Comprehensive News List
General Food Safety News/ Outbreak News/ Recall News/ New Methods News/
/ On-Line Slides/ Job Information/Internet Journal of Food Safety

FSIS Set to Implement Non-O157 E. coli Policy Next Week
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/05/fsis-set-to-implement-new-non-o157-e-coli-policy-next-week/
By Helena Bottemiller (May 30, 2012)
Just days before the agency is set to begin testing raw beef trimmings for more strains of disease-causing E. coli, the Food Safety and Inspection Service issued a detailed response to comments it has received about the new policy.
The new document, published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, confirms that despite industry calls for delay, FSIS will begin testing trimmings for six additional Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) next week on June 4. As of that date, any raw, non-intact beef products or components contaminated with STECs O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, and O145, will be legally considered adulterated -- just as the agency has long treated E. coli O157:H7.
The agency also said that it will issue a Federal Register notice to implement routine verification testing for the six STECs in additional raw beef products, including ground beef.
The policy rollout has not come without challenges. When FSIS first announced its intent to consider more non-O157 STEC adulterants, it said the verification and testing program would begin on March 5, 2012. But the agency eventually pushed back the implementation date to June 4, 2012 to "allow establishments time to implement appropriate changes in their food safety systems, including changes in process control procedures."
In its response to comments, FSIS said that it disagreed with several of the reasons cited by those seeking a delay, including requests to conduct a baseline study before moving forward with the policy.
"FSIS has concluded that a baseline is neither necessary nor warranted before implementation of the FSIS verification sampling and testing program," said the agency in the document. "These organisms are present in beef products in the United States; the evidence for this is presented in the risk profile. FSIS considers the data on non-O157 STECs obtained by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) at a limited number of slaughter establishments to be evidence that the pathogens should be considered adulterants and are capable of causing illness."
"FSIS also considered data collected by the person who petitioned the Agency to declare these pathogens to be adulterants in a limited geographical retail area," added the document, presumably referring to the testing commissioned by food safety attorney Bill Marler (publisher of Food Safety News), who petitioned FSIS to consider non-O157 STECs adulterants in 2009.
Marler said he was pleased the testing project helped back up the new policy.
"Although the cost of the testing was high - just over $500,000 - it helped support that non-E. coli O157 bacteria were still getting through the beef industry's safety net of interventions," said Marler. "I think adding the bugs as adulterants will prompt more innovation by industry that, in the long run, will benefit both consumers and industry by driving down the number of people sickened."
FSIS also pointed to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which clearly showed that non-O157 STEC "pose a significant public health burden in the United States," to support the agency's position.
The document added that, "FSIS and the CDC believe that there are more unreported and unconfirmed illnesses associated with the specified non-O157 STECs than with E. coli O157:H7."
Though FSIS is moving forward with the policy next week, the agency is planning to conduct a carcass baseline study in 2013 -- not just for non-O157 STEC, but also for E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella and indicator bacteria. The study will look at contamination immediately after hide removal but before food safety interventions and evisceration.
On the whole, the agency said that the new non-O157 STEC testing policy is not meant to be a panacea, but to help regulators determine whether the industry is controlling the pathogens to keep them out of the food supply.
"FSIS acknowledges that the best approach to reducing STEC contamination lies not in comprehensive end-product testing but in the development and implementation of science-based preventive controls, with end-product testing to verify process control," read the notice. "FSIS's non-O157 STEC testing program will improve food safety because FSIS anticipates that establishments may voluntarily make changes to their food safety systems in response to the new testing. For example, establishments may initiate a testing program for non-O157 STECs or may add new interventions to address pathogens."
The notice also addressed the concerns about imported beef products and whether the new policy might violate the United States' obligations under the Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures, a World Trade Organization accord.
FSIS stated that the agency has notified trading partners about the policy, including conducting video and teleconferences to help foreign governments understand the new measure. The agency said it will treat incoming foreign products the same way it treats product tested for E. coli O157: H7.

Contaminated Beef Mars Australia's Usually Clean Track Record
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/05/contaminated-beef-mars-australias-usually-clean-track-record
By Gretchen Goetz (May 25, 2012)
The ground beef product that was recalled last week by two South Carolina-based manufacturers was imported from Australia and contaminated before it arrived, according to one of the importers.
After testing conducted by the South Carolina Meat and Poultry Inspection Department revealed E. coli in a sample of boxed beef from Australia, two U.S. companies - G & W, Inc. and Lancaster Frozen Foods - recalled almost 7,000 pounds of ground beef products made with meat sourced from the foreign producer.
"We never sold the box that was contaminated but we went ahead and did a recall on everything that was in that lot number," Emily Clayton, director of operations at G & W told Food Safety News.
A detailed list of those products made with beef from the contaminated lot is available here.
The boxed beef was imported in March and then stored in freezers before being processed into ground beef products, which were produced between March 2 and May 11 at Lancaster Frozen Foods and between March 2 and April 12 at G&W.
While several hundred pounds of the product had not yet been distributed, the majority of it was processed and sold, says JoAnna Clayton, vice president of G & W
According to Clayton, the sample of the contaminated meat was collected by S.C. Meat and Poultry Inspection in April, weeks before her company was notified that it contained E. coli.
"If the test was done in April why didn't they know before now that there was a problem?" she asks.
Pulsed-Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE) tests - the kind government agencies rely on to confirm pathogen presence in food - usually take around a week to process, but this recall came well outside of that time frame.
None of the other beef from the lot containing the contaminated box tested positive for pathogens, according to Emily Clayton.
This is the first time the company has had a problem with a contaminated product, she says.
Contamination in beef from Australia is also a rare event. Australian beef accounts for around 20 percent of the beef imported into the U.S.. Between March 2011 and March of 2012, the United States imported approximately 560 million pounds of beef from Australia.
Beef from the country has one of the best safety records among American imports. A 2007 study found that boneless beef trim from Australia had a lower concentration of pathogens than the same meat from other countries that export to the U.S..
Clyde Hoskins, director of the S.C. Meat and Poultry Inspection Department, housed at Clemson University, told Food Safety News that the department cannot give out any more information on the origin of the contaminated meat until the investigation is concluded.
No illnesses have been associated with the products subject to this recall.

Maryland’s Governor Signs Bill Banning Arsenic in Poultry Feed
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2012/marylands-governor-signs-bill-banning-arsenic-in-poultry-feed
By Linda Larsen (May 23, 2012)
Martin O’Malley, Maryland’s governor, signed a bill on May 22, 2012 banning arsenic in poultry feed. Maryland is the first state in the country to ban this practice. The law takes effect January 1, 2013.
HB 167 prohibits a person from “using, selling, or distributing specified commercial feed intended for use as poultry feed that contains roxarsone or any other additive that contains arsenic.”
Roxarsone is also known as 3-Nitro®. It was sold by a subsidiary of Pfizer called Alpharma and was used to prevent coccidiosis, a parasite poultry disease. The drug was also used for weight gain, feed efficiency, and improved pigmentation.
Roxarsone was first approved for use in 1944. At that time, scientists believed that organic arsenic would be excreted as organic arsenic. But new evidence has found that animals transform organic arsenic into inorganic arsenic. Under the Delaney Clause, the FDA cannot approve any compound used in food-producing animals which creates metabolites that are carcinogenic.
In June 2011, Alpharma discontinued sales of the product after an FDA study found inorganic arsenic at higher levels in chickens treated with the compound. While chicken producers say that organic arsenic is used in chicken feed, inorganic arsenic was still found in the birds.
Arsenic is a known human carcinogen. While arsenic is found naturally in the environment, inorganic arsenic is more harmful to human health. Exposure to inorganic arsenic over time can lead to cancer of the lungs, skin, bladder, kidney, liver, and prostate and can cause heart disease and neurological problems.
The levels of inorganic arsenic found in the chickens were very low, according to the FDA, and “continuing to eat chicken as 3-Nitro® is suspended from the market does not pose a health risk.”
The European Union has banned arsenic products in poultry feed and has a zero-tolerance level for arsenic in raw chicken.  The FDA set “safe” levels for arsenic in chicken in 1951 and has not changed that level, even though poultry consumption in the U.S. has tripled since that time.
Food and Water Watch, a nonprofit group, says that arsenic in chicken flesh isn’t the only issue; it’s also excreted by the birds. And that waste is used to fertilize farm fields. Like all fertilizer, it eventually ends up in our waterways. And organic arsenic in the waste breaks down into inorganic arsenic. That organization wants to see a ban on arsenical feed additives and drugs.

UK Imposes Moratorium on Desinewed Meat
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/05/uk-imposes-moratorium-on-desinewed-meat/
By Dan Flynn (May 25, 2012)
Desinewed meat, produced with low-pressure separation equipment to remove flesh from meaty bones, is outlawed in the United Kingdom beginning tomorrow.
The UK's Food Safety Agency is imposing what it calls a moratorium on the product it considers to be perfectly safe in order to satisfy the European Commission's Food and Veterinary Office.
Nobody in the UK is happy about it, especially the way the EC's Food and Veterinary Office in Brussels went about making it happen.   After a routine March 6-14 visit to the UK, the EC office on March 28 wrote FSA to demand that low-pressure desinewed meat be categorized and labeled as mechanically separated meat (MSM).
The UK had five days to respond, and if it did not go along, British minced meat, meat products and meat preparations could be barred from the EU market.
And the Catch 22 was that ruminant bones used in producing desinewed meat with low pressure are prohibited in anything labeled as MSM.
That brought the first moratorium, imposed on April 28, prohibiting ruminant bones in desinewed meat.  It will be extended to cover poultry and pork bones on Saturday, May 26, unless there is a last-minute reprieve.
Tim Smith, FSA's executive director, says the agency has opted to use the word "moratorium" rather than "ban" because it does not want to give the impression the action is permanent. 
In his report on the issue, Smith said desinewed meat has the appearance, taste and texture of minced meat. He said there is no increased risk to public health arising from the low-pressure technique.
Because of the EU's action, the first formal risk assessment by UK's Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens is underway.  Smith said much information already exists on the safety of desinewed meat.
The Food Safety Agency has come under fire for its part in carrying out the moratorium for a meat product it considers safe. Members of Parliament (MPs) serving on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee said FSA had "rolled over."
In his report to the FSA board, Smith said the agency took the actions only after "intensive cross government liaison."  Previously, Smith admitted to being taken aback by the "disproportionate reaction" of the EC.
The UK is not the only European country producing desinewed meat, making a possible challenge to the UC's action for likely. The EC reportedly agrees the meat is safe. 
"We are the food safety regulator," says Jeff Rooker, FSA board chairman, "We are not the cheerleader for industry, but industry has been dealt with most unfairly in the way this issue has been dealt by the EC."  
The moratorium on desinewed meat, a low-pressure, low-tech process, is unrelated to the high-pressure, high-tech process used to make lean finely textured beef (LFTB), usually called "pink slime" in the popular media. 
Separating meat from bone is what makes desinewed meat. Separating fat from meat results in LFTB. At the moment, however, one thing the two processes have in common is that both are banned by the EC.
British meat experts say the loss of desinewed meat will result in estimated economic losses of £200 million. Newby Foods, a desinewed meat producer, has laid off 40 workers.

USDA Wants Families to "Grill It Safe" This Memorial Day Weekend
Source : http://www.fsis.usda.gov/News_&_Events/NR_052412_01/index.asp
By Admin ( May 24,2012)
Food safety resources for grilling and other summer activities are available to help consumers prevent food poisoning during warmer months
Days are getting warmer, baseball season is in full swing, and Memorial Day is fast approaching—all signs that the summer cookout season is nearly upon us. As you welcome summer at your Memorial Day weekend barbecue this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) reminds you that no recipe, whether it is meant for the kitchen or the grill, can be a success without including food safety steps. In addition to working to ensure that meat and poultry establishments prevent pathogens from contaminating food, FSIS also would like to provide consumers with the necessary tools to further protect their loved ones from foodborne illness.
"As summer cookout season approaches, we want to urge consumers to take the necessary precautions to protect their families from foodborne illness," said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. "By following these simple tips, consumers will have the tools and knowledge to ensure that their Memorial Day cookouts will be a fun and safe start to the summer."
FSIS has compiled all of its summer and grilling food safety resources into one convenient location on its website under the heading "Grill It Safe." To find fact sheets, videos, and podcasts about safe handling and preparation of food in warmer months, go to www.fsis.usda.gov/Food_Safety_Education/Grill_It_Safe/. FSIS also offers tips on how the four basic food safety steps—clean, separate, cook, and chill—that the agency recommends year-round can be tailored to fit summer activities.
First things first—start with clean surfaces and clean hands. Be sure that you and your guests wash your hands before preparing or handling food. Hands should be washed with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Equally important is making sure that the surfaces that come in contact with raw and cooked foods are clean before you start and are washed frequently.
Raw meats and poultry should be prepared separately from vegetables and cooked foods. As you chop meats and veggies, be sure to use separate cutting boards. Juices from raw meats can contain harmful bacteria that could spread to raw veggies and already cooked foods.
Never begin grilling without your most important tool—a food thermometer. Color is not a reliable indicator of doneness. Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often brown quickly and may appear done on the outside, but still may not have reached a safe minimum internal temperature to kill any harmful bacteria. Whole cuts of pork, lamb, veal, and beef should be cooked to 145 °F as measured by a food thermometer placed in the thickest part of the meat, followed by a three-minute rest time before carving or consuming. Hamburgers and other ground beef should reach 160 °F. All poultry should reach a minimum temperature of 165 °F. Fish should be cooked to 145 °F. Fully cooked meats like hot dogs should be grilled to 165 °F or until steaming hot.
As you take the cooked meats off the grill, be sure to place them on a clean platter, not on the dish that held them when they were raw. The juices left on the plate from raw meat can spread bacteria to safely cooked food.
If you are smoking meats, the temperature in the smoker should be maintained between 225 °F and 300 °F for safety. Be sure to use your food thermometer to be certain the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature.
Keeping food at a safe temperature can be a concern at outdoor picnics and cookouts. Too often, food is prepared and left to sit out while guests munch over the course of several hours. Bacteria grow most rapidly between 40 °F and 140 °F, so perishable food should never sit out for more than two hours. If the temperature is higher than 90 °F—which is common in the summer—food should not sit out more than one hour. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers promptly and discard any food that has been sitting out too long.
It is important to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Hot foods can be kept hot on the grill and cold foods can be kept chilled with ice packs or ice sources in a cooler.

Maryland’s Governor Signs Bill Banning Arsenic in Poultry Feed
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2012/marylands-governor-signs-bill-banning-arsenic-in-poultry-feed
By Linda Larsen (May 23, 2012)
Martin O’Malley, Maryland’s governor, signed a bill on May 22, 2012 banning arsenic in poultry feed. Maryland is the first state in the country to ban this practice. The law takes effect January 1, 2013.
HB 167 prohibits a person from “using, selling, or distributing specified commercial feed intended for use as poultry feed that contains roxarsone or any other additive that contains arsenic.”
Roxarsone is also known as 3-Nitro®. It was sold by a subsidiary of Pfizer called Alpharma and was used to prevent coccidiosis, a parasite poultry disease. The drug was also used for weight gain, feed efficiency, and improved pigmentation.
Roxarsone was first approved for use in 1944. At that time, scientists believed that organic arsenic would be excreted as organic arsenic. But new evidence has found that animals transform organic arsenic into inorganic arsenic. Under the Delaney Clause, the FDA cannot approve any compound used in food-producing animals which creates metabolites that are carcinogenic.
In June 2011, Alpharma discontinued sales of the product after an FDA study found inorganic arsenic at higher levels in chickens treated with the compound. While chicken producers say that organic arsenic is used in chicken feed, inorganic arsenic was still found in the birds.
Arsenic is a known human carcinogen. While arsenic is found naturally in the environment, inorganic arsenic is more harmful to human health. Exposure to inorganic arsenic over time can lead to cancer of the lungs, skin, bladder, kidney, liver, and prostate and can cause heart disease and neurological problems.
The levels of inorganic arsenic found in the chickens were very low, according to the FDA, and “continuing to eat chicken as 3-Nitro® is suspended from the market does not pose a health risk.”
The European Union has banned arsenic products in poultry feed and has a zero-tolerance level for arsenic in raw chicken.  The FDA set “safe” levels for arsenic in chicken in 1951 and has not changed that level, even though poultry consumption in the U.S. has tripled since that time.
Food and Water Watch, a nonprofit group, says that arsenic in chicken flesh isn’t the only issue; it’s also excreted by the birds. And that waste is used to fertilize farm fields. Like all fertilizer, it eventually ends up in our waterways. And organic arsenic in the waste breaks down into inorganic arsenic. That organization wants to see a ban on arsenical feed additives and drugs.

Listeria control during sliced meat production
Source : http://www.food.gov.uk/news/newsarchive/2012/may/listresearch
By  Admin (May 23, 2012)
The Food Standards Agency is inviting tenders to carry out a comprehensive review of current practices in the management of Listeria monocytogenes during cooked sliced meat production.
The FSA’s Foodborne Disease Strategy for 2010 to 2015 identifies Listeria monocytogenes as a priority for action, as it is the leading cause of death from foodborne disease. Therefore, finding ways to reduce exposure of vulnerable consumers to listeria in ready-to-eat foods remains important.
More work is required to understand the sampling and testing regimes used by manufacturers, particularly small-to-medium sized businesses, of ready-to-eat foods and their approaches to controlling listeria in the food supply chain.
Researchers will be required to conduct a comprehensive review of current practices in the management of L. monocytogenes used by manufacturers in the cooked sliced meat sector, identifying key risk areas in the whole processing chain and potential gaps in their management.
Applications should be submitted online, using our electronic procurement system, by 5pm on Wednesday 11 July 2012.
To find out more about this call for tender, you will need to register as a supplier on the FSA’s electronic tendering system, ePPS, via the link below

Campylobacter infections
Source : http://kidshealth.org/parent/infections/stomach/campylobacter.html#cat20617
By Kidhealth ( May 24, 2012)
Campylobacter bacteria, usually transmitted in contaminated food or water, can infect the gastrointestinal tract and cause diarrhea, fever, and cramps. Good hand-washing and food safety habits will help prevent Campylobacter infections (or campylobacteriosis), which usually clear up on their own but sometimes are treated with antibiotics.
Campylobacter infects over 2 million people each year, and it's a leading cause of diarrhea and food-borne illness. Babies under 1 year old, teens, and young adults are most commonly affected.
Campylobacter is found in the intestines of many wild and domestic animals. The bacteria are passed in their feces, which can lead to infection in humans via contaminated food, meats (especially chicken), water taken from contaminated sources (streams or rivers near where animals graze), and milk products that haven't been pasteurized.
Bacteria can be transmitted from person to person when someone comes into contact with fecal matter from an infected person, especially a child in diapers. Household pets can carry and transmit the bacteria to their owners.
Once inside the human digestive system, Campylobacter infects and attacks the lining of both the small and large intestines. The bacteria also can affect other parts of the body. In some cases — particularly in very young patients and those with chronic illnesses or a weak immune system — the bacteria can get into the bloodstream (called bacteremia). In rare cases, campylobacteriosis can lead to Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare autoimmune disorder.
Symptoms usually appear 1 to 7 days after ingestion of the bacteria. The main symptoms of campylobacteriosis are fever, abdominal cramps, and mild to severe diarrhea. Diarrhea can lead to dehydration, which should be closely monitored. Signs of dehydration include: thirst, irritability, restlessness, lethargy, sunken eyes, dry mouth and tongue, dry skin, fewer trips to the bathroom to urinate, and (in infants) a dry diaper for several hours.
In cases of campylobacteriosis, the diarrhea is initially watery, but later may contain blood and mucus. Sometimes, the abdominal pain appears to be a more significant symptom than the diarrhea. When this happens, the infection may be mistaken for appendicitis or a problem with the pancreas.
You can prevent campylobacteriosis by using drinking water that's been tested and approved for purity, especially in developing countries, and by drinking milk that's been pasteurized. While hiking and camping, avoid drinking water from streams and from sources that pass through land where animals graze.
Kill any bacteria in meats by cooking these foods thoroughly and eating while still warm. Whenever you prepare foods, wash your hands well before and after touching raw meats, especially poultry. Clean cutting boards, countertops, and utensils with soap and hot water after contact with raw meat.
As you care for a family member who has diarrhea, remember to wash your hands before touching other people in your household and before handling foods. Clean and disinfect toilets after they're used by the person with diarrhea. Also, if a pet dog or cat has diarrhea, wash your hands frequently and check with your veterinarian about treatment.
Your doctor may send a stool sample to the lab to be tested for Campylobacter bacteria. Other lab tests may also be needed, especially if your child has blood in the stool.
Most kids with campylobacteriosis will recover without medication. Occasionally, a doctor may prescribe an antibiotic, especially if the child is very young or the symptoms are severe or persistent. If your child receives an antibiotic, give it on schedule for as long as the doctor has ordered. Also, do not give nonprescription medicines for diarrhea without first checking with your doctor.
After being checked by a doctor, most kids with Campylobacter infections are treated at home, especially if they show no signs of being seriously dehydrated. They should drink plenty of fluids as long as the diarrhea lasts and be monitored for signs of dehydration.
Kids with mild diarrhea and no dehydration should continue to eat normally and increase their fluid intake — but fruit juices and soft drinks can worsen diarrhea and should be avoided. If your child is dehydrated, your doctor may recommend using an oral rehydration solution. Babies with campylobacteriosis who are breastfed should continue to be breastfed throughout the illness.
Diarrhea usually stops within 2 to 5 days. Full recovery usually takes about 1 week. In about 20% of cases, diarrhea can last longer or recur.

Farmed Shrimp Still Safe, Sensationalized News Report Overplays Antibiotic Use
Source : http://www.perishablenews.com/index.php?article=0022430
By Global Aquaculture Alliance (May 22, 2012)
Despite the impression left by a recent ABC News story on farmed shrimp, the use of antibiotics is neither a common nor accepted practice in shrimp farming. In fact, great progress has been made to eliminate antibiotics, and shrimp can now be obtained from certified sources that provide the food safety assurance that consumers demand.
Shrimp imports to the United States are subject to multiple controls. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration routinely tests imported seafood. Further, exporting countries test and screen shrimp for banned antibiotics and chemicals before it leaves their borders, and countries like China and Thailand also monitor their shrimp farms directly.
For added assurance, seafood buyers typically require their suppliers to test for illegal substances
-- a requirement that is now mandatory for certification programs such as Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP), which the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) developed specifically to address concerns such as antibiotics.
BAP-certified farms produce 192,350 tons (174,500 metric tons) of shrimp annually. Most of this volume is sent to the United States, where it represents over a quarter of the shrimp imported to the U.S.
"The shrimp-farming industry recognizes the use of antibiotics in food production should be avoided due to concerns about food safety and the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria," GAA President George Chamberlain said. "The technology for disease management in shrimp farming has made transformative advances."
Pathogens are increasingly managed through the use of specific pathogen-free broodstock and breeding for genetic resistance to disease. At farms, proper pond preparation, disinfection of incoming water and the application of beneficial bacteria to displace pathogens help limit diseases.
The use of banned substances has been reduced thanks to stiffer regulation and enforcement, and pressure from responsible buyers who refuse to buy suspect shrimp. Education also plays a role.
"GAA has an active educational program to assist farmers, regulators and policy makers in understanding the importance of health management through prevention," Chamberlain said. "We hope further training will help move all aquaculturists further away from the use of unapproved chemicals."

Trouble with Imports: Why the Tempeh Salmonella Outbreak is a larger Problem
Source : http://www.marlerblog.com/lawyer-oped/trouble-with-imports-why-the-tempeh-salmonella-outbreak-is-a-larger-problem/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+MarlerBlog+%28Marler+Blog%29
By Bill Marler ( May 22, 2012)
When Smiling Hara Tempeh Managing Executive Chad Oliphant began buying starter culture used to make the popular bean product tempeh from Maryland-based Tempeh Online, he surely did not expect it to be contaminated with Salmonella (or anything else, for that matter).  And, why should he? Like most people in his position, I imagine Mr. Oliphant was acting under the belief that the products purchased from overseas exporters have been vetted for safety issues.  Of course, this outbreak has shown that Smiling Hara Tempeh should have tested its product prior to sending it out for consumption, but it is also serves as an example of a burgeoning trend of foodborne illness outbreaks linked to imported food.
Food products now come from over 250,000 foreign establishments in 200 countries.  Indeed, 15 percent of fruits, 20 percent of vegetables, and 80 percent of seafood comes from overseas. And, with the consumption of imported foods growing, we have seen an increase in foodborne illness outbreaks linked to them.
In just the past year consumers felt the pain of multiple import-related outbreaks: Turkish pine nuts, Mexican papayas, and Guatemalan cantaloupe were a few products linked to Salmonella outbreaks in 2011.  Contaminated sprout seeds imported to Germany from Egypt caused the disastrous E. coli outbreak that sickened thousands and killed 50 in Europe, including some Americans in Spring 2011.  Most recently, alongside the tempeh outbreak, a nationwide Salmonella outbreak was traced to sushi made from imported Nakaochi scrape (aka tuna Scrape), ground tuna meat scraped from the ribs and backbones on tuna. The contaminated tuna scrape was imported from India and distributed by a California company to supermarkets and restaurants all over the country.  Despite labels indicating the product should be cooked, it was used in sushi rolls and ceviche—dishes served raw.  Over 300 Americans who ate the raw imported tuna scrape became ill with Salmonella infections.
Perhaps it should not be altogether unsurprising that we are experiencing foodborne illness outbreaks tied to imported foods, given the lack of oversight afforded to imports.
While forty-five percent of import-related foodborne illnesses are tied to seafood, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only inspects 1 percent of seafood that enters the country. Of the seafood inspected, 51 percent gets rejected due to spoilage, physical abnormalities, or pathogen contamination. All other imported food fares only slightly better, with 2 percent becoming subject to inspection. 
So while thousands of people were likely sickened by imported food last year, my dire prediction is that we’ll continue to see a rise in import-related foodborne illness outbreaks.  That is, unless there are upgrades to current FDA import policies.
Fortunately, I’m not alone in this thinking.
In 2010, President Obama signed into law the US FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which included a substantial revamp of food safety procedures required for domestic food production and imports.  If Funded the FMSA will increase the number of import inspections; importers will be specifically required to have a program to verify that the food products they are bringing into this country are safe as well as verify that their suppliers are in compliance with reasonably appropriate risk-based preventive controls.
Unfortunately, there are some very real hurdles to clear before FSMA can take effect.
A critical defect in FSMA is the absence a funding mandate.  This means that while FDA may be required by law to implement improved food safety procedures, there will not be enough money to put those policies into action.  Currently, the funding for FSMA lies in the hands of Congress, though as FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg has pointed out:  so far Congress has been unwilling to allocate FDA the funds necessary to validate the legislation.
Of course there is another roadblock that preempts even the likes of Congress.  The Whitehouse Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is responsible for approving draft rules such as the provisions established in FSMA. The FSMA rules pertaining to imports were supposed to be finalized by January 4, 2012, but five months later they remain in OMB, apparently stalled.
Where does this leave us?
We will continue to see a rise in the number of imports.
Americans will continue to eat more imports
Without funding and enacting FSMA import rules, we will continue to see more outbreaks associated with imports.
As for Smiling Hara Tempeh, perhaps if OMB had been on schedule and Congress had appropriated sufficient funding, 83 people would not have become victims of Salmonella poisoning.  In the meantime it will be up to American importers to ensure the foods they are bringing in from other countries are safe.

ABC Finds Illegal Antibiotics in Imported Shrimp
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/05/abc-finds-illegal-antibiotics-in-imported-shrimp/
By Helena Bottemiller (May 21, 2012)
Traces of illegal antibiotics are lurking in America's favorite seafood, according to a new report by ABC World News. The news outlet tested 30 imported shrimp samples from grocery stores across the country and found three were positive for antibiotics that are banned in the United States.
Though the sample size was small, the fact that 10 percent were found to contain illegal drugs is significant considering Americans annually eat 1 billion pounds of shrimp, 90 percent of which is imported from halfway across the world -- mostly from Thailand, Indonesia, Ecuador, and China.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration physically inspects less than two percent of imported seafood shipments and even smaller percentage are sampled for drug residue testing. In fiscal year 2009, for example, the FDA tested .1 percent of all imported seafood products for residues, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).  
ABC, which has ramped up its coverage of food issues, sent the shrimp samples to the Institute of Environmental and Human Health food lab at Texas Tech University for testing. In the three positive samples, lab technicians found banned antibiotics enrofloxacin, chloramphenicol, and nitrofuranzone, which is a known carcinogen.
"About 10 percent of them showed evidence of pharmaceutical residue in the muscle tissue alone, which people eat," Dr. Ronald Kendall, the director of the Institute told ABC. Kendall said two samples from New York averaged 28 and 29 parts per billion (ppb) of nitrofurazone. If FDA were to find 1 ppb of the drug in seafood, the product would not be allowed on the market.
It's hard to gauge how widespread the use of antibiotics is aquaculture -- and even harder to determine how often illegal drugs are used -- but some experts think the industry is getting better at managing residue issues.
"I think the trend is going toward less antibiotics use," said Jose Villalon last week at the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Cooking for Change conference. Villalon is the vice president of the World Wildlife Fund's U.S. Aquaculture Program, which coordinates the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC). ASC is currently working on standards for the industry and aims to be the premiere certification scheme for responsible aquaculture.
For example, ASC standards do not allow any antibiotics to be used in shrimp production, but for farmed salmon, certain drugs are allowed but for very limited, targeted uses, and must be administered under veterinary supervision, according to Villalon.
"For the use that is allowed in certain species, I think the critical issue is to make sure they're not on the World Health Organization's list of critically important antibiotics," he told the conference in Monterey last week. "You really don't want to allow, even though legally they are allowed, some of those antibiotics on that list. There should be a push to eliminate it, definitely."
Dr. Daniel Benetti, director of aquaculture at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, who also spoke at the event in Monterey, noted that some in the industry are now turning to other compounds to combat disease.
"There's a strong push to use probiotics nowadays...the same ones we use in yoghurt, that colonize the guts of the organisms and takes over the environment," said Dr. Benetti. "It's the best approach and I think that's the direction the industry is going."
Exactly what drugs used in aquaculture and how much of them might end up on consumers' plates is not clear.
The GAO last year raised serious questions about the FDA's oversight of seafood, finding that the federal program is "limited" and needs to be strengthened. The report zeroed in on the use of drugs in overseas aquaculture and the general lack of testing for both legal and illegal compounds.
Gavin Gibbons, spokesman for the National Fisheries Institute, told ABC that the trade group was "disappointed" in the test results, but didn't think more government testing was the answer. 
"Our member companies do their own sampling and testing at different times both in the exporting countries and here in the U.S.," said Gibbons, adding that companies also invest in third party audits to help manage their supply chains. 

Pet food recall that won't end? Cat food now risky
Source : http://www.wsfa.com/story/18573907/pet-food-recall-that-wont-end-cat-food-now-risky/
By Schuyler Velasco (May 21, 2012)
It's the food recall that just won't end.
From the recall of a single batch of its "Diamond Naturals" dry dog food on April 6 for possible salmonella contamination, Diamond Pet Foods has expanded the recall on eight separate occasions, endured a week-long inspection of one of its plants by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which criticized its practices, and most recently acknowledged that cats are also at risk.
Yet the Missouri-based maker of Diamond, Premium Edge, Kirkland Signature, and other pet food brands has not called special attention to the expansion of the recall to cat food beyond amending a statement on the company's Internet recall site: "Diamond Pet Foods has voluntarily recalled some brands of dry dog and cat food that it manufactured in its Gaston, S.C. facility between December 9, 2011 and April 7, 2012 due to potential Salmonella contamination."
There is no specific information on which brands and batches of cat food may be affected, though you can check a questionable bag's product code to find out.
On Friday morning, the Calgary Herald in Alberta, Canada, reported that two cats in a Montreal animal shelter have died, and another is ill, after eating Diamond Pet Foods products. Also in Quebec, another person has been reported with a case of salmonella, bringing the total number of cases to 16 in the United States and Canada caused apparently by handling the pet food.
Also on Friday, the company issued yet another recall involving certain sizes of its Diamond Naturals lamb and rice dog food manufactured on Aug. 26, 2011, which is later than the date range for all its other recalled products so far.
One of the unusual aspects of this recall is Diamond's release of information. On April 12, six days after Diamond's first recall, the FDA began an investigation. Its week-long inspection of Diamond's Gaston facility found numerous violations.
"All reasonable precautions are not taken to ensure that production procedures to not contribute contamination from any source," its report said, noting that the factory's screening process for possible contaminants wasn't thorough enough.
Other violations: Factory workers were seen handling sensitive equipment with bare hands; there weren't enough hand-washing stations throughout the plant (even in areas where raw meat was being handled); the factory used damaged equipment with holes and cuts, which would make the tools difficult to clean properly.
Despite these findings, the company didn't issue a second recall until a week after the inspection was over, involving a single production run of its Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul brand. On April 30, it issued another expansion of the recall, this time involving puppy food. On May 3, the federal government announced it had linked 14 cases of salmonella in adults to Diamond's dog foods. On May 4, Natural Balance Pet Foods and WellPet LLC, makers of Wellness, announced a recall of their dog foods made at Diamond's plant. From there, the recalls kept coming.
"Diamond handled it the wrong way," says Mike Sagman, creator and editor of dogfoodadviser.com, a consumer site that rates dog food products and follows pet-food industry news, including recalls. "The company knew more than they were letting out, and they let it dribble out over the month instead of releasing it all in one document. The damage is greater when you aren't transparent."
Recalls, he says, are unpredictable and largely unavoidable for large manufacturers in any industry. But they can be an opportunity for a company to shine, he adds, in terms of responding to a problem and coming clean with customers.
But "Diamond really blew it," he says. "Their chance of survival from this is questionable, my common sense tells me."
The company itself didn't return multiple calls to its media line. Its consumer hotline was answered promptly, but on two separate occasions its operators declined to provide any information once the caller identified herself as a reporter.
The FDA is also tight-lipped.
"The investigation is open and pending so we are limited in the information we can release to the public," FDA spokeswoman Laura Alvey wrote via e-mail. "Diamond voluntarily shut down their facility to clean (including the two lines where the contaminated product was made) and to implement additional procedures."
According to Ms. Alvey, subsequent testing found no contamination, and the facility resumed production.
What does all of this mean for consumers? Below is the most updated information on the recall, which now includes cat food:
Affected brands manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods are:
Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul
Country Value
Diamond Naturals
Premium Edge
4 Health
Taste of the Wild
Kirkland Signature/Kirkland's Signature Nature's Domain
Brands manufactured at the Gaston facility that have issued separate recalls are:
Natural Balance
Solid Gold
Affected batches were manufactured between Dec. 9, 2011, and April 7, 2012, except for the latest recall involving Diamond Naturals Small Breed Adult Dog Lamb & Rice Formula, which was also manufactured on Aug. 26, 2011. At least 39 states are affected, though because the food is often sold through online vendors, it could be just about anywhere. For instance, California's Department of Public Health has issued its own warning that affected pet food was sold in the state, though California was not listed on any of the official recalls.
The best way to figure out if you have an affected batch is to check the "Best by" dates and specific product codes on your bag of food. For specific product codes and "Best by" dates for affected batches, visit diamondpetrecall.com or the FDA's Animal and Veterinary recalls page, here.

California Cantaloupe Growers Adopt New Safety Program
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2012/california-cantaloupe-growers-adopt-new-safety-program/
By Carla Gillespie (May 20,2012)
There  has never been a foodborne illness outbreak associated with cantaloupe grown in California and growers there want to keep it that way.
The California Cantaloupe Advisory Board, an industry leader in food safety since developing best practice measures after a Salmonella outbreak linked to imported melon 20 years ago, voted this week to adopt a new food safety program. The measures are meant to bolster consumer confidence in cantaloupe after the Listeria outbreak linked to melon grown in Colorado that sickened 146 people and killed 35.
The group worked with the California Department of Agriculture throughout the winter to revise existing federal safety guidelines for melons collaborated with other industry associations to develop international cantaloupe food safety guidelines.
The California Cantaloupe Advisory Board, which had represented growers from the north and west of the San Gorgonio Pass in Riverside County, will now represet growers throughout the state and require them to comply with new production and handling methods during inspections.
The California Department of Agriculture has overseen an a similar program for growers of leafy greens, according to the announcement. The next step will be for the group to elect representatives members from the new districts.

USDA Lifts BSE Quarantine on California Dairies
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2012/usda-lifts-bse-quarantine-on-california-dairies/
By Linda Larsen  ( May 19, 2012)
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS) has lifted a quarantine placed on two California dairy farms after a cow was diagnosed positive for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), popularly known as “mad cow disease”, in April 2012.
The animal was the country’s fourth case of BSE. The USDA’s National Veterinary Services Labs tested the brain samples from the cow and sent them to the World Health Organization for Animal Health labs in England and Canada. Those labs confirmed the diagnosis of atypical BSE.
The government studied the feed records at the quarantined dairies and found no link between the animal feed and the disease. The USDA’s statement said that “audits of all the feed suppliers to the index premises have shown them to be in compliance with the regulations.”
The cow that tested positive for BSE had two offspring. One was stillborn; the second was euthanized and was found to be negative for BSE. The agency is still searching for ten to twelve cattle called “birth cohort cattle” or animals that are born on the same farm as the positive cow within the same year, that may still be alive. The other cattle born within that year have died.
The consumer advocacy group Consumeraffairs.com says that consumers can take extra steps to protect themselves against BSE if they want to, although experts state the risk of contracting it through food is extremely low. Simply do not eat brains, neck bones, beef cheeks, bone marrow, and cuts of beef that are sold on the bone. You may want to grind your own ground beef, or purchase ground beef that has been ground on a store’s premises to avoid bone mixed into the meat.

Job Openings
05/25. Quality Mgmt Spec - Food Safety – Waukegan, IL
05/25. Director Food Safety QA – Springdale, AR
05/24. Food Safety Analyst – Crete, NE
05/24. Food Safety Supervisor – Dallas, TX
05/24. Plant Food Safety and QA Coordinator – Miami, FL
05/22. Quality Mgmt Specialist - Food Safety – Houston, TX
05/22. EHS Food Safety Coordinator - Lincoln, NE
05/22. QA Food Safety - Brooklyn – Farmingdale, NY
05/21. Quality Mgmt Spec - Food Safety – Williamsburg, VA
05/18. Quality Assurance / Food Safety Manager
05/18. Retail Food Safety Specialist – Miami, FL

North Carolina Salmonella outbreaks; another lawsuit filed against Toast of Dilworth
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/north-carolina-salmonella-outbreaks-another-lawsuit-filed-against-toast-of-dilworth/
By Drew Falkenstein  (May 23, 2012)
North Carolina has been the site of several Salmonella outbreaks in recent months.  In an outbreak that originally flew under the radar, leaving a lot of people wondering what had made them so ill, the Toast of Dilworth (likely the eggs benedict specifically) sickened dozens in late March with Salmonella enteritidis.  Two lawsuits have been filed in the Toast salmonella outbreak.  Marler Clark filed the most recent lawsuit today on behalf of a gentleman who dined at the restaurant on March 25 with his family.  Multiple members of the family were sickened after ordering, or sharing some of, the eggs benedict.
The Toast salmonella outbreak is not the only major Salmonella outbreak to hit North Carolina in recent months.  At least 90 people from 4 states, including 88 in North Carolina, have become ill with with Salmonella Paratyphi B infections—most of them in the Ashville, North Carolina-area—since February 28, 2012. At least 8 people have been hospitalized with Salmonella Paratyphi B infections since the outbreak began.
On May 9, 2012, public health officials announced that starter culture used in Smiling Hara tempeh products was the source of the Salmonella Paratyphi B contamination within the Smiling Hara facility. The starter culture was distributed by Tempeh Online (also known as Indonesianfoodmart.com), a Rockville, Maryland, company.
And then, of course, there's the biggest current outbreak of them all, which has sickened 10 North Carolina residents, and several hundred other people from around the country.  The outbreak has been linked to Yellowfin Tuna.  When the Salmonella outbreak was first announced, the CDC and FDA suspected sushi to be the source of the Salmonella outbreak. On April 13, 2012, the CDC announced that a frozen raw yellowfin tuna product, known as Nakaochi Scrape, from Moon Marine USA Corporation, is the source of the Salmonella outbreak. According to the CDC, information indicates that the Salmonella-contaminated yellowfin tuna product came from a single tuna processing facility in India.  Spicy tuna rolls were a common food eaten by Salmonella outbreak victims, as was yellowfin sushi or ceviche.

Hunan food poisoning sickens over 100 students
Source : Hunan food poisoning sickens over 100 students
By Xinhua (May 22, 2012)
Over 100 high school students have fallen ill after eating street food in Central China's Hunan province, and one of them is in a severe condition, local authorities said Tuesday.
They suffered dry mouthes, vomiting and skin redness on Sunday afternoon after eating bean jelly and cold noodles at a snack food stand outside the No 2 High School of Longhui county, according to a county government spokesman.
The students then went to local hospitals for medical checkups. By 1 pm on Tuesday, 110 had returned to school, but five were still being treated, including one in a severe condition, the spokesman said.
Local disease control authorities found nitrite in food sold at the stand and accordingly concluded it was a food poisoning case, he said.
One of the eatery's owners, surnamed Zhang, was detained by police on Monday on suspicion of putting dangerous articles into food.
Police are hunting the other owner, who fled, the spokesman added.

CDC: 316 Ill in Multistate Outbreak Linked to Sushi Tuna
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/05/cdc-reports-316-cases-in-outbreak-linked-to-sushi-tuna/
By Mary Rothschild (May 18, 2012)
The number of confirmed cases of Salmonella poisoning from frozen raw tuna used primarily to make sushi has jumped by 58 to 316, and two more states have reported cases related to the outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.
The outbreak is now spread over 26 states and the District of Columbia, with Colorado and Vermont each for reporting tuna-linked illnesses for the first time. Onset of the most recent confirmed case was May 3, the CDC said.
According to this latest update on the investigation, tests conducted by public health labs in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, South Caroline and Wisconsin isolated Salmonella from 53 (96 percent) of 55 samples taken from intact packages of frozen yellow fin tuna distributed by Moon Marine USA Corp. or from sushi prepared with the tuna product, which is known as "scrape."
Scrape appears to be chopped or minced tuna. Traditionally, however, it is bits of tuna scraped from the backbone after a fish has been filleted.
Nearly 59,000 pounds of Nakaochi Scrape were recalled on April 13 by Moon Marine, which is located in Cupertino, CA. The product, imported from India, had been shipped in boxes labeled "To be cooked before consumption." The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says those shipments may have been broken down into smaller lots for further sale, possibly without new labeling.
The boxes contained vacuum-wrapped packages of frozen tuna with no labeling. The tuna was not available for sale to individual consumers but went to outlets that used the tuna to make sushi or other dishes to be sold in restaurants and grocery stores.
Food safety attorney Bill Marler, publisher of Food Safety News, noted that, "It will be interesting to see if restaurants and grocery stores that used the tuna scrape received the boxes or if the boxes were only used to ship the product from India to the United States.
It will also be interesting to see if Moon Marine marketed tuna scape as a product that could be consumed raw."
A six-day investigation by FDA inspectors of the plant in India that processed and supplied the tuna, Moon Fishery (India), found a number of food safety violations, including dirty water and ice, fish residue on the ceiling and cutting knives, and peeling paint above processing line.
The FDA also found Salmonella in a sample of tuna strips that had not yet been distributed, and on May 10 Moon Fishery (India) recalled earlier shipments of tuna strips that had gone to four wholesalers in Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.
The outbreak of illnesses associated with sushi tuna involves two strains of Salmonella - Bareilly and Nchanga. The CDC said 304 individuals are confirmed infected with Salmonella Bareilly and 12 people are confirmed infected with Salmonella Nchanga.
New York, with 48 confirmed cases, has reported the greatest number of S. Bareilly infections, followed by Massachusetts with 33; Illinois and Maryland with 27; New Jersey with 26; Pennsylvania with 25; Virginia with 22; Wisconsin with 19; Georgia with 13;  North Carolina with 10; Connecticut with 9; Texas with 7; Rhode Island with 6; California, Louisiana, Missouri and Tennessee with 4; Alabama and South Carolina with 3; the District of Columbia and Mississippi with 2; and Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Nebraska and Vermont with 1.
New York also has reported six cases of S. Nchanga, followed by Georgia and New Jersey with 2 each, and Virginia and Wisconsin each with 1.
The onset of the earliest illness was January 28. Those sickened range in age from younger than 1 to 86 years; median age is 30. At least 37 people have been hospitalized.
The CDC has the following advice for consumers regarding
the outbreak:
- Do not eat the recalled frozen raw yellowfin tuna product, known as Nakaochi Scrape, from Moon Marine USA Corporation. This product is tuna backmeat that is scraped from the bones of tuna and may be used to make sushi, particularly "spicy tuna" sushi.
- If you purchase "spicy tuna" or other sushi, sashimi, ceviche, or similar dishes that might contain Nakaochi Scrape tuna product from
a restaurant or grocery store, check with the establishment to make sure that it does not contain raw recalled product from Moon Marine USA Corporation. When in doubt, don't eat it.
- Persons who think they might have become ill from eating possibly contaminated raw Nakaochi Scrape tuna product should consult their healthcare providers.

Salmonella Paratyphi B Outbreak Grows
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/05/salmonella-paratyphi-b-outbreak-grows/
By News Desk (May 20, 2012)
The Salmonella Paratyphi B case-count associated with contaminated starter culture used in raw tempeh products sold by Smiling Hara, an Asheville, NC-based company, continued to grow last week, with the number of Salmonella Paratyphi B cases reaching 83 on Friday. 
According to the Asheville Citzen-Times, 62 of the cases were counted among residents of Bruncombe County, NC. 
Smiling Hara purchased the contaminated spore culture from Tempeh Online, a Maryland-based Company that has since taken down its web page and deleted all but one of its Twitter posts.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is working with state health officials to determine whether or not Tempeh Online's contaminated culture might have been used by any other producers.
Smiling Hara has recalled all of its tempeh made between January 11 and April 11 with best-by dates of July 11 through October 25. The company promotes the probiotic traits of unpasteurized tempeh but says it has considered pasteurizing its product to avoid future outbreaks.