04/02,2012
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58 sick; E. coli O157:H7 outbreak - it's over - linked to romaine lettuce
Source : http://blog.usfoodsafety.com/2012/03/23/58-sick-e-coli-o157h7-outbreak-its-over-linked-to-romaine-lettuce/
By Doug Powell (Mar 23 , 2012)
The Romaine-lettuce-served-at-Schnucks-salad-bars E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that sickened 58 people in the Midwest last fall has received the final-write-up treatment from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, with many questions unanswered.
In the excerpts below, Chain A is Schnucks, and the farm the lettuce was traced to Farm A, although one Missouri health type at the time said a grower in California was suspected of being connected but records were “insufficient to complete the picture.”
Yes, there are vast limitations when conducting a food safety outbreak investigation, but the public reporting of this outbreak still reeks of the Leafy Greens Cone of Silence – that the most noticeable achievement since the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement was created in the wake of the 2006 E. coli O157-in-spinach mess is the containment cone of silence that has descended upon outbreaks involving leafy greens.
Things didn’t sound quite right back on Oct. 28, 2011, when St. Louis County health officials first publicly confirmed that the source of the E. coli O157 strain that had sickened 23 people was foodborne, but that the investigation was ongoing. Though retailers had not been asked to pull any food, Schnucks voluntarily replaced or removed some produce in salad bars and shelves, beginning Oct. 26, 2011.
“Once we heard that the health department had declared an outbreak, we took some proactive steps with our food safety team to switch products out that recent history told us could be potential sources,” said Schnucks spokeswoman Lori Willis.
A Schnucks store, Culinaria in downtown St. Louis, put a sign up on empty shelves that read in part, “Due to a voluntary recall on pre-packed lettuce, we will not be able to produce these pre-made salads. Be assured quality is our main concern. All of the lettuce on the salad bar is fresh and not involved with the recall.”
A table of leafy green related outbreaks is available at http://bites.ksu.edu/leafy-greens-related-outbreaks.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control reports CDC collaborated with public health and agriculture officials in Missouri, other states, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate a multistate outbreak of Escherichia coli serotype O157:H7 infections linked to romaine lettuce. Public health investigators used DNA “fingerprints” of E. coli O157:H7 bacteria obtained through diagnostic testing with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) to identify cases of illness that may be part of this outbreak. They used data from PulseNet, the national subtyping network made up of state and local public health laboratories and federal food regulatory laboratories that performs molecular surveillance of foodborne infections.
As of March 21, 2012, 58 persons infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 were reported from 9 states. The number of ill persons identified in each state was as follows: Arizona (1), Arkansas (2), Illinois (9), Indiana (2), Kansas (2), Kentucky (1), Minnesota (2), Missouri (38), and Nebraska (1). Two cases were removed from the case count because advanced molecular testing determined that they were not related to this outbreak strain. Among persons for whom information was available, illnesses began from October 9, 2011 to November 7, 2011. Ill persons ranged in age from 1 to 94 years, with a median age of 28 years. Fifty-nine percent were female. Among the 49 ill persons with available information, 33 (67%) were hospitalized, and 3 developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). No deaths were reported.
This particular outbreak appears to be over.
Collaborative investigative efforts of state, local, and federal public health agencies indicated that romaine lettuce sold primarily at several locations of a single grocery store chain (Chain A) was the likely source of illnesses in this outbreak. Contamination likely occurred before the product reached grocery store Chain A locations.
During October 10 to November 4, 2011, public health officials in several states and CDC conducted an epidemiologic study by comparing foods eaten by 22 ill and 82 well persons, including 45 well persons who shopped at grocery store Chain A during the week of October 17, 2011. Analysis of this study indicated that eating romaine lettuce was associated with illness. Ill persons (85%) were significantly more likely than well persons (46%) to report eating romaine lettuce in the week before illness. Ill persons (86%) were also significantly more likely than well persons (55%) to report shopping at grocery store Chain A. Among ill and well persons who shopped at grocery store Chain A, ill persons (89%) were significantly more likely than well persons (9%) to report eating a salad from the salad bar at grocery store Chain A. Several different types of lettuce were offered on the salad bar at grocery store Chain A. Of 18 ill persons who reported the type of lettuce eaten, 94% reported eating romaine lettuce. No other type of lettuce or other item offered on the salad bar was reported to be eaten by more than 55% of ill persons.
Ill persons reported purchasing salads from salad bars at grocery store Chain A between October 5 and October 24, 2011. A total of 9 locations of grocery store Chain A were identified where more than one ill person reported purchasing a salad from the salad bar in the week before becoming ill. This included 2 separate locations where 4 ill persons reported purchasing a salad at each location. For locations where more than one ill person reported purchasing a salad from the salad bar and the date of purchase was known, dates of purchase were all within 4 days of other ill persons purchasing a salad at that same location. Chain A fully cooperated with the investigation and voluntarily removed suspected food items from the salad bar on October 26, 2011, out of an abundance of caution. Romaine lettuce served on salad bars at all locations of grocery store Chain A had come from a single lettuce processing facility via a single distributor. This indicates that contamination of romaine lettuce likely occurred before the product reached grocery store Chain A locations.
The FDA and several state agencies conducted traceback investigations for romaine lettuce to try to identify the source of contamination. Traceback investigations focused on ill persons who had eaten at salad bars at several locations of grocery store Chain A and ill persons at university campuses in Minnesota (1 ill person) and Missouri (2 ill persons). Traceback analysis determined that a single common lot of romaine lettuce harvested from Farm A was used to supply the grocery store Chain A locations as well as the university campus in Minnesota during the time of the illnesses. This lot was also provided to a distributor that supplied lettuce to the university campus in Missouri, but records were not sufficient to determine if this lot was sent to this university campus. Preliminary findings of investigation at Farm A did not identify the source of the contamination. Farm A was no longer in production during the time of the investigation.

Salmonella Found in Meat from Lunch Lady Caterer
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2012/salmonella-found-in-meat-from-lunch-lady-caterer/
By Linda Larsen (Mar 24 , 2012)
According to CBC News, Salmonella was found in frozen uncooked ground beef and raw Halal chicken samples from The Lunch Lady Catering service in Ottawa, Canada.
This links the caterer to the Salmonella outbreak that has sickened 50 people. One dozen schools and a day care center have been the epicenter of the outbreak.
Salmonella Typhimurium was found in frozen uncooked ground beef, and Salmonella Heidelberg was found in raw Halal chicken.

Food-born illnesses on the rise in the U.S.
Source : http://business.financialpost.com/2012/03/22/food-born-illnesses-on-the-rise-in-the-u-s/
By Denise Deveau (Mar 22 , 2012)
Foodborne disease outbreaks caused by imported food appeared to rise in 2009 and 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These were findings presented at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta on March 14, 2012.
According to the CDC, nearly half of the outbreaks implicated foods imported from areas which previously had not been associated with outbreaks. While it’s too early to say if the recent numbers represent a trend, CDC officials spokespersons say they will continue to monitor for these outbreaks in the future.
During a period from 2005 to 2010, CDC detected 39 outbreaks and 2,348 illnesses that were linked to imported food from 15 countries. Of those outbreaks, nearly half (17) occurred in 2009 and 2010. The most common source implicated was fish, followed by spices. Nearly 45 per cent of the imported foods causing known outbreaks came from Asia.
The Public Health Agency Canada reports that there have been 45 outbreaks from 2002 to 2012 involving more than one province or territory. Of those 16 per cent were associated with imported foods. This does not take into account outbreak investigations at the individual provincial or municipal level, says PHAC spokesperson Sylwia Gomes. “There are also outbreaks investigated nationally where no food source is ever identified,”
Keith Warriner, associate professor food safety for Food Science at the University of Guelph notes that the CDC report is not necessarily indicative of a trend. “This has been a fairly long standing argument that may be tied to trade barrier issues. In fact about four years ago the USDA and FDA did a large study that compared outbreaks related imported to locally produced food and found no difference.”
Canada and the U.S. both import a high percentage of their food products, including 80% of our fresh produce, he adds. Statistics Canada data indicates that close to 60% of food imports are from the U.S. “The interesting thing to note is that most of the product recalls relating to fresh produce have been from products sourced from California.”
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has developed an Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) to quell fears about imported food, Mr. Warriner explains. “The CFIA inspects less than one per cent of the food being imported so the onus has been on the importer to ensure food meets safety standards. AIRS will demand that anybody exporting to Canada will have representation here. Right now this is voluntary, but is expected to be mandatory in two years time.”


ELISA Test May Miss Milk-Protein Residues
Source : http://www.foodproductdesign.com/news/2012/03/elisa-test-may-miss-milk-protein-residues.aspx
By admin (Mar 29 , 2012)
The standard test used to detect milk-protein residues in processed foods may not work as well as previously believed in all applications, sometimes missing ingredients that can cause milk allergy, according to new research presented at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
Food processors use the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) standard test to assure that processed foods that do not contain milk and processing equipment in facilities that process milk products are free of milk allergens, the substances that can trigger milk allergy. An ELISA kit for milk proteins contains antibodies that bind to milk proteins that may be in a finished food product or on the surface of shared manufacturing equipment. If a sample taken from a finished product or from the surface of food-processing equipment contains milk residue, a color change will occur in the test, indicating a positive result for contamination with milk proteins.
The researchers studied and documented how ELISAs perform on several measures of accuracy when milk proteins undergo changes in foods that are boiled, baked, fried or heated in other ways. They found thermal and non-thermal processing of foods can make milk proteins aggregate together so it is difficult to get the milk proteins into solution, which enables them to be detected by the antibodies in ELISAs. The clumping, however, does not necessarily destroy the protein’s ability to trigger an allergic reaction in sensitive people. Clumped-together proteins also would be likely to maintain their potency once they reached the human body, he added. Heating and other processing also can alter the structure of the protein, which can affect the ability of the antibody to bind to the milk proteins. Alteration in the protein structure does not necessarily mean that the milk proteins become non-allergenic for the majority of milk-allergic individuals.
“The results of these studies could be utilized by commercial ELISA kit manufacturers to aid in improving ELISAs for detection of milk residue in processed food products. These improved tests can be adopted by the food industry, if necessary, to allow for reliable detection of milk residue regardless of the type of processing that is used," the researchers said. “These improvements should not result in commercial tests that are more expensive or difficult for food processors to use."

Pink slime factories shuttered after massive public backlash
Source : http://www.naturalnews.com/035396_pink_slime_factories_ammonia.html
By Jonathan Benson (Mar 29 , 2012)
For several decades now, the conventional beef industry has secretly been lacing ground beef products with an industrial, ammonia-laced byproduct known as "pink slime," a disturbing fact that recently came to the forefront of national attention after Food Network chef Jamie Oliver first drew attention to its existence. And consumer backlash has been so strong ever since that a number of supermarket chains, restaurants, and even schools have decided to stop supplying it, which has caused its primary producer, Beef Products Inc. (BPI), to close three of its four manufacturing plants.
USA Today and others are reporting that Dakota Dunes, South Dakota-based BPI is temporarily closing its Waterloo, Iowa; Garden City, Kansas; and Amarillo, Texas plants for an indefinite period of time as a result of widespread consumer rejection of pink slime products. Workers at these plants will continue to receive pay and benefits for the next 60 days, but it is unclear what will happen after these next two months expire, should the plants continue to remain closed.
Meanwhile, BPI is launching an aggressive public relations campaign to fight back against its critics, which includes claiming that pink slime is "100 percent beef," and that it is a highly-nutritious and safe product. And many in the media are jumping onboard this propaganda bandwagon by spinning the situation back against consumers, who are technically victims that have been been duped all these years into buying ground beef products that were secretly adulterated with pink slime.
In case you missed the original story, pink slime, which is officially known as "lean finely textured beef," is basically a low-cost ground beef filler composed of beef scraps that are mashed, processed with a chemical ammonia solution, and turned into an unappetizing pink paste, the pictures of which have circulated the internet in recent months
(http://www.naturalnews.com/035255_pink_slime_USDA_school_lunches.html).
This pink slime has been added to roughly 70 percent of all ground beef products since the 1990s, but few were aware of it. Pink slime is obviously not labeled on ground beef packages, and the only way consumers can know for sure that they are not consuming it is to buy local or organic ground beef, or to watch the beef being ground fresh before buying it.
BPI, mainstream media launch attack on consumers for rejecting pink slime
It is abundantly clear that the vast majority of American consumers are not interested in feeding their children a highly-processed additive that has been treated with toxic ammonia, which is why the product is being pulled from grocery store shelves, restaurant menus, and schools all across the country. But BPI is not going down without a fight, as it is launching a campaign that basically insults the intelligence of Americans by claiming that pink slime is no different from real beef.
But according to former U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist Gerald Zirnstein, pink slime is not actually meat, nor is it as nutritious as meat, a sentiment to which his former colleague Carl Custer also agrees. And Kit Foshee, a former executive at BPI, appears to hold the same view, having told ABC News that pink slime is processed from fat and cuts that would otherwise not ever be used as food.
"Microbiologically safe and nutritionally complete are two different issues," said Custer to ABC News, referring to BPI's claim that pink slime contains little fat and is pathogen-free. "It may be pink [but], nutritionally, it is not equivalent to whole-muscle tissue" (http://abcnews.go.com).

Govs tour Neb. beef plant to see 'pink slime'
Source : http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-03/D9TQCKI81.htm
By KRISTI EATON (Mar 29 , 2012)
Governors of three states donned coats, hair nets and goggles to tour a main production plant for "pink slime" Thursday, hoping to persuade grossed-out consumers and grocery stores to accept that the processed beef trimmings are as safe as the industry insists.
Three governors and two lieutenant governors spent about a half-hour touring Beef Products Inc.'s plant to show their support for the company and the thousands of jobs it creates in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota and Texas.
"It's beef, but it's leaner beef, which is better for you," Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said after watching a presentation of how the textured beef product is made and taking a walking tour of the plant.
Beef Products, the main producer of the cheap lean beef made from fatty bits of meat left over from other cuts, has drawn extra scrutiny because of concerns about the ammonium hydroxide it treats meat with to slightly change the acidity of the beef and kill bacteria. The company suspended operations at plants in Texas, Kansas and Iowa this week, affecting 650 jobs, but it defends its product as safe.
While the official name is lean finely textured beef, critics dub it "pink slime" and say it's an unappetizing example of industrialized food production. That term was coined by a federal microbiologist who was grossed out by it, but the product meets federal food safety standards and has been used for years.
The politicans who toured the plant -- Branstad, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Nebraska Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy and South Dakota Lt. Gov. Matt Michels -- all agree with the industry view that pink slime has been unfairly maligned and mislabeled and issued a joint statement earlier saying the product is safe.
The officials spent about 20 minutes going over the production process in a separate room at the plant with Craig Letch, the company's director of quality assurance, seeing examples of the raw pieces of beef next to the processed, unfrozen finished product.
None of the officials tasted the product. Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht said earlier the governor planned to eat some at a community picnic this weekend.
The officials then donned coats, hair nets and goggles for a brief walking tour of the facility. Workers manned conveyor belts with slabs of meat on top of it; the controversial process by which ammonia is added to the product was not visible.
Larry Smith, with the Institute for Crisis Management public relations firm, said he's not sure the makers of pink slime -- including Cargill and BPI -- will be able to overcome the public stigma against their product at this point.
"I can't think of a single solitary message that a manufacturer could use that would resonate with anybody right now," Smith said.
Russell Cross, a former administrator of the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, said the product is getting a bad rap from a food safety standpoint.
"I'm not saying it's perfectly safe. Nothing is perfectly safe. All food is going to have bacteria in it. But this product has never been in question for safety," he said.
Cross said that ammonia is just one tool designed to reduce bacteria and help make the food safer. The process Cargill uses, by comparison, uses citric acid to achieve similar results.
The finished product contains only a trace of ammonia, as do many other foods, and it's meant just to be an additional "hurdle for the pathogens," said Cross, who is now head of the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University.
The ammonium hydroxide BPI uses is also used in baked goods, puddings and other processed foods.
National Meat Association spokesman Jeremy Russell said if consumers insist on eliminating the product from ground beef, prices will go up and lean beef trimmings will have to be imported to replace it. The process of creating lean, finely textured beef yields about 12 to 15 pounds of additional meat per animal.
Russell said the pink slime outcry has already hurt BPI and other meat companies, and could eventually hurt the price that ranchers and feedlots receive for cattle.
BPI did get some good news Wednesday when Iowa-based grocer Hy-Vee said it would offer beef with and without pink slime because some consumers demanded the option. But larger grocery store chains, such as Kroger, have stuck with their decisions to stop offering beef with pink slime.
The real test may come later this year when school districts purchase meat from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for next school year. The USDA said earlier this month that it would give school districts a choice between 95 percent lean beef that contains pink slime and less-lean beef without it.
Russell said school districts will have to decide whether they're willing to spend roughly 16 percent more for beef without pink slime.
The USDA this year is contracted to buy 111.5 million pounds of ground beef for the National School Lunch Program. About 7 million pounds of that is from BPI.

Pink Slime' Defense Rises
Source : http://blog.usfoodsafety.com/2012/03/29/pink-slime-defense-rises/
By Bill Tomson and Mark Peter(Mar 29 , 2012)
It turns out not everyone hates pink slime.
After being pummeled in the media for weeks, the beef additive made from leftover trimmings is getting support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the governors of five states, who argue it has been unfairly labeled and is actually a safe, low-cost way to make ground beef leaner.
This is an unwarranted, unmerited food scare,” said Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback in an interview Thursday. “If there was some basis in fact to this, other than somebody’s clever naming of it, then you’d say ‘no you shouldn’t stick your neck out on it.’ “
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said he, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and representatives of several other states planned to taste the product themselves after touring a plant where it is made on Thursday.
The additive, which has long been used as a cheap filler in hamburger meat without anyone knowing or caring, has become the latest example of a product to fall prey to a social-media feeding frenzy after celebrity chef Jamie Oliver detailed how it is made in a TV special. Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites took it from there. Supermarkets and school districts across the country have been shunning it after mounting public pressure.
Supporters say taking the product out of the U.S. food chain will lead to higher beef prices and fattier hamburger, since it is very low in fat.
“You effectively need to kill 1.5 million more head of cattle in a year to replace the meat that would go off the market from this unwarranted, unmerited food scare,” Gov. Brownback said. “That’s why we’re pushing back on it.”
“We have said all along, and have been saying for weeks, this product is safe,” USDA chief Tom Vilsack said in a news conference Wednesday.
The USDA chief is dispatching a top federal food safety official, Under Secretary Elisabeth Hagen, Thursday to a facility that produces the additive in South Sioux City, Neb. Several governors also will attend the event as they pressure supermarkets to return ground beef with the filler to refrigerator cases.
“We’re going to consume it,” Gov. Branstad said. “We’ll do everything we can to set the record straight.”
Known in the industry as lean finely textured beef, the additive is made from scraps remaining after cattle are butchered into cuts such as steaks and roasts. Processors remove the fat from trimmings, and in some cases treat the meat for bacteria with ammonium hydroxide. The product is then mixed with ground beef, often making it leaner, according to Beef Products Inc., a major producer.
The filler has been used for nearly two decades and the U.S. Department of Agriculture says it is safe. Still, that hasn’t kept supermarket chains such as Kroger Co., Safeway Inc. and Supervalu Inc. from phasing out the additive. The decision caught state and federal officials off guard and led Beef Products to suspend production at plants in Amarillo, Texas; Garden City, Kan.; and Waterloo, Iowa.
Support for the product, particularly in states where the beef filler is produced, helped persuade Midwest supermarket chain Hy-Vee Inc. to back off its original plan to completely phase it out. The chain will now offer ground beef with and without the filler. The decision came after Hy-Vee, which has 235 retail stores, received hundreds of calls both for and against the filler, said Ruth Comer, a spokeswoman for the supermarket chain.
Those who have oppose the additive say consumers have already decided on the product.
“This is so clearly a movement that’s been driven by consumers,” said Willy Ritch, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (D., Maine), who is pushing for a ban of the filler in school lunches.
Mr. Vilsack pointed to the difficulty of getting ahead of opposition to a product—even if it is deemed safe by the government—in a world fueled by social media. He also highlighted a disconnect that continues to grow between people and where their food comes from.
“The reality is a very small percentage of America’s population produces 85% to 90% of what we consume,” Mr. Vilsack said.
Ian Berry contributed to this article.

Climate change: potential impacts on food- and waterborne diseases in the EU
Source : http://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/press/news/Lists/News/ECDC_DispForm.aspx?List=32e43ee8-e230-4424-a783-85742124029a&ID=593&RootFolder=%2Fen%2Fpress%2Fnews%2FLists%2FNews
By admin (Mar 28 , 2012)
ECDC issued the report ‘Assessing the potential impacts of climate change on food- and waterborne diseases in Europe’.
This report identifies the relationships between meteorological and climate variables and six food- and waterborne pathogens, by reviewing existing literature, in order to assess the potential impacts of climate change on food- and waterborne disease transmission in the EU.
Climate change projections for Europe for the coming decades anticipate increases in average temperatures, increases in precipitation particularly in the north of Europe, decreases in precipitation in the south of Europe, and an increase in extreme weather events such as droughts, heat waves and flooding.
These changes may impact human health and well-being.  Because food- and waterborne pathogens are known to be sensitive to climatic conditions, public health planning and preparedness activities should be informed by the potential impacts that climate change could have on the transmission of these diseases.
In the face of diminishing resources for public health, this study approach can be helpful in assessing different public health strategies for responding to climate change.

Consumer groups demand GMO labeling, question food safety
Source : http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/sns-rt-us-usa-foodbre82q108-20120327,0,7331914.story
By rey Gillam (Mar 27 , 2012)
Critics of genetically modified crops are making new demands for government mandated labeling to identify foods on grocer shelves that contain ingredients from transgenic corn, soybeans and other crops.
Labeling drives are underway on both state and federal levels, and on Tuesday several U.S. consumer groups released a survey and results of a petition drive that they say shows overwhelming consumer support for labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMO).
"People believe they have a right to know what goes into their bodies," said Mark Mellman, a public opinion pollster and consultant.
The Mellman Group survey released Tuesday said based on a polling of 1,000 voters last month, about 91 percent support labeling of GMO foods while 5 percent oppose such a move. Support was nearly equal among Democrats, Republicans and Independents.
The survey was commissioned by a group called "Just Label It" that includes organic farming groups, along with representatives from the medical and retail industries and some faith-based groups. Similar surveys issued recently have also shown widespread support for labeling as consumers express increasing concern about overall food safety.
The Just Label It group, which filed its petition with the Food & Drug Administration on October 12, 2011, claims to have more than 1 million signers.
Tuesday marks the end of the 180-day comment period that precedes a formal FDA response. Petitioners say that the petition process allows them to pursue "judicial review" if FDA fails to act.
"Should it be denied the next step we would consider would be litigation," said environmental attorney Andrew Kimbrell who wrote the petition.
"The GMO issue is finally getting traction in the U.S., in the form of an overwhelming preference for labeling among consumers across the political spectrum," said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit public health and environment advocacy organization.
FDA declined to discuss the labeling petition, saying that it would respond directly to the petitioner. But a spokeswoman did say that FDA's position on labeling of genetically modified foods is rooted in the premise that there is no "material difference" in foods containing ingredients from genetically modified crops and foods made from conventional crops.
"Companies are welcome to label their products on a voluntary basis as long as it's truthful and not misleading, and it doesn't imply that it's somehow better than the conventional counterpart," said Siobhan DeLancey, an FDA spokeswoman.
Alongside the national push, the GMO labeling debate is also active in California, where a grassroots coalition of consumer, public health and environmental organizations has submitted what it calls the "California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act" to the state Attorney General.
Backers of the measure must obtain more than 500,000 signatures by April 22 to get it on the November ballot. They say that in addition to giving consumers information about what they are eating, labeling would also allow health professionals to track potential adverse health impacts of GMO foods.
The question of safety is separate, though related, from the issue of labeling, according to Mellman.
"Calories aren't unsafe... but people want to know what they're ingesting," he said.
A recent study by the Grocery Manufacturers Association said about 80 percent of packaged foods contain genetically engineered ingredients.
Leading biotech crop developer Monsanto Co. and other agricultural biotech seed companies are opposed to labeling, saying it misleads consumers and there is no safety concern with GMOs.
As well, opponents of labeling say mandatory labeling would be costly, increasing food prices for consumers, cost taxpayers for enforcement, and trigger costly litigation.
More than 40 countries have some requirements for labeling of genetically engineered foods, with Europe a prominent leader in mistrust of genetic alterations to crops.

The Time Is Ripe for Salmonella
Source : http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120326113434.htm
By ScienceDaily (Mar 26 , 2012)
The ripeness of fruit could determine how food-poisoning bacteria grow on them, according to scientists who recently presented their work at the Society for General Microbiology's Spring Conference in Dublin. Their work could lead to new strategies to improve food safety, bringing many health and economic benefits.
A wide range of fresh produce has been linked to outbreaks of Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica including melons, jalapeño and serrano peppers, basil, lettuce, horseradish sprouts and tomatoes. Researchers at Imperial College London are looking at how these bacterial pathogens latch onto fruits and vegetables and establish themselves in the first place.
They have discovered that strains of Salmonella behave differently when attached to ripe and unripe tomatoes. "Bacteria that attach to ripe tomatoes produce an extensive network of filaments, which is not seen when they attach to the surface of unripe tomatoes. This could affect how they are maintained on the surface," explained Professor Gad Frankel who is leading the research. "We are not completely sure yet why this happens; it might be due to the surface properties of the tomatoes or alternatively the expression of ripening hormones."
This is just one example of the subtle interplay between food-poisoning microbes and the fresh produce they contaminate, that determines how pathogens become established in the food chain. "Apart from Salmonella, strains of E. coli are also particularly devious in the way they interact with plant surfaces. They have hair-like appendages and flagella they can use as hooks to successfully secure themselves onto things like salad leaves."
Although fresh fruits and vegetables are recognized as important vehicles that transmit harmful bacteria, they are still important components of a healthy and balanced diet. "By and large, raw fruits and vegetables are safe to eat and provide numerous health benefits. By working out the reasons behind sporadic outbreaks of infections, we can control these better and help maintain consumer confidence. By improving food safety we would also see important economical and health benefits."
Understanding how bacteria interact with fresh produce is a crucial but only the first step, explained Professor Frankel. "Translating research into new policies or methods for decontamination is the challenge for future studies," he said.

Feds won't say where romaine came from in E. coli outbreak
Source : http://www.thepacker.com/fruit-vegetable-news/Feds-wont-say-where-romaine-came-from-in-E-coli-outbreak-144438345.html
By Coral Beach (Mar 27 , 2012)
In its final report on an E. coli outbreak that hit nine states in the fall of 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continued to decline to name the grower and distributors involved.
Officials at the Food and Drug Administration are also standing firm on not naming names in the outbreak because traceback investigations “did not identify a definitive source of the contamination,” FDA policy analyst Sebastian Cianci said March 28.
Several people, however, reported having eaten food from salad bars at Schnucks Markets Inc., St. Louis. The retailer pulled romaine lettuce and several other items from salad bars at some of its locations, but state and federal tests of samples from Schnucks salad bars did not reveal any positive results for E. coli.
The CDC report, made public March 23, repeated previous conclusions that the outbreak was caused by tainted romaine lettuce. It updated the number of sick people, decreasing the number from 60 to 58; no deaths were linked to the outbreak.
“Two cases were removed from the case count because advanced molecular testing determined that they were not related to this outbreak strain,” the CDC final report states.
In December, CDC spokeswoman Lola Russell said the agency leaves announcements of implicated firms to the regulatory agencies such as FDA.
At that time, FDA’s Cianci said the farm where the romaine was grown was “no longer in production when the FDA went to conduct an investigation. Preliminary findings at the farm did not identify the source of contamination. FDA did sample and test various brands of romaine lettuce but did not find the outbreak strain.”
According to the FDA and CDC, traceback investigations and patient interviews implicated the romaine.
“Traceback analysis determined that a single lot of romaine lettuce harvested from one farm was used to supply the grocery store chain locations as well as university campuses in Minnesota and Missouri where illnesses were also reported,” Cianci said in December.
Officials from the University of Missouri confirmed on March 27 that campus foodservice operations received fresh-cut romaine from U.S. Foods, Rosemont, Ill. However, they also said the investigations and inspections never linked the affected romaine and U.S. Foods.
Initially it was thought the outbreak was limited to the St. Louis metropolitan area because a cluster of E. coli illnesses showed up there around Oct. 24.
In a 24-hour period 14 cases were confirmed, three times the total number of E. coli cases reported in the metro area in 2010.
Ultimately, civil lawsuits filed against Schnucks named Vaughn Foods Inc., Moore, Okla., as a supplier of the romaine. Schnucks officials have declined to comment on the outbreak because of the pending litigation.
Mark Vaughan, president of Vaughan Foods, confirmed in December that the company does supply fresh-cut produce to Schnucks but declined further comment because of the pending litigation.

Easter and Passover Safety Tips from FoodSafety.gov
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2012/easter-and-passover-safety-tips-from-foodsafety-gov/
By Linda Larsen (Mar 29 , 2012)
Easter and Passover take place next week, and the USDA wants you to be aware of food safety issues. Remember that home-cooked food causes many foodborne illnesses every year. In fact, a 2006 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that one in seven private home kitchens in the United States would fail a restaurant-style health inspection.
So follow these guidelines to keep your family safe this holiday season.
Brisket, ham, and eggs are the foods commonly served at this time of year. All can be problematic and you must follow food safety guidelines to ensure these foods don’t make someone sick.
Ham
Read the label carefully when you buy a ham. It must state whether it’s ready to eat, if it should be refrigerated, and how it should be heated or cooked. Obey expiration dates carefully.
The USDA’s Ham Cooking Chart is valuable for calculating the time your ham should cook. Remember that fresh hams and hams that must be cooked before eating should reach 160 degrees F on a food thermometer.
Ready-to-eat hams, such as spiral-cut hams, can be reheated. Again, use a food thermometer to check the temperature. Heat the ham about 10 minutes per pound to 140 degrees F. And never cook ham in an oven set lower than 325 degrees F.
Leftover ham can stay in the fridge for five days. After that time, it can be frozen for one to six months if it’s properly wrapped in freezer-safe materials. Follow the directions in the USDA’s Ham Storage Chart.
Eggs
Eggs are a common source of food poisoning. Salmonella is found in many raw eggs. If you hard-cook eggs and dye them for Easter, remember that they must stay refrigerated. Never leave cooked eggs out of refrigeration longer than two hours.
Before cooking, examine the eggs carefully. If they are cracked or dirty, discard them. To hard-cook eggs, place a single layer of eggs in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a rolling boil, cover, and let stand off the heat for 15 minutes for large eggs. Then run cold water into the pan until the eggs are cold, and refrigerate. Hard-cooked eggs can stay in the fridge for one week; no longer.
Be sure you use only food-grade dyes when coloring eggs for Easter. And if you want to use eggs for an Easter egg hunt, think about using chocolate eggs, or plastic eggs filled with candies and treats instead of hard-cooked eggs. A hard-cooked egg left out of refrigeration can cause a lot of trouble.
Passover Seder
A Seder means preparing food ahead of time. So make sure all the food is safely refrigerated after it’s prepared. Add always discard food that has been out of refrigeration for two hours, or one hour if the air temperature is above 90 degrees F.
Cold foods such as gefilte fish should be served straight from the fridge.
Brisket is usually prepared in advance, since it requires such a long and slow cooking time. You can keep the brisket in the fridge for 3 to 5 days before cooking, or freeze it for up to a year. Thaw the meat in the refrigerator only; this can take days if the cut is large.
The brisket must be covered and cooked in moist heat. Cook to 160 degrees F (actually, to be tender, the brisket should reach 185 degrees F so the fat and connective tissue melt), and let it stand for 15-20 minutes before slicing to serve.
You can cook the brisket, cool it in the fridge, then reheat it just before serving. When reheating, make sure the brisket reaches 165 degrees F.
Store cooked brisket in the refrigerator up to 3 to 4 days, or freeze it up to three months. And wrap it in freezer-safe plastic wrap or paper.
And remember that the USDA offers helpful videos about food safety you can review.
Have a wonderful celebration!

Court orders FDA to examine antibiotics use on animals
Source : http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/court-orders-fda-to-examine-antibiotics-use-on-animals/2012/03/22/gIQA3ph4US_story.html?wprss=rss_business
By Dina ElBoghdady (Mar 23 , 2012)
A federal court on Thursday ordered the FDA to follow through on a 35-year-old proposal that would have banned the use of certain antibiotics in animal feed because the agency was concerned that these drugs were overused in livestock and helped develop drug-resistant bacteria that can infect people.
The concern is that some antibiotics given to treat illnesses in people are widely used on animals to promote disease prevention and weight gain, as well as compensate for crowded conditions on ranches and farms. The prevalence of those antibiotics in livestock has been linked in several studies to the creation of drug-resistant “superbugs” that can spread to humans who work with or eat the animals.
In 1977, the Food and Drug Administration proposed banning the use of penicillin and two forms of tetracyline for growth promotion. But the proposal has been in limbo ever since. The agency never held hearings or took any further action, prompting the Natural Resources Defense Council and four other health and consumer advocacy groups to sue the government in May 2011.
A federal district court in Manhattan ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on Thursday, compelling the FDA to press forward with its initial plan to start proceedings that could lead to a withdrawal of the drugs. The decision handed a major victory to consumer advocates.
“The scientific evidence of the risks to human health from the widespread use of antibiotics in livestock has grown, and there is no evidence that the FDA has changed its position that such uses are not shown to be safe,” Judge Theodore H. Katz wrote.
The FDA must now grant the drugmakers an opportunity to appear at a hearing and prove that the antibiotics are safe.
“If, at the hearing, the drug sponsors fail to show that the use of the drugs is safe, the [FDA] Commissioner must issue a withdrawal order,” Katz wrote.
On Thursday, the agency declined to comment on the opinion except to say that it is studying it and considering the appropriate steps.
The agency has been pursuing alternative paths of regulation in recent years as pressure mounted to act. In 2010, it issued voluntary guidelines urging the judicious use of antibiotics, but it has yet to finalize that plan.
In December 2011, it quietly rescinded its initial 35-year-old plan to withdraw approval for penicillin and the two tetracycline drugs — chlortetracycline and oxytetracycline — on the grounds that the proposal was outdated.
But a month later, it proposed to restrict cephalosporin, a family of antibiotics commonly used to treat livestock. It said those antibiotics could not be used to prevent diseases in livestock starting April 5, although they could still be used to treat illnesses.
Consumer advocates supported the move. But the court’s decision affects a far greater share of antibiotic use in animals, said Avinash Kar, a lawyer at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“This is a long overdue step toward preserving life-saving medicines for when we need them,” Kar said. “These antibiotics were meant to cure disease, not to fatten up pigs and chickens.”

Global Food Safety Forum pact will look to boost Asia food import safety - FDAImports.com
Source : http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/Quality-Safety/Global-Food-Safety-Forum-pact-will-look-to-boost-Asia-food-import-safety-FDAImports.com
By Mark Astley (Mar 23 , 2012)
US import law specialists FDAImports.com and the Global Food Safety Forum (GFSF) have entered into an agreement that will see them offering Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-related expertise to Asian food exporters.
Through the partnership, GFSF hopes to provide its Asia-based food industry members with FDA-specific and specialised information in order to meet the compliance requirements outlined by the recently enacted Food Safety Modernisation Act (FSMA).
The US Department Of Agriculture (USDA)-sponsored GFSF offers food safety educational services to food industry figures in Asia.
As part of the agreement, FDAImports.com will provide specialist briefings, webinars and respond to queries on international food safety standards, certification and compliance requirements through a new hot line service.
The pact comes less than a week after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report which suggested an increase in import-implicated foodborne disease outbreaks.
Import standards
“Our goal is to improve the standards associated with imported foods and help importers get into the market,” FDAImports.com principal Rick Quinn, who oversees the company’s China office, told FoodQualityNews.com.
“The Global Food Safety Forum and FDAImports.com have decided to form this partnership to provide FDA-related expertise to Asian exporters, with particular focus on agriculture and processed foods.”
FDAImports.com, which already has a presence in Asia in the form of its China office, has previously worked collaboratively with GFSF.
“We have already worked together to provide food inspection training to Chinese government officials. We also worked collaboratively last month to provide 25 Chinese provincial officials with training in several areas including the requirements for importing foods to the US.”
“In fact the reason we set up an office in China was to stop substandard products reaching US ports of entry,” said Quinn.
“Ridiculous propaganda”
The partnership announcement comes less than a week after a CDC report suggested a rise in US-based import-implicated foodborne disease outbreaks.
The review found that between 2005 and 2010, 39 foodborne disease outbreaks were traced back to imported food, of which 17 occurred in 2009 and 2010.
Of the 39 import-implicated outbreaks nearly 45% of the tainted food products came from Asia.
“I wouldn’t use the word ridiculous propaganda, but those words certainly come to mind,” Quinn added, playing down the CDC review.
“Of the 10 major US foodborne disease outbreaks, nine were as a result of domestic foods – not imported products.”
“There is so much nonsense coming from federal agencies at the moment,” Quinn concluded.

The scoop on vitamins and supplements
Source : http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/health/vitamins-and-supplements-multivitamins-dangerous-supplements-.html
By (Mar 26 , 2012)
Vitamins, minerals, and supplements, which are supposed to strengthen your bones, boost your memory, protect your heart, and help you stay healthy, are popular—more than 50 percent of U.S. adults take these widely sold over-the-counter products.
But evidence shows that excessive vitamin and supplement consumption is unnecessary, and many products could be a waste of money. What's more, some are potentially harmful:
• A 10-year study followed more than 14,000 men ages 50 and older who took 400 international units (IU) of vitamin E every other day and 500 mg of vitamin C daily. That’s much more than the recommended daily intake but less than the upper limit set by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. The vitamins didn’t reduce the risk of major cardiovascular events, and vitamin E was linked to an increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke, caused by a burst blood vessel.
• A study of more than 35,000 men, published last fall in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that high-dose selenium had little effect on prostate-cancer risk, despite earlier research suggesting that selenium might help protect men. Worse still, the study found that supplemental vitamin E increased the risk of prostate cancer by 17 percent, though researchers couldn’t explain why.
• A large long-term study published last fall in the Archives of Internal Medicine tracked almost 39,000 postmenopausal women for as long as 22 years. It found that those who took multivitamins, vitamin B6, folic acid, iron, magnesium, zinc, or copper had a slightly higher risk of death than those who did not. The risk was especially pronounced for those who took iron.
Vitamin and supplement don'ts
The advice below will help you make smart decisions.
Don’t assume all supplements are safe
Surveys of consumers have shown that many think the U.S. Food and Drug Administration clears all supplements before they are sold. That’s not the case. The FDA doesn’t generally verify claims made by supplement manufacturers before products reach the market, and federal law doesn’t require dietary supplements to be tested for content, safety, or efficacy. One quality indicator is the USP-Verified mark, which means that products that carry it (including their raw ingredients) have met the U.S. Pharmacopeia’s high standards. Go to USP.org for a list of brands and products.
A Consumer Reports investigation in 2010 found 12 supplements you should steer clear of: aconite, bitter orange, chaparral, colloidal silver, coltsfoot, comfrey, country mallow, germanium, greater celandine, kava, lobelia, and yohimbe. In addition, be aware that harmful ingredients have been found in many supplements, especially those that claim to boost weight loss, enhance your sex life, or increase muscle mass.
Don't rely on biased information from some retailers
Websites that sell supplements might mention research studies, but they don’t necessarily offer reliable, evidence-based advice. Some good places to assess your nutritional needs are the FDA, the National Institute of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements, and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Don’t substitute pills for vegetables
The marketing for Centrum’s new ProNutrients Fruit & Veggie pills says each one “harnesses the power equal to one serving of a blend of fruits and vegetables.” But it also states that the product “is not intended to replace your daily intake of fruit and vegetables.” No pill can replicate the benefits of produce. Researchers don’t know exactly why, but evidence shows that stripping nutrients from food reduces their effects. Bottom line: Rely on produce, not pills!
Don't assume you need a multi
Evidence shows they don’t boost the average person’s health, so if your doctor recommends taking one, ask why. A 2011 study of 182,000 people found that taking multivitamins didn’t cut the risk of death from cancer, cardiovascular disease, or other conditions; nor did they reduce the risk of getting cancer. To get the nutrients you need, eat them. Go for nutrient-packed legumes, nuts, low-fat dairy products, dark-green leafy vegetables, whole grains, citrus fruit, and berries.
Don’t take extra vitamin A
This vitamin is important for your vision and helps regulate cell division, build bone, and fight infections. But taking too much from supplements can weaken bones and lead to birth defects, liver damage, and disorders of the central nervous system. And there’s some evidence that it can impair vitamin D absorption, already a problem for many older adults. The Institute of Medicine recommends that healthy adults avoid vitamin A supplements. If you take a multi that contains vitamin A, make sure it doesn’t have more than 2,500 IU from preformed vitamin A, which is derived from animal sources (sometimes called vitamin A acetate or vitamin A palmitate on labels). In its plant-based precursor form, betacarotene, vitamin A is abundant in carrots, cantaloupes, sweet potatoes, and spinach. Deficiencies are rare in the U.S.
Don’t mix pills that can lead to bad reactions
Supplements can be dangerous when combined with prescription drugs. Vitamin C, for example, has been shown to reduce the potency of many chemotherapy drugs. The herb St. John’s wort can interfere with oral contraceptives, seizure medication, blood thinners, and antidepressants. And if you take the blood thinner warfarin (available under the brand name Coumadin and as a generic), you should avoid a long list of popular supplements, including ginkgo biloba, ginseng, saw palmetto, and St. John’s wort. So if you’re taking any medicine, talk with your doctor before you buy any supplements. And if you’re prescribed a medication, tell your doctor about any supplements you’re taking.
Don’t overdose
Taking megadoses of certain vitamins and supplements, unless under medical supervision, isn’t a very good idea. High doses of vitamin E taken over a long period have been linked to a small but increased risk of lung cancer. Very high levels of vitamin D can cause kidney and tissue damage, and too much calcium can lead to kidney stones. Fish oil may reduce the risk of stroke, particularly ischemic stroke, the most common kind, but too much may increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke, the less common but more deadly kind. An overdose of iron can damage organ function, and if left untreated can lead to death.
One way to overdo it is to take a multi on top of individual vitamins and mineral pills and/or
nutrient-packed drinks. Our advice: Tally the amount of each nutrient you take and go over it with your doctor. You can look up nutrient amounts in products at the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s Dietary Supplement Label Database. Also, if your doctor says you need more of a specific nutrient, ask about the best way to get it. A single vitamin or mineral pill might be all you need.
Don't keep secrets from your doctor
Involve him or her in the decision-making process about which supplements you’re considering—or whether you should take them at all. Your doctor can diagnose deficiencies and help determine whether you need more of a certain nutrient.
Some doctors “prescribe” vitamin and mineral add-ons based on a patient’s age, diet, and individual health issues and risks. If your doctor isn’t well-versed about supplements, consider consulting a dietitian to work with him or her. (Find one at Eatright.org.) Another option: Consider consulting one of a growing number of integrative medicine physicians. To find one near you, use the practitioner finder created by the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.
Editor's Note: This report was made possible by a grant from the Airborne Cy Pres Fund, which was established through a legal settlement of a national class-action lawsuit (Wilson v. Airborne Health, Inc., et al.) regarding deceptive advertising practices.

Botulism, Listeria and Scombrotoxin Risk at Blue Ocean Smokehouse
Source : http://www.marlerblog.com/case-news/botulism-listeria-and-scombrotoxin-risk-at-blue-ocean-smokehouse/
By Bill Marler (Mar 29 , 2012)
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, in a complaint filed by the Department of Justice, is seeking to stop the processing and distribution of fish products at Blue Ocean Smokehouse because of a risk of botulism and other food hazards.
If granted, the permanent injunction against Fujino Enterprises Inc., doing business as Blue Ocean Smokehouse, of Half Moon Bay, Calif., would stop the company from processing and distributing fish and fish products. Blue Ocean’s president Erika Fujino also is named in the government’s complaint.
Blue Ocean processes fresh and smoked fish and fish products including salmon, cod, halibut, Wild King Salmon Candy (a honey-glazed, cold-smoked salmon), hot-smoked tuna, sturgeon and hot-smoked fish cream cheese spreads. Blue Ocean receives fish for processing from outside California, including salmon from Washington state and sturgeon from Oregon.
The complaint alleges that the company’s fish and fish products are adulterated, because they are processed under conditions that do not comply with the agency’s Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulations. HACCP is a science-based system of preventive controls for food safety that is used by commercial seafood processors to identify potential food safety hazards and take steps to keep them from occurring.  The complaint also alleges that Blue Ocean’s fish are adulterated because the conditions under which they are prepared, packed, and held fail to conform to the Current Good Manufacturing Practice requirements for food established to ensure that food is processed in a safe and sanitary manner. An FDA inspection in October 2011 found poor employee sanitation practices and showed that the company’s facility was not maintained in a manner that protected against food contamination.
Blue Ocean’s vacuum-packaged hot and cold smoked fish products may pose a risk for the development of Clostridium botulinum toxin that can cause botulism, a rare but serious illness that may result in paralysis, inhibited respiration, and death. This toxin cannot be removed by cooking or freezing.
Investigators also found Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono) on food-contact and non-food-contact surfaces in the food processing areas of the company’s facility. Listeriosis, the illness caused by L. mono, can cause fatal infections in young children, the elderly, and individuals with weakened immune systems. Pregnant women may suffer miscarriages or stillbirths as a result of the infection.
In addition, Blue Ocean’s tuna products may pose a risk for the development of scombrotoxin (histamine), a toxin that also cannot be removed by cooking or freezing, and that can cause an illness known as scombrotoxin poisoning.
The company’s violations led to its voluntary destruction of almost 1,500 pounds of hot- and cold-smoked fish in October 2011, under the supervision of the FDA and the California Department of Public Health.
The complaint was filed on March 13, 2012, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
No illnesses have been reported to date associated with Blue Ocean’s products.  However, see FDA Warning Letter.

California Lifts Quarantine at Raw Milk Dairy Farm in San Benito County
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2012/california-lifts-quarantine-at-raw-milk-dairy-farm-in-san-benito-county/
By Kathy Will (Mar 29 , 2012)
The California Department of Public Health is continuing to investigate possible Campylobacter outbreaks in areas of the state where consumption of raw milk products may have occurred. But meanwhile, state officials have lifted a quarantine at the Panoche, California, dairy farm where Campylobacter was found in raw cream.
State-licensed Claravale Farm recalled raw whole milk, raw skim milk and raw cream last week in connection with the food poisoning investigation. Claravale’s retail distribution area consists of 10 independent retail outlets around the greater Santa Cruz, Soquel and Monterey areas.
State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Whiteford lifted the quarantine, saying: “Claravale Farm has met state sanitation requirements and food safety regulations to clear its production, processing and packaging operations.”
Symptoms of Campylobacter infection include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever. Most people with campylobacteriosis recover completely. Illness usually occurs 2 to 5 days after exposure to the pathogen and lasts about a week. The illness is usually mild and some people with campylobacteriosis have no symptoms at all. However, in some persons with compromised immune systems, it can cause a serious, life-threatening condition known at Gullain-Barre’ Syndrome.

Meat and Poultry, Large Gatherings Tied to C Perfringens Outbreaks
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2012/meat-and-poultry-large-gatherings-tied-to-c-perfringens-outbreaks/
By Kathy Will (Mar 28 , 2012)
Clostridium perfringens is estimated to be the third most common cause of foodborne illness in the United States and a full 91 percent of outbreaks identified with a single food are attributed to meat or poultry products.
Those are among the findings that a group of CDC researchers reported recently in Atlanta at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases 2012.
The bacterium causes 1 million illnesses each year, with outbreaks ranging broadly in number from year to year under no apparent trend. One of the researchers, Julian Grass, did note that that outbreaks peak during the holiday season, when people tend to gather in large groups to eat foods such as roasts, gravies, and poultry that are cooked in large batches or prepared ahead of serving.
From 1998 to 2008, 253 laboratory-confirmed outbreaks of C perfringens illness were reported, which included 74 hospitalizations, and 5 deaths. The annual number of outbreak-related illnesses ranged from 359 to 2,173, with a median outbreak size of 24 illnesses. The biggest outbreak over the 10-year period sickened 950 people.
About half of the outbreaks were attributed to a single food commodity; of those, beef was implicated in 46 percent of the outbreaks. The next most common causes were poultry, which caused 30 percent of outbreaks, and pork, which caused 16 percent.
People infected with C. perfringens develop watery diarrhea and abdominal cramps within 6 to 24 hours (typically 8-12). The illness usually begins suddenly and lasts for less than 24 hours. Persons infected with C. perfringens usually do not have fever or vomiting. The illness is not passed from one person to another.
Outbreaks often happen in institutions such as hospitals, school cafeterias, prisons, and nursing homes, or at events with catered food

CDC Revises St. Louis Romaine Lettuce Outbreak Report
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/03/cdc-amends-schnucks-romaine-lettuce-outbreak-report/
By Mary Rothschild (Mar 23 , 2012)
Last fall's multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infection linked to romaine lettuce served mostly at Schnucks salad bars sickened 58 people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in an update on the investigation Friday.
Two people were removed from the case count, last reported on Dec. 7, 2011,  after advanced molecular testing determined their illnesses were not related to the outbreak strain, the CDC said.
Identified by the CDC as "grocery store Chain A," Schnucks, a popular St. Louis supermarket chain with an excellent food-safety history, has already acknowledged that something from its salad bars was the likely source of the outbreak and its cooperation with outbreak investigators has been widely reported.
According to the CDC report, the ill people were from nine states: 38 in Missouri; 9 in Illinois; 2 each in Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas and Minnesota; and 1 each in Arizona, Kentucky and Nebraska.  The two cases removed from the outbreak count had been reported earlier from Georgia and Kansas.
Those sickened ranged in age from 1 to 94 years old; the median age was 28. Of 49 patients the CDC had information on, 33 (67 percent) required hospitalization and three developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
The epidemiologic investigation compared foods eaten by 22 ill people and 82 healthy people, including 45 well people who shopped at Schnuck's during the week of October 17, 2011. 
The ill people  (85 percent) were significantly more likely than the well people (46 percent) to tell investigators they had eaten romaine lettuce in the week before they became ill.
Among those who specifically shopped at Schnuck's grocery stores, the ill people (89 percent) were far more likely than the well people (9 percent) to report eating a salad from the salad bar.
Outbreak investigators found that of 18 ill people, 94 percent said they had eaten romaine lettuce from the salad bar. No other lettuce variety or food item from the salad bar was reported by more than 55 percent of the ill persons, the CDC noted.
The traceback investigation, conducted by the Food and Drug Administration and several state public health agencies, pointed to a single lot of romaine lettuce from one farm, the CDC said. "This indicates that contamination of romaine lettuce likely occurred before the product reached grocery store Chain A locations," the report states.
The CDC report also did not identify what company distributed the romaine lettuce or where it came from. 
The CDC report says the suspect lettuce was supplied to a university campus in Minnesota and also to a distributor that supplied lettuce to a campus in Missouri, but records were insufficient to determine if the suspect lot went to the latter university.
The grower is referred to as "Farm A" in the CDC report, which notes that by the time investigators figured out where the lettuce originated, "Farm A was no longer in production" so it was not possible to determine how the lettuce became contaminated.
Marler Clark, the law firm that sponsors Food Safety News, has filed lawsuits on behalf of two people sickened in this outbreak. Vaughan Foods, an Oklahoma-based distributor, was added to both complaints when, through the law firm's own investigation, it learned the company supplied the romaine lettuce to Schnucks.
On Friday Bill Marler said public health is not served when the CDC declines to name the source of contaminated food.
"At this point it is public knowledge that Schnucks and Vaughan Foods had a role in this outbreak," said Marler in a prepared statement.  "The CDC states that it saves lives, protects people, and saves money through prevention.  How does trying to keep the public in the dark accomplish any of these objectives?
"By keeping these companies' names secret, the CDC may be trying to protect businesses, but is ultimately doing the public a disservice by quashing important data that could otherwise help consumers make informed decisions about what to eat and where to shop."
 
Popcorn-shaped gold particles gang up on Salmonella
Source : http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-03/acs-pgp030512.php
By Michael Bernstein , Michael Woods (Mar 27 , 2012)
Take an ounce of lettuce, test it for 17 hours, and the results show whether that mainstay ingredient in green salads is contaminated with Salmonella, the food poisoning bacteria that sickens millions of people each year. Another traditional test takes 72 hours to complete. How about a test that identifies Salmonella in five minutes, so that shipments of lettuce can be confiscated before they reach the table?
Scientists today described development and successful testing of just such a test in a presentation here at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific society.
Paresh C. Ray, Ph.D., who led the research, explained that the test fulfills an urgent need for a faster way to detect Salmonella, especially the multiple-drug resistant (MDR) strains that cause the most serious disease in both food and drinking water. In the U.S., Salmonella-contaminated food causes at least 1.6 million cases of food poisoning annually. Elsewhere in the developing world, drinking water contaminated with MDR Salmonella causes terrible outbreaks of typhoid fever, which strikes at least 17 million people annually.
"The test for lettuce requires just a tiny sample of lettuce leaf," Ray explained. "It doesn't take a trained laboratory technician to perform the test or read the results. If the color changes from pink to bluish, that signals the presence of Salmonella. The test is suitable for use in farm fields and in remote areas of the developing world. We believe it may have enormous potential for rapid, on-site pathogen detection to avoid the distribution of contaminated foods."
To find the bacteria faster, Ray and colleagues at Jackson State University in Mississippi enlisted gold nanoparticles, vanishingly small bits of gold so tiny that more than 25,000 would fit across the width of a human hair. The researchers attached antibodies, molecules similar to the ones that help the immune system find and fight infections with Salmonella, to the nanoparticles. Viewed under a powerful microscope, the gold nanoparticles look somewhat like individual pieces of popcorn.
When these antibodies encounter Salmonella bacteria, they attach to the outer surface of the bacteria, carrying along their cargo of gold popcorn-shaped nanoparticles. The nanoparticle-antibody package is much smaller than an individual Salmonella bacterium, and several attach to each bacterium. The test, with its pink-to-blue color change, detects those gold nanoparticle-antibody-Salmonella structures, which Ray calls "aggregates."
The approach also has potential for killing MDR Salmonella, Ray said.
"When you shine the right wavelength of light into contaminated water, for instance, the gold nanoparticles absorb that light and heat up," he explained. "Those hot particles burn through the outer membrane of the Salmonella bacteria, killing the bacteria."
Ray and colleagues first developed the popcorn-shaped particles to find and fight cancer. The shape was chosen because it boosts the signal for detection using something called Raman spectroscopy, which looks at the light given off after atoms or molecules absorb energy. Ray explained that this detection method is useful in other applications of the particles. "In science, we call that the lightning rod effect," said Ray, describing how the splayed "tips" of the popcorn shape enhance the signal and make it easier to see. The group has also used the nanoparticles to detect other microbes, like E. coli.
Despite gold's stature as a precious and very costly metal, only tiny amounts are needed, Ray noted. About $90 worth of gold is enough to make gallons of the solution containing the nanoparticles. And only a few drops of the solution are needed seek out Salmonella bacteria.
Ray said the technology can be commercialized, and a patent is pending. With concerns about the potential health and environmental effects of many kinds of nanoparticles, Ray's team is investigating the effects of gold nanoparticles remaining in purified water, for instance. So far, they have found no short-term toxicity and will be checking on any potential long-term toxicity.

Lab tests link salmonella outbreak to school lunch caterer
Source : http://www.ottawacitizen.com/health/tests+link+salmonella+outbreak+school+lunch+caterer/6351591/story.html
By David Reevely (Mar 24 , 2012)
Lab tests indicate that an outbreak of salmonella that has sickened 46 children likely came from food served by a lunch caterer that primarily serves schools, according to the city’s health department.
Samples of frozen ground beef and raw chicken taken from a kitchen belonging to a Lunch Lady franchise on Boyd Avenue tested positive for the stomach bug detected in the children and four adults who’ve been sick enough to seek medical attention in the last two weeks, the department said in a Friday evening statement.
“The results further point to a link between the outbreak and the ground beef prepared at the caterer, but additional testing is still underway,” the statement said.
The beef was tainted with salmonella typhimurium and the chicken with salmonella heidelberg, it said, two of the many, many forms of the bacteria. The department’s investigation has pointed particularly to Lunch Lady meat lasagna and beef tacos as foods eaten by people who later got sick.
Salmonella is often found in chicken and somewhat less often in beef. It can be rendered harmless if food is cooked to a high enough temperature.
The challenge now is to determine whether the meat was contaminated when it arrived at the kitchen or became tainted while Lunch Lady workers handled it. The health department “is in communication with the Provincial and Federal Health and Food Safety authorities to assist in the ongoing investigation and response,” the statement said.
According to public records, the Boyd Avenue kitchen has been inspected four times since news of the outbreak became public and received a clean report each time, but it could have been just one worker with dirty hands who spread the infection. The kitchen is staying closed, the health department said.
Salmonella bacteria can cause vomiting, diarrhea, cramps and fever. In severe cases — involving bloody diarrhea, dehydration, or persistent fever — a victim needs medical attention. It’s likely that many more people have been made sick by the current outbreak than the health department knows because it only counts cases confirmed by lab tests.
Fifty people (46 children and four adults) became sick in cases believed to be connected to this outbreak, which the department revealed at the beginning of last week. Known cases have been found in about a dozen elementary schools, a Kanata daycare, and at Merivale High School. In the high school case, an older sibling likely caught the bug from a younger one. To prevent more secondary infections, the health department urges Ottawans to be careful about hygiene, especially when preparing food.
The health department also added three more schools to the list of institutions where related cases have been identified:
Featherston Drive Public School in Alta Vista, First Avenue Public School in the Glebe, and Holy Redeemer School in Kanata.

Allergen Alert: Smoked Sausage With Whey, Casein
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/03/allergen-alert-smoked-sausage-with-whey-casein/
By Julia Thomas (Mar 27 , 2012)
J Bar B Foods of Waelder, TX is recalling approximately 64,020 pounds of smoked sausages because they contain whey and casein, allergens that are not declared on the label, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced Monday. There have been no reports of adverse reactions.
According to the recall notice, the company discovered the problem during a label review. The company had used a spice mix from its supplier that contained hydrolyzed whey and casein protein, but product label does not list the allergens as ingredients in the sausage.
The recall is for 11-pound boxes of Eckrich Smoked Sausage Made with Pork and Beef with a sell-by date of March 26, 2012 or later. Each box bears a label with the establishment number Est. 7066 inside the USDA mark of inspection. The sausages were produced from Jan. 16, 2012 to the present and were sent to distribution centers in Dallas, TX and Indianapolis, IN for institutional use.
For more information contact Bonnie Hyman, J Bar B Foods' Public Relations Manager, at 830-788-7511.

Tracking Outbreaks With Electronic Medical Records
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2012/tracking-outbreaks-with-electronic-medical-rceords/
By Carla Gillespie (Mar 26 , 2012)
Electronic medical records (EMRs) might be the key to better detection of gastrointestinal disease (GI) outbreaks, according to a study published in the current issue of Foodborne Pathogens and Disease.
Researchers who wondered if passive reporting and laboratory testing delays were holding back efforts to detect GI disease outbreaks used data from EMRs to see if detection could be improved.
They used 2009 zip code-specific daily episode counts from Kaiser Permanente Northern California EMRs, covering 3.3 million members and were able to detect 28 potential outbreaks using single stream analyses. They were able to discover additional outbreaks using multi-stream analyses and in one example, improved the timeliness of detection.
The research team, Sharon K. Greene, Jie Huang, Allyson M. Abrams, Debra Gilliss, Mary Reed, Richard Platt, Susan S. Huang, and Martin Kulldorff, concluded that tracking outbreaks with EMRs could be a good way for health departments to supplement their traditional methods of tracking outbreaks.


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