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FoodHACCP Newsletter
04/01,2013 ISSUE:541

White House Overruled FDA Attempt to Require Microbiological Testing at Food Facilities
Source :
By (Mar 31, 2013)
A plan to require food facilities to conduct microbiological testing to ensure their products are safe to consume has been watered down by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
In response to the Food Safety Modernization Act, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) drafted new food safety rules that mandated companies conduct product and environmental testing to prevent pathogens from getting into food supplies.
But when those rules were submitted to OMB for review, administration officials from OMB;s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs stripped the provision requiring facilities to conduct microbiological testing. Such testing, according to food safety advocates, is necessary to confirm that a company's inspection program is working properly.
David Plunkett, a senior food safety attorney at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, criticized OMB for taking out the testing mandate.
OMB once again protecting corporate bottom lines at the expense of protection for public health,; Plunkett told Food Safety News. .;Testing is critical to verification. I don't think a preventive food safety system can be effective without it. Unfortunately, OMB bean counting of the wrong costs results in a less effective prevention program and ultimately continuing food safety problems.;

European legislation concerning food safety should change
Source :
By Radka Minarechová (Apr 01, 2013)
IN JANUARY 2013 media all over Europe reported cases of the appearance of horsemeat in beef-based food products. The Slovak Public Health Authority (ÚVZ) confirmed that horse DNA was present in Lasagne Bolognese Nowaco, a food product sold in Slovakia, even though the information on its label states that it contains only beef. The supplier of the product has already withdrawn it from shops and cafeterias, the TASR newswire reported in the beginning of March.
In an effort to ease fears in the member states about the situation, European Union authorities ordered the national veterinary and food inspection offices to impose higher fines on companies which profit from producing suspicious food. Moreover, the EU has introduced a plan to create a register of dishonest food producers, the Pravda daily reported on March 16.
In addition to this, the EU wants to make the current control mechanisms more efficient in order to prevent the increasing frequency of food scandals, Pravda wrote.
Since the Agriculture Ministry has already started working on its own system of publishing the names of dishonest businesspeople, it welcomes the activities of the EU, spokesperson for the ministry Peter Hajnala told The Slovak Spectator. He added that the ministry has already made several fundamental changes, like making the system of official control stricter and more effective. Yet, he stressed that it is necessary to .;realise these changes in all countries of the EU broadly and equally.;.
The Food Chamber of Slovakia (PKS) does not have a problem with stricter and improved control, but will surely oppose measures that will .;transpose the financing of official inspection to business entities or which will administratively burden them.;, said Daniel Poturnay, head of PKS. He explained to The Slovak Spectator that further burdening of businesses in the food sector might have serious consequences on small and medium-sized companies, which any EU member state cannot afford.
When it comes to the possible creation of a register of dishonest food producers, Poturnay said he would surely agree with publishing the names of deliberately murky businesses, such as the one that combined horsemeat with beef.
.;Yet, I am afraid that such a blacklist can very easily become a tool of competitive fighting,.; Poturnay added.

Just how many Farm Rich E. coli victims are there?
Source :
By  Drew Falkenstein (Mar 31, 2013)
We know that there are 24 infected people in 15 states, 7 who have been hospitalized, and 1 who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).  But the reach of Farm Rich's E. coli tainted chicken quesadillas and possibly other products is certainly broader than that.
There is little doubt that the E. coli illnesses caused by Farm Rich's products have been underreported.  The concept of underreporting.;people sickened in an outbreak for whom, for any of a variety of reasons, microbiological data is not secured to confirm their relationship to the outbreak.;is common in E. coli and other outbreaks.  One commentator states, .;many cases of foodborne illness are not reported because the ill person does not seek medical care, the health-care provider does not obtain a specimen for diagnosis, the laboratory does not perform the necessary diagnostic test, or the illness or laboratory findings are not communicated to public health officials. Therefore, to calculate the total number of illnesses caused by each pathogen, it is necessary to account for underreporting, i.e., the difference between the number of reported cases and the number of cases that actually occur in the community. For Salmonella, a pathogen that typically causes nonbloody diarrhea, the degree of underreporting has been estimated at ~38 fold (Voetsch, manuscript in preparation). For E. coli O157:H7, a pathogen that typically causes bloody diarrhea, the degree of underreporting has been estimated at ~20 fold..;  See Paul Mead et al.
In the Farm Rich E. coli outbreak, the CDC apparently agrees, and is concerned that we do not yet know, and may never know, the full scope of the outbreak.
The type of bacteria responsible for this outbreak is among those referred to as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli or STEC. Some types of STEC frequently cause severe disease, including bloody diarrhea and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which is a type of kidney failure. STEC bacteria are divided into serogroups (e.g., O157 or O121). E. coli O157 is the STEC serogroup found most commonly in U.S. patients. Other E. coli serogroups in the STEC group, including O121, are sometimes called .;non-O157 STECs..; Because clinical laboratories typically cannot directly identify non-O157 STEC serogroups, they must first test stool samples for the presence of Shiga toxins. Then, the positive samples must be sent to public health laboratories to look for non-O157 STEC. In recent years, the number of clinical laboratories that test for Shiga toxin has increased greatly, but some laboratories still do not perform these tests. Because of these complexities, many non-O157 STEC infections are probably not identified. The STEC O121 PFGE pattern in this outbreak is rare. In the past it has been seen less than 30 times in PulseNet.
If the information in the Meade article is any benchmark, there are a lot of sick people who have not been identified in the Farm Rich E. coli outbreak.  24 x 20 = 480.

Where the E. coli Chicken Quesadillas were Sold
Source :
By  Bill Marler (Mar 29, 2013)
On March 28, 2013, Rich Products Corporation recalled approximately 196,222 pounds of Farm Rich brand frozen chicken quesadillas and several other frozen mini meals and snack items because they might be contaminated with E. coli O121.  USDA/FSIS lists the following places of purchases:
Walmart .; Stores Nationwide
Winn-Dixie .; Stores in South Florida
And, in Michigan, the following grocery stores: Harding's Market, Town And Country Market, Hollywood Super Market, Family Fare, Wingert's Food & Variety Center, Glen's, Riverside Market, Martin's Super Markets, Bryan's Market, Oleson's Foods, VG's Grocery, Hollywood Super Market, Shop-Rite, Value Fresh Marketplace, Heartland Marketplace, Vinckier Foods, Village Market Food Center, Neiman's Family Market, Mcdonald's Food & Family Ctr., Leppink's Food Center, Value Center Marketplace, Greenfield Super Market, King Cole Foods, Carrow's Super Market, Shop .; N .; Save Food Center, D&W Fresh Market and Glory Supermarket.

Publisher's Platform: McDonald's and E. coli, 30 Years Later
Source :
By Bill Marler. (Mar 31, 2013)
A few weeks ago I was giving a talk at the Association of Health Care Journalists conference in Boston.  My talk was primarily an overview of where food safety has come since the Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in 1993.  At one point I introduced an article I found in 1993 at the beginning of the Jack in the Box litigation.
The article, .;Hemorrhagic colitis associated with a rare Escherichia coli serotype..; New England Journal of Medicine, 1983 Mar 24; 308 (12): 681-5., was the report of two outbreaks of an unusual gastrointestinal illness that affected at least 47 people in Oregon and Michigan in the first half of 1982. The illness was characterized by severe, crampy abdominal pain, initially watery diarrhea followed by grossly bloody diarrhea, and little or no fever. It was associated with eating at restaurants belonging to the same fast-food restaurant chain in Oregon and Michigan. This report described a clinically distinctive gastrointestinal illness associated with E. coli O157:H7, apparently transmitted by undercooked meat.
I made the point in my talk that I learned that .;the same fast-food restaurant chain.; was in fact McDonald's and that I was not aware that the outbreak had been publicized at all at the time.  Apparently, making such a statement in a room full of journalists was the right thing to do, as someone promptly .;tweeted.; me the March 23, 1983 article by the now-retired Daniel Q. Haney of the Associated Press.  Haney had written .;Fast Food Illness Traced To Rare Bacteria,.; in March 1983, and I had missed it in my 1993 research. Apparently, so it appears, did everyone else. Or, worse yet, it was simply ignored.
Reading the article 30 years later makes me wonder how often we miss the important things:
A mysterious intestinal ailment that first struck diners at a fast-food chain is a newfound disease caused by rare bacteria, and it has spread across the United States, researchers say.
The first major outbreak appeared last year among 47 people who ate at McDonald's restaurants in Michigan and Oregon.
A report on their inquiry into the disease, directed by Dr. Lee W. Riley, was published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.
From the patients' stool samples, doctors isolated a very rare form of bacteria called E. coli O157:H7. Then they found the same bacteria in a frozen hamburger patty stored at a processing plant. The meat had been kept from a batch that was shipped to the Michigan restaurants.
Steve Leroy, a McDonald's spokesman, declined to comment on the federal report.
.;It's hard to predict what's going to happen,.; Riley said. .;If it's like any other food-borne illness, if the original source is not immediately eliminated, then it's possible that it will stay in the food cycle for a long time to come..;
I decided to reach our to both Dr. Riley and Mr. Haney.  I found Dr. Riley at Berkley and Mr. Haney on Facebook, through a reporter I met on Twitter.  Both Dr. Riley and Mr. Haney were kind enough to answer a few questions.
In 1983 Dr. Riley was a CDC epidemiologist sent to investigate the E. coli outbreak in Oregon.  He was the lead author of the NEJM article.
At that time, Mr. Haney was a general assignment reporter for AP in Boston with a special interest in science and medicine, so he would cover interesting reports from the NEJM.
Dr. Riley recalls that .;we at CDC at the time were very ‘excited' about this E. coli because up to that time, we knew of only three classes of E. coli that caused diarrhea and none of them caused bloody diarrhea or HUS [Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, a kidney disease brought on by severe E. coli infection]..;  Dr. Riley also said he believed that .;this strain of E. coli had always been around but it was not recognized until the U.S. entered the era of mass production and distribution of hamburger meat to be served at fast-food restaurants — a lot of hamburger patties needed to be consumed to generate a recognizable outbreak..;
Mr. Haney recalled that he wrote two versions of the story .; one for the morning publication and one for the evening.  He recalled thinking at the time that this bug had the potential to create future harm — that the bacteria .;could settle in the nation's food chain if the source of the organism was not found soon..;
Ten years later, in Boston, Mr. Haney looked on as the Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak garnered national attention.  Dr. Riley recalled thinking that the E. coli problem was not going to disappear anytime soon.  He felt that .;this E. coli strain had become entrenched in the food animal reservoir and that the increasing animal husbandry practice of producing meat from cattle raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) had only exacerbated the problem..;
For me, I still wonder how much more could have been done to prevent the explosion that was the Jack in the Box outbreak.  Had Dr. Riley's NEJM article been publicized more widely would more have been done in the intervening decade?  What if other reporters had covered E. coli more in depth in the 1980s?
Clearly, at least as it relates to ground beef, the beef industry, restaurants and government have made great strides in preventing E. coli illnesses and outbreaks.  As I have said before, in the decade after Jack in the Box, 90 percent of  my law firm's revenue came from E. coli cases linked to hamburger. That percentage in now near zero.  Interventions at slaughter and increased cook temperatures and times, along with E. coli O157:H7 being considered an adulterant by the USDA/FSIS, have all helped.
But, E. coli has now found its way into foods as varied as spinach, lettuce, cookie dough, apple juice and cheese, and it has become an ever-increasing problem at water parks and petting zoos.  And, unfortunately, those cases have become a bigger and bigger part of what I do each day.

Fecal Transplants Battle Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria
Source :
By  Carla Gillespie (Mar 31, 2013)
Fecal transplants have proven effective in battling at least one kind of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, researchers have found. Vancomycin-resistantEnterococcus (VRE), not to be confused with Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), which  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) wrote about so urgently earlier this month, is one of the most commonly acquired infections in hospital settings, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Vancomycin is an antibiotic that is used to treat some drug-resistant infections caused by enterococci which are bacteria that live in human intestines. Some of these bacteria have become resistant to Vancomycin.Most VRE infections happen in intensive care units. Traditional methods for controlling the spread of these bacteria, such as wearing gloves and good handwashing  aren't completely effective because of the density of a typical colony of these bacteria.
One method that is effective at battling these fortified colonies is fecal transplant, according to a study published in the March issue of Infection and Immunity, the journal of the American Society of Microbiology. In experiments on mice, researchers used fecal transplant to reintroduce a diverse group of  microbes that are normally found in the intestine. The procedure resulted in .;a billionfold reduction in the density of intestinal VRE colonization,.;  according to the study abtract. The researchers conclude that their study may lead to a new treatment approach for treating VRE infections.

Slow progress on food safety regs
Source :
By  Craig Schneider (Mar 30, 2013)
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Four years ago, a salmonella outbreak swept across the country. Seven people died, hundreds were sickened. Washington held hearings and in Georgia, home of the peanut processing company that caused the outbreak, leaders vowed swift change.
And changes are occurring — but in regulatory time, which, compared to ordinary human time, with human health on the line, feels maddeningly slow, almost glacial.
.;What's taking so long?.; said Donetta Poisson, a food safety researcher and Georgia State University instructor. .;It's taking an awfully long time for something that needed to be done a long time ago..;
Georgia did pass a new food safety law, requiring producers to test all processed foods, in 2009, less than a year after the salmonella scare. (Warp speed, in regulatory time). But nearly another year passed before the law was translated into detailed rules that could be implemented in the field.
And a state audit released last year suggested that a significant share of food processors either were not testing their products for pathogens or were not reporting the ones they discovered, as the law mandates.
State agriculture officials reject that notion. Oscar Garrison, director of food safety for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, noted that no outbreak of food-borne illness has been traced to Georgia food processors since the law mandated them to test. .;It shows the system works,.; he said.
At the federal level, it was 2011 by the time President Barack Obama signed a new food safety law. Now, two years later, the Food and Drug Administration has new powers to shut down contaminated plants, but has just issued a draft of regulations on the handling of raw produce. FDA officials acknowledged that it will be late next year, at the earliest, before the rules go into effect.
The pace of change stands in stark contrast to the urgency for reform that followed the outbreak of 2009, which was traced to a Peanut Corporation of America plant in Blakely, Ga. It followed on the heels of a 2007 salmonella outbreak caused by a ConAgra Foods peanut plant in Sylvester, Ga.
During the Peanut Corp. outbreak thousands of products were pulled from grocery shelves and vending machines, and people cleared their cupboards of anything with even a pinch of peanut in it.
Some delays stem from the complex and technical nature of the business at hand, but industry lobbying (often backed by campaign contributions), funding shortages and sheer bureaucratic inertia also played a part. Even after the rules are in place, regulators face the challenge of ensuring that companies institute new procedures, retrain their employees and open their operations to inspectors.
The halting pace of the advance has food safety advocates feeling antsy, if not angry.
.;I'm not forgiving of either of them,.; University of Georgia food scientist Michael Doyle, referring to the state and federal governments.
Doyle, the director of the Center for Food Safety at UGA, said he understands that it can take time to translate a new law into agency regulations, but he's still frustrated. .;The bottom line is that these regulations help to enhance the safety of our food supply, which is important to all of us..;
When Georgia passed its .;red flag.; law, state officials touted it as the most comprehensive in the country.
But implementation of the law's most stringent protections — that food processors do their own testing and report any positive tests to the state — has come slowly. The state audit released last year found that 6 of the 11 facilities that auditors checked were not testing their products. (State agriculture officials question that number, saying some company representatives the auditors queried about testing just didn't know that testing was, in fact, being done.)
Auditors also noted that only seven positive tests for contamination were reported to the state in the first 17 months following the implementation of the regulations. Given the number of tests that should have occurred during that period — more than 7,000 — the auditors found the number of positives implausibly low. It works out to roughly one positive per 1,000 tests, whereas separate tests performed by the state during the same period had a positive rate of about one in 100.
That suggests that companies weren't reporting all positives. .;Or they just weren't testing,.; said Lisa Kieffer of the state Audit Department.
Agriculture officials say things are better now..;Vast improvements have been made since December 2011,.; Garrison said.
New food safety regulations greatly affect Georgia, where agriculture is the top industry and growers and processors produce a large share of the nation's chickens and peanuts. The state is also a big producer of salmonella, with a higher rate of reported cases than other states tracked by the federal Centers for Disease Control.
Georgia food producers voiced mixed feelings on the new regulations.
Leslie Zinn, owner of the Atlanta juice company Arden's Gardens, praised the state rules, which went into effect in April, 2010. .;The more requirements you have to hold companies accountable, the safer our food will be,.; she said.
While the state requires her company to test monthly for contamination, Zinn said she tests weekly in accordance with separate federal requirements.
But Earl Holtzclaw, owner of Atlanta Wheat Grass, said the wave of new requirements prompted him to stop producing juice about a year ago.
.;They just make up new rules. It's big government,.; he said. Now he just grows the grass and sells it to stores that juice it.
In addition to requiring processors to test their own products, the state has revamped its system for inspecting the plants. The new system went into effect in January, 2012, three years after the salmonella outbreak.
Under it, inspectors give more frequent scrutiny to the types of food and processing facilities that are more prone to contamination. Similarly, plants that have had problems in the past come in for added oversight.
.;We've put more skin in the game with these facilities,.; Garrison said.
Today, state officials say, compliance with Georgia's food safety law is high. Every one of the 502 food processors mandated to perform tests are doing so. The remaining 238 processors are exempt because they bottle water or produce a raw agricultural product or qualify as a small business.
Meanwhile, the number of positive tests for contamination reported to the state has risen to 26, Garrison said. Whenever a positive test is reported, the facility is immediately shut down until the company and state employees identify the cause by testing the floors, walls and machines as well as the product.
Garrison said inspectors are issuing fewer citations against companies (down from roughly 20,000 to 17,000 over the past year), which he attributed to greater adherence to the regulations.
Meanwhile, the agency is collecting more in fines; the 2012 total of $198,000 was almost double the 2010 figure.
However, the state audit cited numerous instances in which the agriculture agency did not take enforcement actions, or was slow to do so, against companies with repeat violations. Garrison said the new compliance program has addressed any such problems.
Meanwhile in Washington, President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act in early 2011. Some of it has gone into effect: allowing federal inspectors to more quickly seize food that is suspected of contamination, inspect company records, and shut down companies suspected of producing or holding contaminated food.
But two years after passage, the Food and Drug Administration is still vetting rules that would improve the handling of produce and mandate that companies create food safety plans.
Michael Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently that implementation will require additional resources, and lack of money has delayed the process.
The Obama administration had proposed $225 million to help fund the rules, and establish research centers to develop better food safety programs, with fees collected from food companies. But that program has gone nowhere.
Beyond that, the recent round of automatic budget cuts could mean 2,100 fewer federal inspections, which are vital to food safety, he said.
.;As we are delayed getting resources, we are getting delayed in implementation of the law,.; Taylor said.
Such delays have put the law two years behind the schedule intended by Congress, said David Plunkett, senior staff attorney for the Washington-based advocacy group Center for Science in The Public Interest, who predicts the law may not be fully in place until 2016.
The new federal requirements were welcomed by ConAgra, which was implicated in the 2007 salmonella outbreak. .;ConAgra Foods supports all efforts to improve the confidence and trust in the U.S. food supply that is already one of the safest in the world,.; said spokeswoman Becky Niiya in a written statement.
But from the outset, the measure drew criticism from those who felt it was over-baked and over-budget.
As the proposal became law, U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Savannah) told Bloomberg News: .;While it's a great reelection tool to terrify people into thinking that the food they're eating is unsafe and unsanitary, and if not for the wonderful nanny-state politicians we'd be getting sick after every meal, the system we have is doing a darn good job..;

Private-Label Foods Turn Consumer Focus to Supercenters
Source :
By (Mar 29, 2013)
ROCKVILLE, Md.— Private-label food and beverage products from supercenters have consumers turning away from traditional supermarkets. About 60% of American adults shop for groceries at supercenters, including 57% who grocery shop at either Walmart or SuperTarget and 37% who shop at both supercenters and traditional supermarkets, according to a recent report by Packaged Facts.
The report, "The Supercenter Grocery Shopper: U.S. Consumer Patterns at Walmart, Target, Meijer and Fred Meyer," points out that private labels from supercenters rival national brands in terms of price, value and quality, intensifying consumer perception that supercenters are viable alternatives to supermarkets when purchasing food.
Overall the report found price, in addition to quality, is a driving force behind where people shop and what products they buy. Fifty-two percent of Walmart customers shop at their favorite stores because of the prices and about 60% say they always look for special offers. Despite being more affluent consumers, Target shoppers are swayed by coupons to try new products, look to clearance items and are most likely to visit a store because of a sale.
Findings published in the report show 60% of customers who purchase private-label foods claim to shop at Walmart. The supercenter's Great Value brand proves popular with consumers, especially those seeking alternatives to national offerings in dairy, frozen food, meat, snack and dessert segments. The product line also points out the presence or absences of potential food allergens on product packaging. In an effort to provide healthier food options at affordable prices, Walmart began reformulating thousands of packaged foods including Great Value items.
Target's expansion of its Archer Farms private-label brand into a variety of premium internationally-inspired products has made the corporation popular with several influential grocery shopper segments such as, Latinos, Asians and foodies. The product line is also certified organic, enhancing its appeal to a growing population of health conscious Americans.

Profitability and Food Safety
Source :
By  David Walpuck (Mar 28, 2013)
As operators of food establishments look towards controlling costs, sometimes the decisions they make directly impact food safety. When sales go south, so does health and sanitation. In my years in the food service industry, this is what I have observed:
Reducing Labor Hours: Cutting staff has been a tactic used since the beginning of time. Unfortunately when this is done too aggressively, it can become a detriment. Expecting employees to unreasonably multi-task will not only affect morale, it will also hurt customer service. In some circumstances, individuals who care about food safety and try to do the right thing (like properly clean and sanitize a deli slicer) will often become the victim of getting their hours trimmed in revenge as a consequence of taking too much time.
Elimination of Training or Certification Programs: Having just one employee as a certified food handler in an operation where hundreds may be responsible for serving food is just not enough. More often than not, training gets kicked to the curb when it comes to cutbacks. It scares me when someone thinks cooking raw chicken to an internal temperature of 128 degrees F is justified; 165 degrees F for 15 seconds is what the FDA suggests.
Sick Employees Preparing or Serving Food: Some operators will just settle for a warm body, regardless of whether the person is infected with one of the .;Big 5.; pathogens. People who have Norovirus, Hepatitis A, Shigella, Salmonella or E. Coli, or are showing symptoms of foodborne illness such as diarrhea or vomiting, should not be handling food. I understand that people need to work to support their families; however there are other options besides risking a foodborne illness outbreak.
Neglecting Equipment or Facilities Maintenance: Does the price of a thermometer, getting table mounted cutting boards re-surfaced or eliminating the pest control company make sense? Some food establishments pinch pennies in areas where they cannot afford to. If you have mice in your establishment because of a lack of sanitation and they are caught on film by a customer and aired on the five o'clock news, how do you expect to increase sales with such negative publicity?
Purchasing Cheap Food Products From Unapproved Sources: Rolling raw bottom feeding fish from a local polluted river into sushi is not suggested. Neither is knowingly selling peanuts contaminated with Salmonella. Need I say more?
Rolling the dice with food safety will eventually catch up to habitual offenders. With the CDC estimating that 1 in 6 Americans contract a foodborne illness each year, the odds are high. Profits and managing the bottom line should never risk the consumer's health. Unfortunately, this lesson often gets learned a little too late.

Hawaii Detects E. coli Outbreak on Oahu
Source :
By (Mar 28, 2013)
An outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 has sickened at least nine people on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, reported state health officials this week.
Victims of the outbreak, which began in mid-February, include six children and three adults, according to the Civil Beat. Four of the victims .; one adult and three children .; have been hospitalized. The three children were treated for hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a potentially fatal complication of E. coli infection that causes kidney failure.
One child remains in the hospital but is recovering. All but one of those sickened live on the island. The non-resident was visiting from Canada, reported the Hawaii Department of Health Disease Investigation Branch, which sent out a warning letter to Oahu healthcare providers last week.
Health officials say they have yet to pinpoint the source of the bacteria. The people who were infected belong to different families and live in different places around the island.
.;We've been doing the investigation but as of right now, there has not been any identifiable commonality among the cases,.; said Michele Nakata, chief of the DOH's Disease Investigation Branch, reported Civil Beat. .;They didn't participate in the same kinds of activities. They didn't eat the same types of food items. And they didn't go to the same restaurants or anything like that. So it's been fairly complicated..;
In the meantime, DOH recommends that consumers use safe food handling practices in order to avoid infection.

UPDATE: Public Health officials urge food safety
Source :
By (Mar 28, 2013)
Easter is here and with it the hunt for eggs. And eggs have to be properly cooked, and stored to ensure they are safe to eat, health officials said.
The Department of Public Health and Social Services promotes the use of plastic eggs for egg hunts and other activities to prevent food-borne illnesses.
.;Eggs are among the most nutritious foods on earth and can be a part of a healthy diet,.; officials write in a press release. .;However, they are perishable just like raw meat, poultry, and fish. To be safe, eggs must be safely handled, promptly refrigerated, and thoroughly cooked..;
Public Health officials listed the following safety recommendations:
1. Choose the freshest eggs possible and make sure that the shells are not cracked.
2. Separate eggs from other foods in your grocery cart, grocery bags, and in the refrigerator to prevent cross contamination.
3. As soon as you reach home, place the eggs in the refrigerator. Keep the eggs in the coldest part of the refrigerator — not in the door.
4. Inside the refrigerator, keep eggs separate from raw meats that might contaminate eggshells.
5. Check your refrigerator temperature with an appliance thermometer and adjust the refrigerator temperature to 40 ;F.
6. Wash hands well in warm, soapy water for about 20 seconds before handling eggs at every step: cooking, cooling, dyeing and hiding the eggs.
7. When you cook the eggs, make sure the water is hot (185-190;F) and simmer for a minimum of 12 minutes. Cool the eggs in cool water or simply air dry.
8. When hiding Easter eggs, don't place eggs where they might come in contact with pets, wild animals or birds, or lawn chemicals.
9. Throw out or do not eat any Easter egg which are cracked, obviously soiled or dirty, and Easter egg that have been kept out from the refrigerator for more than two hours.
10. Eat properly refrigerated, hard-boiled eggs within seven days.
For more information, call the Division of Environmental Health at 735-7221.

Women's History Month: FDA Spotlights Food Safety Pioneer Mary Engle Pennington
Source :
By  Carla Gillespie (Mar 28, 2013)
Mary Engle Pennington was the first female lab chief of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Her research .;helped revolutionize the food supply, making more safe, fresh foods available at affordable prices, particularly in newly industrialized areas of the country,.; according to the agency, which is spotlighting her career for Women's History Month.
Born in 1872, she studied chemistry and biology at the Towne Scientific School at the University of Pennsylvania. At that time the school did not award B.A. degrees to women, so upon completing her coursework she instead received a .;certificate of proficiency..; In 18995, she earned a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, which had become one of the only schools in the country to grant such degrees to women.
Unable to find work, she started her own company called Philadelphia Clinical Laboratory where she conducted research. Her first project was ice cream. It was frequently sold to school children as a treat and frequently contaminated with dangerous bacteria.  She work to educate farmers about handling raw milk.
After the Pure Food and Drugs Act (the Wiley Act) became law in 1906, FDA chief Harvey Wiley, M.D. asked Pennington to head the Bureau of Chemistry's Food Research Lab. Familiar with her work and aware that she achieved the top score on the Civil Service, Wiley knew Pennington was the best person for the job. Knowing that not everyone would feel the same way, he disguised her gender by referring to his top candidate as M.E. Pennington.
Pennington's cold storage research at the FDA led to the recognition that fresh foods could keep longer when kept at a constant low temperature. She discovered that keeping constant low temperatures also kept bacterial counts low, a discovery that would prove important in trying to establish food quality benchmarks. She published booklets to educate the public on proper food storage,
She left the FDA in 1919, but continued her work on food preservation and cold storage.   Her research influenced Clarence Birdseye as he perfected his flash-freezing technique. She founded the Household Refrigeration Bureau -which aimed to help consumers safely use refrigeration techniques; designed refrigerators and refrigerated warehouses. Her work improved the health and well being American consumers. She died in 1952.

UPDATE: Residents encouraged to practice food safety during Easter season
Source :
By Pacific Daily News (Mar 28, 2013)
As residents prepare to munch on Easter eggs the Department of Public Health and Social Services wants to give some tips to insure food safety.
Eggs are perishable just like raw meat, poultry, and fish. To be safe, eggs must be safely handled, promptly refrigerated, and thoroughly cooked.
The Department of Public Health and Social Services promotes the use of plastic eggs instead of actual eggs during Easter egg hunt activities to prevent any chance for food-borne illness to happen. If you decide to use real eggs, the following are safety recommendations that should be observed:
1. Choose the freshest eggs possible and make sure that the shells are not cracked.
2. Separate eggs from other foods in your grocery cart, grocery bags, and in the refrigerator to prevent cross contamination.
3. As soon as you reach home, place the eggs in the refrigerator. Keep the eggs in the coldest part of the refrigerator .; not in the door.
4. Inside the refrigerator, keep eggs separate from raw meats that might contaminate eggshells.
5. Check your refrigerator temperature with an appliance thermometer and adjust the refrigerator temperature to 40 ;F.
6. Wash hands well in warm, soapy water for about 20 seconds before handling eggs at every step: cooking, cooling, dyeing and hiding the eggs.
7. When you cook the eggs, make sure the water is hot (185-190;F) and simmer for a minimum of 12 minutes. Cool the eggs in cool water or simply air dry.
8. When hiding Easter eggs, do not place eggs where they might come in contact with pets, wild animals or birds, or lawn chemicals.
9. Throw out or do not eat any Easter egg which are cracked, obviously soiled or dirty, and that have been kept out from the refrigerator for more than two hours.
10. Eat properly refrigerated, hard-boiled eggs within seven days.
Be careful in handling eggs during the Easter season. Enjoy egg hunting without the risk of food-borne illness.
For more information, please call the Division of Environmental Health at 735-7221.

Questions and Answers on New Food Safety Rules
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By  Linda Larsen (Mar 27, 2013)
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released a Q&A on new food safety rules for the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The questions about the produce rule cover product tracing, record keeping requirements for high risk foods,  the scope of the rules, and information about laws, regulations, and guidance documents. And the rules for current good manufacturing practices and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventing Controls for Human Food cover compliance, fees, inspections, and recalls.
Traceability is crucial when there's a foodborne illness outbreak. And since many outbreaks were linked to produce in the last few years, tracing this type of food is important to outbreak control and prevention. Product tracing documents the .;production and distribution chain of products so that in the case of an outbreak or evidence of contaminated food, a product can be traced back to a common source or forward through distribution channels..;
The FDA established product tracing pilot programs through the Institute of Food Technologies. They will help determine the data needed to trace a product back to its common source. Tracing product forward was also tested. The foods that were part of the pilots included tomatoes, frozen Kung-Pao style dishes that contain different ingredients, and jarred peanut butter and dry packaged peanut/spice products. You can see the results of these pilots at .;Pilot Projects for Improving Product Tracing along the Food Supply System..;
IFT recommended ten steps for produce tracing, including establishing a uniform set of record keeping requirements, that facilities maintain records of Critical Tracing Events and Key DAta Elements. In addition, the FDA should coordinate traceback investigations and develop response protocols between state and local health and regulatory agencies.
The CGMP rules still ahve not defined what a .;high risk food.; is, which is crucial to determining the HACCP for different facilities. Most of the questions relate to term definitions, exemptions, and details about food safety plans.

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FDA meeting on food safety in Portland draws consumers, farmers, regulators
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By Lynne Terry, The Oregonian (Mar 27, 2013)
Several hundred farmers, regulators and consumers from Alaska to North Dakota to California gathered in Portland on Wednesday to listen to federal plans to overhaul the food safety system.
The discussion was often dry, but the impact could be huge: The Food and Drug Administration estimates that one of its proposals alone could reduce the number of Americans who suffer food poisoning every year by 1.75 million.
"That's what this is all about," said Mike Taylor, the top food safety guru at the Food and Drug Administration.
Two years ago, Congress passed a landmark food safety bill. In January, the FDA released two proposed rules to put that bill into effect. Three others are in the works. Wednesday's session in Portland focused on a proposal governing produce that's considered a game-changer by food safety experts. Bagged greens, frest fruit, even hazelnuts have caused a number of outbreaks in recent years alone.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 3,000 people across the country die each year from food poisoning. About 48 million fall ill and nearly 130,000 end up in the hospital.
One of them was Rylee Gustafson, a 15-year-old from Las Vegas who testified at the meeting. In 2006, she became severely ill after eating bagged, triple-washed spinach tainted with a potentially fatal form of E. coli.
She suffered kidney failure and was hospitalized for 36 days.
"I thought I was going to die," she said in a whisper of a voice.
Even today, she faces lingering health problems as a Type 1 diabetic. But she's quick to flash a smile and is passionate about food safety, traveling to Washington D.C. and Portland to push for tighter food safety rules.
"I do not want anyone else to go through what I did," she said.
The produce rule aims to prevent illnesses like Gustafson's. It covers food that is usually eaten raw. Proper cooking kills harmful organisms on other produce, such as potatoes. The rule addresses five areas: water quality, manure, worker health and hygiene, the sanitation of buildings and equipment and contamination from domestic and wild animals.
"Poor practices can lead to the contamination of produce, which leads to illness," said Samir Assar, director of produce safety at the FDA.
The water quality provision would require farmers to test irrigation water for harmful organisms as often as once a week. That worries some growers.
"As it reads today, they'd want us to do water testing weekly as the fruit forms from May to October," said Jim Colbert, a food safety specialist at the Chelan Fruit Cooperative in Chelan, Wash. "I don't think there are enough labs in the U.S. to do that."
Colbert, who grows apples and cherries, also worries about the sanitation regulations. "How do you sanitize a plywood box?" he asked. "We don't know what their definition of sanitize is."
Mike Freese, director of regulatory affairs for the Oregon Farm Bureau, expressed similar concerns.
"Water quality is going to be a significant issue for us," Freese said. "We're looking for the FDA to be flexible in how we implement the rules."
While growers press for flexibility on the ground, some food safety specialists want flexibility to cover uncharted territory in the future.
"We want to make sure the exemptions aren't too broad," said Sandra Eskin, director of the food safety campaign at Pew Charitable Trusts. "We don't know what the next contaminated product will be."
She also wants the regulations to require processors and growers to test food on its way to market to ensure that the controls are working.
"The rules don't say anything about testing," she said.
Once they're enacted, in perhaps a year, the regulations will be phased in over time. The smallest farms, that sell up to $250,000 worth of food a year, will have six years to fully comply. The biggest farms will have two years. The FDA estimates the overall cost to industry at $460 million.
Many farms in Oregon will be exempt. The rules exclude growers who sell mainly to restaurants and consumers and make less than $500,000 a year. But small producers are paying attention nevertheless, said Nellie McAdams of the advocacy group, Friends of Family Farmers.
She said they're worried the exemptions will go away, eventually. "I think a lot of them are afraid of the slippery slope," McAdams said.
But one big question about the regulations looms .; funding. The FDA needs money to pay for inspections, training and technology.
The Obama administration proposed $225 million to finance the food safety overhaul, funded by industry fees. But Congress never authorized them.
"There is a significant funding gap," said Taylor, the FDA's food safety chief.
The agency is working on a proposal, outlining how much it will need. Taylor said it plans to partner with state and foreign regulators to shoulder some of the burden of policing the law. It will also rely on the industry itself.
"We think we will get compliance through education and outreach," he said. "We think most farmers want to do the right thing."

Salmonella Typhimurium Outbreak Linked to Jouni Meats and Gab Halal Foods, but what was the source?
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By Bill Marler (Mar 26, 2013)
In January 2013 local, state and federal officials announced an outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium linked to consumption of ground beef produced by Jouni Meats, Inc. and Gab Halal Foods.  Public health investigators used DNA .;fingerprints.; of Salmonella bacteria obtained through diagnostic testing with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) to identify patients considered to be part of the outbreak. Collaborative investigative efforts indicated that ground beef produced by Jouni Meats, Inc. and Gab Halal Foods were the likely source of the outbreak.
A total of 22 persons infected with the outbreak strain were reported from six states:  Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Among persons for whom information was available, illness onset dates ranged from December 9, 2012 to February 20, 2013.  Ill persons ranged in age from 2 years to 87 years. Among 14 persons with available information, 7 ill persons were hospitalized.  No deaths were reported.
Initial investigations focused on 7 ill persons in Michigan (6) and Arizona (1) who reported eating at the same restaurant before their illness began.  All seven of these ill persons reported eating raw ground beef kibbeh (a dish typically made of finely ground red meat, usually beef, minced onions, and bulghur wheat) at this restaurant before becoming ill.  An additional 9 ill persons were interviewed and answered questions about foods consumed and other exposures during the week before becoming ill.  Although several of these ill persons reported eating beef prior to becoming ill, a likely source was not identified that linked these illnesses with the illnesses at the restaurant.
On January 24, 2013 Jouni Meats, Inc. recalled approximately 500 pounds of ground beef products.[1]  In the FSIS recall news release announcing this recall, FSIS stated that the investigation identified that raw ground beef was consumed at a restaurant. The products subject to recall are various size packages of ground beef. These products were produced between December 4, 2012 and December 9, 2012, and distributed to a restaurant in Macomb County, Michigan, and sold directly to consumers at Jouni Meats, Inc.  On January 25, 2013 Gab Halal Foods recalled approximately 550 pounds of ground beef products.[2]  The products subject to recall are various size packages of ground beef wrapped in clear plastic. These products were produced between Dec. 4, 2012, and Dec. 10, 2012, and distributed to a restaurant in Macomb County, Michigan, and sold directly to consumers at Gab Halal Foods.
The causal link between our clients' Salmonella Typhimurium infection and ground beef produced by Jouni Meats, Inc. is clear.  On December 8, 2012 they ate kibbeh prepared at Ikes Restaurant in Sterling Heights, Michigan.  They shared this meal with other family members, who were also diagnosed with Salmonella Typhimurium.
On March 15, 2013 the CDC issued a final notice declaring the outbreak to be over.[3]  Yet, no one has yet to trace the Salmonella Typhimurium to its source.

Horsemeat Detected in Chicken Nuggets in Greece
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By (Mar 26, 2013)
Chicken nuggets and other meat products have been recalled by Greek health authorities after being found to contain horsemeat, the UK's Meat Trades Journal reported Monday.
The Hellenic Food Safety Authority (EFET) said in a statement that the fraud was discovered via laboratory testing, but so far the first eight results for phenylbutazone, a drug commonly administered to horses that is harmful to humans, have all been negative.
Horse DNA was detected at various levels in a variety of products, including soutsouki (more than 25 percent horsemeat), chicken nuggets (between 10 and 25 percent), pre cooked frozen burgers (more than 50 percent) and frankfurter sausage (between 10 and 25 percent).
See for a full list of recently recalled products.
The recall became widely known on Monday, just as an editorial by Bloomberg News on how the recent horsemeat scandals are an example of the weaknesses in the global food chain was being circulated.
.;The horse-meat storm that broke over Europe two months ago has been in one respect a tempest in a horseshoe, because it posed no threat to human health,.; read the editorial. .;That's not a minor caveat in an industry where, in the United States alone, tainted food kills 3,000 people each year and sickens 48 million. The horse-meat substitution has struck a nerve, however, as people wonder what else they're eating that isn't what they think it is..;

Scientists Warn on GE Food Safety Protocol
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By GE Free NZ (Mar 27, 2013)
Scientists Warn on GE Food Safety Protocol (GE-Free NZ)
Scientists who have been warning about risks from untested GE foods have proposed a new testing protocol to protect human health. Intervention is urgently needed to stop food authorities pushing on with approvals and to adopt a new protocol of proper research.
Food Standards ANZ (FSANZ) has just notified the public that they have received an application to assess a GE soy (A1081) that is resistant to glufosinate and atrazine type herbicides, for entry into the food chain. [1]
Despite appeals to stop, the Minister is also about to sign off on a genetically modified soybean (A1073) that has not met the minimal standards for scientific testing expected by consumers.
An article in the Environment International Journal [2] [3] reviewing safety regulations for GM crops and novel dsRNA technology is a wake up call to regulators to immediately apply the necessary expertise for safety testing.
Co-authored by Professor Heinemann of the Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety (INBI) the article details a scientific assessment protocol, warning "our current understanding of dsRNA in GM plants is in its infancy and we are still trying to understand how they may work and therefore how they may affect humans, animals and the environment".
A significant amount of imported GE food in New Zealand escapes labeling because it is refined into oils, sugar syrups and flour or sold at point of preparation. However the types of GE soy and corn that are discussed in the published article have been approved by the FSANZ. There is evidence that cooking food may not be enough to prevent unwanted effects.
There is also concern about GE Soy bean meal that makes up a large proportion of animals feed imports, especially chicken feed. Animals and humans that have eaten GE foods have had herbicide metabolites and transgenic genes detected in their blood and organs. [4]
Reports on sudden animal deaths in Northland [5] and New Plymouth [6] and the admission that GE animal feed has been imported in large amounts over the last year raises the question of a possible link between the deaths and animal feed.
Another report found illness and deaths in China after animals were fed GE corn (XY335) [7] including serious reproductive disorders. The unexplained deaths of thousands of pigs [8] that have been pulled out of the Huangpu River also raises the possibility of a connection to GE contamination in feed that deserves to be considered by investigators.
.;The Minister and FSANZ must take these incidents seriously and listen to the scientific warnings. The food chain faces the threat of chemicals that are banned in other countries and that are dangerous. 2,4-D and Atrazine type sprays will become a lethal part of breakfast, lunch and dinner,.; said Claire Bleakley, president of GE Free NZ in food and environment.
"The GE foods should be considered in the same light as chemical warfare, it's just happening undercover in the food chain..;
The scientific warning for a new safety protocol for novel GE foods is a reason to immediate halt further GE food applications.

Food Safety Modernization Act Testing Requirement Axed In White House Review
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By Joe Satran (Mar 26, 2013)
At the very beginning of 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released its proposals for the most important food safety regulations in a generation. The proposed rule on "Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls For Human Food," lays out the procedures that food manufacturers -- cookie factories, grocery warehouses, frozen foods packagers -- would need to implement in order to reduce the risk that their products would harbor pathogens. The proposal grew out of the landmark Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) passed exactly two years earlier, and it aimed to prevent one million illnesses a year.
One strange quirk of the proposed rule, though, is that it doesn't require facilities to conduct microbiological testing to confirm that their food safety programs are working. It says that manufacturers can swab surfaces or test samples of finished goods for microbes if they like, but it puts them under no obligation to do so. Food safety advocates said that the lack of a requirement cuts the chances that following the regulations would reduce food poisoning.
"Testing is crucial to verify that your control programs are working, to have some data that says, 'yes, what we're doing works.' Otherwise, you're just guessing," food safety expert Doug Powell told HuffPost in January 2013. "It's not much better than astrology. It's faith-based food safety."
Newly released documents discovered by Food Chemical News show that the FDA tried to mandate microbiological testing in its first draft of the regulations. But the agency was rebuffed by the White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the part of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that reviews proposed regulations, according to Food Chemical News.
The FDA submitted a draft of the regulations to OIRA on Nov. 17, 2011 that included requirements for both environmental monitoring and finished product testing. But by the time the proposed rule for food manufacturers was released for public comment on Jan. 4, 2013, the idea of testing had been moved to an appendix, which was expressly not to be included in the Federal Registry.
David Plunkett of the Center for Science in the Public Interest said that the two drafts leave little doubt as to what happened. "FDA thought testing was critical to effective preventive control programs and OMB made them take it out," Plunkett said in an email to The Huffington Post.
It's not yet clear why this change was made. Or even who made it: the OMB's changes likely reflect the input of several federal agencies and innumerable Washington bureaucrats. HuffPost's requests for clarification from the FDA and the OMB were met, respectively, with silence and vague boilerplate about the administration's commitment to food safety.
But there's a good chance that the change was motivated by a desire to save money, according to Lee Beck, a Washington attorney and writer of policy blog Federal Regulations Advisor.
"If OMB does not find the benefit / cost analysis or paperwork burden analysis to justify a requirement, it may demand better analysis or insist that the agency pare back the proposal to impose a justifiable cost to consumers and the economy," Beck explained in an email to The Huffington Post.
In other words, OMB can demand that the regulations be cut back if it doesn't feel like they produce enough economic benefit for the burden they impose. The differences between the economic impact assessments for the two draft regulations support the idea that that's exactly what happened here.
The FDA estimated that finished product testing and environmental monitoring would cost the industry about $78 million a year, roughly 11 percent of the total $676 million annual burden of the regulation as the FDA had written it. Though not a small amount, this was dwarfed by the potential economic benefit, in the form of prevented illnesses, that the FDA estimated the regulation would bring: $3 billion.
But the OMB -- or some other agency it consulted -- seems to have seen this estimate of the potential upside as overly optimistic, largely because the FDA overestimated the number of allergic reactions the rule could prevent by about 320,000 a year. Correcting this mistake slashed the potential benefit of the regulation by nearly $750 million. Other changes in calculations brought the OMB's estimate of potential benefits down to $2 billion. That was only if the rule prevented all the illnesses caused by FDA-regulated products. If it only prevented 25 percent, say, the benefit would only be $500 million -- far lower than the $676 million cost of the regulation, as the FDA had proposed it.
When it comes to federal regulations, costs must always be lower than benefits, so this wouldn't do. It seems likely that, when the OMB and other agencies were reviewing the draft, they started looking for places to cut, and the $78 million testing requirement started to look attractive.
In his email, Plunkett said he thought that cutting testing was the wrong call. "It's a question of who do you want cooking your food -- the chef or the bookkeeper? If the food isn't fit to eat, how much money you save doesn't really matter," he wrote.
As food politics guru Marion Nestle pointed out in a blog post about the changes, it's not too late for the FDA to add a testing requirement to the regulations before they're finalized. The agency is accepting public comments on the regulations until May 15, so if you want them to require food manufacturers to test their facilities and products for pathogens, speak up soon.

Reports of Foodborne Illness Decline by 40%
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By Linda Larsen (Mar 26, 2013)
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has released a new review of foodborne illness outbreaks. They found that from 2001 to 2010, the latest period for which data is available, outbreaks related to E. coli, Salmonella, and other pathogens decreased by more than 40%. This may be because of better food safety practices, including the adoption of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) programs in the meat, poultry, and seafood industries, as specified by the government.
But the agency warns that incomplete reporting by public health agencies stretched and overworked by budget cuts may have influenced the data. CSPI food safety director Caroline Smith DeWaal said, .;despite progress made by the industry and by food safety regulators, contaminated food is still causing too many illnesses, visits to the emergency room, and deaths. Yet state and local health departments and federal food safety programs always seem to be on the chopping block. Those financial pressures not only threaten the progress we've made on food safety, but threaten our very understanding of which foods and which pathogens are making people sick..;
In addition, foodborne illnesses are notoriously underreported. In fact, the CDC multiplies outbreak numbers by 30 in most cases to get the actual numbers of illnesses in most outbreaks.
CSPI also states that there is a decline in the extent to which reports of foodborne illness are fully investigated. An outbreak is considered .;fully investigated.; when the food and the pathogen responsible for the outbreak are identified. But during that same ten year period, the percentage of fully investigated outbreaks declined from 46% in 2001 to 33% in 2010. You can search for foodborne illness outbreaks at the CSPI Outbreak Alert! Database.
Seafood, poultry, and beef had the sharpest declines in the number of outbreaks. Outbreaks related to produce remained flat. And illnesses related to dairy reached their highest point in 2010. CSPI says, .;the increased availability of raw, unpasteurized milk and cheese may account for this; these products are inherently hazardous and should not be consumed at all..;
And here's an interesting fact: foods regulated by the FDA, which include produce, seafood, dairy, and most packaged foods, were responsible for more than twice as many outbreaks as the meat and poultry regulated by the USDA. The FDA is currently developing regulations to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act, which was signed into law in 2011.

Island Health Department Offers Food Safety Classes for Pros
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By Rick Mellerup(Mar 26, 2013)
When vacationers visit Long Beach Island, everybody wants to send them away with great memories .; a sunny beach, a big fish, a ride on the Ferris wheel at Fantasy Island, a good round of miniature golf, a show at Surflight Theatre. The memory to be avoided is a bout of food poisoning. (And as anyone who has ever suffered a true case can tell you, it is an unforgettable experience.)
So the Long Beach Island Health Department has long offered courses and seminars in food safety to the Island's restaurant owners and employees. That became especially important in 2010 when New Jersey required at least one person in every .;Type 3.; food establishment to be a certified food protection manager.
Here's the catch .; becoming certified requires an intensive, usually two-day class followed by an exam. It is technical and tough enough for anybody, to say nothing about workers who speak English as a second language. And many of the restaurant kitchens of LBI, and indeed all of Southern Ocean County and the state, are filled with just such workers.
So the health department decided to offer a food manager certification course this spring in Spanish. The department's director, Timothy Hilferty, said it had offered shorter classes in Spanish in the past. But this will be the first time it is offering a full certification course in that language.
Following advice from other health departments in the state, the LBI Health Department contracted with Paster Training Inc. of Gilbertsville, Pa., to conduct the training. Paster is an industry leader, counting Burger King and Subway among its clients.
The class will be held on Wednesday, April 24, at 8 a.m. (registration is 7:30 to 7:45 a.m.) in the courtroom of the Long Beach Township Municipal Building, 6805 Long Beach Blvd. in Brant Beach. The test will follow from 4 p.m. until completion.
The fee is $169 if prepaid at least 21 days in advance, or $185 after that (plus $10 shipping and handling for the ServSafe 6th Edition Managers Book). Payment in full is due at least seven days before the class date.
People desiring to attend the course may register by calling Paster Training at 866-394-1776, extension 116. Participants must register with Paster, not with the LBI Health Department.
On Monday and Tuesday, April 29 and 30, the LBIHD will host a similar course in English, which will result in a nationally recognized food safety manager certification, valid for five years and transferrable throughout the country. The course will be held at the Long Beach Island branch of the Ocean County Library, 217 South Central Ave. in Surf City. The class is 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. the first day and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. the second. Cost is $95. It'sless expense because the department's head food safety inspector, Dan Krupinski, is certified to teach it himself. Seating is limited; the registration deadline is April 24. Sign up at LBIHD, 609-492-1212.

Thanksgiving Turkey Gone Very Wrong
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By Bill Marler (Mar 26, 2013)
On Sunday, May 22, 2005, the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) was alerted to a possible outbreak of foodborne illness centered at Old South restaurant in Camden, South Carolina.  See Final Report, as Attachment No. 1. DHEC officials commenced their investigation the same afternoon.  The outbreak they would soon confirm turned out to be one of the biggest in South Carolina history, sickening over 300 people and killing one man.
The environmental investigation commenced the same afternoon with an inspection of the restaurant.  The facility had closed for the day, and food from the previous week had already been discarded.  Officials returned on May 23 after receiving reports of illness from a family who had received catered food from the previous Thursday's menu.  This time, environmental staff collected surface swabs and questioned staff and owners about food preparation.  Officials returned again on May 24, and on this date collected samples of raw turkey and eggs from the lot that had been used in meals on May 19 and 22.  The turkey samples were taken for testing to the Food Safety and Inspection Service laboratory in Athens.
Meanwhile, DHEC officials had also begun their epidemiological investigation.  Information, including reports of illness, suggested an outbreak at Old South between and including May 18 and May 22.  Officials developed the following case definition:
A case is an individual with onset of diarrhea with or without fever, vomiting, abdominal cramps, or nausea OR with at least 3 of 4 non-diarrheal symptoms with onset of symptoms after May 18 and who ate at [Old South] between Thursday, May 18 and Sunday, May 22.
For their case-control study, DHEC officials initially analyzed only people who had dined at Old South on May 19.  This analysis revealed that roast turkey was significantly associated with illness, thus prompting second and third studies involving diners from both May 19 and May 22.  Ultimately, the combined results of all studies implicated roasted turkey and biscuits as the likely foods that caused illness.
Laboratory results from the environmental investigation further implicated the roast turkey.  The raw turkey samples that had been taken for testing at the FSIS laboratory returned positive for Salmonella enteritidis.  The Final Report states:
The laboratory results documented the presence of Salmonella enteritidis in the roasted turkey sample collected from the catered event.  All the isolates of Salmonella [including stool samples from .;cases.;] were indistinguishable by PFGE testing using both the Xba I enzyme and the Bln I enzyme.  The phage typing of nine isolates from the outbreak by the CDC also identified all of them to be identical.
The final circumstances implicating the turkey were discovered by Old South employees during the course of the investigation.  The convection oven  that employees had used to cook the contaminated turkey had malfunctioned, thus preventing the turkey from reaching a temperature sufficient to kill Salmonella.  More specifically, two of the oven's three heating elements were inoperable during the outbreak exposure period, leaving only one element to warm the oven.
Nonetheless, and by design, the green indicator light on the oven's control panel remained lit, thus preventing Old South employees from learning of the malfunction.  This was despite the representation in the oven's manual that, .;when lit,.; the light .;indicates [that] elements are operating..;  With no device to indicate that the oven had malfunctioned, restaurant employees continued to cook the contaminated turkey to an insufficient temperature.
In addition, the oven contained no gauge, display, or device to disclose the oven's actual temperature, thus creating a variance between the operator-designated temperature and the actual oven temperature.  This variance was not disclosed to the operator, thus producing false, misleading, and confusing information regarding the operation and actual internal temperature of the oven.
The confluence of these several circumstances formed one of the largest outbreaks in South Carolina history.  A total of 304 confirmed and suspected cases were identified during the course of the investigation, and one man died as a result of his infection.  The restaurant remained closed during the investigation, re-opening on June 10, after employees had completed food safety training.

Harnessing Technology to Help Prevent Foodborne Illness
Source :
By Martin Nash, Ph.D., Contributing Editor(Mar 26, 2013)
Even the world's best restaurants and food producers are not immune to the problems of foodborne illness. Last month, Danish restaurant Noma .; named the World's Top Restaurant by Time Magazine .; hit the headlines for the wrong reasons when 63 patrons contracted the norovirus over a two-day period. Hygiene problems—specifically, "lukewarm" hand washing—were identified as the source of the outbreak, but foodborne illnesses can be caused by many factors.
In the United States, it is estimated that each year one in six visitors to restaurants become sick from foodborne illnesses—that's 48 million people. Some 28,000 are hospitalized and the cost of foodborne illness is around $152 million per year. Food safety has become a high-profile issue, and many diners now take into account the cleanliness of a restaurant, using Websites and social media to check reviews before going in.
One of the sources of this information is the publication of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) reports by the U.S. Department of Health. The HACCP system includes a series of checks and procedures to control the processes and sensitive points in the food chain. It has been recognized as an international standard for safe food production, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has adopted it as the most effective means for ensuring food safety.
Two of the main causes of foodborne illness addressed by HACCP are poor hygiene processes and inadequate temperature control when storing and serving raw and cooked products. For most restaurants, food producers and other foodservice outlets, food-safety monitoring requires manually checking food storage conditions, including temperature and humidity, as well as recording the temperature of prepared foods and the completion of food hygiene checks.  These checks are typically performed at regular three to four hour intervals each and every day.
This work is often carried out by employees who may be inadequately trained in food hygiene, while a high turnover of staff and inexperienced managers, combined with the constant pressure to reduce costs, can lead to corners being cut. In a typical restaurant, it can take over an hour for sous chefs or line cooks to complete manual line and quality checks and to complete the necessary paper-based reports.
However, technology is now coming to the rescue with a new generation of paperless HACCP solutions that harness the latest wireless monitoring technology. Smart wireless sensor technology, such as the recently launched Checkit food-safety monitoring system from Elektron Technology, can be placed in refrigerators and other food preparation and holding areas to provide continuous, automated 24/7 monitoring of temperature, humidity and door status. Associated wireless handheld sensors can also be used to collect food temperature and hygiene check data at the press of a button, dramatically speeding up the process and reducing the risk of human error. All data is user-authenticated, time-stamped, downloaded wirelessly to a centralized PC-based system and stored in a secure database, which automatically generates food-safety compliance reports, along with a full audit trail in case of site inspections or future investigations.
In addition to automating the process of food-safety monitoring, wireless technology can be used to send alarms to your PC, tablet or smartphone, providing immediate notification if there is a problem with cold storage and food temperatures to ensure food safety and to prevent costly food spoilage in the event of a hardware failure. To see the value of this service, you need only look at the recent case of the restaurateur whose chef left the door of a walk-in refrigerator open overnight. By  morning, all the specialty foods, meats and proteins had gone bad, costing about $30,000 in food alone.
Wireless technology is inherently flexible, and a modular system can be used for any type of food operation, and it can be scaled from a single local site through to multisite operations using Web-based software to configure, monitor and manage the complete network from one location.
Facing increasing cost pressures, competition and compliance demands, restaurants and foodservice businesses can no longer afford to take risks with their food-safety monitoring. A foodborne illness or failure to meet HACCP requirements doesn't just damage reputations—as in the case of Noma—it can lead to costly litigation and, in extreme cases, closure. Wireless technology will not eliminate the problems, but can make a major contribution toward mitigating the risks.
Martin Nash, Ph.D., is product manager at Elektron Technology, home to world-class brands in innovative and fast-moving engineered products (FMEP). The company's new Checkit wireless food safety monitoring solution  is completely paperless, simple to install and can be up and running within 30 minutes to protect any hot or cold food preparation and storage area. For more information, please visit .

Dubai Municipality releases ‘Food Code'
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By (Mar 26, 2013)
DUBAI: Dubai eateries and other food establishments will have a comprehensive food code from Monday which they have to adopt to ensure international standards of food safety are followed.
With the Municipality releasing the code on Monday, Dubai will become first in the region to produce such a guideline that could be used by the entire food industry.
On the occasion of the release Khalid Shareef, director, Food Control Department at Dubai Municipality said, .;Dubai's vision is to establish a world-class food safety system that helps provide safe food to the residents and the several millions that visit the emirate each year. In addition, we would like the system to ensure safe production and distribution of food and also its safe import and export..;
.;We would like the system to be comprehensive and appealing so that others are encouraged to use it as a model. Our vision will become a reality only when the government, food industry, service providers, educational and research organisations and the consumers collectively commit to work together and apply sound principles of food safety based on science and research,.; he added.
He said the Municipality has already begun the process by promoting a positive food safety culture among food establishments in the emirate, by urging the managements to be responsible and accountable through proprietary Person In-Charge (PIC) programme introduced in 2010.
.;Food Code is a comprehensive document that lists the requirements that food establishments have to follow being produced as a result of an integrated approach the civic body developed to ensure food safety from the place of primary production up to the point of consumption,.; said Asia Abdul Wahab Murad, head of planning and development  at DM food control department.
According to Basheer Hassan Yousuf, food safety expert at DM food control department, Food Code is designed to assist the Person In-Charge (PICs) at food establishments to understand their obligations and to carry out operations as per the requirement.
It will also help the food industry and the law-enforcement officers understand the ways and means to meet the standards and objectives mentioned in the GCC, federal and local regulations, he said.

Should You Wash Your Food?
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By Linda Larsen (Mar 25, 2013)
The USDA has put out a food info sheet about safe food handling and washing food. Does this practice promote food safety? Since we're told to wash our hands before preparing food, and utensils and pots and pans, it seems logical that washing food makes it safer to eat.
Unfortunately, that's not true. Washing raw poultry, beef, pork, lamb, or veal before cooking it isn't recommended. The bacteria on these foods can aerosolize under the water, spreading three feet in all directions from your sink. That means it can get on your face and lips. Lick your lips once, and you may ingest pathogenic bacteria. In addition, some bacteria are tightly attached to the meat, so you can't remove them by washing. Cooking to a safe internal temperature is the only way to kill these bacteria.
Brining meats does not make food safer; that is done for taste and to improve texture. To soak or brine meats, always keep the entire container in the refrigerator. And watch out for brine splashing on other surfaces, which will cross-contaminate.
Don't wash eggs before storing them. They are washed during processing and then coated with edible mineral oil to help seal the porous shell and protect the contents.
Always wash unprocessed produce. Any non-processed fruits and vegetables should always be washed before cutting or preparing. Run under cold running water and scrub firm fruits and veggies with a brush. Don't use detergent or soap not made for washing foods, since those products aren't approved by the FDA or USDA for use on foods.
Prepared, bagged salads are another matter. There are pro-washing and anti-washing camps. THe product should be washed,  according to Consumer Reports. They tested bagged salads and found that they did not contain disease-causing bacteria. But they did find coliform bacteria, which indicate poor sanitation methods.
The anti-washing camp includes scientists and researchers at University of California-Davis. They conducted a study and found that additional washing by consumers could cross-contaminate the triple-washed greens. They state that improper food handling at home is one of the leading causes of foodborne illness.
So washing or not is up to you! Always buy the packages with the latest use-by date, keep them refrigerated, eat promptly, and handle only after you've washed your hands.

Documents Show OMB Weakened FDA's Food Safety Rules
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By Helena Bottemiller (Mar 25, 2013)
The White House Office of Management and Budget significantly weakened the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's draft food safety rules, documents posted on the Federal Register last week show. The hundreds of pages of documents, first discovered and reported by Food and Chemical News (subscription only) on Friday, confirm what food safety insiders had suspected .; that OMB's lengthy review stripped product and environmental testing requirements, among other provisions that FDA sought, from the preventive controls rule.
.;Based on FDA's original language, as revealed in the documents placed online by HHS, the agency did favor environmental monitoring for pathogens reasonably likely to occur as well as scientifically valid finished product testing, when appropriate based on risk, to assess whether the preventive controls significantly minimize or prevent the hazards,.; Joan Murphy reported in Food Chemical News. .;If environmental monitoring were to identify the presence of a pathogen, the facility would follow certain corrective action steps, according to the original proposal..;
Looking at the documents, which were apparently posted online by Health and Human Services to satisfy a 1993 executive order on transparency, it is clear that OMB eliminated such requirements in their edits to the proposal. Instead, testing is mentioned in an appendix, and the agency asks for comments.
While Food Safety Modernization Act watchers had speculated about such changes, seeing such edits in a track-change format offers a rare, detailed look at OMB's review process. (The standard practice for economically significant regulations is to go through review at OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, but exactly what changes are made by the agency are often not disclosed.)
David Plunkett, a senior food safety attorney at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said he wasn't surprised that testing was one of the issues holding up the rules while they were under White House review.
.;It's OMB once again protecting corporate bottom lines at the expense of protection for public health,.; said Plunkett. .;Testing is critical to verification. I don't think a preventive food safety system can be effective without it. Unfortunately, OMB bean counting of the wrong costs results in a less effective prevention program and ultimately continuing food safety problems..;
.;We totally predicted that was what happened based on reading the rule and have been saying that since the rule came out .; all about getting it out the door with acceptable political economics and now look for the private sector to weigh in,.; said David Acheson, former associate commissioner of foods at FDA, now a consultant at Leavitt Partners.
As Food Chemical News reported, the changes OMB made to the proposed rules were .;too numerous to cite,.; but included eliminating requirements for maintaining a supplier approval and verification program or requirements to review complaints from consumers or customers that might be related to a company's food safety plan, and striking a mention of an FDA investigator's ability to copy records to demonstrate compliance. .;Similar changes can be found between the draft of the proposed produce safety regulation and a large majority of the preamble is rewritten from the FDA draft,.; the report noted.
OMB also added a year to the date by which farms would have to comply with the new rule. According to the documents, FDA had proposed allowing very small businesses three years to comply with the rule, small businesses two years and all other companies one year. During its review, OMB changed the time allowed for compliance to four years for very small businesses, three years for small businesses and two years for all other farms.
Why were all these changes made? .;Undoubtedly election-year politics,.; according to Marion Nestle, food politics expert, author, and professor at New York University.
.;The election is over,.; Nestle wrote on her blog Food Politics on Monday. .;The FDA needs to do its job. Let's get these items reinserted. The safety of Americans is at stake here..;

Armenia seeks 3.89 million euros from EU to upgrade its food safety labs
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By (Mar 25, 2013)
Armenia has applied to the European Union to seek 3.8 million euros in assistance which it wants to spend on upgrading its food safety laboratories, Abram Bakhchagulyan, chief of the State Food Safety Service, an affiliation of the Ministry of Agriculture, told ARKA. He said a positive response is expected to arrive by the end of this year. According to him, the upgrading will encompass three main areas: food safety, sanitary and phytosanitary capabilities.
Bakhchagulyan said modern lab equipment used together with a new e-program designed to analyze and assess risks will enable Armenia to certify food exports to Europe. Without such certificates Armenia can not export food products to the European market, he said.
Arthur Nikoyan, head of phyto-sanitary inspection of the State Food Safety Service, stressed the need to harmonize related Armenian laws with European legislation. He said Armenia is adopting a number of European directives in order to be guided with when issuing certificates.
"The EU will recognize our products safe only if the monitoring for detection of harmful organisms is carried out according to European standards," Nikoyan said.
EU provides assistance to Armenia as part of Food Safety Capacity Building program, conducted with the support of the USAID-funded Enterprise Development and Market Competitiveness Program (EDMC).
As part of the program five-day training was held with the participation of international experts and also a seminar on impact of international agreements on sanitary and phyto-sanitary activities in Armenia. .

Spring for Food Safety
Source :
By Maribel Alonso, Technical Information Specialist, USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline (Mar 25, 2013)
Ahh, Spring! This week, a new season is getting a nice kick-off with Passover and Easter holidays. These celebrations are filled with traditional meals that have unique food safety considerations that may or may not be included in the family recipe book. The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline has some food safety tips and steps here that, if added to your favorite recipes, can reduce the risk of food poisoning.  As with any food preparation, always remember to Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.
Before preparing any meal, wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, and clean surfaces and utensils with hot soapy water before and after handling raw food. Perishable food should not be left out for more than two hours at room temperature, so check the time at your gathering and make sure either to get food back in the refrigerator or to discard it. Refrigerated leftovers for all foods in this blog should be used within four days.
Beef Brisket: One reason that it's an excellent choice for entertaining is that it can be prepared in advance. In fact, you must prepare it in advance and cook it slowly to make it tender. Also, because it can be cooked ahead of time and it reheats well, brisket is a great cut of meat to serve to large groups.  Follow these food safety tips for cooking and serving brisket:
•Be sure to allow plenty of time to thaw a frozen brisket. Thawing in the refrigerator can take about 24 hours for a trimmed, first-cut brisket. A whole brisket weighing about 10 pounds can take several days.
•Keep raw meat refrigerated at 40 F or below until ready to cook. Place the meat on a plate or container to hold the juices that can drip on other foods to prevent cross-contamination.
•Bake the brisket, fat side up in a baking dish, in an oven set no lower than 325 F. The brisket is safe to eat when it reaches an internal temperature of 145 ;F and is allowed to rest at that temperature for three minutes. Use a food thermometer to be sure. For personal preferences, consumers may choose to cook the brisket longer for tenderness.
•If reheating brisket before serving, remember to reheat to 165 ;F.To serve brisket cold, keep it at 40 ;F or below by nesting dishes in beds of ice, or use small servings platters and replace them often.
Ham: There are many kinds of hams on the market, but your family likely is purchasing a fully cooked ham. Here are tips for storing and serving a fully cooked ham:
•When buying a ham, look for the USDA or State Mark of Inspection.
•Refrigerate the ham at 40 F or below immediately after arriving home.
•These hams are best served cold. However, if you want to reheat them, set the oven at 325 F and heat to an internal temperature of 140 ;F as measured with a food thermometer. If the ham was repackaged at your butcher shop or grocer, reheat it to 165 ;F. Individual slices may also be warmed in a skillet or microwave.
Deviled Eggs: Follow these food safety tips below for making an egg dish such as deviled eggs. Remember, eggs are perishable just like raw meat, poultry, and fish, and could contain pathogens.
•Our virtual food safety expert, Ask Karen, has helpful instructions on how to boil eggs.
•After cooking the eggs, it is a good idea to keep the whites refrigerated while preparing the filling.
•Keep deviled eggs chilled until you are ready to serve. Eggs should not stay at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Use a cooler with ice when transporting to another location.
For additional questions visit Ask Karen, our virtual food safety expert available 24/7, at or via smartphone. The Meat and Poultry Hotline can also be reached at 1-888-MPHotline from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays.


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