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03/12
2012
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Coca-Cola Modifies Caramel Color To Avoid Cancer Warning Label
Source: http://blog.usfoodsafety.com/2012/03/07/coca-cola-modifies-caramel-color-to-avoid-cancer-warning-label/
By foodsafetyguru( Mar 7, 2012 )
When the state of California added the compound 4-methylimidazole, also known as 4-MI or 4-MEI, to its list of known carcinogens in 2011, it created a problem for the soda industry.
The caramel color they used to give colas that distinctive, brown hue contained levels of 4-MI that would have warranted a cancer warning label on every can sold in the state. And this wasn’t the industry’s only challenge. The Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban ammonia-sulfite caramel color. It’s a request the CSPI repeated this week after finding 4-MI in samples of Coke and Pepsi.
“This is nothing more than CSPI scare tactics, and their claims are outrageous,” writes the American Beverage Association in a statement released to the media.
“The science simply does not show that 4-MEI foods or beverages is a threat to human health,” the statement continues.
And the FDA seems to agree.FDA spokesman Douglas Karas wrote in a statement that the FDA is currently reviewing the CSPI petition, but “it is important to understand that a consumer would have to consume well over a thousand cans of soda a day to reach the doses administered in the studies that have shown links to cancer in rodents.”
But in order to meet the requirements of California law — and avoid cancer warning labels on cans — soda manufacturers have come up with a solution: switch to a new, low 4-MI formulation of caramel coloring. Coca-Cola tells The Salt they’ve already begun the change.
“The company did make the decision to ask its caramel suppliers to make the necessary manufacturing process modifications to meet the requirement of the State of California,” Diana Garza Ciarlante, a Coca-Cola spokeswoman, wrote in an email.
Garza Ciarlante says caramel coloring in all Coke products has always been safe.
“The fact is that the body of science about 4-MEI in foods or beverages does not support the erroneous allegations that CSPI would like the public to believe,” she writes. Outside of California, no regulatory agency concerned with protecting the public’s health has stated that 4-MI is a human carcinogen.
“Caramel color is now — and has always been — safe and harmless” says Ted Nixon, CEO of D.D. Williamson, the world’s largest supplier of caramel color.
He explained that in order to modify the caramel color to reduce the levels of 4-MI, he sent his scientists back to the drawing board to change the manufacturing process.
“We did have to change these various inputs of temperature, pressure and the various ingredients we’re using in order to change [4-MI concentrations],” Nixon says.
And Nixon says he’ll be able to meet the demand of all of his soda clients, in rolling out this modified caramel color in products nationwide, and worldwide.
Coke says it will expand the use of the low-4-MI caramel color nationally, though Garza Ciarlante says it’s important to note that the modifications will not change Coca-Cola products.

Caramel Colors Under Fire Again
Source: http://www.foodproductdesign.com/news/2012/03/caramel-colors-under-fire-again.aspx
By admin ( Mar 08, 2012 )
The safety of certain caramel colors is under fire again after the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) released results of new lab tests that found "unsafe levels" of 4-methylimidazole (4-MI), a suspected carcinogenic formed when it mixes in the ammonia compound to make caramel color, in cans of Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc's Dr. Pepper and Whole Foods' 365 Cola.
CSPI on March 5, reiterated its 2011 request for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to revoke its authorization for caramel colorings that contain 4-MI, and in the interim to change the name of the additive to “ammonia-sulfite process caramel coloring" or “chemically modified caramel coloring" for labeling purposes.
FDA considers caramel color a GRAS ingredient and it is exempt from certification for use as a coloring agent. Four distinct classes of caramel are officially recognized by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (Compendium for Caramel Color): Class 1 (plain caramel, or caustic caramel); Class 2 (caustic sulfite caramel); Class 3 (ammonia caramel);  and Class 4 (sulfite ammonia caramel).
“Coke and Pepsi, with the acquiescence of the FDA, are needlessly exposing millions of Americans to a chemical that causes cancer," said CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson. “The coloring is completely cosmetic, adding nothing to the flavor of the product. If companies can make brown food coloring that is carcinogen-free, the industry should use that. And industry seems to be moving in that direction. Otherwise, the FDA needs to protect consumers from this risk by banning the coloring."
The American Beverage Association responded to the CSPI news regarding the safety of 4-MEI, which forms in foods such as caramel (which adds color and flavor to many foods and beverages) during the heating, roasting or cooking process, with the following statement: "This is nothing more than CSPI scare tactics, and their claims are outrageous. The science simply does not show that 4-MEI in foods or beverages is a threat to human health. In fact, findings of regulatory agencies worldwide, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, European Food Safety Authority and Health Canada, consider caramel coloring safe for use in foods and beverages. CSPI fraudulently claims to be operating in the interest of the public's health when it is clear its only motivation is to scare the American people."
Last year, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) completed a safety review of caramel colors and concluded they are not carcinogenic or genotoxic and there is no evidence to show that they have any adverse effects on human reproduction or for the developing child.

FDA to decide future of BPA in food and drinks
Source: http://www.wtsp.com/news/local/article/243213/8/FDA-to-decide-future-of-BPA-in-food-and-drinks
By Heather VanNest (Mar 7, 2012)
The controversial chemical BPA may be on it's way out of your food supply.
The FDA said they will issue a ruling about the use of BPA in food and beverage packaging by March 31, 2012. The inquiry is a result of a National Resources Defense Council 2008 lawsuit and petition, asking that the FDA ban the potentially hazardous component.
BPA, or Bisphenol-A, is found in a variety of food packaging, including Campbell's Soup cans. In September 2011, researchers from Breast Cancer Fund reported that many cans of kid-friendly foods included BPA, which mimics estrogen and has been linked in studies to increased breast cancer risk. Campbell's Soup was rated the highest in the study because of the increased levels of BPA and because the food was appealing to children.
Breast cancer is not the only reported health risk. A study in Pediatrics showed that BPA consumption in pregnant women and in girls up to the age of three could change the child's behavior, making them feel more anxious or be more hyperactivity, HealthPop reported. U.K. researchers found in three separate studies that people with heart disease had higher levels of BPA in their urine, according to Reuters.
Initially, Campbell's Soup Company told Forbes that they were sure their products were safe. "The overwhelming weight of scientific evidence shows that the use of BPA in can lining poses no threat to human health," Campbell Soup Company spokesman Anthony Sanzio said. "That being said, we understand that consumers may have concerns about it. We're very aware of the debate and we're watching it intently."
At a February shareholder's meeting, Campbell announced their intent to move towards non-BPA cans. On its official website, the company still maintained their statement that the cans were safe, but said due to the debate between consumers over the safety of the chemical, they are already using alternative materials and working to phase out BPA all together. Campbell Soup Company spokesman Anthony Sanzio told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the company had been working for five years to find a different material to contain their products.
Removing BPA from packaging my also have a financial impact for companies, considering that French lawmakers have already moved to ban BPA in all food packaging, according to Forbes. Reuters also reported that Canada has declared BPA a toxin. This would make it difficult to import American products that might contain the chemical.
*I try to cut down on my exposure to BPA by using glass and stainless steel containers when possible and making fresh, simple foods for my family. Click here to see how I lower my daughter's exposure to plastic.

Campbell's Soup Starts to Remove Bisphenol A from Cans
Source: http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/mar2012/2012-03-07-092.html
By admin(Mar 7, 2012)
Months of pressure from consumer, public health and concerned parents' organizations worried about the health effects of the chemical bisphenol A in canned food linings are having an impact on the Campbell's Soup Company. The New Jersey company says it has begun to phase out the use of the chemical in its cans.
Exposure to BPA, used to make the epoxy-resin linings of metal food cans, has been linked in lab studies to breast and prostate cancer, infertility, early puberty in girls, type-2 diabetes, obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Childhood exposure worries parents because this endocrine-disrupting chemical can affect children's hormonal systems during development and set the stage for later-life diseases.
At a February 22 shareholder meeting, Campbell's Chief Financial Officer Craig Owens reported that the shift to BPA-free cans has begun and could be accomplished without major cost to the company.
"We recognize that there is some debate over the use of BPA," Owens said. "The trust that we've earned from our consumers for over 140 years is paramount to us. And we've been monitoring and working on the issue for several years. Because of this we've already started using alternatives to BPA in some of our soup packaging. And we're working to phase out the use of BPA in the lining of all of our canned products. The cost of this effort is not expected to be material."
In an update to its 2011 Corporate Social Responsibility Report, Campbell's said, "A topic that continues to receive increased attention is the use of a material called bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is widely used in the lining of metal food containers to prevent corrosion and help maintain the food's safety, quality and flavor. Campbell - with our suppliers - has been researching alternatives to BPA that perform as well as existing packaging."
"We have already started using packaging lined with a BPA alternative in some of our soups, and we are working to phase out the use of BPA in can linings in the rest of our canned products," the company states in its report.
But Campbell's has not offered a timeline for the phase-out nor identified what materials it will use to line its cans instead of BPA.
In the last six months, more than 70,000 letters have been sent to Campbell's by supporters of the Cans Not Cancer campaign. These letters include nearly 20,000 from the nonprofit Healthy Child Healthy World, which for 20 years has been empowering parents to protect children from harmful chemicals.
"Parents want to be sure when they serve Campbell's Soup to their kids that it is free of toxic chemicals that contribute to disease," said Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff, executive director of Healthy Child Healthy World. "I commend Campbell's for taking this first step - as well as the concerned parents and consumers who made their voices heard in the boardroom and at the checkout counter."
Last September the Breast Cancer Fund released a report that found BPA in canned food marketed to children - Campbell's Disney Princess and Toy Story soups tested the highest.
A November Breast Cancer Fund report found BPA in Campbell's turkey gravy and cream of mushroom soup. Both reports, as well as the growing consumer pressure on Campbell's to get BPA out of its products, are part of the Breast Cancer Fund's Cans Not Cancer campaign.
"Campbell's decision to move away from BPA is a victory for consumers, who have been demanding this change," said Gretchen Lee Salter, policy manager at the Breast Cancer Fund. "To truly be an industry leader, the company now needs to fully disclose the timeline for the phase-out and the alternatives that will be used."
"Consumers aren't just concerned about BPA. They are becoming increasingly savvy about the chemicals used in their food packaging and are demanding transparency from manufacturers," said Salter. "We want to make sure that any alternatives that are being used are actually safer for consumers, and the best way to ensure that safety is through full disclosure."
"We call on Campbell's Soup to set a clear timeline with benchmarks for success," said Sarnoff. "We understand that this transition cannot happen overnight, but a timeline is necessary so that consumers can hold Campbell's accountable for their progress."
Other canned food companies have already stopped using BPA.
A 2010 survey by the nonprofit Seeking Safer Packaging found Hain Celestial, which makes Health Valley, Earth's Best, and Westbrae Natural brands; ConAgra, which makes Chef Boyardee, Hunt's and Healthy Choice brands; and H.J. Heinz had removed BPA from their canned foods.
Muir Glen, a subsidiary of General Mills, announced in 2010 that it would switch to metal can packaging that does not contain BPA.
Over the past four years, 11 states have restricted BPA in infant food containers. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently considering a BPA ban and there is legislation before Congress that would ban the use of BPA in all food and beverage containers.

NYC: Eatery grades, drop in food poisoning linked
Source: http://www.newschannel5.com/story/17095311/nyc-links-drop-in-foodborne-illness-to-grades
By CRISTIAN SALAZAR (Mar 07, 2012)
Giving letter grades to the thousands of restaurants in New York City - from humble delis to celebrity chef-powered eateries - has been a boon to business and has led to a decline in the number of cases of salmonella food poisoning, the mayor and health officials said Tuesday.
Some city council members, however, say the grading system is far from perfect and needs to be reviewed. Restaurant industry representatives complain of excessive inspections and burdensome fines on small businesses.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas A. Farley and other health officials announced initial data Tuesday showing salmonella infections decreased by 13.5 percent over the first full year the city has used letter grades. The Health Department said 1,296 cases of salmonella were reported in 2010 and preliminary data show 1,121 cases in 2011.
Further emphasizing that sanitary conditions are improving, the officials said more than 72 percent of the city's 24,000 restaurants earned "A'' grades compared to 65 percent a year ago. They also highlighted the most recent tax data available showing restaurant sales were up 9.3 percent from June 2010 to February 2011.
"It just may be that clean kitchens are as good for business as clean air is when a restaurant is smoke-free," Bloomberg said at a news conference held at Zero Otto Nove in the Bronx.
The city started handing out letter grades in July 2010. Restaurants can get an A, B, or C, based on points for sanitary conditions. Restaurants have to post the grades in a visible area such as a street-facing window or door. Common sanitary violations include food stored at improper temperatures and evidence of vermin.
The largely positive announcement, which included the release of survey results showing New Yorkers largely approve of the grading system, came a day before the City Council was expected to hold a hearing on restaurant letter grades.
Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, who supports the system, was nonetheless critical of it, saying in a statement Tuesday that the city's data show "a wide variability" in grades from "inspector to inspector in the same restaurant and an enormous increase in fines."
The Health Department officials said fines have been declining as restaurants improve their food safety practices. Inspectors go through rigorous training and must use computerized inspection worksheets for each restaurant, they said.
Andrew Rigie, a spokesman for the New York State Restaurant Association, said the grading system was punitive and a financial burden on small business owners.
"If you define success as taxing small business owners and making their lives miserable, then letter grades have been a complete success," Rigie said in an email, adding that the association that represents 4,000 restaurants in the city hopes the City Council "will take a more enlightened approach toward public health."
Restaurants can contest inspection findings at an administrative tribunal and have their grades changed, during which time a "grade pending" sign appears in place of the letter grade. Repeatedly receiving a "C'' grade on inspections leads to an increased frequency of inspections.
Problems so severe that they cannot be corrected while an inspector is there - such as insufficient refrigeration - could put a restaurant at risk of being shut down.
City officials also announced Tuesday that the restaurant grades are now available on an app for iPhones and iPads called ABCEats NYC.

Not Much Raw Milk Regulation Change Expected in 2012
Source: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/03/not-much-raw-milk-change-expected-in-2012/
By Dan Flynn (Mar 06, 2012)
In an election year when only 39 state legislative bodies are meeting in regular sessions, with most of those entering their second halves and no special sessions currently underway, there will likely be few changes involving raw milk regulation.
In New Hampshire today, the "homestead food" bill -- which would allow the direct sale of raw milk products without requiring a milk producer-distributor license -- is scheduled to get another public hearing.
House Bill (HB) 1402, the "homestead/raw milk bill," goes before the Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee. It was earlier heard by the Environment and Agriculture Committee, which gave it a 13-0 favorable vote.
HB 1402 is one of about 850 bills the New Hampshire "General Court" is considering between now and its scheduled adjournment on June 7.  Most of the bill is permissive legislation allowing the sale of non-hazardous foods from home kitchens.
But it also amends the NH Milk Sanitation Code, allowing a raw milk producer-distributor with daily production of 20 gallons or less to sell the raw milk or raw milk products directly to consumers on the farm, at a farm stand, or at farmer's markets within the state.
Raw milk products include cheese aged at least 60 days, yogurt, cream, butter or kefir.
HB 1402 requires raw milk products to be labeled, providing the name, address, and phone number of the producer.
At the point of sale, signs must posted saying: "Products from this farm made from raw milk are exempt from New Hampshire licensing and inspection."
State actions involving raw milk regulation often look like a giant game of "whack-a-mole." As one state warms up to the idea of loosening the regulation of raw milk sales, others are tightening up.  Indiana is moving a bill involving its state chemist that includes language requiring raw milk be labeled as "not for human consumption."  
Indiana HB 1129 sailed through its lower chamber 84-7 and looks to have similar easy going in the state Senate.  Raw milk dairies in Indiana currently get around the ban on commercial sales by using cow- or herd-share schemes in which people buy a share in a cow and then get the milk it produces. Indiana's regular legislative session is over March 14.
Kentucky, another state with a short legislative session this year, is trying to legitimize herd share agreements by its March 29 adjournment. Its Senate Bill 47, which was adopted by the upper chamber on a 22-15 vote in early February, makes it legal to enter into a shared ownership agreement without any state permit.
Two states where bills to liberalize the commercial sale of raw milk have been hanging fire since 2010 or earlier are Wisconsin and New Jersey.
Neither Wisconsin Senate Bill 108 nor New Jersey Assembly Bill 518 have gone anywhere during the current sessions. Wisconsin lawmakers adjourn May 30, while the year-round New Jersey Assembly does not end its current session until Jan. 8, 2013.
Last year, New Jersey legislators did not give a similar bill allowing commercial sales of raw milk a public hearing until the 2011 session's final hours, and then took no action.
The Iowa Legislature, which gets out on April 17, still has not moved House Study Bill 585, deregulating the sale of unpasteurized or ungraded milk.  
Finally, the Idaho Legislature rejected a bill that sought to remove the regulatory oversight of raw milk imposed by the 2011 Legislature.
Two outside events may be making harder to generate support for making raw milk sales legal. A large, four-state outbreak of Campylobacter infection, caused by raw milk from a Pennsylvania dairy, has remained in the news for several weeks.
And in Wisconsin, Sauk County Judge Guy Reynolds Friday entered not guilty pleas for Vernon Hershberger, over several misdemeanors related to operating a dairy selling raw milk without a license.
The judge set tentative trial dates of Sept. 25 to 27, and allowed the defendant to remain free on bail.

Lab Tests Find Carcinogen in Regular and Diet Coke and Pepsi
Source: http://www.cspinet.org/new/201203051.html
By admin(Mar 5, 2012)
New chemical analyses have found that Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Diet Coke, and Diet Pepsi contain high levels of 4-methylimidazole (4-MI), a known animal carcinogen. The carcinogen forms when ammonia or ammonia and sulfites are used to manufacture the “caramel coloring” that gives those sodas their distinctive brown colors, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the nonprofit watchdog group that commissioned the tests. CSPI first petitioned the FDA to ban ammonia-sulfite caramel coloring in February 2011.
CSPI today reiterated its call to the Food and Drug Administration to revoke its authorization for caramel colorings that contain 4-MI, and in the interim to change the name of the additive to “ammonia-sulfite process caramel coloring” or “chemically modified caramel coloring” for labeling purposes.
“Coke and Pepsi, with the acquiescence of the FDA, are needlessly exposing millions of Americans to a chemical that causes cancer,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “The coloring is completely cosmetic, adding nothing to the flavor of the product. If companies can make brown food coloring that is carcinogen-free, the industry should use that. And industry seems to be moving in that direction. Otherwise, the FDA needs to protect consumers from this risk by banning the coloring.”
CSPI collected samples of Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, Dr Pepper, Diet Dr Pepper, and Whole Foods 365 Cola from Washington, D.C.-area stores. Pepsi’s products had 145 to 153 micrograms (mcg) of 4-MI in two 12-ounce cans. Regular Coca-Cola had 142 mcg per 12 ounces in one sample and 146 mcg in another. Diet Coke had 103 mcg per 12 ounces in one sample and 113 mcg in another.
To put those levels into context, the state of California has a 29-microgram benchmark for 4-MI. Levels above that in a serving of food or beverage may be required to bear a warning notice. Based on California’s risk model, CSPI estimates that the 4-MI in the Coke and Pepsi products tested is causing about 15,000 cancers in the U.S. population.
While federal law bans food additives that cause any number of cancers, the FDA has an exception for contaminants of food additives, for which it tolerates a lifetime risk of one cancer in one million people. Three of four samples of Dr Pepper or Diet Dr Pepper that CSPI tested had low levels of 4-MI, with about 10 mcg per 12 ounces. But even those levels pose a cancer risk of seven in one million—seven times greater than what FDA allows. The lower levels in those three samples indicate that it is possible to lower, if not eliminate, the amount of 4-MI.
Pepsi told CSPI that it has switched to a coloring in California that contains much less 4-MI and plans to do the same in the rest of the country.
“When most people see ‘caramel coloring’ on food labels, they likely interpret that quite literally and assume the ingredient is similar to what you might get by gently melting sugar in a saucepan,” Jacobson said. “The reality is quite different. Colorings made with the ammonia or ammonia-sulfite process contain carcinogens and don’t belong in the food supply. In any event, they shouldn’t be obscured by such an innocuous-sounding name as ‘caramel coloring.’”
As troubling as the new test results are, CSPI says soda drinkers should be much more concerned about the high-fructose corn syrup or other sugars used in soft drinks. Soda drinkers are much more likely than non-soda drinkers to develop weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and other health problems

When, where and how you store food can prevent illnesses
Source: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2012/03/when-where-and-how-you-store-food-can-prevent-illnesses/
By SOLA OGUNDIPE (Mar 7, 2012 )
Whether putting food in the refrigerator, the freezer, or the cupboard, There are many opportunities to prevent food-borne illnesses.
The goal is to keep safe from micro-organisms such as Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and C. botulinum. Keeping foods chilled at proper temperatures is one of the best ways to prevent or slow the growth of these bacteria.
Storage basics
Refrigerate or freeze perishables right away. Foods that require refrigeration should be put in the refrigerator as soon as possible.
Never allow meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, or produce or other foods that require refrigeration to sit at room temperature for more than two hours Also, when putting food away, don’t crowd the refrigerator or freezer so tightly that air can’t circulate.
Keep your appliances at the proper temperatures. Keep the refrigerator temperature at or below 40° F (4° C). The freezer temperature should be 0° F (-18° C).
Check storage directions on labels. Many items other than meats, vegetables, and dairy products need to be kept cold. For instance, mayonnaise and ketchup should go in the refrigerator after opening. If you’ve neglected to properly refrigerate something, it’s usually best to throw it out.
Use ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible. The longer they’re stored in the refrigerator, the more chance Listeria, a bacterium that causes foodborne illness, can grow, especially if the refrigerator temperature is above 40° F (4° C).
Be alert for spoiled food. Anything that looks or smells suspicious should be thrown out. Mold is a sign of spoilage. It can grow even under refrigeration. Mold is not a major health threat, but it can make food unappetizing. The safest practice is to discard food that is moldy.
Refrigeration tips
Clean the refrigerator regularly and wipe spills immediately. This helps reduce the growth of Listeria bacteria and prevents drips from thawing meat that can allow bacteria from one food to spread to another. Clean the fridge out frequently.
Keep foods covered. Store refrigerated foods in covered containers or sealed storage bags, and check leftovers daily for spoilage. Store eggs in their carton in the refrigerator itself rather than on the door, where the temperature is warmer.
Check expiration dates. If food is past its “use by” date, discard it. If you’re not sure or if the food looks questionable, throw it out.
Freezer facts
Food that is properly frozen and cooked is safe. Food that is properly handled and stored in the freezer at 0° F (-18° C) will remain safe.
Freezing does not kill most bacteria, but does stop bacteria from growing. Though food will be safe indefinitely at 0° F, quality will decrease the longer the food is in the freezer. Tenderness, flavour, aroma, juiciness, and color can all be affected.
Leftovers should be stored in tight containers. With commercially frozen foods, it’s important to follow the cooking instructions on the package to assure safety.
Freezing does not reduce nutrients. There is little change in a food’s protein value during freezing.Refrigerator/freezer thermometers should be monitored.
If you lose electricity- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Your refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if it’s unopened. A full freezer will keep an adequate temperature for about 48 hours if the door remains closed.

FDA issues warning to makers of inhalable caffeine AeroShot, questions safety of the product
Source: http://www.greenfieldreporter.com/view/story/8342713f440649f19b24de7cb7e0ff31/US--FDA-Inhalable-Caffeine/
By MARY CLARE JALONICK (Mar 06, 2012)
Food and Drug Administration officials have issued a warning letter to the makers of the inhalable caffeine product AeroShot, saying they have questions about its safety and concerns about how children and adolescents may use it.
The lipstick-sized AeroShot went on the market in January in Massachusetts and New York, and it's also available in France. Consumers put one end of the plastic canister in their mouths and breathe in, releasing a fine powder that dissolves almost instantly. The product's website calls it "a revolutionary new way to get your energy."
The FDA said the Massachusetts-based company behind AeroShot, Breathable Foods, misled consumers by saying the product can be both inhaled and ingested, which is not possible. The agency said it is concerned consumers may try to inhale it into their lungs, which may not be safe.
The letter also pointed out that the company's website says it is not recommended for those under the age of 18, while the product label says it is not recommended for those under 12. At the same time, the FDA said, the company targets both age groups by suggesting it be used while studying.
In a statement, Breathable Foods CEO Tom Hadfield said the product is not intended for those under 18. He said the company will work closely with FDA to ensure compliance.
"AeroShot delivers a mix of B vitamins and caffeine to the mouth for ingestion and is not 'inhaled' into the lungs," he said.
Another problem cited by the FDA was links on the company's website to articles that mention using the caffeine product with alcohol. The FDA has attempted raise awareness about the dangers of the combination of caffeine and alcohol in recent years, saying it can lead to "a state of wide-awake drunk" and has caused alcohol poisoning, car accidents and assaults. The agency cracked down on the sale of the energy-alcohol drink Four Loko in 2010, forcing the makers of that product to remove the caffeine.
AeroShot didn't require FDA review before hitting the U.S. market because it's sold as a dietary supplement, and FDA regulations require supplement manufacturers themselves to be responsible for products' safety. If the agency decides a product isn't safe, it can take action, including taking the product off store shelves.
The company has 15 days to respond to the letter, which asked Breathable Foods to correct the violations the FDA cited and to submit its research on the product's safety to the agency.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., had urged the FDA to crack down on the product, which is being sold in his state, saying children and adolescents may abuse it.
"This stern warning is the clearest indication yet that AeroShot needs to be taken off the market until these concerns can be addressed and the product's safety can be confirmed," he said.

Cumberland County Health Department warns residents of norovirus outbreaks, offers precautions
Source: http://www.nj.com/cumberland/index.ssf/2012/03/cumberland_county_health_depar_11.html
By Lauren T. Taniguchi (Mar 05, 2012)
The Cumberland County Health Department is warning residents that New Jersey is experiencing an increase in outbreaks of norovirus, a viral illness that spread through the Cumberland Manor in January.
Norovirus can spread quickly from person to person in crowded, closed places like long-term care facilities, daycare centers, schools, hotels, summer camps, hospitals, family dinners, student housing, restaurants and cruise ships, the health department advised.
Though approximately 21 Cumberland Manor residents and seven employees had contracted the easily spread norovirus, the facility was cleared on Feb. 9, according to Beverly Harris, acting director of nursing at the Manor.
“We cohorted everyone on their units and tried to keep them there as much as we could,” Harris said.
“We focused on hand-washing and the use of gloves, and we used Spray Nine disinfectant on chairs, handrails — anything that was touched," she added. "I think we did the best we could, and we got it cleared.”
The county health department has offered residents information on precautions they can take to protect their health, including household applications of the measures implemented at the Manor.
“Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are not helpful in preventing norovirus,” noted George Sartorio, health officer of the Cumberland County Health Department. “Washing your hands with soap and water is the best way to prevent it.”
Norovirus is found in the stool and vomit of infected people, and individuals can become infected by eating food or drinking liquids contaminated with norovirus; touching contaminated surfaces or objects then putting the same hand to one’s mouth or having direct contact with an infected person, for example by exposure to the virus when caring for or when sharing food, drinks or eating utensils with an infected person.
Given the nature of the virus, steps to reduce the risk of contracting norovirus include diligent hand-washing with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom or changing diapers. Fruits and vegetables should be washed carefully, and oysters and other shellfish should be cooked prior to being eaten.
People exhibiting symptoms of norovirus should not prepare food while infected, and contaminated surfaces should all be cleaned and disinfected.
Surfaces that have been exposed to vomit or stool should be cleaned immediately with a bleach-based household cleaner as directed on the product label or a diluted bleach solution — five to 25 tablespoons of household bleach per gallon of water, according to the health department, which also warned residents never to use undiluted bleach.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs also offers a list of registered antimicrobial products effective against norovirus, including the Manor’s Spray Nine product, available online from epa.gov.
Clothing and linens that may be contaminated with vomit or stool should be removed and washed, with unclean items handled carefully to avoid spreading of the virus. If possible, people should wear rubber, disposable gloves while handling unclean clothing or linens, and they should wash their hands after handling.
Soiled items should be washed with detergent at the maximum cycle length and dried in the dryer.
There is no vaccine to prevent norovirus infection, and there is no drug to treat it, the health department reported.
Symptoms of norovirus usually begin a day or two after consuming the virus but can appear as early as 12 hours after being in contact with it. These symptoms can include stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, and some people may also have a low-grade fever, chills, headache, body aches and fatigue.
Harris reported that the most serious symptoms of norovirus at the Cumberland Manor were diarrhea and vomiting, but she said the only resident who was hospitalized during the outbreak ultimately was diagnosed to have an illness other than norovirus.
According to the county health department, most people infected by the norovirus get well quickly, though serious problems can occur. Those infected by the norovirus are contagious from the moment they begin to feel sick until as long as two weeks after recovery.
For more information about norovirus, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov and the Cumberland County Health Department at www.cshealth.org, or call (856) 327-7602.

The Schmallenberg Virus Raises New Concerns About Food Safety
Source: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/03/the-schmallenberg-virus-raises-new-concerns-about-food-safety/253655/
By Alice G. Walton (Mar 05 2012 )
As if we weren't concerned enough over safety issues with food and dairy animals, there's a new virus across the pond that experts are keeping watch on. Likely, it's nothing to worry about, for a number of reasons, but it makes you wonder whether there's something fundamentally wrong with our food practices today.
The first official confirmations of the virus occurred in the German town of Schmallenberg back in November, and it has since spread to Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. It affects cattle and small ruminants -- sheep and goats. Its spread is not through animal-to-animal contact, but by mosquitoes and midges (other biting bugs).
The symptoms aren't terribly severe, if they show up at all: They usually consist of fever, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and significantly decreased milk production, and generally go away by themselves after a week or so. Deaths have not been associated with the virus, making it somewhat less concerning for the host than other recent outbreaks like the foot-and-mouth and bluetongue diseases.
The curious symptom, however, is that the offspring of infected animals can have congenital defects. Animals who are infected before they get pregnant seem to be OK -- but there's a brief critical period during gestation where if a pregnant animal is infected, the calf, lamb, or kid can have significant physical deformities. It's not clear what this sensitive period is with the Schmallenberg virus itself, but in related viruses it's between days 28 and 36 in sheep and days 75 and 110 in cattle.
According to a report (PDF) recently released by the European Food and Safety Administration (EFSA), the most common malformations of affected offspring are "severe arthrogryposis, torticollis, brachygnathia, hydrocephalus, and other severe brain malformations," or, in other words, limb malformations, bent necks, jaw deformities, and dangerous fluid accumulation on the brain. Because of the deformities, there is a higher rate of stillbirths, which can be a concern both clinically and economically.
Because some of the affected animals are pregnant presently, officials expect to see a jump in affected offspring in the coming months. The EFSA report outlines the possible trajectories for the virus, based on models of earlier related viruses, which take into account affecting changes in temperature (warmer is worse for its spread), the number of vectors (how many bugs bite the host), and whether or not the animal population might have been exposed in the past and developed immunity to it. No one really knows how many animals it will affect, or what its course will be. The EFSA proposes, of course, that European Union member states should work together to share information and track the virus in the coming months and years.
Luckily, the virus does not seem capable of infecting humans. According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the closest relatives of the Schmallenberg virus are the Shamonda, Aino, and Akabane viruses, which only affect livestock. On the other hand, the Schmallenberg virus is a member of the Orthobunyaviruses family, of which about 30 are known to infect humans. The official stance among European officials is that there's little evidence that it could be a concern to us. Says the EFSA: "As the genetically most related viruses do not cause disease in humans, it is unlikely that this new virus will cause disease in humans but it cannot be excluded at this stage." Whether eating infected meat or drinking affected milk is unclear, but it seems unlikely if unappealing.
Russia and Mexico have banned the imports of animals and animal products from affected regions. The United States has not yet made moves to do the same, but the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says it will continue to work closely with European officials to monitor the situation.
The British publication Farmers Weekly has been tracking the virus and periodically commenting on the concerns about its spread. The first cases of bovine infection have just been reported in Britain, where it had previously been confined to sheep. The main concern among dairy farmers is for the loss of milk production that comes when a cow loses her calf: this can lead to financial ruin if multiple animals are affected. Sheep farmers have apparently also had it rough, given recent, albeit more severe, viruses like those mentioned earlier. According to one commentary, if sheep farmers see a loss of 25 percent of production rates, they will have no profit at year's end.
The bottom line is that the virus remains largely an unknown in this early stage. Because it's spread by a bug vector, the virus may be somewhat more difficult to contain than if it was spread by direct contact. Officials will be keeping a watchful eye on its sweep, and hopefully the least damaging scenario will play itself out, which won't, we hope, involve a leap across the Atlantic.

Sun-dried tomato alert: Health investigators link the celebrity chefs' favourite to outbreak of hepatitis cases
Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2110221/Sun-dried-tomato-alert-Health-investigators-link-celebrity-chefs-favourite-outbreak-hepatitis-cases.html    By Beezy Marsh (Mar 05, 2012 )
Health experts are investigating an outbreak of potentially deadly hepatitis linked to sun-dried tomatoes, it emerged yesterday.
Seven people developed symptoms of hepatitis A, which is infectious and can lead to fatal liver complications.
Four of them were hospitalised by the illness but have now been given the all-clear.
However, health protection officials fear contaminated samples or other foods containing them could still be on sale or lurking in kitchen cupboards.
This is because they are unable to test food for the virus and do not know which brand of sun-dried tomato is responsible.
The Government’s Health Protection Agency and the Food Standards Agency are on the alert for further cases after the two men and five women became ill. Four of the patients live in the East of England, two in London and one in the South West.
The health alert was triggered when two of the cases were reported late last year to the HPA.
Their hepatitis A was identical to a strain from a previous outbreak associated with sun-dried tomatoes in the Netherlands. Neither of the patients had travelled to a country with a high risk of hepatitis in the previous three months
An investigation by the HPA of cases of hepatitis A from July to December last year revealed the total of seven cases in which sun-dried tomatoes were implicated.
Because some of the genetic strains of the virus found differed from the Netherlands outbreak, experts believe the contaminated sun-dried tomatoes may carry various strains of hepatitis A.
Previous hepatitis A outbreaks have been linked to sun-dried tomatoes, which have become an increasingly popular ingredient in middle class kitchens and favourite of TV celebrity chefs.
The virus is carried by human faeces and can be passed on through contaminated food or water, especially as a result of poor hygiene during the preparation of food.
It is the only common food-borne disease preventable by vaccine.
Symptoms appear around 28 days after infection and include aches, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, fever and fatigue. Patients may also develop itchy skin and jaundice which can last several months.
In the most serious cases, acute hepatitis A can develop into fulminant hepatitis A in which toxins attack the liver, leading to life-threatening complications.
Around half of these patients will need a liver transplant to survive.
Hepatitis A is diagnosed by a blood test, but there is no treatment other than rest and fluids.
Writing in the medical journal Eurosurveillance, Carlos Carvalho, of the HPA, said: ‘A single food source may be contaminated with more than one strain.
‘A food-borne outbreak with multiple strains in at least two European countries is suspected.’
A spokesman for the Food Standards Agency said: ‘Sun-dried tomatoes are being investigated as one possible source of the hepatitis A cases. However, no food source has been conclusively identified and no other relevant cases have been reported in the UK.’

School closes after E.coli outbreak
Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9131714/School-closes-after-E.coli-outbreak.html
By Stephen Adams(Mar 08, 2012 )
Three children at Friarswood Primary School in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs., are confirmed to have been infected with the 0157 strain of the bacteria, which causes diarrhoea and vomiting.
However, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) said another six probably cases and seven more suspected cases were being investigated.
None of the children has been hospitalised and all three confirmed cases are now recovering, said an HPA spokesman. E.coli 0157 can occasionally causes serious kidney complications.
The first case was reported to the HPA last Thursday, said the spokesman, with two more following late last week.
The school was closed yesterday (Thursday 8 March) due to rising numbers of possible cases, to prevent the outbreak spreading further and allow a deep clean.
Councillor Liz Staples, from Staffordshire County Council, said: "Early indications show that the infection originated from an outside source and was brought into school.
“We are looking to open the school as soon as it is safe to do so, and are working closely with the HPA to see when this is possible."
Dr Rob Carr, an HPA consultant, said: "We are arranging for samples to be taken from children and staff at the school to determine when it is safe for them to return."

Venison Sushi With Salmonella in Hawaii
Source: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/03/venison-sushi-with-salmonella-in-hawaii/
By News Desk (Mar 07, 2012)
A 65-year-old Honolulu man who ate venison sushi suffered a bad case of Salmonella poisoning, according to the Hawai'i Journal of Medicine and Public Health.
Although Hawaiian hogs and chickens have been known to have a higher propensity to carry Salmonella, the venison sushi case was the first to implicate local deer as a source of foodborness illness, the authors note.
In "A Case of Salmonella Gastroenteritis Following Ingestion of Raw Venison Sashimi,"  published in the February issue of the journal, authors Cristian S. Madar, MD, Anthony P. Cardile, DO, Scott Cunningham, MD, Gil Magpantay, MD, and David Finger, MD, observe that "the ethnic and cultural diversity of Hawai`i affords a cuisine with ample opportunities to eat raw or undercooked food, including sushi, ceviche, oysters, and clams.
"Game meat, including deer on Lana`i, is readily available to hunters. Clinicians in Hawai`i should remain alert and aware of the potential local sources of food borne illness. The deer population of Hawai'i can potentially harbor food borne pathogens. All persons should be reminded to thoroughly cook game meat and always adhere to safe food handling practices."

Bloomberg Defends Grading System Derided by Restaurateurs
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/07/nyregion/restaurant-grading-system-under-fire-gets-mayors-backing.html?_r=1
By MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM and KATE TAYLOR (March 6, 2012 )
A cheer went up the other night at James, a popular Brooklyn bistro, as a triumphant waiter marched into the retro-tinged dining room bearing the new gold star of the New York City restaurant trade: a framed, blue letter “A.”
As diners applauded, the waiter placed the letter grade in the restaurant’s front window — and removed the green “B” that had been there for three worrying months.
Nineteen months after the Bloomberg administration began issuing letter grades to the city’s 24,000 restaurants, the bright “A,” “B” and “C” signs have become commonplace and polarizing presences, embraced by discerning customers but despised by restaurateurs who say the grades are handed out in unfair and inconsistent ways.
On Wednesday, the restaurant inspection program is to face its first full-fledged vetting by the City Council, whose members have expressed concern about the effects the grades have on small businesses and the increasing number of fines for sanitary violations issued by the health department.
Not to be upstaged, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg scheduled a news conference of his own on Tuesday to defend the inspection program, one of the more high-profile initiatives he has initiated in a rocky third term.
At Zero Otto Nove, a stalwart trattoria in the Bronx, Mr. Bloomberg sought to pre-empt criticism by citing statistics showing an uptick in restaurant revenue and a reduction in salmonella infections since the grading system began in 2010. He denounced critics as “people that complain because they don’t want to keep their restaurants clean.”
“They think it’s O.K. to have mice and roaches and dirt and not have people wash their hands before they come back from the bathroom,” the mayor said, his voice rising. “That’s just simply unacceptable, and their complaints are going to fall on deaf ears, I can tell you that. We’re not going to change.”
The Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, who is rarely at odds with the mayor, later offered a firm, if measured, rejoinder.
“The mayor is appropriate to defend the idea of a grading system; I defend the idea of a grading system,” Ms. Quinn said in an interview. “I also have to respond when I’ve heard this many complaints from constituents.”
“All I want to make sure is that the grades really tell the true story, and they do it in a way that doesn’t overly or inconsistently fine,” she added.
For health officials, the Council’s hearing came at an inopportune moment. The New York Post reported over the weekend that Per Se, consistently rated among the city’s best restaurants, had avoided a “B” grade with a telephone call to a city official, in which the restaurant successfully argued that the inspection report had contained errors.
City Hall officials quickly pointed out that several dozen restaurants, of varying degrees of prestige, had taken the same route to contest alleged violations and avoid a protracted adjudication process. Mr. Bloomberg, at his news conference on Tuesday, referred to any suggestion of undue influence as “an outrage.”
“It’s just so unfair,” the mayor said. “No wonder sometimes it’s just so hard for everybody to keep working in this city and trying to do what’s right.”
About 72 percent of restaurants have an “A” grade, and Mr. Bloomberg noted that an imperfect rating was not necessarily a reason to avoid a restaurant: he said he had continued patronizing a coffee shop near his Upper East Side town house despite its recent drop from an “A” to a “B.”
The health department has been spot-checking restaurants for safety and sanitary issues for decades, but the unappetizing findings — a roach in the kitchen, unrefrigerated, raw food — were published only in hard-to-find documents, and fines for violations were often quietly paid, with the consumer none the wiser.
Mr. Bloomberg and Ms. Quinn agreed on Tuesday that the grading system provided diners with more access to information, but some restaurant owners argued that the grading system was far too blunt and was frequently based on relatively minor issues.
“It could be a cracked toilet cover; it could be a gap around a pipe,” said Peter Hansen, the director of operations at Benchmarc Restaurants, which owns several expensive dining establishments in the city.
“But,” Mr. Hansen added, “what your customer is thinking is: old tuna.”
Elizabeth Meltz, who oversees food safety at Mario Batali’s Italian restaurants, said that she supported a grading system and that it could improve public health.
But, echoing other restaurant workers, she said some city health inspectors seemed inconsistent in their standards, asking about certain elements of the kitchen on some visits and not on others. Sometimes, the inspectors appeared unfamiliar with complex dishes like terrine and kimchi, Ms. Meltz said, and on one occasion, she believed that an inspector was disrespectful to her because of her gender.
“There can be a lack of ability to communicate whatever expertise they may or may not have,” Ms. Meltz said. “I’m all for the grading system. If we could help the health department get the inspectors that they need and deserve, it should work for everybody.”
Ms. Meltz said she wished inspectors and restaurant workers better understood each other’s needs. “Inspectors could come in and dine, and see what our food is like, and why our antipasti are at room temperature,” she suggested. “And a couple of our sous chefs could take a week of the inspectors’ courses, to see how they inspect, so it’s not this guessing game.”
In the case of James, which serves artisanal American cuisine on the ground floor of a Prospect Heights brownstone, one of the reasons for its “B” rating was the lack of a ventilating fan in an employee bathroom.
“The bathroom was well ventilated, and I tried to explain that to the inspector, but I guess the law’s the law,” said Bryan Calvert, the chef and one of the owners of the restaurant, who later installed a fan.
Mr. Calvert, who said he prided himself on employing a highly trained staff, said that he missed the “A” cutoff by one or two points, and that he was disheartened when he initially received the lower grade.
“It’s very frustrating,” he said. “We definitely had people who would ask, ‘What happened?’ ”

Syracuse restaurant to undergo cleaning after 70 people ill with norovirus; food handler suspected
Source: http://blog.usfoodsafety.com/2012/03/07/syracuse-restaurant-to-undergo-cleaning-after-70-people-ill-with-norovirus-food-handler-suspected/
By Doug Powell (Mar 7, 2012)
Twin Trees Too, a popular Syracuse, New York restaurant, will be undergoing a serious cleaning over the next 18 hours, as the number of customers with norovirus is now up to 70.
The health department says there’s no evidence the bug is still being spread, but as a precaution, the restaurant is voluntarily closing for the first half of the day on Wednesday so Serve-Pro can come in and do a thorough cleaning.
The Onondaga County Health Department suspects the norovirus – or stomach bug – was spread in the restaurant sometime around the last weekend of February and was likely caused by sick employees preparing food.
While the restaurant is well known for its pies, it may have been some other foods that were contaminated.
“The investigation is still pending, but we do think that it’s more likely to be related to a salad or antipasto than to the pizza at this time,” said Onondaga County Health Commissioner, Dr. Cynthia Morrow.

Campbell Soup bows to consumer pressure as it reveals bisphenol A phase out underway
Source: http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/Quality-Safety/Campbell-Soup-bows-to-consumer-pressure-as-it-reveals-bisphenol-A-phase-out-underway
By Rory Harrington (Mar 07, 2012)
Campbell Soup Company has confirmed it is in the process phasing out the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in all its can linings over consumer fears about the controversial substance.
The US-based food giant revealed that it was taking the action despite being convinced the chemical was safe but recognized that continued inclusion of BPA in it packaging might damage customers faith in its foods.
Campbell did not provide a timeline but said that replacing the substance had already been completed in some products. The move was not expected to have a cost impact, it added.
BPA is an industrial chemical found in a range of packaging, notably epoxy resins used as protective linings in food and beverage cans.
BPA report and public scrutiny
The announcement comes in the wake of numerous studies and consumer reports on BPA. One by the Breast Cancer Fund (BCF) last year detailed levels of BPA found in canned food – including products made by the company.
The body sent 12 canned food items—two cans of each of six canned meal products marketed to and largely consumed by children— to a Californian laboratory to test for BPA using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GCMS).
Of the foods tested, Campbell products contained the four highest levels of the chemical, with two samples of its Disney Princess Cool Shapes, Shaped Pasta with Chicken in Chicken Broth registering 148 and 80  parts per billion (ppb). The firm’s same product with Toy Story shapes showed levels of 90ppb and 71ppb.
The breast cancer group also began a public campaign to expel BPA from food cans which focussed further attention on companies such as Campbell.
Trust issue, call for transparency
In a recent conference call about its financial results, the firm acknowledged the increased public scrutiny and announced the action despite believing the chemical to be safe.
“However, we recognize that there is some debate over the use of BPA,” said Craig Owens, Campbell senior vice president, CFO and chief administrative officer. “The trust that we've earned from our consumers for over 140 years is paramount to us.”
Owens confirmed the company had been monitoring and working on BPA replacements for “several years”.
“Because of this, we've already started using alternatives to BPA in some of our soup packaging, and we're working to phase out the use of BPA in aligning of all of our canned products. The cost of this effort is not expected to be material," he added.
The company has yet to release details of its BPA alternatives nor when the transition away from the chemical will be complete.
The BCF has called on Campbell to be more transparent on both issues.
“Campbell’s decision to move away from BPA is a victory for consumers, who have been demanding this change. To truly be an industry leader, the company now needs to fully disclose the timeline for the phase-out and the alternatives that will be used,” said Gretchen Lee Salter, the group’s policy manager.
She added: “Consumers aren’t just concerned about BPA. They are becoming increasingly savvy about the chemicals used in their food packaging and are demanding transparency from manufacturers. We want to make sure that any alternatives that are being used are actually safer for consumers, and the best way to ensure that safety is through full disclosure.”

'Infodemiology' on the rise to tackle foodborne illness outbreaks
Source: http://www.foodqualitynews.com/Food-Alerts/Infodemiology-on-the-rise-to-tackle-foodborne-illness-outbreaks
By Caroline Scott-Thomas (Mar 07, 2012)
Analyzing the distribution, or epidemiology, of foodborne illnesses is a standard tool in controlling outbreaks, but infodemiology – the analysis of information distributed on the internet – could help minimize the impact of outbreaks in the future.
Speaking at the recent Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) conference in Orlando, Florida, outgoing conference chair and vice president of food safety at Walmart, Frank Yiannas, said that infodemiology is emerging as a powerful tool in controlling the spread of foodborne illness.
“The world is getting smaller and recalls are getting larger,”he said, referring to the fact that as more foods and ingredients are distributed over a wider area, faster than ever before, the impact of food recalls has broadened.
“In 2011, we had the world’s largest E. coli outbreak in Germany and the first time listeria had been connected with cantaloupes – both in 2011. I believe food safety is at a crossroads.”
Yiannas said that one example of infodemiology in action is PulseNet, run by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), which analyzes DNA subtypes of various pathogens identified in laboratories across the United States. It was PulseNet that meant small clusters of salmonella illnesses caught the attention of the CDC back in 2008, which were then found to be connected to peanut products from the Peanut Corporation of America – a salmonella outbreak that was eventually linked to more than 700 reported illnesses and nine deaths.
However, without PulseNet, these small clusters of illnesses may not have been picked up so quickly. The number of peanut products recalled soared to 3,913 before the outbreak was over, and the episode was a major trigger for the development of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.
“I would argue that if this event had happened five to ten years ago, this would never have happened,”said Yiannas.
Social media
But infodemiology could also be used to track patterns in internet users searching for similar foodborne illness-related terms on search engines, or Twitter users discussing their symptoms via tweets. One of the most recent examples of a live-tweeted outbreak involved student journalists in Canada who used Twitter in January to report a norovirus outbreak at a conference in British Columbia.
“By the time health experts report an outbreak it’s pretty late into the epidemic curve,”Yiannas said.“Social media is changing the way we do business, but I also think it’s going to change the way we deal with food safety.”
Just this week, the Food Safety Inspection Service unveiled a system of state-specific food safety Twitter feeds to help US consumers identify affected products and prevent potentially lethal foodborne outbreaks.
Yiannas added that a staggering 1.8 million people die every year as a result of foodborne illness – and contrary to what some may think, it is not just a problem for developing countries.
In the United States, one in six people fall ill from foodborne illness each year, 375,000 are hospitalized, and about 3,000 die, according to the latest CDC figures.

Health officers force drinks firm to close
Source: http://www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk/news/politics/politics-news/health-officers-force-drinks-firm-to-close-1-3594095
By MATTHEW REVILLE (Mar 06, 2012)
A Peterborough firm has been temporarily closed by environmental health bosses amid fears that drinks and yoghurts it makes could cause illness.
Kepenek, based in Unit 23, Wulfric Square, Bretton, Peterborough, has been served with a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice by Peterborough City Council to temporarily stop it from trading.
The firm makes yoghurts and juice drinks that are sold in newsagents across the country.
Following an investigation, the council found the products were not produced in line with food safety guidelines and could have harmful bacteria in them.
Samantha Olive, the council’s principal environmental health officer, said: “Anyone who has these items should throw them away immediately and not drink them.
“They were not produced in line with food safety requirements and could be contaminated with harmful bacteria which has the potential to make people ill.”
The alarm about the drinks and yoghurts was first sounded by Hull City Council, which received a complaint from a member of the public about the quality of Kepenek’s Quzwan Kurdish Style Yogurt and Nazanin Kurdish Style Juice.
Officials thought the drink could cause illness and, because the business had a Peterborough address on each bottle, contacted Peterborough City Council.
The council’s environmental health department investigated the concerns and found that although the business was based in the city, it was not on the database of Peterborough Food Registered Premises.
As a result, in addition to the health concerns about its products, the business was not trading legally.
Inspectors visited Kepenek on February 17 and issued the owner with a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice to temporarily close it down.
This was later supported by a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Order granted by Peterborough Magistrates’ Court.
The three shops in Peterborough that stock Kepenek products have been told to stop selling them, as have Kepenek’s customers who sell the products in shops in Manchester, Leicester, Birmingham, Coventry, Hull and Wolverhampton.
The firm will remain closed until the health risks are addressed.
Mrs Olive said the council was working to help the business so that it could re-open and continue in the future with improved standards.
The council recommends anyone who has drunk the Nazanin juice or eaten the Quzwan yoghurt to seek medical help if they have any health concerns.
A representative from Kepenek declined to comment.

Deadly Outbreaks May Force Shift in US Food Inspections
Source: http://www.newsmax.com/US/deadly-foodborne-outbreaks-FDA/2012/03/05/id/431481
By Richard Wagner (Mar 05, 2012)
Deadly outbreaks of foodborne illnesses linked to sources other than livestock are prompting federal officials to rethink the way they monitor the nation’s food supply, The Washington Post reports.
For almost a century, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has sent armies of inspectors to slaughterhouses, which the agency thought posed the greatest potential for tainted food.
But federal officials are looking for a better method, with food-borne illnesses striking one in six Americans a year and killing about 3,000.
They are considering monitoring foods that have become more popular in the American diet instead of allocating shrinking resources to slaughterhouses. That diet includes foods such as seafood, vegetables, fruit, dairy products, and shelled eggs, which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates now.
The FDA inspects the plants that produce those foods an average of once every 10 years, but it lacks the money to hire more inspectors.
Because of the FDA’s limited resources, the agency is forced to concentrate on foods and companies that have the worst track records on safety. And those inspections, employing genetic fingerprinting and other scientific methods to track contaminants to the source, usually come after an outbreak has occurred.
However, food safety experts contend that the government could do a better job of guarding the food supply by dramatically changing the way the USDA and the FDA try to prevent food-borne illnesses.
“We have two extremes in the inspection programs,” Michael Doyle, a microbiologist in charge of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, told the Post. “Neither system is working very well. They both need to be updated and upgraded.”
A law enacted last year attempts to do just that by forcing the FDA to shift its emphasis from responding to outbreaks to preventing them. Under the law, the agency must increase the frequency of inspections and food companies must test consistently for potential hazards.
Unfortunately, the law did not appropriate money to hire additional inspectors. President Barack Obama has asked for $863 million for FDA food safety programs, compared with $1 billion a year the USDA spends on food safety, according to the Post.
Obama’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year includes fees to generate $225 million to help the FDA meet the requirements of the new law. Congress, however, rejected similar plans in the past. Companies also oppose the fees.

Sun-dried tomatoes investigated as possible source of hepatitis A outbreak
Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/05/sun-dried-tomatoes-hepatitis-a
By Press Association (Mar 05 2012)
Health officials are investigating whether there is a link between recent outbreaks of hepatitis A and eating sun-dried tomatoes.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said two confirmed cases of the infection had been found to have an identical strain to three cases reported in England and confirmed at HPA Colindale in 2010.
Both people had recently eaten sun-dried tomatoes.
The three UK cases in 2010 had the same strain associated with a cluster of cases of hepatitis A in the Netherlands at that time, which were also linked to the foodstuff.
The HPA said one of the three cases identified in 2010 had travelled to the Netherlands and consumed sun-dried tomatoes there.
A joint statement from the HPA and Food Standards Agency (FSA) said: "Sun-dried tomatoes are being investigated as one possible source of the hepatitis A cases reported last year.
"However, no food source has been conclusively identified so far and no other relevant cases have been reported in the UK since November 2011.
"The investigation by FSA and HPA is ongoing."
Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus, which leads to inflammation of the organ.
Some people with hepatitis A do not have any symptoms while others suffer flu-like symptoms, loss of appetite, nausea, fever, abdominal pains or jaundice.
It is predominantly spread through traces of faecal matter containing the virus which contaminate hands, objects, water or food and are then taken in through the mouth. Many people recover within a couple of months without treatment but it can lead to death if the infection overwhelms the body, particularly among elderly people.
It is most common in countries where sanitation is poor, with vaccination against it recommended for those travelling to such areas.
According to the World Health Organisation, there are an estimated 1.5m new cases of illness due to hepatitis A each year worldwide.

Norovirus outbreaks spread in SC
Source: http://www.heraldonline.com/2012/03/03/3789537/norovirus-outbreaks-spread-in.html
By Joey Holleman (Mar 03, 2012)
When norovirus hits, it's time to activate the cleaning crews.And there's been a lot of disinfecting going on in recent weeks with nearly four times the typical number of norovirus outbreaks this year, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.Commonly referred to as stomach flu, norovirus typically shows up more in the winter and causes diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain. Symptoms usually last a couple of days but seldom lead to more serious problems.
Episodes often hit places where people congregate, such as schools, nursing homes and prisons. One of this year's outbreaks was at McCormick Correctional Institution in McCormick County, where there were six lab-confirmed cases and another 20 individuals who were treated for stomach problems.
The prison staff "breaks out the Clorox bleach and water mixture and washes down any surface people could come into contact with, walls in the common areas, door knobs," said state prisons spokesman Clark Newsom.
Norovirus, which can be contracted from poorly handled food but often is passed person-to-person, survives well on hard surfaces but is easily killed by thorough cleaning. The other key to controlling an outbreak is keeping those who are sick away from those who are healthy. That was relatively easy in the prison, where the six confirmed to have norovirus slept several nights in the prison gym.
State epidemiologist Dr. Jerry Gibson said increased awareness of how to deal with the virus has shortened the length of outbreaks. Symptoms often used to linger for three or four weeks. Many of the outbreaks this year have been recognized quickly and under control within a week to 10 days. The McCormick prison was back to normal in less than two weeks, Newsom said.
Outbreaks are clusters of cases, usually at one site and often involving dozens of individuals. The 33 outbreaks in the first eight weeks of 2012 are about four times the usual number, according to DHEC records.
The end-of-the-week update Feb. 24 listed 20 active outbreaks of gastro-intestinal viruses (including norovirus, salmonella and others), the most Gibson could recall at one time since DHEC began compiling a weekly list nearly a decade ago. On Friday, the number of active outbreaks was down to 12.
Norovirus behaves slightly differently every year. This year, it appears to be hitting adults harder than young people, Gibson said. Many of the 33 reported outbreaks in the first eight weeks were in nursing homes.
Stomach flu has hit at about normal rates in Midlands school districts, according to district officials. Of course, many schools are set up to stem outbreaks before they happen.








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