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6th International Conference for Food Safety and Quality
(Nov. 8-9, 2011)
, Chicago, IL

Comments from Attendees
Awesome!!! Enjoyed every Minute. Couldn't have asked for a better learning experience.
Rory - Grimmway Farms
This conference was Extremely informative well organized and executed. I will continuously attend again.
Orlean - Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery
Excellent selection of speakers. I would definitely recommend this program to others.
Carl - Annies Inc.
Excellent Speakers. Surely, I will attend the next one. Well organized.
Luis - University of Texas
Enjoyed myself.. Great Great Conference
Leonard -Thermo King
Excellent Experience. I am incredibly happy to have attended. I fully intend on attending the 7th.
Michael - Greater Chicago Food Depository
I can get various information about food safety and quality.
Takeshi - NEC Japan.
Excellent coverage of topics. I will come again.
Tim - bioMerieux
Great Speakers and Great Information
Ellen - Proliant
Excellent 2 days conference very informative presentations. Excellent Resource form all food companies.
Susen- Masterson Co.
Very Interesting and Learned a lot.
Connie - Procter Gamble
and more--

7th International Conference for Food Safety and Quality
Chicago, IL

Main Topic: Detection/Control of Microbiological/Chemical hazards for Food Safety and Quality
send us your email to reserve seats

EFSA reconfirms safety of bisphenol A as it rejects ‘limited’ French fears
Source :
By Rory Harrington(Dec 01, 2011)
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has repeated its view that bisphenol A (BPA) poses no human health risk through dietary exposure as it dismissed concerns raised by scientists in France.
But the Parma-based body announced it was assembling a team of experts to act as a BPA watchdog to constantly assess new scientific studies and data on the substance. The safety watchdog added that remaining uncertainties over effects of the chemical in animals at low doses meant it would be scrutinising the significance of new studies in this area.
French concerns dismissed
EFSA delivered its latest verdict today after the French Food Safety Agency (ANSES) raised fresh concerns over the safety of BPA in September.
Brussels urged the agency to work together with its French counterparts to examine why scientists from the two bodies had reached diverging opinions on the chemical.
Experts from EFSA’s panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids (CEF) rejected ANSES’ conclusions as being based on too narrow criteria. “The Panel explains that Anses’ work was limited to a hazard identification while EFSA has carried out a full risk assessment of BPA,” said an EFSA statement.
It added: “The approach of the ANSES report is that of hazard identification, comprising also elements which could be relevant for the safety assessment of non-dietary exposure to BPA, whereas the EFSA opinion of 2010 addresses the assessment of risk from dietary exposure to BPA. This is the main reason for divergences between the ANSES and EFSA conclusions on BPA.
It stressed that the tolerable daily intake (TDI) for bisphenol A would “protect all human populations for lifetime exposure to this substance through the diet”.
The experts said new studies had produced no evidence that BPA was unsafe through dietary exposure.
Remaining uncertainties
But the panel reiterated that uncertainties remained over potential hazards to human health suggested by some BPA-related effects observed in rodents at low dose levels.
It pledged to reconsider its opinion after evaluating new research and following the publication in 2012 of new data from low dose studies currently underway in the US.
EFSA also revealed it was convening a multidisciplinary working group of experts to evaluate new scientific studies and data on BPA on an on-going basis, and vowed to work closely with scientific experts on research in progress.
Trade body Plastics Europe welcomed the opinion.
“We trust that the risk management authorities in the EU Commission and on national level will act according to the expert advice of their risk assessment experts,” said Jasmin Bird of the association’s polycarbonate/bisphenol A group. “An approach grounded in sound science is the only one that can provide consumers with the reassurance that the products they buy are safe.”

Toxin prompts warning over shellfish
Source :
By AAP(Dec 02, 2011)
A toxin that can cause paralysis has prompted a ban on eating shellfish gathered in part of the eastern Bay of Plenty just as restrictions put in place after the Rena oil spill were being lifted.
High levels of the naturally occurring toxin, Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP), were found during sampling - sparking a warning against taking shellfish in an area stretching from Tairua in the Coromandel to Rogers Road at Pukehina.
In severe cases PSP can cause paralysis and respiratory failure, but its normal symptoms include numbness and tingling around the mouth, face or extremities, difficulty swallowing or breathing, dizziness or double vision.
The warning comes after testing by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council showed only small amounts of hydrocarbon from the oil spill - well below acceptable food safety levels - had been found in shellfish.
It found there was no appreciable food safety risk from the oil spill.
The region's medical officer of health Jim Miller lifted the health warning about the oil spill but then put in place another to deal with the toxin.
"It is disappointing to have to give such mixed news on the safety of shellfish. Just as we are able to reassure people about the impact of the oil spill, nature has presented another hazard," said Dr Miller.
Symptoms from eating contaminated shellfish usually occur within 12 hours. The warning did not cover paua, crayfish and crabs but the gut should be removed before cooking

Arsenic and Apple Juice: Round 2
Source :
By admin(Nov 30, 2011)
Here we go again—it’s round 2 of the arsenic and apple juice debate. A report released today by Consumer Reports revealed 10% of its juice samples, from five brands, had total arsenic levels that exceeded federal drinking-water standards.
Today’s report stirs up the controversy surrounding arsenic in apple juice that made headlines in September when Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show," told viewers that tests he’d commissioned found 10 of three dozen apple-juice samples with total arsenic levels exceeding 10 parts per billion (ppb).
FDA promptly issued a press release reassuring consumers about the safety of apple juice, and claiming most arsenic in juices and other foods is of the organic type that is “essentially harmless." While the maximum level of arsenic allowed in bottled water is 10 micrograms in one liter of bottled water or 10 parts per billion (ppb), there is no federal arsenic threshold established for fruit juices, however, FDA is collecting all relevant information to evaluate and determine if setting guidance or other level for inorganic arsenic in apple juice is appropriate.
Case closed. Consumer panic—if any—averted? Not so fast say the folks at Consumer Reports.
The Consumer Reports investigation showed it tested 88 samples of apple and grape juice from five well-known brands, including Mott’s, Minute Maid and Welch’s, and found that 10% of the samples surpassed government drinking-water standards of 10 parts per billion (ppb), and 25% of the samples had lead levels higher than the bottled-water limit of 5 ppb. Most of the arsenic detected in the tests was inorganic, a known carcinogen, rather than the organic form, which is considered nontoxic.
The investigation also included scientific analysis of federal health data, a consumer poll, and interviews with doctors and other experts. The following are highlights from the Consumer Report:
Roughly 10% of juice samples, from five brands, had total arsenic levels that exceeded federal drinking-water standards. Most of that arsenic was inorganic arsenic.
One in four samples had lead levels higher than the FDA’s bottled-water limit of 5 ppb. As with arsenic, no federal limit exists for lead in juice.
Apple and grape juice constitute a significant source of dietary exposure to arsenic, according to analysis of federal health data from 2003 through 2008.
A poll of parents showed 35% of children ages 5 and younger drink juice in quantities exceeding pediatricians’ recommendations.
Mounting scientific evidence suggests that chronic exposure to arsenic and lead even at levels below water standards can result in serious health problems.
Inorganic arsenic has been detected at disturbing levels in other foods, too, which suggests that more must be done to reduce overall dietary exposure.
The Juice Products Association issued a statement on the Consumer Reports investigation saying in part: “Juice is safe for consumers of all ages. That is the position of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), our Federal government’s best resource for conducting independent evaluations and making objective, science-based decisions.
Safety and quality have always been and will continue to be the top priorities for U.S. juice producers.  Juice producers thoroughly test their products and comply with Federal regulations requiring that companies evaluate their processes, ingredients and packaging to ensure food safety.
At the present time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA),  based upon thorough scientific evaluation and risk assessment, has established a specific level of concern for inorganic arsenic in apple juice at 23 parts per billion (ppb) and a recommended maximum level for lead in fruit  juice at 50 ppb. FDA has repeatedly stated that its level of concern is a limit on inorganic arsenic that is just as enforceable as a regulation, and the FDA does take enforcement action if and when this level of concern is exceeded. It is important to note that none of the juice samples tested by Consumer Reports exceeded the 23 ppb level of concern for inorganic arsenic or the maximum level for lead in fruit juice."
So, what is next. FDA said it will continue to test juices and juice concentrate and evaluate data provided by industry, consumer groups and government agencies, as well as data published in scientific literature. If FDA finds too much inorganic arsenic in any juice, it will take steps to remove that product from the market.

Changes Made In UK's Management of Norovirus
Source :
By Dan Flynn( Dec 01, 2011)
What the Brits so aptly call "the winter vomiting disease" is coming in for some new management just as the norovirus season ramps up.
The medical establishment in the United Kingdom has agreed to new guidelines for the management of norovirus, which increases from October to April and peaks during winter months.
In the U.S., where about half of the 21 million cases of norovirus experienced annually are attributed to foodborne transmission, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidelines for managing and preventing the disease last spring.
The highly contagious norovirus -- transmitted by contact with an infected person or by consuming contaminated food or water, or contact with a contaminated surface or object -- is known for its rapid spread in confined spaces like schools, hotels, and cruise ships. 
The vomiting and diarrhea brought on by norovirus can cause dehydration and the need for hospitalization.  Recovery with no long-term effects usually follows in one to two days. 
In the UK, the new guidelines are the product of a working group that, in addition to the Health Protection Agency, includes the British Infection Association, Healthcare Infection Society, Infection Protection Society, National Health Service Confederation, Sowerby Center for Health Information, and National Concern for Healthcare.
Two factors "underpin the need for the new guidelines," according to the norovirus working group. First, the new report says recent increases in norovirus are overwhelming the British National Health Service and other organizations.  And second, the organization and operation of the NHS must achieve "the need for the efficient and safe care of patients within a safe environment."
"Managing norovirus outbreaks is very hard owing to the nature of the virus and how quickly it spreads, " says Dr. Bharat Patel, HPA's Lead Consultant Medical Microbiologist and one of the authors of the new guidelines.
"The guidance gives very clear recommendations how to manage outbreaks within the hospital and community setting," he adds.  "It will be greatly beneficial to staff to know that there is no the option of trying to manage the outbreak at the single room and bay level which will reduce the pressure that closing wards has on both staff and patients." 
The changes should mean that the UK will see fewer closures of entire wards and ultimately hospitals. The report says the new guidance is based on the principle of minimizing disruption to important essential services and maximizing the ability of health centers to deliver appropriate care to patients safety and effectively.
"There is a shift of focus towards a balance between the prevention of spread of infection and maintaining organizational activity," the report says. "In effect, this means a move away from the traditional approach of complete ward closure and an adoption of a pragmatic, escalatory system of isolation using single rooms and cohort nursing without compromising patient care both for norovirus itself and other essential healthcare."
In the first changes to the management of norovirus outbreaks in 11 years in the UK, the norovirus working group found one study and a lot of anecdotal evidence that the closure of smaller clinical areas can be effective in controlling the disease.  It is also emphasizing preparedness for outbreaks.
"The epidemiology of norovirus changes over time and geography," the report continues.  "The emergence of new strains will continue to challenge us as populations at risk, including employees of affected organizations, will also change."
The report calls for "robust surveillance of outbreaks" even though it isn't like to prevent symptomatic norovirus infection or shorten outbreaks.
The 42-page document, "Guidelines for the management of norovirus outbreak in acute and community health and social care settings," says hospitals should admit norovirus victims only as a last resort.
"The admission of residents with norovirus to hospital can lead to severe disruption of services," the new guidelines say.  "Wherever possible, symptomatic residents should be managed in the home and hospital admission should only be contemplated for those who are at serious risk of complications."
Instead, the document advises using home rehydration strategies, and when a hospital referral is made, the hospital and ambulance crew should be informed before the transport occurs.
The new guidelines make it clear that norovirus cannot be successfully managed in the so-called "Nightingale" wards where multiple beds are located in one room.  The spread of norovirus in such wards has frequently led to closures of entire hospitals in the UK.
The report also addresses NHS staff, calling for anyone showing norovirus symptoms to go off duty immediately.
According to NHS, up to one million people annually contract norovirus in the United Kingdom. NHS is UK's publicly funded health care system. HPA is the independent agency for threats from infectious diseases and environmental hazards.

Resveratrol pills may mimic effects of exercise and low-calorie diet
Source :
By Nic Fleming(Nov 1 2011)
Taking supplements of a substance found in grape skin can lower sugar and fat levels in the blood and reduce blood pressure, according to a small study.
Scientists who gave tablets containing purified resveratrol to obese men found it had some metabolic effects similar to those from exercise and calorie restriction, including lowering blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
Research in animals over the past decade has suggested the compound can slow the development of age-related diseases and increase lifespan. However, these studies have attracted growing criticism and have yet to be replicated in humans.
"The effects of resveratrol were modest but they consistently point towards beneficial metabolic adaptions," said Prof Patrick Schrauwen of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, who led the new study. Although the chemical is found naturally in grape skin and red wine, there is no suggestion that it would be possible to ingest enough of it from these sources to gain the beneficial effect.
Prof Schrauwen and colleagues gave 11 obese men either a daily 150mg resveratrol supplement or a placebo for 30 days. Four weeks later, the two groups swapped over so that those who took the supplements first time around were given placebos and vice versa.
Regular measurements showed resveratrol lowered blood sugar levels and improved insulin sensitivity, as well as cutting triglycerides – fats found in the blood that can increase heart disease risk. Resveratrol also reduced both sleeping and resting metabolic rate and cut blood pressure.
Previous research has shown that calorie restriction can extend lifespan in laboratory animals. Some studies suggest it also offers protection from diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, though this remains controversial.
Calorie restriction works in a similar way to resveratrol, by triggering the production of a protein called SIRT1 which improves metabolic function and keeps cells healthy in the face of stress.
Muscle biopsies carried out by Prof Schrauwen's team confirmed that participants taking resveratrol saw increased SIRT1 levels. They also strongly suggested the beneficial effects on metabolism were associated with improved functioning of mitochondria, the energy factories within cells.
"Healthy people are good at switching efficiently from using fat as an energy source to glucose in the blood when it becomes available," said Prof Schrauwen. "The results of our pilot study tended to suggest that might be part of the link to the beneficial health effects of resveratrol, but that needs further study."
The results are published in the journal Cell Metabolism.
Prof Schrauwen, acknowledging that his sample size was small, said he was seeking funding for a larger and longer trial. "This is small, proof of principle study, but the results are so promising that I think it is important that we conduct a bigger study," he said.

FDA apple juice arsenic guidelines expected
Source :
By Mark Astley, (Nov 29 2011)
The US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) could be poised to perform a U-turn on levels of arsenic in apple juice through the development of new guidelines - a letter sent to consumer groups has revealed.
In the letter sent to the Empire State Consumer Project and the Food and Water Watch, the authority said they would be collecting all relevant information before evaluating the best course of action.
The latest statement comes just a few months after the agency publically denounced the results of arsenic tests on apple juice conducted on US TV show, the Dr Oz Show.
At the time, the agency insisted that it had “every confidence in the safety of apple juice,” despite the publicity surrounding the potential hazards associated with arsenic in apple juice.
The FDA has since announced that it is “seriously considering setting guidance or other level for inorganic arsenic in apple juice and are collecting all relevant information to evaluate and determine an appropriate level.”
The letter added that “in the event we find a contaminant in a food that poses a health hazard, such that the food is deemed to be adulterated, we can and intend to take appropriate enforcement action.”
FDA guidelines dictate that apple juice containing over 23 parts per billionth (ppb) of inorganic arsenic represents a potential health risk.
Results found by the Empire State Consumer Group and the Dr Oz Show were above this limit.
Above level of concern
The latest notification on the presence of arsenic in apple juice follows concern from the two groups, following tests by the Empire State Consumer Project.
The consumer group conducted several tests for the presence of arsenic in samples of Motts’ brand apple juice, which is made using Chinese apple juice concentrate.
One of the samples was found to have a total arsenic level of 55ppb – significantly higher than the FDA’s current level of concern of inorganic arsenic of 23ppb.
These results mirrored others from tests conducted on the Dr Oz Show – results the FDA dismissed.
During an episode of the Dr Oz Show, broadcast in September, tests conducted on apple juice samples showed results as high as 36 parts per billion (ppb) of total arsenic.
Irresponsible and misleading
In a reply to the Dr Oz Show, the FDA suggested that the tests completed on the show were for total arsenic - not inorganic arsenic and were therefore inaccurate.
The response, sent in September 2011, said: “The FDA believes that it would be irresponsible and misleading for the Dr Oz Show to suggest that apple juice contains unsafe amounts of arsenic based solely on tests for total arsenic.”
After learning of the results, FDA investigators approached Nestle/Gerber for analysis samples of Nestle Infant Nutrition from the same batch used by the show.
The agency collected arsenic results ranging between 2 and 6ppb total arsenic – a figure Nestle/Gerber agreed with following its own testing.
Organic arsenic is essentially harmless, but the inorganic kind can be harmful at high and long-term levels of exposure.
The FDA has been tracking total arsenic contamination in apple and other juices for around six years, since foreign producers – particularly from China – started gaining an increasing share of the juice market.

Consumer Reports tests juices for arsenic and lead
Source :
By Andrea Rock (Nov 30, 2011)
Findings of a Consumer Reports investigation about arsenic and lead levels in apple juice and grape juice have prompted the organization to call for government standards to limit consumers’ exposure to these toxins.
The tests of 88 samples of apple juice and grape juice purchased in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut by Consumer Reports staffers found that 10 percent of those samples had total arsenic levels exceeding federal drinking-water standards of 10 parts per billion (ppb) and 25 percent had lead levels higher than the 5 ppb limit for bottled water set by the Food and Drug Administration. Most of the arsenic detected in our tests was the type called inorganic, which is a human carcinogen. For our complete test results download Consumer Reports Arsenic Test Results January 2012.pdf.
The investigation included an analysis of the National Center for Health Statistics’ National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) database from 2003 to 2008. The results of that analysis suggest that these juices may be an important contributor to dietary arsenic exposure. Through interviews with physicians and authors of peer-reviewed studies, Consumer Reports also found mounting scientific evidence suggesting that chronic exposure to arsenic and lead even at levels below federal standards for water can result in serious health problems, especially for those who are exposed in the womb or during early childhood. FDA data and other research reveal that arsenic has been detected at disturbing levels in other foods as well.
While federal limits exist for arsenic and lead levels in bottled and drinking water, no limits are defined for fruit juices, which a recent Consumer Reports’ poll of parents confirms are a mainstay of many children’s diets. The FDA says when a fruit juice sample has 23 ppb or more of total arsenic, it will retest the sample to determine how much of it is inorganic, because according to the agency’s 2008 hazard assessment, 23 ppb of inorganic arsenic would represent a potential health risk. But that 23 ppb “level of concern” is not a mandatory limit, nor is it based on arsenic’s well-established cancer risks.
A call for arsenic standards for juice
Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, believes the FDA’s “level of concern” is an inadequate reference point for establishing a protective limit for public health. Based on Consumer Reports’ test findings, Consumers Union is urging the FDA to set a more protective standard of 3 ppb for total arsenic and 5 ppb for lead in juice. Such standards are attainable: 41 percent of the samples Consumer Reports tested would meet both thresholds.
Consumers Union was encouraged by recent discussions with FDA officials and by an FDA letter to the consumer advocacy groups Food & Water Watch and Empire State Consumer Project indicating that the agency is considering setting guidance for the level of inorganic arsenic permissible in apple juice. The agency announced that its new initiatives include collecting and analyzing up to 90 samples of apple juice from retailers across the U.S. by the end of 2011 and analyzing levels of organic and inorganic arsenic in other types of juice as well.
Consumers Union believes that the FDA already has the data it needs to set juice standards, and that a guidance level must be followed by the establishment of a legally binding standard.
The FDA’s data
Earlier this month, when the Consumer Reports story was going to press, the FDA had posted on its website results for 70 samples of apple juice and concentrate it had tested from fiscal years 2005 through 2011 as part of a program it launched to test for specific toxins such as arsenic in imported and domestic products.
Then in late November, the agency posted eight previously undisclosed test results for apple juice samples from that data set containing total arsenic levels greater than 23 ppb.
Five samples were from 2008: two samples with arsenic levels of 27 ppb, one with 42 ppb, and two others with 45 ppb. The three other test results included a 2009 sample at 25 ppb and two 2010 samples with levels of 26 ppb and 34 ppb. FDA stated that those results had not been disclosed before because they were “in the process of being further verified.”
When asked why the process took so long, an FDA spokeswoman said that the samples should have been posted at the same time as the other results and that the agency is developing procedures to ensure that in the future, “data that are posted indeed represent the complete set.”
Even though all eight samples exceeded 23 ppb total arsenic, the agency tested only three of them to measure how much of the total was inorganic arsenic. Of those three, one 2010 sample contained 43 ppb inorganic arsenic; the entire shipment associated with that sample was denied entry into the U.S. The two others had less than 23 ppb inorganic arsenic. FDA says four of the samples that did not undergo further testing were collected before the agency established its level of concern for inorganic arsenic in ready-to-drink apple juice, and that it is “currently determining what action was taken” regarding the remaining sample.
When those eight test results were added to the previous 70 samples plus results for another 82 samples the agency collected in the latter part of 2011, the cumulative total posted on FDA’s website rose to 160. Of those, 12 percent had 10 ppb or higher total arsenic and 5 percent had arsenic levels of 23 ppb or higher.
The FDA also cites test results of samples in its Total Diet Study program, which tested another 134 composite apple juice samples from 1991 to 2009. Of those, nearly a quarter tested at 10 ppb or higher and 5 percent had 23 ppb or more of total arsenic. The overall picture is that the vast majority of apple juice samples tested below the FDA’s 23 ppb level of concern, an FDA spokeswoman said.
But the level the FDA deems acceptable should be much lower, Consumers Union believes, because in establishing its level of concern the agency didn’t consider the risks of skin, lung, and bladder cancer that arsenic exposure poses to the public.

Anti-norovirus processes will not be implemented - FSA
Source :
By Mark Astley (Nov 29, 2011)
UK food safety authorities are not considering introducing new industrial processing techniques safety for oysters, despite over 75% grown in the UK containing the norovirus.
The use of heat or pressure processes to ensure the safety of oyster consumers could be an option, but a Food Standards Agency (FSA) spokesperson told that this will not be considered until a safe legal level is established with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
Instead the FSA has suggested an improvement of current purification processes.
The research, which will contribute to an EFSA review of norovirus levels in oysters, found that 76% of UK oysters in UK growing beds contained the virus.
This information will be used in an EFSA review, which will advise the European Commission (EC) on setting a specific legal safe level for the virus in oysters on sale in the EU.
Control bacteria not viruses
“In industry, there is currently a very good purification process for the detection and control of bacteria,” the FSA spokesperson told
“Unfortunately this process is not as good at detecting and controlling viruses.”
Current controls against norovirus, such as re-laying and depuration, involve the relocation of oysters to uncontaminated areas. Neither is very effective against viruses.
“Eventually we will look at the purification processes in place to make them more effective in the removal of viruses. But in terms of bringing in the use of specific systems, we are not at the stage to discuss this.”
In 2009, the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) was forced to back track on plans to ban the sale of oysters during warm months of the year - when norovirus is most prominent - after pressure from the industry.
When pressed on whether industry would support the potential introduction of new measures, the FSA spokesperson reiterated that industry figures were involved with the research.
“Nobody wants norovirus to be present in oysters – least of all industry.”
“We are working closely with industry, and I think it is too early to talk about the introduction of new processes or new measures.”
Safe level not established
The research entailed scientists from the Centre for Environmental, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) collecting samples on behalf of the FSA.
More than 800 samples were taken from 39 oysters harvesting areas in the UK.
Of the 76% found containing norovirus, just over half (52%) were found to contain low levels of the virus – although a safe level of the virus is yet to be established.
“Work is still ongoing; more research needs to be done on the post-purification norovirus levels before speaking with EFSA about setting some levels.”
Norovirus is the most common viral cause of diarrhoea and vomiting in the UK, according to the FSA.
“Norovirus has always been linked to raw oysters - it is not a new risk - it is just the first time it has been quantified.”

Europe Re-Evaluates Aspartame Studies
Source :
By Dan Flynn ( Nov 29, 2011)
The European Food Safety Authority is moving up a review of the artificial sweetener aspartame originally scheduled for 2020.  In doing so, EFSA will be writing another chapter in one of the longest running controversies over the safety of a food product.
The low-calorie, intense sweetener is used in beverages, desserts, dairy, chewing gums, and energy and weight control products, and probably is known best as a tabletop sugar substitute.
EFSA's re-evaluation of aspartame, now scheduled for release in September 2012, is going to include more than 600 datasets that the European agency has collected since putting out a call for scientific data on the sweetener. The re-evaluation, which will include the 112 original studies, was accelerated at the request of the 27-nation European Commission.
The Food and Drug Administration first approved aspartame for use in the United States in 1974. More than 100 other regulatory agencies followed suit, approving aspartame for human use in their countries; European approval came in the early 1980s. But aspartame has continued to generate controversy in each of its four decades in the marketplace.
The EFSA has conducted four previous reviews of aspartame for the European Commission, repeatedly finding there was no reason to remove it from the market.
 "Each time, the Authority reconsidered the need to re-evaluate the work on aspartame previously conducted by the Scientific Committee on Food (SCF)," says an agency statement.  "Had any evidence been found that would have led EFSA's expert Panel to reconsider the safety of aspartame, a re-evaluation would have been immediately initiated."
In making a public call for scientific data, the ESFA may be making its latest review more transparent than the others.
It was Searle -- the pharmaceutical company whose name was retired through a series of mergers and acquisitions -- that invested in aspartame and readied it for the market as NutraSweet beginning in 1965.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's 1974 approval was contested, leaving Searle unable to break into the artificial sweetener market until 1981.
FDA spent much of the 1970s with its food additive approval process under scrutiny. Adding to the problem was that the safety of two earlier sugar substitutes, cyclamate and saccharin, was being questioned.  U.S. sugar interests, however, apparently funded some of that research.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO), which conducts management audits for Congress, eventually found that FDA's food additive process was properly followed.
But it was only the end of the beginning of the many debates about aspartame.  A few of the more legendary controversies include:
-- Betty Martini - Still active through her website, the aspartame opponent has made unsubstantiated claims that taking the substance in normal doses will bring about everything from blindness to depression and from birth defects to death.
-- 60 Minutes - The popular CBS news magazine in 1996 re-visited the charges from 20 years earlier the Searle had withheld and falsified safety data to cover up possible effect on brain tumors.  
-- "Nancy Markle" - An Internet chain hoax, which some claim was written by Betty Martini, made rounds in late 1990s, blaming aspartame for Gulf War Syndrome, lupus and other problems for which there has been no basis.
-- The Searle Conspiracy -- FDA Commissioner Arthur Hall Hayes, who made the critical decision permitting aspartame to be used in dry foods in 1981, left the agency in 1983 for a job with Searle's public relations agency. This happened after one of Searle's law firms hired Samuel Skinner, the former U.S. District attorney for Northern Illinois, as FDA sought a grand jury investigation into whether Searle had falsified or partially concealed aspartame study data just before the statue of limitations expired.  The Hayes/Skinner job decisions fueled conspiracy theories.
Most aspartame intake comes from diet soft drinks. Consumption studies in the U.S., Australia and Europe have found that even those who drink multiple diet soft drinks remain well below the safe levels for acceptable daily intake (ADI) of aspartame. That level is 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.
Although reports that aspartame might be a possible carcinogen were circulated in the 1970s and 1980s, no association has been found between aspartame and cancer, according to reviews by FDA, EFDA, and the National Cancer Institute.  (FDA, EFDA, and the National Cancer Institute have discounted studies by the European Ramazzini Foundation that found malignancies in rats.)
The EC governs the European Union's functions with a staff of about 38,000 including the EFSA from headquarters in Brussels and Luxemburg.  The 27 EU countries share a common market and the euro currency.

Amidst spate of raw milk E. coli outbreaks, "Freedom Riders" demonstration is poorly timed
Source :
by Drew Falkenstein (Nov 28, 2011)
The self-styled "Freedom Riders" picked a poor time to demonstrate over the FDA's ban on the interstate shipment of raw milk.  According to a November 28 press release by the organization, "On December 8, a group of mothers and others will defy the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) ban on “distributing” fresh milk across state lines by transporting 100 gallons of raw milk from Wisconsin to Chicago’s Independence Park and distributing it to customers waiting at the park. Rally time is 11:30am – 2:00pm."
Maybe there just isn't a good time to announce a raw milk demonstration, given that the product has caused more than 1400 illnesses in more than 80 outbreaks from 1998 to 2011.  But now is a particularly bad time, since raw milk has recently sickened at least 8 people in separate outbreaks linked to raw milk from Organic Pastures (CA) (who has caused E. coli outbreaks before) and Cozy Valley Farm (WA).  Five of the 8 people sickened have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome.
The remainder of the Freedom Riders' press release:
Federal law 21 CFR § 1240.61 prohibits interstate movement and distribution of raw milk for human consumption. The FDA regulation applies to individuals, or “agents” acting on their behalf.
Over the past year, the FDA and state authorities have conducted undercover sting operations on, raided and prosecuted farmers, buying clubs, and individuals who help distribute raw milk and other farm fresh foods. Over a dozen people and businesses currently face charges, orders, and other enforcement actions; some are under “federal criminal investigation” and face possible indictment by a grand jury. Several small cheese producing dairies with no history of making anyone sick have been put out of business by the FDA’s actions.
“It is a God-given, inalienable right to engage in direct, private transactions with our food producers,” says Max Kane, director of a Chicago area local-food-buying club. “Americans deserve to know that the FDA is using their tax dollars to target and prosecute independent, peaceful, farmers and their customers.”
Mothers from around the country, determined to protect their families’ food supply, launched the Raw Milk Freedom Riders with an inaugural ride on November 1 when they transported raw milk from Pennsylvania to the FDA’s headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, and distributed the milk to crowds gathered for a protest. In response the FDA issued a statement saying it does not “intend” to take “enforcement action against an individual who purchased and transported raw milk across state lines solely for his or her own personal consumption.”
The Freedom Riders say that the FDA’s statement leaves the door open for FDA to pursue farmers, buying clubs and individuals acting as “distribution agents.” The Wisconsin to Chicago Raw Milk Freedom ride will challenge the FDA’s use of force against raw milk distribution.
Media are invited to ride along as embedded reporters to witness the FDA’s reaction to the Freedom Riders’ standing up for their rights.

Energy drinks are casualty of statistics ripped ‘out of context’, ABA
Source :
By Ben Bouckley(Nov 25, 2011)
The American Beverage Association (ABA) has savaged a US government-affiliated report linking energy drinks to a rising number of hospital emergency department (ED) visits in the country, as well as associations with sexual risk, fighting and drug misuse.
The report, from the Drug Abuse Warning Network or (Dawn) warned that trend data showed a tenfold increase in the number of emergency visits involving energy drinks between 2005 (1,128 visits) and 2008 (16,053) and 2009 (13,114).
The public health surveillance system's 2004-2009 data indicated that 77 per cent of ED visits involving energy drinks were made by patients aged 18-39, Dawn said. Adolescents aged 12-17 and adults over 40 each accounted for around 11 per cent of visits.
Dawn added that males accounted for 64 per cent of ED visits involving energy drinks, and it estimated that 56 per cent of visits concerned energy drinks alone, not accounting for combinations with pharmaceuticals, alcohol and/or illicit drugs.
The report authors noted that energy drinks were marketed to appeal to youth, and were consumed by 30 to 50 per cent of children, adolescents and young adults, with the most popular brands Red Bull, Monster, Rockstar, Full Throttle and Amp.
Rising public health problem…
Noting that energy drink consumption had soared by 240 per cent from 2004 to 2009, Dawn identified the trend as a “rising public health problem, because medical and behavioural consequences can result from excessive caffeine intake”.
Citing Seifert et al. 2011 writing on energy drinks in the journal Pediatrics, the Dawn report authors said: “A growing body of scientific evidence documents harmful effects, particularly for children, adolescents and young adults.”
Amongst college students, associations had also been established between energy drink consumption and “problematic behaviours such as marijuana use, sexual risk, fighting, smoking, drinking and prescription drug misuse”, they added (Miller 2008, Thombs et al. 2010).
Thombs et al. found, DAWN said, that bar patrons who consumed alcohol mixed with energy drinks were three times more likely to intend to leave a bar highly intoxicated, and were four times more likely to intend to drive while intoxicated.
“This latter finding may be because the high levels of caffeine found in energy drinks can mask the symptoms associated with being intoxicated (e.g. feeling lethargic)," Dawn said.
“Individuals, especially youthful drinkers, may incorrectly believe that consumption of caffeine can ‘undo’ the effects of alcohol intake and make it safe to drive after drinking,” it added.
Statistics out of context
But the ABA hit back at the research paper, which it said was a “troubling example of statistics taken out of context”.
“The number of emergency visits by people who consumed energy drinks, as reported in the paper, represented less than one 1/100th of one per cent of all emergency visits,” the ABA added.
The association said that the report shared no information about the overall health of those who consumed energy drinks, or even what symptoms had brought them to ER in the first place.
“Furthermore, it shows that nearly half of those who visited the emergency room had consumed alcohol or taken illegal substances or pharmaceuticals, making their consumption of energy drinks potentially irrelevant,” the ABA added.
The full report, ‘Emergency Department Visits Involving Energy Drinks’ is available to read here.
Dawn forms part of the US Department of Health & Human Services (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), and is a public health surveillance system that monitors drug-related morbidity and mortality.

Raw milk: at least 1401 victims from 1998 to 2011
Source :
By Drew Falkenstein (Nov 27, 2011)
Raw milk causes devastating illness on an all-too-frequent basis.  From 1998 to 2011 there have been at least 86 outbreaks nationally of E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, and Campylobacter in raw milk.  These outbreaks have resulted in 1401 illnesses, including the 3 people (at least 2 children) sickened recently in Washington State from raw milk produced and sold by Cozy Vale Creamery.  (NOTE:  this data does not include illnesses linked to the consumption of cheese and other products made from raw milk).
Here are a few of the outbreaks that have occured in the last 3 years: 
•In 2008, Connecticut public health officials identified 14 cases of E. coli O157:NM illness amongst state residents sickened by contaminated raw milk produced by the Town Farm Dairy in Simsbury, Connecticut.
•Also in 2008, in Missouri, at least 4 people were infected by E. coli O157:H7 in an outbreak linked to raw goat’s milk produced by Autumn Olive Farms and sold at the Herb Depot.
•Yet another raw milk outbreak occurred in 2008. In May and June 2008, approximately 16 people were sickened by Campylobacter Jejuni in an outbreak linked to raw cow’s milk in and around Del Norte, California. The outbreak was linked to raw milk from Alexandre Ecodairy.
•In 2009, at least 81 Colorado residents were sickened by Campylobacter Jejuni in an outbreak linked to raw milk from the Kinikin Dairy in Montrose County, Colorado.
•In May and June 2010, raw milk and related products produced by dairyman Mike Hartmann at Hartmann Dairy in Minnesota were the source of at least 8 confirmed E. coli O157:H7 illnesses amongst Minnesota residents.
•In April 2010, two separate outbreaks of Salmonella and Campylobacter linked to the consumption of raw milk occurred in Utah. The Salmonella outbreak, which sickened at least 6 people, was caused by raw milk produced and sold by a dairy in central Utah. The Campylobacter outbreak, which sickened at least 9 people, was caused by raw milk from a northern Utah dairy.
•In November 2011, raw milk products from Organic Pastures dairy in Fresno, California were placed under a quarantine order by the California State Veterinarian. The quarantine order came following a notification from the California Department of Public Health of a cluster of five children who were infected, from August through October, with the same strain of E. coli O157:H7. These children are residents of Contra Costa, Kings, Sacramento, and San Diego counties. Interviews with the families indicate that the only common reported food exposure is unpasteurized (raw) milk from Organic Pastures dairy. Three of the five children were hospitalized with hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious condition that may lead to kidney failure. There have been no deaths. Surveys indicate that only about three percent of the public report drinking raw milk in any given week so finding 100% of these children drank raw milk and the absence of other common foods or animal exposures indicates the Organic Pastures raw milk is the likely source of their infection.

No Hearing Scheduled on Deadly Listeria Outbreak
Source :
by Helena Bottemiller( Nov 29, 2011)
Lawmakers continue to investigate the Listeria cantaloupe outbreak -- the deadliest in decades -- but no hearing is planned.
It's been three months since contaminated cantaloupes from a single farm in Colorado generated national headlines. Twenty-six states have reported 29 deaths, and one miscarriage, among the 140 people infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria. The outbreak, the first involving Listeria contamination of fresh melons, has wreaked havoc on the cantaloupe industry, all of which has many wondering: Why no congressional hearing?
In the past few years, the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations (which falls under the Energy and Commerce Committee) has held a series of hearings in the wake of food safety catastrophes such as Salmonella-tainted peanut butter in 2009 and E. coli-contaminated spinach in 2006. Last fall, the subcommittee dragged executives from Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms in for public questioning after a 550 million egg recall, which was sparked by a nationwide Salmonella outbreak.
Though there was bipartisan support for these efforts, the House was controlled by Democrats. Now Republicans are in charge of the schedule and agenda.
Committee staff members have sent letters to Jensen Farms and Primus Labs, which gave Jensen a top food safety score weeks before the outbreak, and held briefings with the companies, but have not gone so far as to schedule a hearing.
"The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations has been examining the listeria outbreak, including holding several briefings," said Rep. Cliff Stearns  (R-FL), chair of the subcommittee, in a statement to Food Safety News. "We are still reviewing the circumstances which led to the outbreak and have made no determination regarding the future of the investigation."
Representatives Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) and Diana DeGette (D-CO), respectively the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Subcommittee, have requested that their majority counterparts conduct an investigation and hold a hearing.
"The investigation is ongoing and the Congresswoman is hopeful that the Majority Leadership on the Committee will schedule a hearing," said a spokeswoman for Rep. DeGette late last week.
Jeni Exley and Bev Peterson, whose 84-year-old father, Herb Stevens, Jr. was hospitalized with listeriosis for nearly two months, also want to see public hearings on the outbreak.
"I don't understand why Congress has not scheduled hearings on the Listeria cantaloupe outbreak considering that it is the deadliest outbreak in decades," said Exley. "Congress has acted quickly in holding hearings for other foodborne illness outbreaks, so why are they dragging their feet on this one?"
Peterson, who said she has contacted several congressional offices about the matter, pointed to the broad economic impact of the outbreak.
"Fruit rotted in the field since there was no demand, and workers were let go, losing wages ... Not a good situation for our already fragile economy," she said. "I am surprised and disappointed that Reps. Upton and Stearns of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have not yet scheduled any [hearings]."
The Committee, now chaired by Fred Upton (R-MI) released its year-end agenda last Wednsday to "cap a congressional session defined by legislative achievements to protect and create jobs, reduce the federal deficit, and protect American families."
Upton outlined a "sampling of high-profile hearings" the committee and its six subcommittees would pursue, including, continuing its investigation of the $535 million Solyndra loan guarantee, the future of the Keystone XL pipeline, and reforming the Medicare physician payment system.
"Congress is not waiting to act on our nation's most urgent priorities," said Upton. "As this year draws to a close, the Energy and Commerce Committee is not wasting a moment, filling the last days of this legislative session with important bills to spur economic recovery, extend essential programs and benefits, and protect our families and communities."

Colorado Listeria victim: a profile in pain
Source :
By Drew Falkenstein (Dec 01, 2011)
For anybody who cares at all about the cantaloupe Listeria outbreak--victims, industry, regulators, and ordinary folks--Michael Booth's article today in the Denver Post deserves a wide audience.  He profiles the illness of our client Mike Hauser, one of 39 confirmed outbreak cases in the State of Colorado. 
The article is reproduced here in full: Penny Hauser has one hope left as she adjusts the feeding drip and checks for bedsores on her husband and helpmate, Mike.
She has set aside visions of Mike, 68, returning soon to his favorite golf courses.She's archived the memories of grandpa Mike bucking the grandchildren off his strong back in living-room horseplay. And she's stopped fighting the family's do-not-resuscitate meetings, which come with near-weekly regularity as Mike lies unresponsive at a Select Medical acute-care center in Denver.
Penny's last hope is for Mike to become lucid long enough for her to utter one sentence. "I just want him to wake up so I can apologize for serving him cantaloupe," said Penny, tearing up again during a long talk about her husband's near-fatal case of listeriosis.
The listeria outbreak from Colorado grower Jensen Farms' cantaloupe has killed 29 people nationwide — eight in Colorado — and caused one miscarriage. Dozens more people, including Mike Hauser, have been irreparably damaged by an especially vicious bacterium. Listeriosis is deadly in about 20 percent of cases and requires hospitalization in 95 percent, far higher than other food illnesses, said Benjamin Silk of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the death toll has slowed, with no new CDC reports since Nov. 2, the outbreak traced to Colorado is the most lethal on record at the CDC since 1924. Those who have buried loved ones struggle to reconcile the tragic results with the mundane cause — an everyday piece of fruit.
Safety reassurances
The government, food producers and consumer experts, meanwhile, are scrambling to set new rules and guidelines to reassure customers about safety before the next growing season.
And shattered families of the stricken — 139 people were sickened in the outbreak — are still trying to put their lives back together. Herb Stevens Jr., 84, is at home with extra help following weeks in a nursing home after taking ill Aug. 22 in Littleton.
Doctors in multiple states have cracked open medical reference books to treat dozens more victims of the extremely rare illness.
Mike Hauser's family gathers in various combinations every day at Select Specialty Hospital inside Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver. They come from Penny Hauser's home base in Monument and from far-flung jobs, grandchild duties and travel demands to hear the latest medical news on Mike and to make the next set of tough choices.
In mid-August, long before the Hausers had ever heard of cantaloupe being a risky fruit, Mike was recovering from multiple myeloma and the accompanying stem-cell treatments.
Hauser, a retired podiatrist, is a Mr. Fixit. He's legendary in the family for meticulous vacation planning. While taking it easy from the stem-cell transplant, he remodeled a bathroom and scouted a bow-hunting trip.
But he avoided his beloved golf because divots and sand traps kick up pneumonia-causing bacteria for stem-cell patients who have lost immunity.
Penny's list of do's and don'ts was long: no blue cheese, no raspberries with bacteria-hiding crevices, wash every piece of lettuce. "I never scrubbed cantaloupe," she said.
Penny bought a cantaloupe on Aug. 17 at a Sunflower Market in Colorado Springs. She and her daughter, Macaria, who stayed with them to help in Mike's cancer recovery, felt a bit queasy afterward but thought nothing of it.
Mike suffered splitting headaches beginning Sept. 11. Painkillers didn't help. He couldn't hold down food. When his thinking grew muddled, the family rushed him to University Hospital, alarmed that he wasn't doing his usual back-seat driving.
Macaria picked him up to carry him into the emergency room, and the last conscious act Mike has made since was to reach over her shoulder to push the car door shut.
A chest-heaving seizure terrified everyone, and the Hausers' world was quickly consumed in a series of spinal taps, brain shunts, intubations and rotations through any intensive-care unit with an extra bed. Daughter Holly Pixler cringed at the massive ventilator obscuring her father's friendly face and cramming air down his lungs.
Penny, a semi-retired schoolteacher who had been scheduled to start a new assignment on Sept. 12, keeps three fast-filling notebooks of Mike's drugs, treatment dates and doctor names. Her Sept. 16 entry shows the state health department calling to ask whether Mike had eaten cantaloupe.
Jensen Farms had recalled its entire 2011 melon crop two days before. Eventually DNA from Mike Hauser's case of listeriosis would match strains swabbed at the farm near Holly.
CAT scans can't tell the Hausers whether Mike will get many brain functions back.
Twenty doctors and family members crowded into a conference room on Sept. 27 to discuss Mike's future. If his brain didn't wake up by the 30-day mark, doctors warned, the family would want to reconsider extraordinary life-saving measures.
But a prognosis for Hauser is hard to come by. Neurologists say they might see only one listeriosis case in a career. The Hausers call it "doctoring in the dark."
On rare days, they see slight hope. Mike's eyes have opened, and he has appeared to smile. That's when Penny and her daughters shut themselves into a tiny hospital bathroom to yell, hug and high-five.
Livid over cause
A burning anger at Jensen Farms and grocery stores partially refuels them when spirits flag. The Hausers have retained Seattle food-illness attorney Bill Marler for a private lawsuit.
"When I found out it was because the farm wasn't washing things or cleaning the machines, that made me so angry," said Macaria, her voice shaking. "Something that simple — it's negligent. It's ignorant. If they weren't cleaning the dialysis machines here at the hospital, they wouldn't stand for it. Why should we stand for it at a food-processing facility?"
Listening to Macaria, Penny Hauser can't contain herself.
"This is the United States of America, not a Third World country," she said.
And that's when she adds her fervent hope for the chance to give Mike a personal apology about the cantaloupe.
At any moment when Penny feels guilty for talking about Mike without talking to him, she leans toward his wide-open eyes and says, "Do you love me?"
No response. "I know you do. And I love you too."
Penny thinks Mike's breathing without a machine is a good sign. Doctors want more signs, such as smiling or sticking out a tongue on command, or uttering his wife's name.
The family agrees that if this had happened to any other of them, Mike would have been the best one to make choices about care and resuscitation orders. Now those things are up to them.
"I'm trying to think about the right thing to do," Penny Hauser said. "I don't want to play God."

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