Food Safety Microbiology Short Course                   

Click on here for more information

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

FoodHACCP Newsletter
04/15,2013 ISSUE:543

Children’s health is just a footnote
Source :
By Mohammad Ali (Apr 14, 2013)
Food provided to lakhs of children in Delhi schools through the Mid-day Meal scheme is anything but nutritional. The food fails to meet the requirements of minimum calorie count and protein content. Year after year the food samples have consistently failed to meet the requirements; over the past three years alone the results have been shocking to say the least; 99 per cent of the samples collected in 2010-11, 95 per cent collected and tested in 2011-12 and 83 per cent in 2012-13 have been found deficit in calorie and nutrition.
Leaders across the political spectrum in Delhi are unable to pin-point where the fault lies.
On being asked why steps are not being taken to improve the scheme, their replies often end up in a blame game, which takes away focus from the basic premise -- poor quality of food served as mid-day meals.
BJP leaders from the three municipal corporations defend the corporation’s performance on the scheme. Their stand is understandable; given it is the BJP that has control over the three corporations.
But Dr. Mahendra Nagpal, Leader of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, takes this defence further. He sidesteps the concerns over nutrition and hygiene, and asks: “So what if the food is not sufficiently nutritious? It is not adulterated after all.”
Blame game
Passing the buck to the Congress party-led Delhi Government and the Central Government, he says the quantity of food and the required amount of nutrition have been increased without increasing the nutritious ingredients in the MDM menu.
He says earlier each student was served 100 gram of rice or wheat, 8 gram of protein and 350 calories.However, while the limit of quantity of grains being served has remained same, the protein and calorie level have been increased. Presently, each meal must contain minimum of 12 gram protein and 450 calories.
Leader of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation Subhash Arya claims that all the BJP-led corporations have been trying hard to improve the menu and have written several letters to the Delhi Government in this regard. Last month he wrote to Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit urging her to include more nutrients like soya in the meal to meet the revised parameters of nutrition.
Former Mayor and Congress leader Farhad Suri accuses the municipal corporations of not having the will to serve the people.
He claims that implementation of the scheme when his party was in power in the corporations was “much better” than in its present form.
Sunil Kumar, MLA from Trilokpuri where a severe case of food poisoning was reported from a Delhi Government-run school in November 2009, is also concerned about the action being taken against those responsible. Even as he blames the Delhi Government for the poor implementation of the scheme, he does not shy away from dismissing the Government inquiry into the case as “an eyewash”.

ADFCA's summer awareness drive on food safety to target housewives
Source :
By (Apr 11, 2013)
Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) has decided to include a number of initiatives in its summer awareness programme to specifically target house wives and other women. The Awareness Section of the Authority is currently finalizing several awareness publications and public lectures to communicate theoretical and practical tips on food safety to housewives.
The likelihood of food risks being on the rise during the summer months, the awareness drives will focus attention on all the essential precautions required to preempt food poisoning, cross contamination and other food-related problems.
Mohamed Jalal Al Rayssi, Director of Communication and Community Service at ADFCA, said, "In view of the principal role of women in preparing and serving food to their families, it was important to make sure they know how to deal safely with foods."
"Awareness is key to a food-safe community. The likelihood of food risks begins right at the stage of shopping. It is important to buy foods from reliable sources," he explained.
"Reading the food labels and checking the ingredients and expiry dates is the first crucial step, followed by the proper methods of keeping food stuffs in the shopping cart, since mixing foods with materials such as detergents can be dangerous. Frozen and refrigerated foods should be purchased only at the end so they reach the kitchen in good shape. While buying packaged or canned foods, it is important to make sure the cans or packets are not perforated or defective," he added.
"Transporting foods is the next step in which things can go wrong completely if adequate care is not taken to reach home soon after shopping is over. Storing the purchases at home is an equally crucial stage as cooked and raw foods must be stored separately to ensure cross contamination does not happen. It is also important not to put hot foods back in the fridge before cooling them off as this practice will shoot up the temperature inside the refrigerators and ruin all stored items. Sufficient empty space should be left in the refrigerators for air flow, and no food should be kept back once it is de-frozen. No cooked food should be kept in the refrigerator for more than five days," he explained.
"There is a wide spread misconception that washing meat or poultry will help remove the microbes and bacteria. In fact; wrong ways of washing them can lead to contamination of the place as well. Keeping the kitchen and all the cooking accessories clean is also crucial in preempting food-borne illnesses. Using paper napkins is more advisable than clothe pieces or sponge, as the latter are ideal breeding ground for microbes and bacteria, due to their wetness and food residues in them," Al Rayssi cautioned.
Al Rayssi called upon the public to look up ADFCA's website or its social media pages for tips and advices on healthy food handling practices. He also invited people to visit ADFCA's stand at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair to get publications on food safety.

Protect Your Family From Germs Lurking in Your Kitchen
Source :
By Bill Marler (Apr 13, 2013)
In a germ study conducted by NSF International, 20 families swabbed 14 items in their kitchens. NSF’s microbiologists analyzed the results, looking for E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, mold and yeast.  Download PDF.
The study revealed that the top five germ hot spots in the kitchen were the refrigerator vegetable and meat compartments, blender gaskets, can openers and rubber spatulas. Follow these tips to keep those items, as well as other kitchen items included in the study, clean and sanitized.
1.Refrigerator vegetable compartment
Remove the compartment/drawer from the refrigerator if possible. Use a clean sponge or soft cloth and wash the bin with a mild detergent mixed with warm water. Rinse with tap water and wipe dry with a clean towel. To help control odors, use warm water mixed with a baking soda solution (about 1-2 tablespoons of baking soda to 1 quart of water). Rinse and wipe dry. Clean monthly.
Always store produce separately: Keep washed and packaged produce separate from raw unwashed produce. Separate all produce from other foods such as raw meat, poultry or seafood. In the refrigerator, produce should always be stored on a separate shelf above all meat, poultry and seafood to avoid raw juices dripping onto the produce. Also keep them separate in your grocery cart, during food preparation and when using kitchen tools and appliances.
2.Refrigerator meat compartment
Remove the compartment/drawer from the refrigerator if possible. Use a clean sponge or soft cloth and wash the bin with a mild detergent mixed with warm water. Rinse with tap water and wipe dry with a clean towel. To help control odors, use warm water mixed with a baking soda solution (about 1-2 tablespoons of baking soda to 1 quart of water). Rinse and wipe dry. Clean monthly and whenever you see any spilled meat juices. In the refrigerator, store meat and seafood on a separate shelf below produce to avoid raw juices dripping onto the produce.
3.Blender gasket
Unplug the blender and remove the blender jar from the base. Completely disassemble the jar, removing the blade and gasket at the bottom. If dishwasher safe, place all pieces in the dishwasher after each use. If hand washing, wash the gasket, blade assembly, jar and lid thoroughly in hot soapy water, rinse and dry before re-assembling. Perform this cleaning procedure after each use.
4.Can opener
If dishwasher safe, place the can opener in the dishwasher after each use. If hand washing, wash the can opener in hot soapy water, rinsing thoroughly with clean tap water before air drying. If hand washing, pay special attention to the area around the cutting blades to be sure all food residue is removed.
5.Rubber spatula
For two-piece spatulas, separate the handle from the spatula portion and, if dishwasher safe, place both sections in the dishwasher after each use. If hand washing, wash in hot soapy water, rinsing thoroughly with clean water. For one-piece spatulas, if dishwasher safe, place in the dishwasher after each use. Otherwise, hand wash thoroughly in hot soapy water, paying special attention to the area where the handle joins the spatula. Rinse thoroughly and dry.
6.Refrigerator water dispenser
Check your refrigerator manual for cleaning instructions. Many companies recommend using a solution of vinegar and water to clean the dispenser and ice maker. First turn off the water supply to the refrigerator and then loosen the screw connecting the water supply line to the refrigerator. Once disconnected, use a small funnel to pour 3-4 cups of distilled white vinegar into the tube. Wait five to ten minutes and then reconnect the water line. Turn the dispenser on to allow the vinegar solution to flow through the dispenser’s system and spill out through the waterspout. To clean the waterspout, use a bottle or baby bottle nipple brush dipped in distilled white vinegar. Brush the inner side of the spout, then open the waterspout and allow it to run to clear of any dirt and excess vinegar solution. Close the lever when there are no traces of vinegar. Clean the waterspout weekly and the refrigerator water dispenser system once or twice a year.
7.Refrigerator ice dispenser
Turn the icemaker off, empty the ice from the ice bin and wash the bin with mild dish soap and warm water using a sponge or soft cloth. Wipe dry with a clean towel. If also cleaning the refrigerator’s water dispensing system with vinegar, be sure to with throw away the first batch of ice, since it still might taste sour from the vinegar solution. Clean monthly.
8.Knife block
First remove any knives stored in the block. Turn the knife block upside down and shake lightly or use a can of compressed air to remove crumbs and other loose debris. Hand wash the knife block in hot soapy water, using a small brush (like a baby bottle nipple brush) to scrub out the knife slots. Rinse thoroughly with clean water. To sanitize, prepare a mixture of one gallon lukewarm tap water with 1 tablespoon of 5.25-percent household bleach. Either immerse the complete block in the water/bleach mixture or fill the knife slots. Allow the bleach/water mixture to sit in contact with the slots for one minute. Rinse the block and knife slots thoroughly with clean tap water and place the block upside down on a clean surface to dry. To avoid mold and bacterial buildup, wash knives thoroughly after each use and let them dry completely before placing them in the knife block. Wash and sanitize the knife block monthly if used frequently.
9.Food storage container with rubber seal
If dishwasher safe, place both the container and the lid in the dishwasher and wash after each use. If hand washing, wash both the container and lid in hot soapy water, paying special attention to the area around the seal as well as any grooves where the cover attaches to the container. Rinse thoroughly and allow to air dry.

Who’s who of Diarrhea Reports Rates of non-O157 E. coli Infections
Source :
By Bill Marler (Apr 12, 2013)
I was reading an article this morning: “Increased Recognition of Non-O157 Shiga Toxin–Producing Escherichia coli Infections in the United States During 2000–2010: Epidemiologic Features and Comparison with E. coli O157 Infections.” It was written by the who’s who of diarrhea in the United States. Some of the key points:
•Patients with non-O157 STEC infection were five times more likely than those with O157 STEC infection to have traveled internationally during the 7 days before specimen collection.
•Among non-O157 STEC, six serogroups were most commonly reported: O26 (26%), O103 (22%), O111 (19%), O121 (6%), O45 (5%), and O145 (4%).
•Non-O157 STEC infections are being recognized with greater frequency because of changing laboratory practices.
•During 2000–2010, FoodNet sites reported 2006 cases of non-O157 STEC infection and 5688 cases of O157 STEC infections.
•The number of reported non-O157 STEC infections increased from an incidence of 0.12 per 100,000 population in 2000 to 0.95 per 100,000 in 2010; while the rate of O157 STEC infections decreased from 2.17 to 0.95 per 100,000.
Improved understanding of the epidemiologic features of non-O157 STEC infections can inform food safety and other prevention efforts. To detect both O157 and non-O157 STEC infections, clinical laboratories should routinely and simultaneously test all stool specimens submitted for diagnosis of acute community-acquired diarrhea for O157 STEC and for Shiga toxin and ensure that isolates are sent to a public health laboratory for serotyping and subtyping.

Locally made spam musubi may have been culprit in cases of food poisoning
Source :
By Joyetter Feagaimaalii-Luamanu (Apr 110, 2013)
Just over 34 people who were “highly suspected" of having food poisoning were treated last week at the LBJ Medical Center and later released, according to the Department of Health, which collected the data from the hospital with a report to be submitted to the Senate soon.
Yesterday, DOH issued a statement, saying that it had received reports of “gastrointestinal illnesses related to consumption of spam musubi on island."
Last Wednesday, Sen. Mauga T. Asuega, chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Health wrote to DOH director Motusa Tuileama Nua about an incident of food poisoning that was reported to the committee.
“According to the report, some eight residents required medical attention at the hospital on Apr. 1 after consuming sushi purchased from a local vendor," he said, and noted that the committee and other Senators believe this to be "a matter of serious health concern.”
He said this unfortunate incident would be classified as a reportable disease or condition or a public health nuisance under provisions of the American Samoa Public Health Act.
“...but regardless, it seems to call for an investigation by the Department and the committee requests that it be kept informed of the status and results of any such investigation,” said Mauga.
He also asked DOH to provide all policies and procedures in place for the department regarding reportable diseases, public health nuisances, and/or other relevant procedures pertaining to the sale of expired or contaminated food.
“We are particularly interested in what preventive and enforcement measures are in place to protect our residents from exposure to these food products,” he concluded.
he department thereafter responded to the senator’s request while an investigation got underway with DOH officials, led by medical director Dr. Joseph Tufa,  collecting data from LBJ Medical Center on patients with possible signs of food poisoning who had been seen at the Emergency Room.
Data collection was completed Tuesday this week followed by a briefing of the management team. From the data, it has been revealed that between Apr. 1st and April 4th, there were 34 people who were  “highly suspected" of having food poisoning who had been seen at the ER according to DOH acting director Farah Utu, speaking to Samoa News yesterday morning.
She said these individuals came in later in the afternoon or early evening and were treated and released, with no one requiring overnight hospitalization. Signs or symptoms of food poisoning include stomach ache, vomiting and diarrhea. She noted that the 34 people came from several villages — Malaeloa, Leone, Fagatogo, Faleniu and Ili’li.
“After Apr. 4 there were no other cases reported at the ER,” said Utu, who added that the DOH findings are now being put together in an official report to be submitted to the Senate.
Asked about the source of the food poisoning, Utu said this was an issue that was discussed at length by the DOH medical team and many of the people that were treated at LBJ said they had eaten musubi.
In its media statement announcing illnesses from spam musubi reported in American Samoa, DOH said most of the ill have been young children; ages 3-8 years.
Consumer mishandling of spam musubi — such as holding without proper refrigeration for too long before eating — may have caused some of the illness, it says. Additionally, DOH has investigated the cause and reminds consumers that spam musubi — and similar foods like sandwiches with mayonnaise — are a highly perishable food product.
Therefore, such foods should be kept at safe temperatures — Hot foods at 140 degrees F or above, and  Cold foods at 45 degrees F or below — or eaten within four hours of preparation.
According to DOH, the illnesses have been associated with spam musubi purchased from a number of different vendors on Tutuila and DOH has conducted an investigation of retail and production establishments.
Moreover, sanitation inspectors on Tutuila are also conducting random checks on retailers to ensure time and temperature requirements are being met by those that sell spam musubi and other “ready to eat” perishable foods.
Last Friday, Tufa was on KSBS-FM talking about the prevention of food poisoning and that includes making sure that hands are washed properly before eating, making sure that the meat is well cooked, and so forth.
Parents are encouraged to make sure that their young children wash their hands thoroughly before eating, and that the foods that will be consumed by children and even adults are well prepared and fresh, especially when it involves sandwiches in which mayonnaise is used, said Utu.
With the upcoming Flag Day celebration, which means a lot of food will be out there, Utu said Tufa and his team will present another radio show this Friday on KSBS talking about the importance of food poisoning prevention.
For more information on this issue please call the 633-4606 or Dr. Tufa at 252-1403.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention provides a long list of ways to prevent food poisoning at:

Watch: Children Describe Mother’s Death From Salmonella Poisoning
Source :
By Carla Gillespie(Apr 13, 2013)
Zella Ploghoft shared a dinner-for-two with her son, Philip, at their favorite restaurant in 2010. They both got Salmonella poisoning. Philip recovered, but Zella did not. She died after a seven-week hospitalization.
Philip and his sister, Shelly, describe their mother and her painful, preventable death from food poisoning in a video from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To watch the video or to see other videos about food poisoning victims click here.
Salmonella is the second leading cause of foodborne illness in the U.S., and the leading cause of food-related hospitalization and death, according to the FDA. Each year, more than 370 Americans die from Salmonella poisoning.
Zella and Philip were part of a Salmonella outbreak that sickened 56 people, hospitalized seven and caused Zella’s death. For Zella and Philip, symptoms of illness began he morning after their meal. They had multiple bouts of diarrhea, then vomiting then dry heaves, which Philip describes as “quickly debilitating.”
Zella went to the hospital. Philip spent three of four days in bed at home unable to keep anything, even a drink of water, down. When he called his mother at the hospital to see how she was doing, Zella, never one for drama, asked, “did you think you were going to die?” Shelly remembers her mother saying it was the first time in her life that she thought she might not make it through the night.
For the entire seven weeks she was hospitalized with the salmonellosis, Zella had constant, severe abdominal pain, Shelly said. Nothing relieved it. She wasn’t able to eat, she had a feeding tube, IVs, and a catheter.
The video ends with recommendations to restaurants and food service organizations. They include: wash hands and food contact surfaces often, stay home from work if you are sick,  don’t touch ready-to-eat food with your bare hands, separate raw meats form other foods, cook food to the proper temperature and cool foods promptly.

Groups ask for more time for food safety comments
Source :
By Tom Karst (Apr 11, 2013)
Almost 100 groups representing fresh fruits and vegetables — from apples to wild blueberries — say they need much more time to comment on the Food and Drug Administration’s proposed produce safety rules.
Citing their complexity and dependence on yet-to-be issued rules on foreign supplier verification and third-party certification, the groups on April 11 asked the FDA to extend comment periods for the produce safety rule and the preventive controls rule. Those deadlines are May 16, following a 120-day comment period that began Jan. 16.
The groups’ letter said it is impossible to comment without seeing the specifics of other food safety rules that are pending.
The group is asking for comments to be accepted for 6 months, starting after the last of the food safety regulations are released — including ones for foreign suppliers and third-party certifiers.
“As subsequent rules are issued, meaningful opportunity must be afforded to stakeholders to comments on the effect of all the proposed rules together,” according to the letter to FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg.
The letter says that the FDA asked more than 100 questions to interested stakeholders in the proposed regulations.
“Some of these questions require scientific and economic analysis that could take months if not years to fully synthesize comments around, not the 120 days as anticipated under the produce and preventive controls proposed rule,” accordig to the letter.
The groups who signed the letter represented Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh, Irvine, Calif.-based Western Growers and Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association and many importer, regional and state produce associations.
Even with previous comment period extensions for record-keeping and risk-assessment aspects of the rules, David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology for United Fresh, said there has not been enough time to digest the primary produce safety and preventive controls regulations and offer meaningful comment to the agency.
“Clearly there are going to be things in the rules that we are going to recommend different approaches for,” Gombas said. “We just want to make sure we have time to do that wisely.”
Gombas said the FDA’s differentiation between farms and facilities is one area of concern for the industry. He said the industry is reviewing how the FDA determines regulatory effect estimates. More time is needed to determine how the FDA came up with cost estimates and if those estimates are accurate, he said.

Galway bar among premises issued with food safety orders last month
Source :
By Galway Advertiser (Apr 11,2013)
A bar in Galway city centre was among the premises served with closure orders for breaches of food safety legislation last month, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland announced this week.
In its monthly report on food safety orders the FSAI named Fahy’s Bar, Bohermore, among the premises which HSE environmental health officers ordered to close under the EC (Official Control of Foodstuffs) Regulations, 2010.
The bar was one of 11 premises closed temporarily by a closure order.
Prof Alan Reilly, chief executive of the FSAI, expressed his disappointment at the continued high number of closure orders needing to be served on food businesses in Ireland.
“We continue to find unacceptable levels of non-compliance with food safety legislation,” he said. “Time and time again, we encounter cases of food business operators who are potentially putting their customers’ health at risk by not complying with their legal obligations for food safety and hygiene. Food businesses must recognise that the legal onus is on them to make sure that the food they serve is safe to eat. This requires ongoing compliance with food safety and hygiene standards to ensure the food they are producing is safe to consume.”
Prof Reilly said it is imperative that food businesses take full advantage of the information and support provided by the inspectorate and the FSAI to ensure that they have the correct food safety management systems in place. Any food business operator is unsure of what is required by law can contact the FSAI advice line on 1890 336677 or visit its website or Facebook page.
Details of food businesses served with enforcement orders are published on the FSAI’s website at Closure orders and improvement orders will remain listed on the website for a period of three months from the date of when a premises is adjudged to have corrected its food safety issue, with prohibition orders being listed for a period of one month.

White House budget seeks new food safety user fees
Source :
By Tom Karst (Apr 10, 2013)
Farm programs are being put on a diet with President Obama’s fiscal year 2014 budget, while expanded user fees will fund much of the increase in the Food and Drug Administration food safety budget.
The $4.7 billion fiscal year 2014 budget for the FDA includes a nearly $300 million increase in food safety programs, funded mostly with new user fees for food facility registrations, inspections and food importers, according to a news release from the FDA.
The White House budget was still being processed by industry lobbyists April 10, but Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C., called the proposed user fees a “non-starter.”
Hitting agriculture hard, the White House budget proposes to eliminate direct farm payments, reduce crop insurance subsidies and slim conservation programs in order to save $37.8 billion from agriculture spending over 10 years. Discretionary spending for the U.S. Department of Agriculture is projected at about $22.6 billion in fiscal year 2014, about the same as 2012.
The White House document said USDA pest and disease programs at the USDA are scheduled to take a $19 million reduction, from $817 million in fiscal year 2012 to $798 million in fiscal year 2014. Among programs eliminated from the 2014 White House budget are the USDA’s Microbiological Data Program and the Pesticide Recordkeeping Program, according to the budget document.
The White House budget proposal calls for a $295.8 million increase in the FDA’s food safety budget, with $252.4 million (94%) of that total funded by new user fees and $43.4 million added in new budget authority. New fees are proposed to support the Food Safety Modernization Act and boost the agency’s oversight of imported food, according to the FDA release.
The budget proposed new fees for food facility registrations, inspections and food importers. The FDA’s budget also calls for a $10 million increase in its budget to conduct food and drug safety inspections in China.
The FDA’s justification to appropriators for the budget numbers is found online.

Class Action Lawsuit to be filed against West Village Restaurant Linked to Hepatitis A Scare
Source :
By  Bill Marler (Apr 10, 2013)
Marler Clark, the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of foodborne illness outbreaks, and Underberg & Kessler filed a class action lawsuit today against Alta Restaurant.  The lawsuit was filed in New York County Superior Court on behalf of named plaintiff Michael Piacente and other restaurant patrons who received hepatitis A vaccinations after alleged exposure to the hepatitis A virus at Alta Restaurant between March 23 and April 2, 2013.
On April 5, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene advised Alta Restaurant patrons who had eaten dessert purchased from the restaurant between March 23 and April 2, 2013 to seek vaccination against hepatitis A, a communicable disease that is often transmitted through food-contamination.  According to multiple news reports, a pastry chef who works at the restaurant had recently returned from Mexico and contracted the virus.  Because symptoms of infection do not appear for roughly 2 weeks after exposure, the Alta Restaurant worker prepared food while infectious, but before exhibiting symptoms illness, which include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) and fatigue.
The Health Department encouraged Alta Restaurant customers to contact a healthcare provider for vaccination or to visit one of three vaccination clinics the public health agency offered.  According to the complaint, Michael Piacente obtained the appropriate vaccination against hepatitis A from his private physician.  He also had blood drawn so a sample could be tested for hepatitis A.
“I’ve seen this situation play out time and again,” said William Marler, attorney for the plaintiffs.  “If restaurants would require workers to be vaccinated—or better yet, pay for vaccinations—they could go a long way toward preventing these public health scares and the loss of business that naturally goes with them.”
BACKGROUND:  Marler Clark has represented hundreds of people who contracted hepatitis A after eating contaminated food.  The law firm has represented thousands who received hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin injections to prevent infection.

Arsenic Contamination in Food, Water
Source :
By (Apr 10, 2013)
NEW ORLEANS—Arsenic occurs naturally in elevated concentrations in the soil in certain areas of the world and sometimes leaches into drinking water supplies and food. Arsenic has made headlines over the past few years after reports of its presence in apple juice and rice, as well as groundwater in Bangladesh and Chile, as was the subject of a recent symposium held during the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.
The goal of the “Arsenic Contamination in Food and Water" symposium was to bring together experts on many aspects of arsenic, including general insights about arsenic contamination in food and water, regulatory issues, ways to analyze the element and ways to clean up contamination.
Topics included “Poisoner's cupboard: The long (and sometimes homicidal) history of arsenic in everyday life"; “Arsenic in rice and rice products"; “Remediation of arsenic contamination of groundwater in Asia and USA"; “Development of a method for assessing perinatal exposures to heavy metals using residual dried blood spots from newborn screening programs"; “Pick your poison? Arsenic in harvested country foods, edible mushrooms and wine from Canada" and “Low, slow and Next Gen impact: Arsenic, human health and cancer risks."
American Chemical Society: Major symposium on arsenic contamination in food and water supplies

EU Campylobacter, E. coli Cases Up; Salmonella Down in 2011
Source :
By (Apr 09, 2013)
PARMA, Italy—The number of salmonellosis cases in humans in the European Union dropped by 5.4 % compared with 2010 and by as much as 37.9 % compared with 2007, marking a decrease for the seventh consecutive year, according to a new report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Campylobacteriosis remains the most reported zoonotic infection in humans since 2005 and the number of cases has been increasing over the last six years.
The report notes the likely main reasons for the decrease in human salmonellosis cases are the successful EU Salmonella control programs for reducing the prevalence of the bacteria in poultry populations, particularly in poultry populations. Salmonella accounted for 95,548 confirmed human salmonellosis cases in 2011 compared to 99,020 reported human cases in 2010. Salmonella was most often detected in fresh broiler meat. The food categories with highest proportion of products not complying with the EU Salmonella criteria were minced meat and meat preparations, as well as live bivalve mollusks.
“The good news is that the positive trend in reduction of Salmonella cases in humans and poultry is continuing. However, the increase in Campylobacter and VTEC cases highlights the continued need to monitor and control the presence of these bacteria in the food chain in order to reduce the risk of human exposure," said Pia Makela, head of EFSA’s Biological Monitoring Unit.
In 2010, a total of 220,209 Campylobacter cases in humans were reported, an increase for the sixth consecutive year with 2.2% more cases compared to 2010. Campylobacter was mostly found in chicken meat. The number of confirmed cases of campylobacteriosis in the EU has followed a significant increasing trend in the last four years, along with a clear seasonal trend.
The number of listeriosis cases in humans decreased slightly compared with 2010, and 1,476 confirmed human cases were reported in 2011. As in previous years, a high fatality rate (12.7 %) was reported among the cases. Listeria monocytogenes was seldom detected above the legal safety limit from ready-to-eat foods at point of retail. Samples exceeding this limit were most often found in fishery products, cheeses and fermented sausages.
Verotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC/STEC) bacteria accounted for 9,485 human disease cases in 2011—a 2.6-fold increase compared with 2010. The strong increase observed in 2011 was primarily due to the large outbreak of the rare strain O104:H4 in Germany and France associated with sprouted seeds; however, an increasing trend already had been reported in previous years. A large number of the cases, 1,006 cases, also were affected by the severe condition, hemolytic uremic syndrome in 2011. This was a 4.5-fold increase compared with 2010, primarily observed in adult cases and attributed to the German outbreak. In animals and food most verotoxigenic Escherichia coli-positive findings were made in cattle and bovine meat, but the bacteria also were detected in some other animal species and foodstuffs.
A total of 7,017 confirmed cases of yersiniosis were reported in the EU in 2011, corresponding to a 3.5% increase compared with 2010. There was a statistically significant decreasing 5-year trend in the EU in 2007-2011. Among food and animals, Yersinia enterocolitica was mainly isolated from pig meat and pigs.
The number of confirmed brucellosis cases in humans continued to decline, and 330 confirmed cases were reported in 2011 in the EU. The number of brucellosis-positive sheep and goat herds continued to decrease. Bovine brucellosis decreased only marginally compared with 2010.
In 2011, trichinellosis caused 268 human cases in the EU compared to 223 cases in 2010. Although the number of cases was slightly higher in 2011 compared with 2010, human trichinellosis cases remained at a low level in the European Union compared with 2009 and previous years. In 2011, Trichinella was found slightly more often in pigs than it was in 2010.
There were a total of 5,648 foodborne outbreaks recoreded in the EU in 2011, affecting 69,553 people and causing 7,125 hospitalizations and 93 deaths. Salmonella (26.6 % of all outbreaks), followed by bacterial toxins (12.9%) and Campylobacter (10.6%). Even though Campylobacter is the most often reported cause of zoonotic diseases overall, it is less often reported as a cause of food-borne outbreaks. The most common food sources of the outbreaks were eggs and egg products, mixed food, fish and fish products.

Two food poisoning cases related to wild mushrooms
Source :
By (Apr 06, 2013)
The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health today (April 6) urged the public not to collect and eat wild mushrooms from parks or the countryside.
The call followed two reports of suspected food poisoning involving three patients, who had eaten wild mushrooms picked from country parks.
The first case involved a 74-year-old.
He developed limb numbness, vomiting and diarrhoea about eight hours after eating the wild mushrooms picked from Tai Mo Shan Country Park at home on April 5. He was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of Yan Chai Hospital today. He is now in serious condition.
Another case involved a 48-year-old man and a 47-year-old woman. They developed abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea about 12 hours after eating the wild mushrooms picked from Shing Mun Country Park at home on April 3. They attended the Accident and Emergency Department of Prince of Wales Hospital on the next day and were admitted for treatment.
The female patient is in stable condition. The male patient developed liver failure and was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit on April 5. His condition is critical.
A CHP spokesman advised people not to pick wild mushrooms for consumption as it is difficult to distinguish edible mushroom species from inedible ones.
"Mushroom toxin poisonings are generally acute. The main treatment for this kind of poisoning is only supportive treatment," the spokesman said.
Source: HKSAR Government

World Health Day Reminder: Food Poisoning Causes Hypertension
Source :
By Carla Gillespie (Apr 07, 2013)
Each year, World Health Day, which marks the creation of the World Health Organization (WHO), highlights a public health concern. This year, for WHO’s 65th anniversary, the theme is hypertension, a major cause of heart disease worldwide.
Being overweight, inactive and having a poor diet that consists of too many foods that are highly processed, low in fiber and high in sodium are major causes of high blood pressure.  But another, lesser known cause is food poisoning.
High blood pressure is one of several long-term health effects that can develop after a case of food poisoning. For example, between 7 to 12 percent of people who contract E.coli infections develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is a severe, sometimes life-threatening complication that can lead to kidney failure, stroke or coma. Hospitalization is required to treat HUS. Treatments include fluid replacement, blood or platelet transfusions, plasma exchange and kidney dialysis. Those who recover from HUS after E.coli will sometimes develop high blood pressure. Children, seniors, pregnant women and others with compromised immune systems are most at risk for HUS.
A 2012 study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, found that 30 percent of children who developed HUS after E.coli poisoning had hypertension, kidney problems or neurologic symptoms at their 5-year follow-up appointments.  The study, believed to be the largest to study the long-term effets of HUS, followed 619 pediatric patients who developed HUS after E.coli poisoning. Results prompted its authors to conclude: “Our data strongly suggest that HUS should no longer be viewed as a critical acute disease only.”

Watch: Woman Describes Her Near Death From Listeria Poisoning During Pregnancy
Source :
By Carla Gillespie. (Apr 07, 2013)
Bernadette Jacobs was 32 weeks pregnant with her third child when she contracted Listeria poisoning from a sandwich she ate from a sandwich shop. She nearly died and so did, Kate, the baby girl she delivered.  Their story is one of three documented on video by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to watch the videos, click here.
On a busy night, shuttling between activities and sports practices, Bernadette’s family stopped at a sandwich shop for dinner. Later that evening, the whole family became sick to their stomachs. Bernadette’s symptoms lingered, she was short of breath, she was bale to function as she normally did. She went to a doctor and was misdiagnosed. She went to a hospital and was misdiagnosed with a sinus infection. Only when a nurse she happened to know came into the room, talked with her and agreed that something was off did the ball start rolling in the right direction.
Bacterial meningitis had developed from the Listeria infection. Both she and her baby had sepsis. She needed and emergency C-section. Baby Kate was delivered, but there were problems. She was in critical condition, her survival was hour to hour. The doctors told Bernadette Kate had 15 percent chance of living and if she did, she would likely be brain dead.
Kate developed hydocephalus which is sometimes called “water on the brain.”  Doctors needed to regularly drain the fluid. Kate pushed on. After years of physical therapy four days a week and surgery on her eyes, she began walking at age 3 and half. In the video, she shows off her running skills.
Bernadette stills has issues with her pancreas, scar tissue on her lungs. “Who knew that  food poisoning could have caused it,” she said. “I had no idea that getting a take out sandwich could change my life.”
Listeria monocytogenes is the third-leading cause of food poisoning death in the U.S.  Pregnant women are at particular risk as it often causes miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and birth defects.

Your refrigerator: Spring cleaning and food safety
Source :
By Advertorial Published (April 7, 2013)
Do you know what’s in your refrigerator? Not everyone does. The outdated sauces, expired dairy products, rotting fruits and veggies, and the bacteria: It’s all there at one time or another for most people. Now that the clocks have “sprung” ahead, this is a great time to spring-clean your refrigerator and learn about healthful food storage habits — which will help you keep on track for healthful living.
Keeping Your Fridge Spick-and-Span
Few people actually take the time to really clean their refrigerator, meaning with soap, bleach and hot water. Because germs are introduced to this appliance daily, it is important to routinely clean it just like you would the rest of your home. Clean up spills as soon as they occur, and take the time to wipe down drawers and door trays.
The Right Temperature
Many people don’t understand the dangers of improper food storage. You can reduce the potential for food-borne illness by keeping your refrigerator running at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, and your freezer at zero degrees or lower. It is easy for temperatures to fluctuate when doors are continually opened, so it’s a good idea to check the temperature now and then to make sure the thermostat is set properly.
Where’s the Beef?
The location of your food in the fridge is key to food safety.
• Keep your meats and dairy on the lower shelves. You don’t want raw meat juices to drip onto your produce or cooked foods.
• Keep fruit and veggies either in produce drawers or on higher shelves, along with cooked foods. Local farm-grown veggies are great, but the dirt they bring in is not, so make sure to brush off dirt before refrigerating.
Product “Due” Dates
Consider the “sell by” and “use by” dates on product labels. Condiments and sauces, especially, can sit in the fridge for months before being completely consumed. Check the dates, and throw the product out if it has changed flavor, odor or appearance.
• A “sell-by” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale, meaning the product should be purchased before that date.
• A “use-by” date is recommended by the manufacturer to use the product before that date for best quality.
What to Stock
When it comes to produce, fresh is not always best if you can’t consume it fast enough. Consider keeping only the fresh fruits and vegetables you will eat within a week. Frozen vegetables are good to have on hand to add to casseroles, pizza and stir-fries. Buy low-fat dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt, as well as lean meats. If you do not expect to eat the meat within 2 to 4 days, consider freezing it for later use. Avoid buying large portions of easily spoiled ingredients like sour cream, cheese and fish.
Planning Ahead
Avoid food waste and food-borne illness (and save money, too!) by making a grocery list before you go to the store. Without excess and uneaten foods in the refrigerator, cleaning up and cleaning out is easier.
Here’s to healthful food storage — and healthful living!
Information provided by Elizabeth North, RD, CDN, Registered Dietician at Roosevelt Hospital.

Pew report shows flaw in tracing food-safety lapses
Source :
Twenty-two weeks. That’s how long it took federal health officials to determine the contaminated food source after the first person was infected in a 2011 outbreak of salmonella that swept across 34 states, sickened 136 people and led to one of the largest national recalls of ground turkey.
The headlines generated by that outbreak have faded. But the disturbingly slow trace-back time frame and other weaknesses — spotlighted in a new national report from the respected Pew Charitable Trusts — merit close scrutiny. The findings are especially valuable as landmark new federal food-safety reforms roll out.
The Food Safety Modernization Act signed into law in 2011 mandates efforts by both federal and state health officials to improve foodborne illness surveillance systems. While public health professionals are understandably focused on outbreak causes, there hasn’t been enough retrospective evaluation of where improvement is needed.
The Pew report adds to public efforts underway to do this. Its findings from its 2011 look-back don’t just highlight weaknesses in one outbreak but suggest opportunities for systemic improvement of surveillance and response.
Among its recommendations: Public health officials should notify and work with industry sooner when a company’s products may be involved in an outbreak. Additional information about food brands, processing plants and purchase dates should be uploaded to a key public health database used by disease detectives to monitor potential outbreaks. And, public health officials should put a higher priority on detecting potential salmonella outbreaks and understanding its transmission.
It’s worth noting that Minnesota’s world-class health and agriculture departments are the gold standard for outbreak investigation. But the state, which is home as well to world-class food processors and a thriving poultry industry, has a stake in ensuring that public health agencies across the nation are performing at the same level.

Ready to Cook” Frozen Meals with E. coli can be very, very Dangerous
Source :
By Bill Marler (Apr 06, 2013)
The CDC is reporting a total of 27 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O121 (STEC O121) from 15 states.  81% of ill persons are 21 years of age or younger and 35% of ill persons have been hospitalized. Two ill people developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure, and no deaths have been reported.  Farm Rich brand frozen food products is one likely source of infection for the ill persons in this outbreak.
These “Ready to Cook” meals have caused a number of both Salmonella and E. coli Outbreaks in the recent past.
Nestle Toll House Cookie Dough E. coli Outbreak: Public health officials from several states and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began investigating an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak with a common source in March of 2009. By June 18, the CDC had reported 69 E. coli cases in 29 states with a common source, and on June 19, 2009 Nestle recalled its Nestle Toll House prepackaged refrigerated cookie and brownie dough products for possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination.
The FDA advised consumers to throw away any prepackaged, refrigerated Nestle Toll House cookie dough products. Cooking the dough was not recommended to eliminate risk of contamination, since the E. coli bacteria could be transferred from the dough to hands and other cooking surfaces.
Nestle USA initiated a voluntary recall of many uncooked cookie dough products on June 19, 2009. The Nestle press release contained a list of recalled products, with production codes. The company also closed half of its Danville, Virginia, plant – the half of the plant that makes Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough. According to a company spokeswoman, the Danville plant was responsible for the majority of Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough production.
On June 22, the Marler Clark law firm filed the first E. coli lawsuit against Nestle USA in connection with the Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough E. coli outbreak on behalf of a young California woman. The next day, the E. coli lawyers filed a second lawsuit against Nestle USA on behalf of a Colorado child who became ill with an E. coli infection and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious complication of E. coli infection that can lead to kidney failure, after eating Nestle Toll House cookie dough in April. The firm filed a third cookie dough E. coli lawsuit against Nestle USA on behalf of a Washington victim on June 24. The law firm has resolved over a dozen claims on behalf of victims, including several HUS cases.
Later, on January 13, 2010, Nestle USA announced that two samples of its Toll House refrigerated cookie dough made at a Virginia factory tested positive for E. coli bacteria despite rigorous safety measures put in place after a recall of the product. They also announced that no dough had left the factory so there was no need for a recall.
In the end, Marler Clark represented 24 individuals who became ill with E. coli infections during the Nestle Toll House cookie dough E. coli outbreak. Their claims were successfully resolved.
Banquet Pot Pie Salmonella Outbreak:  Marler Clark filed six Salmonella lawsuits against ConAgra, the company whose Banquet and store-brand chicken and turkey pot pies were identified as the source of a nationwide Salmonella outbreak in 2007. The serotype of the outbreak was determined to be I 4,5,12:i:-*.
Public health officials from several states collaborated to determine the source of the outbreak, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officially announced that a Salmonella outbreak had been traced to the consumption of ConAgra pot pies on October 9th. At the time, ConAgra did not initiate a recall.
The CDC issued an investigation update regarding the Salmonella outbreak on October 10, 2007. In that update, the CDC announced that at least 152 people had been confirmed as suffering from Salmonella infections that had been linked epidemiologically and through laboratory testing to the consumption of contaminated pot pies between January 1, 2007 and October 9, 2007. At the time of the update, the CDC was aware of 20 people who had been hospitalized due to their Salmonella infections.
On October 11, 2007 – the same day Marler Clark filed its first lawsuit against the company – ConAgra asked stores selling Banquet and other pot pies produced by ConAgra to pull those products from their shelves. The law firm has since resolved all cases.
The final report issued by CDC on the outbreak determined that 401 people in 41 states had fallen ill with salmonellosis, the illness caused by Salmonella infection.
Marie Callender’s Cheesy Chicken and Rice Dinner Salmonella Outbreak:  Marler Clark’s Salmonella lawyers represented victims of a Salmonella serotype Chester outbreak linked to Marie Callender’s Cheesy Chicken and Rice dinners in 2010. At least 44 people in 18 states became ill with Salmonella infections after eating the ConAgra-made products between April 11 and August 27, 2010.
Collaborative investigative efforts of public health officials linked the outbreak to Marie Callender’s Cheesy Chicken & Rice single-serve frozen entrées. The CDC launched an epidemiologic study and found that ill persons were significantly more likely than well persons to report eating a frozen meal, and all ill persons who ate frozen meals reported eating a Marie Callender’s frozen meal. Additionally, two unopened packages of Marie Callender’s Cheesy Chicken & Rice entrées collected from two patients’ homes yielded Salmonella Chester isolates with a genetic fingerprint indistinguishable from the outbreak pattern.
After the CDC informed ConAgra Foods of a possible association between the Marie Callender’s Cheesy Chicken & Rice entrées and the outbreak of Salmonella Chester infections, ConAgra recalled the product on June 17, 2010. Products subject to the recall bore on their package label, “P-45” inside the USDA mark of inspection.
On June 23, 2010, Marler Clark filed a Salmonella lawsuit against ConAgra on behalf of an Oregon man who was sickened by the frozen meal. A second Salmonella lawsuit was filed on behalf of another outbreak victim on June 25.
And, guess what?  Each time these manufacturers produced and sold contaminated product they blamed the consumers for not cooking the sh&^ out of it.

Mayor Bloomberg: Don’t Ban Big Gulps, Order Hepatitis A Shots!
Source :
By Bill Marler (Apr 06, 2013)
Dessert customers of New York’s Alta’s Restaurant are lining up for preventative Hepatitis A vaccines today and for the next few days.  Hopefully the vaccines do the trick and the thousands who were exposed do not get sick.  However, had that employee, who had his or her hands in you dessert, been vaccinated before, those thousands would not be standing in line to get a poke and worrying for the next few weeks if it worked or not.
OK, let’s be honest: as an attorney who makes a substantial portion of his living by filing lawsuits against restaurants, it’s not in my financial interest to have the National Restaurant Association (NRA) change its position on mandatory hepatitis-A vaccinations for food-handlers. That being said, I think the NRA’s position is largely indefensible, especially for the vast majority of independent restaurant operations who are in most cases unable to absorb outbreak-related losses from a single outlet.
The NRA’s position is for the most part based on the fact that, in 1998, the CDC waffled on its recommendations on the prevention of hepatitis-A through immunization. On the one hand, the CDC did not include food handlers among the groups of people it deemed at increased risk for hepatitis A and thus in need of prophylactic vaccinations. On the other hand, it conceded that that “persons who work as food handlers have a critical role in common-source outbreak” and that consideration should be given to whether such vaccinations are “cost-effective”. In short, the CDC left it to state and local health departments to decide what to do. Not surprisingly, most such departments have done nothing.  Here are a few restaurants who likely see if differently – now:
Subway 1999:  In mid-October, 1999, an unusually high number of hepatitis-A cases were reported among individuals residing in Northeast Seattle and Snohomish County. At the same time, the Snohomish Health District reported an increased number of hepatitis-A cases reported among individuals who resided in Snohomish County, but who worked in the Northeast Seattle area.  Because the infected individuals had no other identified risk factor for hepatitis A, health department officials quickly suspected the existence of a hepatitis-A outbreak with a common foodborne source located in Northeast Seattle.
To identify the outbreak’s source, health officials developed an epidemiological survey that included the fast food restaurants and groceries stores prevalent in the North Seattle area.  Health department officials then contacted all persons with hepatitis A in King and Snohomish County since October 15, 1999 and the food survey was completed.  By November 5, 1999, 18 of 21 persons reported with hepatitis A in King County after October 15, 1999, were found to have eaten at one of two Subway Sandwich outlets during the two to six week period prior to the onset of their symptoms. During this same time period, the Snohomish Health District determined that at least six persons with hepatitis A had eaten at one of the two implicated Subway outlets.
Once the likely source of the hepatitis-A outbreak was determined, health department officials performed a case-control study.  The results of the initial case-control demonstrated a strong statistical association between eating at Subway during the identified time period and developing a hepatitis A infection. A subsequent inspection by environmental sanitarians found that neither of the implicated Subway outlets had a written hand washing policy, and that employees were not required to document their knowledge of proper hand washing technique.  In contrast, the vast majority of fast food restaurants in the area have written hand washing policies, intensive training on proper hand washing techniques, and require employees to sign their initials to a check-off sheet that confirms that their hand were washed hourly and all after bathroom use.
Having confirmed that the Subway outlets were, in fact, the outbreak’s common source, health department officials issued a press release that stated, in part, that:
An ongoing investigation by Public Health suggest that many [hepatitis-A] infections are associated with consuming food form one of two Subway Salads and Sandwiches outlets during the month of September. . . .“If you have eaten at these restaurants during September and are ill with symptoms of hepatitis, you should seek prompt medical evaluation,” said Dr. Alonzo Plough, Director of Public Health – Seattle & King County.
It is estimated that over 40 persons became ill as a result of eating contaminated food sold at the two Subway outlets implicated in the September 1999 hepatitis-A outbreak.
Carl’s Jr. 2000:  On February 16, 2000, the Spokane Regional Health District published a “Hepatitis Alert” which read as follows:
The Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) has received a confirmed report of hepatitis A in a food handler employed at the Carl’s Jr., Restaurant, 707 W 3rd Avenue, Spokane, WA.  The foods with possible risk of transmitting hepatitis A are any sandwiches (including hamburgers) with a vegetable garnish (such as lettuce, tomato, or onion).  The days of possible exposure were:  January 28, January 31, February 2, February 5, February 6, February 8, February 9, and February 10….
Hepatitis A is a viral infection usually spread by eating contaminated food.  After a two-to seven-week incubation period with no symptoms, the infected person presents with symptoms such as:  feeling generally unwell, joint and muscle aches, cramps with belly pain and tenderness, loss of appetite, fever, nausea and diarrhea.
After a few days to a week of these fly-like symptoms, a patient may develop a yellowish tint to the skin and eyes (jaundice); sometimes though, jaundice never appears.  Sometimes urine turns dark brown and bowel movements look pale and gray.  The illness almost always resolves within several weeks to months with out treatment….
D’ Angelo’s Deli 2001:  In October of 2001, the D’Angelo’s corporate office contacted the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) to inform MDPH that one of its employees had been diagnosed with hepatitis A, and that he had been working at two different D’Angelo’s delis – at Swansea and Seekonk, during his infectious period.
D’Angelo’s regional and corporate managers assured MDPH that the infected employee, who was ServSafe certified, was fanatical about hand washing and wore gloves when preparing food and touching surfaces.  The corporate office then voluntarily closed the Swansea store, without public notice of the illness.  Thirty doses of immuno globulin (“IG”) were sent to a walk-in clinic in Seekonk to be administered to all employees.
On Saturday, October 27, the Swansea Board of Health (“SBH”) became aware that the store had reopened for business, and inspected that store.  The SBH inspector and town nurse were informed by the D’Angelo’s district manager at the store that the MDPH had authorized the store to reopen if all employees had been given shots and if the sick employee stayed away from work until healthy.  No public notice of the hepatitis A illness of the D’Angelo’s employee, and of the fact that he had worked during at least 15 days of his infectious period, was provided at the time.
On November 20, 2002, the MDPH was notified of seven confirmed hepatitis A cases in the area.  All local boards of health were notified, and an investigation into this hepatitis A outbreak began.
Ultimately, the investigators identified a total of 53 hepatitis A cases meeting the definition of an outbreak-case.  An epidemiological analysis of the case interviews revealed an association between the hepatitis A illness and the consumption of food from D’Angelo’s.  Two of the confirmed cases were food workers employed at Rudy’s Country Store.  Both employees had eaten at the Swansea D’Angelo’s three to four weeks prior to the onset of their respective symptoms.  Both of the Rudy’s employees who tested positive had contact with food served to customers.
On November 27, 2001, a press release and public notice was published notifying the patrons of Rudy’s of their potential exposure to hepatitis A, and recommending that patrons who had eaten food from Rudy’s during the period from November 5 to November 23, 2001 obtain IG shots.  A clinic was held at Charlton Memorial Hospital to provide these treatments on November 29 and 30.  Approximately 1600 persons obtained IG shots there during those two days.  No hepatitis A cases were linked to the consumption of food sold at Rudy’s.
Chi-Chi’s 2003:  Pennsylvania State health officials first learned of a Hepatitis A outbreak when unusually high numbers of hepatitis A cases were reported in late October 2003. All but one of the initial cases had eaten at the Chi Chi’s restaurant at the Beaver Valley Mall, in Monaca, Pennsylvania.
Ultimately, at least 565 cases were confirmed. The victims included at least 13 employees of the Chi Chi’s restaurant, and residents of six other states (identity of the states was not given). Three persons died as a consequence of their hepatitis A illness.  Over 125 were hospitalized.  One man suffered liver failure, which required an emergency transplant.  More than 9,000 persons who had eaten at the restaurant, or who had been exposed to ill persons, were given an injection of immune globulin as prevention against hepatitis A.
Preliminary analysis of a case-control study indicated fresh, green onions were the probable source of this outbreak. Previous hepatitis A outbreaks had been linked to green onions, and had involved patrons of a single restaurant, however this outbreak was unusually large. The FDA issued a statement dated December 9, 2003, reaffirming that this outbreak, as well as others recently, had been associated with eating raw, or undercooked, green onions. The investigation and trace-backs by the state health department, the CDC, and the FDA, confirmed that the green onions had been grown in Mexico.
The viral sequence of the outbreak strain was similar to the viral sequences obtained from persons involved in hepatitis A outbreaks that had occurred in September 2003, in the states of Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina. Green onions had also been implicated in these outbreaks.
Friendly’s 2004:  In June of 2004, a food worker at a Friendly’s restaurant in Arlington, Massachusetts was diagnosed with hepatitis A, a virus that can cause acute liver failure.  Health officials estimated that more than 3,800 people were at risk for developing hepatitis A infection after dining at the restaurant.
In mid-June, more than 3,000 people exposed to the hepatitis A virus at Friendly’s lined up at an area clinic to receive immune globulin (“Ig”) shots to prevent hepatitis A infection. When administered within 14 days of exposure to the virus, Ig is effective in preventing – or at least reducing the symptoms of – hepatitis A infection.  Many of the people who lined up for shots were initially turned away and due to a lack of Ig and had to return later.
Quizno’s 2004:  A Boston Quizno’s employee was diagnosed with hepatitis A in June 2004. Upon notification of the potential for a hepatitis A outbreak, the Boston health department advised consumers who had eaten at the Quizno’s Subshop located at 74 Summer Street in Boston to receive Immune globulin shots to prevent infection.
Maple Lawn Dairy 2004:  On November 6, 2004, the Chemung County Health Department issued a hepatitis A news release announcing that four persons had confirmed hepatitis A infections, which were traceable to the Maple Lawn Dairy Family Restaurant in Elmira. The Health Department also advised that persons who had eaten at the defendant’s restaurant between September 26 and October 10, 2004 might have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus. A restaurant employee was diagnosed with the hepatitis A virus on October 10, 2004 and was working at the defendant’s restaurant while infected with the virus. The Department recommended that persons who had potentially been exposed receive injections of immune globulin, an antibody treatment that provides protection from the hepatitis A virus if exposure to the virus has occurred within 14 days prior to the injection.
Houlihan’s 2007:  On or about January 21, 2007 the KCHD, announced that a case of HAV had occurred in a food worker at the Houlihan’s restaurant located at 1332 Commons Drive, Geneva, Illinois. In a notice posted on the KCHD web site health officials warned that people who ate foods at the restaurant between January 8 through January 19 may be at risk of developing HAV.
Officials urged that anyone who ate cold or uncooked foods at the restaurant during that period should contact their health care provider and be administered Immune Globulin shots as soon as possible.  It is estimated that as many as 3000 persons were potentially exposed to HAV at the restaurant in the relevant time frame.
McDonald’s 2009:  On July 13, Rock Island County Health Department officials informed the McDonald’s corporate office that a McDonald’s franchise in Milan, Illinois had an employee infected with hepatitis A.  The employee had been working at that restaurant over the past week.  The next day, health officials went to the Milan McDonald’s and found that employees were washing their hands improperly and should have been wearing gloves when they had cuts, painted nails, or fake nails.  The inspector provided the employees material about proper hand washing and hepatitis A.
On July 15, health officials returned for a full inspection.  The inspection detailed a laundry list of violations, two of them critical, involving “hygienic practices” and “presence of insects/rodents.”  It was also reported that after the first employee was confirmed positive with hepatitis A on June 9, another employee had been confirmed positive with hepatitis A on July 15.  As a result, the Milan McDonald’s was ordered to close until all employees completed health histories, got vaccinated, and completed hand-washing training.
Though it was initially believed that the employee infections were not detected until July 13, evidence later surfaced suggesting otherwise.  The second employee who contracted hepatitis A, Cheryl Schram, had been diagnosed on June 20 and told the restaurant a few days later, once she had been released from the hospital.  Despite the highly contagious nature of her illness, she was permitted to return to work.
During the period when the infected employees had been allowed to work and handle food, it was estimated that as many as 10,000 people ate at that restaurant.  This led to county health officials inoculating more than 5,000 local residents against the disease in order to contain the outbreak.  Unfortunately, the damage had already been done and those infected were beginning to exhibit symptoms.
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) released a report of its investigation into the Hepatitis A outbreak on October 30, 2009. IDPH reported a final tally of 34 confirmed cases of Hepatitis-A with onsets from June 11 through August 10, 2009.  IDPH concluded that food from the Milan McDonald’s was the source of the outbreak.  IDPH explained:
The restaurant had inspection reports indicating issues with bare hand contact with food, employees reported no use of gloves when preparing foods not later cooked, during hand hygiene education the employees had difficulty in properly washing hands, and the index case in the community, a food handler at McDonalds, had a period of communicability and work history that match with the dates of onset of the majority of the other cases and she handed food that was not later cooked with bare hands.  In addition, the case-control study showed that there was an elevated risk of hepatitis A associated with consuming food from the McDonalds in Milan, Illinois.  Other possible sources in the community were ruled out.
Olive Garden 2001:  In August 2011, the Cumberland County Health Department announced that thousands of diners had potentially been exposed to Hepatitis A after an employee of a Fayetteville, N.C. Olive Garden had tested positive for the virus.  The employee was infected with hepatitis A while working shifts at the restaurant on July 25, 26, 28, 29, and 31, as well as August 1, 2 and 8.  Many people who had dined at the Olive Garden on those dates had to obtain a Hepatitis A vaccinations or Immune globulin (Ig) injections to prevent infection with the potentially deadly hepatitis A virus.  3,000 patrons received shots.
Money well spent:  Estimates of the annual costs (direct and indirect) of hepatitis A in the United States have ranged from $300 million to $488.8 million in 1997 dollars.  In one study conducted in Spokane, Washington, the combined direct and indirect costs for each case of hepatitis A from all sources ranged from $2892 to $3837. In a 2007 Ohio study, each case of HAV infection attributable to contaminated food was estimated to cost at least $10,000, including medical and other non-economic costs. Nationwide, adults who become ill miss an average of 27 workdays per illness, and 11-to-22 percent of those infected are hospitalized. All of these costs are entirely preventable given the effectiveness of a vaccination in providing immunity from infection.  See,

Salmonella Outbreak Investigation Too Slow, Says Pew
Source :
By Carla Gillespie (Apr 06, 2013)
Salmonella in ground turkey produced by Cargill Meat Solutions was the cause of a food poisoning outbreak that sickened 136 people and killed one person in 2011. But those numbers could have been lower if health officials acted more quickly, according to a new study by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
It took investigators at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) months to identify the source of the outbreak. It was 22 weeks after the first person became ill and 10 weeks after CDC detected the outbreak before the illnesses were linked to ground turkey produced at Cargill’s plant in Springdale, Ark.  The outbreak began five months before the CDC announced it on August 1, 2011. During those five months 127 people became ill.
Pew identified three main problems with the existing system that prevented authorities from discovering the food source more quickly. The first is that although Salmonella sickens 1 million people every year at an annual cost of $11 billion, it isn’t given as much attention as other pathogens. Culturing bacterial samples from patients isn’t required in all states and public health labs don’t perform DNA fingerprinting of Salmonella isolates uniformly.
The second problem is that when public health officials post DNA fingerprints on PulseNet, a national network of foodborne bacteria information, the isolates are not identified with the brand names or the processing plants where they were produced. And the third problem is that food companies are not engaged in the investigation early enough.
By addressing these problems, health officials can improve their response to foodborne illness outbreaks, the report says. Those recommendations are consistent with requirements outlined in the Section 205 of the Food Safety Modernization Act which directs the CDC to improve surveillance of foodborne illness.

Farm Rich E. coli Outbreak Can’t Be Blamed on Consumers
Source :
By Linda Larsen (Apr 06, 2013)
The outbreak of E. coli 0121 linked to recalled Farm Rich products is unusual. The ingredients that make up the frozen mini meals and snacks are precooked (chicken, pepperoni, and cheese) and are simply assembled to make a product that is reheated before consuming.
No foodborne illness can be blamed on the consumer. Manufacturers have the legal responsibility to produce safe food.  The law states that manufacturers are responsible for making and selling food that will not make consumers sick, but this has happened over and over again.
The food you buy should not be contaminated with pathogenic bacteria. Unfortunately, manufacturers put the burden on the consumer to heat the food to a safe temperature. This so called “consumer kill step” has been the subject of many government studies and guidelines for the packaged food industry and consumers. A food safety article from the University of Minnesota extension gives guidelines for the consumer on how to cook frozen foods. Very few people know that these foods need to be heated to kill bacteria, not just heated so they taste good.
Again, manufacturers are responsible for illnesses caused by their products, but the continued failure to provide safe food means you need to protect yourself and your family by making sure all foods that you prepare are as safe as possible.
Not many people know that any processed food carries risk of contamination simply because it moves through many venues as it travels from the manufacturing facility to the kitchen. Contamination with pathogenic bacteria can happen at any time along that journey, from the facility itself to the packaging line to handlers to shipping outlets.
When cooking frozen convenience foods, read and follow cooking instructions carefully. A product should be labeled “raw product”, “uncooked”, “ready to cook” or “contains uncooked poultry.” Some frozen foods look as if they are fully cooked, even when they are not, because they are breaded or pre-browned.
You should also pay attention to microwave wattage. Label instructions are developed for certain wattage, and cooking times vary according to how powerful your microwave oven is. If you don’t know the wattage, use a food thermometer to make sure that the food reaches 165 degrees F before you eat it.  Insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the product. If the food hasn’t reached 165 degrees F, continue cooking it. Be sure to wash the thermometer with soap and water before you recheck the temperature. And follow stirring, rotating, and standing times carefully. These are developed to cook the food as evenly as possible.

China bird flu outbreak spurs food safety fears
Source :
By Agence France-Presse (Apr 09, 2013)
SHANGHAI – China’s bird flu outbreak is “devastating” poultry sales, an industry group said Tuesday, as the H7N9 virus which has killed seven people triggered a new food safety scare.
Since China announced over a week ago that H7N9 avian influenza had been found in humans for the first time, the number of people infected has risen to 24, almost half in the eastern city of Shanghai.
Chinese authorities say they do not know how the virus is spreading, though it is believed the infection is passing from birds to humans.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said there is no evidence H7N9 is passing from person to person — a development that has the potential to trigger a pandemic.
Authorities have advised the public to avoid live birds but offered reassurances that poultry and eggs that are still on sale are safe to eat if cooked properly.
However, state media said that poultry sales have plunged in some areas of China, even regions that have so far recorded no human infections.
“It’s really a devastating blow to the market for broilers,” said Qiu Baoqin, vice secretary general of China’s National Poultry Industry Association. Broilers are young chickens sold ready for cooking.
“The impact is extremely big,” she said.
In the northern city of Shijiazhuang, daily chicken sales have tumbled more than 50 percent from a week earlier at the city’s largest agricultural market, the state-backed China News Service reported.
Shanghai has culled more than 111,000 birds, banned trading in live poultry and shut markets in a bid to curb the outbreak.
Nanjing and Suzhou cities followed suit by banning live poultry trading, while Hangzhou culled poultry after discovering infected quail.
Domestic airlines, including budget carrier Spring and Xiamen Airlines, have yanked chicken from the menu after complaints from passengers, the Shanghai Daily newspaper said.
China has been hit by a series of food scandals in recent years, some caused by producers deliberately using sub-standard or illegal ingredients, making the public wary over what they consume.
The country was rocked by one of its biggest-ever food safety scandals in 2008, when the industrial chemical melamine was found to have been illegally added to dairy products, killing at least six and making 300,000 ill.
A decade ago, China also faced accusations it covered up the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed about 800 people globally, but the WHO has praised Beijing’s transparency for H7N9.
“The authorities seem to have learned the necessary lessons from the SARS outbreak,” the China Daily newspaper said in an editorial on Tuesday.
As China battled the new strain, neighbouring Vietnam on Tuesday reported its first death in more than a year from the better known H5N1 bird flu strain. The latest victim was a four-year-old child from a farming family.
Last week Hanoi banned all Chinese poultry imports and stepped up border controls, including passenger temperature checks, in response to the new H7N9 strain in China.
Meanwhile Cambodia, which neighbours Vietnam, has also been hit with a recent unexplained spike in deaths from H5N1 which has killed eight people so far this year in the kingdom, including six children.
The H5N1 virus has killed more than 370 people around the world since a major outbreak in Asia a decade ago.
Analysts said the bird flu outbreak could hurt China’s overall economy — the world’s second-largest — though the effect was expected to be temporary.
“Past experiences told us that the negative impact from such epidemics won’t last too long and ensuing pent-up demand could be quite strong, so there is no need for panic,” China economist for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Lu Ting, said in a report.

County recognizes food safety excellence
Source :
By JEFF NEWPHER (Apr 09, 2013)
For years, “slime in the ice machine” made headlines in the world of food service.
Now, for the 17th year in Galveston County, Gold Ribbons are being awarded.
The Gold Ribbons are the Health District’s way of recognizing businesses and schools for excellent food service among the 1500 places that are inspected in Galveston County.
To be eligible for the award, the Health District requires that an establishment must actually prepare food, maintain a record of satisfactory food temperatures, must have no confirmed food borne illness complaints, must have at least one certified food service manager employed, have no significant number of demerits from inspections, must have a good cleaning and maintenance program, have evidence of staff discussions or training, and show special effort to comply with the rules by the use of food safety aids.
“Consumers expect safe food and our inspectors assist businesses and other food operators in providing that,” said Dr. Mark Guidry.
“Inspectors often note deficiencies, but the great news of Gold Ribbon Awards is recognizing excellence”
In Friendswood, Kandiland Day School, Kid City #3 and Primrose School of Friendswood were winners this year.
League City winners were Baywind Village Care Center, Buc-ee’s, Burger King, Children’s Lighthouse, Devereux Hospital, Fiona Bakery, Kiddie Academy, Kids R Kids #22, Kids R Kids #29, Kids R Kids #60, Ludwig’s Catering, McDonald’s #08233, Panda Express #1363, Primrose School of League City, Regent Care Center, The School Zone League City and What-A-Burger #592.
In Kemah, the Wingstop was recognized.
Opus Bistro in Clear Lake Shores was also awarded a Gold Ribbon.
winning schools
Friendswood ISD: Cline Primary School, Friendswood Jr. High School, Windsong Intermediate, Zue Bales Intermediate.
Clear Creek ISD: Art & Pat Goforth Elementary, Brookside Intermediate, Clear Creek High School, Clear Creek Intermediate, Clear Springs High School, Creekside Intermediate, Darwin L. Gilmore Elementary, Henry Bauerschlag Elementary, I.W. Hyde Elementary, James H. Ross Elementary, Lavace Stewart Elementary, League City Elementary, League City Intermediate, Lloyd R. Ferguson Elementary, Ralph Parr Elementary, Sandra Mossman Elementary and Walter Hall Elementary.
Inspection reports for Galveston County food service establishments can be found at

Outbreaks of Foodborne Illness Tumble over 10-Year Period, Reports CSPI
Source :
By (Apr 09, 2013)
PARMA, Italy—The number of salmonellosis cases in humans in the European Union dropped by 5.4 % compared with 2010 and by as much as 37.9 % compared with 2007, marking a decrease for the seventh consecutive year, according to a new report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Campylobacteriosis remains the most reported zoonotic infection in humans since 2005 and the number of cases has been increasing over the last six years.
The report notes the likely main reasons for the decrease in human salmonellosis cases are the successful EU Salmonella control programs for reducing the prevalence of the bacteria in poultry populations, particularly in poultry populations. Salmonella accounted for 95,548 confirmed human salmonellosis cases in 2011 compared to 99,020 reported human cases in 2010. Salmonella was most often detected in fresh broiler meat. The food categories with highest proportion of products not complying with the EU Salmonella criteria were minced meat and meat preparations, as well as live bivalve mollusks.
“The good news is that the positive trend in reduction of Salmonella cases in humans and poultry is continuing. However, the increase in Campylobacter and VTEC cases highlights the continued need to monitor and control the presence of these bacteria in the food chain in order to reduce the risk of human exposure," said Pia Makela, head of EFSA’s Biological Monitoring Unit.
In 2010, a total of 220,209 Campylobacter cases in humans were reported, an increase for the sixth consecutive year with 2.2% more cases compared to 2010. Campylobacter was mostly found in chicken meat. The number of confirmed cases of campylobacteriosis in the EU has followed a significant increasing trend in the last four years, along with a clear seasonal trend.
The number of listeriosis cases in humans decreased slightly compared with 2010, and 1,476 confirmed human cases were reported in 2011. As in previous years, a high fatality rate (12.7 %) was reported among the cases. Listeria monocytogenes was seldom detected above the legal safety limit from ready-to-eat foods at point of retail. Samples exceeding this limit were most often found in fishery products, cheeses and fermented sausages.
Verotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC/STEC) bacteria accounted for 9,485 human disease cases in 2011—a 2.6-fold increase compared with 2010. The strong increase observed in 2011 was primarily due to the large outbreak of the rare strain O104:H4 in Germany and France associated with sprouted seeds; however, an increasing trend already had been reported in previous years. A large number of the cases, 1,006 cases, also were affected by the severe condition, hemolytic uremic syndrome in 2011. This was a 4.5-fold increase compared with 2010, primarily observed in adult cases and attributed to the German outbreak. In animals and food most verotoxigenic Escherichia coli-positive findings were made in cattle and bovine meat, but the bacteria also were detected in some other animal species and foodstuffs.
A total of 7,017 confirmed cases of yersiniosis were reported in the EU in 2011, corresponding to a 3.5% increase compared with 2010. There was a statistically significant decreasing 5-year trend in the EU in 2007-2011. Among food and animals, Yersinia enterocolitica was mainly isolated from pig meat and pigs.
The number of confirmed brucellosis cases in humans continued to decline, and 330 confirmed cases were reported in 2011 in the EU. The number of brucellosis-positive sheep and goat herds continued to decrease. Bovine brucellosis decreased only marginally compared with 2010.
In 2011, trichinellosis caused 268 human cases in the EU compared to 223 cases in 2010. Although the number of cases was slightly higher in 2011 compared with 2010, human trichinellosis cases remained at a low level in the European Union compared with 2009 and previous years. In 2011, Trichinella was found slightly more often in pigs than it was in 2010.
There were a total of 5,648 foodborne outbreaks recoreded in the EU in 2011, affecting 69,553 people and causing 7,125 hospitalizations and 93 deaths. Salmonella (26.6 % of all outbreaks), followed by bacterial toxins (12.9%) and Campylobacter (10.6%). Even though Campylobacter is the most often reported cause of zoonotic diseases overall, it is less often reported as a cause of food-borne outbreaks. The most common food sources of the outbreaks were eggs and egg products, mixed food, fish and fish products.

Job openings
04/12. Intern - QA/Food Safety – Oklahoma City, OK
04/12. Assist Food Safety/Qual Coord– Sheboygan Falls, WI
04/12. Food Safety Intern - Chambersburg, PA
04/11. Food Quality and Safety Tech – Elkhart Lake, WI
04/11. Bilingual Food Safety Specialist – Boulder Co, CO
04/11. Food Safety Manager – Green Bay, WI
04/09. Food Safety Specialist – South Atlanta, GA
04/09. Food Safety Supervisor - San Jose, CA
04/09. Food Safety - Technical Support – Hatfield, PA
04/08. Coordinator – QA & Food Safety – Dallas, TX
04/08. R&D QA Dir, Food Safety Systems – Valhalla, NY
04/08. Food and Safety Consultant – Roswell, GA
04/05. Food Safety Specialist – Tempe, AZ
04/05. Food Safety Supervisor – Mfg – Clearfield, UT
04/05. Food Safety Manager – Cincinnati, OH
04/03. Food Safety & QA Manager - Las Vegas, NV
04/03. Food Safety Reviewer Korean Fluent – St. Paul, MN
04/03. Intern Bioinformaticist and Food Safety – Austin, TX
04/03. Deputy Adm, Nutr Food Safety & Qual – Beltsville, MD
04/01. Food Safety Specialist – Redwood City, CA
04/01. eMarketing Superv – Food Safety – Maplewood, MN
04/01. Quality Food Safety Manager – Orangeburg, SC

New Strain of Bird Flu in China Increases Worry
Source :
By Linda Larsen (Apr 09, 2013)
A new strain of bird flu has appeared in China. The virus, H7N9, has killed six people in that country and infected 21 so far. McDonald’s in Shanghai has cut the price of its chicken McNuggets in half in the past few days. And China’s airlines are no longer serving chicken to passengers. Consumers there are worried that the outbreak may have infected the city’s poultry market. The virus has evolved to infect people.
I talked to Dr. O. Peter Snyder about the bird flu and poultry products a few years ago. He said, “the bird flu will have an effect on chicken consumption, and for a while, people will be fearful and eat less chicken. Then, people will realize it doesn’t hurt the ordinary citizen and we will eat as much chicken as ever.” This has been verified by public health officials.
If you cook any chicken you buy to 165 degrees F (check with a food thermometer!), the virus will be killed. Always wash your hands after handling raw chicken and other poultry, and be sure to sanitize any surfaces the raw meat touches. Don’t rinse the chicken before you cook it, since any contaminants can aerosolize under the running water. And be especially careful to avoid cross-contamination: don’t let uncooked foods come into contact with raw meat or its juices.
People who live with the live birds have the highest risk of transmission. And the problem with this virus is that it is more deadly to people than birds, so we can’t tell which birds carry the virus. In Shanghai, officials removed 20,500 birds from a farmers market after the virus was found in pigeons and culled more than 111,000 birds nationwide. There is currently a ban on live poultry trading in that country.
There is still no evidence of person-to-person transmission of the virus, which would be something to worry about. The CDC is working on a vaccine using the virus’ genetic code. We’ll keep you up to date on this issue.

Farm Rich E. coli Outbreak Issues: Label Confusion and Microwave Ovens
Source :
By Linda Larsen (Apr 09, 2013)
There are two issues that may have had an effect on the Farm Rich E. coli  0121 outbreak that has sickened 27 people in 15 states. Two patients in that outbreak have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a complication of STEC bacterial infections that can cause kidney failure. One  issue is label confusion; the other is microwave safety.  It’s an unfortunate fact of modern life that processed foods can be contaminated with pathogenic bacteria and there is no way for the consumer to know if that processed food is safe.
Consumers are the last line of defense against food poisoning. And some manufacturers try to shift the blame for foodborne illness outbreaks to improper consumer food handling. There is no excuse, legally or morally, for a manufacturer to sell a food that contains pathogenic bacteria. But let’s face facts: you have to do whatever you can to keep yourself and your family safe.
Last year, the International Food Information Council looked at consumers’ attitudes toward food and health. They found that only 19% of consumers use a food thermometer when preparing packaged convenience foods (I hardly ever do this myself!). Furthermore, only 43% of consumers let food stand for an appropriate time after cooking. This “standing time” is crucial, since it lets the heat pass throughout the food, usually raising it to a safe temperature. Finally, 39% of consumers do not follow all of the cooking instructions on packaged food. Those instructions are detailed and are designed to kill any pathogenic bacteria that may be in (or on) the food.
The microwave oven is problematic in itself. The Farm Rich products were developed to be heated in a microwave oven. A study by Consumer Reports found that some microwave ovens have “cold spots” that are so variable some parts of the food will not reach safe temperatures no matter how long you cook them. Baking these foods in the oven may help; but if a product is heavily contaminated, it may never be safe no matter how long it is heated.
To help consumers, has developed a “Cook it Safe!” brochure that details the steps consumers must take to protect themselves. If you have teenagers in the house, it’s a good idea to print out this brochure and tape it to the fridge. Make it required reading for anyone who uses your kitchen.

Virus Prevents Reproduction in House Flies That Spread Bacteria
Source :
By Gretchen Goetz (Apr 09, 2013)
Researchers at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service are experimenting with a virus that can prevent house flies from reproducing, thereby reducing the amount of foodborne bacteria spread by these insects.
Scientists have discovered that when house flies are infected with the salivary gland hypertrophy virus, females stop producing eggs and males no longer mate, reported ARS’ Agricultural Research magazine.
Common House Fly (musca domestica), c/o Agricultural Research Service
“It’s a way of managing the fly population at the adult level by limiting its ability to reproduce,” said Entomologist Chris Geden of the Mosquito and Fly Unit at ARS’ Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology (CMAVE).
And when fewer flies are able to reproduce, fewer flies are available to carry harmful pathogens such as Salmonella or E. coli, which are harbored in animal feces, to human food sources.
The question researchers are focusing on now is how to ensure a higher infection rate among flies exposed to the virus. Normally, the infection rate is low, at about 0.5 to 1 percent.
Geden’s team at CMAVE partnered with researchers at the University of Florida and Aarhus University in Denmark to study two populations of house flies – one in Florida and one in Denmark.
Both teams found that exposure to a mixture of infected flies and water produced the highest infection rate. When exposed to the virus this way, 56 percent of the flies in the Denmark study and 50 percent of the flies in the Florida study became infected.
That’s compared to an infection rate of 37 percent detected at a SGHV “hot spot” at a dairy farm in Gilchrist, Florida.
Geden explained how SGHV would be used during fly season to reduce the adult house fly population:
“This is not an insecticide. It’s not something you would put out when people are complaining about flies at picnics and expect to get a fast reduction,” Geden told Agricultural Research. “This would be part of an integrated management program in which you would go out early in the year when natural fly populations are just beginning to increase, hit them with the virus to knock down their reproductive ability, and come back 2 to 3 weeks later and do it again.”
This intervention is one of several being explored by scientists at CMAVE in Gainesville.
In November of last year, Food Safety News reported on another technique being explored by the team – that one involving the use of a chemical that inhibits fly larvae from growing to adulthood.

Farms Take Food Safety into Their Own Hands
Source :
By Erin Brodwin (Apr 08, 2013)
Healthy food kills. Or at least, it can.
In 2010, food borne illness sickened nearly 20,000 Americans. Of those infected, over 4,000 had to be hospitalized; 68 died. The main culprits were bacteria--Salmonella and E. Coli, to be precise, and they had taken cover in products widely considered healthy. Although E. Coli infection rates have declined somewhat since food production companies began meeting new food safety regulations in 2006, cases of Salmonella infection have remained steady for more than a decade. Americans spend an estimated $365 million in direct medical costs each year on treating cases of Salmonella poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In an effort to try to reduce outbreaks, some farmers and manufacturers are instituting new practices, rather than waiting for tougher regulations that may never be enforced anyway. Their motivation: the bottom line.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to enforce a universal set of standards for making sure the food we eat is safe. Regulations introduced in January of this year would allegedly strengthen the 2011 Food Safety Act by giving the FDA power to regulate agribusiness.
Tougher rules may not help, however. Although FDA Food Commissioner Mike Taylor promises that national reform is on its way, the agency has little power to enforce the laws it hopes to mandate on U.S. farms. And domestic farms have historically been noncompliant with federal legislation. The FDA oversees more than three million food facilities, two million farms, 900,000 restaurants, 114,000 grocery retail outlets and 189,000 'other' food facilities. Without a robust effort to enforce safety mandates, the majority of these facilities go unregulated. The FDA currently inspects most U.S. food manufacturers once every 10 years. Passing federal legislation is one thing, says Taylor. Enforcing compliance is another. "This is not going to be easy," Taylor says.
In the absence of federal food safety reform, consumers are looking for safer food, and farms are leading the charge to respond.
As the public becomes more aware of bacterial outbreaks, consumers have begun to demand safer products through their collective buying power, says Greg West, president and CEO of National Pasteurized Eggs, Inc. in Lansing, Illin. West's company, which produces pasteurized eggs in an effort to eliminate Salmonella, has seen consumer demand double in the last year alone. "The consumer wants safe food, and consumers are reaching out for it," West says. And West's company is more than happy to supply them--sales of pasteurized eggs, he said, have skyrocketed since the outbreaks of the 90s and the more recent flare-up in 2006 made national headlines.
Preventing bacterial outbreaks is a matter of reducing risk, says West. Some cases of Salmonella-related illness, West admitted, could have been prevented simply by cooking them all the way through. Unfortunately, many people don't cook eggs completely; over-easy, poached, and soft-boiled eggs are all bacterial vectors. "Why not stop the risk before it enters the supply chain?" says West.
All of West's eggs go through a hot-water pasteurization bath. Afterward, each egg is sealed with a wax coating to prevent potential future contamination, and stamped with a red circle 'P' to denote that the eggs have been pasteurized.
Other companies can't bathe their products in bacteria-killing solution. Earthbound Farm in San Juan Bautista, Calif. which lost $70 million as a result of an E. Coli outbreak in its fresh spinach, began a massive safety overhaul in 2006 that incorporated vigorous bacterial testing with innovative safety methods like UV radiation.
"At the end of the day you can't rely on government or academia," says Earthbound Farm food safety director Will Daniels. "You have to have relationships with the suppliers and know the process."
Earthbound is still perfecting its methods. At the moment, the company is working with NASA to develop technology that would predict how interactions between the environment, pathogens and produce could lead to pathogens. Eventually, Daniels says, they hope to be able to predict climate changes to prevent bacterial outbreaks before they start. When the farm knows of an approaching hotter-than-usual summer season, for example, growers can increase the amounts of UV radiation they apply. Daniels says NASA has already identified a strong correlation between weather events and test results that are positive for bacteria.
The California Strawberry Commission has made products safer not by implementing new technologies but by better educating its farmers, says Andrew Kramer, director of grower education. Because strawberries are harvested year-round, the field is constantly replete with workers; as a people-centered crop, strawberries mandated a people-centered approach to safety.
For example, when the company discovered that workers were taking breaks in the field rather than in designated areas to the side of the crops, it also found that trash residue was diminishing the quality of the crop and was attracting animals to the crop site. Drawn to the food scraps discarded by farmers on crop sites, Kramer's team found, animals and bacteria would often invade crops as well. Commission experts soon realized that gaps in communication between commissioners, growers and farmers was to blame--growers were not telling farmers about break protocol, and some weren't even supplying chairs in dedicated eating locations. So commission experts began a series of training and education workshops in English and Spanish, and instructed growers to provide workers with portable chairs at a central location, preventing food scraps from bringing bacteria to the crop site. To tackle other safety issues in the field, directors of the grower education program came up with their now famous food safety flipchart--a giant wooden how-to chart complete with diagrams and illustrations on safety in the field. Using the chart, farm safety educators conduct trainings that instruct workers on everything from correct hand-washing practices to how to identify a diseased crop before it infects the whole field.
Kramer also leads the commission's food safety certificate program, which, through a series of five classes, has been successful at training growers and crews to harvest their crops in a way that minimizes disease outbreaks. "We're taking knowledge about the best ways to grow a safe crop and translating that to actual practice," says Kramer.
Farms are at risk of contamination from a number of sources, from birds that fly overhead to the trash that farmers accidentally drop on crops. Although growers and processors may not be able to eliminate all problems, they are taking the steps to try to lessen pathogenic contamination.

Fast food chains on latest name and shame food safety list
Source :
By Sarah Stowe (Apr 09, 2013)
Fast food outlets are continuing to be named and shamed for breaches of food safety laws, according to the latest NSW Food Authority penalties listing.
Individual food stores in the Domino's, Eagle Boys, Hungry Jacks, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and Subway chains have drawn penalties from the regulatory body in the last 12 months, some of the outlets repeat offenders.
Also listed with four or more infringements across their NSW networks are IGA, Nandos and Grill'd.
The Sydney Morning Herald's Good Food reports that almost 20 percent of NSW Domino's Pizzas stores have been penalised for food breaches since 2008, with 50 fines totalling $37,180.
KFC had the second highest number of penalites over this five year period, with 24 stores issued with 40 fines. Twenty Pizza Hut outlets received 35 penalty notices and 19 McDonald's stores were issued with 30 fines.
The high profile fast food chains are insistent on compliance across their outlets.
McDonald's spokesperon Skye Oxenham-Lupul told SMH, "In all cases we took immediate measures to address the issue and prevent any reoccurrence."
Tracy Stephenson, spokesperson for Domino's Pizza, said the stores in question had continued to trade, but the majority of the outlets had been sold and were under better management.
The system is designed to manage out poor performers, Stephenson said. "Since 2011, we have brought our audit system back in and introduced the breach and termination of sub-franchisee agreement policy for non-compliance."
Ashley Hughes, spokesperson for KFC, said there was a robust system to minimise the risk of food contamination and the 40 fines worth $29,700, which dated from breaches in 2008 and 2009, were a "disappointing lapse".

Houston egg roll maker shuts down; here’s how to track food safety
Source :
By Drew Falkenstein (Apr 03, 2013)
A popular Houston egg roll maker’s plant has been shut down for producing food under unsanitary conditions that could have caused botulism or listeriosis.
Chung’s Products, which assembles a variety of Asian frozen foods including spring rolls, pot stickers and entrees, was permanently enjoined this month from operating in any facility until company officials take remedial action required by a federal court order.
The injunction issued this month means that Chung’s should not receive, process, prepare, pack, hold or distribute food from any facility until complying with a long list of requirements.
Click here for the October 2007 public warning letter the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent to Chung’s and here for the company’s response in April 2008.
See the injunction as well as the opinion and order issued by U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon below.
Visit to report food poisoning and problems with food.
Keep track of food safety recalls and tips through this widget.

Food manufacturers face barriers to business training
Source :
By (Apr 08, 2013)
Finding time for delivering food safety courses and monitoring their effectiveness are the main barriers to high-quality training.
This is according to a new survey conducted by Campden BRI, Alchemy Systems, BRC Global Standards and Safe Quality Food, which questioned 649 global food and drink manufacturers and processors.
It was revealed more than 70 per cent of respondents struggle to fit business training into their busy schedule, while 43 per cent said measuring the impact of their training programmes is obstructing workplace learning.
A number of innovative practices are being used by companies, as 39 per cent stated they have rolled out e-learning and 14 per cent rely on interactive training. However, this figure is likely to be higher if more firms knew the benefits online learning systems can have in reducing administrative costs and freeing up time.
Bertrand Emond, head of membership and training at Campden BRI, said the results of the survey provide a complete picture of the current activities and practices in food safety training across the whole industry.
"By conducting the survey each year we will be able to track developments and trends and develop solutions to some of the challenges identified," he added.
Most of the food companies questioned (85 per cent) use on-the-job training, while many others roll out refresher courses and classroom-based instruction.
However, only 66 per cent of organisations said they are either satisfied or very satisfied with the standard of training being undertaken, which could be explained by the problems they are encountering with resources or keeping their curriculum up to date.
Laura Dunn Nelson, director of industry relations at Alchemy Systems, stated that as safety training is critical to the food manufacturing sector, the study provides manufacturers and processors with the chance to benchmark their results against competitors and "identify any opportunities for development".
The companies surveyed spanned the entire industry - selling dairy, meat, baking, fish and poultry products - and ranged in size from 50 employees to more than 1,000.

Internal Emails Reveal FSIS Was Divided on ‘Pink Slime’
Source :
By Gretchen Goetz, Helena Bottemiller (Apr 08, 2013)
By March of last year, lean finely textured beef (LFTB) had reached celebrity status under the unfavorable moniker “pink slime.” The product—which is made by centrifuging slightly heated fatty beef trimmings to separate out lean meat bits and then treating that meat with ammonia gas to reduce foodborne pathogens —was the subject of thousands of media articles, millions of tweets and widespread consumer outrage when the public learned it was being used in the vast majority of the nation’s ground beef.
Parents in particular became outraged when they discovered that millions of pounds of LFTB were being used in the national school lunch program, and that the U.S. Department of Agriculture was about to purchase 7 million pounds of the product for the next school year. Responding to public outcry, in a matter of weeks, major meat companies, grocery chains and school districts had dropped the substance from their ground beef, forcing LFTB-producer Beef Products Inc. to shutter three of its four production plants. According to Meat & Poultry, BPI’s sales dropped to $400 million, down from $1.1 billion it was making annually before the “pink slime” controversy began.
Now, a year later, Food Safety News has obtained several thousand internal emails from USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service – the agency charged with ensuring meat is safe and properly labeled. The emails paint a picture of what was happening behind the scenes at the agency, revealing vastly different opinions on the safety and quality of LFTB – from employees who called it “GROSS” to those who called media skepticism of LFTB “a bunch of bull.” These correspondences also show that many within the agency thought LFTB should have been labeled as an ingredient in ground beef. (Under current USDA policy, LFTB can comprise up to 15 percent of a ground beef product, and it does not have to be labeled on packaging). Some employees suggested that other processed meat products are more unappetizing than LFTB, and some even admitted that they avoid U.S. ground beef altogether.
Food Safety News requested an interview with FSIS to gain additional context for the emails, but the agency declined. It was also of note that our reporters received almost no records of emails from the highest echelons of FSIS leadership, including USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen and FSIS Administrator Al Almanza.
LFTB was new news for some at FSIS too
When consumer outrage over LFTB went viral last spring many federal food safety officials had never heard of the product.
“Do you know anything about this?” wrote one FSIS meat inspector to a colleague March 3, in response to a consumer inquiry. “I checked USDA’s homepage and there is nothing about it there.”
On March 6, after reading The Daily’s story on USDA’s use of LFTB in the national school lunch program, Bettina Siegel, a mother of two who writes a blog about school food, launched a petition on to ban the product from the program. The next day, ABC World News was on the story, reporting that 70 percent of U.S. ground beef contained LFTB. Within a matter of days, Siegel’s petition had over 250,000 signatures, and had garnered national attention.
Some FSIS officials were frustrated that they didn’t find out about the widely used product from the agency.
“The thing that gets me is why do we learn about products like this through the news media and not from the agency?” wrote another meat inspector March 12.
An agency veterinarian in New York said, “I was totally unaware of the process, but I am glad that I have access to the resources to learn about it and then pass along my knowledge to family and friends.”
School administrators also seemed to be unaware that LFTB was in products being served to students, according to the emails.
“This is disgusting,” wrote John Overcash, the Food Service Director for Littleton Public Schools in Massachusetts, referring to Siegel’s petition. “The article did mention that McDonalds has stopped using ground beef that contains pink slime. Be interested to know if the ground beef produced at a grocery store could or does contain this pink slime. I don’t buy commercially premade burgers or the tubes of ground beef often sold in grocery stores any way.”
Sarah Klein, a food safety attorney at the Center for Science in the Public Interest told Food Safety News she believes the LFTB fiasco raised transparency concerns.
“The troubling part of the entire pink slime fiasco– which we believe is unsavory, but generally not unsafe– is that no one outside the industry seemed to know what was going into burgers; not the consumers who were buying them or the agency that regulates them,” said Klein in an email. “That’s the truly unsavory part of this, and the part that is worrisome for public health. If the agency who is tasked with overseeing the safety of beef products doesn’t know what’s going in to those products, how can consumers have confidence in their food?”
Emails reveal a divided agency
As “pink slime” snowballed into a national controversy, FSIS employees revealed their thoughts on whether or not LFTB was an offensive product over email. Some said they had no problem with the product, while others didn’t consider it fit for human consumption.
“Absolutely; it shouldn’t be eligible for the Mark [of USDA inspection] – ought to be treated the same as lungs,” wrote one agency veterinarian based in California.
“GROSS,” wrote another FSIS employee.
Others revealed longstanding mistrust of LFTB, and even the U.S. ground beef supply as a whole, despite the fact that their job is to ensure the safety of meat.
“I stopped eating ground beef a long, long time ago because of my years in the processing plants…..that should tell you everything……” wrote one inspector in an email to a friend at the New York Department of Agriculture. “I don’t agree with allowing LFTB (lean finely textured beef), aka, pink slime, to be called beef. It’s a cost cutter, plain and simple…it should be on the label as it is and not called beef.”
Another food safety inspector said he doesn’t let his kids eat any ground beef.
“I think it’s just another way for industry to extend their inventory and make a buck,” he wrote. “I wish it doesn’t have to come to this, but it’s industry at its best and reality. I don’t allow neither of my kids to consume beef/hamburgers. Their little immune systems are not match for tainted product. So, I’m not worried about it.”
Another inspector stationed at a Smithfield plant added: “I would not prefer to consumer this. [Finely] textured lean beef. I call [it] ammonia chips.”
“Regarding the pink slime, I don’t think anyone would have thought to use such stuff in ‘the old days,’” one FSIS inspector emailed to another. “Now it’s all about making money from selling the unknowing public hog slop!”
An agency import inspector emailed a colleague the initial ABC report and added: “Amazing what they (FSIS management) can get away with, glad to hear that USDA/FSIS scientist blew the whistle on this one!”
And the criticism continued: “Amazing that they got this approved in the 1st place it has a caustic chemical inside of it, and some how it got through all the labeling & haccp screening!” wrote one FSIS employee to another.
Some were even a touch dramatic: “What is this world coming too!!!!!” lamented one inspector.
But many others familiar with LFTB defended its safety and quality.
One FSIS employee referred to ABC News’ reporting on LFTB as “a bunch of bull.”
Gary Davis, Deputy District Manager at the Dallas District Office called ABC’s reporting “sensational journalism at its best.” He also questioned the merit of the FSIS “whistleblowers” that were featured widely in the media.
“This is a sad deal,” wrote one agency inspector to another, regarding the news that BPI would have to close three production plants. “One of the only true clean facilities I have ever been in. Spare no expense type of business to get things done right.”
Another food safety inspector said, “I always found it to be a strange process, but I’d still eat the beef.”
“[I]ndustry has spent a great deal of money on research and has a vested interest in producing safe products while efficiently using as much of the raw product (in this case beef carcasses) as they can – this is smart both businesswise and environment-wise,” wrote an FSIS official working in the Denver District to fellow supervisors, adding that, according to the American Meat Institute, if LFTB was removed from the marketplace the industry would need another million and a half head to make up the volume.
A fine line
Throughout the firestorm, FSIS officials struggled to walk a fine line between assuring the public that LFTB was safe and promoting the product, the emails show.
A month before the story went viral, then FSIS spokesman Dirk Fillpot flagged a local news story in an email to other communications staff. “The video leads with the sensational claims by Jamie Oliver and the ‘ick’ factor of the product,” he wrote. “The company doesn’t attempt to defend its product, nor is it our role to defend their product.”
By March 15—about a week after ABC World News had begun airing scathing stories about LFTB nightly—the USDA announced that it would allow school districts to choose whether they wanted to purchase ground beef containing the product.
That same day, Republican staff for the Senate Agriculture Committee “demanded” a call with both the Food and Nutrition Service, which runs the national school lunch program, and FSIS, according to an email from Brian Mabry, Deputy Director of Congressional and Public Affairs at FSIS.
“Staff is concerned that we are killing the beef industry,” read the email.
Members of Congress, it seemed, were either questioning why USDA hadn’t required LFTB to be labeled in the first place, or they were blasting the department for not taking a harder line against LFTB criticism.
One letter, from Iowa Congressman Steve King’s office to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s office, said, “We ask that you engage the full force of the USDA and your personal influence to reverse the unjustified tsunami that threatens to take down a great Iowa company.”
To help respond to the criticism coming from Capitol Hill, someone in Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s office sent an email to the FSIS communications team, asking for talking points on USDA’s response on LFTB.
Citing the letter from Rep. King, the staffer asked: “[H]ow best do we respond to the issue of ‘promoting’ a particular product? I would assume there are some statutory, legal and or regulatory concerns there?”
By the end of the month, USDA had greatly strengthened its PR response.
On March 28, Secretary Vilsack held a press conference in Des Moines with Iowa Governor Terry Branstad to help dispel LFTB’s negative image. Vilsack noted that USDA had received hundreds of requests to stop using LFTB in the school lunch program, but he said since the product is safe, lower in fat, and inexpensive the department had no plans to remove the product.
“By taking this safe product out of the market, grocery retailers and consumers are allowing media sensationalism to trump sound science,” said Vilsack and Branstad, in a joint statement. “This is a disservice to the beef industry, hundreds of workers who make their livings producing this safe product, and consumers as a whole.”
The next day, USDA’s Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen appeared at a BPI press event in Nebraska with Texas Governor Rick Perry, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, as well as Texas A&M food safety professor Gary Acuff and Nancy Donley of STOP Foodborne Illness.
“Dude It’s Beef!” and “Beef is beef” became the slogans of those touting LFTB’s safety and quality. A variety of brightly colored t-shirts donning BPI’s logo and the slogans were passed out as souvenirs at the press conference.
(Interestingly, there were no FSIS emails about this press event in the agency’s FOIA response to Food Safety News).
There was another layer that further complicated USDA’s response, according to the emails – a lack of interagency coordination when it came to messaging.
“FNS [Food and Nutrition Service] has been a problem all the way throughout this exercise in that they have not been in sync with the rest of us,” wrote Mabry, in the thick of the media storm. “We learned a little earlier today that FNS is having a conference call at 1:30 PM today with stakeholders on this topic – and by learned, I mean that Jarvis [then Agriculture Marketing Service spokesman] got an inquiry from the NY Times asking to listen in. “
To label or not? “It looks like pink play doh, not ground meat”
When the initial media frenzy over “pink slime” died down last spring, a more rational conversation about LFTB emerged, with many asking: Why didn’t USDA require the product to be labeled?
The emails reveal that FSIS officials, including frontline meat inspectors and labeling policy staff, were also divided over whether LFTB should be labeled if it’s used in meat products consumers buy at the grocery store.
At times, the emails suggest there was some internal confusion about the agency’s 2001 decision to allow BPI’s product to be added to fresh ground beef without any labeling.
“I don’t think that we ever said that LTB is ground beef,” said Phil Derfler, Deputy Administrator at FSIS, in an email in mid-February. “We just said that it is cow meat because I think that you can show that what emerges from the BPI process is muscle tissue. We don’t get the opportunity to judge the quality of the product if it meets the definition of meat.”
When Merle Evans, who used to work as a food technologist for FSIS’ labeling division, emailed Sally Jones, a senior technical adviser on labeling, asking if she knew anything about “pink slime” in early March, she responded incredulously.
“Are you kidding?? It is the BPI finely textured beef that is treated with ammonia,” wrote Jones. “Let’s see, Ashland and Ron were about the 50th people from DC to go see the stuff, and Ron said it went in white and came out red. It’s pretty much fat with a little lean, that is heated, centrifuged and becomes finely textured beef or beef. YUCK.”
Jones added that Brett Schwemer at Olsson, Frank and Weeda, a prominent lobbying firm in DC, was “involved,” though it’s not entirely clear what she meant because the rest of the email is redacted, citing a FOIA exemption for releasing trade secrets or other confidential commercial information.
A few days later, Jones and Jeffrey Canavan, Deputy Director of FSIS’ Labeling and Program Delivery Division, were emailing back and forth about why LFTB struck a particular nerve with consumers.
“I’m guessing this is the worst that can be used and consumers never know about it, and it is in “ground beef” a sacred product that everyone eats,” wrote Jones.
“True,” Canavan responded. “Putting the ammonia controversy aside though, I don’t see the issue with ftb…I guess its just consumers don’t know. I think they expect that premium cuts of beef are only used.”
Jones said she agreed, but added, “I think it is also what it looks like, it looks like pink play doh, not ground meat.”
According to FSIS, ammonium hydroxide – which is what ammonia gas becomes when it bonds with the water in meat – is considered a processing aid, not an ingredient, so it doesn’t have to be labeled. The ingredient is on the government’s list of substances that are generally recognized as safe (GRAS).
On that list, ammonium hydroxide is recognized as being “used as a leavening agent…; a pH control agent…; a surface-finishing agent…; and as a boiler water additive.”
In an Op-Ed published in USA Today on April 2, former FSIS Administrator Dr. Russel Cross, who had first approved LFTB, declared that, “There is no need for labeling LFTB — because nothing is being added that is not beef.”
Contrary to LFTB supporters’ claims that the product utilizes just a small “puff” of ammonia and does not smell or taste any different than lean ground beef, FSIS employees pointed out in emails that the product did smell strongly of ammonia before being mixed into regular ground beef.
One agency employee, whose name was not disclosed, wrote to Laura Hulsey, the Director of FSIS’ Policy Development Division, saying “[name redacted] will contend that there is no residual and it dissipates. He opened a bag of injected ammoniated beef (intact cut) for sensory analysis after 2 weeks…my cynical sniff test. Didn’t pass.”
George Pauley, a veteran FSIS inspector, wrote to a colleague in March: “Reliable [a meat company] used that stuff for a while. When you opened the cases, it stunk up the whole processing room.”
In both cases, it’s not clear whether officials had been in contact with BPI’s product before or after the company changed the amount of ammonia it was using in the LFTB process. As the New York Times and others have reported, the company started tinkering with its system after customers complained that LFTB smelled like ammonia. Some media reports have questioned whether lowering the ammonia levels greatly influenced the pathogen reductions the company had been achieving.
On March 20, during a discussion about how to respond to concerns raised by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), Dr. Daniel Engeljohn, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Policy and Program Development addressed BPI’s process change: “I think it is appropriate to say that at one time USDA was of the understanding that the lethality treatment being applied to the product was sufficient to eliminate E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella. At some point in time, the establishment chose to lessen the lethality treatment, achieving only a pathogen reduction (not elimination) treatment.”
By the end of March, Cargill had asked the agency if it could use the claim “contains no finely textured beef” on their products, and FSIS was carefully weighing the pros and cons of three options going forward, according to an internal memo. (Cargill uses a process similar to BPI’s, but instead of anhydrous ammonia, the company utilizes citric acid to kill pathogens.)
The first option was to deny the claim because, while factual, it “could be misleading for consumers” and “could raise additional questions on an extremely sensitive issue.” The second option was to approve the claim, but only for ground beef not sold at the retail level, so that processors would know what they were getting, but consumers at the point of purchase wouldn’t. The memo contends that this could be useful for industry but “could cause consumer outrage.”
The third option was to approve the claim for both retail and non-retail labels, but officials similarly worried it could cause confusion. “Consumers may still be unclear as to why LFTB is permitted to be in ground beef and without ingredient labeling,” the memo read.
The emails on March 27 also indicate that beef giant Cargill had asked the agency if the company could include LFTB in its ingredient label for consumers.
“Cargill asked if FSIS would be amenable to putting FTB in the ingredient statement,” read an email from Engeljohn. “Phil [FSIS Deputy Administrator] indicated that he would not want this option. Rather, he would want there to be a note on the [front of package] or elsewhere that says that the product does/doesn’t contain FTB.”
“Needs a decision this morning,” he added. “Several Cargill facilities are not operational today because they have no buyers for the ground beef. Virtually all of their product has FTB.”
Ultimately, the agency decided to allow companies to label their product “contains lean finely textured beef” on the front of the package on a voluntary basis.
Emails show that several FSIS employees were personally in favor of labeling LFTB.
“Carrie and I both believe consumers should have a choice because this is a rendered product and is inferior like a filler when though it comes from the scraps of a carcass,” wrote Ilene Arnold, a veterinarian staff officer within FSIS’ Policy Development Division.
“I don’t think it should be called ground beef either, but that’s just my opinion!!!!” wrote one FSIS employee to another. “I think it should be declared on the label and if it’s used in meat in the restaurants, then it needs to be disclosed on all of the dishes it’s used in on the menu. Of course that’s just my opinion again. We all know what that’s worth!!!!!”
Another email read, “Truth in Labeling – Not a primary responsibility – just an additional dollar for the beef industry. Extend the beef. I bet this stuff can’t be used in pet food. What did they do with this stuff prior BPI? In order to call it beef trimmings it had to contain 12% visible lean years ago. The USDA always gives more than it’s worth for commodity stuff. The [poultry] industry has to declare their pink slime.”
On the flipside, there were also several FSIS employees who defended the product and maintained it needn’t be labeled.
“Pink slime is not an adulterant,” said one FSIS employee, whose name was redacted. “It is a meat product and all packaged meat pretty much has it and has had it for years. The only issue now is that someone saw it and reacted unfavorably. The slime is actually meat that is processed more than ordinary meat like ground beef.”
If they think this is gross…
Not only did the national “pink slime” debate bring out FSIS officials’ opinions of LFTB, it also sparked comments about other, “nastier” meat products regulated by the agency. When the topic of LFTB came up in emails, many in the agency were ready to name foods they thought were even more off-putting.
“If they think that the Pink Slime is bad or nasty wait till the media gets a hold of MST or MSC this stuff is the original Pink Slime,” wrote one employee in a March 20 email. MST and MSC stand for mechanically separated turkey and mechanically separated chicken, respectively. Both are ubiquitous ingredients in processed meat products and both are required to be labeled as ingredients.
Others expressed similar thoughts.
“If they could only see what the mechanically separated chicken and turkey looks like,” wrote one employee in an email to two dozen others on March 29 after the governors’ press conference. “Now that is pink because they add nitrite and it is like paste or cement before it sets up.”
“There is pink slime in poultry too. It is called MSP,” wrote Dr. James Rogers, Branch Chief of the Microbiological Analysis and Data Branch at the Office of Public Health at FSIS on March 16.
Also writing about mechanically separated poultry, Dr. Michael Hockman, chief of the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Division of Meat Inspection wrote March 29, “Wait till the social media assigns one of their activists to a plant that makes the stuff. Now that is pick slime. At least now it has to be labeled what it is.”
Coincidentally, early media reports about LFTB mistakenly used pictures of what appeared to be mechanically separated chicken.
In a Q & A posted on its website in May of 2012, The National Chicken Council made sure to separate MSC from ‘pink slime:’ “While the federal government has determined the use of ammonium hydroxide in food processing is safe, it is not used in the production of MSC.”
According to NCC, mechanically separated chicken is “product that is derived from separating chicken meat, which is naturally low in fact, from the bone, using a high pressure device.”
In a March 9 email to two leaders in the labeling department, technical advisor Sally Jones wrote, “Can you imagine if they heard of that other stuff, the dissolved in acid and re precipitated in base JUNK. That is worse.”
Food Safety News was unable to determine what food Jones was referring to.
“Hopefully the Agency can make strides to better educate the public before the next big whirlwind (hotdogs? Lunchmeats? Chicken nuggets?” wrote an FSIS veterinarian based in Buffalo, NY on March 22.
But for now, BPI, ABC News and two former FSIS officials who came forward to decry LFTB are still dealing with the aftermath of the “pink slime” controversy. BPI sued ABC, former FSIS employees Carl Custer and Gerald Zernstein, and former BPI quality assurance manager Kit Foshee for alleged defamation of its product. Motions to dismiss the case against the defendants are still pending, as is BPI’s motion to remand to State Court.
BPI’s counsel confirmed with Food Safety News that it is still operating at a production rate of less than 25 percent compared to its production rate before the incidents of last year.
Editor’s Note: FSIS’ FOIA office said that it “inadvertently” did not fully respond to Food Safety News’ FOIA request regarding these emails, which was filed last July. The FOIA office is working to remedy this and we will post additional documents online as they are received. For now, emails that have been released can be found here: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V.
Marler Clark LLP, underwriter of Food Safety News, is representing two defendants (former FSIS officials Carl Custer and Gerald Zirnstein) in the BPI defamation case.

Why Are Teens Most Affected by Farm Rich E. coli 0121 Outbreak?
Source :
By Linda Larsen (Apr 08, 2013)
More than 80% of the patients sickened in the Farm Rich E. coli 0121 outbreak are under the age of 21. And the median age of patients is 17. Unfortunately, two of the patients have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), the serious complication of an E. coli infection that can lead to kidney failure.
The foods linked to the outbreak are microwavable frozen snacks and mini meals; the types of foods teenagers like to eat. They are easy to make, since all you have to do is pop them in the microwave and turn it on.
But there’s more to preparing these foods than just “nuking” them. If the products are contaminated with pathogenic bacteria, as the recalled products are, how they are handled and prepared is critical. Since manufacturers do not always produce food that is safe to eat, consumers must protect themselves by always adding two steps to food preparation: thoroughly washing hands after handling the food, and checking the food’s temperature with a food thermometer before eating.
Not many people think about washing their hands after handing a frozen mini quesadilla. But in this case, that may be how 27 people got sick. A study published at Kansas State University in 2009 found that teens are less likely to wash their hands when preparing frozen foods. In the study, 20 adolescents were videotaped in a mock domestic kitchen using frozen, uncooked, commercially available breaded chicken products.
The study found that “even when provided with instructions, food preparers don’t follow them. While labels correct risk-reduction steps, food manufacturers have to make that information as compelling as possible or it will be ignored,” according to Benjamin Chapman, an assistant professor at North Carolina State University. The videos also showed that while all of the primary meal preparers reported washing their hands every time they touched raw poultry, only half were observed washing hands correctly after handling the chicken.
Of course, if the products weren’t contaminated in the first place, we wouldn’t need to warn you about this problem. But the bottom line is that you have to protect yourself in this world of convenience foods and foodborne illness risks. Always wash your hands after handling any food that is heated before consuming. Use a food thermometer to check the final temperature of any heated foods. And pay attention to recalls and warnings issued by public health officials.

EFSA Issues Opinion on Health Risks of Mechanically Separated Meat
Source :
By (Apr 02, 2013)
PARMA, Italy—The risk of microbial growth increases with the use of high-pressure production processes of meat, according to a new scientific opinion published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on public health risks related to mechanically separated meat. EFSA’s Panel on Biological Hazards also developed a model to help identify mechanically separated meat and differentiate it from other types of meat.
Mechanically separated meat is derived from the meat left on animal carcasses once the main cuts have been removed. This meat can be mechanically removed and used in other foods. There are two main types of mechanically separated meat—“high-pressure" mechanically separated meat, which is paste-like and can be used in products such as hotdogs; and “low-pressure" mechanically separated meat, similar in appearance to minced meat.
EFSA’s opinion concluded that possible microbiological risks associated with mechanically separated meat are similar to those related to non-mechanically separated meat. Microbiological and chemical risks arise from the contamination of raw materials and from poor hygiene practices during meat processing. However, high-pressure production processes increase the risk of microbial growth. In fact these processes result in greater muscle fiber degradation and an associated release of nutrients which provide a favorable substrate for bacterial growth.
In relation to chemical hazards, experts from EFSA’s Panel on Contaminants in the food chain advise that no specific chemical concerns are expected provided that Maximum Residue Levels are respected.
The Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ) considered different parameters to distinguish mechanically separated meat from non-mechanically separated meat. The BIOHAZ Panel found that, based on currently available data, calcium (released from bone during processing) is the most appropriate chemical parameter. EFSA’s scientific experts developed a model which uses calcium levels to support the identification of mechanically separated meat products. The model will assist policymakers, as well as food operators and inspectors in differentiating mechanically separated meat from non-mechanically separated meat.
In order to improve the differentiation between mechanically separated meat obtained through low-pressure techniques and hand deboned meat, EFSA recommends the use of specifically designed studies to collect data on potential indicators.



2013 Basic and Advanced HACCP

Training Scheduals are Available
Click here to check the HACCP Training

This certification fulfills all USDA/FSIS and FDA regulatory requirements for HACCP Training. The certification is also accepted by auditing firms who require HACCP Training as a component of the audit. Our training has encompassed a multitude of industries from the farm to the table.
We are so proud that more than 400 attendees successfully finished Basic and Advanced HACCP Trainings through FoodHACCP. All attendees received a HACCP certificate which fulfills all USDA/FSIS and FDA regulatory requirements for HACCP Training