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Cantaloupe-specific food-safety guidance set to be developed
Source :
By Tim Linden (Jan 12, 2012)
By the end of January, the produce industry's major trade associations have agreed to develop a framework by which new cantaloupe-specific food-safety guidance will be developed and disseminated in a very quick, though yet to be specified, time frame.
That was one of the more important outcomes from a private meeting of cantaloupe industry stakeholders that took place Jan. 11 in San Diego, CA, according to participant Stephen Patricio, a cantaloupe shipper who is also chairman of the Center for Produce Safety, which hosted the event.
The meeting was a result of the Listeria outbreak tied to cantaloupes from one Colorado shed that occurred in the fall, killing dozens of people, making more than a thousand others sick and resulting in devastating financial losses for other cantaloupe growers and shippers with perfectly good and safe product.
Mr. Patricio said that the Western Growers Association, the United Fresh Produce Association, the Produce Marketing Association and other regional trade organizations have agreed to come up with a plan within two weeks to develop a new risk-based guidance document specific to cantaloupes.
Currently there is a melon guidance document, but not one specifically for cantaloupes. After the document is developed, Mr. Patricio said that the associations are also committed to disseminating the information throughout the United States and to offshore cantaloupe-producing regions.
The San Diego meeting brought together a limited number of suppliers, researchers, buyers and trade association representatives to discuss the potential gaps in food-safety with regard to cantaloupes. The goal is to identify these gaps so that CPS can include those potential research projects in its annual request for proposals that typically goes out Feb. 1. Those proposals are typically vetted over the following two months, with the projects awarded in April.
Bob Whitaker, PMA's chief science officer, said that many potential research projects were discussed, but he said three areas of need stood out. There is a strong desire for research that can develop treatments to reduce the microbial levels on the surface of cantaloupes, and to validate those practices so that handlers of cantaloupes can be assured that they are working, he said.
Secondly, he said there needs to be a better understanding of the prevalence of Listeria in the produce industry, and there is a need for "foundational information" upon which future research projects can be built.
Additionally, the PMA executive said that research needs to be done to determine how bacteria can survive on equipment, food contact surfaces and the product itself.
"If we can understand the dynamics [of the bacteria], we can better discuss how to kill them," he said.
Dr. Whitaker and Mr. Patricio made their statements during a conference call with the media the day after the meeting. During that teleconference, it was revealed that California cantaloupe shippers are going to move forward in an attempt to add a food-safety program to their cantaloupe marketing order.
Mr. Patricio, who ships produce from Westside Produce in Firebaugh, CA, discussed the California plan but said that the news conference was not supposed to be specifically about California.
But he said that the growers and shippers in California have gotten the message "loud and clear" that a government program, complete with definable metrics and mandated audits, is wanted, presumably by the buy side of the industry.
The cantaloupe shipper also praised the concept of the meeting, stating, "It was the first of its kind," and adding that it was a "very, very unique meeting" to have many different stakeholders from all stops along the supply chain come together to look at knowledge gaps for a specific commodity.
Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli, executive director of the CPS, also participated in the teleconference and revealed that PMA has once again committed to pay the overhead expenses of the organization for the next two years.
PMA has funded the administrative expenses for the past four years for the center, which is based at the University of California-Davis, and has committed to pay the $900,000 necessary for the next two years.
"What that means," said Ms. Fernandez-Fenaroli, "is that when industry contributes funds for research, all of those funds go directly to research."

U.S. stops orange juice imports due to fungicide
Source :
By Maggie Shader (Jan 12, 2012)
UPDATE: Senior scientist at Consumer Reports discusses the halt on shipments of orange juice. See below.
The Food and Drug Administration has blocked imported orange juice from all countries after trace amounts of fungicide were found in orange juice products from Brazil. The halt on all shipments will stay in effect while the FDA tests for the fungicide, carbendazim, which studies have linked to a higher risk of liver tumors in animals.
Fungicides are chemical compounds or biological organisms used to kill or inhibit fungi or fungal spores that can damage agriculture. It was the Coca Cola Company, owner of the Minute Maid brand, that alerted the FDA that their orange juice and that of their competitors carried residues of the chemical, the New York Times reports. Coca Cola was legally required to come forward, under the 2008 Amendments to the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act creating a Reportable Food Registry, says Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumer Reports.
The FDA said that although carbendazim is approved for use in other countries, that in the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency has not approved it for use as a fungicide on oranges, and that "carbendazim in orange juice is an unlawful pesticide chemical residue under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act."
The FDA is taking multiple samples from individual shipments. Thus far, samples of shipments from Canada have not tested positive for the chemical, according to the Times. The FDA will deny entry to shipments that do test positive for carbendazim.
“The FDA is saying that for the testing they are doing now, that if the levels of carbendazim are greater than 10 parts per billion they will destroy it or return it to the country of origin,” Hansen said.
In the meantime, the EPA has concluded that consumption of orange juice with carbendazim at the low levels that were initially reported does not raise safety concerns, and the FDA will not remove orange juice containing the reported low levels of carbendazim from the market. If the agency identifies orange juice with carbendazim at levels that present a public health risk, however, it will "alert the public and ensure that the product is removed from the market."
"The concern is that the risks of this fungicide have not been adequately evaluated," said Hansen. “If growers and juice companies think this pesticide should be allowed then EPA must set a permitted level of carbendazim. They need to go through the process of establishing that limit and release the data needed in order to do a risk assessment.”
So is the orange juice safe that made it into the country between when Coca Cola alerted the FDA to the situation and when the agency stopped shipment? Hansen suggests that there is no immediate acute risk. But, if you are concerned about the orange juice that may be currently sitting in your fridge you can look at the label to find its country of origin, and if the juice is from Brazil, don’t use it if you don’t want to. You could also purchase organic juice.
About 11 percent of the orange juice consumed in the U.S. is from Brazil, according to figures cited by CNNMoney from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Gulf Seafood is Safe to Eat After Oil Spill
Source :
By Michael R. Taylor, J.D.(Jan 11, 2012)
This week, the Fish and Wildlife Service will begin a series of public meetings on the draft plan for the restoration of damage to natural resources resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It is natural that the discussion of this plan would also raise the question of whether Gulf seafood is safe to eat.  The answer to that question is, yes. Gulf seafood is as safe to eat now as it was before the spill.
When the Deepwater Horizon spill occurred, there was a great deal of concern over the safety of the region’s seafood. Fishing areas were shut down and an extensive sampling program was introduced to ensure the seafood was safe to eat before the fishing areas were re-opened.
When we developed the sampling program, we had to determine which components of the oil were harmful so we could test for their levels in the seafood.  Following internationally recognized standards, we tested for Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs).  They stay in seafood the longest amount of time, and once they are at a safe level any other oil hydrocarbons will be proportionately low, as well.
The FDA, NOAA, EPA, and the Gulf States, discussed and agreed on a level of PAHs that would raise a health concern.  If the seafood we tested was below the level of concern, it would be safe to eat. Over 10,000 seafood specimens were tested.  In most cases, no PAHs were found, and, when they were, the PAH levels in the seafood were 100 to 1,000 times below the levels which would raise a health concern.   The best way to understand how safe Gulf seafood is, is to visualize how much seafood you could eat and still not reach the levels of concern.
Given the low levels of PAHs we found, when we found them at all, someone could eat 63 lbs of peeled shrimp (that’s 1,575 jumbo shrimp); or 5 lbs. of oyster meat (that’s 130 individual oysters); or 9 lbs. of fish (that’s 18 8-ounce fish filets) every day for five years and still not reach the levels of concern.  We feel confident that the levels that were set are safe and protect the health of anyone who eats seafood, including children and pregnant women.
It is also important to understand the process we used to sample the seafood.  A seafood sample might actually go through multiple chemical tests.  The first test was a screening test, and, if the results came within 50% of the levels of concern, a second test was performed that more accurately measured the levels, allowing us to be certain about the safety of the seafood.
This process of double testing is not unlike the screening we go through when entering a court house, for example.  We often pass through a metal detector that screens us for metal objects.  If the detector goes off, the security guard typically will use a metal detecting wand to find the metal object and determine if it can brought into the building.  The seafood screening test would identify something that deserved a second look, and the second, more accurate seafood test would determine just what the PAH level was.  When PAHs were found as a result of the second test they were 100 to 1,000 times below the levels of concern.
A great deal of effort was invested after the Gulf spill so that we could provide an answer to one question:  Is Gulf seafood safe to eat?  Yes, Gulf seafood is safe to eat, and it is safe to eat for everyone.

FDA clears Canada OJ, holds other imports for tests
Source :
(Jan 11, 2012)
U.S. health regulators will soon release a batch of orange juice imports from Canada, the first supplies to enter the country since authorities began testing for an illegal fungicide widely used by top supplier Brazil.
The Food and Drug Administration said this week it was testing orange juice shipped into the United States for carbendazim, a chemical that is illegal for U.S. citrus but commonly used in Brazil to fight mold on trees. Juice that tests positive will be stopped at the border.
Preliminary findings showed three shipments from Canada did not have the fungicide, the FDA said. It will release the shipments into the U.S. market as soon as the results are finalized. Canada makes up less than 1 percent of U.S. imports.
It said more testing results could be released at the end of the week, offering hope for a potentially quick resolution to a scare that briefly sent orange juice futures record high and threatened to roil an industry that depends on Brazilian imports for more than 10 percent of U.S. supplies.
"We've got 30 more samples pending, and those come from Canada, Mexico and Brazil," said FDA spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey, adding that the testing takes about 5 to 10 business days. "I'm not sure what is where in the pipeline."
The FDA initially started testing orange juice on Jan. 4, after a juice company informed it about traces of carbendazim found in orange juice from Brazil.
Although carbendazim has been used in Brazil for more than 20 years and is not considered harmful in doses that are even 100 times larger than what has been found in the United States, the threat of an import ban spooked juice traders in New York, sending prices soaring 11 percent to a record on Tuesday.
Those price gains were erased on Wednesday as traders guessed fears of an import ban on Brazilian juice were overblown, partly after the FDA said it would still allow imports with trace doses of less than 10 parts per billion. The European Union allows imports with up to 200 ppb.
Heavier use?
The company, which the FDA declined to name, had always tested its own and competitors' juice for the fungicide, but only noticed increased levels recently, the FDA said. Higher levels could be caused by greater use of the fungicide in Brazil, the agency said. The world's top exporter of orange juice uses carbendazim to fight blossom blight and black spot, a type of mold that grows on orange trees.
Brazil's citrus producers' association said on Wednesday black spot has always been a problem for its orange crop but has expanded to worrying levels in recent years. Brands such as Tropicana, from PepsiCo Inc, and Minute Maid, from Coca-Cola Co, may use a mix of juices sourced from Brazil and the United States

Food Poisoning? Probiotic Pill May Fight Listeria Infection
Source :
By Deborah Mitchell (Jan 11, 2012)
Some day, you may be able to take a pill or drink a beverage to help prevent food poisoning caused by Listeria. Purdue University researchers have discovered that modified probiotics may help prevent Listeria infection in people who have a weakened immune system.
Food poisoning affects millions of Americans each year
Each year in the United States, there are approximately 76 million illnesses associated with food poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many cases are mild, yet about 5,000 people die from food-borne diseases annually.
Among the pathogens responsible for food poisoning are Listeria, Salmonella, Toxoplasma, and E. coli, among others. The current study examined Listeria, which was the pathogen identified in cantaloupes in 2011 in the deadliest outbreak of food poisoning in more than a decade in the United States, with at least 16 deaths reported.
The Purdue researchers discovered that adding a probiotic to the Listeria protein responsible for allowing the bacteria to pass through intestinal cells into the bloodstream caused the protein to block the pathways to the blood. In this case, the researchers used the beneficial bacteria Lactobacillus paracasei, which resulted in a 46% decrease in the amount of Listeria cells that reached the bloodstream.
According to study author Arun Bhunia, professor of food science, “Based on the research, it looks very promising that we would get a significant reduction in Listeria infections [listeriosis].”
Even a small amount of Listeria in the bloodstream can cause significant symptoms, including nausea, diarrhea, fever, muscle aches, and diarrhea. If it spreads to the nervous system, it can also cause headache, confusion, loss of balance, stiff neck, and convulsions.
Listeria infection is especially serious for pregnant women and anyone who has an impaired immune system. Pregnant women who become infected can experience stillbirth or spontaneous abortion. Individuals with a compromised immune system risk serious complications or death.
Although Listeria infection is usually contracted by eating unpasteurized milk products or poorly processed meats, it can be triggered by contaminated produce, as in the recent case of cantaloupes.
Can probiotics alone fight Listeria? Not according to the researchers, who decided to add the beneficial bacteria to the protein after discovering that probiotics alone were ineffective.
Bhunia noted that a pill or probiotic drink for high-risk patients to reduce their risk of Listeria infection could be on the horizon. For now, however, the recent test results will be applied to animal testing. Individuals who are at high risk for serious food poisoning infections should avoid eating foods that are most likely to contain Listeria.

Inspectors ignored FDA guidance before listeria outbreak, report finds
Source :
By Matt Smith (Jan 11, 2012)
The company that inspected a Colorado cantaloupe farm at the center of a deadly listeriosis outbreak ignored federal regulators' "best and most timely" advice on processing produce, a congressional committee has found.
The FDA cited "serious design flaws" and a "lack of awareness" of safety standards at Jensen Farms as the likely sources of the bacterial contamination behind the deaths. But in a report issued this week, congressional investigators found the company that conducted a July safety audit at the farm, Bio Food Safety, gave it near-perfect marks despite finding three "major deficiencies."
In particular, it noted that the company washed its cantaloupe in water that was not treated with chlorine or any other anti-bacterial additive -- a process the FDA said was inconsistent with its recommendations and "a probable cause of the contamination." The inspector did not take points off for the finding, the report states.
"The guidance which Bio Food Safety did not consider in its audit represents the agency's best and most timely advice on how processing should be handled," the House Energy and Commerce Committee concluded in its bipartisan report.
The September outbreak killed 30 people, triggered a miscarriage in one woman and sickened more than 115 others -- the deadliest outbreak of foodborne illness in more than a quarter-century, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What is listeria monocytogenes?
Bio Food Safety President Jerry Walzel declined comment on the report Wednesday, citing a pending lawsuit. But he told committee investigators that his company followed FDA regulations, and the agency's guidelines are "opinions."
"We are not supposed to be opinionated on this," the report quotes Walzel. "We are supposed to go by FDA's regulations ... FDA should have mandated that you cannot sell cantaloupes that have not been sanitized."
The report states that in 2010, Walzel recommended Jensen Farms replace a water cooler used to chill the fruit before packaging, citing it as a potential safety "hot spot." The owners replaced the device in 2011, buying equipment that had been used in a potato plant and refitting it.
In October, the FDA found that equipment "did not lend itself to be easily or routinely cleaned and sanitized," allowing dirt to build up. It also criticized Jensen Farms for allowing water to pool on the floor of the packing facility: samples of that water tested positive for the bacteria behind the outbreak.
Jensen Farms had not returned a phone call seeking comment Wednesday afternoon.
The FDA does not regulate private auditors such as Bio Food Safety, a subcontractor for the company Jensen Farms hired to conduct inspections. Under a law passed in 2011, the agency is required to set up an accreditation system and set standards for those firms.

HACCP Credited for Reducing Salmonella Cases from Chicken
Source :
By Ross Anderson (Jan 11, 2012)
Federally imposed processing safeguards prevented an estimated 190,000 cases of Salmonella poisoning from broiler chickens in the late 1990s, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The statistical study compared food-poisoning data in the years before and after imposition of the sometimes-controversial Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) program in the mid-1990s.
Previous studies had concluded that HACCP (pronounced "hassip")  programs in poultry processing plants had reduced the incidence of Salmonella in broilers by more than 50 percent.  But the new study asked the follow-up question: Did the new safety measures actually prevent outbreaks of food poisoning?
And the study -- published in Foodborne Pathogens and Disease -- concludes that it did, resulting in far few cases of Salmonella infection across the nation.
Chicken carcasses have long been understood to be a high risk for Salmonella poisoning. While thorough cooking to 165°F can kill the harmful pathogen, raw chicken and its juices can cross-contaminate other foods and food-prep surfaces, so ideally chicken shouldn't be contaminated in the first place.
The HACCP program, introduced in stages between 1996 and 2000, identified points in the processing plant where the poultry is especially prone to contamination.  Armed with that information, processors were able to alter their operations to reduce the risk.
The new study, by Michael Williams and Eric D. Ebel at the USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service, used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from other health agencies to analyze the effects of the safety programs.
The authors estimated that about 190,000 fewer people - and potentially as many as 500,000 - were sickened with Salmonella between 1996 and 2000.
Subsequent improvements in infections rates have been far more modest, presumedly because HACCP programs had been in place for some time, the authors said.
The HACCP program dates to the 1960s, when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) asked the Pillsbury Company to help develop a safe food system for astronauts, with food safety being a high priority. Pillsbury scientists studied food-processing and transport, identifying the points at which food was most likely to become contaminated with Salmonella or other microbes.
At the same time, the U.S. food-processing industry was growing much faster than government inspectors could keep up with. So the government applied what NASA had learned to the food industry in general.
While reports of Salmonella outbreaks have increased in recent years, health officials report that the actual incidence of food poisoning has declined.  And the new FSIS study suggests strongly that HACCP is one of the reasons for that decline.
Each year there are about 40,000 lab-confirmed cases of salmonellosis reported in the U.S., and about 400 of those people die. Because people with milder cases may not seek medical treatment, of if they do they may not be screened for Salmonella, the CDC estimates the actual number of infections may be 30 or more times greater. Children younger than five are the most vulnerable to the disease.
In 2010, Consumer Reports found Salmonella in 14 percent of the supermarket chicken it tested.  Last year, the Institute for Environmental Health (IEH) tested 100 retail chickens at the request of the food-safety law firm Marler Clark, sponsor of Food Safety News. Nineteen percent of the samples tested positive for Salmonella.
Of 13 organic chickens tested by the IEH lab, four were positive for Salmonella, indicating poultry processing is problematic whether or not the chicken is raised on industrial-scale farms.
Under stricter standards that went into effect in July, no more than 7.5 percent of raw chicken carcasses can test positive for Salmonella. The previous tolerance level was 20 percent.

FDA to increase testing after carbendazim found in orange juice
Source :
By Mark Astley (Jan 10, 2012)
US food safety authorities have promised to take “necessary action” against levels of fungicide carbendazim in orange juice after being alerted to its presence in the beverage.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has vowed to the Juice Products Association to step-up its testing efforts, after learning that low levels of the fungicide had been found in marketed finished products.
Carbendazim is a fungicide – a chemical compound or biological organism used to kill fungi or fungal spores that can cause serious damage in agriculture.
Many fungicides, which are, are approved for use – including carbendazim.
However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not approved the fungicide for use with oranges.
No safety concerns
The matter was brought to the FDA’s attention by an unnamed juice company in December 2011.
The firm found levels of carbendazim in its own juice, its competitors’, and in certain orange juice concentrates not on the market.
The agency announced in a letter published on its website that it would be conducting its own tests to identify juice that poses a public health risk.
“The Environmental Protection Agency has conducted a preliminary risk assessment based on the recent reports of carbendazim in orange juice,” said the statement signed by FDA official Nega Beru.
“Based on that risk assessment, EPA has concluded that consumption of orange juice with carbendazim at the low levels that have been reported does not raise safety concerns.”
“FDA is, however, conducting its own testing of orange juice for carbendazim, and, if the agency identifies orange juice with carbendazim at levels that present a public health risk, it will alert the public and take the necessary action to ensure that the product is removed from the market.” The letter added, however, that the FDA doesn’t intend to remove orange juice containing the low levels of carbendazim from the market.
Legally combat mould
The agency believes the levels originate from a 2011 orange crop from Brazil - where fungicide is used to legally to combat mould – and has urged processors to inform it of any plans they may have to stop suppliers using the pesticide. The latest fruit juice contamination concern comes only months after the FDA published a similar letter in relation to arsenic levels in apple.

Food Industry Concerned About EPA's Dioxin Limits
Source :
By Helena Bottemiller (Jan 09, 2012)
The food industry is worried a new Environmental Protection Agency proposal on dioxin, a group of toxic chemicals, could deem the average American diet dangerous.
After several years of deliberation, and a draft proposal, the EPA is expected to release a final guidance on dioxin exposure sometime this month.
Last month, the Food Industry Dioxin Working Group (FIDWG) -- an ad hoc coalition made up of groups like United Egg Producers, the American Farm Bureau, and the American Frozen Food Institute -- sent a letter to a senior White House policy adviser expressing "deep concern" over the effort. The letter was also sent to key officials at the EPA, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, Health and Human Services, and the White House Office of Management and Budget.
"We are particularly concerned with EPA's plan to break from longstanding international science-based dioxin standards and split the reassessment into non-cancer and cancer risk assessments, while setting a reference dose (RfD) for non-cancer risk," read the letter. "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 U.S. food producers."
Pervasive environmental pollutants that also are naturally occurring, dioxins are released into the air during certain industrial processes, like cement production. The chemicals are absorbed by animals and can accumulate in the food chain, a reality that has concerned regulators and public health authorities because dioxins are linked to reproductive and developmental problems, immune system damage, and cancer.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 90 percent of human exposure to dioxins is via food, particularly meat, dairy, fish and shellfish.
The industry group is particularly frustrated because EPA's proposed standard is more stringent than other international standards, including standards set by the European Union, and WHO.
The level of dioxin exposure considered safe by EPA is expected to be .7 picograms of dioxin per kilogram of body weight per day. The limits set by WHO and the EU are between 1-4 picograms per kilogram of bodyweight per day.
"Under EPA's proposal, this advice could no longer stand as nearly every American - particularly young children - could easily exceed the daily RfD after consuming a single meal or heavy snack," according to the industry groups. "The implications of this action are chilling. EPA is proposing to create a situation in which most U.S. agricultural products could arbitrarily be classified as unfit for consumption. The impact on agricultural production - conventional, organic, livestock/poultry/dairy, fruits, grains and vegetables - may be significant, as will be the loss of trade markets, all without evidence of additional health protection."

FDA hails ‘significant progress’ under year-old food safety law
Source :
By Caroline Scott-Thomas (Jan 09, 2012_
The Food and Drug Administration claims it has made significant progress with regulatory developments related to the Food Safety Modernization Act since the bill was signed into law a year ago, according to its one-year progress report.
The passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act was widely hailed as the biggest shake-up of US food safety law since the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938, which was passed in the wake of a food scandal that killed 107 people, after they consumed a legally marketed toxic elixir.
Another deadly food scandal prompted the latest food safety overhaul – this time, the 2008-2009 salmonella outbreak linked to peanut products, which killed at least nine and made hundreds ill.
“Since President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) on January 4, 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made significant progress in developing proposed rules to implement the sweeping food safety reform law, publishing mandated reports, and taking important steps toward increasing overall food safety capacity in the United States,” the agency said in its one-year progress report.
Among highlights over the past year, the FDA said it has used its new authority to seize potentially contaminated food three times, issued guidance to the seafood industry on food safety hazards and to the dietary supplement industry regarding new dietary ingredients, and met the FSMA mandate for foreign food safety inspections.
In addition, the FDA said it was on track to meet domestic food facility inspection mandates specified by the new law. The agency and its State partners conducted more than 20,000 food facility inspections in the past year, and set definitions for high-risk and non-high-risk facilities.
Other actions carried out to date by the FDA as required under the FSMA include:
•Its launch in April of a more consumer-friendly recall search engine on the FDA website.
•Issuing an interim final rule requiring information on imported foods that have been refused entry to other countries.
•Forming an anti-smuggling strategy in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security to help identify and prevent smuggled foods from entering the United States.
•Releasing a fiscal 2012 fee schedule for food facility reinspections and for non-compliance with recall orders.
•Introduction of two product tracing pilot programs, to be carried out by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT).

Allergen Alert: Wrong Seasoning Packet in Lasagna
By Julia Thomas (Jan 13, 2012)
Gilster-Mary Lee of Chester, IL is recalling about 8,376 lasagna dinners because the wrong seasoning packets may have been placed in the cartons.
The recall was initiated after a Creamy Noodle Tuna Helper seasoning pouch was found in a lasagna carton, which should have included a lasagna-flavored seasoning pouch. Because soy is an ingredient in the tuna seasoning, and that allergen is not listed on the lasagna carton, some 698 cases of the lasagna dinners are being recalled.
People who have allergies to soy may run the risk of a reaction if they consume it. No adverse reactions have been reported.
The recall is for Hill Country Fare 6.4 oz. Lasagna Dinner with the best-by date NOV 21 12 Y18 and the UPC number 41220-78102. The lasagna dinners may be returned to the place of purchase for a refund. For more information call the company at 618-826-2361, ext. 3283, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CST.

Coca-Cola alerted FDA about contaminated OJ
Source :
By The Associated Press (Jan 11, 2012)
Coca-Cola Co. says it alerted the Food and Drug Administration after it found some Brazilian growers had sprayed their orange trees with a fungicide that is not approved for use in the U.S.
The FDA had said Monday that an unnamed juice company detected low levels of the fungicide in orange juice products after testing its own and competitors' products. Most orange juice products made by Coke and other companies contain a blend of juice from different sources including Brazil.
Atlanta-based Coca-Cola did not say which products it tested contained the fungicide. Its own orange juice products include Simply Orange and Minute Maid. The FDA has said the low levels found of the fungicide aren't a safety risk but they will increase testing to make sure the contamination isn't a problem.

E. coli O103 and O145 sickens 29 students who prepared deer in Minnesota
Source :
by Doug Powell (Jan 11, 2012)
A Minnesota high school science project that involved hunting and butchering deer -- including one road-kill capture -- and turning the meat into venison kabobs backfired when 29 students were sickened with a rare kind of E. coli food poisoning, investigators say.
Linda Carroll of msnbc reports the 2010 incident, just now reported in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases (abstract below) highlights the risks of E. coli contamination, not just from factory-produced meat, but also from small, local providers.
Doctors first knew they had a problem in December 2010 when two kids from the same high school turned up at a Minnesota hospital with abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea. Fearing they had a food poisoning outbreak on their hands, they quickly called in the state’s top-notch public health officials.
Both teens had taken part in a school environmental science and outdoor recreation class that involving hunting, shooting and butchering six white-tailed deer, explained Joshua Rounds, the study’s lead author and an epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Public Health. A seventh deer was harvested after being hit by a car, the report says. The deer were processed on school grounds and then grilled and eaten in class a few weeks before the students got sick.
Epidemiologists interviewed 117 kids in five class periods and found that 29 definitely had become ill, but not with E. coli O157:H7, the strain commonly associated with food poisoning from ground beef.
Rounds suspected the deer might have carried another E. coli strain that also produces poisons known as Shiga toxins. He was right. Samples from the students and the deer meet turned up E. coli O103:H2, which is part of a larger category of non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli bugs, known as STECs.
Scientists also turned up another E. coli strain, E. coli O145:NM that didn’t produce Shiga toxins.
People don’t usually get sick from eating hunks or steaks of muscle meat, Rounds said. In this case, however, the meat had been skewered and cooked only to medium-rare. The skewers had dragged contaminants from the meat’s surface down to the center of the kabobs, which hadn’t been cooked to a high enough temperature to kill the bacteria.
Another factor was hand-washing when handling meat -- or the lack of it, Rounds said. “If you think about high school males, they’re probably not the best when it comes to food safety practices,” he said. “So you can have cross-contamination.”
The case is a reminder, Rounds said, that all meat, no matter where it comes from, should be treated with careful precautions.

VIC salmonella outbreak: who's responsible?
Source :
By Jessica Burke (12 January 2012)
There is debate and blame shifting in Victoria today over who is responsible for a Salmonella break out in Ballarat.
The Courier reported the outbreak yesterday, and it was initially believed to be caused by inappropriate meat handling at a restaurant.
But expert in infectious disease, Dr James Hurley has told The Courier this morning that such outbreaks could be the result of mistakes “further up the chain.”
It is believed 18 people were struck by the gastro-intestinal infection, which can initially cause symptoms similar to a stomach bug, and authorities are also investigating whether a man’s death was the result of the outbreak.
Those affected by the infection experience fevers, stomach pain, diarrhea and vomiting that can last about two days.
Most people recover from the infection within days, but it can have serious medical impacts for others, particularly those with auto-immune disorders or the elderly.
Hurley said when a salmonella outbreak is identified, the Health Department aims to locate the source by tracking down everyone affected.
“Even when they find the source, sometimes it can be from a supplier further up the chain,” he said.
In August the Unites States experienced the worst salmonella outbreak in its history when 36 million pounds of fresh and frozen turkey had to be recalled due to contamination in a processing factory.
In that case, one man was killed by the strain of the infection, and 79 others became ill.
Hurley said people can get salmonella from various sources.
“Firstly, we look at various food sources, but it can be acquired from pets and other unusual sources,” he said.
“Some foods are more of a concern than others, particularly chicken, meats, eggs and occasionally dairy products.”
While he said salmonella is “pretty uncommon,” Hurley noted that cases tended to see a sharp increase at this time of year.
“In the summer months it tends to become more common for a number of reasons; people are out and about, eating food they would not usually eat and they may not be thinking about washing their hands,” he said.
“If you think you might be ill, certainly consult your general practitioner to get the appropriate tests.”

Final CDC update: Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak from Schreiber Processing's "Kosher Broiled Chicken Livers"
Source :
By Colin Caywood (Jan 11, 2012)
Today, January 11, 2012, the CDC issues its final update to the investigation into a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg stemming from contaminated "kosher broiled chicken livers" from Schreiber Processing Corporation.  While the product appears to be ready-to-eat, it is actually only partially cooked, and therefore requires additional cooking to be fully done and ready for eating.  It is believed that consumers understandably thought the use of the word "broiled" in the label meant the chicken liver was ready-to-eat.
In total, 190 people were sickened with genetically indistinguishable Salmonella Heidelberg infections.  The victims were from the following 6 states where the "kosher broiled chicken liver" product was distributed:
•New York (109) •New Jersey (62) •Pennsylvania (10) •Maryland (6)
•Ohio (2) •Minnesota (1)
For its investigation, the CDC joined with public health and agriculture officials in several states, including New York and New Jersey, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Epidemiologic and laboratory investigations conducted by officials in local, state, and federal public health, agriculture, and regulatory agencies linked this outbreak to eating "kosher broiled chicken livers" from Schreiber Processing Corporation (doing business as Alle Processing Corporation/MealMart Company), and chopped chicken liver prepared from this product. These "kosher broiled chicken livers" are sold at retail stores and may be used as an ingredient in other prepared foods.
Among 39 ill persons for whom information is available, 28 (72%) reported consuming chicken liver products in the week before their illness began. Laboratory testing conducted by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Laboratory Division identified the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg in samples of “kosher broiled chicken livers” and chopped liver products obtained from retail stores.
New York City conducted an enhanced epidemiologic investigation, which resulted in the identification of suspect food items that might have been a source of this outbreak. These suspect food items were collected for testing and the outbreak strain was found in “kosher broiled chicken liver” products.
On November 8, 2011, Schreiber Processing Corporation, of Maspeth, New York, announced a recall of an undetermined amount of its “kosher broiled chicken liver” products.

Food industry behaving badly: it ain't all cantaloupes and third-party auditors
Source :
By Drew Falkenstein (Jan 11, 2012)
Pick up today's edition of just about any major daily and you'll find more than you wanted to read about food producers, and the auditors who are supposed to hold them in check, behaving poorly.  Try Stephanie Armour's article, or this from the AP, just for starters.  The upshot is that the companies that participated in the food safety audit of Jensen Farms, the company that produced cantaloupes that have killed 31 people since August, failed miserably.  See Third Party Auditing Industry Indicted for more.
Here are a few more examples of food companies behaving badly:
•FDA Warning Letter to Greencore OARS LLC for the presence of Listeria in the processing facility, and for other serious food safety violations.
•FDA Warning Letter to Jang Soo Farm Inc. d/b/a "Rainier Sprouts":  During the inspection, FDA collected two samples -- consisting of various mung beans, rodent excreta pellets, rodent hair, old nesting material, and rodent-gnawed packaging material -- from your facility that confirmed the presence and activity of rodents and insects. Our investigators documented insanitary conditions and practices that contribute directly or indirectly to possible contamination of your sprouts with filth and pathogens. Accordingly, sprouts grown in your facility are adulterated within the meaning of Section 402(a)(4) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act) [21 U.S.C. § 342(a)(4)] because they have been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have been contaminated with filth or rendered injurious to health."
•FDA Warning Letter to Homeneeds Samamish, Inc.: FDA’s laboratory tests of samples collected from your warehouse and various lots of food product confirmed the findings of rodent excreta pellets (REPs), rodent hair, and rodent urine stained and gnawed packaging throughout your facility.
•FDA Warning Letter to Gulfish LP: Failure to have a HACCP plan, which is incumbent upon seafood processors.
•FDA Warning Letter to Li Da Seafood Trading Inc.:  Failure to have a seafood processing HACCP plan, as well as failure to monitor temperature and sanitation, failures in recordkeeping, and a failure to do just about everything necessary to protect consumers from dangerous bacteria and viruses.


Authorities investigate Ballarat salmonella outbreak
Source :
By Adam Cooper (Jan 11, 2012)
Eggs are the suspected source of a salmonella outbreak at a Ballarat pizzeria that left at least 14 people sick, including one elderly man who later died.
The Department of Health says Rizzo's Pizza was closed for one week after investigators found a cluster of salmonella cases across Ballarat dating back to the week before Christmas.
The pizzeria was closed on December 30 and re-opened on January 6, after the department and Ballarat Council oversaw a thorough clean-up of the business and changes to way staff handle food.
A department spokesman today confirmed there were 14 confirmed cases of salmonella poisoning linked to the restaurant, and another five suspected cases.
The man who died tested positive to salmonella and had eaten at the pizzeria, but the precise cause of his death was yet to be determined by the man's doctor, the spokesman said.
Ballarat Council is now responsible for imposing any penalties on the business.
"The matter is the subject of an ongoing investigation in conjunction with Department of Health," Ballarat Council acting chief executive Jeff Pulford said.
"The council's environmental health unit will continue to monitor the business."
Department of Health investigators were alerted to the outbreak when they analysed a series of cases where people in the region had been treated for symptoms of salmonella poisoning. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhoea.
Investigators found the people had all eaten at the restaurant between December 16 and 23.
The department spokesman said eggs were the likely cause of the outbreak, although it was unclear whether the outbreak was related to their storage or food handling.
"Eggs are one of those things you need to take extra precautions about, they need to be kept refrigerated and you've got to be very careful with them," he said.
"It's still an ongoing investigation, but that's the likely cause of it."
The spokesman said the pizzeria had been ordered to conduct a thorough clean-up, re-train staff on food handling and upgrade equipment and utensils before it had been allowed to re-open.
He said the business had resumed trading.
"They've had to satisfy our requirements. Under the closure order, the safety of consumers is our priority and we wanted to make sure the restaurant is safe for diners in the future," he said.
The restaurant declined to comment.

Congressional Probe Into Listeria Cantaloupe Outbreak - Plenty of Blame to Go Around
Source :
By David Babcock (Jan 10, 2012)
Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have laid criticisms against multiple parties in the aftermath of the deadliest foodborne illness outbreak in U.S. history in 2011.  In a report issued today, the Committee directs blame at the grower of the cantaloupe, Jensen Farms, distributor Frontera Produce, as well as third-party auditors, Primus and Bio-Food Safety.
The outbreak of listeria linked to cantaloupe grown and distributed by Jensen Farms and Frontera Produce sickened 146 people in 28 states, including 30 deaths.  Marler Clark has filed 10 lawsuits on behalf of people sickened in the outbreak, including the families of people who died.
A press release announcing the report on behalf of Chairman Fred Upton, Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman, Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns, Ranking Member Diana DeGette, Subcommittee Chairman Joseph R. Pitts, Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr., and Rep. John D. Dingell stated:
The recent outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes was the deadliest foodborne illness outbreak in over twenty-five years. The committee launched this investigation to provide helpful information to the FDA, growers, distributors, and other authorities in their efforts to improve the safety of our nation’s food supply. The committee will continue to monitor upcoming examinations of the Listeria outbreak and related proposals to help prevent another such tragedy.  A Congressional committee investigating deaths from the Colorado cantaloupe listeria outbreak points fingers at Jensen Farms, third-party auditors, and lax FDA regulations on sanitation.
Committee staff took testimony from representatives of Jensen Farms, Frontera Produce, third-party auditors Primus and Bio-Food Safety, and the FDA.  FDA representatives told the staff that "the outbreak would have likely been prevented if Jensen Farms had maintained its facilities in accordance with existing FDA guidance."
Elaborating on that point, the report is critical of Jensen for "the failure to use an anti-microbial wash" as would have been consistent with FDA guidance.  This failure was reported as the "probable cause of the contamination."
Also according to the report, President of auditor Primus, Robert Stovicek, stated that Primus did not have the "expertise to determine which best practices should be pushed by the industry.”

Update on Salmonella Typhimurium Outbreak
Source :
(Jan 6, 2012)
In a Jan. 5 update, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported total of 19 people in seven states have been confirmed infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium linked to contaminated ground beef sold at Hannaford supermarkets.
The outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium is resistant to several commonly prescribed antibiotics. This antibiotic resistance may be associated with an increase in the risk of hospitalization or possible treatment failure in infected individuals.
On Dec. 15, 2011, Hannaford recalled an undetermined amount of fresh ground beef products because they may have been contaminated with Salmonella Typhimurium. The recall was initiated after an outbreak of Salmonellosis was linked to the use and consumption of fresh in-store ground beef prepared in and purchased at Hannaford stores. The PFGE pattern associated with the outbreak is reported rarely in the United States.
Among persons for whom information is available, illnesses began on or after Oct. 8, 2011. Ill persons range from ages 1 to 79, with a median age of 44. Among the 15 ill persons with available information, seven have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. CDC has confirmed infections in Hawaii, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.

Advisory issued for mycotoxin contamination of Pepin Heights Orchards apple cider
Source :
By Drew Falkenstein(January 07, 2012)
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and Pepin Heights Orchards have advised consumers to avoid drinking certain Pepin Heights brand Honeycrisp 100 Percent Fresh Pressed Apple Cider after department laboratory tests found some product may be contaminated with a mycotoxin called patulin.
The affected product was sold in 64-ounce (half gallon) plastic jugs, featuring a “USE BY” date of FEB 09 12. Any consumers with this product at home are asked to discard it. The affected product was distributed in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. Other product lots have been tested and are not included in this advisory.
The cider was tested as part of a routine surveillance sampling program by the MDA, which confirmed that the apple cider contained patulin at levels of 58 parts per billion. This level is higher than the 50 parts per billion limit set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Patulin is a mycotoxin that can be found in fruits, vegetables and other foods. Patulin is formed by certain kinds of fungi that sometimes grow on or in these products. Patulin is not eliminated by pasteurization.
No illnesses have been associated with this patulin contamination. While the short-term health effects of patulin are not clearly established, FDA has identified long-term exposure to the substance as a potential concern.

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