partners at the federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal level. Our goal is to establish an integrated, nationwide food-safety system with harmonized inspections, requirements, surveillance methods, and training. The FSMA also includes similar directives to work with and help build the capacity of our counterparts in other countries.
The law calls for a new food-safety system - one that makes better use of public and private resources to prevent food-safety problems. Implementation will take time. Some provisions are already in place, but many others require rulemaking, which will ensure that we get input from all our stakeholders and that the regulations we issue are well thought out and practical for the diverse businesses that will be affected.
Implementation also requires investment in the science that can illuminate hazards and ways of preventing them, retraining of FDA field staff in new inspection methods, capacity building that enables us to leverage state resources, and the construction of a new import-safety system that meets the challenges of our globalized food supply.
The FSMA represents an opportunity to build a system that can prevent many outbreaks of foodborne illness and reduce the public health impact of those that do occur. We expect to better meet high consumer expectations and enhance the food system's economic viability. We will be working with stakeholders, with Congress, and with the administration to ensure that the FDA has the necessary resources to implement this landmark legislation.

Most Americans Unaware of Safe Cooking Practices
Source : http://www.foodproductdesign.com/news/2011/09/most-americans-unaware-of-safe-cooking-practices.aspx
By_admin (Sep 2, 2011)
Grills will be firing up around the country this coming Labor Day, but most grillmasters won't be cooking their food to a safe temperature, according to a new poll commissioned by the American Meat Institute (AMI) and conducted by Harris Interactive.
The poll found that 88 percent of U.S. adults cook hamburgers and poultry, but only 19 percent 8 in 10 adults who cook hamburgers or poultry burgers use an instant-read thermometer to determine that the food is safely cooked and ready to eat. Further, approximately 73 percent of adults who cook hamburgers or poultry burgers incorrectly rely on sight to determine doneness, and 57 percent incorrectly rely on cooking time.
The most concerning finding, according to AMI, is that only 13 percent of adults ages 18-34 who cook hamburgers or poultry burgers use an instant read thermometer to determine doneness. Seventy-eight percent of this age group rely on sight to determine if the burger is cooked properly.
In terms of proper cooking temperatures, only one in five U.S. adults (20 percent) knows a hamburger should be cooked to 160 degree F to ensure it is safe to consume, while 41 percent mistakenly believe that hamburgers should be cooked to a temperature less than 160 degrees F, according to the poll.
Nearly half of U.S. adults (47 percent) believe that poultry burgers should be cooked to a temperature less than 165 degrees F. Only 13 percent know that a poultry burger should be cooked to 165 degree F to ensure it is safe to consume.
"Meat and poultry companies use many food safety strategies to make our products as safe as we can, and it is our responsibility to empower our customers with the information that they need to ensure that the products are safe when served," said AMI Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Janet Riley. "Our poll reveals that a significant knowledge gap still exists about proper cooking temperatures and thermometer use. U.S. meat and poultry products are among the safest in the world, but like all raw agricultural products, they can contain bacteria, and that is why it is important to take time to remind consumers about safe handling and cooking practices."

Salt: the latest health food?
Source : http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/salt-the-latest-health-food-20110902-1jp2r.html
By_Reuters (Sep 2, 2011)
The message that liberal sprinklings of sodium, the main component of salt, is devastating for health has now become conventional wisdom worldwide. High salt intake is linked to high blood pressure, or hypertension, a key risk factor for strokes, heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases - the world's number one killers.
But two recent scientific papers suggest the basis for a global crackdown on salt is not what you'd call rock solid. Two 2011 studies indicate that the evidence is inconclusive, or that reducing salt may even be harmful.
A study in July by the much-respected Cochrane Library, which conducts meta-analyses of scientific data by grouping together the best studies on a subject and pooling the results, found no evidence that reducing salt intake cuts the risk of developing heart disease or dying before your time.
In that study Rod Taylor, a professor of health services research at Exeter University, analysed seven randomised controlled trials covering more than 6500 people and found that although cutting down did appear to lead to slight reductions in blood pressure, this did not translate into lower risk of heart disease or premature death.
In one group of people - those with pre-existing heart conditions - reducing salt was actually associated with an increase in the likelihood of premature death.
Taylor said he did not receive payment from, or have links to, the salt industry. His study was funded by a grant from the UK government's National Institute for Health Research.
Taylor's study came hot on the heels of another, by Belgian scientists, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). That study found people who ate lots of salt were no more likely to get high blood pressure, and were statistically less likely to die of heart disease, than those with low salt intake.
The researchers used data from two different studies, involving a total of around 3700 Europeans whose salt consumption was measured through urine samples. The scientists divided the participants into three groups with low, medium and high intake: those with the lowest salt intake had the highest rate of death from heart disease - at 4 per cent. People who ate the most salt had the lowest death rate from heart disease, at less than 1 per cent.
"One should be very careful in advocating generalised reduction in sodium intake in the population at large. There might be some benefits, but there might also be some adverse effects," says Jan Staessen, head of hypertension studies at the University of Leuven and the lead investigator on the Belgian study. "You have to ask, should public health policies be based on something which is still being debated? I don't think so."
Staessen told Reuters he had no financial conflicts of interest. His work was funded largely by grants from the European Union and European national governments.
Michael Alderman, a blood pressure expert at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the United States and editor of the American Journal of Hypertension, believes there's a sense that some scientists - and most policymakers - may have moved too early to target salt as the cause of the problem. "If we're doing something so dramatic to the diets of whole populations, there should be no argument. The evidence should be overwhelming, but it's not overwhelming at all," he said.
Of around a dozen scientists interviewed by Reuters for this story, about half shared this point of view; but since they included salt-reduction campaigners and salt industry representatives, that is not necessarily an indicator of the balance of opinions across the scientific community.
Alderman argues that in addition to changing blood pressure, cutting sodium can cause other physiological changes such as increased resistance to insulin - which can set the stage for diabetes and increase the risk of death from heart disease. Too little sodium can also increase sympathetic nerve activity which raises the risk of heart attacks, and boost the secretion of aldosterone, a hormone produced by the adrenal gland that is bad for the cardiovascular system.
"What we have - like almost all interventions in health and medicine - is something that produces a multitude of different effects," said Alderman, who disclosed having taken one $750 payment more than a decade ago from the Salt Institute, but who said he has since had no financial help from the industry.
However, Graham MacGregor of Wolfson Institute equates the argument about salt to past rows over tobacco, even though unlike tobacco, salt is a fundamental nutritional requirement for humans to survive.
"We're in exactly the same position as we were with tobacco 20 or 30 years ago when people were still arguing about whether tobacco caused lung cancer or heart disease," MacGregor says. "It obviously did, there was no doubt about it - and the only people arguing were people who had commercial interest."
There is one thing the two sides appear to agree on: the matter could be settled by a large-scale, randomised clinical trial of 20,000 to 30,000 people, with half allocated to a high- and half to a low-salt diet over several years. The huge numbers are needed so that all other possible factors - weight, age, fitness, quality of diet, and medical conditions - are roughly equal in both groups.
But salt-reduction advocates say such a trial would be prohibitively expensive, unnecessary, and might even be unethical. Since, in their view, the harms of salt are indisputable, asking people to be kept on a high salt diet for the purposes of a medical experiment would be equivalent to forcing people to smoke.
Until the row is settled, people's salt intake will probably be guided by personal taste.

Keeping Fresh Food Safe In Purpose Built Cartons
Source: http://www.contentworkers.com/Art/315322/24/Keeping-Fresh-Food-Safe-In-Purpose-Built-Cartons.html
By _Stewart Wrighter (Aug 31, 2011)
With any company which is handling edible products, it is vital that they are packed away properly in things like corrugated boxes etc. to keep them fresh. Food packaging is quite a specialist subject and, depending on what is to be carried, there are several different kinds of carton which should be used to keep the goods edible.
For example, any bird product which is being transported has to be chilled or frozen. Chickens, and birds of this nature, are notoriously renowned for harboring salmonella or some other kind of food poisoning bug. Outbreaks of this can be avoided, of course, but it does mean some very careful handling by those companies which kill and clean the birds. For example, the bird itself must be packed in its own bag and tied off. Then it can be packed with other birds in a carton that has a wax coating too so that no drips are allowed to escape. The carton itself must be extremely strong since it will probably hold at least six birds and then it will have to be stacked and transported long distances to its destination. All this has to be done within a day or two of the bird being killed.
For wet fish and lobsters etc. too, this is a very similar process but the goods will probably have to be packed on ice which means that the cartons have to be extremely tough. Although the whole thing will be chilled down to the point where the ice will not melt so quickly, it is obvious that the cartons have to be waterproof otherwise they will just disintegrate before too long.
Having handling instructions printed on the carton is vital for the end users so that they know what to do with the product when it arrives. For example, it may well have to be consumed by a certain date, or not refrozen once the melting process has begun. Either way, this should be on the carton so no one is in any doubt. On the carton too should be details of the company so that anyone who wants to make repeat orders has all this information at their fingertips. Companies which produce the cartons also have designers who can work out what looks best and will certainly offer discounts for large orders. Some also hold onto the bulk of the order too so that the buyer can just use what it needs without worrying about storing empty cartons.
It is also a good idea to put any special offers on these cartons too so that anyone who comes into contact with them has a chance to view the advert. This is particularly appropriate when the cartons are being sent to chains of restaurants etc. across the country and it saves on any other form of advertising. Indeed, it is this kind of branding which makes goods very familiar to the public so this side of buying cartons is well worth looking into. Some will only need a basic logo; this is how popular some brands have become!

Food safety at grocery stores
Source : http://www.live5news.com/story/15380886/s
By Yvette Yeon (Sep 02, 2011)
In the aftermath of Irene, Martins had to go through a list of inspections. The store checked the temperature of the foods, then an internal auditor double checked, and that's not all.
"We actually had visits from the health department and the department of agriculture," said Martins Regional Vice President, Jim Scanlon.
Martins passed with flying colors, but not all food stores could be as reliable.
That's why shoppers like Autumn Harbour who lost power for nearly 5 days takes extra care when filling the cart.
"I have been checking the due dates," said Harbour.
Scanlon says the business was hit with a loss when power went out Saturday. Meat, seafood, and dairy had to be quickly moved into cooler or freezer trucks out back - others were just thrown out.
"The things we would have to throw out, probably immediately are the things in the chefs case and any of your hot foods," he said. "The things that are prepared hot and ready to eat those get thrown out."
With power back on, like Martins, many stores are now restocking the refrigerated sections that were not supported by the generator during the outage.
Shoppers should carefully watch out for spoiled meat. If it looks brown and smells bad, it's probably bad to eat. Even if it hasn't reached its due date, food could potentially spoil.
"As you look at any cut of meat it should look fresh," said Scanlon.
If you're doubtful - don't buy it.

Food Safety and Power Outages
Source : http://stoughton.patch.com/articles/food-safety-and-power-outages
By_ Editor Jeffrey Pickette (Sep 1, 2011)
Release prepared by Denise Lochiatto, Secretary to Finance Committee/Board of Health:
When the Power Goes Out . . .
Here are basic tips for keeping food safe:
o Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. The refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened.
o A full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.
o Buy dry or block ice to keep the refrigerator as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time. Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18-cubic foot fully-stocked freezer cold for two days.
o If you plan to eat refrigerated or frozen meat, poultry, fish or eggs while it is still at safe temperatures, it's important that each item is thoroughly cooked to the proper temperature to assure that any foodborne bacteria that may be present is destroyed. However, if at any point the food was above 40 ¡ÆF for 2 hours or more - discard it.
o Wash fruits and vegetables with water from a safe source before eating.
o For infants, try to use prepared, canned baby formula that requires no added water. When using concentrated or powdered formulas, prepare with bottled water if the local water source is potentially contaminated.
Once Power is Restored . . .
You'll need to determine the safety of your food. Here's how:
If an appliance thermometer was kept in the freezer, check the temperature when the power comes back on. If the freezer thermometer reads 40¡ÆF or below, the food is safe and may be refrozen.
o If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine its safety. You can't rely on appearance or odor.
o If the food still contains ice crystals or is 40 ¡ÆF or below, it is safe to refreeze or cook.
o Refrigerated food should be safe as long as the power was out for no more than 4 hours and the refrigerator door was kept shut. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs or leftovers) that has been above 40¡ÆF for two hours or more.
o Keep in mind that perishable food such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk, and eggs that are not kept adequately refrigerated or frozen may cause illness if consumed, even when they are thoroughly cooked.

Pomperaug Health District Offers Safety Tips After Hurricane Irene
Source : http://southbury.patch.com/articles/pomperaug-health-district-offers-safety-tips-after-hurricane-irene
By_Daniel DeBlasio(Sep 1, 2011)
With thousands of households in the state without power, it is important to prevent getting sick from food that has spoiled, water that has been contaminated or from carbon monoxide poisoning. The Pomperaug Health District provides the following tips to stay healthy in the aftermath of Irene:
Food Safety: When in doubt, throw it out!
o The refrigerator will keep food at proper temperature for about four hours if the doors are not opened. A full freezer will hold a safe temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full).
o If the temperature of the food in your refrigerator or freezer goes above 45 degrees, throw away perishable foods such as beef, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, and cut fruits and vegetables.
o Food can be safely refrozen if it still has ice crystals on it or has stayed below 40 degrees.
o Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water. This includes packaged food items in plastic, paper, cardboard, cloth, and similar containers that may have been water damaged, as well as beverage containers with screw-caps, snap lids, crimped caps (soda bottles), twist caps, flip tops, and home canned foods, as these tops cannot be disinfected appropriately.
o As always, if there is any doubt as to the safety of the food, it is best to discard the food rather than take a chance of contracting a foodborne illness. WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT!
Drinking Water
o Listen for water reports from local authorities to find out if your water is safe for drinking and bathing.
o If an advisory has been issued concerning contaminated water, use only bottled, boiled, or treated water for drinking, cooking, food preparation, and hand washing.
o Homeowners in flooded areas whose private wells have flooded (dug or drilled wells where the cap was partially or completely submerged) should consider their wells contaminated. For information on disinfecting flooded wells, go to www.ct.gov/dph/floods or call the Pomperaug Health District at 203-264-9616.
o Throw away any bottled water that may have come in contact with flood or storm water.
Recovering from Septic Flooding
o Septic systems may become inundated and or backed-up into houses due to flooding. Unfortunately, time is the best remedy for this-wait for the water to drop and eventually the leaching system will start to dry out and become functional. We recommend systems that were inundated or backed-up into houses be inspected by a licensed septic installer as soon as possible.
o If sewage has backed-up into the house, it should be pumped out and all surfaces that are smooth and easily cleanable should be cleaned with a bleach solution. All non-cleanable surfaces should be discarded. It is recommended that sewage back-ups be cleaned by a professional cleaning service.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
o Don't use charcoal grills indoors for heating and cooking, and don't use gas stoves as a source of heat. Either one can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. A fireplace is safe to use for heat and cooking if it is properly vented to the outside. In addition, check to see if water or a power outage has affected your furnace and assure that it is venting properly and the pilot light is on.
o Under no circumstances should portable generators be used indoors. This includes inside a garage, carport, basement, crawlspace, or other enclosed or partially-enclosed area, even with ventilation. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent carbon monoxide (CO) build-up in the home. Additionally, generators that are outside should be placed away from open windows, doors, and vents that could allow CO to come indoors. The CO from generators can rapidly lead to full incapacitation and death, but CO can't be seen or smelled. Even if you cannot smell exhaust fumes, you may still be exposed to CO. If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air RIGHT AWAY - DO NOT DELAY

Food safety concerns arise after storm
Source : http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/news/x948302728/Food-safety-concerns-arise-after-storm
By Rob Haneisen (Aug 31, 2011)
The "common sense" mantra was repeated by area public health officials when asked about food safety concerns during prolonged power outages at homes and businesses: "When in doubt, throw it out."
After two full days of no power for tens of thousands of homes in MetroWest and the Milford region as well as numerous businesses and food establishments, local boards of health are telling callers some of the basics of food safety.
"If (refrigerated) food is above 40 degrees for more than two hours, you should throw it out, especially dairy products, meat and eggs," said Paul McNulty, Westborough's director of public health. "Don't push it, because two or three days of food poisoning isn't worth it."
Ethan Mascoop, Framingham's director of public health, said he is advising people to not re-freeze thawed food, among other tips. He also said that if food does spoil in your refrigerator, clean it out and leave the doors open until power returns so mold does not grow inside the appliance.
"Remain safe, and don't test food by tasting it," he said.
Mascoop said the power outage which began Sunday amid Tropical Storm Irene has amounted to a major inconvenience for many people but has not risen to a public health catastrophe. Mild weather and abundant supplies in the region are preventing that. If anything, the power outage could be a learning opportunity.
"It raises awareness about having an emergency preparedness kit at home - keeping at least three days of your supplies at home," he said.
For restaurants, most can close and reopen voluntarily without assistance from local boards of health because local rules require food preparation training, including how to deal with power loss, health officials said.
That's not stopping Milford officials from checking in on a few restaurants after the storm.
"We're taking random inspections at high-risk establishments and so far so good," said Paul Mazzuchelli, Milford's health officer. "No big problems, but some questions. We're there to help."
Mascoop said some businesses will also call to confirm they are taking the correct action.
"One restaurant off Rte. 9 (Fresh Choice Market) had to discard a huge quantity of food," said Mascoop in Framingham. "They were doing the right thing, so that's a good story out of a bad situation."
Some health hazards might take a few weeks to be seen and felt.
"Mosquitoes are down the road," said McNulty in Westborough. "We've had so much rain, the warmer it is the faster they reproduce. Anything that holds water should be dumped out - toys in the yard, tarps, anything at all that holds water should be emptied out."
David Henley, superintendent for the Eastern Middlesex Mosquito Control Project which includes Framingham and numerous surrounding communities east to Cambridge, said the heavy rains from Aug. 7 to Aug. 15 combined with flooding rains from Irene will likely grow excessive amounts of mosquitoes.
"My feeling is that in a few places there are a lot of mosquitoes now and within a few weeks there will probably be a lot more mosquitoes," he said.
Crews will spray in Sudbury tonight and tomorrow night, Henley said, because there already were huge populations of mosquitoes. Crews also set monitoring traps in Framingham, Weston, Wayland and Wellesley yesterday to see if spraying was needed there.
More mosquitoes does not automatically mean a higher risk for diseases spread by mosquitoes in late summer: West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Henley said there has been no evidence of EEE in MetroWest and there have been no human cases of West Nile in the state, though there have been a record number of mosquitoes testing positive for carrying the virus.
Henley said West Nile tends to be most active when it is hot and dry so he does not expect to see a jump in activity. However, he is concerned about EEE for next year. Flooding rains late this summer could help produce a large crop of mosquitoes that survive in larval states over the winter to spread EEE next year.
For more information on food safety precautions during power outages, go the state's Health and Human Services website at mass.gov/eohhs and search for "Storm Fact Sheet."
(Rob Haneisen can be reached at 508-626-3882 or rhaneisen@wickedlocal.com.)

How to Keep Food Free of Salmonella: Lawsuits
Source : http://www.theatlantic.com/life/archive/2011/08/how-to-keep-food-free-of-salmonella-lawsuits/244396/
By_Barry Estabrook -(Aug 31, 2011)
Even if the government won't go after the food industry, William Marler will-by ensuring safe food through litigation
Given that Salmonella-contaminated ground turkey produced by Cargill, Inc. had already sickened more than 100 people and killed one, William Marler's offer to the Minneapolis-based company early last month seemed worth considering: Regularly test your meat for antibiotic-resistant Salmonella, and I won't sue you.
Suing corporations that sicken their customers is something Marler does often and well. He is a Seattle trial attorney whose firm, Marler Clark, specializes in representing victims of food poisoning. It's proven to be a lucrative specialty. Marler has won more than $600 million for his clients over the past two decades. A good chunk of that money has come from Cargill, which, according to Marler, has had four outbreaks of resistant Salmonella in its facilities in the last 10 years.
Marler also knows a fair bit about self-promotion. His offer was obviously designed to draw public attention to his firm, which represents about two dozen victims of the most recent Cargill outbreak. But in addition, Marler hoped that his overture would shine light on one of the most gaping holes in the tattered safety net that is supposed to keep our food supply safe.
Astoundingly, under current United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) rules, it's perfectly okay for companies to sell meat to the public that is contaminated with Salmonella and other disease-causing bacteria.
Although the USDA stipulates that meat and poultry containing "adulterants" cannot be sold, it recognizes only one bug-E. coli O157:H7-as an adulterant, even though Salmonella, Listeria, Campylobacter, and many other strains of E. coli have also sickened or killed people. In a twist of logic that would baffle anyone other than a bureaucrat, these potentially lethal bacteria achieve official adulterant status after the fact-only in specific instances when they actually make people sick. "Then they magically become adulterants," Marler said in an interview.
Since the USDA decreed that E. coli O157:H7 was an adulterant in 1994 and required companies to test for the bug and to cook any positive samples before distributing them to consumers, Marler has noticed a dramatic drop in the outbreaks of illness caused by E. coli-tainted ground meat. "Prior to that, 90 percent of our firm's revenue came from E. coli cases linked to hamburger," he said. "That's virtually disappeared-with one little act."
Marler wanted Cargill to perform the same scientifically-based sampling for resistant Salmonella as it does for E. coli and to divert any contaminated meat for use in precooked products (thorough cooking kills the harmful bacteria). If Cargill agreed to do that, he proposed to sit down behind closed doors with company lawyers to quietly negotiate a fair settlement. Having handled more than 5,000 salmonella-poisoning cases in his career, Marler said that he has a good idea of reasonable rewards for his clients.
The obvious question is: Why do such obvious suggestions on how to improve food safety have to come from a trial lawyer instead of from well-paid officials within the government agency that is supposed to protect our meat?
Marler says that part of the problem is that attorneys at the USDA (and the Food and Drug Administration, which oversees food safety in all areas other than meat and poultry) are reluctant to deploy the enforcement tools they have. "I can count on one hand the outbreaks that have led to illness and deaths that there's been a criminal charge or a penalty other that the government saying, 'You poisoned a lot of people; you killed a lot of people, and you need to recall some of your meat or lettuce.' That's about the extent of what the government does."
In one tongue-in-cheek blog post last month, Marler suggested that certain duties of the Attorney General's office be privatized, and he volunteered to assume some duties himself. "I would be willing to put people in jail for poisoning people, and I would do it on the cheap-perhaps for the fun of it," he wrote, and then went on to point out several laws that he says any moderately competent prosecutor could use to jail CEOs of companies that poison people.
The executives at Cargill don't seem worried. After the outbreak became public in August, the company recalled 36 million pounds of ground turkey-the third largest meat recall in history. According to Mike Martin, a Cargill spokesman, the company also adopted an enhanced food safety program which he claims is "the most aggressive monitoring and sampling program in the poultry industry." Cargill also created an independent panel of experts to review its actions and make additional recommendations.
But Cargill stopped short of accepting Marler's proposal to test its meat for resistant Salmonella, and one of the company's attorneys told him that he should go ahead and sue.
He obliged.

Del Monte's Shot Crosses Food Safety's Bow
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/09/del-montes-shot-crosses-food-safetys-bow/
By Ross Anderson |)Sep 01, 2011)
Del Monte's legal cannon shot fired at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Oregon Public Health department over the past week was heard clearly by food safety officials around the country, from Washington state to Washington D.C. And they don't like what they hear.
Public health authorities and consumer activists described the complaint filed by Del Monte Fresh Produce as an attempt to intimidate food safety programs across the country.
But experts close to the food industry described it as one large corporation declaring: "Enough is enough."
Either way, the lawsuit is a response to a finding by the FDA earlier this year that a Salmonella Panama outbreak that had sickened 20 people in 10 states was likely caused by contaminated cantaloupes grown in Guatemala and imported by Del Monte Fresh Produce.
At the time, the Florida-based company voluntarily recalled nearly 5,000 cartons of cantaloupes, and since then the FDA has banned further cantaloupe imports from the company's site in Asuncion Mita, Guatemala.
However, public health authorities never established a positive match -- a genetic "fingerprint" -- linking Del Monte's cantaloupes to the Salmonella infections. Instead, the investigation was based on established epidemiological procedures -- interviews with the victims and a process of elimination that concluded there was a high probability that cantaloupes were the culprit. Traceback information from Costco indicated the suspect brand was Del Monte Fresh Produce.
The company's 25-page complaint, filed in Maryland, questions the findings of that investigation and seeks to lift the FDA's restrictions on cantaloupe imports from Guatemala. And it challenges the federal import alert, which empowers FDA to detain goods without physical examination, and requires the company to show its melons are safe.
The company also served notice it will sue Oregon Public Health, and senior epidemiologist Dr. William Keene, who was one of several investigators from different states who worked on the case last March.
Del Monte Fresh Produce's complaint says the FDA forced it to recall its cantaloupes or "suffer the consequences of an FDA consumer advisory questioning the wholesomeness" of its product. The subsequent ban on imports is unlawful, the company claims, because it is not supported by the facts.
The company now claims its cantaloupes were wrongly blamed for the outbreak.
One lawyer who represents U.S. companies in food poisoning cases said companies like Del Monte are frequently frustrated with being forced into costly recalls despite a lack of what they consider to be conclusive evidence.
Companies are notified by the FDA with little or no warning, explained the lawyer, who asked not to be quoted by name. ""You get a day or two heads-up that it appears to be your product, and there is not much opportunity to have a conversation ... There is not enough collaboration, and it comes across as not even-handed."
Keene, in particular, has antagonized companies with his outspoken style, the lawyer said.
However, food safety advocates pointed out that the public health system is primarily responsible for protecting consumers, not companies.
"Del Monte appears to be asking for the almost impossible before the FDA can issue an alert," warned Caroline Smith DeWaal, a lawyer and food safety specialist at the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest. "The company wants the FDA to require a smoking gun, a positive genetic test, before taking action. That is unrealistic and it puts a burden on investigators that is unmanageable."
Dr. Tim Jones, the Tennessee state epidemiologist, does not expect the case to go far. "But just the threat could have a chilling effect on public health agencies."
Health departments should not be immune from lawsuits, Jones said. But Keene is an example of a public servant who is also a disciplined scientist. "He is outspoken, but his comments are always justified," Jones said. "It's not a matter of cockiness. His job is to protect the public and that is what he tries to do. He is one of a small group of people willing to be blunt and honest with the industry, and I trust what he says."
He and others stressed that Keene and others employ investigative tactics that are statistically sound and fully tested after many years of epidemiology.
When they can, authorities use genetic fingerprinting, the popular term for pulsed field gel electrophoresis, or PFGE, to establish a virtually certain link between an outbreak of illness and a specific food. But PFGE is limited because investigations usually occur weeks after the outbreak, and perishable food is likely to have been either consumed or discarded, making it impossible to test for contamination.
Keene explained the problem earlier this year in an interview with Food Safety News. "It would be great if we could just buy the product, take it to the lab and find Salmonella," he said at the time. "That's something anybody can understand. But when you offer up P values and probabilities, people want to say: 'That's just statistical mumbo jumbo.' "
In fact, epidemiologists have been tracking outbreaks for decades by interviewing victims, looking for foods that all or most of them have consumed, and employing basic statistics to zero in on a probable source.
Statistically, those findings can be just as powerful and persuasive as the lab results, according to food safety experts.
Their credibility was damaged, however, by the 2008 Salmonella outbreak that was originally blamed on tomatoes in a Mexican salsa, but later turned out to be peppers used in the same salsa. That error cost the tomato industry millions of dollars, and soured relations between the food industry and health agencies.
"I still don't think the wrong thing was done there," said Jones of the tomato misidentification. "There were nuances over how information was communicated. But no one was being malicious or irresponsible. We would not be able to live with ourselves if a child died from food poisoning in the three days that we dilly-dallied around looking for that last piece of conclusive evidence."
Americans contradict themselves, he said, in that they "want their food to be 100 percent safe and they get angry when it isn't.... and they also want 100 percent conclusive evidence before issuing a recall."
(Marler Clark, the food safety law firm that sponsors this site, has filed suit against Del Monte Fresh Produce on behalf of several people sickened in last spring's Salmonella outbreak.)

Toddler recovering from E. coli at Cowans Gap lake
Source : http://blog.usfoodsafety.com/2011/08/31/toddler-recovering-from-e-coli-at-cowans-gap-lake/
By Doug Powell(Aug 31, 2011)
An outbreak of E. coli O157 sickened at least 15 people who swam in Cowans Gap State Park lake in Pennsylvania in mid- to late-July.
Among them was 2-year-old Madisyn Myers, whose mother said she received a clean bill of health Monday after three weeks of illness. The child had diarrhea and a urinary tract infection.
"It's hard to see your child go through that," said Michelle Myers of Hagerstown.
The state closed Cowans Gap State Park's lake to all activities on Aug. 9. It reopened the Fulton County, Pa., lake to boating and fishing last week, but swimming continues to be prohibited.
Michelle Myers said she's leery of visiting the lake in the future.
"It was horrible," she said of her daughter's illness.
Madisyn Myers visited the park with her father and about 20 other people in the last weekend of July, according to her mother. The child was the only person from that group who was sickened.
Madisyn underwent stool and urine samples, catheterization and a day in the hospital. She lost four pounds, but the bacteria did not damage her kidneys as her mother feared.
"Monday was like a celebration for us," Michelle Myers said of receiving good test results.

Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Oregon Mexican Restaurant
Source : http://www.marlerblog.com/legal-cases/salmonella-outbreak-linked-to-oregon-mexican-restaurant/
By Bill Marler (August 29, 2011)
I am in Roseburg Oregon for three days of mediation on a Salmonella Outbreak. We represent a dozen clients sickened.
On April 26, 2010, Douglas County Health Department (DCHD) received five Salmonella positive test results from a local laboratory. This influx of positive Salmonella reports immediately caught the attention of DCHD communicable disease staff as five cases in a single day is well above the county's typical annual number of reported Salmonella cases. There were 17 reported cases in 2008 and 9 reported in 2009. County officials interviewed case-patients and a common exposure quickly emerged-Los Dos Amigos restaurant in downtown Roseburg.
On April 27, an inspection of the restaurant by Douglas County Environmental Health (DCEH) found two critical violations: 1) Raw or ready-to-eat food was not properly protected from cross contamination, and 2) food employees did not wash their hands as often as necessary. Inadequate changing of gloves and lack of sanitizer in the wipe cloth bucket were also noted.
Environmental samples were collected on April 27, 28, and May 5. While the results did not return positive for the presence of Salmonella, this was not surprising considering-and as the DCHD also notes-"the samples were taken after the peak period of concern for exposure (04/09-04/17)."
State and local public health investigators identified a total of 38 culture-confirmed cases of Salmonella serotype Enteritidis. An additional 35 case-patients who were not laboratory confirmed but were epidemiologically linked to Los Dos Amigos restaurant were classified as "presumptive" cases. Ninety seven percent (97%) of the culture-confirmed cases shared an indistinguishable two-enzyme genetic match by PFGE analysis, further supporting the hypothesis there was a common source of infection. After conducting food history interviews, a number of uncooked food items were found to be statistically associated with illness, including guacamole, cilantro, and green onions, but no one food item could be singled out at the likely vehicle for the outbreak.
Of the genetically indistinguishable culture-confirmed cases, two were employees of the restaurant. Both were interviewed. One denied having any gastrointestinal symptoms while the other, who had an illness onset of April 16, admitted to working while ill with diarrhea on April 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, and 22. As noted by the DCHD, "any food handler ill with diarrhea are required to be excluded from work until they are no longer symptomatic." They also could not rule out whether the food handlers also became ill from eating at the restaurant.

Salmonella Outbreak Tied to Papaya Over, Says CDC
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/08/salmonella-agona-outbreak-is-over-says-cdc/
by News Desk (Aug 30, 2011)
Seven more patients with illness onset dates from late July brought the total number of papaya-related Salmonella Agona victims to 106 before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) closed out its report on the outbreak.
"This particular outbreak appears to be over," said the CDC on Monday, adding: "Salmonella remains an important cause of human illness in the United States."
On July 23, Agromod Produce Inc. of McAllen, TX announced a recall of all its fresh whole papayas sold before that date, but the first confirmed illnesses in the outbreak came as long ago as on or before last Jan. 17, the CDC says.
CDC's final report on the outbreak says people who became ill ranged in age from one to 91 years of age. The median age of the victims was 21 and 39 percent were under 5. Eleven reported travel to Mexico in the week before they became ill, and 10 required hospitalization.
Two states -- Indiana and Kentucky -- each added one case to the outbreak and brought the total number of states reporting illnesses to 25.
Since Aug. 25, all fresh whole Mexican papaya has been detained at the U.S. border unless the importer can show they are free from Salmonella contamination. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found Salmonella on 15.6 percent of papaya samples from 28 different firms and nearly all growing areas in Mexico.
In the report, CDC hints that an outbreak last year might also have involved papaya or some other fresh fruit, but nothing was ever proved.
"The strain of Salmonella Agona associated with this outbreak is composed of four closely related PFGE patterns that have been rarely identified before in PulseNet," says the report. "Three of these four PFGE patterns were first identified beginning in 2010. A total of 119 cases from 14 states were reported between May 28, 2010, and September 10, 2010.
"Distribution of age, sex, ethnicity, and state of residence among ill persons was similar to the distribution seen in the current outbreak. Despite an intensive investigation during the summer of 2010 by local, state, and federal public health agencies that focused on fresh fruit, including papaya, the source of the outbreak was not determined."




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

20% registration fee off by 9/30/2011
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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