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FDA Names New Zealand First Food Safety System Comparable to US
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/12/fda-names-new-zealand-first-food-safety-system-comparable-to-us/
By Helena Bottemiller (Dec 13, 2012)
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday signed a “systems recognition” agreement with New Zealand – the agency’s first formal acknowledgement that a foreign country has a food safety system comparable to the U.S.
In an interview with Food Safety News, Deputy Commissioner for Foods Michael Taylor touted the agreement—which is the culmination of more than two years of work—as the first step in what will soon be a key part of the agency’s import safety system as it rolls out the Food Safety Modernization Act.
“FSMA is looking for higher levels of assurance, in a very comprehensive way, about the safety of food coming into [the US],” said Taylor. “Looking to the future, the more that we can formally recognize what’s happening in other countries and incorporate that into our targeting of resources…the more we can target our efforts, the more the private sector can target its efforts, the more we build on what we’re doing and avoid duplication of efforts.”
Avoiding duplication and stretching scare resources is key as the agency has failed to keep up with the flood of imported food.
According to FDA, food imports to the U.S. have increased by 300 percent over the last decade, now accounting for 15 percent of the food Americans consume each year. The products come from more than a quarter of a million food facilities in over 200 countries and territories and  enter the U.S. through more than 300 ports.
Assuring all of this food is safe for consumers is an enormous task for an agency trying to rebuild a new, preventive food safety system both at home and abroad.
FDA currently has 48 staff posted in 10 countries. According to the agency’s most recent annual report to Congress, in 2011, it spent about $33 million to inspect 995 foreign food facilities out of the 254,088 that are registered. FDA said it physically examined around 2.3 percent, or 243,400 import lines out of 10,439,236.
In 2010, New Zealand accounted for about 2 percent of U.S. food imports (by value), including meat products, according to USDA.
The agency believes that establishing which countries are comparable to the U.S. when it comes to food safety will help stretch scarce resources as the agency implements FSMA.
Recognizing that a trading partner is essentially equivalent to the U.S., for example, would almost certainly mean that FDA inspections of food facilities in that country will be less frequent than they will be elsewhere. FDA officials say they will also be more likely to trust the follow-up work performed by local officials if there is a food safety problem.
“We’re not saying there will never be problems with New Zealand products,” said Camille Brewer, the Director of International Affairs at FDA’s Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine. “We are saying that we’ll look to New Zealand to take a stronger and very active role in follow up.”
To determine that the two countries’ systems are comparable, FDA is using what it calls the International Comparability Assessment Tool (ICAT). The system, which includes an extensive in-country audit, looks at several elements, including regulatory foundation, inspection and enforcement capabilities, training, verification and audit programs, illness outbreak response capability, program and laboratory resources, industry and consumer outreach programs and international engagement.
“We’ve been developing the concept of systems recognition as a way to formalize our understanding that there are countries around the world who have very developed food safety systems and who are, generally speaking, aligned with us in terms of the movement toward a focus on prevention and using science to ensure the safety of food,” said Taylor.
The new scheme sounds a lot like establishing equivalency, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture has long required before foreign countries can send meat or poultry to the U.S.
“It’s analogous, but it is quite different,” said Taylor. “The FSIS system is based upon demonstrating, at a very detailed level, equivalence with very specific inspection mandates and requirements that FSIS administers for meat and poultry plants for this country and it focuses on meat and poultry, specific commodities. Our systems recognition is at a broader and more general level and doesn’t require the same degree of [detailed] verification that equivalence does.”
Taylor also noted that the agreement does not have legally binding consequences, like equivalency does, and that it will just be one part of the FDA’s import safety system.
“It’s a harbinger of what’s to come over the long term in terms of building partnerships, collaboration, and mutual reliance with other countries’ food safety systems,” he said.
Another key element is the Foreign Supplier Verification Program, which is one of the key rules that has been stuck under review at the White House Office of Management and Budget for a year.
When asked when the rules will be released from their lengthy review, Taylor said: “I hope soon. The process is active – we hope we’ll be able to get our proposals out very soon.”

USFDA says New Zealand seafood safety system comparable
Source : http://www.fis.com/fis/worldnews/worldnews.asp?l=e&country=0&special=&monthyear=&day=&id=57595&ndb=1&df=0
By www.fis.com (Dec 17, 2012)
The New Zealand seafood industry has welcomed a new agreement between the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). The agreement, which is the first of its kind, ensures that the entities recognise each other’s food safety systems as comparable to each other.
The FDA believes that establishing which countries are comparable to the US when it comes to food safety will help stretch scarce resources as the agency implements the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), reports Food Safety News.
Lesley Campbell, Acting Chief Executive of Seafood New Zealand said that “the agreement is a vote of confidence in New Zealand’s food safety system and in the high quality of New Zealand’s seafood products.”
The organization said in a press release that the agreement will mean greater commercial certainty for the seafood industry, as well as providing US consumers with greater confidence in New Zealand seafood.
“At a practical level it will reduce compliance costs, for example, with less inspection and oversight of our products at the border we can expect those products to move more quickly into the United States,” said Campell.
Campbell says that the country exports some 10 per cent of its seafood to the United States directly, totalling NZD 147 million (USD 124 million) for the year ended 31 October 2012.
 “United States is our number one market for greenshell mussels with exports valued at NZD 59 million (USD 49.7 million) for the year,” she said.
Meanwhile, recognising that a trading partner is essentially equivalent to the US would mean that FDA inspections of food facilities will be less frequent than they will be elsewhere. FDA officials also say that they will be more likely to trust the follow-up work performed by local officials if there is a food safety problem.
“We’re not saying there will never be problems with New Zealand products,” said Camille Brewer, the Director of International Affairs at FDA’s Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine. “We are saying that we’ll look to New Zealand to take a stronger and very active role in follow up.”
In order to determine comparability, the FDA is using the International Comparability Assessment Tool (ICAT). The system examines several elements which include regulatory foundation, inspection and enforcement capabilities, training, verification and audit programmes, illness outbreak response capability, programme and laboratory resources, industry and consumer outreach programmes and international engagement.

Give a gift of food safety
Source : http://www.thewesterlysun.com/mysticriverpress/news/give-a-gift-of-food-safety/article_beba6482-43a5-11e2-894f-001a4bcf887a.html
By Diane Wright Hirsch, Special to the Press (Dec 16, 2012)
I have seen holiday ads this year that are beyond imaginative. They include caffeine supplements, lottery tickets, ammunition and $100,000 diamonds. So, why not consider the gift of food safety. It would be so much more practical and healthful.
We have written often of the need to think about food safety when growing food in a backyard or community garden. When you are making compost, watering your tomatoes or picking the cucumbers, sanitation is as important as it is in the kitchen.
If you have a fruit and/or veggie gardener on your gift list, why not consider a compost thermometer. You never heard of such a thing, you say. Well, a first encounter with one of these thermometers can be a bit scary. The stem is about three feet long and the dial about 3 inches in diameter. It is something you might imagine the jolly green giant using as he checks the temperature of a kettle of green beans. But, a compost thermometer can be essential to the safety of the compost you spread on your garden.
Just as you need to cook raw chicken to eliminate the bacteria or pathogens that cause foodborne illness, it is important for compost to be “cooked” sufficiently to kill pathogens (as well as undesirable weed seeds). To do this job, compost must reach a temperature of 130-160° F. Eggs of flies and parasites should be subjected to a temperature of 150° F. And, you can’t tell the temperature by looking at or even feeling the compost. Anything can feel “hot enough” if the air temperature is in the 30s or look “hot enough” if the pile is steaming away.
Use your computer search engine to find compost thermometers for sale. You want one long enough to reach to the middle of your compost pile, and they do come in various lengths. You can also check with your favorite home garden center.
If your gardener doesn’t compost, how about a tool for safer harvest? Find some food-grade plastic bins to use for harvesting crops. While baskets or wooden crates may add a certain caché to the job, a cleanable (and, maybe even ‘sanitizable’) plastic would be better. When that forgotten onion or potato rots away in your harvest container, you really want to be able to clean it thoroughly before reusing it.
It would also be good if the kitchen gardener would store these brand-new harvest bins indoors, away from critters seeking either shelter or a portable potty.
Truly washable and reusable shopping bags would also be nice. I am not talking about most of the bags you can purchase at the grocery store with the grocery store label on them. While useful, they are difficult to wash thoroughly. Believe me, I have tried. One trip in the washing machine and they are just not the same.
Sure, you can wipe them down, but the effectiveness of cleaning a porous, cloth-like surface that way is questionable. I want to be able to throw the bags into the hot cycle of my washing machine. Good old canvas is great for that.
How about buying a vegetable brush? There have been quite a few outbreaks traced to fruits and vegetables in recent years. You can clean a cantaloupe with a vegetable brush before slicing it. There is no special magic to cleaning fruits and vegetables. You do not have to use bleach or veggie wash. Basically you simply need to scrub off dirt and micro-bugs (with the potential of serving up some foodborne illness) under running water.
Keep the water temperature fairly equal to the produce you are washing so that as the produce cools it will not absorb dirty water from the surface of the produce. These brushes are cheap so buy two.
Color-coded cutting boards are great for preventing cross-contamination of foods. Wise cooks dedicate some colors for cutting raw meat or chicken and different colors for cutting ready-to-eat foods such as fruit, veggies and salad ingredients. Polyethylene plastic boards can be put into the dishwasher for sanitizing. They are easier to clean than wood. Besides, the colors can add a bit of pizzazz to any kitchen.
Finally, we can carry the thermometer theme into the kitchen as well.
Aside from well-scrubbed hands, a food thermometer is a food safety tool that every kitchen should have. A food thermometer is perfect for a stocking stuffer. Monitoring the internal temperature of cooked foods can be a learning experience for cooks of all ages to ensure that their food is safe and not undercooked.
Responding to the food safety culture, manufacturers now make quite a variety of user-friendly thermometer options. All of these are available at department, hardware, home and grocery stores.
Instant-read thermometers come in dial and digital. These are used after removing your food from the oven and give the temperature in a matter of seconds.
Large dial thermometers, like a lot of people use with turkeys, are oven safe and remain in the meat while it’s cooking so you can monitor its progress.
Digital thermometers are a great gift for people fond of electronic devices. One type is a digital probe that is inserted into the meat and attached to a long wire that connects to a base unit outside the oven. It allows you to monitor the temperature while the meat is cooking. You set the desired temperature and the unit beeps when it reaches that temperature.
Refrigerator and freezer thermometers are useful when stocking your homegrown and home-preserved produce. Dawn Pettinelli, who writes for this column, lost power during last week’s ice storm. She had to throw out much of her frozen homegrown fruits and vegetables.
A freezer thermometer would likely not have saved her frozen green beans, but if you experience a shorter outage, knowing the temperature in your freezer or refrigerator can help you to figure out if food is still worth saving after several hours.
While these gifts might not elicit the squeals of delight you hope for when your kitchen gardener rips the wrapping off, they might actually save a life – or, at least, save someone from several days of misery.
For more information on these last minute gifts, contact the Home and Garden Education Center at ladybug@uconn.edu or 1-877-486-6271 for more information.

Promise of food safety law largely unfulfilled
Source : http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/12/15/promise-of-food-safety-law-largely-unfulfilled/1772261/
By Christopher Doering, Gannett Washington Bureau (Dec 16, 2012)
Implementation of the sweeping law, signed two years ago, has been bogged down by the its complexity and cost.
WASHINGTON -- With thousands of Americans falling ill and public confidence shaken after a series of high-profile foodborne outbreaks several years ago involving consumer staples such as lettuce, peppers, peanuts and eggs, Congress and the White House moved aggressively to bring food safety into the 21st century.
But two years after President Obama signed a sweeping food safety bill into law, the rules at the heart of the largest food safety overhaul in more than 70 years have yet to be put in place, blocked by their sheer length, growing complexity and a White House that critics contend has delayed their implementation for political gain.
At the same time, the Food and Drug Administration, the government agency charged with implementing the new law, has been the victim of a push in Washington to rein in spending and some Republicans in Congress who have questioned the necessity and cost of the regulations.
FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in October that unless the agency's food safety budget is increased by millions of dollars from its current level of $1.2 billion it would continue to struggle to implement the expansive new regulations. "Implementing that broadly expansive mandate with limited resources has been a challenge," Hamburg said at an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank. "It has been harder and slower than any of us would have wanted."
The longer it takes the food laws to be enacted, proponents of the law argue, the more time the country's food supply remains exposed to an unnecessarily high level of risk. They point to the example this fall of Salmonella found at a Sunland Inc. peanut butter
processing plant in New Mexico that caused 42 people, mostly children, in 20 states to become ill. The facility had a history of food safety violations.
"The Obama administration has already seen a number of very serious outbreaks while we have been waiting for these rules to be released," said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director with the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "The cost of delay is really the likelihood that more people will get sick and some may get seriously ill, may end up in the hospital and some could even die while we're waiting for these rules to be finalized."
Foodborne illnesses strike an estimated 48 million people in the United States each year, or about one in six Americans, killing 3,000, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A study released in 2010 by consumer and public health groups said foodborne diseases cost the United States $152 billion in health-related expenses each year, far more than prior estimates. Despite the outbreaks, the United States is widely regarded as having one of the safest food supplies in the world.
The Food Safety Modernization Act signed into law by President Obama in January 2011 marked the biggest change of U.S. food safety laws since 1938 when Congress gave the FDA authority to oversee the safety of food, drugs and cosmetics.
For years, the FDA, tasked with regulating 80 percent of the U.S. food supply, was widely seen by lawmakers, consumer groups and the agency itself as understaffed and underfunded. That leaves the agency able to inspect only of a fraction of the plants under its watch.
A handful of power-boosting rules went in place immediately after Obama signed the new law. Among the most prominent were regulations that:
•Gave the FDA access to documents at a food company tied to an illness or death
•Increased the frequency of plant inspections
•Gave the agency the power to order a mandatory recall
•Allowed the FDA to suspend a company's operation's "" something the agency did last month in the case of Sunland.
But implementation of other measures -- such as requiring food production facilities to have a plan in place to identify and prevent contamination along with stricter requirements for overseeing the production and harvesting of fresh produce -- are months behind. Tougher oversight of imported foods also has been delayed. The law requires importers to verify the food they bring into the United States meets domestic safety standards. The food could be denied entry if it fails to do so.
The produce rule, for example, has been besieged with criticism that it was poorly written, and an insufficient job was done analyzing the costs and benefits for producers. All this has caused the rule to swell in excess of 700 pages, likely contributing to its subsequent delay, according to those who follow the food safety legislation.
"It is a broader ranging bill than Congress thought it passed," said Chad Hart, an associate professor of economics at Iowa State University. "Once you begin to look at the agricultural production and transport systems here in the U.S. that's a mammoth task so it doesn't surprise me that it's taken quite a while."
Rep. Kristi Noem, a South Dakota Republican and a member of the House Agriculture Committee, was sympathetic to the complexity of the rule-making process required to implement the new regulations. A host of factors must be considered such as if the measures are needed, how much they will cost and the degree to which they will impact food delivery and safety. Still, she said: "Two years "¦ is too long not to come forward with rules and regulations especially when it is as important as food safety."
The FDA submitted them to the White House's Office of Management and Budget in late 2011 for approval, but the administration has yet to sign off on them. Once the OMB gives the okay, implementation of the food safety laws is likely still several years away. The public must first be given the chance to comment on the proposals before the FDA can incorporate their suggestions into the final rules. After that, larger companies are usually given a year to comply with the new measures with smaller businesses having three years.
The White House referred questions on the food safety rules to the OMB. Moira Mack, a spokeswoman with the OMB, said the Obama Administration remains committed to food safety, citing a rule enacted to crack down on salmonella in eggs and the expansion of E. coli testing for beef. "We are working as expeditiously as possible to implement the food safety legislation we fought so hard for," said Mack. "When it comes to rules with this degree of importance and complexity, it is critical that we get it right."
Even if the rules went into effect on time it's unlikely they would have been able to prevent recent major recalls. David Acheson, the FDA's former food safety czar, said it takes time before companies can make the necessary changes that will have a noticeable effect on public health. "The change does not move that quickly. They are going to take a long time before they have an impact," he said.
Acheson, food safety groups and others said the administration should release the proposed rules so the public and businesses affected by them could comment. They put the blame directly on the White House, which they claim likely delayed releasing the proposed rules before the election amid fears that higher costs imposed on companies would be passed on to consumers. "It's time to stop playing with them just get them out there, warts at all, and have at it," said Acheson, who is now a partner at Leavitt Partners and oversees the firm's food and import safety practice.
"There is a high level of frustration in the (FDA) about this and they genuinely believe these things are ready to go," said Acheson. "I believe the holdup is political and thus by process of elimination sits at the White House door and ultimately with the president."
The FDA has not been the only consumer protection agency to have its regulatory arsenal strengthened by Congress in recent years.
After a series of highly publicized recalls involving lead-painted toys from China, lawmakers passed a law in August 2008 to strengthen the Consumer Production Safety Commission. The new law increased its budget and staff, imposed stiffer testing and product labeling requirements on businesses and established thresholds for several substances such as lead and chemicals called phthalates that are found in plastics and have been linked to birth defects in lab animals. Businesses that violated the law were slapped with higher fines and in some cases jail time.
In the last four years, the CPSC, which is responsible for monitoring more than 15,000 types of products, has seen the number of recalls drop for items it oversees from 107 in the quarter when the law was passed by Congress to 70 in the third-quarter of 2012, according to data from Stericycle ExpertRECALL, an Indianapolis-based firm that has provided advice and helped major U.S. companies carry out recalls. Meanwhile, the FDA, without its full arsenal of funding and enforcement tools, has seen recalls rise from 113 recalls in the first quarter of 2011 when the Food Safety Modernization Act was signed to 169 in the second quarter of this year, a 50 percent increase.
Gale Prince, a consultant for Stericycle ExpertRECALL, said companies affected by the CPSC rules have had more time to adopt and implement the new regulations in their business operations. "It's the difference in maturing of the legislation," said Prince. "The awareness of the activity of the CPSC has had an effect, they have gotten the word out and I think that may be part of the downward trend."
While some businesses are waiting until the food safety rules are published, many companies are already incorporating their own food safety handling and transportation measures into their operations. The threat of potential litigation, long-term damage to their brand and a surge in the use of social media tools by the public to communicate has put more pressure on businesses to meet or exceed existing food safety requirements, said Acheson.
Hy-Vee, the 234-store, West Des Moines-based grocery chain has hired an outside auditor to do inspections of its stores. It also has worked with its distribution centers to make sure they handle and transport food using the same standards, such as ensuring sanitary conditions and uniform temperatures are maintained.
"There is cost involved but it's a cost of doing business and certainly it's nothing compared to not doing it," said Ruth Comer, assistant vice president of media relations with Hy-Vee. "If something isn't done and there is a food borne illness outbreak or another situation that one incident could be far more costly than any protective measures."

Norovirus Link to Wyoming Golden Corral Confirmed
Source : http://www.marlerblog.com/case-news/norovirus-link-to-wyoming-golden-corral-confirmed/
By Bill Marler (Dec 16, 2012)
Early last week, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department reported that it was investigating several reports of intestinal illnesses.  They announced that they were also coordinating efforts with the Epidemiology Section of the Wyoming Department of Health.  Some reports have suggested a local restaurant, but others have reported no contact there.  Symptoms include Nausea, Vomiting, Diarrhea and Headaches, and duration is about 24-48 hours.  If you have experienced these symptoms in the past 3-4 days, please call the Health Department at 307-235-9340.
According to Kyle Roerink of the Casper Star-Tribune, as of Friday evening, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department had received 292 reports of foodborne illness related to the Golden Corral restaurant in east Casper, according to department Director Bob Harrington. Harrington cautioned that not all reports are likely to be related to the restaurant.  Then Harrington was quoted as saying – despite asking the people who pay his salary to call in:
Some people may have contracted the disease somewhere else, he said. And given the litigious nature of society, some people may be trying to make a quick buck off of insurance claims, Harrington added.
The reality Mr. Harrington is that your citizens who became sick at Golden Corral wound need to prove 1) that they ate there, 2) that they contracted norovirus from Golden Corral’s food, and 3) that they sustained damages.
And, then Friday, the Golden Corral announced a voluntary 24-hour closure to thoroughly clean and disinfect the restaurant.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that noroviruses cause nearly 21 million cases of acute gastroenteritis annually, making noroviruses the leading cause of gastroenteritis in adults in the United States.

Listeria and Botulism risk with Farmstead Food
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/food-recall/listeria-and-botulism-risk-with-farmstead-food/
By Drew Falkenstein (Dec 15, 2012)
The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers that they should not eat certain products produced by Farmstead Inc. of 186 Wayland Ave. in Providence. Certain food items purchased from the Farmstead Inc. retail shop or through http://www.farmsteadinc.com are being voluntarily recalled due to food safety concerns.
HEALTH inspectors initiated an investigation after receiving a tip. No illnesses associated with these products have been reported at this time.
The recalled food products were produced without the required controls to prevent the production of the toxin that causes botulism and the growth of listeria. Ingestion of botulinum toxin from improperly processed foods can lead to serious illness and death.
Among the recalled products are jarred vegetables (8 or 16 oz. Ball jars), including carrots, beets, eggplant, zucchini, pickles, tomato jam. In addition, meat products, including chicken liver mousse and pork rillettes (4 oz. jars), produced by Farmstead Inc. are being voluntarily recalled because they may have been improperly processed, making them susceptible to contamination with Clostridium botulinum. These jars have a screw-on metal lid with the name of the product, but do not contain production or date codes.
Certain soft and semi-soft cheeses, raw milk cheeses, goat cheeses, and any cheeses that are labeled “Keep Refrigerated” and were sold at room temperature in the retail store are also being recalled.
D’Artagnan salami (labeled “Keep Refrigerated”) and Proscuitto, salamis, Liverwurst, pâtés, and other meats processed at the store are also being recalled because they were improperly processed.
Consumers who have any of these recalled products at home should discard them or return them to the store.
Anyone who has eaten any of the recalled products and experiences abdominal cramps; difficulty breathing, speaking or swallowing; double vision; muscle weakness; muscle aches; nausea; vomiting; diarrhea; or fever should contact their healthcare provider immediately for evaluation and treatment. The young, elderly, those with chronic conditions, and pregnant women are especially susceptible to foodborne illness.

DM meet with food firms stresses safety
Source : http://gulftoday.ae/portal/59ea7021-4876-437a-917b-02aa249fff45.aspx
By The Gulf Today(Dec 14, 2012)
DUBAI: The food inspection section of Dubai Municipality has conducted its quarterly meet with food establishments in Dubai. Over 100 representatives from different organisations attended. Sultan Ali Tahir, head of the food inspection section said the meeting was aimed at stressing provision of excellent services and receiving suggestions to achieve the goal. ldquo;These establishments are important as they are the main destinations for thousands of residents and tourists. The authorities are obliged to confirm the compliance of these establishments with the rules and regulations,” he added.
Khalid Mohammed Sherif Al Awadi, director of Food Control Department, welcomed the guests and stressed the significance of continuous co-operation between authorities and private sector in the field of food safety.
“We aim to achieve the strategic goal in eliminating food poisoning cases, which will be realised only through the adherence to rules and regulations,” he pointed out.

Historic food safety agreement with US
Source : http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/auckland/news/nbpol/1850396236-historic-food-safety-agreement-with-us
By Katie Bradford-Crozier (Dec 14, 2012)
A historic food safety agreement has been signed between New Zealand and the United States.
The Food Safety Systems Recognition Arrangement means we recognise each other's systems as providing a similar degree of assurance.
It's the first time the US Food and Drug Administration has recognised another country's food safety system in such a way.
Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson says it'll lessen the potential regulatory burden for foods traded between our countries, by removing duplicate activities.

WY Restaurant Outbreak Likely from Norovirus
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/12/wy-restaurant-outbreak-likely-from-norovirus/
By James Andrews (Dec 13, 2012)
At least 167 residents around Casper, Wyo. have reported suffering from gastrointestinal illnesses in the past week, according to the Casper-Natrona County Health Department.
The evidence points to a Norovirus contamination at a buffet-style Golden Corral restaurant in east Casper as the source, health department director Robert Harrington told Food Safety News.
Thus far, none of the 167 self-reported cases have been clinically diagnosed. Results from tests should begin coming in next week.
The emergency room of the local hospital reported a “remarkable spike” last week in illnesses featuring symptoms of Norovirus infection, Harrington said. Those suffering from infection may experience diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting.
Around 1 p.m. Mountain Time, Golden Corral announced a voluntary 24-hour shutdown to sanitize the premises. Harrington cautioned management that a temporary closure cannot guarantee eliminating the contamination, but praised the move as “doing the right thing.”
The restaurant opened approximately one month ago, Harrington said. Local health officials performed their first operational inspection of the facilities on Wednesday following the spate of illness reports.
A news story published Wednesday in the Casper Star-Tribune featured an interview with a Golden Corral patron who noted dirty plates being served to customers. When he addressed the concern to an employee, he said he was told that the restaurant’s dishwasher was broken.
Harrington said that the dishwasher was functioning properly when officials inspected the restaurant on Wednesday. Inspectors did not note any unclean plates, either.
Health officials will be back at Golden Corral Friday to inspect the facility once again before it re-opens for dinner.

After Listeria Recall, Capital Packers Resumes Operations
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2012/after-listeria-recall-capital-packers-resumes-operations/
By Carla Gillespie (Dec 13, 2012)
Capital Packers Inc., of Edmonton, Alberta has resumed operations after a temporary closure prompted by a November recall for possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) lifted the suspension of operations at the company’s Establishment 231, after additional testing and the completion of a food safety investigation,.
Capital Packers  sells products under its own name and makes several products marketed under private labels. The recalled items were  ham sausage products under the Capital and Compliments brands.. Capital Packers submitted a corrective action plan that addressed recall and traceback issues and it was approved by the CFIA which will continue to closely monitor operations at the plant. The company has also submitted a timeline for implementation of other corrective action plans  related to general sanitation and maintenance issues such as: building maintenance, ventilation and storage.
There have been no illnesses  reported in association with the recall. However,  Listeria can cause severe illness.  Unlike other foodborne pathogens, symptoms of Listeria  infection, called listeriosis, can take up to two months after exposure to develop. Synptoms  include headache, fever, stiff neck,  muscle aches and nausea. Listeriosis during pregnancy can lead to premature delivery, infection of the newborn, miscarriage oe stillbirth. In addition to pregnant women, those most at risk include small children, seniors and those with compromised immune systems.

Stricter Food Safety Guidelines At Restaurants, Hotels Start Jan. 1
Source : http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/11/food-safety-disasters-2012_n_2276869.html
By CBSMiami (Dec 12, 2012)
FLORIDA (CBSMiami) – Beginning in January, your restaurant experience will be a little different, particularly in the menu.
Florida is changing the way it inspects restaurants and warns consumers about possible allergens in their meals.
The new guidelines come after changes to the National Food Safety Codes that were mandated by Congress and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)…all the way back in 2009.
Alain Turras wonders how safe and healthy the food is when he goes out to eat.
“Sometimes you go out and wonder about how the food’s being cooked, whether it’s healthy. Sometimes after eating at a restaurant, I’m not feeling very well,” Turras explained.
They’re aimed at making prepared foods safer and cutting down on food borne illnesses.
Effective January 1st, restaurants will have to disclose all potential allergens – like nuts and fruits – in its recipes to help consumers avoid foods that they are either allergic to or that would make them sick.
Kids meals can’t just be warmed up anymore: they’ll have to be fully cooked to kill off any potentially dangerous food-borne bacteria.
And inspection violations will be better classified into 3 categories…from the  2 which are used now..to provide more detailed information for food safety areas that need to be improved.
Violations could be serious, such as improper hand-washing or undercooking food; intermediate, such as inadequate employee training or labeling; or basic, which the Code deems best practices to implement.
It is unclear why incorporating best practices is classified as a violation. More information on the 2009 Food Code can be found here.
The Florida Restaurant Association supports the changes which will be phased in statewide starting next month.
Restaurants will still face a minimum of 2 mandatory food safety inspections a year.
Lee Neal is a Doral restaurant operator who said, “It’s red tape but it shouldn’t be too bad since a good operator ought to be doing it right anyways.”
Florida remains one of the few states in the nation that doesn’t “grade” food safety and require those grades to be openly posted for customers to see.
In addition to the changes for food service operators, lodging operators will also see the three-tiered system replace the designations of “critical” or “non-critical” violations.
Inspection reports are available online at myfloridalicense.com, and consumers still have the right to ask for, and be shown a restaurants’ most current inspection report.

England may stop serving burgers (minced meat) that will kill you with E. coli
Source : http://www.marlerblog.com/case-news/england-may-stop-serving-burgers-minced-meat-that-will-kill-you-with-e-coli/
By Bill Marler (Dec 12, 2012)
As the Daily Telegraph printed today:
James Armitage, the council’s food health and safety manager, said: “This is about making sure customers are eating meat that is not a threat to their health. It is possible to produce burgers that can be eaten undercooked, but strict controls are essential.
“We have enlisted the UK’s top expert on E. coli, Prof Hugh Pennington, to get this matter resolved and he has outlined that rare minced meat that is not correctly cooked and prepared can kill.”
As a friend’s Son-in-Law sent from London this morning:
Hopefully, we here in the former colonies hopefully remember (20 year Jack-in-the Box E. coli outbreak coming up) that undercooked meat kills.

Food safety top priority for Canadians, says new poll
Source : http://beaconnews.ca/blog/2012/12/food-safety-top-priority-for-canadians-says-new-poll/
By Beacon Staff Reporter (Dec 11, 2012)
A new poll released by the Canadian Food Safety Alliance on Tuesday showed that Canadians’ concern for food borne illness has persisted, months after the XL Food recall.
Canadians list food safety as one of their top concerns on par with concerns over the deficit.  The poll by Praxicus was commissioned by Canadian Food Safety Alliance and conducted between November 20 and 22 and included a sample of 1000 Adult Canadian citizens. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 per cent.
The survey also found that Canadians demand action when it comes to ensuring the food offered is safe, citing an increase in inspectors and the vaccination of all cattle to prevent them from carrying E. coli O157 as priorities for fighting food borne illness.
While the vast majority of Canadians are still either recorded as confident or somewhat confident in Canadian meat safety, concerns over issues such as E. coli O157 contamination remain a priority for the majority.
“This survey was done long after the massive beef recall and Canadians remain concerned about their food safety,” Canadian Food Alliance spokesperson Bliss Baker said.
“It certainly seems that Canadians want to see more done to protect the safety of their food,” Baker added.
Some of the highlights of the poll include food safety as topical and an issue of great importance, the importance of dealing with the issue trumps all other issues, including the deficit.
E. coli contamination trumps all food safety issues, as half of Canadians believe E. coli incidents have increased over 5 years and 42 per cent of Canadians say they have decreased beef consumption as a result of concerns.
The survey showed that Processors and Meat inspectors as mainly (equally) responsible for the E. coli outbreak. Eleven per cent of the respondents believed that the CFIA were doing “everything they can” compared to 15 per cent who believed that they were “not doing enough.”
Processing plants and big box/discount retailers are seen as the most likely places to purchase E. coli contaminated beef whereas local butchers and organic beef were seemed to be the least likely sources of E. coli contaminated beef.
The Canadian Food Safety Alliance is committed to protecting the public health by promoting a prevention program that reduces the human health risks associated with E. coli O157 contamination.

China, U.S. to continue food safety cooperation
Source : http://www.thepacker.com/fruit-vegetable-news/China-US-to-continue-food-safety-cooperation-183042261.html
By Tom Karst (Dec 11, 2012)
The U.S. and China will continue to cooperate on food safety matters.
The Food and Drug Administration has renewed a 2007 agreement with China’s food safety agency to enhance cooperation between the two countries.
The five-year extension of the agreement includes language on strengthening FDA’s ability to identify high-risk food items from China. The pact also promises cooperation in inspections of facilities that produce food and the creation of methods for FDA to accept “relevant, verified information from (China) regarding registration and certification,” according to a news release from FDA.
The 2007 agreement resulted in FDA opening offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, according to the release.
The agency has made considerable progress in food safety since the first agreement was signed, according to the release. One of those gains is increased inspection of Chinese food facilities, from zero inspections in 2007 to 85 inspections in 2011. Progress has also occurred in increased understanding of food safety systems and the adequacy of Chinas’ food safety laboratories, according to the release.

Concerns over Mad Cow Disease Raised in Brazil
Source : http://www.foodproductdesign.com/news/2012/12/concerns-raised-over-mad-cow-disease-raised-in-br.aspx
By Food Product Design (Dec 10, 2012)
BRAZIL—Brazil, one of the world's largest beef exporters, has been able to distance itself from mad cow disease, at least until recently.
The South American country last week notified the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) that it discovered a protein from a dead cow that is believed to cause mad cow disease otherwise known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). However, the animal that died two years ago did not have mad cow disease, according to Brazilian officials.
Still, those assurances didn't mollify world concerns over BSE, which the OIE states is a "progressive, fatal disease of the nervous system of cattle." Reuters reports that Japan has halted beef imports from Brazil.
R-CALF USA (the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) on Monday sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, asserting that "Brazil is not eligible to import into the United States ruminants that have been in Brazil, meat, meat products, and edible products other than meat."
"Further, until USDA conducts a through risk assessment of the risk of introducing BSE into the United States from Brazil and further conducts a public rulemaking with notice and opportunity for comment should USDA propose to include Brazil as a country with a minimal risk of BSE … Brazilian imports of ruminants and ruminant products must be prohibited," wrote Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF USA, in the letter.
Earlier this year, USDA confirmed the presence of BSE in a dairy cow from central California, though the agency reiterated no part of the animal entered the nation's food supply. In 2011, there were only 29 worldwide cases of BSE, a dramatic decline and 99% reduction since the peak in 1992 of 37,311 cases.
Australia, Brazil, India and the United States are among the world's leading beef exporters, according to USDA. The agency reported earlier this year that India's beef exports are forecast to surge 29% to a record of 2.16 million tons in 2013, representing nearly one-quarter of world trade. That figure is comparable to Brazil's record exports of 2.19 million tons in 2007, USDA said.

Salmonella and Peanut Butter: Victims’ Stories
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/12/salmonella-and-peanut-butter-victims-stories/
By James Andrews (Dec 04, 2012)
A little more than a week ago, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the end of the Salmonella outbreak tied to Trader Joe’s peanut butter made by Sunland Inc. in New Mexico. In total, at least 42 people in 20 states fell ill, with 10 requiring hospitalization.
Headlines from recent years have made the combination of peanut butter and Salmonella a notorious duo, predominantly due to two massive outbreaks in the second half of the 2000s: Peter Pan peanut butter in 2006-07, and products made with Peanut Corporation of America peanut butter in 2008-09.
Together, the two outbreaks resulted in at least 1,139 confirmed cases of Salmonella infection. The CDC estimates that for every one laboratory-confirmed case of Salmonella another 29 cases go unreported, meaning the outbreaks potentially sickened tens of thousands of people.
At least 425 people in 44 states fell ill with strains of Salmonella Tennessee in 2006 and 2007 after eating Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter manufactured by ConAgra in Georgia. Of those ill, 20 percent required hospitalization.
One of those people was Mora Lou Marshall, an 85-year-old cancer survivor and grandmother from Louisiana.  After her dentist recommended eating a spoonful of peanut butter every day for supplemental vitamins, Marshall continued to eat the Peter Pan brand throughout months of illness before health investigators finally traced the nationwide Salmonella outbreak back to that product.
Clifford Tousignant went through an all-too-similar experience two years later when he was hospitalized just after Christmas 2008 with what became diagnosed as a Salmonella infection. Tousignant, a sociable, 78-year-old Korean War veteran and three-time Purple Heart recipient from Minnesota, had recently moved into an assisted living facility where he was eating a peanut butter sandwich almost every day.
As it turned out, Tousignant was part of a Salmonella outbreak that eventually sickened at least 714 people across 46 states. Just after New Year’s 2009, investigators finally began to connect the rampant outbreak to thousands of products all made with peanut butter manufactured by Peanut Corporation of America.
For Tousignant, however, the discovery did not come fast enough. Health complications from his infection led to his passing on January 12. The outbreak also contributed to the deaths of 8 other victims.


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