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FoodHACCP Newsletter
05/06 2013 ISSUE:546

Contaminated ground turkey found in 21 states
Source :
By Carey Gillam (May 1, 2013)
Dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria has been found in ground turkey on U.S. grocery shelves across a variety of brands and stores located in 21 states, according to a report by a consumer watchdog organization.
Of the 257 samples of ground turkey tested, more than half were found to be positive for fecal bacteria and overall, 90 percent were contaminated with one or more types of disease-causing organisms, many of which proved resistant to one or more common antibiotics, Consumer Reports found.
The non-profit, independent product-testing organization said in the June issue of its magazine that the sampling marked the first time it had conducted a laboratory analysis of ground turkey, a popular consumer alternative to hamburger. It was alarmed by the results.
"Some bacteria that end up on ground turkey, including E. coli and staph aureus, can cause not only food poisoning but also urinary, bloodstream, and other infections," said a Consumer Reports statement on its findings.
The group said it samples ground turkey from 27 different brands including major and store brands.
Turkeys, like other livestock in the United States, are commonly given repeated low doses of antibiotics in an effort to keep the animals healthy and help promote growth. But there has been growing concern that widespread use of antibiotics in animals that are not sick is speeding the development of antibiotic resistance.
The National Turkey Federation said the findings were sensationalized on a sampling that was "extremely small," and said that blaming use of antibiotics in animals was "misleading."
"There is more than one way they (harmful bacteria) can wind up on food animals," said National Turkey Federation vice president Lisa Picard. "In fact, it's so common in the environment, studies have shown that generic E.coli and MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) can even be found on about 20 percent of computer keyboards."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also found widespread contamination, discovering antibiotic resistant E coli, salmonella and other harmful bacteria in turkey, ground beef, pork chops and chicken in sampling done in 2011.
The food safety regulator says resistance of bacteria to antibiotics is "a major public health threat," and last year issued voluntary guidelines for animal health and animal agriculture industries aimed at limiting the antibiotic use in livestock. The agency has rebuffed efforts to mandate reduced usage, however.
U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter, a New York Democrat, last month reintroduced legislation that would ban non-therapeutic uses of eight types of antibiotics in food animal production.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has issued a warning about antibiotic resistance infections, saying they are becoming increasingly difficult to treat and more infected people are likely to die.
"Humans don't consume antibiotics every day to prevent disease and neither should healthy animals," said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Director of the Food Safety and Sustainability Group at Consumer Reports. "Prudent use of antibiotics should be required to stem the public health crisis generated from the reduced effectiveness of antibiotics."

U.S. Government Bans French Cheese Based On Food Prejudices
Source :
By Hans Bader (April 30, 2013)
The U.S. government is banning a standard, normal-smelling French cheese based on its own squeamishness. The cheese in question is Mimolette, a commonplace, orange French cheese so mild in flavor that I once confused it with cheddar when I visited my French relatives and ate it for the first time. The ban has triggered protests in New York City, reports the Global Post:
Around 40 protesters took to the streets of New York on Saturday to demonstrate against a US ban on mimolette that has angered lovers of the distinctive French cheese.
Since March, several hundred pounds of the bright orange cheese have been held up by US customs because of a warning by the Food and Drug Administration that it contained microscopic cheese mites.
The mites are a critical part of the process to produce mimolette, giving it its distinctive grayish crust.
The US decision has angered importers and consumers, who have even set up a Facebook page titled “Save the Mimolette.”
Benoit de Vitton, an importer of the cheese. . . said he was baffled by the recent blockade, noting he has imported mimolette for two decades without a problem.”They are afraid of allergies,” he said. “But we’ve been doing this for 20 years without any problem.”
Who cares if it has tiny, invisible mites in it? Cheese is the product of bacteria. Good yogurt has live cultures of bacteria in it, and that is beneficial for your health. Food that is alive can be good for you. The human body is full of living, friendly microbes that keep us alive. The cheese mites in Mimolette are there to enhance its flavor: as Wikipedia notes, the “crust of aged Mimolette is the result of cheese mites intentionally introduced to add flavor by their action on the surface of the cheese.”
When it comes to food, the Obama administration is incredibly ignorant. It banned white potatoes from the federal WIC program (WIC money can be spent on far less nutritious things than potatoes, things that are starchy, fatty or sugary, like apple sauce, which has no nutrition unless vitamin C is artificially added to it. But an NIH employee told me to stock my fridge with apple sauce so that my my daughter would always have access to fruits and vegetables. The same NIH that later funded a ludicrous left-wing “study” falsely claiming that the tobacco industry invented the Tea Party).
The Obama administration ignores the fact that the potato is superior to most foods in nutrients per dollar (and per acre of farmland), so much so that “in 2008, the United Nations declared it to be the ‘Year of the Potato.’” “This was done to bring attention to the fact that the potato is one of the most efficient crops for developing nations to grow, as a way of delivering a high level of nutrition to growing populations, with fewer needed resources than other traditional crops. In the summer of 2010, China approved new government policies that positioned the potato as the key crop to feed its growing population.” Potatoes provided much of the agricultural surplus that made the Industrial Revolution possible. Potatoes are more nutritious than other starchy foods like rice and bread, and “are a good source of vitamins.” They have a lot of vitamin C (much more than a banana or an apple), and potassium levels slightly higher than potassium-rich bananas). Potatoes also have all 8 essential amino acids, unlike most other staple foods like corn and beans.
Baylen Linnekin wrote earlier about “the sickening nature of many food-safety regulations,” like the “poke and sniff” inspection method required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) “that likely resulted in USDA inspectors transmitting filth from diseased meat to fresh meat on a daily basis.”
Thousands of deaths from foolish food-safety rules have occurred in the past in other nations. A classic example occurred more than two centuries ago, when regional parliaments banned consumption of the potato in much of  France, leading to a short-lived national ban beginning in 1748. “Among the host of diseases the government mistakenly attributed to consumption of the tuber was leprosy.” This ban was particularly problematic because at the time, France was plagued by recurrent famines, and banning potatoes reduced the amount of food per acre that could be grown. French officials banned the potato despite the fact that it had been cultivated for generations in neighboring Germany, where the potato saved villagers from starvation at the end of the Thirty Years War.
The Obama administration has pushed extremely costly food “safety” rules, like the Food Safety Modernization Act, which has proved far more costly than supporters claimed, imposing large costs on orchard growers and other farmers. That law’s red tape may end up thwarting “firms from developing innovative new processes and practices that could deliver real food safety improvements” and could “leave tens of thousands of small and mid-sized farms and food stands to be crushed under the weight of rules designed for some of the world’s largest food processors.” Earlier versions of the bill backed by the Obama administration were even worse, and would have driven “out of business local farmers and artisanal, small-scale producers of berries, herbs, cheese, and countless other wares, even when there is in fact nothing unsafe in their methods of production.”
The Obama administration also used federal funds to subsidize the opening of an International House of Pancakes in Washington, D.C. (despite its sugary entrees), and the development of high-calorie foods that benefit politically connected agribusinesses.

Reports of possible food poisoning in Victor School District
Source :
By (May 5,2013)
News10NBC wants to let you know about some reports from parents in Victor that their high school students had stomach pain, possibly because of food poisoning.
Victor school officials contacted the Ontario County Public Health Department about the reports.
According to the District, the Public Health Department says they haven't received reports of food poisoning related to the District, but said there are reports of norovirus in the area. Those two illnesses share many of the same symptoms.
The District told News10NBC late on Sunday that at least three of those students are feeling better.
Public health officials want to remind everyone to wash their hands to help illnesses like these from spreading.
Have a story you want our news team to investigate? Call us at 585-232-1010, click here to send us an e-mail or leave us a Facebook post or tweet.

Hand Hygiene Day Isn't Just For Health Workers
Source :
By Carla Gillespie(May 5, 2013)
The Word Health Organization (WHO) has declared May 5 Hand Hygiene as a way to encourage health workers to practice good hand hygiene. Health care associated infections affect hundreds of millions of people every year. And most of theses infections could be prevented by better handwashing practices.  Poor employee hygiene is also a contributing factor in food poisoning outbreaks associated with restaurants.
handwashing-norovirusIn health care settings, the most common infections include urinary tract infections, surgical site infections, pneumonia and infections of the bloodstream. Seven out of every 100 people hospitalized in developed countries and 10 out of every 100 patients hospitalized in developing nations acquire health care-associated infections, according to WHO.  ”Among critically ill and vulnerable patients in intensive care units, that figure rises to around 30 per 100.”
More than 9 million health workers in 168 countries are part of WHO’s  “SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands” campaign.  The five key moments health care workers should clean their hands are: before touching a patient; before clean and aseptic procedures such as inserting catheters; after contact with body fluids; after touching a patient and after touching patient surroundings.
In food service settings, employees should wash their hands before preparing or serving food and after using the restroom, clearing dirty dishes, eating, drinking, using tobacco, coughing, sneezing, using tissue, touching the body (such as scratching your nose), handling dirty equipment and touching raw meat. For more information on safe food handling from the Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC), click here.

Hydroponic businesses grow after food-safety concerns, popularity of locally grown
Source :
By JAMES HAGGERTY (May 5, 2013)
Amanda and Bill Banta quit their jobs to pursue a living in hydroponic agriculture.
Just months after starting Rowlands Pennsylvania Produce, the Bantas can grow up to 9,000 heads of lettuce in their 5,700-square-foot hydroponic greenhouse, about 4 miles south of Falls in Wyoming County. They typically harvest and sell about 1,500 heads a week.
"Actually, we eat a lot of salad," Mr. Banta said with a laugh. "There was no fresh (off-season) lettuce in Northeastern Pennsylvania. We knew there would be a market for it."
About 12 miles northeast of the Bantas' operation, Brian Schirg is pursuing a similar venture at his family's farm in West Abington Twp. Mr. Schirg built a hydroponic greenhouse in January 2012 and has been selling lettuce since last summer.
"I needed something for the wintertime," said Mr. Schirg, who farms 45 acres of vegetables with his father, Jim, about 3 miles west of Dalton.
The family sells its produce at the Scranton Cooperative Farmers Market, but Mr. Schirg said he really had no post-growing-season income.
"That's why I wanted to branch out and do something," he said.
In bloom
The emergence of two local hydroponic lettuce producers reflects the effects of food-safety concerns among consumers and the growing popularity of locally sourced products.
"There is certainly a local food movement gaining momentum, and it's good for local production," said Melissa Brechner, Ph.D., a hydroponic technology research director at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.
Thousands of consumers have been sickened by E.coli and salmonella contaminations of spinach, scallions, chiles, cantaloupes and other fresh produce in recent years. The outbreaks have helped boost demand for local produce.
"Food safety is a concern," Dr. Brechner said.
"More and more people want fresh and local," Mrs. Banta said. "It's pesticide-free and everyone loves that."
Hydroponics is a method of growing plants in inert material with water with mineral solutions, without soil. Both local operations use continuous-flow systems, which constantly circulate water and nutrients through tubes and covered plastic trays. They produce mature heads of lettuce about eight weeks after the seeds are started in rockwool, a growing medium made of stone and chalk.
Digging out the wallet
Last spring, Mr. Banta left his job as a prison guard, his wife quit her nursing position and they put $300,000 into their startup, located at a landscaping and nursery business run by Mrs. Banta's family along Route 292.
"We have a lot of money invested here," Mr. Banta said. "It was pretty scary to start."
They had another scare about three weeks ago when they lost an entire lettuce crop to tipburn, a calcium deficiency. A problem with their nutrient mix and excess humidity in their greenhouse ruined thousands of heads of lettuce.
"It was crazy," Mrs. Banta said. "It was the beginning. We learned."
Mr. Schirg says he also is still learning.
"It's hard because it's the first year," he said.
"New growers don't imagine they will have any insects or disease," Dr. Brechner said. "You've got to have a backup plan. It's a tough business."
Mr. Schirg invested about $45,000 to start his operation, grows about 4,000 heads of bibb lettuce and cultivates and sells about 600 heads weekly from his 3,000-square-foot hydroponic greenhouse.
Both operations have computerized systems controlling air temperature, ventilation and liquid mixtures.
Mr. Schirg sells mostly to restaurants, small grocers and consumers. He built a base of customers at the farmers market last summer.
The Bantas, who produce bibb, romaine, red leaf and mixed lettuces, had to find customers.
"We took samples out to restaurants and supermarkets and introduced it that way," Mr. Banta said.
Their customers range from Hawley to Tunkhannock, Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Dallas, Mrs. Banta said. She works about four hours a day and her husband has put in 10-hour days since last July.
"This is very time-consuming," Mrs. Banta said.
Produce produced
Gerrity's Supermarket, which has stores in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties, sells about 250 heads of Rowlands lettuce weekly, Mrs. Banta said.
"The product is extremely fresh and it lasts forever in the refrigerator. It sells very well," said Joe Fasula, co-owner of Gerrity's Supermarket. "I'm excited about it. I think it's got a lot more potential."
Crops grown hydroponically generated more than $553 million in sales nationally in 2007, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture data. Pennsylvania produced the nation's third-largest revenue volume, valued at $14.2 million.
But Dr. Brenchner warns about the challenges of hydroponic agriculture.
"The operating costs are kind of high. We tell people they shouldn't plan on making a profit for the first year," she said. "You've got to be lucky. You've got to be a really good marketer. It's something that you have to enter into with caution."
Others are less skeptical.
John Esslinger, Lackawanna County Cooperative Extension educator, said there was pent-up demand for locally produced off-season lettuce.
"There's more room to grow," Mr. Esslinger said. "We bring in a lot of produce from around the country and outside the country during the winter."
The Bantas also see more potential. In the fall, they will open a sales stand and they plan to build a hydroponic greenhouse next year to grow tomatoes and cucumbers.

Budget cuts won't affect food safety inspections
Source :
By Elizabeth Weise (May 5, 2013)
The Food and Drug Administration will not reduce food inspections because of budget cuts, despite warning earlier that it could be forced to eliminate thousands of inspections by Sept. 30.
“Our goal is to absorb the cuts without a risk to public health. We are working to manage the budget reductions through other mechanisms,” FDA spokeswoman Shelly Burgess said.
Commissioner Margaret Hamburg told USA TODAY editors and reporters on April 25 that the agency feared it could be forced to cut as many as 2,100 inspections — 18% of the annual total — by Sept. 30 because of the mandated budget reductions called the sequestration. The agency has been working to decrease the needed cuts for months, she said. FDA oversees food safety for almost everything but meat and poultry.
“The commissioner was clearly working off a worst-case scenario,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director with the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, D.C. “It’s certainly a relief to hear that that scenario will likely not take place.”
The numbers shifted so drastically because FDA reconfigured its budget to avoid cutting inspections, focusing instead on decreasing travel and training, said Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods. Just figuring out where the agency stood took time, he said. “These sound like simple questions, but in the budget world of the federal government they’re not.”
The FDA was also helped by an infusion of $40 million to fund the Food Safety Modernization Act, the 2011 act hailed as the most comprehensive food-safety law in generations. Food safety advocates fear that sequestration will delay implementation of the law.
“Congress and the administration recognized the importance of food safety and realized they needed to make an exception” for it, said Chris Waldrup, director of the food policy institute at the Consumer Federation of America in Washington, D.C..
Exactly how the budget will play out is still being worked out. Overall, the FDA came out “better off in 2013 than we were in 2012″ in terms of the Food Safety Modernization Act but “eroded a little bit” when it comes to food safety, Taylor said. “It’s not like there’s no effect, but it’s not like we’re going to turn off one big chunk of program and stop doing things.”
“We’re comforted” that food safety won’t be hit as hard as it originally seemed it would, said Louis Finkel of the Grocery Manufacturers Association in Washington, D.C. “Ensuring the safety of the food supply for the public is a crucial government function. We were very grateful that Congress saw fit to put additional resources” into it.
The FDA will need more money in the future to hire the necessary inspectors and technicians to meet the requirements of the new law, said Erik Olson, director of food programs at the Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, D.C. “But in a sequester year, we feel good about 2013″ in terms of funding, he said.
The Agriculture Department’s Food Safety Inspection Service, which oversees all meat and poultry slaughterhouses and packing plants, dodged the sequester bullet entirely.
The agency was supposed to get hit with $52.8 million in cuts. Elisabeth Hagen, undersecretary for food safety, said on March 13 that the cuts would require shutting down meatpacking and slaughter plants one day a week until the end of September, reducing meat production by 20%.
Faced with that prospect, Congress voted on March 22 to give the USDA $55 million to keep inspectors on the job.

Rat Meat Sold As Mutton In Latest Chinese Food Safety Scandal
Source :
By 5, 2013)
Chinese officials have confiscated rat meat that was sold as mutton in what has turned out to be yet another food safety scandal in the country.
Authorities explained that 904 people were arrested in a total of 308 cases during a recent operation. The suspects were responsible for taking meat from rats and foxes and passing it off as lamb.
One case in particular found approximately 60 people in Shanghai for passing off rat, fox, and mink meat as mutton. The individuals used spices and gelatin in order to disguise the meat. Officials explained that none of the food had been tested for quality or safety.
“Food safety crimes are still prominent, and new situations are emerging with new characteristics,” Ministry of Public Security explained in an official statement.
The nationwide operation found police busting several illegal food plants where rat meat was being sold at mutton. When everything was said and done, authorities confiscated around 22 tons of meat from these facilities. One operation in particular had netted $1.6 million in sales since 2009.
This isn’t the first time that Chinese authorities have dealt with a serious food-related problem this year. Approximately 16,000 dead pigs were found floating in Shanghai’s main water sources last March. Officials believe that overcrowding at area pig farms caused owners to dispose of the corpses in a nearby river.
Police in Anhui province also confiscated around 15 tons of painted pork. It’s believed that around 20 tons of the bad food has already been sold to customers.
The Supreme People’s Court wants to impose stricter guidelines and harsher punishments for offenders. This follows a number of health-related incidents over the years, including contaminated milk, rice, baby formula, and eggs containing industrial dyes. The penal code is currently unclear about what acts are considered to be violations.
What do you think should happen to the people who sold rat meat as mutton in China?

Federal food safety regulations could affect Kitsap's small farmers
Source :
By Brynn Grimley (May 5, 2013)
Federal regulations aimed at improving food safety and protecting public health could affect Kitsap’s small farmers who sell produce from their farms and at area farmers markets.
The Food Safety Modernization Act was approved by Congress in 2010 and signed by President Barack Obama in 2011. Since then, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has begun its review of the lengthy and complex legislation, conducting outreach and asking for feedback from those in the industry who will face increased regulation.
A section that deals with produce and how it is grown, harvested and packaged is under review. Once approved, the regulations will affect large corporate growers as well as small farmers.
The law proposes an annual-income exemption that would cover most of Kitsap’s small farms from the regulations, but large farm conglomerates are lobbying to have the exemption removed.
If that happens even the smallest farms — like Kitsap Lake resident Doug Millard’s 15,000-square-foot Harlow Gardens — would be required to meet the food production safety requirements.
Millard, who is president of the Kitsap County Agriculture Alliance, and lifelong farmer Nikki Johanson, who owns Pheasant Fields Farm in Silverdale, are trying to educate Kitsap farmers about how their practices could change under the proposed regulations.
“The purpose of this whole thing is food safety and health, protecting people’s health,” Johanson said. “It all deals with microbial things. It has nothing to do with more important things like pesticides or GMOs (genetically modified organisms).”
Johanson is encouraging area farmers to contact the FDA about the proposal. She’s also trying to get some of the newer, younger farmers to pay attention to the regulations. The requirements are daunting and could change how small farmers do business.
“When you first look at it, it’s very overwhelming. You just want to throw up your hands,” Johanson said. “So why do I want to do this? I think the public’s going to demand it. I say we can’t afford not to do it.”
Officials from the state Department of Agriculture recently visited Johanson’s farm to show how farmers can implement Good Agricultural Practices, or GAP, to help them prepare for the eventual enforcement of the new regulations.
If farmers are GAP certified, it means they have met a series of requirements that show they have managed food safety risks and have procedures in place to handle harvested produce as it moves from the field to where it is packaged.
That includes things like having bathroom facilities with hand-washing stations for field staff, not planting crops near where chickens or livestock roam and making sure even the smallest incident — like a piece of glass found in the field — is documented and properly handled.
Many farmers already do this, but they might not document it as required by the certification process.
Farmers also must create a farm map listing where crops are planted and make inventory lists for food brought to market or sold from the farm so that if someone gets sick, health officials can pinpoint the crop and notify others who bought it.
GAP certification is voluntary but could one day be mandatory. State agriculture officials are encouraging farmers to adhere to the certification standards, even if they don’t get certified, saying if they can meet the requirements, they should be OK when the federal regulations are enforced.
“A lot of it really is common sense and good farming,” said Tricia Kovacs, education and outreach specialist at the state Department of Agriculture. “If you are prepared for GAP, your farm is well on the way.”
There is no enforcement plan yet for the federal regulations and no funding for inspections, but as more consumers become aware of GAP, farmers could feel pressure to meet the certification requirements, Kovacs said.
“I think GAP certification will have much more value and meaning to the public than what organic certification does,” Johanson said. “Our consumers are doing a great job of educating themselves.”
Millard, who sells produce from his Harlow Gardens to CJ’s Evergreen General Store and Catering in Bremerton, thinks restaurateurs and other commercial buyers also will start demanding the certification.
“I think it’s beneficial for the small farmers to do it,” he said. “Most of us already practice good agricultural practices and good farming practices.”
Marilyn Holt, who owns Abundantly Green with husband Clifford Wind in the Brownsville area, said they are working toward GAP certification.
Their 60-acre farm has more than 100 community-supported agriculture, or CSA, shares and a regular presence at area farmers markets. They’re one of the larger farms in the county working toward certification, Holt said.
“I don’t know that I support it, but I’m going along with it,” she said. “I think they’re regulating an area of farming that doesn’t need to be regulated like this. But I’m doing it because I want to stay in business. We keep our food clean for our CSA members and our customers just because that is the right thing to do.”
The small farms program at Washington State University Kitsap Extension has done outreach in recent years to educate farmers or aspiring farmers about the proposed federal regulations and the separate GAP certification.
“GAP is very proactive. It’s something that was developed to help farmers address all their food safety needs,” said Diane Fish, with the small farms program. “Everybody needs to be doing those practices because it’s your bottom line. If you have somebody get sick eating your product, it’s going to ruin you. It’s all doable, you just have to get creative.”

Letter From The Editor: Poultry Politics
Source :
By Dan Flynn (May 5, 2013)
In writing about food safety for the past four years, I’ve come to appreciate those times when government, industry and consumers are all on the same page. It’s at those moments that a bipartisan Congress adopts reforms like the Food Safety Modernization Act.
Then there are times when government, industry and consumers are not on the same page. Hells bells – they are not even in the same chapter of the same book. That’s where we stand today when it comes to changing poultry inspection in the United States.
And this has been going on for way too long. There are fewer and fewer meat inspectors working in the nation’s beef plants who can even remember the old “poke and sniff” days before the Jack-in-the-Box outbreak of deadly E. coli O157:H7. In beef plants for most of the past two decades, job #1 has been pathogen reduction and control.
But there was no mention of pathogen reduction and control in the 1957 Poultry Inspection Act, and it pretty much defines the world of poultry inspections today. Nothing has changed in 56 years.
Oh, except of course poultry contamination has run amuck with nasty bacteria like Campylobacter and Salmonella. You have to be damn careful of cross-contamination and cook the sh*t out of it.
To think that there might be a day when poultry processing brings something, maybe a drug resistant Salmonella, under control seems like so much of a pipe dream. Making pathogen control and reduction the primary job of USDA poultry inspection seems no closer now than when it was first proposed in 1998.
As long as the 1957 model continues, the several hundred USDA poultry inspectors will go to work every day, stand mostly on platforms and watch upwards of 9 billion bird carcasses fly by. Almost all will be totally uniform in size, shape and age.
I’m not sure what hundreds of eyes seeing the same thing over and over billions of time can really spot, but I damn well know they do not see any pathogens. There must be a better way!
Oh yea, there is, but we are just not using it because pathogen control is taking a back seat to union politics. After Jack-in-the-Box, USDA got serious about pathogens and started to make changes. In 1996 came the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) rules.
Two years later, with HACCP in place, USDA announced it would conduct a pilot program in 20 plants that would deploy inspectors differently. Inspectors would be used on and off the line. The off-line inspectors would be charged with verifications and system inspection duties, essentially taking responsibility for seeing that the plant’s HACCP was being implemented.
But all hell broke loose. The American Federation of Government Employees sued, and through the federal courts and negotiations with USDA got an agreement to prevent expansion of the pilot program (known as HIMP).
So there is has remained. A small group of plants operating outside the 1957 inspection model, generating data. The federal court said generating data was okay, as long as USDA did not go overboard and start using what they’ve learned to actually start controlling pathogens in poultry.
Well, to her great credit, USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen has turned what’s been learned from HIMP into a new rule for the poultry industry. Just as she did in making the six non-O157 E. coli strains adulterants, Hagen is showing courage while doing what’s best for food safety.
She says “refocused inspections” in poultry plants piloting HIMP have shown that both Salmonella and Campylobacter can be reduced. Her predecessor, Dr. Richard Raymond, says HIMP demonstrated drops in fecal material and septic birds.
Let’s see, we’ve learned a few thing about food safety since 1957. We know what works and we know how to apply those techniques. If we do so, there will be fewer illnesses and deaths. It’s pretty simple.
USDA should adopt this new rule, and get on to seeing what works and does not work on a larger scale. Clearly, the 1957 model is broken. It should have been abandoned a long, long time ago.

Raw Milk Always a Risk: Study of 2012 Family Cow Campylobacter Outbreak
Source :
A study published in the April issue of  Clinical Infectious Diseases looked at the 2012 Campylobacter outbreak linked to raw milk produced at the Family Cow dairy in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. The study’s authors say this outbreak “demonstrates the ongoing hazards of unpasteurized dairy products.” That outbreak sickened at least 81 people in four states.
The sale of raw milk is legal in Pennsylvania, although transporting raw milk for sale across state lines is illegal. Dairy farms which produce and sell raw milk in  that state must be inspected by public health officials annually and test their products two times a month for coliforms and standard plate counts. Biannual milk culturing for bacterial pathogens is also required. Despite these rules, during the time period of 2007 to 2011, 15 unpasteurized milk-related disease outbreaks were identified in Pennsylvania. At least 233 people were sickened in those outbreaks.
On January 24, 2012, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) received word that people had been sickened after consuming unpasteurized milk from a PDA-certified dairy. Family Cow, the dairy in question, immediately and voluntarily suspended unpasteurized milk sales. Epidemiological and environmental testing began; the dairy was inspected on January 30, 2012 and February 6, 2012. Raw milk from the dairy was obtained from consumers and the outbreak strain of Campylobacter was found in those unopened containers. The cows at the dairy were not tested for pathogens.
All patients in this outbreak, except for one family member who probably contracted the infection from another person, drank unpasteurized milk from Family Cow dairy. An additional 67 probable cases were identified in the four states associated with the outbreak. Ten people were hospitalized in this outbreak.
Family Cow dairy is among the largest sellers of unpasteurized milk in Pennsylvania. Inspections revealed the only deficiency at the dairy was a broken mechanical milk bottle capper. Employees capped the bottles manually. In mid-January, the temperature of the water used to clean equipment and piping was 50 degrees cooler than the recommended temperatures of 160 to 170 degrees F, which was another deficiency.
The study’s authors state that “the number of identified cases [in this outbreak] is likely an underestimate. [Editor's note: the multiplier for Campylobacter outbreaks is 38. That means as many as 3000 people may have been sickened in this one outbreak.] This is because probable cases had to be epidemiologically linked to a confirmed case and other ill persons might not have heard of the outbreak, were not tested, or were tested too late in the course of illness to still be shedding the organism. Finally, ill persons might have elected not to disclose unpasteurized milk consumption. Purchasers residing in other states might not have reported illness if they thought that carrying milk across state lines was illegal.”
The researchers continue, “while it might be possible to reduce the risks associated with unpasteurized milk consumption with further testing, consumers can never be assured that certified unpasteurized milk is pathogen-free, even when from a seemingly well-functioning dairy. The only way to prevent unpasteurized milk-associated disease outbreaks is for consumers to refrain from consuming unpasteurized milk. This outbreak demonstrates the importance of pasteurization and the ongoing need for consumer education to specifically highlight the risk of serious illness from unpasteurized dairy products and the need to avoid these products. This is especially important for consumers at high risk for complications from infections (eg, pregnant women, immunocompromised persons, and young children).”

Can We Talk Turkey?
Source :
By Dr. Richard Raymond (May 3, 2013)
On April 24, 2013, Mother Jones ran a story entitled “USDA Ruffles Feathers With New Poultry Inspection Policy,” by Tom Philpott.
Like so many posts that I read about on the new proposed poultry inspection system, it is loaded with innuendos, inflammatory comments and is often just plain wrong.
But to lay the ground work for this OpEd, let’s talk about the modernization of the poultry inspection system for a few paragraphs.
First of all, the Poultry Products Inspection System was signed into law in 1957 by then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower. I was a 10-year-old boy living in Loup City, Nebraska at the time.
A lot has changed since then, but not the way the USDA inspects poultry.
One of the less obvious things that has changed is the condition of the birds we eat. Back then the intent of the law was to have federal inspectors in poultry slaughter plants looking at carcasses for things that might harm our health, like tumors, abcesses and signs of sepsis.
The birds 56 years later are much healthier and are much younger as a result of animal husbandry advances and genetics. Most of today’s broilers go to harvest between 35 and 42 days of age.
Another change is what the inspectors are looking for. As birds fly back at a maximum speed of slightly less than two seconds per bird, the inspectors are pulling birds off the line that have broken wings and drumsticks. That is correct. They are doing quality control for the profitable chicken industry.
Those things don’t make us sick; pathogens do. And you can’t see pathogens with the naked eye.
The modernized inspection system will be a copy of the HACCP-based Inspection Models Project (HIMP), something that has been in place in 20 broiler establishments for 14 years and the safety has been demonstrated repeatedly.
So, now to Mother Jones’ post and some clarification of statements made.
Quote: “That would mean there are three fewer inspectors for a production line running 25 percent faster.”
Not true. That statement, first of all assumes there are four FSIS inspectors in every chicken plant, and that just is not the case.
Secondly, it fails to explain that the birds will still be inspected for bruises and fractures, but the company will be paying for that quality control, not you and me, the tax payers.
Quote: “The department expects to save $90 million over three years by firing inspectors.”
Again, not true. The USDA’s leaders at the Food Safety and Inspection Service estimate that 1,500 full-time slaughter inspectors will get upgrades from GS7 to GS8 and be moved from on-line jobs inspecting a chicken carcass every 2 seconds, 30 every minute, 180 every hour, 1,480 every day to an off-line position in their plants.
These off-line inspectors are trained to provide verification measures such as examining the plant records, focusing on HACCP plans, drawing samples for pathogen testing and doing visual examination of the plant and its contents for sanitation issues.
Off-line inspection will not only bring better compensation, but those inspectors in the current HIMP say that the work is much more stimulating and personally rewarding.
Over the time frame of implementation, Dr. Hagen has told me that there may be a reduction of 750-800 positions, but she also has told me that “this will be done entirely through attrition without backfilling, etc.—no layoffs.”
So why the uproar about jobs anyway? Isn’t efficiency something we want more of from our government? Well, if the bargaining unit loses 800 members they lose dues and maybe a chairman.
Quote: “To control pathogens, the poultry plants would be allowed to conduct ‘online reprocessing’ — that is dousing all the bird carcasses that pass through the line, ‘whether they are contaminated or not,’ with water laced with chlorine.”
Oh My Gosh. Another attempt to inflame the consumers just like the lean finely textured beef that had been treated with ammonia for 20 years to make it safer to eat.
Guess what? This is not a new treatment to try and reduce the pathogen load. It has been routine in most large plants for years.
The article has a quote from Food and Water Watch that states the highest error rate in HIMP plants was with inspectors missing dressing defects such as feathers. Again, that is a plant quality assurance problem and not a public health concern.
About one-third of the article is about worker safety. This only serves as a distraction and is an OSHA concern, not a food safety concern. The companies can hire as many workers as they feel they need to safely fabricate these carcasses.
So many discussants try to work in the number of FSIS FTEs, the safety of the worker and the economics of the industry.
This is ALL about food safety and bringing poultry inspection into the 21st century. The rest, like saving dollars, more affordable poultry meat and who does quality control are not the issues that will affect my health as I age.
Lower Salmonella and Campylobacter contamination rates will do that. And more off-line inspectors can do just that.
Here’s hoping that as a result of all the misdirected debate, and the misinformation being distributed, the Obama Administration will not “chicken” out on its announced goals.

China beefs up law to fight food safety scandals
Source :
By (May 3, 2013)
BEIJING — China's top court has issued guidelines calling for harsher punishment for making and selling unsafe food products in the latest response to tainted food scandals that have angered the public.
The Supreme People's Court said Friday that the guidelines will list as crimes specific acts such as the sale of food excessively laced with chemicals or made from animals that have died from disease or unknown causes.
Adulterating baby food so that it severely lacks nutrition is also punishable as a crime under the guidelines. Negligent government food inspectors are also targeted for criminal punishment.
Despite years of food scandals — from milk contaminated with an industrial chemical to the use of industrial dyes in eggs — China has been unable to clean up its food supply chain.

Traceability needed for UK food supply chain
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By PRW Staff (May2, 2013)
Companies operating in the food supply chain must be more vigorous in understanding where the packaging they use for their products comes from, a UK thermoforming firm has argued.
Andrew Copson, managing director of packaging firm Sharpak, which is owned by France’s Group Guillin and which has three plants in the UK, said that recent scandals across the global food network had highlighted the importance of traceability within the supply chain.
“By ensuring the safety of consumers through a traceable supply chain, trust can be restored, which is clearly imperative following the recent horsemeat scandal that rightly resulted in people questioning exactly what is happening within the UK food market network.
“Brands live and die by their relationship with their customers, and if there is no trust within the supply chain, the reputation of a company will be tarnished.”
Copson said the development of what he called "innovative plastic packaging", like that manufactured by Sharpak and others meant customers could have faith in the outcome.
He added that he believed if traceability could be reinforced throughout the supply chain “future scandals can be avoided and most importantly, consumer safety will be guaranteed”.

Aussie growers dismiss tomato food safety concerns
Source :
By Matthew Backhouse (May 2, 2013)
The debate over importing Australian tomatoes which have been zapped with radiation has been driven by fierce trans-Tasman rivalry rather than legitimate food safety concerns, growers across the ditch say.
New Zealand growers have raised concerns that supermarkets could be stocking irradiated Australian tomatoes and capsicums as early as next month.
The chemical-free treatment, which is used to kill pests like the devastating Queensland fruit fly, was approved by trans-Tasman regulator Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) last month.
Final approval is still needed from Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye and her Australian counterparts - but that is likely to go ahead, with Ms Kaye yesterday saying she would be prepared to eat an irradiated tomato.
The Greens have called for a halt to imports of irradiated tomatoes, while Tomatoes NZ chairman Alasdair MacLeod has said while the process was safe, he would not eat an irradiated tomato.
The comments have drawn criticism from Australian vegetable industry group Ausveg, whose public affairs manager William Churchill said the debate had been fuelled by trans-Tasman rivalry.
"There is a fierce competitiveness between Australia and New Zealand when it comes to who can produce the best. You only need to look at the time-old argument about who invented the pavlova.
"The head of Tomatoes NZ is probably saying 'I would rather eat a New Zealand tomato over an Australian tomato,' regardless of had it been irradiated."
Mr Churchill said irradiation was a safe method which avoided the need to fumigate with methyl bromide - a process that took a week to complete and damaged the ozone layer.
He said the tomatoes were given "a quick zap" of radiation which killed the fruit flies, but did no damage to the food itself.
Mr Churchill said "scaremongering" comments from the Greens about the safety of irradiation were disingenuous and irresponsible.
Greens' biosecurity spokesman Steffan Browning said irradiated food should not be imported into New Zealand.
Irradiation destroyed vitamins and other nutrients in fruit and vegetables, he said.
Mr Browning said there were many alternative methods such as heat or cold treatments, controlled atmospheres and ozone treatments.
"Problems with strong pesticides used by importers are not fixed by replacing them with irradiation.
Mr MacLeod of Tomatoes NZ has called for compulsory labelling of all irradiated fresh produce, saying consumers had the right to know.
"Unlike Australia, New Zealand does not have compulsory labelling of fresh produce - so under the current regime, unless retailers take it upon themselves to clearly label irradiated Australian tomatoes and capsicums, consumers won't know."
Horticulture NZ chief executive Peter Silcock supported calls for tough labelling requirements.
"Kiwis don't get enough information about the origin of the food they buy and eat," he said.
"We must at the very least have point-of-sale labelling for irradiated tomatoes and information provided to food service, hospitality and catering providers."
Ms Kaye said the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code mandated that irradiated foods were clearly labelled.
"This includes at point of sale and as an ingredient in food. Consumers can ask restaurants and cafes if ingredients in the food have been irradiated."

Concerns over treated Australian tomatoes
Source :
By (May 1, 2013)
New Zealanders could unknowingly be eating irradiated Australian tomatoes and capsicums from next month if labelling laws are not changed, a New Zealand horticulture industry group says.
Tomatoes New Zealand said today that Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye would decide this month whether the irradiated tomatoes and capsicums could be imported from June.
They could go on sale in retail outlets, cafes and restaurants, and Tomatoes NZ wants consumers to know what they are getting.
"We are demanding compulsory labelling on all irradiated produce, loose or otherwise, be clear and enforced, so that Kiwi consumers can make an informed decision between Australian irradiated tomatoes and New Zealand tomatoes," Tomatoes NZ chairman Alasdair MacLeod said today.
"Consumers have the right to know where their produce comes from and how it has been treated.
"We label shoes and clothing with their country of origin. Why wouldn't we label [all] food?"
MacLeod said that unlike Australia, New Zealand did not have compulsory labelling of fresh produce.
Produce is irradiated in Queensland before it is exported so pests like fruit fly do not leave the country.
Irradiated tropical fruit from Australia, like mango, papaya, and custard apples, are already exported to New Zealand, but they have to be labelled.
MacLeod said the irradiation method most likely to be used for tomatoes and capsicums coming to NZ from June was gamma ray irradiation.
Irradiation is used in more than 50 countries to destroy bacteria and extend the shelf life of food, says Food Standards Australia New Zealand.
The food travels on a conveyor belt, through a radiation field. The radiation could come from an electron beam or from X-rays, or from gamma rays, which are generated from the radioactive source Cobalt 60.
The authority said irradiated food is not radioactive, because it does not come into contact with the radioactive source.
MacLeod said New Zealand tomatoes were never irradiated.

Outrage, controversy after new poisoning incident at Egypt 's top university
Source :
By (Apr 30, 2013)
CAIRO, April 30 (Xinhua) -- The second serious food poisoning case in a month in Egypt's Al-Azhar University threw students again in fury against poor food safety in campus' dining hall, while some say such incidents are conspiracy against the country's prestigious religious institution Al-Azhar.
A total of 161 students of Al-Azhar University, living in the students' city in Nasr City, east of Cairo, were hospitalized due to food poisoning late Monday, Health Ministry spokesman Yahia Moussa told Xinhua on Tuesday. Among them, 95 have recovered, while others are still being treated.
They all felt sick after having lunch, reportedly including rotten tuna, at a university dining hall on Monday.
Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi on Tuesday called for urgent investigations to find out the reasons behind the repeated poisoning accidents on campus.
On April 2, over 500 students of the same university fell ill after eating rotten chicken. The incident ended with the sacking of university chief Osama al-Abd. On Tuesday, the prosecution referred eight cookers and the head of kitchen of the dormitory of Al-Azhar University to a local misdemeanor court in charge of infecting by mistake the students.
Morsi on Monday night called head of Al-Azhar students union, Ahmed al-Baqary, to ask about the health condition of the poisoned students, while the latter briefed Morsi about the deteriorating service and worsening food safety in the university's dormitory.
In their 20-minute call, Baqary told Morsi that the student union had sent a complaint to Mashiakhet Al-Azhar, the administration seat of Al-Azhar, including images and videos about the poor food and bad service on campus, according to a report on Al-Ahram online.
Meanwhile, Essam al-Erian, deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB)'s Freedom and Justice Party, called on al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayyeb to take a "decisive action" toward the repeated poisoning incidents.
The call came at a time of a popular belief that the ruling MB attempts to use such incidents to get rid of the Grand Imam so as to further "Brotherhoodize" Al-Azhar.
Egypt's Grand Mufti Shawky Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam has been urging for "refraining from dragging Al-Azhar into political matters and grievances" to guarantee the institution's independence.
Hafez Aby-Seada, leader of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, said the MB would like to dismiss al-Tayyeb given his rising popularity after his recent visit to the United Arab Emirates to secure the release of over 100 Egyptian prisoners, according to Al-Ahram.
Meanwhile, Mahmoud Ashour, former secretary of Al-Azhar, said the media's focus on the poisoning cases in Al-Azhar "is among a systematic plan to denigrate the Al-Azhar association in general and Al-Azhar Sheikh in specific."
The two poisoning incidents were plotted and deliberate, Ashour believed.

Food safety: train smallholders to improve processing at farms
Source :
By Andrew Emmott and Andy Stephens (Apr 30, 2013)
It is rare that the issue of food safety is mentioned let alone included in current approaches to tackling food insecurity, yet 4.5 billion people are potentially exposed to a carcinogenic toxin – aflatoxin – through their diets. The toxin is responsible for up to 28% of liver cancers globally, and is linked to childhood stunting and suppression of the immune system, contributing to diseases such as TB.
Aflatoxin is one of a number of harmful toxins routinely consumed through contaminated food in developing countries. It is produced by a soil borne fungus, aspergillus, that grows on staples such as maize, rice and groundnuts. Contamination spreads along supply chains due to poor production and storage. Twin, an ethical trading organisation, is engaging with smallholder groundnut producers in Malawi to address the stringent health and safety regulations needed to import products to Europe. However, in countries like Malawi, 60% of groundnuts or other staples are bought and consumed in largely informal markets.
As a result of low awareness levels of the health impacts, smallholders lack the incentive to change their practices. Producer organisations such as the National Association of Smallholder Farmers of Malawi (Nasfam) are developing radio programmes, videos and articles to disseminate the dangers and causes of aflatoxin contamination, while promoting best practice in control, management and mitigation techniques. The global poverty action fund is also supporting this initiative by training farmers.
Consolata Mkowa, who attended training said: "At first, my goal was only centred on delivering my produce to the market regardless of the quality. I was putting other people's lives at risk. With the training received in aflatoxin, I am now making sure I dry and store my groundnuts in the appropriate way."
Food waste in the developing world primarily occurs at the farmer and producer end of the value chain. The Waste Not, Want Not report (2013) by Institution of Mechanical Engineers pinpoints the causes of this waste as deficiencies in infrastructure and the fact that crops are frequently being handled poorly and stored under unsuitable conditions.
While this is often referred to as waste, Twin's work in the groundnut sector suggests that very little crop is ever wasted. Even when aware of the dangers, smallholders and wider communities facing hunger may still consume unsafe food, resulting in long-term negative health impacts that can set back economic development for generations.
Twin supports an approach to food security that starts with the food already being produced. By improving drying, storage and primary processing infrastructure and building capacity, smallholders can reduce waste, plan for future production, and improve food safety and public health. For example, it is estimated that women in Africa spend 4bn hours hand shelling groundnuts each year. To ease this painful and arduous task, groundnuts are often soaked in water to soften the shell. Adding water creates the perfect conditions for fungal growth. The introduction of small hand operated mechanical shellers not only reduces the time spent shelling by up to 10 times, but also removes the need to soak the groundnuts.
Highly developed farming systems in countries such as the US and Argentina also experience problems with aflatoxin contamination, so this is not just a developing world issue. Even after adapting production and storage practices, there will remain a need to deal with contaminated food.
Food with the highest levels of contamination often ends up being eaten by the poorest and most vulnerable people. To address this, Twin has researched value chains that deliberately pull aflatoxin out of the human food chain by processing contaminated groundnuts to produce safe value-added products. A good example of this is processing groundnuts into nut oil, which filters out aflatoxin and results in a safe product in high demand. Further value can be added by treating the resulting waste product – groundnut cake – for use in animal feed.
Interventions designed to improve safety controls and contamination management and mitigation will go a long way to reducing exposure to toxins. However, many trading companies and processors will continue to sell contaminated food onto unregulated markets, rather than making a loss or investing in the necessary processing. One measure is the introduction of legal levels of toxins in food, but such regulations needs proper enforcement. Enforcement not only requires political will, but a sufficient capacity to affordably test food intended for human consumption. Organisations such as the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control for Africa (Paca) are working with the African Union and the Regional Economic Communities to harmonise food safety standards.
There isn't one silver bullet to solve these problems. Food safety issues are complex and driven by social, economical, political and environmental factors. Any solution therefore needs to be holistic and requires collaboration and co-operation between a diverse group of people.
Andrew Emmott is Twin senior manager (Nuts) and Andy Stephens is Twin project manager (Nuts)
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Risky Meat, Missed Opportunity
Source :
By Dr. Christine Bruhn (April 30, 2013)
Will knowing which foods are most likely to cause severe foodborne illness increase consumer and industry vigilance? “Risky Meat,” Center for Science and the Public Interest’s (CSPI) April 23 report stated this as their goal, but they miss an opportunity to offer guidance that could really make a difference.
“Risky Meat,” written by Sarah Klein and Caroline Smith DeWaal, ranked meat and poultry products from highest to lowest risk based upon 12 years of CDC outbreak data and over 1,700 outbreaks. Rather than merely counting illnesses, the severity of the illness was calculated using the hospitalization rate. For example, Listeria monocytogenes, with a hospitalization rate of 94 percent, was given a severity score of 0.94, while Clostridium perfringens, with a hospitalization rate of 0.6 percent, was counted at 0.006. Chicken and ground beef were most likely to cause severe illness and were classified as most risky.
Guidance on how to reduce risk is available by clicking on A CSPI Field Guide to Meat & Poultry Safety. The Consumer Fact Sheets include tips on food preparation, cooking and storage. They recommend washing hands and utensils, indicate appropriate refrigerator temperature, advise using a thermometer to tell when a safe temperature has been reached, and specify the safe time interval between cooking and serving. The Fact Sheets also correctly addresses popular myths related to the safety of locally produced food or eating at an upscale restaurant. I especially like this one: “Bacteria don’t know whether they are at a 5-star restaurant, expensive grocery store, or on a local farm-so practice ‘defensive eating’ every time.” But there is no mention that little used technologies can significantly reduce the risk of foodborne illness.
More than 10 years ago the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified ground beef, poultry, and processed meat as linked to severe foodborne illness and documented that irradiating these foods would significantly reduce illness, hospitalization and death (Tauxe 2001).
While advising people to wash their hands and use a thermometer when cooking is appropriate, it is unlikely to produce a big change in behavior. When we videotaped 200 households preparing burgers in their homes, we found less than half washed their hands before beginning to cook, only 40 percent of hand washing events involved soap, 32 percent did not wash their hands between touching raw meat and preparing a salad, and only 4 percent used a thermometer to tell when their meat was done (Phang and Bruhn 2011). Amazingly, there was no difference in behavior between those who reported having had food safety training and those without training.
Irradiation is not magical. It doesn’t protect us from prions which lead to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (Mad Cow Disease) and it doesn’t knock out norovirus. People must use proper sanitation, but irradiation can destroy 99.999 percent of E coli O157:H7 in burgers and 99.9 percent of Salmonella in chicken, and it inactivates other pathogens as well (Sommers and Fan 2011). Because the pathogens are destroyed before they enter the home or commercial kitchen, illness due to cross-contamination is reduced. High pressure processing (HHP) can protect packaged deli meats from Listeria and raw oysters from Vibrio (Black, Stewart et al. 2011). Doesn’t it make sense for industry to use the best methods that effectively destroy pathogens and for health educators to advise consumers to select these products?
If we really want to reduce foodborne illness, relying on the consumer to do everything right is unlikely to be effective. While people must take personal responsibility, the food industry needs to provide a product that has the highest level of safety possible.
Technologies currently available, like irradiation and high pressure processing, can provide a level of safety unavailable elsewhere. Food Safety News’ review of irradiation affirmed that irradiation offers significant food safety advantages (Prakash 2010). The meat and poultry industry should offer safety-enhanced irradiated and HHP processed meats, the food service industry should select them, and supermarkets should offer these products to the consumer. A serious commitment to reduce foodborne illness should include a recommendation to select irradiated meat and poultry and HHP products.
Works Cited
Black, E. P., C. M. Stewart and D. G. Hoover (2011). Microbiological Aspects of High-Pressure Food Processing. Nonthermal Processing Technologis for Food. G. V. B.-C. Howard Q. Zhang, V.M. Balasubramaniam, C. P. Dunne, Daniel F. Farkas, and James T.C. Yuan, Wiley-blackwell: 51-71.
Phang, H. S. and C. M. Bruhn (2011). “Burger preparation: What consumers say and do in their home.” J. Food Protection 74(10): 1708-1716.
Prakash, A. (2010) “Is Food Irradiation the Future? Part II.” Food Safety News, July 12.
Sommers, C. and X. Fan (2011). Irradiation of Ground Beef and Fresh Produce. Nonthermal Processing Technologies for Food. G. V. B.-C. Howard Q. Zhang, V.M. Balasubramaniam, C. P. Dunne, Daniel F. Farkas, and James T.C. Yuan: 236-248.
Tauxe, R. (2001). “Food Safety and Irradiation: Protecting the Public from Foodborne Infection.” Emerging Infectious Disease 7(3 Supplement): 516-521.

Produce industry blocking laws to improve food safety
Source :
By Nancy Watzman (Apr 29, 2013)
As the nation's farmers enter a new growing season two years after 33 people died and 147 people were sickened in 28 states after eating listeria-infested canteloupe from a Colorado farm, the produce industry has effectively delayed implementation of a law intended to improve food safety.
The United Fresh Produce Association, which describes itself as "industry's leading trade association committed to driving the growth and success of produce companies and their partners" spearheaded the push for more time to comment on a pair of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules toughening safety standards for farms and processors.
The group was the lead signatory on a letter requesting the delay sent to the FDA earlier this month. Other signers include more than 80 produce groups, from the American Mushroom Institute to the Chilean Avocadan Importers Association.
The push for a extension of the comment period will postpone implementation of a 2011 law known as the Food Safety and Modernization Act. The two rules at issue are available here and here on Docket Wrench, Sunlight's tool for tracking federal regulations and the comments on them.
"Based on our current analysis, it would be impossible for any interested party to meaningful comment on these two proposed rules by the current deadline... the sheer size of the regulations lengthens the time necessary for analysis," the letter from the produce group says.
At a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing last week, Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, where agriculture is big business, asked FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg for the delay. "FDA took two years to draft the rules, yet they're allowing only 120 days for interested parties to comment," he said, according to a report in The Produce News. "A number of those parties have requested an extension. I'm hoping you're looking at that extension." Over his years in office, Blunt has collected more than $1 million from agricultural interests for his campaigns, according to a search on Influence Explorer.
In response, Hamburg said, "[W]e do intend to extend the comment period so we can hear all the concerns and address them fully."  This week the FDA formally announced the delay of the due date for comments from May 16 to September 16.
A series of illness outbreaks caused by tainted food, from salmonella in peanut butter to e. coli in spinach, pushed Congress to approve the Food Safety and Modernization Act in 2010. President Obama signed it into law on Jan. 4, 2011. At the time, the bill had bipartisan support. Following passage of the law -- and more outbreaks of illness, including the cantaloupe scare in the summer of 2011 -- the FDA sent proposed regulations to the Office of Management and Budget for review in December 2011. There they sat until January of this year, when OMB released two of them for publication. The FDA plans to publish a total of five rules implementing the law.
"This is an extraordinarly long comment period for rules that have already been delayed," said Sarah Klein staff attorney for Center for Science in the Public Interest, "coming out of a law supported by industry and consumer groups we all agreed needed to happen. Now rules are coming up they are now in foot dragging mode."
The two proposed rules deal with new standards for farms growing produce and for processors that handle fruit and vegetables. They address issues such as possible contamination of water used in irrigation, worker hygiene, the creation of food safety plans, and new record keeping requirements. There are broad exemptions for small farms and processors and the proposed implementation schedule is staggered over several years.
At a symposium this week in Fort Collins, Colo., where public health experts gathered with agency and industry to discuss cantaloupe safety as farmers begin the planting season, it was clear that politics plays a big role in food marketing. Michael Hirakata, whose family has been growing melons in Rocky Ford since the early 1900s, talked not just about how the farm had voluntarily put in new safety controls following the 2011 listeria outbreak but also how it helped launch a major new public relations push.
Hirakata is one of the founders of the new Rocky Ford Growers Association, launched in 2011 to "strengthen and protect the reputation of the world famous melons." One of the crucial elements to the group's success, he said, was the support of local politicians in Association events and activities, including Sen. Michael Bennet, Governor John Hickenlooper, and Colorado Agriculture Commissioner John Salazar. Collectively, the three have received more than $841,000 from agricultural interests for their congressional and gubernatorial campaigns, according to Influence Explorer, the lion's share, nearly $595,000, going to Salazar, who hails from rural Colorado.
The Sunlight Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that uses the power of the Internet to catalyze greater government openness and transparency, and provides new tools and resources for media and citizens, alike.

Food safety: 101
Source :
By Maggie Hennessy (Apr 29, 2013)
Establishing a uniform food safety and quality program can be difficult in retail and in-store bakery operations, as no national, standardized system exists for bakery specifically. Bakeries are inspected by local governmental agencies and requirements can vary widely. However, all bakeries should adhere to some basic criteria for a successful food safety and quality program, according to Stephanie Lopez, vice president of food safety education at AIB International, Manhattan, Kan.
“These elements include prerequisite programs, such as sanitation, pest management, chemical control, sanitary design, allergen control and control of personnel. A complete food safety and quality program will also include HACCP- (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) and International Organization for Standardization-based systems that support continuous improvement,” Lopez says.
The key to developing a vigorous HACCP program is to first perform a comprehensive hazard analysis, which requires a bakery to assess all possible risks in production and retail areas to identify and mitigate the various hazards present in the bakery.
“The biggest risks that must be evaluated are the increased prevalence of salmonella in low-moisture foods, including wheat flour, (as well as) allergens,” Lopez says. Although salmonella is eliminated through baking–also known as the “kill step”–baked products can be re-contaminated by employees, utensils or even flour dust. “The opportunities for wheat flour to re-contaminate baked products must be identified and controlled,” Lopez adds.
Cross-contamination, especially with food allergens, is one of the biggest risks and most common food safety violations found in retail bakeries and in-store bakery operations.
“Retail bakers are often working in small spaces with a large variety of ingredients. This cross-contamination could be a legal violation with no food safety risks, but may be very serious if it involves allergen ingredients,” Lopez says. The risk with allergens is not only cross contact, but the presence of allergens in certain ingredients, flavorings, colorings or processing aids that go undetected by staff, she adds.
Food allergies affect about 2 percent of adults and 8 percent of children in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The eight major food allergens–milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (almonds, walnuts), fish, shellfish, soy and wheat–account for about 90 percent of all allergic reactions. Because six of the eight food allergens are vital ingredients in many common bakery formulas, it’s imperative that bakeries take steps to mitigate cross contact and read ingredient labels carefully.
Additionally, a growing number of Americans (roughly 1 percent) suffer from celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder caused by a reaction to a gluten protein found in wheat that compromises the small intestine’s ability to properly absorb nutrients in food. Unlike the scores of Americans now eating gluten-free as a lifestyle choice, celiacs are unable to process even trace amounts of wheat–much like people with food allergies–making cross contamination of paramount importance.
“It is very difficult to make a free-from claim in an operation that has the given allergen present anywhere in the operation. An effective program typically involves dedicated equipment, dedicated pans, and may even require dedicated personnel. While these controls may be feasible in an industrial bakery, due to space limitations, they can be very challenging for a retail bakery,” Lopez says. “A bakery can help mitigate cross-contact risk by having individual scoops and containers for the various allergens. Employee awareness training also is key to help employees understand how their hands or clothing can lead to cross-contact.”
Another common food safety violation in bakeries is temperature abuse of microbiologically sensitive ingredients, such as eggs, milk or cream. While most bakery owners are aware that these products can’t be out of refrigeration for more than four hours, many still violate the rule over several hours of production, Lopez notes. “The effects of being out of refrigeration are cumulative, and while each time the product is out of refrigeration may be limited, if it happens repeatedly, the four-hour limit can easily be exceeded.” Temperature abuse can be mitigated by taking out only the exact portion of the sensitive ingredient that will be used and by using minimal times for tempering.
Ultimately, the best defense when it comes to food safety and quality is staff education, she says. “Education of personnel on the risks (of food safety) can not be overemphasized.”
Stephanie R. Lopez is the vice president of food safety education at AIB International, where she has worked since 2000. Prior to that, Lopez led quality, sanitation and product development departments for various international food companies. A prolific author of technical publications, Lopez received her BS in Cell and Molecular Biology from California State University, Northridge.

Food-Safety Inspections to Dwindle Thanks to Sequester
Source :
By (Apr 29 ,2013)
WASHINGTON—The sequester will delay the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) implementation of the 2-year-old Food Safety Modernization Act and result in fewer food-safety inspections, the agency's top-ranking official told the editorial board of USA TODAY.   
Thanks to the loss of $209 million in funds due to the $85 billion in government spending cuts, FDA will conduct 2,100 fewer inspections, representing an 18% decline from last year, the newspaper reported.
FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg told USA TODAY the agency will prioritize programs that have the biggest impact, such as outbreaks of disease. 
The decrease is inspections is not a surprise. Earlier this year, the White House cautioned there could be 2,100 fewer food inspections at domestic and foreign facilities if the sequester took effect. 
Analyzing the impact of the sequester, FDA estimated its import line inspection rate would plunge 24% in 2013 versus 2011, according to a study conducted by Democrats in the House Appropriations Committee. Limiting the agency's funding growth to 2% a year would jeopardize FDA's ability to maintain its already miniscule inspection rate of imported foods, lawmakers warned.
Steven Grossman, deputy executive director of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA, characterizes the impact of sequestration as "'death by a thousand cuts.'"
"There will be delays in a broad range of responsibilities … but nothing that could be defined in advance as dramatic changes that will be visible to the general population," he wrote in a blog April 26.
But a representative of Consumers Union expressed concern to USA TODAY that sequestration will lead to more outbreaks of foodborne illness.
The Food Safety Modernization Act was crafted to prevent such bacteria-ridden incidents, although FDA needs adequate resources to implement the law.
Earlier this month, the agency announced requesting an additional $295.8 million in food-safety funds in fiscal year 2014 beyond its funding levels in FY12. Most of those funds ($252.4 million) would consist of user fees that are passed onto companies while the remainder ($43.4 million) would be taxpayer dollars.

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