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100 Sick with 18 Deaths Linked to Listeria Cantaloupe

Source :
by Bill Marler (Oct 04, 2011)
I spent the day at Maple Leaf's Food Safety Conference in Toronto (I'm now in D.C.) where the Listeria outbreak of 2008 is still raw, and with 23 deaths and 57 ill, there is little wonder. However, here is what they see from Canada:
The CDC reports a total of 100 persons infected with any of the four outbreak-associated strains of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported to CDC from 20 states. All illnesses started on or after July 31, 2011. The number of infected persons identified in each state is as follows: Alabama (1), Arkansas (1) California (1), Colorado (30), Idaho (1), Illinois (1), Indiana (2), Kansas (7), Maryland (1), Missouri (3), Montana (1), Nebraska (6), New Mexico (13), North Dakota (1), Oklahoma (11), Texas (14), Virginia (1), West Virginia (1), Wisconsin (2), and Wyoming (2). Eighteen deaths have been reported: 5 in Colorado, 2 in Kansas, 1 in Maryland, 1 in Missouri, 1 in Nebraska, 5 in New Mexico, 1 in Oklahoma, and 2 in Texas. State and local health departments in these and other states are investigating other listeriosis illnesses to determine if they are part of this outbreak.

Democrats Want Congress to Investigate Listeria Outbreak
Source :
by Dan Flynn( Oct 04, 2011)
The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations produced the Food Safety Modernization Act after a series of public hearings on tragic foodborne illness outbreaks involving everything from peanut butter to eggs.
It was the bipartisan support generated in those public hearings that pushed the new food safety law through a Congress that does not pass much these days. Since January, however, control of the U.S. House passed to the Republicans.
Now, in the aftermath of the deadliest outbreak of foodborne disease in a decade, the Republican leadership of the powerful Oversight panel is being challenged to hold more hearings.
Representatives Henry A. Waxman and Diana DeGette, respectively the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, are requesting that their majority counterparts conduct an investigation and hearing into the the current outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes attributed to cantaloupes.
Waxman and DeGette wrote Rep. Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Cliff Stearns, chairman of Oversight and Investigations, asking for a probe that would be largely focused on Colorado's Jensen Farms, where the 1.5 million contaminated cantaloupes were grown.
"An investigation and hearing would allow us to learn about the causes and understand actions that could be taken by industry and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent similar outbreaks in the future," they wrote.
Whether or not such an investigation goes forward is a question that will be decided by the Energy and Commerce Committee, said Meghan Kolossa, spokesman for Chairman Upton, R-MI.
Neither Michigan nor Florida, home of Rep. Stearns, are among the 19 states that have been impacted by the Listeria outbreak. Waxman's California has seen one case, and DeGette's Colorado is Ground Zero for the outbreak with the most cases, 17, and the cantaloupe fields. The state has also seen at least three deaths.
In their letter to the Republican leaders, Waxman and DeGette outlined an investigation that would require Jensen Farms to produce numerous documents, including lists of all customers who purchased cantaloupes in the past year, along with the dates they were informed of the suspected contamination.
The ranking Democrats also want copies of Jensen's internal protocol and standards for monitoring and analysis of the produce, as well as copies of all communication between the farm and state and federal regulations

What the Hell is Listeria and Listeriosis?

Source :
by Bill Marler (October 01, 2011)
What is Listeria?
Listeria monocytogenes (Listeria) is a foodborne disease-causing bacteria; the disease is called listeriosis. Listeria can invade the body through a normal and intact gastrointestinal tract. Once in the body, Listeria can travel through the blood stream but the bacteria are often found inside cells. Listeria also produces toxins that damage cells. Listeria invades and grows best in the central nervous system among immune compromised persons, causing meningitis and/or encephalitis (brain infection). In pregnant women, the fetus can become infected, leading to spontaneous abortion, stillbirths, or sepsis (blood infection) in infancy.
Approximately 2,500 cases of listeriosis are estimated to occur in the U.S. each year. About 200 in every 1000 cases result in death. Certain groups of individuals are at greater risk for listeriosis, including pregnant women (and their unborn children) and immunocompromised persons. Among infants, listeriosis occurs when the infection is transmitted from the mother, either through the placenta or during the birthing process. These host factors, along with the amount of bacteria ingested and the virulence of the strain, determine the risk of disease. Human cases of listeriosis are, for the most part, sporadic and treatable. Nonetheless, Listeria remains an important threat to public health, especially among those most susceptible to this disease.
What are the Symptoms of Listeria Infection?
It is thought that ingestion of as few as 1,000 cells of Listeria bacteria can result in illness. After ingestion of food contaminated with Listeria, incubation periods (from time of exposure to onset of illness) are in the range of one to eight weeks, averaging about 31 days. Five days to three weeks after ingestion, Listeria has access to all body areas and may involve the central nervous system, heart, eyes, or other locations.
A person with listeriosis usually has fever, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea. If infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, loss of balance, confusion, obtundation (decreased consciousness) or convulsions can occur. With brain involvement, listeriosis may mimic a stroke. Infected pregnant women will ordinarily experience only a mild, flu-like illness; however, infection during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, infection of the newborn or even stillbirth. Pregnant women are about 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get listeriosis; about one-third of listeriosis cases happen during pregnancy. The incidence of listeriosis in the newborn is 8.6 cases per 100,000 live births. The perinatal and neonatal mortality rate (stillbirths and early infant deaths) from listeriosis is 80%.
Listeriosis is a serious infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium called Listeria monocytogenes. Although there are other types of Listeria, most cases of listeriosis are caused by Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria is found in soil and water. Vegetables can become contaminated from the soil or from manure used as fertilizer. Animals can carry the bacterium without appearing ill and can contaminate foods of animal origin, such as meats and dairy products. Listeria has been found in a variety of raw foods, such as uncooked meats and unpasteurized (raw) milk or foods made from unpasteurized milk. Listeria is killed by pasteurization and cooking; however, in certain ready-to-eat foods, like hot dogs and cold cuts from the deli counter, contamination may occur after cooking but before packaging.
Adults can get listeriosis by eating food contaminated with Listeria, but babies can be born with listeriosis if their mothers eat contaminated food during pregnancy. The mode of transmission of Listeria to the fetus is either transplacental via the maternal blood stream or ascending from a colonized genital tract (Silver, 1998). Infections during pregnancy can cause premature delivery, miscarriage, stillbirth, or serious health problems for the newborn. Although healthy persons may consume contaminated foods without becoming ill, those at increased risk for infection can probably get listeriosis after eating food contaminated with even a few bacteria.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition established the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) to monitor the effectiveness of food safety interventions in 1996. In a study of FoodNet laboratory-confirmed invasive cases (where infection is detected in blood, cerebrospinal fluid, amniotic fluid, placenta or products of conception), listeriosis decreased by 24% from 1996 through 2003; pregnancy-associated disease decreased by 37%; and cases among those |50 years old decreased by 23% (Voetsch et al., 2007). The highest incidence was reported among Hispanic persons from 1997 through 2001. Differences in incidence by age group and ethnicity may be explained by dietary preferences. More recently, FoodNet surveillance data revealed that the incidence of listeriosis in FoodNet active surveillance sites was 0.27 cases per 100,000 population in 2007, representing a decrease of 42% compared with 1996-1998 (CDC, 2009). The incidence did not change significantly in 2007 compared with 2004-2006 but remained higher than at its lowest point in 2002 (CDC, 2008).
Listeriosis-related mortality rates also decreased annually by 10.7% from 1990 through 1996 and by 4.3% from 1996 through 2005 (Bennion et al., 2008). Seasonal trends show a distinct peak in cases overall and in deaths from listeriosis from July through October. The most recent data suggest that about 2,500 illnesses and 500 deaths are attributed to listeriosis in the United States annually (CDC website, 2009). Neonatal infections are often severe, with a mortality rate of 25-50% (Bortolussi, 2008).
Treatment for Listeriosis
Invasive infections with Listeria can be treated with antibiotics. When infection occurs during pregnancy, antibiotics given promptly to the pregnant woman can often prevent infection of the fetus or newborn. Babies with listeriosis receive the same antibiotics as adults, although a combination of antibiotics is often used until physicians are certain of the diagnosis.
Who is most susceptible to Listeria monocytogenes infection?
Healthy adults and children occasionally get infected with Listeria, but they rarely become seriously ill. Several segments of the population are at increased risk and need to be informed so that proper precautions can be taken. The body's defense against Listeria is called "cell-mediated immunity" because it depends on our cells (as opposed to our antibodies), especially lymphocytes called "T-cells." Therefore, individuals whose cell-mediated immunity is suppressed are more susceptible to the devastating effects of listeriosis. Pregnant women naturally have a depressed cell-mediated immune system. In addition, the systems of fetuses and newborns are very immature and are extremely susceptible to these types of infections. Other adults, especially transplant recipients and lymphoma patients, are given necessary therapies with the specific intent of depressing T-cells, and these individuals become especially susceptible to Listeria as well.
Individuals at increased risk include (CDC website, 2009):
o Pregnant women: They are about 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get listeriosis. About one-third of listeriosis cases happen during pregnancy.
o Newborns: Newborns rather than the pregnant women themselves suffer the serious effects of infection in pregnancy.
o Persons with weakened immune systems
o Persons with cancer, diabetes, or kidney disease
o Persons with AIDS: They are almost 300 times more likely to get listeriosis than people with normal immune systems.
o Persons who take glucocorticosteroid medications (such as cortisone)
o The elderly
How to prevent Listeriosis?
The CDC (CDC website, 2009) provides several recommendations to avoid infection with Listeria:
o Thoroughly cook raw food from animal sources, such as beef, pork, or poultry.
o Wash raw vegetables thoroughly before eating.
o Keep uncooked meats separate from vegetables and from cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods.
o Avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk or foods made from unpasteurized milk.
o Wash hands, knives, and cutting boards after handling uncooked foods.
o Consume perishable and ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible.
Recommendations for persons at high risk, such as pregnant women and persons with weakened immune systems, in addition to the recommendations listed above include:
o Do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats, or deli meats, unless they are reheated until steaming hot.
o Avoid getting fluid from hot dog packages on other foods, utensils, and food preparation surfaces, and wash hands after handling hot dogs, luncheon meats, and deli meats.
o Do not eat soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, and Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, or Mexican-style cheeses such as queso blanco, queso fresco, and Panela, unless they have labels that clearly state they are made from pasteurized milk.
o Do not eat refrigerated p?t?s or meat spreads. Canned or shelf-stable p?t?s and meat spreads may be eaten.
o Do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood, unless it is contained in a cooked dish, such as a casserole. Refrigerated smoked seafood, such as salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna or mackerel, is most often labeled as "nova-style," "lox," "kippered," "smoked," or "jerky." The fish is found in the refrigerator section or sold at deli counters of grocery stores and delicatessens. Canned or shelf-stable smoked seafood may be eaten.

EFSA highlights EU meat inspection inadequacies
Source :
By Mark Astley, (Oct 6, 2011)
A European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) report into the modernisation of meat inspection has found that current swine evaluations of do not adequately deal with certain foodborne hazards.
The study, Scientific Opinion on the public health hazards to be covered by inspection of meat (swine), found that in the EU, ante-and-post-mortem inspections on swine are not always conducted in accordance with regulations, reducing the chance of identifying certain livestock diseases.
EFSA said the report on swine, which was commissioned by the European Commission, was the first of six opinions that will completely modernise meat inspection across the EU.
Difficult to detect
As well as assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the current meat inspection method, scientific experts from EFSA have recommended techniques which take into account the hazards not covered by current regulations.
Salmonella, Yersinia enterocolitica and Toxoplasma gondoii and Trichinella, which are all priority inspection targets in swine, have been difficult to detect using current processes.
EFSA commented that the methods currently in place to judge the fitness of meat for consumption do "not differentiate food safety aspects from meat quality aspects, control of animal diseases or occupational hazards."
"Current ante-or-post-mortem inspection does not enable detection of some of these bacterial and parasitic foodborne hazards."
Although infections such as Trichinella and other pork related contaminations are relatively uncommon in the majority of EU member states, countries such as Romania, Poland and Lithuania still experience cases.
An EFSA report published alongside the Scientific Opinion recorded 700 cases of Trichinella infected pigs in Romania in the last 5 years, and over 30,000 cases of human infection due to pork consumption in the last 25 years.
The report confirmed that while "most member states in principle meet the requirements," they are not "necessarily fulfilled."
Testing for medicinal residues, faecal contamination, heavy metals, hormones and dioxins - which can all result in human disease - are regarded as insufficient.
The report has suggested that although these chemical substances are unlikely to pose an immediate or short term health risk, "the current meat inspection procedures, these contaminants and chemical residues are not specifically addressed."
Over the course of these reports, inspection methods concerning domestic swine, poultry, bovine animals, domestic sheep, goats, farmed game and domestic soliped will be scrutinised.
EFSA evaluated the process involved with meat inspection "in order to access the fitness of the meat for human consumption and to monitor foodborne zoonotic infections."
"If and when the current methodology for this purpose would be considered not to be the most satisfactory to major hazards for public health, additional methods should be recommended."
EFSA will publish their next Scientific Opinion on meat inspection in 2012.

Revised acrylamide toolbox now 'more applicable' to high-risk food categories

Source :
By Jane Byrne (Oct 04, 2011)
To improve its user friendliness, trade body FoodDrinkEurope has restructured its 'acrylamide toolbox' around the three main ingredient types - potatoes, cereals and coffee - that are more commonly associated with the risk of higher formation of the chemical.
The European food and drink manufacturer representatives also report that the latest version of the toolbox includes up-to-date scientific research on low acrylamide risk potatoes/wheat varieties and is informed by feedback from various trade associations.
"This revised structure increases the overall length of the toolbox, but allows the reader to better comprehend the parameters which may be applied selectively in line with their particular needs and product/process criteria. In addition, the stage at which the different studies have been conducted, i.e. laboratory, pilot, or in a factory setting, are aligned to the potential mitigation measures," reports FoodDrinkEurope.
The Brussels-based group added that clearer alignment of the section on risk with the Codex Alimentarius code of practice for the mitigation of the chemical in foods gives the toolbox global relevance.
Snack makers' role
Steve Chandler, secretary general of the European Snacks Association (ESA), whose membership helped revised the toolbox, said that it now includes the latest information on acrylamide mitigation in a more accessible format:
"The revised toolbox will allow companies to identify and utilise the most appropriate 'tools' for their particular circumstances and reinforces industry's commitment to tackling this complex issue."
The toolbox, launched in 2005, was designed to provide companies with the latest findings and best practice on how to reduce acrylamide formation.
It is, in particular, intended to assist individual food manufacturers, including SMEs with limited R&D resources, to assess and evaluate which of the intervention steps identified so far may be helpful to reduce acrylamide formation.
Meanwhile, the UK's Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said it, as per trade associations in other countries, is aiming to ensure that the new version of the toolbox is widely undersood by companies of all sizes through a series of technical webinars explaining the content of the document and how to use it.
Impact assessment
FoodDrinkEurope argues that the toolbox has been successful in helping food companies identify the best ways to reduce acrylamide in their products.
"Companies obviously monitor the results of mitigation strategies internally," explained Beate Kettlitz, director food policy, science and R&D at the trade body. But she told this publication that the "most impressive results may be seen in the baby biscuit and biscuits sectors, which is now a new section in the toolbox."
"In other areas, such as coffee, we can really not show effects despite all our efforts," added Kettilz.
But, in April this year, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded that, so far, the toolbox has had only minimal impact.
"As in previous annual acrylamide reports it can likewise be concluded that the application of the acrylamide toolbox has had only limited success," found the EU food safety agency.
EFSA said that, on comparing data from 2009 with 2007, a trend towards lower acrylamide levels was detected only in crackers, infant biscuits and gingerbread.
However, over the same three-year period it found that levels of the substances actually increased in crisp bread and instant coffee. There was no change in six groups: potato crisps, oven fried potatoes, breakfast cereals, jarred baby foods, processed cereal-based baby foods and 'bread not specified'.
Kettilz concedes there is still a need for increased promotion of the toolbox, the associated multiple language sector pamphlets and the use of the various acrylamide mitigation methods with the wider industry, in particular the small and medium size enterprises (SMEs).
Acrylamide formation
Acrylamide is a suspected carcinogen that is formed during by heat-induced reaction between sugar and an amino acid called asparagine. Known as the Maillard reaction, this process is responsible for the brown colour and tasty flavour of baked, fried and toasted foods.
The food industry has explored a range of strategies to tackle it, from changing cooking processes to reducing asparagine at source through crop breeding. However, the most established solution is using the enzyme asparaginase to convert asparagine into aspartate (another naturally occurring amino acid) so that asparagine is not available to form acrylamide when starchy products are cooked.
Kettlitz said that asparaginase can help manufacturers of dough-based products such as biscuits or baby cereals to reduce acrylamide formation by up to 50% without affecting taste, colour or texture.
She reports that potato products are more challenging though as it is harder for the enzyme to reach the asparagine inside the cells. But she added that the first positive results have been achieved. "Obviously the success of the use of the enzyme very much depends on the recipe, the water content and temperatures and, of course, the time the enzymes has to get in contact with the dough," explained Kettlitz.
Acrylamide exposure levels
Despite being a carcinogen in the laboratory, many epidemiological studies have reported that everyday exposure to acrylamide in food is too low to be of concern.
The compound first hit the headlines in 2002, when scientists at the Swedish Food Administration first reported unexpectedly high levels of acrylamide, found to cause cancer in laboratory rats, in carbohydrate-rich foods.
Since the Swedish discovery a global effort has been underway to amass data about this chemical. More than 200 research projects have been initiated around the world and their findings co-ordinated by national governments, the EU and the United Nations.

Grape Tomatoes Consumer Warning
Source :
by foodsafeguru (Oct 5, 2011)
California Department of Public Health (CDPH) director Dr. Ron Chapman warned consumers not to eat "Limited Edition" and "Fresh and Easy" brand organic grape tomatoes distributed by Andrew Williamson Fresh Produce, a San Diego, California firm, because the product may be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria. The contamination was identified during routine testing. To date, no reports of illnesses have been reported. The recalled organic grape tomatoes are packaged in plastic "clam shell" containers which include:
UPC 33383655925
Product of Mexico
Fresh and Easy, 7 oz
UPC 20025465
Grown in Mexico
The organic grape tomatoes were distributed to 18 U.S. states:
Arizona,California, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and two Canadian Provinces: British Columbia, Ontario.
Consumers who may have purchased the affected organic grape tomatoes should discard them. If unsure whether tomatoes purchased are affected by this recall, consumers should check with their place of purchase.
Consumers who observe the product being offered for sale are encouraged to report their findings to the CDPH toll free complaint line at (800) 495-3232.

Denmark Imposes First 'Fat Tax'
Source :
by Dan Flynn (Oct 04, 2011)
Ever since Marie Antoinette was falsely associated with the quote "let them eat cake" at a time when bread was more on people' s minds, governments have been pushing food decisions one way and then another. The latest to enter this fray is Denmark, the lean and happy Scandinavian country. It has imposed a 2.3 percent saturated fat tax that is being called the world's first true "fat tax."
It's also being called the "butter and burgers" tax. Each kilogram of saturated fax will add 16 Danish kroners to the cost of the food involved, which translates into about 40 cents for a small package of butter and about 15 cents for a burger.
Denmark might seem an unlikely place for the world's first fat tax. Its Scandinavian population runs about 90 percent toward the lean side and Danes are a happy people, according to recent surveys.
While Danes are said to be fond of butter, the country's low, 10 percent obesity rate is already the envy of Europe. Still the Karolinska Institute says obesity and overweight people cost Denmark $2.9 billion a year.
But the new tax has already come under attack from the country's food industry. They say they way it is applied will cost Denmark's businesses an extra $28 million in the first year and put them at an unfair advantage with other European Union (EU) countries.
The unsaturated fat tax is applied on the amount used in the process of making food, not in how much is actually in the product ready for the consumer.
Denmark already has extra taxes on sugar, chocolates and soda pop. Danish Health Minister Jacob Axel Nielsen credits fees on sugar, fat and tobacco with the country's rising life expectancy, which is now 79 years old.
For their part, Danes raided grocery shelves before the new tax went into effect on Saturday, with reports that frozen pizza and dairy products were in short supply.
Meanwhile, Finland, Ireland and Romania are among EU countries that may next adopt fat taxes. However, a Belgian lawmaker said fat taxes would not change consumer eating habits, but "only fill the treasury."
Many foods in Europe are already taxed through the Value Added Tax (VAT). Taxes on food are among the most regressive in that they apply to commodities that must be purchased by low-income households.

Flood of food imported to U.S., but only 2 percent inspected
Source :
By Brad Racino (Oct 3, 2011)
At a sprawling warehouse here, two investigators from the U. S. Food and Drug Administration watched intently as 50 boxes of preserved bean curd from China were emptied into a grinding machine. The monstrously loud apparatus worked its way through 1,800 glass bottles, grinding the glass and spewing out a stream of chunky yellow ooze that would be collected, treated and disposed of in the sewer system.
FDA investigators had decided that the bottles of bean curds were improperly heat-sealed and, as a result, were susceptible to harmful bacteria like botulism, which can be fatal. The case of the destroyed bean curds was relatively straightforward: They had been flagged as suspect as soon as they arrived in port due to a defective heat seal and were sent directly to an FDA warehouse for testing. That's not always how it happens.
The FDA's Los Angeles district is one of the busiest in the U. S., overseeing the inspection of more than half a million food shipments arriving through 24 ports of entry in the L.A. area. Through the port stream products like Cambodian rice by the ton, tapioca pearls from the Philippines, tea biscuits from China, sugar cane and fish from around the world. In 2010, about 3,500 shipments here were refused entry because they were contaminated with filth, pesticides, drug residue or traces of salmonella, according to a News21 analysis of the FDA's database of import refusals. Some of the imports contained unsafe color additives or were mislabeled. And some were even poisonous
Nationwide, the FDA said that last year it rejected nearly 16,000 food-related shipments out of more than 10 million that arrived in more than 320 ports.
"If it comes in here and it's bad," said Denise Williams, a supervisor in the FDA's Division of Import Operations in Southern California, "we're gonna get 'em."
Except when they don't.
Critics, including the U.S. Government Accountability Office, say the FDA is simply not up to the task of ensuring the safety of food imports, which are entering this country in ever-growing numbers. The FDA expects 24 million shipments of FDA-regulated goods to pass through the nation's ports of entry this year, up from 6 million a decade ago.
During that time, the number of FDA investigators stayed constant at about 1,350. The agency began adding investigators in 2009 and now has about 1,800 - still far short of the number required to keep up with the pace of imports.
In 2010, FDA inspectors physically examined 2.06 percent of all food-related imports. The FDA expects only 1.59 percent of all food imports to be examined this year and even less - only 1.47 percent - next year, according to its Office of Regulatory Affairs.
Which shipments get inspected is increasingly determined by a new computer system called PREDICT, or Predictive Risk-based Evaluation for Dynamic Import Compliance Targeting, that is now used at 70 percent of U.S. import operations at land, sea and air ports. It analyzes information such as a manufacturer's history with the agency, lab test results and even current weather patterns, assigning a risk-based score to each shipment to direct investigators toward the riskiest ones.
After a shipment is flagged, it's up to a person to investigate further. Investigators give top priority to the items with the highest scores and work their way down - at least, to the point they can with limited staff.
This summer, the FDA gave News21 unusual behind-the-scenes access at its largest operating district to show the ways in which front-line operations attempt to keep unsafe food from reaching American supermarket shelves and dinner tables.
Sensory tests
"The Nose" prepares to sniff his way down a mahi-mahi fillet.
Steve Angold works out of a narrow lab at the FDA's new $40 million testing facility in Irvine, Calif. He is one of about 25 FDA specialists across the country who rely on their senses of sight, touch, taste and smell to detect decomposition or filth in food products. "It's either pass or fail," Angold said. "Ocean grimy smells would be passing; even stale or fishy odors would be passing."
But if the food smells like turnips or cabbage, it's probably spoiled, he said.
"The worst ones are fecal," Angold continued, the fish inches from his face. "Some people refer to it as baby diapers. I don't have kids, so ・"
Reaching the tail, Angold laid the fish on a sterilized countertop.
"There's nothing wrong with this fish," he announced. "It's pretty good."
Organoleptic testing - or the evaluation of a food's taste, appearance, smell and texture - is one of several methods the FDA uses to determine the safety of food products. Others include chemical and microbiological tests as well as tests to detect insects.
Ants in your sugar? Some may be OK
A few doors down from Angold, entomologist John Sedwick placed a sample of sugar cane under a microscope and moved the petri dish slowly under the lens until he spotted black ants - some whole, some cut in half, all dead - among the particles of sugar.
The FDA is tolerant of ants and other field insects that get mixed in with foods prior to harvesting because they pose little threat to human health. If investigators are uncertain, they can consult the "Food Defect Action Levels," a manual that sets out exactly how many insect parts, larvae or animal hairs are acceptable.
"Other things like blowfly maggots, cockroaches, they carry a whole host of foodborne pathogens," such as bacteria and viruses as well as parasites, Sedwick said, "so there's a very low tolerance for those kinds of insects."
Entomologists also look for "anything that a human would find repulsive or aesthetically displeasing," he said.
"I've had samples where I've found rat hair, shrew hair, bat hair ・ beetles, maggots ・ all in one sample," he said.
Those are the food products the FDA rejects, either ordering the food to be destroyed like the Chinese bean curd or returned to the country it came from.
Circumventing the system
The food inspection system is far from foolproof.
In order to avoid holding up commerce, food shipments often are allowed to proceed directly from a port to the importer. The FDA may decide to physically inspect a shipment only after it has been moved. But once food products are in the hands of the importer, there are opportunities for fraud. To thwart investigators, importers may re-label a shipment or swap out the original product for something more likely to pass FDA inspection, said Williams, the FDA supervisor.Sometimes importers will mislabel products they know will get scrutiny. "And they do get clever," Williams said.
A section of the Long Beach warehouse called "the museum" houses hundreds of confiscated items that importers tried to slip into this country by calling them something other than what they are.
The counterfeit Nike shoes piled onto one table were labeled rice sticks, Williams said. These will be passed to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which might slap the importer with a fine.
FDA investigators admit they can't catch every risky import. There's just too much.
The FDA outlined some of the ways it is trying to keep up in a special report issued in July 2011 titled "Pathway to Global Product Safety and Quality." In the report, the agency said it has opened offices in several large food-exporting countries, including China, India and Costa Rica, and has boosted the number of inspections in other countries in an attempt to stop problems at the source.
Still, the report paints a gloomy picture of the FDA's ability to cope. "Despite ・ recent improvements, FDA does not - nor will it - have the resources to adequately keep pace with the pressures of globalization," the report states.
Carl Nielsen, former director of the FDA's Office of Regulatory Affairs Division of Import Operations and Policy, said the biggest problem the FDA faces is an antiquated structure that focuses mostly on domestic food.
The FDA has about 1,800 investigators who oversee more than 44,000 U.S. food manufacturers and more than 100,000 additional registered food facilities, such as warehouses and grain elevators.
At the same time, the agency is responsible for nearly 200,000 foreign food facilities that have registered with the FDA in order to import the millions of food shipments that arrive in the U.S. each year.
With numbers like that, "Where would you want the people?" Nielsen said. "Would you want some people at the border? Well, there's very few."
FDA Public Affairs Officer Patricia El-Hinnawy said the number of investigators assigned to examine imported food shipments nationally is 277 full-time equivalents. That's just five more than in 2009. These employees do field exams, sample collections and conduct security reviews, among other things, at ports of entry around the country.
Nielsen said the FDA's food import operations are "still a bastard child" within the FDA. Until the agency sets up a separate, well-financed division devoted to food imports, inspections are "not going to happen effectively for a very, very long time," he said.
A new mandate
The Food Safety Modernization Act, passed earlier this year, gives the FDA a new mandate to make certain food is safe for U.S. consumers. Among the requirements are stricter rules for imported foods and more inspections.
The law places more responsibility for food safety on foreign manufacturers. And it calls for the FDA to inspect at least 600 foreign food facilities within the next year and to double the number of inspections each year for the next five years. That would mean 19,200 foreign inspections in year six.
The FDA inspected 354 foreign food establishments in 2010 and estimates it will inspect 994 in 2011.
In its July report, the FDA said the 2011 goal might be attainable but not the rest.
"It would be impossible for FDA to complete 19,200 foreign food inspections in year six without a substantial increase in resources or a complete overhaul in the way it operates," the report said.
More resources also are needed for intelligence-gathering and technological improvements, such as a global data-information sharing system, the FDA report said.
Technology, Nielsen said, has long been the biggest weak spot in the FDA's ability to monitor food imports. In 2000, FDA officials came up with a list of 10 things they needed to better monitor imports, and seven of them had to do with technology, Nielsen said.
"And I promise you, they're still not done," he said.
Additional resources are unlikely as Congress cuts spending in an effort to reduce the nation's debt. A measure in the U.S. House of Representatives would cut $285 million from the agency's 2012 budget, with $35 million coming from food safety, according to the Agriculture Appropriations Bill.
Los Angeles District Director Alonza Cruse said the FDA has made major improvements over the past decade, including better communication and collaboration with other agencies such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the use of PREDICT, the new computer system that is helping pinpoint which shipments should be inspected.
But while PREDICT is a powerful tool, the safety of food imports still lies largely in the hands of investigators like Denise Williams and scientists like Steve Angold.
Until someone invents a robot that can distinguish safe food from unsafe food, Cruse said, it's "a person who has to ultimately decide, yea or nay."
While tools may be able to help do that more quickly, he said, ultimately "it all comes down to a person."

E. coli and its sometimes deadly result Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) - What is it?
Source :
by Bill Marler (Oct 01, 2011)

What is Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome?
Hemolytic uremic syndrome is a severe, life-threatening complication of an E. coli bacterial infection that was first described in 1955, and is now recognized as the most common cause of acute kidney failure in childhood. E. coli O157:H7 is responsible for over 90% of the cases of HUS that develop in North America. In fact, some researchers now believe that E. coli O157:H7 is the only cause of HUS in children. HUS develops when the toxin from E. coli bacteria, known as Shiga-like toxin (SLT) [1,2], enters cells lining the large intestine. The Shiga-toxin triggers a complex cascade of changes in the blood. Cellular debris accumulates within the body's tiny blood vessels and there is a disruption of the inherent clot-breaking mechanisms. The formation of micro-clots in the blood vessel-rich kidneys leads to impaired kidney function and can cause damage to other major organs.

What are the Symptoms associated with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome?
About ten percent of individuals with E. coli O157:H7 infections (mostly young children) goes on to develop Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, a severe, potentially life-threatening complication. HUS is an extremely complex process that researchers are still trying to fully explain.
Its three central features describe the essence of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome: destruction of red blood cells (hemolytic anemia), destruction of platelets (those blood cells responsible for clotting, resulting in low platelet counts, or thrombocytopenia), and acute renal failure. In HUS, renal failure is caused when the nephrons, or filtering units, become occluded (blocked) by micro-thrombi, which are tiny blood clots. In almost all cases, the filtering ability of the kidneys recovers as the body of the patient slowly dissolves the micro-thrombi within the microvessels.
A typical person is born with about one million filtering units, called nephrons, in each kidney. The core of the nephron is a bundle of tiny blood vessels, called a glomerulus, where osmotic exchange allows for the filtration of wastes that eventually collect in the urine and are excreted. During Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, the lack of blood flow to the nephrons can cause them to die or be damaged, just as heart muscle can die as the result of coronary vessel occlusion during a heart attack. Dead nephrons do not regenerate.
In general, the longer a patient suffers kidney failure, the greater the loss of filtering units as a result. At some point, the damage to the kidneys' filtering units can be so severe that the patient will, over a period of years, lose kidney function and suffer end-stage renal disease (ESRD), which requires chronic dialysis or transplantation.
HUS can also cause transient or permanent damage to other organs, which include the pancreas, liver, brain, and heart. The essential pathogenic process is the same regardless of the organ affected: microthrombi inhibit necessary blood flow and cause tissue death or damage. During the acute stage of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, patients must be carefully monitored for these extra-renal complications. It is very difficult to predict the severity and course of HUS once it initiates.
The active stage of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome may be defined as that period of time during which there is evidence of hemolysis and the platelet count is less than 100,000. In HUS, the active stage usually lasts an average of six days (range, 2-16 days). It is during the active stage that the complications of HUS per se usually occur.
What are the complications and long-term risks associated with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome?
Several studies have demonstrated that children with HUS who have apparently recovered will develop hypertension, urinary abnormalities and/or renal insufficiency during long-term follow-up.
End Stage Renal Disease, Dialysis and Kidney Transplantation
End Stage Renal Disease
Children and adolescents with chronic renal failure face a number of complications from the condition, including alterations in calcium and phosphate balance and renal osteodystrophy (softening of the bones, weak bones and bone pain), anemia (low blood cell count that leads to a lack of energy), growth failure (final height as an adult substantially below normal), hypertension (high blood pressure), and other complications.
Renal osteodystrophy (softening of the bones) is an important complication of chronic renal failure. Bone disease is nearly universal in patients with chronic renal failure; in some children, symptoms are minor to absent while others may develop bone pain, skeletal deformities and slipped epiphyses (abnormal shaped bones and abnormal hip bones) and have a propensity for fractures with minor trauma. Treatment of the bone disease associated with chronic renal failure includes control of serum phosphorus and calcium levels with restriction of phosphorus in the diet, supplementation of calcium, the need to take phosphorus binders, and the need to take medications for bone disease.
Anemia is a very common complication of chronic renal failure. The kidneys make a hormone that tells the bone marrow to make red blood cells and this hormone is not produced in sufficient amounts in children with chronic renal failure. Thus, children with chronic renal failure gradually become anemic while their chronic renal failure is slowly progressing. The anemia of chronic renal failure is treated with human recombinant erythropoietin (a shot given under the skin one to three times a week or once every few weeks with a longer acting human recombinant erythropoietin).
Growth failure ultimately leading to short height as an adult is a very common complication of chronic renal failure in children. The mechanisms of growth failure are complex and due to multiple causes. Poorly controlled renal osteodystrophy (bone disease), inadequate nutrition (insufficient intake of adequate calories), chronic acidosis (blood system too acid) and abnormalities of the growth hormone axis (growth hormone deficiency) are each major contributors to poor growth in the child with chronic renal failure. Growth hormone therapy with human recombinant growth hormone has been approved for use in children with chronic renal failure and such therapy has been shown to accelerate growth, induce persistent catch up growth and lead to normal adult height in children with chronic renal failure. Growth hormone therapy requires giving a shot under the skin once a day. Complications of growth hormone therapy are rare but may include glucose intolerance and exacerbation of poorly controlled renal osteodystrophy.
Dialysis and Kidney Transplantation
Renal replacement therapy can be in the form of dialysis (peritoneal dialysis or hemodialysis) or renal transplantation.
If the patient does not have a living related donor for their first kidney transplant and when they need a second kidney transplant after loss of the first transplant, they will need dialysis until a subsequent transplant can be performed. The patient can be on peritoneal dialysis or on hemodialysis.
Peritoneal dialysis has been a major modality of therapy for chronic renal failure for several years. Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis (CAPD) and automated peritoneal dialysis also called Continuous Cycling Peritoneal Dialysis (CCPD) are the most common forms of dialysis therapy used in children with chronic renal failure. In this form of dialysis, a catheter is placed in the peritoneal cavity (area around the stomach); dialysate (fluid to clean the blood) is placed into the abdomen and changed 4 to 6 times a day. Parents and adolescents are able to perform CAPD/CCPD at home. Peritonitis (infection of the fluid) is a major complication of peritoneal dialysis.
Hemodialysis has also been used for several years for the treatment of chronic renal failure during childhood. During hemodialysis, blood is taken out of the body by a catheter or fistula and circulated in an artificial kidney to clean the blood. Hemodialysis is usually performed three times a week for 3-4 hours each time in a dialysis unit.
Renal transplantation can be from a deceased or a living related donor (parent or sibling who is over the age of 18 who is compatible). Should the patient have a living related donor available to donate a kidney, they can undergo transplantation without the need for dialysis (preemptive transplantation). Should they not have a living related donor, they will likely need to undergo dialysis while on the waiting list for a deceased donor transplant. Fortunately, children have the shortest waiting time on the deceased donor transplant list. The average waiting time for children age 0-17 years is approximately 275-300 days while the average waiting time for patient's age 18-44 years is approximately 700 days.
Following transplantation, the patient will need to take immunosuppressive medications for the remainder of their life to prevent rejection of the transplanted kidney. Medications used to prevent rejection have considerable side effects. Corticosteroids are commonly used following transplantation. The side effects of corticosteroids are Cushingnoid features (fat deposition around the cheeks and abdomen and back), weight gain, emotional liability, cataracts, decreased growth, osteomalacia and osteonecrosis (softening of the bones and bone pain), hypertension, acne and difficulty in controlling glucose levels. The steroid side effects, particularly the effects on appearance, are difficult for children, especially teenagers, and non compliance do to the side effects of medications is a risk in children; again, particularly teenagers.
Cyclosporine and/or tacrolimus are also commonly used as immunosuppressive medications following transplantation. Side effects of these drugs include hirsutism (increased hair growth), gum hypertrophy, interstitial fibrosis in the kidney (damage to the kidney), as well as other complications. Meclophenalate is also commonly used after transplantation (sometimes imuran is used); each of these drugs can cause a low white blood cell count and increased susceptibility to infection. Many other immunosuppressive medications and other medications (anti-hypertensive agents, anti-acids, etc) are prescribed in the postoperative period.
Life long immunosuppression, as used in patients with kidney transplants, is associated with several complications including an increased susceptibility to infection, accelerated atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), increased incidence of malignancy (cancer) and chronic rejection of the kidney.
United States Renal Data Systems (USRDS) report that the half-life (time at which 50% of the kidneys are still functioning and 50% have stopped functioning) is 10.5 years for a deceased transplant in children age 0-17 years and 15.5 years for a living related transplant in children 0-17 years. Similar data for a transplant at age 18 to 44 years is 10.1 years and 16.0 years for a deceased donor and a living related donor, respectively. Thus, depending upon the age when the patient receives their first transplant they may need 2-3 transplants over the course of their life.
Thus, the life expectancy of a person with a kidney transplant is significantly less than the general population and the life expectancy of a person on dialysis is markedly less than the general population.
Hemolytic uremic syndrome patient follow-up
Children who appear to have recovered from HUS may develop late complications. A precise determination of the risk of late complications is not likely. It is important to note that the risks of longer term (more than 20 years) complications are unknown and are likely to be higher than risks at 10 years, as many of the above studies describe.
A nephrologist-a kidney specialist-should formally evaluate all persons who have experienced HUSat a year following their acute illness. Kidneys injured by HUS may slowly recover function over at least a six-month period following the acute episode and perhaps longer. Even persons with "mild" HUS who did not require dialysis should be formally evaluated. Such an evaluation should include a routine physical, blood pressure measurement, and blood and urine analyses from which kidney filtration rate can be calculated.
Studies done to date on HUS outcomes have largely confirmed a positive correlation between more severe kidney involvement acutely, particularly the need for extended dialysis, and increased incidence of future renal complications. However, it has been shown in multiple studies that even moderate kidney compromise in the acute phase of HUS can result in long-term complications due to damage to the filtering units in the kidneys.
Among survivors of HUS, estimates are that about five percent will eventually develop end stage kidney disease, with the resultant need for dialysis or transplantation, and another five to ten percent experience neurological or pancreatic problems which significantly impair quality of life. Since the longest available follow-up studies of HUS are about twenty (20) years, an accurate lifetime prognosis is not available, and as such, medical follow-up is indicated for even the mildest affected cases.
[1] Recent research suggests that E. coli O157:H7 acquired its pathological character when a bacteriophage (virus that infects bacteria) transmitted genetic material for the creation of the toxin from a closely related Shigella bacterial species (hence the epithet, Shiga-like toxin) to a formerly benign species of E. coli.
[2] Verotoxin-globotriaosyl ceramide binding receptors.

With Wyoming Death and Iowa Miscarriage, Listeria Cantaloupe Death Toll is 20
Source :
by Bill Marler (Oct 05, 2011)
A Listeria death in Wyoming has now officially been linked to a nationwide outbreak. Results returned Tuesday morning show a Sheridan County woman died after eating cantaloupe from Jensen Farms in Holly, Colorado. Federal health officials say not including this death 18 people have now died. There are now 100 cases of illnesses in 20 states.
In addition, JoNel Aleccia of MSNBC reports tonight, "Woman's miscarriage blamed on listeria-tainted cantaloupe." According to JoNel:
A pregnant Iowa woman has suffered a miscarriage after contracting a listeria infection tied to tainted cantaloupe, underscoring the seriousness of the ongoing outbreak in mothers-to-be, state health officials said.
The woman, who is an adult between the ages of 18 and 40 from northwest Iowa, came down with symptoms recently, a few weeks after eating the contaminated cantaloupe. She was still early in her pregnancy, said Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, the Iowa Department of Public Health medical examiner.
"My understanding was that this played a substantial role in the miscarriage," said Quinlisk, who couldn't identify the woman more specifically because of privacy concerns. ・
The Iowa case was the first reported in that state and one of three infections reported in pregnant women. Two of the women have continued their pregnancies and are being monitored, said CDC officials, who could not immediately identify which states they were from.
I think that moves the needle from 18 to 20 deaths.

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 8/31/2011

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

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

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

- 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


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


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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