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Food Safety Bloopers, Snack Mix Edition
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2012/food-safety-bloopers-snack-mix-edition/
By Kathy Will (Dec 09, 2012)
Oh, Rachael Ray. You may remember our disapproval at her The Book of Burger, in which she calls for cooking ground beef hamburgers to rare or medium-rare. The USDA states that it is not safe to eat any ground meat unless it’s cooked to well-done. Her burger recipes in her magazine still say to cook them to medium-rare.
In the November issue of her magazine, Everyday with Rachael Ray, she gives recipes for snack mixes. One of those recipes calls for mixing cooked bacon with nuts and other goodies, drizzling with honey, then baking. Fine so far. But then there are no instructions to keep the mix refrigerated, or to refrigerate it after it’s been at room temperature. Because any cooked meat must be refrigerated after two hours or pathogenic bacteria may grow.
The only cooked bacon that is safe to store at room temperature has been processed in a registered food facility so its water activity is at or below 0.85%. This prevents the growth of Staphylococcus aureus. There is no way for a home cook to tell if the water activity in the cooked bacon is at that safe level.
Even after it’s cooked, bacon contains proteins that pathogenic bacteria love. In addition, the fats in the bacon can become rancid if not kept cold.
So if you choose to follow Ms. Ray and make her recipes, please keep these facts in mind. And don’t follow her food safety advice.
After E.coli Recall, Outbreak XL Foods Cleared To Ship To US
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2012/after-e-coli-recall-outbreak-xl-foods-cleared-to-ship-to-us/
By Carla Gillespie (Dec 09, 2012)
The United States Department of Agricluture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA FSIS) has cleared XL Foods Inc., Establishment 38, of Canada has to resume exports to the US effective Friday, December 7, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
E. coli outbreak linked to a beef recall by XL Foods sickened 16 people in four Canadian provinces. The recall, which began September 4 with raw beef trimmings from the plant in Alberta, expanded almost 20 times eventually growing to include and estimated 2.5 million pounds of beef in the U.S. and an untold number of kilos in Canada.
The CFIA drew fire from Canadian media and workers at the plant on its handling of the recall, prompting the agency’s president , George DaPont, to draft an open letter in an attempt to set the record straight. “Contrary to assertions made by media, Canadian food inspectors do look at the overall conditions of the plant such as how the carcasses are washed and the sanitation of equipment. Inspectors from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) are in federally registered plants during all hours of operation,” the letter stated.
Da Pont said Canada and the US routinely audit each other’s food safety systems, but that these audits should be viewed as what they are- snapshots of a situation at the plant. He also sought to dispel the notion that US food safety authorities are better than than their Canadian counterparts. “Contrary to media reports, the CFIA found E. coli in product from XL Foods Inc. through our own routine testing on September 4. The US informed us on the same day that they had also found positive samples in XL Foods Inc. product at the border. This information has been available on the CFIA’s website for weeks and has been explained in numerous media technical briefings. reminds the media that they only have access to some of the audit information”
The meat involved in the recall was destroyed and meat stored at the warehouse during te ime of the recall was rendered. The CFIA says the USDA’s re-approval of XL Foods is ”demonstrative of XL Foods Inc. renewed commitment and ability to meet its high food standards.”
Sunland Asking FDA for Permission to Shell Peanuts
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/12/sunland-asking-fda-for-permission-to-shell-peanuts/
By Food Safety News Desk (Dec 08, 2012)
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is under increasing pressure to at least allow the shelling of Valencia peanuts grown during the past season that are now mostly stored in Sunland Inc.’s warehouses.
Sunland Inc.’s peanut processing facility in Portales, NM—linked to a 20 state outbreak of Salmonella that has sickened at least 41 people—closed voluntarily on Sept. 26, but then two weeks ago FDA prevented the manufacturing company from reopening by suspending its food plant registration.
Sunland is now requesting permission from FDA to re-open just to shell peanuts as New Mexico’s elected officials are voicing their concerns about the shutdown’s impact on the local economy.
Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM, says he is concerned about the impact that months of closure will have on the people of Portales and the surrounding area. He said his staff is working with FDA and Sunland to get a corrective action plan completed so the plant can re-open for the production of safe and healthy products.
Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-NM, says Sunland is dealing with some serious violations, but the company is a big part of the economy of eastern New Mexico, and people need to get back to work.
State Rep. Bob Wooley, R-Roswell, said Roosevelt County needs to “save the plant and save the jobs.”
Sunland could, under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), request an informal hearing, but it has apparently decided only to ask if it can resume shelling peanuts. Sunland views peanut shelling and peanut processing as separate operations, but it is unclear as to whether FDA shares that view.
Sunland, which has millions of pounds of harvested Valencia peanuts in storage, has laid off 28 of 98 employees until it can resume shelling operations. The Valencia peanut-growing area spans the New Mexico-Texas border.
The nation’s largest organic peanut processor plans to clean and re-build areas of its plant and re-open sometime early in 2013 if FDA gives it the green light.
Banned Turtles Sicken 248 with Salmonella
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/food-poisoning-watch/banned-turtles-sicken-248-with-salmonella/
By Patti Waller (Dec 08, 2012)
The CDC reports a total of 248 persons infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Sandiego, Salmonella Pomona, and Salmonella Poona have been reported from 34 states.
•28% of ill persons have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported.
•68% of ill persons are children 10 years of age or younger, and 33% of ill persons are children 1 year of age or younger.
•49% of ill persons are of Hispanic ethnicity. Information about the association between reptiles and Salmonella is now available in Spanish.
Results of the epidemiologic and environmental investigations indicate exposure to turtles or their environments (e.g., water from a turtle habitat) is the cause of these outbreaks.
•72% of ill persons reported exposure to turtles prior to their illness.
•89% of ill persons with turtle exposure specifically reported exposure to small turtles (shell length less than 4 inches).
•34% of ill persons with small turtles reported purchasing the turtles from street vendors, and 17% reported purchasing small turtles from pet stores.
Small turtles are a well-known source of human Salmonella infections, especially among young children. Because of this risk, the Food and Drug Administration has banned the sale and distribution of these turtles as pets since 1975. Turtles with a shell length of less than 4 inches in size should not be purchased as pets or given as gifts.
“Test & Hold” is New E. coli Rule
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/food-policy-regulation/test-hold-is-new-e-coli-rule/
By Denis Stearns (Dec 07, 2012)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today announced that, beginning in 60 days, the Agency will require producers to hold shipments of non-intact raw beef and all ready-to-eat products containing meat and poultry until they pass Agency testing for foodborne adulterants.
“This new policy will reduce foodborne illnesses and the number of recalls by preventing contaminated products from reaching consumers,” USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen said. “Many producers hold products until test results come back. We’re encouraging others in the industry to make this a routine part of operations.”
The new policy requires official establishments and importers of record to maintain control of products tested for adulterants by FSIS and not allow the products to enter commerce until negative test results are received. FSIS anticipates most negative test results will be determined within two days. The policy applies to non-intact raw beef products or intact raw beef products intended for non-intact use and that are tested by FSIS for Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli. Also, the policy applies to any ready-to-eat products tested by FSIS for pathogens.
FSIS developed the “hold and test” policy, which will reduce consumer exposure to unsafe meat products, based on public comment and input received on a Federal Register notice published in April 2011. FSIS estimates if this new requirement had been in place between 2007 through 2010, 49 of the 251 meat, poultry and processed egg product recalls that occurred during that time could have been prevented.
Expert Advice About Norovirus Outbreak in Washoe County Nevada
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2012/expert-advice-about-norovirus-outbreak-in-washoe-county-nevada/
By Kathy Will (Dec 07, 2012)
Public Health Officials in Washoe County, Nevada have released a document telling consumers how to stop the norovirus outbreak in their area. The outbreak has sickened more than 1,400 people by the latest count.
Officials say that hand washing, exclusion, and environmental cleansing may help stop the illness. Norovirus is highly contagious. The virus causes stomach aches, vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. This is the longest running outbreak in the county. Most illnesses are in elementary schools and day care facilities.
Washoe County District Health Officer Dr. Joseph Iser said in a statement, “every school and day care has complied with our exclusion and cleaning requirements. We have even closed our investigations in some of the first schools that reported the outbreak. But, more schools and day cares have seen an increase in cases, and because norovirus is so contagious, we are asking that all Washoe County residents increase their vigilance when it comes to personal, family, and home sanitation. And, please, if you are sick, stay home.”
It’s critical that people wash their hands correctly in warm, soapy water. Wash for 20 seconds, rinse hands well, then dry hands using a paper towel or air dryer. Sick people should be excluded from school, work, and all public or social activities. the Health District requires that ill students, staff, and faculty remain at home for at least 24 hours if they experience nausea or stomach ache. If no other symptoms occur during that time frame they can return to school. But if vomiting, diarrhea, or fever occur, patients must be excluded from school for 72 hours after symptoms have subsided. Finally, schools and households must sanitize any area within a 25-foot radius where vomiting or diarrhea has occurred with a bleach solution.
FSIS Updates Research Priorities to Address Emerging Food Safety Concerns
Source : http://www.imperialvalleynews.com/index.php/news/health/2526-fsis-updates-research-priorities-to-address-emerging-food-safety-concerns.html
By IVN (Dec 06, 2012)
Washington, DC - USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has updated its research priorities to keep pace with ever-changing issues and opportunities in food safety and public health related to the meat, poultry and egg products FSIS regulates.
Scientific research and resources from outside the agency complement internal efforts to ensure that food safety inspection aligns with existing and emerging risks across the farm-to-table continuum.
"Our goal is to effectively use science to understand foodborne illness and emerging trends," said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. "External research is critical to our public health mission and ultimately serves as another tool at our disposal to protect the food supply for over 300 million Americans."
The agency's priorities are presented as suggestions for researchers interested in pursuing food safety objectives that are relevant to FSIS regulated products. This list provides useful guidance to researchers that are preparing grants for submission to agencies that fund food safety research, such as USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, scientific academies and private foundations. The list also provides suggestions for academic faculty and students that are looking for relevant food safety research topics. Although FSIS is not a research-funding organization, the list of agency priorities helps promote exploration into those areas.
Examples of current research that supports the agency's priorities include a 5-year, $25 million grant from NIFA, awarded earlier this year, involving 10 universities and 14 lead researchers studying Shiga-toxin producing E. coli. USDA's Agricultural Research Service launched an examination into the identification of factors that enable strains of Salmonella in ground turkey to induce foodborne illness.
FSIS convenes an internal Research Priorities Panel to review the priorities and to identify potential additions to the priorities list. The panel includes representatives from all FSIS disciplines. The panel meets every six months, solicits updates from program areas and stakeholders, and then votes on updates to the priorities list. The recommended updates are vetted through the FSIS Data Coordinating Committee and the Agency's Management Council.
FSIS identified official Agency research priorities for the first time in its history in December 2011. The effort was an outgrowth of the agency's internal discussions and feedback from stakeholders and research organizations. For a complete list of FSIS' research priorities, go to: www.fsis.usda.gov/Science/Food_Safety_Research_Priorities/.
Today's announcements are the latest significant public health measures FSIS has put in place during this Administration to safeguard the food supply, prevent foodborne illness, and improve consumers' knowledge about the food they eat. These initiatives support the three core principles developed by the President's Food Safety Working Group: prioritizing prevention; strengthening surveillance and enforcement; and improving response and recovery. Other actions taken by the USDA include:
ˇáZero-tolerance policy for non-O157:H7 STECs. On June 4, 2012, FSIS began routinely testing raw beef manufacturing trim for six strains of non-O157:H7 Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) serogroups. Trim found to be contaminated with these pathogens, which can cause severe illness and even death, will not be allowed into commerce and will be subject to recall.
ˇáLabeling requirements that provide better information to consumers about their food by requiring nutrition information for single-ingredient raw meat and poultry products and ground or chopped products.
ˇáPublic Health Information System, a modernized, comprehensive database with information on public health trends and food safety violations at the nearly 6,100 plants FSIS regulates.
ˇáPerformance standards for poultry establishments for continued reductions in the occurrence of pathogens. After two years of enforcing the new standards, FSIS estimates that approximately 5,000 illnesses will be prevented each year under the new Campylobacter standards, and approximately 20,000 illnesses will be prevented under the revised Salmonella standards each year.
First company shut down by FDA under new food-safety law
Source : http://www.producenews.com/index.php/news-dep-menu/test-featured/9285-first-company-shut-down-by-fda-under-new-food-safety-law
By Joan Murphy (Dec 06, 2012)
WASHINGTON — If produce companies were questioning whether the Food & Drug Administration would use a new enforcement tool and shut down a food plant under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, ask nut processor Portales, NM-based Sunland Inc.
Sunland became the first business to have its food facility registration suspended by the FDA, thereby shutting it down, after its testing records showed it shipped Salmonella-positive products, the FDA said in a Nov. 26 letter from Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to Sunland President Jimmie Shearer.
Not only was it the first business to be affected by the FDA’s new authority, it was also the subject of a widely publicized press release by the FDA.
Sunland has been under investigation for a Salmonella Bredeney outbreak involving more than 40 people and tied to tainted “Trader Joe’s” brand Valencia creamy salted peanut butter. As of last month, Sunland has recalled 240 products processed since 2010, and investigators found Salmonella in raw peanuts and in environmental samples at the plant.
Under the food-safety act, the FDA has the authority to suspend a food facility’s registration — effectively shutting it down — if the FDA determines food received or held at a facility has a reasonable probability of causing serious adverse health consequences or death. No food from that facility may be shipped in interstate commerce nor can food be shipped to that facility or sent overseas.
Sunland said that it was surprised by the FDA’s move to suspend its registration.
In a Nov. 27 statement, the company said that it shut down its shelling operations prior to initiating a voluntary recall Sept. 24 and had hoped to restart Nov. 26, once the FDA reviewed its Nov. 20 corrective action plan.
“Sunland expected that any agency concerns with its plans would be part of the ongoing dialogue with the agency,” the company said. “The agency’s order suspending Sunland’s registration on November 26, 2012, was unexpected and the company is disappointed by this development.”
Commissioner Hamburg’s letter said that the FDA was not pleased with Sunland’s initial response to FDA’s inspection report, saying it “omits significant details regarding planned physical repairs and corrective actions, and the adequacy or effectiveness of these corrective actions cannot be determined based on the information provided in the response.”
Sunland said it plans to take all appropriate measures for the safe processing and handling of raw peanuts in its shelling plant and nut butter products in its peanut butter plan.
In the meantime, the company has become a test case under the FDA’s authority to suspend a U.S. company’s registration.
Study highlights the danger of cross-contamination of viruses from kitchen knives and graters
Source : http://medicalxpress.com/news/2012-12-highlights-danger-cross-contamination-viruses-kitchen.html
By Medical Xpress (Dec 06, 2012)
Poor hand hygiene is often thought to be the main cause of outbreaks of foodborne illnesses. Although it is well recognized that utensils used for food preparation can harbor bacteria, a new study by Qing Wang and her colleagues from the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, USA, is the first to find that viruses can just as easily be spread by cross-contamination from utensils such as knives and graters. Their study is published in the Springer journal Food and Environmental Virology.
The leading cause of foodborne illness in the US is currently Norovirus, with produce and ready-to-eat foods being identified as the main food types responsible for outbreaks. Previous research has shown that the prime time for food contamination occurs during preparation close to the time when food will be consumed. Although virus transfer between hands, produce and food-contact surfaces is known to occur readily at this point, to date there is little data on the potential role of kitchen utensils used for food preparation in this cross-contamination.
In this study, the researchers looked at the transfer of the Hepatitis A virus and Norovirus between a range of fruit and vegetables and different kitchen knives or flat steel coarse graters. Tests were done with uncontaminated utensils on contaminated produce and contaminated utensils on uncontaminated produce.
Results found that when using uncontaminated utensils, more than half of all knives and graters were contaminated after preparing the contaminated produce. Tests using a contaminated knife or grater very often resulted in contamination of the produce being cut or grated. In fact, after being used on one contaminated piece of produce, sterilized knives and graters were capable of cross-contaminating up to seven further pieces of produce that were chopped or grated afterwards.
As seen in previous studies, the level of contamination observed differed with produce used and type of virus. The authors suggest that the difference in the structure of produce surface may influence virus transfer as well as the binding affinities of the different viruses to produce. For example, the smooth surfaces of a honeydew melon transferred more Norovirus to knives than the rougher surface of a cantaloupe, but the opposite was observed for Hepatitis A virus.
This study demonstrates the ease with which viruses can transfer between produce and utensils using procedures commonly adopted in kitchens. This could pose a significant health risk. The authors conclude that "... great emphasis on utensils as virus vehicles should be placed, and it is important to provide knowledge and training for food workers and consumers to limit virus spread."
E. coli Bacteria in CA Rivers May Come from Urban Runoff, Not Farms
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2012/e-coli-bacteria-in-ca-rivers-may-come-from-urban-runoff-not-farms/
By Linda Larsen (Dec 06, 2012)
Studies by the Agriculture Research Service (ARS) have found that in some parts of California, E. coli and other bacteria found in local waterways come from urban runoff, not from animal production facilities. Cows are often the source of E. coli when it is found in rivers and lakes.
Scientist Mark Ibekwe and colleagues collected 45o sediment and water samples from 20 sites in the California Santa Ana River Watershed. E. coli bacteria were extracted from the samples. They identified 600 different isolates of E. coli. The greatest variety of different types of the bacteria were found in runoff discharged from areas dominated by urban development. Ibekwe stated, “there’s only so much a municipal water treatment plant can do. There are 11 water treatment plants that discharge into the middle Santa Ana River in our study area, and that discharge makes up 90 percent of the summer flow.”
The bacteria survive in water and sediment because of nutrients in the water that come from manure and runoff from residential areas. Most of the E. coli strains were nonpathogenic, but bacterial counts in the Santa Ana River Watershed exceed US EPA water quality standards. The presence of the bacterium is an indicator of water quality.
Researchers tested the isolates for antibiotic resistance. They found that 88 to 95% of isolates were resistant to rifampicin, and 75% were resistant to tetracycline. In addition, 24% of the E. coli associated with urban runoff was resistant to as many as seven antibiotics. The antibiotics included erythromycin, cephalothin, streptomycin, ampicillin, and amoxicillin clavulanate.
Ibekwe said, “I think this is our most important finding – that E. coli populations in urban runoff are more genetically diverse than E. coli populations in agricultural runoff.” The range of different antibiotic-resistant E. coli isolates suggests that government officials may need to increase their database of E. coli fingerprints to help identify isolates that are a concern to public health.
FSIS Announces New Poultry Rules to Prevent Salmonella and Campylobacter
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/food-policy-regulation/fsis-announces-new-poultry-rules-to-prevent-salmonella-and-campylobacter/
By Andy Weisbecker (Dec 05, 2012)
USDA Announces New Prevention-based Efforts to Improve Safety of Poultry Products and Protect Consumers
Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today announced new steps to protect consumers by improving the food safety plans required for companies that produce poultry products.
Companies producing raw ground chicken and turkey and similar products will be required to reassess their Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plans. The HACCP reassessment, which establishments must conduct in the next 90 days, must account for several Salmonella outbreaks that were associated with those types of products.
“HACCP reassessments improve a company’s ability to identify hazards and better prevent foodborne illness,” said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. “Incorporating information obtained from Salmonella outbreaks will enhance food safety efforts, helping to avoid future outbreaks and ensure a safer food supply for consumers.”
In today’s notice, FSIS also announced that it will:
Expand the Salmonella verification sampling program to include other raw comminuted poultry products, in addition to ground product;
•Increase the sample size for laboratory analysis from 25 grams to 325 grams to provide consistency as the Agency moves toward analyzing samples for Salmonella and Campylobacter; and,
•Conduct sampling to determine the prevalence of Salmonella in not-ready-to-eat comminuted poultry products and use the results to develop new performance standards for those products.
The policy notice announced today will be posted on the FSIS website at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/regulations_&_policies/federal_register_publications_&_related_documents/index.asp and comments can be submitted at www.regulations.gov shortly after December 5, 2012. Stakeholders interested in mailing their comments should send them to: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) FSIS, Docket Clerk, Patriots Plaza 3, 1400 Independence Avenue S.W., Room 8-163A, Mailstop 3782, Washington, D.C. 20250-3700. All items submitted by mail or electronic mail must include the Agency name and docket number FSIS-2012-0007.
Today’s announcements are the latest significant public health measures FSIS has put in place during President Barack Obama’s Administration to safeguard the food supply, prevent foodborne illness, and improve consumers’ knowledge about the food they eat. These initiatives support the three core principles developed by the President’s Food Safety Working Group: prioritizing prevention; strengthening surveillance and enforcement; and improving response and recovery. Other actions taken by the USDA include:
Zero-tolerance policy for non-O157:H7 STECs. On June 4, 2012, FSIS began routinely testing raw beef manufacturing trim for six strains of non-O157:H7 Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) serogroups. Trim found to be contaminated with these pathogens, which can cause severe illness and even death, will not be allowed into commerce and will be subject to recall.
Labeling requirements that provide better information to consumers about their food by requiring nutrition information for single-ingredient raw meat and poultry products and ground or chopped products.
Public Health Information System, a modernized, comprehensive database with information on public health trends and food safety violations at the nearly 6,100 plants FSIS regulates.
Performance standards for poultry establishments for continued reductions in the occurrence of pathogens. After two years of enforcing the new standards, FSIS estimates that approximately 5,000 illnesses will be prevented each year under the new Campylobacter standards, and approximately 20,000 illnesses will be prevented under the revised Salmonella standards each year.
New York E. coli Lawsuits X 3
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/new-york-e-coli-lawsuits-x-3/
By Drew Falkenstein (Dec 05, 2012)
New York residents sickened in the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to State Garden’s spinach and spring salad have, to date, sued the company in three separate lawsuits. The lawsuits, filed by the E. coli lawyers at Marler Clark, and Paul Nunes of Underberg Kessler, seek money compensation for a variety of economic and physical losses caused by the contaminated spinach and spring salad, which was sold by Wegmans stores. The outbreak has sickened at least 28 people in 5 states.
The Anatomy of an E. coli Lawsuit
The three E. coli lawsuits allege several theories of liability against State Garden. The first is that State Garden, as a manufacturer of the E. coli contaminated spinach and spring mix, is strictly liable to the plaintiffs. The “strict liability” claim does not require that the plaintiffs prove that State Garden was negligent in manufacturing the salad mix, just that State Garden did manufacture the product, and the plaintiffs were infected by E. coli as a result of consuming the product.
The second theory of liability alleged in each of the complaints is that State Garden is liable for breaching both express and implied warranties that it made to all consumers of the product regarding the quality of the product. The law recognizes an implicit warranty that any food product sold is warranted, by the seller, to be healthful and otherwise free of contamination by bugs, like E. coli, that can sicken or kill people.
The third theory of liability set forth in each of the complaints is that State Garden negligently manufactured the salad product, leading to the E. coli outbreak that caused of these plaintiffs’ illness and injuries. Each of the negligence claims in these 3 E. coli lawsuits alleges that State Garden breached its duty of exercising reasonable care in the production of the product, as well as in the selection and monitoring of its suppliers of spinach and lettuce products used in the spinach and spring mix.
Each of these 3 E. coli lawsuits seeks damages for not only pain and suffering, but also for the economic losses incurred by each of the plaintiffs. Things like lost wages, medical costs, and pharmaceutical expenses are losses that almost all victims in this outbreak have incurred. These E. coli lawsuits will compensate each of the plaintiffs fully for all economic losses suffered, in addition to general damages for pain and suffering.
Should Consumers Be Concerned About Yersinia?
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/12/should-consumers-be-concerned-about-yersinia/
By Helena Bottemiller (Dec 05, 2012)
When Consumer Reports released the results of a study last week that found most pork was contaminated with Yersinia enterocolitica, the media and bloggers were abuzz with headlines like: “Almost 70 Percent of Pork In Stores Unsafe” (Forbes), “Widespread bacteria and drugs found in US pork samples” (Fox News), and “Consumer Reports analysis of US pork finds majority contaminated” (Los Angeles Times).
Here at Food Safety News, we also reported on the study. The group’s testing of 198 pork samples, 148 of which were pork chops and 50 of which were ground pork, found relatively low levels of contamination for the bugs that regularly make headlines, like Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes, but a whopping 69 percent of these samples were positive for Yersinia enterocolitica, which can also make people sick.
Reactions to the report were all over the board. As we noted, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) called the results “simply terrifying,” The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the study showed that pork is safe to eat and reminded consumers to cook it properly, and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) rebuffed the study as “junk science” that was “designed to scare consumers into purchasing only organic pork.”
It turns out there is a lot of confusion about Yersinia enterocolitica. Because it’s not one of the top pathogens responsible for foodborne illness in the United States, food safety advocates and researchers don’t pay a whole lot of attention to it.
Based on a small number of reported cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 cases of yersiniosis (Yersinia infection) in the U.S. each year. According to CDC, the bug can cause fever, abdominal pain and diarrhea, usually lasting one to three weeks.
Health officials know the pathogen makes some Americans sick each year and that pork is a major source of these foodborne illnesses, but there is no government data on how prevalent Yersinia enterocolitica is in the pork supply, nor is there a broad understanding of exactly how prevalent pathogenic (types that can make you sick) of Yersinia enterocolitica are within the species.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has not tested for Yersinia in its baseline assessments, which aim to provide a broad picture of contamination levels across the entire sector.
According to documents posted online, the agency planned to include the pathogen in its 2010-11 baseline study for pork, but ended up not testing for it. A spokesperson for FSIS said Yersinia wasn’t included because the available testing methods “were not reliable for detaching pathogenic serotypes and genotypes of [Yersinia].”
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “Bad Bug Book,” Yersinia enterocolitica can be presumptively identified in 36 to 48 hours, but confirmation can take 14 to 21 days. Determining pathogenicity is “more complex,” but the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and many other labs do have methods for doing so.
One of the biggest criticisms of the Consumer Reports study is that it didn’t break down its findings into pathogenic and non-pathogenic types of Yersinia enterocolitica.
“We tested for all strains of Yersinia enterocolitica — similar to what Food Net (CDC) does to confirm illness from Yersinia,” said Urvashi Rangan, director of safety and sustainability at Consumer Reports. “We say in the story that these are potentially pathogenic and we clearly found a lot of it.”
Food Safety News asked numerous experts and no one knew how to estimate what percentage of Yersinia enterocolitica found on pork is pathogenic — the type that would be a threat to consumers.
“Unless someone types the Y. enterocolitica, it is not possible to put a number on the percentage of pathogenic vs. non-pathogenic organisms,” says Harshavardhan Thippareddi, a food safety professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “From the study reported in Consumer Reports, they did not type the Y. enterocolitica and hence, it is not possible to determine whether they are pathogenic or not.”
The pork industry responded to the study by asserting that only a few of the many different seroptypes of Yersinia enterocolitica can cause illness, but recent research suggests that a significant proportion of the bacteria found on hog farms may be pathogenic.
A 2007 study published in the Journal of Food Protection found that 10.7 percent of finishing pigs tested positive for Yersinia enterocolitica. Of those isolates, 48.1 percent were found to contain pathogenic genes. A 2005 study conducted by USDA researchers at ARS tested pig feces and found 12.7 were positive for Yersinia, with 43 percent containing pathogenic genes.
Advocacy vs. Research
“My first reaction is that this is Consumer Reports looking for clicks,” said Don Schaffner, a food science professor at Rutgers University, who questioned why the group didn’t share more detail on their study design and methodology. “We’ve known for a long time that Yersinia enterocolitica is a problem in pork, but really the question is: What have we learned from this study that makes a difference for public health?”
While Schaffner said he would prefer to see peer-reviewed research on the topic, he also doesn’t think the pork industry should completely dismiss the results of the study: “It certainly is interesting and it bears further investigation.”
Several researchers noted it can be hard to get funding to study Yersinia and other food safety issues that are lower on the totem pole of public health priorities.
“You certainly want to focus on the things that greatly impact public health,” said Dennis Burson, a professor of meat science at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “If you’re spending money doing this type of analysis, you want to focus it on the big problems.”
Though Consumer Reports doesn’t discern between pathogenic and non-pathogenic types of Yersinia, the group is quick to point out that the level of antibiotic resistance found is concerning, even if some of the resistance is among non-pathogenic strains.
Several of the isolates found were resistant to one or more antibiotics: 6 of the 8 Salmonella samples, 13 of the 14 Staphylococcus samples and 121 of the 132 Yersinia samples. The study also found MRSA on one sample.
The publication’s policy arm, Consumers Union, firmly believes the widespread use of antibiotics in agriculture is a key contributor to the resistance problem, and the group has been active in pressuring retailers to carry meat and poultry from animals raised without antibiotics.
Pork producers argue that the study, which they say tested too small a sample and wasn’t nationally representative, was presented simply to bolster the group’s advocacy efforts.
“This report was obviously written to support Consumers Union’s claim that antibiotics use in food animal production is the major cause of antibiotic resistance, or treatment failures, in human medicine,” said R. C. Hunt, a pork producers from Wilson, North Carolina and president of NPPC. “The article and Consumers Union disregarded numerous peer-reviewed risk assessments that show any risk to human health from antibiotics use in food animals is negligible.”
The only thing everyone seems to agree on is that consumers can mitigate the risk of contracting Yersinia by carefully handling and properly cooking pork products.
Health officials recommend avoiding raw or undercooked pork, consuming only pasteurized dairy products and washing hands when preparing food after contact with animals and after handling raw meat. Raw chitterlings, or pig intestines, are seen as a particular risk. It’s important to clean hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching infants or their toys, bottles or pacifiers after handling chitterlings.
CDC: Salmonella from Tahini Sickened 23 Last Year
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/11/government-reports-2011-salmonella-outbreak-linked-to-tahini/
By Gretchen Goetz (Nov 29, 2012)
Sesame seed paste containing a rare strain of Salmonella sickened 23 people in 7 states and the District of Columbia last year, reveals a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The article, published in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report last week, marked the first time the government has told the public about the Salmonella Bovismorbificans outbreak, which lasted from August through November of 2011.
Illnesses were largely concentrated in the Mid-Atlantic region, with eight in Washington, D.C., seven in Maryland, three in Virginia and one apiece in Delaware and New Jersey. Three cases were also reported outside this region – one in California, one in Michigan and one in New Hampshire.
The hunt for the outbreak source was a long one, complicated by the fact that the vehicle turned out to be an ingredient mixed into a finished product.
While health officials had located the outbreak strain of Salmonella in hummus made at a D.C.-area restaurant by mid-November, it would be another six months before imported tahini was named as the contaminated ingredient in the hummus.
The outbreak was identified September 27, 2011 when the District of Columbia Public Health Laboratory found that Salmonella isolated from three different patients had matching DNA fingerprints. They checked the DNA patterns they had found against PulseNet, the national pathogen subtyping database used for disease surveillance, and discovered that six other infections of this strain had been reported over the last 60 days. A total of 23 cases would eventually be linked to the outbreak.
Interviews with 22 of the victims revealed that 20 had eaten in a restaurant in the D.C. metropolitan area in the week before getting sick. The focus was further narrowed when 14 out of 15 patients asked about restaurant type said they had eaten at a Mediterranean-style restaurant.
Hummus was the most commonly reported food, eaten by 10 out of 15 patients interviewed about specific food types.
When asked about restaurant names, 13 out of 15 patients had eaten at one of three Mediterranean-style restaurants, which CDC deemed Restaurant A, Restaurant B and Restaurant C for its report. All three restaurants turned out to have the same owner. Health officials then learned that food for all three locations was prepared at Restaurant A.
Investigators from the D.C. Department of Health visited Restaurants A and B and collected 15 samples of finished product. The outbreak strain of S. Bovismorbificans was found in a sample of hummus from Restaurant A.
This led health officials to ban distribution of hummus and all hummus ingredients from Restaurant A.
“When the investigation team felt like we had sufficient evidence of a possible exposure associated with one of the three restaurants, we worked quickly to restrict the sale of the suspected food to customers by issuing an embargo,” said Tiana Garrett, officer at CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service and part of the investigation team in an interview with Food Safety News.
“We were really diligent in looking for illnesses with an onset date after that embargo, but we didn’t find any,” Garrett said.
Health officials believed this was a sign that, by embargoing the hummus, they had likely curtailed the outbreak.
Ingredients – A Tricky Outbreak Vehicle to Uncover
But the question remained – what ingredient in the hummus was contaminated?
“We always have to take into consideration if there are particular ingredients associated with preparation of foods that may need to be investigated as well,” explained Garrett. “In this particular outbreak, when it was determined that the hummus was associated with foodborne illness, we knew that hummus was prepared with different ingredients, so we wanted to make sure that we looked at those individually.”
But samples collected from all ingredients used to make the hummus tested negative for Salmonella Bovismorbificans, meaning there would be no proof in the pudding.
And it didn’t look like patient interviews would provide any more answers.
“Ingredients are considered a “stealthy” vehicle for foodborne illness, said Garrett. “Patients may not be aware they were exposed to a particular ingredient used to prepare a food item, and that makes it difficult to trace.”
Another thing to consider was that a contaminated ingredient that ended up in the hummus may have come into contact with other foods, sickening those patients who didn’t report eating hummus.
“It’s also possible that other foods they had eaten may have been prepared in the same environment with the tahini and then somehow some tangential exposure may have happened there,” said Garrett. “We wouldn’t know about those instances if the patient wasn’t able to report them.”
Though the outbreak was over, the investigation into its source remained unfinished as 2011 drew to a close.
The missing link was found in May of the following year, when a traceback by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration revealed that the tahini used to make Restaurant A’s hummus had recently been associated with multiple Salmonella outbreaks in Canada. All tahini linked to these outbreaks had been imported from the same company in Lebanon.
FDA has now mandated that all tahini products coming from this foreign company be tested for Salmonella before entering the U.S. and has recommended that U.S. and Canadian officials partner to inspect the tahini manufacturing plant.
Why Wasn’t the Public Notified?
While a foodborne illness outbreak in ongoing, it is common practice for CDC (in the case of a multistate outbreak) or state and local health departments to issue warnings to the public, naming the implicated food if a source is suspected and illnesses can still be prevented, or simply alerting people that there has been a spike in infections from a certain pathogen.
However, a search of public health advisories issued by the D.C. Department of Health, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Virginia Department of Public Health from the time the outbreak was detected through when it ended reveals that no alerts about the outbreak were issued by the three health departments who reported multiple illnesses in their states.
Garrett explained that the outbreak investigation team, which included state health officials and representatives from CDC, chose not to issue a public health advisory because no more illnesses occurred after hummus was identified and embargoed on November 18.
“We didn’t have any additional cases with onset dates that occured after the embargo,” said Garrett. “As a group we collectively decided that it wasn’t necessary to notify the public; however if we had found additional cases after the embargo we would’ve considered notifying the public.”
While the onset of the last illness recorded was actually on November 21, 3 days after the embargo was issued, it is possible this victim ate the contaminated hummus before the embargo was implemented.
During its investigation of Restaurants A, B and C, the D.C. Department of Health also discovered multiple food safety violations at the establishments, including inadequate food temperature control, insufficient hand washing and the presence of pests and insects, reports CDC. Since these restaurants have not been named, Food Safety News could not access their inspection reports in D.C. Department of Health’s inspections database.
Public Health Lessons
S. Bovidmorbificans is rarely seen in the United States, having been identified in only five other foodborne outbreaks in the country since 2001. This is the first time the strain has been implicated in a Tahini outbreak in the U.S.
However, Garrett says, this outbreak highlights an important public health lesson: tahini, or sesame seed paste, is a known vehicle for foodborne bacteria. The substance is high in fats, and therefore provides an ideal home for bacteria, much as peanut butter does, explains the CDC report.
“The main message that we wanted to convey in the article is how important it is for public health officials and consumers to be informed that products that are made with imported sesame pastes have been shown to be associated with Salmonella outbreaks and that they should be considered as possible sources for foodborne illness in the United States in the future.”
In fact, contaminated sesame seed paste was in the news less than 10 days before the CDC article was published after a supply of tahini was stolen from a California importer’s warehouse, where it was being stored because a sample had tested positive for Salmonella. The tahini, which had been imported from Lebanon, was awaiting destruction. FDA warned the public that the stolen, potentially contaminated tahini may be on the market.
Garrett says this tahini is not known to be linked to the product that caused last year’s outbreak.
“To the best of my knowledge, the tahini manufacturer mentioned in this article is not the same as the one that was implicated in our outbreak,” said Garrett in an e-mailed statement to Food Safety News.
UGA To Study Salmonella In Peanut Butter, Other Foods
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2012/uga-to-study-salmonella-in-peanut-butter-other-foods/
By Carla Gillespie (Dec 05, 2012)
On the heels of a multi-state Salmonella outbreak linked to peanut butter, Joseph Frank, a food scientist at the University of Georgia, has been awarded a $499,998 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), to study risks associated with Salmonella in dry and ready-to-eat foods, such as peanut butter.
The study is one of 17 research projects funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The projects have the shared goal of improving food safety by controlling contamination.
Salmonella causes more than 1 million cases of foodborne illness in the US each year, according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Symptoms of salmonellosis, the infection caused by Salmonella poisoning, include fever, abdominal cramping and bloody diarrhea which usually set in 12 to 72 hours after exposure and last three to seven days.
Poultry, eggs and unpasteurized juices are among the common sources of salmonellosis. Cooking and pasteurization kill Salmonella in those foods but not in dry and ready-to-eat foods such as peanut butter.
“When Salmonella gets in these foods, it isn’t able to grow up but it doesn’t die every quickly. It tends to survive for very lengthy periods of time,” Frank said. “These are ready-to-eat foods, and they are shelf stable foods,” he said. “ So they don’t spoil, but the Salmonella can be in there and can survive for many months. Then whoever eats that food is at risk.”
With the USDA grant, Frank will study how the chemical makeup of certain ready-to-at foods affects the survival of Salmonella. “We don’t understand why it dies faster in some foods than others,” he said. “We plan to look at the characteristics of these dry foods and try to predict the survival of Salmonella in these foods.”The goal of the research is to develop a risk assessment mode for Salmonella survival in ready-to-eat foods. “In the end, we will have a tool that will allow the industry to assign a risk number on food products. Like, one person in every million will fall ill from eating the product.”
Illinois McDonalds Linked to Salmonella Outbreak Will Reopen
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2012/illinois-mcdonalds-linked-to-salmonella-outbreak-will-reopen/
By Kathy Will (Dec 04, 2012)
The McDonalds restaurant in Bloomington, Illinois that closed because of a link to a Salmonella Stanley outbreak will reopen. The McLean County Health Department and Illinois Department of Public Health tested employees for the bacteria, and cleared them. All of the samples collected from environmental testing in the establishment were free of the bacteria.
The Health Departments are still investigating the source of the outbreak. They suspect that contamination came from an infected person rather than food containing the pathogen.
Twelve people who ate at several restaurants in central Illinois were sickened with the outbreak strain of the bacteria. The cases presented from October 18 to November 11, 2012. Not all of the confirmed cases are linked to that specific McDonalds restaurant. At this time, the investigation is focused on preventing spread of the illness.
McLean County Health Department Director Walt Howe said in a statement, “As we enter the holiday season, it’s important to remind people that if you’re sick, stay home to protect family, friends, or co-workers from becoming sick. Healthy individuals should wash their hands diligently and use a barrier, such as a napkin or a paper towel, to turn off faucets or open doors in public facilities.”
Symptoms of Salmonella infection include fever, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. Salmonella Stanley can produce bloody diarrhea. If you are experiencing these symptoms, please see your health care provider immediately. She should report the illness to the MCHD Communicable Disease division at 309-888-5435.
Using Ultrasound to Slash E. coli in Spinach
Source : http://www.foodproductdesign.com/news/2012/12/using-ultrasound-to-slash-e-coli-in-spinach.aspx
By Food Product Design (Dec 28, 2012)
URBANA, Ill.—Using ultrasound exposure during chlorine washing significantly reduces the number of E. coli 0157:H7 cells on spinach leaves and gives the food industry a way to significantly enhance microbial safety, according to a new study published in the journal Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies.
Researchers at the University of Illinois found by combining continuous ultrasound treatment with chlorine washing, they could reduce the total number of foodborne pathogenic bacteria by over 99.99%. The researchers have used the technique on iceberg and romaine lettuce, as well as spinach, with similar results.
Hao Feng, a U of I professor of food science and human nutrition, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is looking for proposed technologies that can achieve a 4- to 6-log reduction in pathogen cells (a 6-log reduction would achieve a millionfold reduction in pathogenic bacteria). The food processing industry can now achieve a 1-log or tenfold reduction. In comparison, the U of I technique yields a 4-log reduction.
“Combining technologies is the key to bridging the gap between our current capacity and what USDA would like to see. The use of ultrasound exposure during chlorine washing gives the industry a way to significantly enhance microbial safety," he said.
Feng’s pilot-scale system uses three pairs of large-area ultrasonic transducer boxes to form a channel through which ultrasound is provided to spinach leaves that are undergoing a continuous-flow chlorine wash. Spatial uniformity of ultrasound distribution was confirmed by tests using metallic foil. He said continuous flow and uniformity of the field are key elements in the success of the process. Previous work with ultrasound used a tank or a medical-style probe, which doesn’t provide consistent and even distribution.
“Placement of the produce as it makes its way through the channel turns out to be very important. We had to find ways to make sure that leaves received similar exposure to ultrasound, taking care to minimize the chance that one leaf would block a nearby leaf’s exposure to the sound waves," he said, adding even part of a leaf escaped the full ultrasonic treatment, it could contaminate the rest of the produce.
Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods Receives Global “Gold Stamp” in Food Safety and Quality
Source : http://www.sacbee.com/2012/12/04/5029848/manitoba-harvest-hemp-foods-receives.html
By Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods & Oils (Dec 04, 2012)
WINNIPEG, Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods announced today that their facility has achieved British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Standards Certification. The largest hemp food manufacturer in the world to grow, make, and sell their own hemp foods, BRC Certification secures Manitoba Harvest (www.manitobaharvest.com) as the only globally "certifiable" player in the hemp foods industry.
BRC Certification is the leading global food safety and quality certification program and currently used by suppliers in over 100 countries. BRC food technical standards facilitate standardization of quality, safety, operational criteria and manufacturers' fulfillment of legal obligations. BRC has become the framework upon which retailers/companies base their supplier assessment - many retailers mandating that they will only consider doing business with BRC certified suppliers.
"Receiving BRC Certification showcases our commitment to food safety and quality. It helps ensure our customers' get the most delicious and nutritious hemp food in the market," explained Mike Fata, Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of Manitoba Harvest. "We've been in hemp for a long time, and feel our learning curve has positioned us as the experts in the field. Frankly, if a school had a hemp production program we'd already have our PhD."
To receive BRC Certification, Manitoba Harvest underwent a voluntary audit by a third-party Certification Body that ensures the production, packaging, storage and distribution of safe food and consumer products. The Certification is meant to reassure retailers and end consumers of the capability and competence of Manitoba Harvest's facility and therefore the integrity of Manitoba Harvest products. Celebrating their 15th year in business, Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods is the world's largest hemp food manufacturer to grow, make and sell their own brand of hemp food products. Manitoba Harvest is proud to offer award-winning products like Hemp Hearts (raw shelled hemp seeds) and HEMP PRO 70 ® (hemp protein concentrate). www.manitobaharvest.com. http://www.facebook.com/manitobaharvesthempfoodsandoils.
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/12/04/5029848/manitoba-harvest-hemp-foods-receives.html#storylink=cpy
Salmonella Outbreak Causes FDA to Suspend Plant’s Registration
Source : http://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=166204
By WEBWIRE (Dec 04, 2012)
According to Food Safety News, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has suspended the registration of Sunland Inc. of Portales, NM, the peanut butter processor responsible for the Salmonella outbreak that has sickened 41 people across 20 states.
The FDA was given the power to suspend registrations on January 4, 2011 after the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law. Without an FDA registration, Sunland Inc. will be prohibited from selling products in the United States. This is the first time the FDA has suspended a registration.
In September 2012 the FDA conducted an inspection of the plant, finding Salmonella in 28 environmental samples, 13 nut butter product samples, and one raw peanut sample. Of the nut butter samples, four contained Salmonella Bredeney, the strain responsible for the current outbreak.
Sunland has had a history of health violations, factoring in to the FDA’s decision of suspension. For the past several years the company has had trouble with Salmonella, including multistate outbreaks of nine different Salmonella strains.
Individuals infected with Salmonella typically develop a fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after consumption, and the illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days.
“Healthy individuals are normally able to recover without treatment; however, young children, the elderly, and those with weak immune systems are more susceptible to developing a more severe illness where hospitalization is required,” states Dr. Jason Dobranic, EMSL Analytical Inc.’s Vice President of Microbiology and Life Sciences. “EMSL Analytical’s advanced microbiology laboratories are located throughout the country and provide advanced testing to detect Salmonella and other foodborne pathogens from food and environmental samples.”
For more information about EMSL’s food testing division, please contact EMSL at 800-220-3675, info@EMSL.com , or visit www.EMSL.com or www.foodtestinglab.com.
About EMSL Analytical, Inc.
EMSL Analytical is the nation’s leading testing laboratory with over 30 locations throughout the United States and Canada. We are a nationally recognized and locally focused provider specializing in consumer product, environmental, industrial hygiene, indoor air quality, microbiology, radon, food, and materials testing services to professionals and the general public. Please visit our website for a complete listing of accreditations from leading organizations, as well as state and federal regulating bodies.
FDA Increases Allowable Irradiation Doses in Meat, Poultry Products
Source : http://www.foodproductdesign.com/news/2012/12/fda-increases-allowable-irradiation-doses-in-meat.aspx
By Food Product Design (Dec 04, 2012)
WASHINGTON—The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced two final rules increasing the maximum allowable dosage of irradiation in meat and poultry products became effective Nov. 30, 2012. The agency has set Dec. 31, 2012, as the final day to submit hearing requests or objections due to the rules.
For meat products, the agency is amending the food additive regulations to provide for the safe use of a 4.5 kilogray (kGy) maximum absorbed dose of ionizing radiation to treat unrefrigerated (as well as refrigerated) uncooked meat, meat byproducts, and certain meat food products to reduce levels of foodborne pathogens and extend shelf life.
For poultry products, the agency is amending the food additive regulations to increase the maximum dose of ionizing radiation permitted in the treatment of poultry products to include specific language intended to clarify the poultry products covered by the regulations, and to remove the limitation that any packaging used during irradiation of poultry shall not exclude oxygen.
Both rules are in response to petitions filed in 199 by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
Total Recall: Food Safety Precautions Increase Recalls
Source : http://www.equities.com/news/headline-story?dt=2012-11-26&val=755189&cat=goods
By Liz Webber Penton Business Media (Nov 27, 2012)
Industry insiders have noticed a possible unintended side effect of more stringent food safety procedures: more product recalls.
“I think there’s been a lot more recalls since there’s been that final product testing that’s being conducted, a lot of times at the retail level,” said Dan Vache, vice president of supply chain management at United Fresh Produce Association.
Overall food recalls have increased by over 300% since 2008, according to Gale Prince, founder of SAGE Food Safety Consultants, Cincinnati, although fresh food categories have not been disproportionately affected. Prince previously served as director of corporate regulatory affairs at Kroger Co. and has over 40 years of industry experience.
However, the spike in recalls has not impacted all retailers in the same way.
“Industrywide, there does seem to be an increase in the number of recalls,” said Maria Brous, director of media and community relations at Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla. “However, at Publix, we have seen a reduction in recalls. We would like to believe that this can be attributed to our suppliers that have embraced and implemented the Global Food Safety Initiative.”
GFSI is a set of food safety guidelines put forward by an international non-profit industry group.
Such voluntary initiatives could eventually go a long way toward decreasing the number of recalls or at least reducing the impact of a recall by providing a more targeted approach to removing defective products from the supply chain.
That is one goal of the Produce Traceability Initiative, a voluntary program that aims to set up an industrywide system to electronically track cases of fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the entire supply chain, from the farm to the individual store.
Read more: Sprout Growers Form Safety Alliance
Such procedures will someday allow retailers and suppliers to recall just the cases that are known to have a problem, rather than every single item from a farm or retailer.
“And if you can do that quickly and consistently then everyone’s confidence is built up and we have a safer supply chain from the fact that we can remove, in a very surgical manner, any product that may be implicated,” said Vache.
PTI implementation started with growers and shippers and has been working its way down the supply chain. Vache said it would probably be 2014 by the time retailers executed the final steps of PTI, but many have started putting the protocols in place.
“On this Produce Traceability Initiative, we have requested our vendors to use the PTI stickers on all the produce coming into our facility. We’re currently at about 50% compliance from the vendors,” said Jack Brown, chairman and chief executive officer of Stater Bros. Markets, San Bernardino, Calif.
“Once we’ve completed this compliance from all vendors, we will be able to integrate that information into our receiving system,” he added.
Publix has also worked with suppliers to use PTI to track the 100 million cases of fresh fruits and vegetables that are shipped from its distribution centers to stores each year.
“As of the first quarter of 2012, Publix was the first retailer to successfully implement this as a requirement with all produce suppliers. We are also working collaboratively with the Institute of Food Technologists as part of a Traceability Working Group to improve traceability throughout other food commodity groups,” said Brous.
Read more: Recall Touches More Peanut Products
Another retailer to watch is Wal-Mart Stores, although the company is “not making any public statements,” said Vache.
“They are working on it. And they expressed to their supply side that, ‘We’re working on this, and we expect you to be following the course of the PTI, too, so that when we do roll out our ability to record and store information that you’re labeling the cases,’” said Vache.
A spokesperson for Wal-Mart declined to comment on the chain’s participation in PTI.
New Ways to Communicate
Another evolving aspect of fresh food recalls is how retailers communicate with customers. With instant access to loyal followers, social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are an easy way to reach those who may have purchased a recalled product.
“We also post information on Class I recalls on our website and on our Facebook page,” said Jamie Miller, manager of public and community relations for Giant Food, Landover, Md.
“I would say it’s just another avenue, another communication avenue for us to communicate to our customers for recalls or other situations where there’s a sense of urgency to get the word out to our customers,” he added.
Read more: Food Safety Concerns Remain Constant
But while social media posts can be a convenient method for informing customers, they can also provoke a negative response if retailers don’t carefully control the conversation.
For example, when Hannaford Supermarkets posted about a national recall on its Facebook page in August, it received multiple negative comments about the perceived high number of product recalls at the chain.
Conversely, one of Wegmans Food Markets’ Twitter followers found fault with the fact that the retailer didn’t announce a particular November recall on the social media site.
“The manufacturer and the retailer must monitor various social media channels and respond to consumer issues immediately. Disgruntled consumers can quickly do damage to a company’s brand equity by spreading inaccurate information regarding a recalled product,” said Prince, the food safety consultant, who is known as the “dean of product recalls.”
As much as social media usage has grown, many retailers still turn to tried and true methods for alerting customers about recalls.
“Consumer research indicates that the leading source for consumers to learn of product recall information is through television,” said Prince.
Stater Bros. often provides information to local TV stations in the event of a recall. “We think they’re an important part of informing our customers, obviously, that there’s a concern,” said Brown.
Ultimately, the most effective way to find out which consumers have purchased a recalled product is through detailed membership card data, like that utilized by Costco Wholesale Corp., because the retailer keeps track of every item each member purchases, said Vache.
“And they have a system that they email you, they will place a phone call to you to say, ‘Listen there could be potential issues with this product. Please return it or destroy it.’ So they’re very proactive.”
Giant Food performs a similar service, but only for customers that used a loyalty card when making the purchase and have provided sufficient contact information.
“We make calls to customers who we’ve identified who may have purchased defective product through the card data information that we have,” said Miller.
Read more: Lots of Citrus
Vache noted that such loyalty cards provide an incomplete picture because they are optional and may not be used on each shopping trip, but he expected more retailers to follow the Costco model in the future.
“Now, the majority of retailers do not have that capability, because they’re not tracking every purchase that you make,” said Vache.
“But I think that eventually we’ll see more and more of that.”
Sidebar: FSIS Adds Online Complaint Form
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service introduced a new online form earlier this fall for consumers to report problems with meat, poultry and egg products.
Although the FSIS has been fielding complaints since 2001 through a consumer hotline that is staffed during weekday business hours, the Electronic Consumer Complaint Form gives consumers more flexibility in when they submit comments because it is available 24 hours a day, said Dr. David Goldman, assistant administrator for the FSIS Office of Public Health Science.
“Creating the online form was really about providing good customer service and a channel for the public to reach us in a way that is most comfortable for them,” said Goldman.
The ECCF allows for consumer feedback when an item purchased is mislabeled or misbranded, contains allergens or foreign objects, causes illness or injury, or just looks or tastes “off.” As with other FSIS reporting tools, the online form asks for information about the retailer from which the consumer purchased the defective product.
Goldman said he expects the ECCF to lead to more reporting by consumers, and so far that has been the case. Complaints across all channels doubled in October compared to previous months, with ECCF submissions accounting for 37% of total complaints.
“Increased reporting may provide more information FSIS can use to determine whether the source of a complaint originated from the producing facility or if there are trends indicating that the problem may have originated at retail,” said Goldman.
Illinois McDonalds Link to Salmonella
Source : http://www.marlerblog.com/case-news/illinois-mcdonalds-link-to-salmonella/
By Bill Marler (Nov 26, 2012)
The McLean County Health Department and the Illinois Department of Public Health are currently investigating a cluster of salmonella cases who reported eating at a variety of restaurants in Central Illinois from October 18 through November 11.
The McDonalds on South Main Street in Bloomington was found to have a suspected connection to the salmonella cases. The health department discussed the situation with the franchise ownership, at which time they chose to voluntarily close in an abundance of caution. No substantial information was discovered to connect the establishment with the cluster of illnesses until over the holiday weekend. It is still early in the investigation; however, the suspected link does not seem to be a certain food, but rather human transmission.
The employees of the establishment are being tested and will be allowed to return to work as lab results confirm they are safe to serve food to the public.
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