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Cola Carcinogen Debate Bubbles Over
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/03/cola-carcinogen-debate-bubbles-over/
By Gretchen Goetz (Mar 12, 2012)
Last week a consumer advocacy group reported that the leading brown sodas contain levels of 4-methylimidazole (4-MI) - an animal carcinogen - high enough to cause cancer in 7 out of 1 million Americans. Days later, soda companies, including Coca-Cola and Pepsi, announced that they were reducing the amount of 4-MI in their colas to meet the limit set by California - the only state that regulates the substance.
However industry says it did not make this change for public health reasons, since the amount of 4-MI in colas does not actually pose a risk to consumers. Instead, companies want to avoid having to put a cancer warning label on cans in the event that government regulators decide to restrict 4-MI.
But this change in policy, requested by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) seems unlikely to come about anytime soon, as even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) refuted the group's claims that the 138 micrograms it found in brown sodas on average poses a cancer risk.
"A person would have to drink more than a thousand cans of soda in a day to match the doses administered in studies that showed links to cancer in rodents," said FDA spokesperson Doug Karas in a now widely-cited statement.
According to Dr. James Coughlin, a toxicologist who studies animal carcinogen, the risk posed by 4-MI is even smaller than this government estimate suggests.
The limit on 4-MI now being adopted by cola companies nationwide was set by California's Proposition 65, which lists all chemicals considered carcinogens by the state.
To set this threshold, rulemakers relied on the results of a 2007 study from the National Toxicology Program which found that 4-MI at high doses caused lung cancer in mice.
But in order for humans to reach the equivalent of even the lowest cancer-causing dose in mice, says Coughlin, a woman would have to drink 37,000 cans (12 oz) a day for the rest of her life. A man, on the other hand, would have to drink a whopping 95,000 cans a day during his lifetime. These figures are taken from a slightly more conservative study of colas done last year that found an average of 130 micrograms of 4-MI per can as opposed to the 138 micrograms found by CSPI.
"It's certainly not a health risk," Coughlin told Food Safety News. "Cola is not causing cancer in humans. It's just not happening."
In fact, he says, in the same study, rats were also given high doses of 4-MI, and none of them developed tumors. The chemical even reduced their risk of 5 other types of cancer (besides the lung cancer it produced in mice).
"I believe this is much ado about nothing," he says.
But Michael Jacobson, executive director of CSPI, says the organization is sticking by its petition to limit 4-MI nationwide. FDA's claim that one would need to drink over 1,000 cans a day to risk cancer is "a ridiculous statement," he says, "and it deserves ridicule."
"It's disappointing to see FDA defending a cancer-causing chemical in the food supply," he said in an interview with Food Safety News.
Jacobson says it's not the dose but the percentage of mice that got tumors in the study that matters.  Since about 30 percent of the mice developed cancer, and a can of soda has about 1/1,000 of the amount of 4-MI administered to the mice, that would equate to 30 cancer cases in every 100,000 people.
Coughlin, on the other hand, says you can't apply the number of illnesses in an animal study directly to humans.
"CSPI took these animal numbers and calculated cases of human cancer, but you can't just take those animal statistics and transfer them," he says.
For this reason, adding 4-MI to California's list of toxins was a mistake in the first place, he says, as it was based on the prevalence of cancer in mice and not adjusted properly for the human body.
"There is strong scientific evidence that the chemical never should have been listed by Prop-65."
Nonetheless, Coke and Pepsi - whose products had the most 4-MI in CSPI's study - are changing how they produce caramel coloring (this process is what creates 4-MI) in order to avoid backlash should nationwide policy adapt to California law.
"The companies that make caramel coloring for our members' soft drinks are now producing it to meet California's new standard, and it will be used in products nationwide," said the American Beverage Association in a statement. "Consumers will notice no difference in our products and have no reason at all for any health concerns, as supported by FDA and regulatory agencies around the world."
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article quoted James Coughlin as saying "I believe this is much ado about something," when in fact he said "I believe this is much ado about nothing." The story has been updated to reflect this correction.

Coke Asks Caramel Suppliers To Reduce 4-MEI
Source : http://www.foodproductdesign.com/news/2012/03/coke-asks-caramel-suppliers-to-reduce-4-mei.aspx
By admin (Mar 12, 2012 )
Coca-Cola announced it has directed its caramel suppliers to modify their manufacturing processes to reduce the levels of the chemical 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI), a suspected carcinogenic formed when it mixes in the ammonia compound to make caramel color. Coke said it is not changing its formula, and the lower levels of 4-MEI will not affect the taste of the products.
Changes already have been made for beverages sold in California after 4-MEI was added to the list of chemicals covered by the state’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, also known as Proposition 65, in January 2012. The changes will be expanded nationally to streamline its manufacturing processes. (Other media outlets have reported PepsiCo also agreed to reduce 4-MEI levels; however, Food Product Design could not confirm the move.
The safety of certain caramel colors came under fire again last week after the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) released results of new lab tests that found "unsafe levels" of 4-MEI in cans of Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc's Dr. Pepper and Whole Foods' 365 Cola.
A statement issued by Coca-Cola, said: “Extensive media coverage has been devoted in the past few days to some misconceptions about caramel and The Coca-Cola Company's beverages. We want to set the record straight, and be absolutely clear: The caramel color in all of our products has been, is and always will be safe, and The Coca-Cola Company is not changing the world-famous formula for our Coca-Cola beverages. Over the years, we have updated our manufacturing processes from time to time, but never altered our Secret Formula.
We have asked our caramel manufacturers to modify their production process to reduce the amount of 4-MEI in the caramel, but that will have no effect on the formula or on the great-tasting, high-quality products that consumers expect from us. These modifications will not affect the color or taste of Coca-Cola.
Our commitment to the highest quality and safety of our great brands remains our top priority. And we will continue to rely on sound, evidence-based science to ensure that our products are safe."
Last week, the American Beverage Association called the findings “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."
Currently the Code of Federal Regulations says “caramel may be safely used for coloring foods generally, in amounts consistent with good manufacturing practice," and does not distinguish between the four different classes of caramel color. CSPI has requested that FDA ban the use of ammonia- and ammonia-sulfite-process caramel colorings that contain 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole, both of which, the group says caused lung, liver, or thyroid cancer or leukemia in laboratory mice or rats according to government research. Class III Caramel Color is processed with ammonium compounds and is often used in baking, beer, soy sauce, gravy, and other products. Class IV Caramel Color, or acid-proof caramel, is processed with ammonium-containing and sulfite-containing compounds and is often formulated into colas and other soft drinks, blended whiskey, and other general food applications.

'Pink slime' on school menu causes a beef with activists
Source : http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/science/pink-slime-on-school-menu-causes-a-beef-with-activists-318719/
By Michael Hill (Mar 15, 2012)
"Pink slime" just went from a simmer to a boil.
In less than a week this month, the stomach-turning epithet for ammonia-treated ground beef filler suddenly became a potent rallying cry by activists fighting to ban the product from supermarket shelves and school lunch trays.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is set to announce today that it will offer schools a choice in ground beef purchases, in response to requests from districts.
Though the term has been used pejoratively for at least several years, it wasn't until last week that social media suddenly exploded with worry, and an online petition seeking its ouster from schools lit up, quickly garnering hundreds of thousands of supporters.
"It sounds disgusting," said food policy expert Marion Nestle, who notes that the unappetizing nickname made it easier for the food movement to flex its muscles over this cause. "A lot of people have been writing about it. Therefore, more people know about it; therefore, more people are queasy about it, particularly when you start thinking about how this stuff turns up in school lunches," said Ms. Nestle, a professor at New York University's Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health.
The controversy centers on "lean finely textured beef," a low-cost ingredient in ground beef made from fatty bits of meat left over from other cuts. The bits are heated to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit and spun to remove most of the fat. The lean mix then is compressed into blocks for use in ground meat. The product, made by South Dakota-based Beef Products Inc., also is exposed to "a puff of ammonium hydroxide gas" to kill bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella.
There are no precise numbers on how prevalent the product is, and it does not have to be labeled as an ingredient. Past estimates have ranged as high as 70 percent; one industry officials estimates that it is in at least half of the ground meat and burgers in the United States.
It has been on the market for years, and federal regulators say it meets standards for food safety. But advocates for wholesome food have denounced the process as a potentially unsafe and unappetizing example of industrialized food production.
The phrase "pink slime," coined by a federal microbiologist, has appeared in the media at least since a critical 2009 New York Times report. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has railed against it, and it made headlines after McDonald's and other major chains last year discontinued their use of ammonia-treated beef.
But "pink slime" outrage appeared to reach new heights last week amid reports by The Daily and ABC News. The online Daily piece dealt with the USDA's purchase of meat that included "pink slime" for school lunches.
The story touched a nerve with Houston resident Bettina Siegel, whose blog "The Lunch Tray" focuses on kids' food. On March 6, she started an online petition on Change.org asking Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to "put an immediate end to the use of 'pink slime' in our children's school food."

'Pink slime'? It's up to schools, USDA says
Source : http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46740242/ns/health-diet_and_nutrition/
By AP (Mar 14, 2012)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture will offer schools choice in ground beef buys amid growing concern over an ammonia-treated filler critics call "pink slime."
Under the change to be announced Thursday, schools will be able to choose between beef patties made with the filler or bulk ground beef without it. The policy will affect food at schools this fall because of existing contracts.
A USDA official with knowledge of the decision says the agency wanted to be transparent and school districts wanted choices. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity ahead of the official announcement.
The USDA buys about a fifth of the food served in schools.
The controversy centers on a processed ingredient common in ground beef that is exposed to ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria.กก

Diseases from imported fish, spices on the rise, CDC finds
Source : http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46737537/ns/health-food_safety/
By Ian Simpson (Mar 14, 2012)
Food-borne disease outbreaks caused by imports seemed to rise in 2009 and 2010, with fish and spices the most common sources, the Centers for Disease Control said on Wednesday.
Almost half of the outbreaks, or localized epidemics, pointed to foods imported from areas that had not been linked to outbreaks before, the CDC said in a statement.
"As our food supply becomes more global, people are eating foods from all over the world, potentially exposing them to germs from all corners of the world, too," said CDC epidemiologist Hannah Gould, lead author of a report on the upturn. From 2005 to 2010, 39 outbreaks and 2,348 illnesses were linked to imported food from 15 countries. Of those outbreaks, 17 occurred in 2009 and 2010.
Overall, fish was the most common source of imported food-borne disease outbreaks at 17, followed by spices with six outbreaks, including five from fresh or dried peppers.
Nearly 45 percent of the imported foods causing outbreaks came from Asia, the CDC said.
Gould's report was presented on Wednesday at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta.
According to the Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service, food imports grew to $86 billion in 2010 from $41 billion in 1999. Much of that growth has occurred in fruit and vegetables, seafood and processed food products.

Staples gets FDA warning on California warehouse
Source : http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46720336/ns/health-food_safety/
By Kavyanjali Kaushik (Mar 13, 2012)
U.S. health regulators issued a warning letter to Staples Inc, the largest U.S. office supply retailer, for violating certain manufacturing practices related to food products stored in a company facility in California.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration alleged, in a letter dated March 7, that the products have been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions and may have become contaminated with filth, or injurious to health.
The agency said that rodent waste was found in close vicinity of packages of different food products, including candies, crackers, creamers, pistachios, ramen noodles, and bottled water.
FDA inspected Staples' Stockton, California-based facility during October 20 to November 3, 2011.

Consumer Confidence in Beef Safety Up
Source : http://www.foodproductdesign.com/s.aspx?exp=1&u=http%3A//www.foodproductdesign.com/news/2012/03/consumer-confidence-in-beef-safety-up.aspx
By admin(Mar 15, 2012)
In light of the recent news reports extolling the evils of “so-called pink slime" in ground beef and red meat’s link to increased mortality, new market research presented at the 10th Anniversary Beef Industry Safety Summit found compared to 10 years ago consumer confidence in the safety of beef steaks and roasts has increased by 14 percentage points and confidence in the safety of ground beef has jumped 20 percentage points.
According to the research, 88% of consumers give fresh beef steaks and roasts an A or B grade for safety and 80 percent say fresh ground beef deserves the same grade. When asked which fresh food was their biggest safety concern, 48% of consumers answered fish and seafood; only 10% said beef was their biggest safety concern.
“Getting good grades from consumers for our work to improve beef safety is very rewarding," said J. Clay Burtum, an Oklahoma cattle rancher and member of the Beef Industry Safety Committee. “We have made tremendous strides in the past 10 years and it is good to know that is recognized by consumers. I believe we can accomplish as much in the next 10 years by continuing to find ways to work together with everyone in the beef community to make beef even safer. We want to get all As."
Beef safety experts agree that beef is safer than it was 10 years ago but the research did uncover some important differences between consumer and expert opinions. When asked whether someone is more likely to get sick from foodborne bacteria eating at home or at a restaurant, 65% of consumers answered “at a restaurant"; however, 72% of the experts attending the summit answered “at home. Similarly, 92% of experts say proper cooking and handling at home is of high importance in assuring that beef is safe to eat, while 49% of consumers recognize the importance of proper procedures in the home. The study found that 70% of consumers don’t know the proper cooking temperature for ground beef.

FSA propose replacement of 'out-of-date' food safety qualification regs
Source : http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/Quality-Safety/FSA-propose-replacement-of-out-of-date-food-safety-qualification-regs
By Mark Astley (Mar 14, 2012)
UK food safety authorities have proposed a complete rework of the 1991 Northern Ireland Food Safety Regulation, after admitting that the current measures are “out of date.”
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has proposed the complete withdraw of the current Food Safety (Sampling & Qualification) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1991, which specifies the qualifications necessary to be a public analyst, food analyst or food examiner for the of the food safety regulation.
The FSA Northern Ireland consultation, Review of the Food Safety (Sampling & Qualifications) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1991, proposes two separate options - do nothing and maintain the current regulations, or revoke and replace them with a consolidated Statutory Rule.
A new Statutory Rule would bring together all previous amendments already in operation and would provide additional “freedom” to workers throughout the EU with equivalent qualifications, said the FSA document.
“Obsolete” out-of-date provisions
“The FSA recognises that the current Food Safety (Sampling & Qualifications) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1991 are out of date and contain obsolete provisions, in particular the qualifications and training requirements for food examiners,” said the consultation.
“Similarly, there are aspects of the sampling provisions that require updating. Consideration also needs to be given to ensure that qualification requirements to be a food analyst/examiner are not too restrictive and that analysts with equivalent qualifications can be considered.”
Currently, a person cannot be appointed as a public analyst or food examiner unless they possess qualifications approved by the current regulations or other qualifications approved by the Department of Health, Social Services or Public Safety.
“Guidance would therefore need to be considered that sets out procedures for the recognition of other equivalent qualifications.”
EU qualification freedom
According to the proposal, this will ensure that requirements are not too restrictive to workers from the UK or other EU Member States “thus enabling worker’s right to freedom of movement.”
“The primary aim will be to ensure that qualifications listed for food/public analysts and food examiners are up to date and to remove/amend obsolete provisions found within the Regulations,” the consultation document added.
“The proposal will include amendments to the food examiner qualifications and sampling provisions and to introduce guidance on procedures to recognise equivalent EU qualifications and training for food/ public analysts and food examiners.”
Responses received from stakeholders during a May 2011 informal consultation and subsequent discussions, formed the basis of these proposals.
The closing date for responses in relation to the consultation is 4 June 2012.
To read or comment on the consultation click HERE .

All red meat is bad for you, new study says
Source : http://www.latimes.com/health/la-he-red-meat-20120313,0,565423.story
By Eryn Brown (Mar 12, 2012)
Eating red meat — any amount and any type — appears to significantly increase the risk of premature death, according to a long-range study that examined the eating habits and health of more than 110,000 adults for more than 20 years.
For instance, adding just one 3-ounce serving of unprocessed red meat — picture a piece of steak no bigger than a deck of cards — to one's daily diet was associated with a 13% greater chance of dying during the course of the study.
Even worse, adding an extra daily serving of processed red meat, such as a hot dog or two slices of bacon, was linked to a 20% higher risk of death during the study.
"Any red meat you eat contributes to the risk," said An Pan, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and lead author of the study, published online Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Crunching data from thousands of questionnaires that asked people how frequently they ate a variety of foods, the researchers also discovered that replacing red meat with other foods seemed to reduce mortality risk for study participants.
Eating a serving of nuts instead of beef or pork was associated with a 19% lower risk of dying during the study. The team said choosing poultry or whole grains as a substitute was linked with a 14% reduction in mortality risk; low-fat dairy or legumes, 10%; and fish, 7%.
Previous studies had associated red meat consumption with diabetes, heart disease and cancer, all of which can be fatal. Scientists aren't sure exactly what makes red meat so dangerous, but the suspects include the iron and saturated fat in beef, pork and lamb, the nitrates used to preserve them, and the chemicals created by high-temperature cooking.
The Harvard researchers hypothesized that eating red meat would also be linked to an overall risk of death from any cause, Pan said. And the results suggest they were right: Among the 37,698 men and 83,644 women who were tracked, as meat consumption increased, so did mortality risk.
In separate analyses of processed and unprocessed meats, the group found that both types appear to hasten death. Pan said that at the outset, he and his colleagues had thought it likely that only processed meat posed a health danger.
Carol Koprowski, a professor of preventive medicine at USC's Keck School of Medicine who wasn't involved in the research, cautioned that it can be hard to draw specific conclusions from a study like this because there can be a lot of error in the way diet information is recorded in food frequency questionnaires, which ask subjects to remember past meals in sometimes grueling detail.
But Pan said the bottom line was that there was no amount of red meat that's good for you.
"If you want to eat red meat, eat the unprocessed products, and reduce it to two or three servings a week," he said. "That would have a huge impact on public health."
A majority of people in the study reported that they ate an average of at least one serving of meat per day.
Pan said that he eats one or two servings of red meat per week, and that he doesn't eat bacon or other processed meats.
Cancer researcher Lawrence H. Kushi of the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland said that groups putting together dietary guidelines were likely to pay attention to the findings in the study.
"There's a pretty strong supposition that eating red meat is important — that it should be part of a healthful diet," said Kushi, who was not involved in the study. "These data basically demonstrate that the less you eat, the better."
UC San Francisco researcher and vegetarian diet advocate Dr. Dean Ornish said he gleaned a hopeful message from the study.
"Something as simple as a meatless Monday can help," he said. "Even small changes can make a difference."
Additionally, Ornish said, "What's good for you is also good for the planet."
In an editorial that accompanied the study, Ornish wrote that a plant-based diet could help cut annual healthcare costs from chronic diseases in the U.S., which exceed $1 trillion. Shrinking the livestock industry could also reduce greenhouse gas emissions and halt the destruction of forests to create pastures, he wrote.

Smartphones more accurate, faster, cheaper for disease surveillance
Source : http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2012/p0312_smartphone.html
By CDC Division of News and Electronic Media (Mar 12, 2012)
Smartphones are showing promise in disease surveillance in the developing world. The Kenya Ministry of Health, along with researchers in Kenya for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that smartphone use was cheaper than traditional paper survey methods to gather disease information, after the initial set–up cost. Survey data collected with smartphones also in this study had fewer errors and were more quickly available for analyses than data collected on paper, according to a study presented today at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta.
Researchers compared survey data collection methods at four influenza surveillance sites in Kenya. At each site, surveillance officers identified patients with respiratory illness and administered a brief questionnaire that included demographic and clinical information. Some of the questionnaires were collected using traditional paper methods, and others were collected using HTC Touch Pro2 smartphones using a proprietary software program called the Field Adapted Survey Toolkit (FAST).
“Collecting data using smartphones has improved the quality of our data and given us a faster turnaround time to work with it,” said Henry Njuguna, M.D., sentinel surveillance coordinator at CDC Kenya. “It also helped us save on the use of paper and other limited resources.”
A total of 1,019 paper–based questionnaires were compared to 1,019 smartphone questionnaires collected at the same four sites. Only 3 percent of the surveys collected with smartphones were incomplete, compared to 5 percent of the paper–based questionnaires. Of the questions that required mandatory responses in the smartphone questionnaire, 4 percent were left unanswered in paper–based questionnaires compared with none of the smartphone questionnaires. Seven paper–based questionnaires had duplicated patient identification numbers, while no duplication was seen in smartphone data. Smartphone data were uploaded into the database within 8 hours of collection, compared to an average of 24 days for paper-based data to be uploaded.
The cost of collecting data by smartphones was lower in the long run than paper–based methods. For two years, the cost of establishing and running a paper–based data collection system was approximately $61,830 compared to approximately $45,546 for a smartphone data collection system.  The fixed costs incurred when the systems were first set up were $12,990 for paper and $16,480 for smartphone.

Groups push for FDA to require specific labeling of added sugars in foods
Source : http://www.naturalnews.com/035217_added_sugars_food_labels_petition.html
By Jonathan Benson (Mar 12, 2012)
A coalition of consumer advocacy groups, health organizations, and food and nutrition groups has officially called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to enact new labeling requirements for foods that contain added sugars. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), the American Heart Association, and 12 other organizations all undersigned a recent letter petitioning the FDA to require that food labels differentiate between natural sugars and added, processed sugars like high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
The petition appears to be specifically aimed at food products like fruit juices, children's cereals, and snacks that may contain natural, fruit-based sugars in addition to added sugars. Since current labeling requirements list all sugars in one generic category, shoppers are not privy to the actual amount of added sugars contained in the food products they buy, which makes it difficult for many to monitor their processed sugar intake.
"While current regulations stipulate what foods can be labeled 'No Sugar Added' or use a similar phrase, there is currently no requirement that added sugars be shown separately on the 'Ingredients List,'" wrote the group to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg in a recent letter. "We recommend that FDA require that added sugars be listed on the ingredients section of food labels so that consumers can make healthier choices when they shop."
The letter, which is addressed specifically to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, notes that the American Heart Association (AHA), which is one of its under-signers, recommends that adult males consume less than 150 calories a day from processed sugars, and females less than 100 calories a day from processed sugars. In order to abide by these recommendations, consumers must have full disclosure of added sugar content in the foods they buy.
You can view the FDA petition letter at the following link:
A 2011 study published in the AHA journal Circulation found that consumption of refined sugars is linked to raising bad cholesterol levels and causing heart disease. Even in young people, overconsumption of processed sugar often manifests itself in the development of insulin resistance and diabetes, as well as cardiovascular problems later in life
The best way to avoid processed sugars is to simply eat whole, organic fruits and vegetables, and to cook your meals at home using pure ingredients. But when purchasing juices, cereals, and other items from the store, be sure to seek out those specifically labeled as having no added sugars, or those that contain only unrefined added sugars like evaporated cane juice or raw honey.

Food security: our daily bread
Source : http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/mar/12/food-security-our-daily-bread
By The Guardian (Mar 12, 2012)
Australian scientists have just tested a new strain of wheat that could increase yields in saline soils by 25%. The news comes just as Oxfam warns of catastrophic drought and potential famine in the west African desert regions, and is a reminder that we face an increasingly hungry world. Global warming and rising sea levels present a challenge for everybody. Just 11% of the planet's land surface is suitable for agriculture, and a lot of this land is being steadily degraded by salination.
Salts tend to accumulate wherever soils are irrigated, and ever higher tides will mean that huge tracts of now fertile estuary farmland – for instance in the Nile delta, and in Bangladesh – are increasingly at risk from catastrophic flooding or slow poisoning with brine. Extremes of heat, too, tend to depress crop yields. The Australians report in Nature Biotechnology today that they identified a salt-tolerant gene in a wild wheat ancestor, and bred it into durum wheat, the basis of pasta, noodles, couscous and a lot of bread too. They used traditional techniques to transfer the gene, thanks to increasingly precise knowledge of the molecular biology and biochemistry of plants. Researchers have sequenced the genomes of around 30 plants, among them wheat, soybean, rice, maize, millet and potato.
These are the staples of seven billion people right now: can they feed the nine billion expected to occupy the planet by 2050? Agriculture's old enemies – rusts, blights and mildews, aphids, weevils and locusts – are tenacious and swift to find new weakness, and beyond climate change there are other, more intractable, challenges to food security. Two billion extra souls will need somewhere to live, which means that precious farmland will disappear under pavement, or be quarried for minerals. As fuel prices rise and oil supplies become precarious, so it becomes more profitable to grow sugar cane or corn as feedstock for biofuel for the Toyota, rather than food for the table. The rising middle classes in China and other fast-developing nations have begun to develop a taste for expensive steak at the cost of cheap and nourishing grain and pulse, and water too. So farmers are going to need every bit of ingenuity to keep delivering the bread, rice and beans for the table.
Food is the one item expected in the markets on a daily basis : any technology that can, in the words of Jonathan Swift, make two ears of corn or two blades of grass grow where one grew before is welcome. The new wheat was achieved by traditional cross-breeding but it represents a significant genetic modification, however we label it. The big question should be: who benefits? This is science in the service of those who need it most.

Should Meat and Milk From Clones Be Labeled? Europe Says Yes
Source : http://www.foodconsumer.org/newsite/Safety/gmo/meat_and_milk_from_clones_0311120507.html
By Martha Rosenberg (Mar 10, 2012)
Food safety representatives from the European Parliament's Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee (ENVI) told the European Commission in February they want a bill regulating animal cloning within a year. ENVI has insisted that meat or milk products from the offspring of clones be labeled and traceable.
Unfortunately, meat or milk from cloned animals in the US will not be labeled. Some say "is not labeled" because we are already eating it.
In 2008, the FDA ruled that products from clones and their offspring will not be labeled because they are "no different from food derived from conventionally bred animals"--the same thing that was said about rBGH-produced milk.  Nevertheless, the FDA asked producers to "voluntarily keep milk and meat from clones out of the food and feed supplies until we finish assessing their safety." Key words: asked and voluntarily.
But a 2010 demonstration in England over possible unlabeled and illegal food from clones in that country revealed that clones may already be on the American dinner plate-- with US food consumers being the last to know. The BBC, while reporting on the British cloned herd, said that cloned products have been in the US food supply for two years. Who knew?
Jim McLaren, president of Scotland's National Farmers Union, concurred and told the press, "If you go to the US or Canada you will almost certainly be consuming meat and dairy products from cloned animals at every turn." Margaret Wittenberg, global vice-president of Whole Foods Market, agreed. United States customers are "oblivious" to cloned products in the food supply, she verified to the BBC. "You don’t hear about it in the media. And when you do tell people about it they look at you and say 'you're kidding! They’re not doing that are they? Why would they?'" Whole Foods says it bans the sale of cloned products.
When Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was asked point-blank, during a 2010 trade mission in Canada, if "cloned cows or their offspring have made it into the North American food supply,' he put no fears to rest. "I can't say today that I can answer your question in an affirmative or negative way. I don't know. What I do know is that we know all the research, all of the review of this is suggested that this is safe." So much for informed public officials.
An FDA report written in collaboration with Cyagra, a Pennsylvania-based clone company, seeks to put public fears at rest over the brave new food. Not a big surprise since Cyagra, boasts about selling clone products to US butchers (who presumably sell to customers) and about its employees regularly dining on cloned products, say British new sources.
Since the first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep, was created, cattle, horses, goats, pigs, and mice have been cloned, as well as dogs and cats, a mouflon sheep, a mule, and a racing camel. In fact, cloning doesn't even make headlines anymore. But lengthy reports from both FDA and European Food Safety Authority raise questions about the safety of milk and meat from cloned animals and their offspring, their welfare and protection from suffering and the soundness of the cloning process.
Why not let food consumers vote whether they want to support such food with their forks, say US and European consumers, by simply labeling them? END

GAO suggests USDA could be more aggressive on pre-slaughter interventions to reduce E. coli in cattle
Source : http://www.marlerblog.com/lawyer-oped/gao-suggests-usda-could-be-more-aggressive-on-pre-slaughter-interventions-to-reduce-e-coli-in-cattle/
By Bill Marler (Mar 10, 2012)
The GAO – U.S. Government Accountability Office, an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress, released a report (http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-257) this week that calls into question what the USDA/FSIS is doing (not doing) presently to reduce the risk of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) in cattle.
The report suggested a number of pre-slaughter interventions that have not been widely accepted by industry:
• bacteriophages (viruses that infect and kill bacteria),
• probiotics (live bacteria that can benefit the digestive system), and
• sodium chlorate (chemical that kills the STEC O157:H7 strain).
The GAO did note, however, that vaccines (biological preparations that alter the immune system) to lessen E. coli O157:H7 in cattle, had been submitted by manufacturers, but the USDA has been slow to provide guidance and approval.
In addition, the GAO found that some foreign governments have practices that could be relevant to U.S. efforts to reduce STEC in cattle such as the following:
•The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union require certain measures, such as verification of cleanliness by an inspector, to ensure that the cattle going to slaughter are clean. In contrast, USDA assesses the health of cattle but does not inspect for cleanliness.
•At least 12 European Union member countries collected and reported data on STEC in live cattle in 2009. USDA has conducted STEC testing in live cattle, but has not tested since 1999.
•When a person becomes ill from E. coli in Sweden, government officials try to determine the specific farm that sold the contaminated cattle so that other carcasses from the farm can be tested for STEC. USDA does not trace the STEC source back to the farm.
All the European measures should be adopted by USDA/FSIS/CDC now. In addition the use of pre-slaughter vaccines should go into full-scale trials. Not only could vaccines lessen E. coli O157:H7 in cattle headed for the slaughterhouse, but also lessen E. coli O157:H7 in cattle near produce growing areas and even those that attend state and county fairs or petting zoos.

Campylobacter increase boosts need for EC meat processing measures
Source : http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/Quality-Safety/Campylobacter-increase-boosts-need-for-EC-meat-processing-measures
By Mark Astley (Mar 09, 2012)
Cases of Campylobacter infection in humans across the EU have increased year-on-year since 2005 – increasing the call for the implementation of new processing control measures.
According to a report, The European Union Summary Report on Trends and Sources of Zoonoses, Zoonotic Agents and Foodborne Outbreaks in 2010, human EUcases ofthepotentially lethal pathogen increased by 7% in 2010 to 212,064.
Meanwhile, cases of Listeria infection dropped slightly and Salmonella-related illnesses decreased by 9%.
The findings, which were published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), support a 2011 EFSA opinion on Campylobacter control option in meat processing.
Scientific Opinion on Campylobacter in broiler meat production: control options and performance objectives and/or targets at different stages of the food chain,is currently under consideration at the European Commission (EC).
Awaiting EC approval
“EFSA had previously been asked to identify a number of options for processing. We have advice prepared for processors,” head of the EFSA biological monitoring unit Pia Makela told FoodProductionDaily.com.
“We are in the process of updating our meat inspection practices, which will include the control of foodborne pathogens and how we will control them.”
“The measures identified by the EFSA opinion have been passed on to the European Commission, where they are currently awaiting approval,” Makela added.
The European Commission is currently carrying out an analysis of the control measures currently in place to combat the bacteria at different stages of the food chain.
“Control options in primary production, such as restriction of slaughter age and discontinuing thinning are directly available from a technical point of view but interfere strongly with current industrial practices,” said the 2011 EFSA opinion.
“Control options for reducing carcass contamination, such as freezing, hot water and chemical decontamination are also directly available. Chemical decontamination is subject to approval in the EU and no chemical are currently approved for use.”
Salmonella, Listeria drop
A total of 5,262 foodborne outbreaks were records across the EU in 2010 – a slight decrease on 2009.
These outbreaks, of which Salmonella accounted for 31% of all outbreaks and Campylobacter 9%, affected over 43,000 people and caused the deaths of 25 people.
Cases of Salmonella fell by almost 9% from 108,618 in 2009 to 99,020 in 2010 – a sixth consecutive year decrease.
The drop in Salmonella infection has been attributed to EU control programmes for reducing the prevalence of the bacteria in poultry populations.
Human infection caused by Listeria monocytogenes bacterium also fell slightly in 2010, with 1,601 cases reported.
In 2013, EFSA will be analysing the results of an EU-wide baseline survey on Listeria in ready-to-eat foods including smoked fish, heat-treated meat products and soft and semi-soft cheeses.
“EFSA’s continued scientific work, including assessment of new mitigation options and reduction targets where necessary, helps the European Commission and the Member States to consider possible reviews of existing targets and other control options to further combat this public health threat,” said an EFSA statement sent to FoodProductionDaily.com.

Del Monte Fresh Produce Drops Frivolous Lawsuit in Salmonella Outbreak
Source : http://www.marlerblog.com/legal-cases/del-monte-fresh-produce-drops-frivolous-lawsuit-in-salmonella-outbreak/
By Bill Marler (Mar 15, 2012)
Del Monte Fresh Produce, linked to prior cantaloupe outbreaks, has dropped its frivolous lawsuit against the Oregon Public Health Division and its senior epidemiologist, William Keene, who with other public health officials from nine other states and the CDC last year traced a multistate outbreak of Salmonella infection to cantaloupes imported from the company's Asuncion Mita farm in Guatemala.
The news was first reported by Lynne Terry of The Oregonian. She wrote that Del Monte Fresh Produce notified Oregon earlier this month that it would not go forward with legal action against William Keene Oregon Department of Health.
Del Monte Fresh Produce had earlier announced in a news release in August that "misleading allegations" had been made in naming the Guatemalan cantaloupes as the likely source of Salmonella infection that sickened at least 20 people, and sent three to the hospital. The case patients were from Arizona, California, Colorado, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah and Washington.
Twelve of 16 ill people had recalled eating cantaloupe in the week before they became ill, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on the outbreak investigation. Eleven of those 12 people had purchased cantaloupes from eight different Costco stores and traceback information indicated the melons were from a single farm - Asuncion Mita in Guatemala.  Del Monte Fresh Produce voluntarily recalled the Guatemalan cantaloupes on March 22, 2011 after it was notified of the epidemiological link between the melons the outbreak of Salmonella Panama infection.

New Jersey issues listeria warning for Los Corrales Queso Fresco
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/food-recall/new-jersey-issues-listeria-warning-for-los-corrales-queso-fresco/
By Colin Caywood (Mar 15, 2012)
The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services issued a warning today against consuming cheese products manufactured by El Ranchero Del Sur, LLC, of South River, New Jersey.  The warning comes following the confirmed diagnosis of Listeria monocytogenes in a 38-week pregnant woman who was treated at a New Brunswick hospital.  Her infection was investigated by the Middlesex County Health Department and samples of product were analyzed by NJDHSS Public Health Environmental and Agricultural labs, who confirmed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in a sample of Los Corrales Queso Fresco Fresh Cheese and Banana Leaf code dated 03/16/12.
The product is manufactured by El Ranchero del Sur.  The company has pledged to conduct a voluntary recall through the FDA and is contacting its customers to arrange for the retrieval of all of their cheese products. El Ranchero del Sur cheese products can be found primarily in Mexican and Latin American grocery stores, restaurants, and other hispanic food establishments under the name brands El Ranchero, Los Corrales, and Carnes Don Beto with the plant number 34-0013669 marked on the label. All products are 14 ounces in weight except for the Queso Hebra Oaxaca String Cheese ball in 10 pound packages.
This is not the first time listeria has been associated with queso fresco.  According to Outbreak Database, in 1985, a massive outbreak of listeriosis caused 142 confirmed illnesses, including 28 deaths.
Adults can get listeriosis by eating food contaminated with Listeria, but babies can be born with listeriosis if their mothers eat contaminated food during pregnancy. The mode of transmission of Listeria to the fetus is either transplacental via the maternal blood stream or ascending from a colonized genital tract (Silver, 1998). Infections during pregnancy can cause premature delivery, miscarriage, stillbirth, or serious health problems for the newborn. Although healthy persons may consume contaminated foods without becoming ill, those at increased risk for infection can probably get listeriosis after eating food contaminated with even a few bacteria.

Report on C. difficile at Cape Breton hospital blames unit layout, hygiene
Source : http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/arts-and-life/life/health/report-on-c-difficile-at-cape-breton-hospital-blames-unit-layout-hygiene-142803575.html
By The Canadian Press (Mar 15, 2012)
A new report says the layout of Cape Breton Regional Hospital's intermediate care unit and the failure of staff to properly wash their hands contributed to a recent outbreak of C. difficile.
The report says there were a total of six confirmed hospital cases of the bacterium during the outbreak between Dec. 21 and Feb. 3.
Two of those patients died, but the cause of death in both cases is still under review.
The report says the hospital needs to strengthen infection control practices.
Earlier in 2011, 64 patients in seven of the Cape Breton Regional Health Authority's nine hospitals were affected by an outbreak of C. difficile that lasted several months.
A report on that outbreak by the Public Health Agency of Canada made a number of recommendations ranging from hospital renovations to reducing patient transfers.

Salmonella outbreak affects a fourth Ottawa school
Source : http://www.ottawacitizen.com/health/Salmonella+outbreak+affects+fourth+Ottawa+school/6309210/story.html
By David Reevely (Mar 15, 2012)
Salmonella has sickened someone at Stittsville Public School, according to Ottawa’s public-health department, adding a fourth school to the list of those afflicted by an outbreak thought to have come from a caterer.
The total number of lab-confirmed salmonella cases connected to the outbreak was 21 as of Thursday afternoon, the department said, including 19 children and two adults. Another two adults also have salmonella, but they’re thought to have picked the stomach bug up some other way — the city typically gets about 160 unconnected cases each year.
The health department has been analysing food from one of three franchises of The Lunch Lady in Ottawa since Monday, suspecting that meat lasagna and beef tacos it delivered to schools and to one daycare might have been contaminated with salmonella. The bacteria can cause cramps, vomiting, diarrhea and fevers that can be serious.
Three of the children involved in the current outbreak have been hospitalized, though all have recovered enough to go home.
Many cases of salmonella don’t require medical attention, though they’re unpleasant until they pass. But if a sick person develops bloody diarrhea, has a persistent fever, becomes delirious or seems dehydrated, he or she should be taken to a doctor, the health department says. In that case, lab tests will determine whether the sickness is actually salmonella — other stomach bugs can cause the same symptoms — and the health department will be informed.
The health department has an information line at 613-580-6744, open from 8:30 to 4:30 Monday to Friday, that sick people or their families can call if they have concerns.

40 food-poisoned Kansas students treated at hospital
Source : http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/us/40-food-poisoned-kansas-students-treated-at-hospital-319029/
By David Templeton (Mar 15, 2012)
Pale and weak, dozens of students from Kansas left Excela Health Frick Hospital in Westmoreland County and got back on their chartered buses, with the sick students requiring hands-on help from unaffected students and chaperones.
Suspected food poisoning isn't what 164 members of the De Soto High School Band in suburban Kansas City, Kan., and 30 chaperones, had planned as an ending to their long-awaited spring-break trip to study Broadway music in New York City.
But after students and chaperones dined Tuesday night in an unidentified New York City restaurant, the buses were traveling back to Kansas on the Pennsylvania Turnpike somewhere east of New Stanton when students began vomiting and complaining of nausea, diarrhea and cramps.
The buses pulled into a rest stop and band officials called for help, but an ambulance service advised them to head straight to Frick Hospital, said Dan Stevens, spokesman for Westmoreland County and its 911 system. The hospital is about eight miles from the turnpike's New Stanton exit.
The hospital was ready when buses arrived about 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Forty students and 10 chaperones were treated with anti-nausea medications and intravenous fluids, then released. Initially the hospital treated 20 students, Excela Health Frick Hospital spokeswoman Jennifer Miele said. But then another 20 students fell ill, followed by 10 chaperones who also required treatment.
Healthy students and chaperones ushered sick students, some wearing hoods or wrapped in blankets, back to the buses, where the hospital had provided cases of chilled sports drinks to treat dehydration during their trip home.
Before their 3 p.m. departure, state Department of Health officials arrived to investigate and are working with New York health officials to determine the source of food poisoning and whether other diners at the restaurant also were affected.
"At this time, this is considered an open investigation as we examine the commonalities amongst them and trace the source of the illness," said Brandi Hunter-Davenport, the Pennsylvania Health Department's deputy press secretary.
New York health officials could offer no additional information.
The De Soto High School Band consists of ninth to 12th graders. The group left Kansas on Friday to participate in a Broadway Classroom program that includes working with a Broadway director and learning a score at the Carroll Music studios, said Alvie Cater, school district spokesman, who did not make the trip.
The band had been planning the trip for two years, he said.
"Everyone was looking forward to this," Mr. Cater said, "so at least we're thankful that this happened at the end of the trip."

Norovirus Outbreak Keeps Many Westfield Students Home Monday
Source : http://algonquin.patch.com/articles/update-fewer-westfield-students-absent-monday-health-department-provides-tips-to-prevent-spread-of-norovirus
By Amie Schaenzer  (Mar 12, 2012)
The Kane County Health Department is encouraging parents who have children sick with the norovirus infection to keep them home from school at least 24 hours after they are free of symptoms.
The health department confirmed a norovirus outbreak at Westfield Community School, 2100 Sleepy Hollow Road in Algonquin, on Friday. That day, 289 students, or over half the student population, was absent, according to Tom Schlueter, public information officer for the Kane County Health Department.
On Monday, a significant number of Westfield students stayed home but not nearly as many as Friday. Meanwhile, the McHenry County and Kane County health departments are not reporting a high number of absent students at schools other than Westfield.
"In checking our surveillance system, levels of illness in area schools are [at] about 10 percent, which is typical for this time of year," according to Debra Quackenbush, McHenry County Department of Health community information coordinator.
On Monday, 76 Westfield Community students were called in sick, which is 16 percent of the student population at Westfield, according to information provided by Schlueter in an e-mail response to Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Patch.
The health department first started investigating the outbreak on Thursday. That day, 129 students were absent from Westfield, according to Schlueter.
"Ten percent is the threshold to report," according to Schlueter. "We will continue to monitor the attendance until it drops below baseline."
Meanwhile, Schlueter said he has not heard of any other schools in the area experiencing a high number of abscenses due to the norovirus infection.
Parents are reminded to keep students with norovirus, most commonly referred to as the stomach flu, home from school 24 hours after they stop showing symptoms.
Symptoms of the norovirus infection include diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, weight loss, malaise and low-grade fever. The Center for Disease Control website provides additional information on norovirus.
The Kane County Health Department provides the following tips for preventing the spread of the infection:
•Practice proper hand hygiene: Wash your hands carefully with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and changing diapers and always before eating or preparing food. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing at least 62 percent ethanol may be a helpful addition to hand washing, but they are not a substitute for washing with soap and water. See “Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives.”
•Take care in the kitchen: Carefully wash fruits and vegetables, and cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them.
•Do not prepare food while infected: People who are infected with norovirusshould not prepare food for others while they have symptoms and for 3 days after they recover from their illness.
•Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces: After an episode of illness, such as vomiting or diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces by using a bleach-based household cleaner as directed on the product label or a solution made by adding 5–25 tablespoons of household bleach to 1 gallon of water.
•Wash laundry thoroughly: Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or fecal matter. Handle soiled items carefully—without agitating them—to avoid spreading virus. They should be laundered with detergent at the maximum available cycle length and then machine dried.

Two-dozen youth hockey players fall ill
Source : http://msn.foxsports.com/nhl/story/Norovirus-suspected-in-sudden-illness-of-Michigan-high-school-hockey-players-031212
By admin(Mar 13, 2012)
The highly contagious norovirus is suspected to be the culprit after about two-dozen high school hockey players suddenly became violently ill, officials in Michigan said Monday.
The players, all male, played in a championship game Sunday night at the Taylor Sportsplex in Taylor — 18 miles southwest of Detroit — when they suddenly became ill and were forced to leave the ice, The Detroit News reported.
The Sportsplex was evacuated as the players, suffering from vomiting and diarrhea, were treated by emergency crews. Several of the players were taken to local hospitals by their parents, and one was transported by ambulance.
Taylor Fire Department Chief Robert Tompos said investigators from the Wayne County Department of Health believe norovirus was responsible for making the players ill, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Norovirus is a highly contagious infection that causes diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach cramps.
It is typically passed through direct contact with an infected person, eating or drinking contaminated food and liquid, or by touching contaminated surfaces then placing hands or fingers in the mouth.
Results of tests to rule out water contamination as the cause of the outbreak were expected Tuesday, Tompos said.
The Taylor Sportsplex will be closed until a cleaning is completed by a local company and inspected by the Wayne County Department of Health, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Meat Industry Counters 'Pink Slime' Allegations
Source : http://www.foodproductdesign.com/news/2012/03/meat-industry-counters-pink-slime-allegations.aspx
By admin (Mar 9, 2012 )
The debate as to whether boneless lean beef trimmings (BLBT) are safe for human consumption has been making headlines over the past few weeks as recent media reports created a troubling and inaccurate picture of the form of beef made by separating lean beef from fat, particularly in their use of the colloquial term “pink slime."
A recent ABC World News report brought the alleged “pink slime"—a food additive made from spare beef trimmings that are treated with ammonium hydroxide to kill bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella—it into the public spotlight once again. During the segment, former USDA scientist Gerald Zirnstein said he coined the term “pink slime" for what the industry calls “lean finely textured beef," and warned USDA against its use. He went on to say 70% of the ground beef consumers purchase at retail contain the alleged “pink slime."
Since that interview, the “pink slime" controversy has been stirred by the media and consumer interest groups calling for the ban of BLBT.
However, American Meat Institute President J. Patrick Boyle defended BLBT saying: “Boneless lean beef trimmings (BLBT) is a safe, wholesome and nutritious form of beef that is made by separating lean beef from fat.  To make the product, beef companies use beef trimmings, the small cuts of beef that remain when larger cuts are trimmed down. These trimmings are USDA inspected, wholesome cuts of beef that contain both fat and lean and are nearly impossible to separate using a knife. When these trimmings are processed, the process separates the fat away and the end result is nutritious, lean beef.  It’s a process similar to separating cream from milk."
Boyle notes one process uses food grade ammonium hydroxide gas, something commonly used in the production of many foods, to destroy bacteria. Whatever process is used, it is all done under the watchful eye of USDA inspectors and according to strict federal rules. Lean finely textured beef is blended into foods like ground beef. Producing BLBT ensures that lean, nutritious, safe beef is not wasted in a world where red meat protein supplies are decreasing while global demand is increasing as population and income increases.
“Some recent media reports created a troubling and inaccurate picture, particularly in their use of the colloquial term 'pink slime.' The fact is, BLBT is beef. The beef trimmings that are used to make BLBT are absolutely edible," Boyle said. “In fact, no process can somehow make an inedible meat edible; it’s impossible. In reality, the BLBT production process simply removes fat and makes the remaining beef more lean and suited to a variety of beef products that satisfy consumers’ desire for leaner foods.
“In fact, BLBT is a sustainable product because it recovers lean meat that would otherwise be wasted. The beef industry is proud to efficiently produce as much lean meat as possible from the cattle we raise.   It’s the right thing to do and it ensures that our products remain as affordable as we can make them while helping to feed America and the world."

School stays closed after E.coli outbreak
Source : http://www.thisisstaffordshire.co.uk/School-stays-closed-E-coli-outbreak/story-15481692-detail/story.html
By News desk (Mar 10, 2012)
"SCHOOL at the centre of an E.coli outbreak is unlikely to open until the middle of next week at the earliest.
Officers from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) were at Friarswood Primary School, in Newcastle, today to collect samples from pupils and staff.
All students and workers are being tested for the potentially deadly bacteria after three cases of E.coli were confirmed this week.
A further 10 possible cases have already been identified, although no new cases of the infection, which causes sickness and diarrhoea – and in extreme cases can lead to serious, or even fatal, kidney and blood complications – have been discovered in the last 24 hours.
The HPA, which is overseeing a deep-clean of the 153-pupil school, said there is no date set for when youngsters can return to classes.
HPA consultant Dr Rob Carr said: "Deep cleaning has started at the school and the HPA has provided clear advice on cleaning practices.
"We are sampling all children and staff at the school. We are still waiting for some parents to collect sample pots for their children and return the samples. It's crucial that this is done as quickly as possible so that the samples can be processed and the school can return back to normal.
"Environmental health officers were due to be at the school today between 10am and noon to give parents another opportunity to collect and return samples.
"It's impossible to say when the school will reopen as it depends on a number of factors. From a health perspective we want to ensure that no children or staff present any risk of infection to others and ensure it's a clean and safe environment.
"Needless to say, the priority is getting samples from everyone and getting them processed. Only when these come back clear, will those children be allowed back."
Staffordshire county councillor Liz Staples, cabinet member for education and skills said: "A specialist cleaning crew is currently undertaking the cleaning and sanitisation of the school. Teaching staff are assisting by clearing rooms and removing contents."
Parent Jo Scothern, aged 39, of Newcastle, who has a six-year-old son, Ben, at Friarswood, said: "I'm trying to keep Ben away from public places, just in case, but he's fine.
"They have said the school can't open until at least 72 hours after the last sample has been taken, because that's how long it takes to do the test. I can't imagine the school opening before Thursday.
"The school have been very good."
Michelle Alderson, aged 38, of Westlands, who has a nine-year-old daughter, Megan, said: "It's worrying, but she is well and the school are dealing with it well.
"I'm looking after her at home, we've been told not to put them in child care."
Martin Godding, aged 40, of Newcastle, whose daughter, Molly, aged 10, is at the school, said: "She's gutted about next week's school trip to France being cancelled."

Hundreds sickened by norovirus at Algonquin school
Source : http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20120309/news/703099722/
By Larissa Chinwah (Mar 09, 2012)
An outbreak of norovirus, commonly known as the stomach flu, is the suspected culprit behind hundreds of illnesses at Westfield Community School in Algonquin.
More than half of the school's elementary students and about one-fifth of the middle schoolers were absent on Friday.
Westfield Principal Bill Doran said the school had taken measures to prevent the disease from spreading after it became apparent that there was an issue on Thursday.
Doran said absentee numbers for elementary students jumped from 17 on Wednesday to 109 Thursday morning. Those figures spiked to 262 absentees on Friday morning, which accounted for about 55 percent of the elementary school's population of 475 students, Doran said. The absentee numbers for middle school were 97 on Thursday and 223 on Friday, Doran said. In addition, 11 teachers from across elementary and middle school were absent on Friday.
Doran couldn't say how many of the absences were because kids were sick and how many were because parents were trying to prevent their kids from getting sick.
The school underwent a deep cleaning on Thursday night, which consisted of sanitizing desks, chairs, door handles, bathrooms, water fountains and other “high touch areas.”
“We have communicated with constituents and families and we've done a deep cleaning,” Doran said. “We took proactive measures and continue to monitor the situation. I am very proud of the staff and the work they have done.”
A news release from Community Unit District 300 said no other schools were reporting similar absences. District nurse Sherrie Schmidt said the school would continue monitoring absentee numbers for the next few days.
Erin Ward, who has two children at Westfield, said her 6-year-old daughter, Briana, started feeling ill on Wednesday night. Although the symptoms had eased by Thursday afternoon, she said Briana, a first-grader, needed to stay home to regain her strength.
“I thought she had the stomach flu,” Ward said. “Then the district sent out the warning. They have been very good about notifying us.”
Briana's older brother, Brandon, was fine and continued to go to school, Ward said.
Kane County Department of Health spokesman Tom Schlueter said an outbreak is defined as four or more cases. Although laboratory tests have not been completed, the county's epidemiologist suspected norovirus based on symptoms reported by parents. Nurses from the department collected stool and vomit samples from families in the area, which have been sent to the state laboratory for testing.
“The school has been very cooperative and very good about getting information to us,” Schlueter said. “They took the right proactive measures.”
The department did not advise the school to close, Schlueter said.
“The prevalence, because this is such a common illness, and the fact that it goes away so quickly, that wasn't the recommended procedure in this case,” Schlueter said. “The hardship placed on the parents and the cost of losing one day of education were not worth it.”
Schlueter said cases of norovirus are common in confined areas such as schools, hospitals, senior-care facilities and even office buildings.
“It is the most common form of gastrointestinal illness and is highly contagious,” Schlueter said. “It can spread very quickly in confined areas. Frankly, there is no real treatment for it and there is not a real vaccine. The good news is, though, it usually goes away in 24 to 48 hours.”
There are two types of norovirus — food borne and person-to-person. Schlueter said after discussions with the district nurse and administration, it was determined the outbreak at Westfield was transmitted through person-to-person contact. Health departments in neighboring counties said they had not experience an uptick in the number of norovirus cases reported.
Lake County Health Department spokeswoman Carolyn Waller said the county had not seen any cases in several weeks. And in McHenry County, which is still dealing with a whooping cough outbreak that has reached more than 300 cases, the number of cases of norovirus is average.
Sean McDermott, spokesman for the Cook County Department of Health, said six cases of norovirus had been reported in 2012. Those ranged from cases involving long-term care facilities and a school. McDermott did not have information on which school was involved.
“It is common for this time of year and it has been a typical norovirus season,” McDermott said.
In January, food-borne norovirus sickened 146 people who had eaten at Bob Chinn's Crab House in Wheeling. The restaurant closed for several days afterward.
The best defense is good hygiene, like washing your hands, especially after using the toilet or preparing food.

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