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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

Let's Not Forget HACCP
Source :
By H. Russell Cross (Jan 05, 2012)
Let's not forget the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points system -- HACCP -- what it is, why it was developed and what its role truly is in regard to food safety.  HACCP was developed in the 50s because the food safety experts knew that you could not "test" food safety into food.  It was understood at that time that HACCP, coupled with strong hazard interventions was and continues to be the most effective way to produce safe food. HACCP was used very effectively by the canned food and ready-to-eat industry to produce safe food products. 
We all know what happened after the ground beef E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in 1993.  USDA and the food industry began the rapid movement toward mandatory HACCP.  It was obvious in 1993 that the voluntary approach to HACCP was not working -- less than 5% of the meat and poultry industry had implemented HACCP.  During the early stages of the mandatory implementation there was much confusion within the government and the industry.  Almost all of the HACCP expertise resided in the ready-to-eat and canned food sectors.  Neither FSIS, USDA nor the raw side of the meat and poultry industry had sufficient knowledge about HACCP and this was the reason for the formation of the International HACCP Alliance in 1994--to standardize how we trained personnel in the HACCP arena.
I believe that, as mandatory HACCP was implemented, some key errors were made. We began going down two paths, which are actually contradictory to one another. One path is HACCP, with its effective interventions coupled with science-based validation systems, while the other path tries to "test" food safety into food. The second path essentially ignores the key reason that HACCP was developed. It will be impossible to overcome the tremendous problems associated with sampling food that contains non-uniformly distributed bacteria. The sample size would have to be so large that it would be unrealistic to sample sufficiently and have a high probability of finding the pathogen if it is present.
By forcing the meat and poultry industry to go down both paths, we have diverted huge resources to the wrong type of testing and away from the development and implementation of more effective farm-to-market interventions. The industry should be applauded for what it has accomplished over the past 17-18 years. Just think what could have been accomplished if the end product testing resources were used to produce safe food. Don't let me give you the impression that all testing is not effective. Every HACCP plan should include strong testing programs to "validate" the interventions used in the HACCP plan.
So now we are about to have six more adulterants. We still do not know the true risk of the six Shiga-toxin producing E. coli - STECs - nor do we have proven tests to be used in a commercial setting.  So, my regret is that we continue to go down the "non-science" based path that will divert resources that could be used to produce safer food.

Convenience trend boosts Japanese processed food investment opportunities
Source :
By Mark Astley (Jan 05, 2012)
Changing demographics and a shift in demand has opened up new opportunities for foreign investment in the once difficult to enter Japanese processed food market, says a US Government report. The Japanese food processing market, which was valued at around $255bn in 2010, has traditionally been viewed as a complicated market to enter, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) report, Japan Food Processing Ingredients, Food Processing Sector.
However, a series of factors including an increasing emphasis on quick, convenient, ready-to-eat and value priced foods have opened up the market.
Fast-paced lifestyles
“There are many factors to consider before entering this market, specifically the strict regulations on specific ingredients and additives,” said the report.
“Despite this, the Japanese market is still one of enormous potential.”
“With the changing population, demand is shifting and new opportunities are presenting themselves.”
The fast-paced Japanese lifestyle has led to the growth of processed foods, often bought from a growing number of convenience stores, as a replacement for homemade meals.
“Packaged sauces, meals in-a-box, instant meals, and other easy to make options are growing in popularity and it is this sector of easy home cooking which will continue to grow,” the report added.
Heightened consumer and retailer food safety concerns and a larger focus on the demographic of 20 to 30 year olds have also been attributed as factors.
“As the number of women in the workforce has grown, the age at which people are getting married is pushed back further. This trend coupled with more and more young professionals living outside their parents’ homes has resulted in a new demographic, especially for processed foods.”
“These twenty and thirty year olds are looking for single portion meals that are easy to prepare and that fit their lifestyle.”
Growing in ‘stagnant’ economy
The Japanese sector is viewed as a stable and growing industry in a country where the economy has become “stagnant,” the report said.
“Despite the recession and sub-normal performance of the economy, the food processing industry has done relatively well”
“Products that contribute to home cooking or ready-to-eat (RTE) options have experienced growth.”
“Several product categories sold well in 2010 compared to 2009, mostly due to the Northeast Earthquake and Tsunami. Most notably, canned/bottled products, bottled water, juices, processed meats, processed seafood, retort packaged products, and frozen food increased.”
Its value, however, had increased only slightly on 2009, with “only a small uptick of 0.86% from 2009.”
“A deflationary economic environment over the past decade, causing processors to seek out lower cost food inputs and international processing options in order to remain competitive.”

Draft dioxin guidance could ‘cripple’ food sector, warns US industry
Source :
By Ben Bouckley, (Jan 04, 2012)
The US food industry is lobbying the Obama administration to ease pending federal guidance recommending that consumers severely limit their daily dioxin intake.
For the first time, new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines expected this month would set limits on safe exposure of US citizens to the environmental pollutants.
Concerns – among food manufacturers, farmers, suppliers and restaurants – centre on the possibility of the EPA setting dioxin safety limits below the amount consumers usually get from food.
According to 2010 data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) excess exposure to such chemically related compounds is linked to immune system damage, interference with hormones and an increased cancer risk.
The chemicals stem from industrial processes (as an unwanted byproduct), but can also enter the food chain (mainly via meat and dairy products, fish and shellfish) due to natural processes such as volcanic eruptions and forest fires, the WHO said.
A ‘Food Industry Dioxin Working Group’, comprising trade bodies such as the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) and National Chicken Council (NCC) is lobbying the US government to put the brakes on any changes.
In a December letter to (now outgoing) White House Domestic Policy Council (DPC) director, Melody Barnes, the group expressed its “deep concern” over the EPA’s efforts to finalise a draft dioxin risk reassessment.
“This action is taking place without any agency outreach to the food industry or other key stakeholders and who could suffer harm if the EPA proposal is implemented,” the group wrote.
EPA under attack
Questioning the EPA process for “inaccuracy, questionable methodologies and inadequate scientific evidence”, the signatories also slammed the body for its failure to consult industry and other federal bodies.
Proposed revisions to the standard would set a dioxin exposure threshold lower than any government entity in the world, including the European Union (EU).
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and EU agree that average dioxin daily exposures should be limited to 1-4 (2.3 pg/kg/day on average) based on non-cancer risk.
But the EPA was seeking to set a non-cancer reference dose (RFD) of 0.7 pg/kg/day, “a level so low it strains credibility” the group said.
The industry grouping said it was also especially concerned by an EPA plan to undertake ‘cancer’ and ‘non-cancer’ risk assessments, and set a reference dose (RFD) for non-cancer risk.
“Since the agency contends the primary route of human exposure to dioxin is through food, this could not only mislead and frighten consumers about the safety of their diets, but could have a significant negative economic impact on all US food producers.”
Fear of media witch-hunt
Moreover, exposure standards calculated over long periods meant consumers would be unable to calculate daily intake levels accurately to remain below the RFD, the group said.
It added: “The media will inevitably report on this change and in all likelihood misinterpret the RFD as a ‘safe limit’. As a result, consumers may try to avoid any foods ‘identified’ as containing or likely to contain any dioxin.”
The EPA’s action would lead to a situation where most US agricultural products could arbitrarily be classified as unfit for consumption, the group said, without evidence of further health protection.
As a result, it urged Barnes’ intervention to ensure interagency and stakeholder consultation on the EPA’s dioxin risk strategy.
However, any reaction from the DPC is likely to be led by Barnes’ successor, since she is due to leave office this week, according to the Associated Press (AP).

FDA sued over lack of nanotech petition response
Source :
By Caroline Scott-Thomas (Jan 03, 2012)
A coalition of consumer advocacy groups has filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), demanding that it respond to a 2006 petition to require labeling of nanotech ingredients in consumer products, and extra health and environmental assessments.
Nanotechnology refers to controlling matter at an atomic or molecular scale measured in nanometers, or millionths of millimeters. In the food industry, the technology has a variety of uses including detecting bacteria in packaging, producing stronger flavors and colorings, or better delivery of micronutrients.
The coalition behind the lawsuit is led by the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA), on behalf of fellow plaintiffs Friends of the Earth, Food and Water Watch, the Center for Environmental Health, the ETC Group, and the Institute for Agricultural and Trade Policy.
“Nano means more than tiny; it means materials that have the capacity to be fundamentally different,” said ICTA attorney George Kimbrell.
The FDA currently has no specific regulations relating to the use of nanotechnology in food, but has repeatedly said it already has the tools and authority to deal with nanotech product safety. However, in June 2011, the agency issued draft guidance for industry on nanotechnology, saying it was a “first step toward providing regulatory clarity on FDA’s approach to nanotechnology”.
Executive director of Food & Water Watch Wenonah Hauter said: "It is unacceptable that the FDA continues to allow unregulated and unlabeled nanomaterials to be used in products consumers use every day. It is past time for this agency to live up to its mission and protect public health by assessing the health and environmental risks of nanomaterials, and to require labeling so that consumers know where these new materials are being used.”
The FDA has said that the safety of nanotechnology in food ingredients and food contact materials is not necessarily about size, but rather about whether properties are changed when working with a particular substance on the nano scale.
However, Steve Suppan of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy claims that nanomaterials should be subjected to specific tests to account for their novel capacities.
“The FDA must do such testing as part of a pre-market safety assessment in a broader regulatory initiative to protect public health,” he said.

2012: The Year to Stop Playing Nice
Source :
By Michele Simon (Jan 03, 2012)
Instead of a potentially depressing year-in-review post, I decided to look ahead. (But do see Andy Bellatti's amusing compilation of 2011 food news.) Given all the defeats and set-backs this year due to powerful food industry lobbying, the good food movement should by now be collectively shouting: I am mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore.
If you feel that way, I have two words of advice: get political.
I don't mean to ignore the very real successes: increases in farmers markets, innovative and inspiring programs such as Food Corps, and an increasingly diverse food justice movement, just to name a few. But lately, at least when it comes to kids and junk food, we've been getting our butts kicked.
And it's not just because corporations have more money to lobby, of course they do. It's that too often, we're not even in the game. Or, we tend to give up too easily. While I know many food justice advocates who understand this is a political fight over control of the food system, sadly I cannot say the same thing about some of my public health colleagues. Too many nonprofits, foundations, and professionals are playing it safe, afraid to take on the harder fights.
A politician from Maine I interviewed for my book was complaining to me about how food industry lobbyists were in his state capital every single day, while public health sent the occasional volunteer. His sage advice to us advocates: "You may be out-gunned, but you have to bring a gun."
Moreover, many groups have shown that you don't always even need a bigger gun. The small but impressive organization, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood proved that this summer when it won an important victory against Scholastic regarding its corporate-sponsored materials. How did they do it? A combination of smart campaigning and effective media. Not by playing nice.
Many public health folks I know are more comfortable with research and data than politics and lobbying. But if we are to make real progress, that has to change. Back in May, after a series of defeats, my colleague Nancy Huehnergarth wrote a great call-to-action. She noted how public health advocates and its funders are "very genteel" and that when industry lobbying beats us back, advocates just want more science, believing that the new data "will finally convince policymakers and the public to take action." But it doesn't work that way, as she explains:
The reality is that when going up against deep-pocketed, no-holds barred opponents like Big Food, Big Beverage and Big Agriculture, public health's focus on science and evidence is easily trumped by money and messaging. If public health advocates don't start rolling up their sleeves and using some of the same tactics used by industry, progress in this fight to create a safe, healthy, sustainable food system is going to move very slowly.
OK, now for some good news. We are already seeing positive signs that indeed, the food movement is getting more political. Recent defeats are helping to mobilize people even more, as folks realize the food industry is not playing nice, so we can't either. Here then, are just a few signs of hope for 2012:
1) The growing political movement opposing genetically-engineered foods, which includes a huge Just Label It campaign with an impressive list of supporters. Stay tuned also for the 2012 ballot initiative in California to label GMOs.
2) Powerful nonprofit organizations (who don't shy away from politics) getting involved for the first time in nutrition policy. For example, the Environmental Working Group's recent report on sugary cereals called out the utter failure of Big Food's voluntary nutrition guidelines on marketing to children. Given EWG's one million-plus supporters, I can't wait to see where they go with this issue in 2012.
3) Increasing coverage in mainstream media that food industry marketing (and not just personal responsibility) bears much of the blame for the nation's public health crisis. Examples include a front page story in a recent Sunday edition of the San Francisco Chronicle and Mark Bittman's weekly Opinionator column in the New York Times, which is consistently smart and hard-hitting.
4) Speaking of media, as traditional investigative journalism outlets have become more scarce, a new breed of reporters may be born from an innovative project just launched in November: Food and Environmental Reporting Network. Its mission is to "produce investigative journalism on the subjects of food, agriculture, and environmental health in partnership with local and national media outlets." Judging from its first in-depth report on dairy CAFOs in New Mexico, I am looking forward to more in 2012.
5) Finally, the Occupy movement, while still very young, has already inspired a number of food politics offshoots. As I wrote after Food Day, several others have penned calls to action showing the deep connections between corporate control of the food supply and economic injustice. (If you read just one, Tom Philpott's Foodies, Get Thee to Occupy Wall Street should convince you.) Also, the amazing grassroots organization Food Democracy Now (based in Iowa) recently organized an "Occupy Wall Street Farmers' March" to bring the message that family farmers are also the 99%. (Read organizer Dave Murphy's moving account of the successful event and watch the videos of the passionate speakers - I promise you will be inspired.)
There are many other amazing groups, farmers, and eaters organizing all over the country (and the world) to take back our food supply from corporate profiteers. We've got plenty of challenges ahead, with the farm bill up for renewal and more school food nutrition standards to fight for, just for starters. I am hopeful that next year we will see the food movement get even more political. I just hope I can also say, by the end of 2012, that it was the year more of my public health colleagues joined in.
Michele Simon is a public health lawyer specializing in industry marketing and lobbying tactics. She is the author of Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back.  "2012: The Year to Stop Playing Nice" was first posted on her website Dec. 20, 2011.

'Scary' food safety reforms attacked
Source :
By Derek Cheng (Jan 3, 2012)
A bill bringing sweeping reform to food safety standards is being criticised for giving food safety officers excessive power and threatening the viability of small-scale food sellers and backyard community food swaps.
The bill, which is almost certain to become law with the support of most political parties, would replace 30-year-old legislation, which falls short of properly protecting consumers, and create a new framework for food safety.
But small operators fear that new compliance costs could push them under, while others have concerns about the bill's effects on community food swaps and growers who sell small amounts to retailers.
An online petition, which says the bill impedes the basic right to share food, has gathered almost 24,000 signatures.
There is also concern over the powers of food safety officers, who could search premises without a warrant in some circumstances and use any force necessary to enter and search, while being immune from civil or criminal liability.
While the Government has dismissed some criticism, Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson is seeking advice on how to ensure the bill would not affect the current rules on food swaps and selling and exchanging seeds.
The new safety framework is expected to be simpler. At the top end, businesses such as restaurants would need a rigid food plan, while places considered less risky, such as bakeries, would have to comply with a more flexible national programme.
Other traders of food - including sausage sizzles for charity, community vegetable gardens, or giving home-grown tomatoes to the neighbours or flatmates - would be given guidance on handling food and be exempt from a programme.
The exemption would also apply where the producer was selling directly to the consumer, which often happens at local and farmers' markets.
But there is doubt over whether those involved in a community food swap would have to apply to be exempt from having a national programme.
Green Party primary production spokesman Steffan Browning said the bill should regulate bartering, but the Greens would push for exemptions for small-scale traders to be written into it.
"A threshold needs to be set at the value of product being transferred. If it's over the back fence, then clearly the Food Bill should be light years away from that transaction.
"It might be $50,000, it might be $10,000, but something should be set ... It is draconian if it gets right down to community food sharing and swapping and they have to get exemptions."
Under the bill, exemptions are at the discretion of the chief executive of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
Mr Browning also wanted immunity for food safety officers to be scrapped.
"They need to be able to go in and deal with the situation, but their powers need tightening, and immunity is very scary."
He said public misinformation about the bill was unhelpful, including the claim that it would be passed into law during the summer break; the House does not sit again until February 7, and the bill has to pass two readings before it can become law.
The Government has promised to modify the bill to ensure that people will still be able to sell or exchange seeds without needing to comply with the legislation. At present the definition of "food" in the bill includes seeds.
The bill also increases the penalties for selling unsafe food from the present maximum of a $5000 fine for an individual to up to two years' imprisonment and a $100,000 fine.
Ms Wilkinson also wants to exempt organic farm workers who might receive food in exchange for accommodation.
What is it?
A bill would create a new framework for ensuring food safety and replace the 30-year-old legislation that is inadequate for protecting consumers. Food-borne illnesses cost the country about $80 million a year. The bill would also ensure imported food is at least as safe as domestically produced food.
What's the fuss?
The legislation as it is worded would capture selling/exchanging seeds and WWOOFing (organic farming where food is often exchanged for labour). There is doubt over how the bill would affect food exchanges including community vegetable gardens.
Now what?
The bill has been sitting idle on the Order Paper for over a year. It is awaiting its second reading and is likely to pass this year with broad support, including from National and Labour.

Health Losses in the United States for Foodborne Illness are $77,000,000,000 a Year
Siource :
by Bill Marler (Jan 02, 2012)
I would argue there is no way to really value the loss at least in the human dimension.
Today I was reading Robert Scharff’s article “Economic Burden from Health losses Due to Foodborne Illness in the United Sates” in this month’s Journal of Food Protection.
Scharff’s coast analysis is based upon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s newer estimate that approximately 48,000,000 cases of food-related illness, resulting in 3,000 deaths and 128,000 hospitalizations, occur in the United States annually.
According to Scharff, $51,000,000,000 in annual health-related costs in the basic model (economic costs from foodborne illness include both financial losses due to medical expenditures and lost productivity and lost utility (well-being) due to death) and $77,700,000,000 in the enhanced model (the difference between the two models is that the enhanced model includes a measure for lost quality of life but no measure for own-illness productivity loss). Own-illness productivity loss is omitted because lost productivity from one’s own illness is assumed to be accounted for in the more global lost quality of life value.
Scharff did note, however, that the costs presented did not represent the full economic cost of foodborne illness. Although, he felt that the largest categories of health-related costs were included, the costs of some sequelae, such as congenital toxoplasmosis, thyroid disease, and postinfectious irritable bowel syndrome, were not examined.
Other significant losses, like the costs of foodborne illness to industry and public health agencies were not addressed.
And, the loss of a husband, wife or father or mother, or a child, to food that they ate – what is the real cost of those losses? What are the real costs of living your life with a brain injury or being unable to walk? Scharff’s numbers are important, but not the only numbers that are important.

Altered food safety measures may hinder listeria assessments - FSIS
By Mark Astley, (Jan 02, 2012
US food safety authorities have urged producers of ready-to-eat meats not to change listeria-related food safety practices in the run up to inspections.
In a letter from the US Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the agency suggested that any changes to routine food safety practices may “interfere” with the assessment of processing facilities.
The letter follows a year where food contamination outbreaks, particularly listeria, hit the headlines in the US.
The notice provides instructions to Enforcement, Investigations and Analysis Officers (EIAOs) – those responsible for performing routine risk-Based Listeria monocytogenes (RLm) sampling or intensified verification testing (IVT).
Interfere with assessment
“This notice provides instructions to Enforcement, Investigations, and Analysis Officers (EIAOs) in performing RLm and IVT sampling in establishments that temporarily alter their routine practices in response to notification of FSIS sampling.”
“Such practice can interfere with FSIS’s assessment of routine conditions or corrective actions at the establishment and may limit FSIS’s ability to determine whether post-lethality exposed RTE meat and poultry products are not adulterated as required by the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) and Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA).”
The letter added that any changes to routine practices may not have been considered in the establishment’s hazard analysis.
However, the letter added that under some circumstances, establishments may “temporarily” change food safety practices.
“By altering routine practices, establishments may make changes that are not consistent with their documented food-safety system and that impede FSIS’s ability to assess the safety of the product.”
Listeria outbreaks
The FSIS notice, which was signed Daniel Engeljohn, assistant administrator for the Office of Policy and Program Development, follows a year that witnessed the worst foodborne outbreak in modern US history.
A total of 146 people across 28 US states were infected with any of four outbreak-associated strains of Listeria monocytogenes – 30 of whom died.
The outbreak, which is officially the most lethal since 1924 and the worst since modern US records began, was traced to a cantaloupe processing plant at Jensen Farms, Colorado.
Elsewhere, potential Listeria contamination led to the recall of dozens of products across the States. reported in November 2011 that 6 times as many food products were recalled in the US from July to September compared with the previous quarter (March-June).
Potential listeria contaminations accounted for 25% of nearly 40m recalled products.

Mead Johnson infant formula given all clear by US feds
Source :
By Rory Harrington, (Jan 02, 2012)
No traces of Cronobacter have been found at the Mead Johnson infant formula plant and there is no need for a product recall, said US safety bodies last week as part of an investigation into four babies infected with the bacteria - two of whom have died.
Officials from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) inspected the facility following the death of a 10-day-old infant in the state of Missouri before Christmas who was said to have eaten infant formula produced by the company.
The incident led to Walmart withdrawing a batch of Mead Johnson’s Enfamil PREMIUM(R) Newborn, product from 3,000 of its stores across the US.
But federal inspectors last Thursday gave the company’s facility the all-clear after announcing that samples tested at the site were found negative for Cronobacter.
The agencies said there was “currently no evidence to conclude that the infant formula….was contaminated during manufacturing or shipping”.
The bodies said they were awaiting the results from further analyses.
No recall necessary
Authorities also ruled out the need to recall the powdered baby product.
“Based on test results to date, there is no need for a recall of infant formula and parents may continue to use powdered infant formula, following the manufacturer’s directions on the printed label,” said the FDA and CDC in a joint statement.
A Mead Johnson statement said the results were “consistent with two rounds of testing conducted” by the company.
"We're pleased with the FDA and CDC testing, which should reassure consumers, healthcare professionals and retailers everywhere about the safety and quality of our products. These tests also reinforce the rigor of our quality processes throughout our operations," said Tim Brown, senior vice president and general manager for North America. The firm said that all its infant formulas undergo approximately 2,300 quality checks and safety tests before being made available to consumers to ensure they meet both national and international standards.
Not related
The FDA/CDC investigation was launched after four cases of Cronobacter were detected in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, and Oklahoma. But the agencies said at least two of the cases were not related as the bacteria differed genetically. Bacteria from cases in Oklahoma and Florida were not available for analysis, it said.
Cronobacter is a very rare cause of a severe infection in young infants, and usually occurs in the first days or weeks of life. It causes severe bacterial sepsis or meningitis in infants, which often starts with fever, and usually includes poor feeding, crying or listlessness. Typically the US has about 4-6 cases annually although recently increased awareness meant 12 cases were reported in 2011, said the CDC.

Duluth norovirus outbreak linked to ill food-service employee
Source :
By John Lundy (Jan 05, 2012)
A food worker was the most likely source of the illness that sickened at least 60 people who ate at the Greysolon Plaza Ballroom on Dec. 3, the Minnesota Department of Health confirmed on Wednesday.
That coincided with the preliminary conclusion the Health Department reached a week after the incident.
"Multiple ill employees were identified, indicating the contamination of ready-to-eat food by an ill food worker was the most likely source of contamination," said Doug Schultz, a Health Department spokesman.
The Health Department confirmed that the culprit was norovirus, the most common food-related illness in Minnesota. It is often spread by food handlers who don't thoroughly wash their hands.
Because the illness has run its course, the investigation has closed, Schultz said.
About 250 people attended one event and 100 attended another at the Greysolon on Dec. 3, state officials said. The outbreak was first reported to the Health Department on Dec. 6. Neither St. Luke's hospital nor Essentia Health reported any emergency room visits from people suffering from food poisoning that weekend.

Death cap mushrooms kill two Chinese cooks in Australia
Source :
By Staff and agencies (Jan 06, 2012)
A chef and his assistant have died after eating poisonous mushrooms they cooked for themselves in the Australian restaurant kitchen where they worked.
Liu Jun, 38, a chef visiting from China, and his female kitchenhand, Tsou Hsiang, 52, died from liver failure at a hospital on Tuesday night after eating death cap mushrooms on New Year's Eve at the Harmonie German Club in Canberra.
The two had used the mushrooms to make a stir fry in the kitchen of the club's Chinese bistro. The manager of the club, Mick Thamer, said the meal had not been offered to the public.
Liu's friend Tom O'Dea said the chef had picked the mushrooms himself, mistaking them for edible straw mushrooms.
A third person who shared the dinner with Liu and Tsou was discharged from hospital on Tuesday.
Thamer told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation the mushrooms were brought into the club for a private meal and cooked after bistro hours.
"It was not a meal on the bistro menu, and was not a meal that was offered to or available to the public," he said.
Health authorities said they had inspected the kitchen and there was no risk to the public.
A single death cap mushroom can kill an adult – they are among the most poisonous in the world.

19 sickened by ground beef from Maine grocery chain
Source :
By JoNel Aleccia (Jan 06, 2012)
Nineteen people in seven states have been diagnosed with salmonella infections after reportedly eating ground beef from a chain of Maine-based supermarkets, government health officials said.
The illnesses have all been traced to Hannaford, a Scarborough grocery chain that recalled an undetermined amount of ground beef on Dec. 15, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. The beef was marked with a sell-by date of Dec. 17.
The strain of salmonella Typhimurium detected in the outbreak appears to be resistant to common drugs, which can make the foodborne illness more difficult to treat. Of 15 victims who provided information to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seven have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.
Illnesses began on or after Oct. 8 and have been reported through mid-December. Illnesses that occurred after that time might not have been reported yet because of the lag between when a person becomes sick and when they reach out to health officials.
Consumers should check their homes for the recalled products, which are listed here.
Salmonella infections can cause diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps within hours or days. Illness usually lasts four to seven days.

Contagion: Kosher Cheese Not Safe From Listeria Threat
Source :
By josephbkr2 (Jan 04, 2012)
Deborah Kotz wrote a story for The Boston Globe about the recent recall of kosher cheese in her area, which brings to light some of the darker truth about our food processing society. She writes:
I received a recorded phone call from my local supermarket on Saturday telling me that a shredded package of kosher mozzarella cheese I’d recently purchased had been recalled due to possible contamination with listeria. The offender in my refrigerator was packaged by Miller’s; Haolam also announced a voluntary recall of its kosher shredded cheese products.
Both cheese companies sell their products in Boston and other cities in chain supermarkets as well as kosher grocery stores.
The products were shredded in a Wisconsin plant on the same machine as a third cheese brand sold only in Wisconsin that has been found to be contaminated with listeria, the companies said in separate statements. None of the kosher cheeses tested positive for the bacteria, but the state of Wisconsin asked the companies to pull shredded mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, and pizza cheese packages from their shelves as a precaution.
This listeria threat strikes right after the cantaloupe outbreak that claimed 29 lives and points to more hazards that come from food packing processes.
Despite the potential and kinetic deadliness of these food contaminations, the consumer is forced into an environment where they never really know whether the food they’re eating is safe. Over the past decade, food recalls that cite microbial contamination or foreign matter as the cause have risen and fallen like Republican nominee frontrunners, and yet we find ourselves now at the same place we were in 2000. The following chart from Food Standards Australia New Zealand shows trends in recall classification from 2000 to 2010:
The process of inspection is intended not only to identify contaminated equipment, but also to identify the causes, study them and prevent them from happening in the future. Charts don’t lie. We have done very little to reduce the amount of food contamination and the subsequent recall, which can be financially significant for businesses in a time when there is not a lot of cash on hand. This is partly because the inspection system is broken.
An article posted on this very site via Village Voice reveals the corrupt nature of some food manufacturing procedures:
To avoid positive listeria tests, some businesses have even gone so far as halting the production of high-risk items, such as deli meats, during inspection time. So, when the inspectors leave, they resume making these items, but without as much regulatory scrutiny as one would like.
Listeria, though uncommon, has an infamous rep  for being the deadliest food-borne illness in the U.S. Chicago-based Flying Food Group, which used to sell pre-packed sandwiches to gas stations in the South — as well as supply salad meats to Starbucks — recalled thousands of meals because of listeria concerns earlier this month.
This Boston Globe story proves that, despite the public perception that organic and kosher foods are safer, they can still fall prey to contamination and recall. That is, if those foods are in contact with the same machinery as “regular” foods. Some bacteria is naturally occurring and will show up no matter what (listeria is not on that list), but the key to cutting contamination-related deaths is likely in eschewing the same old machinery that’s been in use by companies for a quarter century.
It’s no secret that going green has gone mainstream. Growing popular interest in green lifestyles is reinforced in every third commercial you see, underscored by the proliferation of university degree programs in areas like green manufacturing and sustainability.
Finding “greener” ways to actually process the food is the best solution, but it would require building whole new factories, developing green equipment to fill them with and training staff to use that equipment. These are things that are going on in universities and labs throughout the world, but are a long way from becoming a reality just yet.

Action Alert: Say No to Dow Chemical’s GE Corn Petition
(Dec 30, 2011)
Dow Chemical is seeking USDA approval for a genetically engineered (GE) version of corn that is resistant to 2,4-D, a herbicide that was used in the formulation of the highly toxic defoliant Agent Orange.  Agent Orange (half 2,4-D by composition) was extensively used in Vietnam by the military to destroy forests and crops.
Dow’s Christmas gift for America was formally announced, by the USDA, in the December 27, 2011 edition of the Federal Register.  If the federal government wants to bury something in the news, and burn up part of our window to publicly respond, you can bet they’ll do it around the holidays.  The public has 60 days to comment on Dow’s petition for deregulation, and can do so online at:!documentDetail;D=APHIS-2010-0103-0001
Weeds are increasingly adapting to Monsanto’s genetically engineered line of crops that rely on the use of a different herbicide, glyphosate, which Monsanto markets as Round-up®.  This is leading competitors, like Dow, and proponents of GE agriculture to look for weed killing alternatives.  Herbicides more toxic than Round-up® appear to be next up in the pipeline.
2,4-D, a systemic herbicide, is used on many types of broadleaf weeds.  It is a chlorinated phenoxy compound that has caused serious eye and skin irritation among agricultural workers.  According to information compiled by Cornell University, rats fed 2,4-D produced “fetuses with abdominal cavity bleeding and increased mortality.”  And 2,4-D may cause infertility, birth defects, organ toxicity and neurological effects.
As Dow’s GE corn is resistant to the herbicide, it is possible that the plant may absorb 2,4-D residues into its structure, and then transfer those chemicals, or their related metabolites, to livestock and humans consuming corn or milk, meat and eggs  produced from the GE crop.
The USDA also just announced the proposed approval for a new strain of drought resistant corn, and a soybean, Soymega™, both from Monsanto.  The Obama White House appears to be giving Monsanto and Dow, and other biotechnology corporations, everything they want while the public, according to polls, is overwhelmingly concerned about genetic engineering and losing control of our diets.
Thanks for speaking out in defense of a sane food production system. We hope you will be proactive by doing the following to protect your family:
1.Exclusively purchase organic products in the supermarket.  They are the only food items that are legally prohibited from using GMOs with oversight sanctioned by Congress and independent watchdogs like The Cornucopia Institute.
2.We hope you also consider signing the following petition, asking President Barack Obama and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to consider the widespread public opposition to further release of novel genetic organisms in our environment. Given the immaturity of the industry, the long-term impacts to health and the environment are simply unknown. The petition also calls for mandatory labeling of GMOs giving consumers the right to choose.  Click here to read and sign this petition.

Peanuts in green beans? Food mix-ups spark odd recalls
By JoNel Aleccia (Dec 30, 2011)
A man expecting to find only green beans in a can of Winn-Dixie Brand Italian Green Beans was surprised this week to find a whole, in-shell peanut mixed in with the vegetables.
The discovery sparked a flurry of activity at the Florida-based grocery chain, which quickly issued a recall for 14.5-ounce cans of the beans with a best-buy date of September 2014.
“We are conducting a thorough investigation to determine the cause of the peanut contamination in order to prevent a similar incident from happening in the future,” Mary Kellmanson, Winn-Dixie Stores Inc.'s group vice president of marketing,  said in a statement.
The manufacturer that produces green beans for Winn-Dixie also cans boiled peanuts using some of the same machinery, spokesman Eric Barnes said.
The mix-up is particularly concerning to people with peanut allergies, who could suffer serious, even fatal reactions to peanut-tainted beans.
So far, however, no one has reported illness, placing this recall in the category of industrial food mistakes that don’t appear to result in tragedy. In a year that saw sickness and deaths from foods including whole cantaloupe, ground turkey and sprout seeds, there were some simply odd recalls as well.
Take the goof-up that occurred in mid-November, when Diamond Crystal Brands Inc. of Savannah, Ga., issued a recall of 12-ounce GFS canisters that were supposed to be filled with sugar, but were actually filled with non-dairy coffee creamer.
Or the mistake that led to the recall of 875 pounds of center-cut steaks made by Chef’s Requested Foods Inc. of Oklahoma City. Retailers expected 10-ounce, bacon-wrapped prime steaks, but actually received -- turkey filets. The official reason for the recall was undeclared allergens of wheat and soy, not grumbling over missing out on a good dinner.
Other notable mix-ups this year included a recall in February of 15,760 pounds of frozen chicken and steak fajitas manufactured by Phil’s Fresh Foods Inc. of Boulder, Colo. The 7-ounce cartons of fire-grilled fajitas were pulled back because some steak packs might have included chicken and some chicken packs included steak.
Such mistakes may seem minor, especially compared with the massive bulk of food products that are packaged correctly. But Kantha Shelke, a food scientist and spokeswoman for the Institute of Food Technologists, said they reveal potentially lax production or training protocols and could lead to serious problems for consumers.
“The food business is a really serious business. What you are making is going into people’s bodies,” she said. “No mistake is a small mistake.”

FDA launches soft investigation, but no recall, after infant formula linked to causing death in babies
Source :
By Ethan A. Huff (Jan 03, 2012)
Walmart has voluntarily recalled a batch of Enfamil Newborn powdered formula cans from 3,000 US stores after the substance inside them was linked to causing death in some babies. Though the product in question, which includes 12.5-ounce cans from lot number ZP1K7G, are suspected to be the culprit, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not ordered a recall, and the product's manufacturer, Mead Johnson Nutrition, has refused to disclose whether or not formula cans from the suspected lot were distributed to any other stores besides Walmart.
The Associated Press (AP) reports that Walmart decided to pull the formula after recent newborn Avery Cornett of Lebanon, Missouri, died of a rare bacterial infection caused by Cronobacter sakazakii, which is particularly fatal in children less than one month of age. Back in November, another small child fell deathly ill after being fed a couple different types of powdered baby formula, but that child reportedly recovered.
"We decided it was best to remove the product until we learn more," said Dianna Gee, a spokeswoman from Walmart. The FDA, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Missouri Department of Health (MDH) are all reportedly still investigating the situation to identify the culprit. In the meantime, customers who purchased the suspected formula are merely being urged to return it to stores for a refund if they feel like it, and authorities are acting as if there is no real threat at this point.
To regulators, processed food is always safe, and local family-scale food is always dangerous
Compare this situation to what happened last month to Organic Pastures Dairy (OPD) in California. In case you missed that event, state regulators shut down OPD after discovering a potential, but later disproven, link between OPD raw milk products and several cases of mild E. Coli infection. Even before a single scientific test was conducted, authorities ordered a full recall of all OPD products, and demanded that the company stop selling all raw milk products indefinitely
It was only after OPD owner Mark McAfee and his thousands of loyal customers began to aggressively challenge the unreasonable quarantine of the dairy's milk products that regulators finally backed off. But for nearly a month, regulators prevented the company from conducting its business, and treated OPD's products as contaminated until proven uncontaminated, or "guilty until proven innocent," if you will (
The potentially-tainted Enfamil product, on the other hand, is being treated as innocent until proven guilty. Children are potentially dying from this product, and yet the FDA, CDC, and other health agencies are allowing it to remain for sale. They are turning a blind eye to Mead Johnson Nutrition playing public relations games with public safety by withholding the names of stores besides Walmart that may also be carrying the product.
The comparison between these two incidents is a clear illustration of the double standard that so-called health authorities approach public safety issues. Processed, factory-scale food products are almost always assumed safe, even when all the evidence is stacked against them, while local, family-scale foods like raw milk are nearly always treated like the black plague.

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